Jim Smart
December 23, 2013

How do you make old rusty hardware like new again without having to visit a plating shop or buy new fasteners? This process can be performed at home with Eastwood's Tin-Zinc Electroplating System. It can also be performed with materials you can buy from any hardware store if you don't have time to wait for mail order.

Electroplating, as the name implies, is the process of using the flow of electricity to transfer tin from the anode to the cathode, which is the metal you want to plate. In electroplating, there is a cathode (-) and an anode (+). The anode gives up its metal (tin) to the cathode. The anode and cathode are submerged into an electrolyte consisting of distilled water, sodium hydroxide, and zinc-oxide powder.

There are several approaches to this electrolyte formula and this just happens to be one of them. Individual shops and enthusiasts have different cocktails depending on the desired result. Remember—acid into water, never water into acid. Always protect your skin, face, and eyes from these elements with gloves and a face shield.

You can buy these ingredients separately or you can order Eastwood's Tin-Zinc Electroplating System so it's already mixed for you. Chances are you will save money and time with the Eastwood system unless you're planning to electroplate parts that are too large for the Eastwood containers and chemicals. The system cannot be used on aluminum or die-cast, pot metal, or stainless metals.

System Components
The Eastwood Tin-Zinc
Electroplating System #10049 includes:
Two-Quart Electrolyte Plating Solu- tion
Tin-Zinc Anode Bar (-)
Battery Holder for two "C" size batteries with positive (+ Cathode) and negative (- Anode) leads
Funnel
Autosol Polish for finish work
Electroplating Brush
Goggles
Disposable Gloves
Detailed Instructions

1. The Eastwood Tin-Zinc Electroplating System can take rusty hardware and make it like new again depending on the severity of the corrosion and pitting. It cannot remove pitting, but it will make steel fresh and corrosion resistant.
2. Hardware must be media blasted and hospital clean before going through the electroplating process. Once hardware is media blasted, it should be cleaned in a high-evap’ solvent (such as brake cleaner) and etched in phosphoric or muriatic acid. Once it gets the acid bath, it should be washed again in high-evap’ solvent and allowed to dry.
3. These bolts have been media blasted and are ready for solvent and an acid bath to etch surfaces and remove any remaining rust.
4. Here is Eastwood’s electrolyte solution in an approved plastic container. Two lengths of copper wire—the cathode and anode—are inserted. You can use doorbell wire, household wire, or even coat hanger wire for hanging parts.
5. A 99.9-percent pure tin anode (+) is submerged into electrolyte with the positive lead connected from the power source. Tin anodes can be purchased from any marine supply house.
6. This steel nipple is cleaned, acid washed, rinsed, and readied for the electroplate process. It will be connected to the cathode (-) lead and submerged into the electrolyte.
7. Here, the anode and cathode are submerged with electricity applied. You can also use a 12-volt power source such as a car battery charger, although that is not recommended due to the risk of explosion from hydrogen gas battery fumes. Let the electrolyte boil for 30 to 60 seconds and inspect the part. You may need more time.
8. The nipple (cathode) is removed from electrolyte and inspected. Depending on how much plating is needed, it either stays out or goes in for another 30 to 60 seconds. This process tin plates the steel nipple.
9. The plated steel nipple shows us why cleanliness and purity are so important going in. Do you see the dirt/corrosion in the threads? It needs to be blasted, cleaned, and etched again to be perfect. We did this on purpose to show you what happens when steel, copper, or brass isn’t hospital clean beforehand. If it isn’t clean when it is submerged, it won’t be clean when it comes out.