Why nickle plating and not chrome, or chrome plating and not nickle?

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Model T Ford Forum: Forum 2017: Why nickle plating and not chrome, or chrome plating and not nickle?
Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of page Link to this message  By Robert Brough on Thursday, August 10, 2017 - 10:12 am:

Not a putting out a fire thread, just topic of conversation. Got a 27 depot hack. Nickle plated radiator shell and headlight rings. Wire wheels with press in hubcaps. The reporductions come in brass or chrome, not nickle.

If chrome plating was around during the T, why wasn't it used more often? And, if it was not, why no reproductions of the caps in nickle. Same true with radiator caps, dog dones, motometers, etc, lug nuts, etc.

Just curious.


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of page Link to this message  By Jerry VanOoteghem - SE Michigan on Thursday, August 10, 2017 - 10:16 am:

Lots of guys don't want nickel because it tarnishes. Chrome is more durable. Now, if you want originality, that's a whole other thing. I kind of wish nickel was offered in reproductions parts myself.

I don't think chrome was around during the T era.


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of page Link to this message  By G.R.Cheshire on Thursday, August 10, 2017 - 10:18 am:

The only guess I could venture would be that chrome is porous and the base metal will soon corrode if one does not stay on top of it. If the radiator shells that were not painted were chrome plated instead of nickel we probably would not have any left. YMMV


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of page Link to this message  By Jerry VanOoteghem - SE Michigan on Thursday, August 10, 2017 - 10:21 am:

G.R.,

Just the opposite. Nickle is porous, chrome is not.


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of page Link to this message  By Steve Blancard, Fredericksburg Va on Thursday, August 10, 2017 - 10:22 am:

From what I've seen, chrome (chromium) plating became commercially used in the automotive industry in the late 20s. Nickel is used as an underplating to chrome and provides a more durable and less tarnishing finish. I much prefer the mellow, slightly yellow appearance of nickel. It almost looks like silver.


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of page Link to this message  By Chris Barker, Somerset, England on Thursday, August 10, 2017 - 10:30 am:

No chrome during Model T production period.

And it looks wrong.

Nickel looks good on a T.


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of page Link to this message  By Mark Osterman on Thursday, August 10, 2017 - 10:47 am:

Same thing happened in the evolution of early 35 mm cameras and the hardware on banjos. People have their preferences .... I personally lean towards nickel. I prefer the luster of nickel to the bright reflection of chrome. In fact ... can't wait for new nickel to dull down actually.


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of page Link to this message  By Steve Jelf, Parkerfield KS on Thursday, August 10, 2017 - 11:20 am:

Aesthetically, it's a matter of personal taste. Historically, nickel is correct for a Model T. I don't know why makers of Model T parts use chrome.


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of page Link to this message  By David Sullivan on Thursday, August 10, 2017 - 11:22 am:

If it ain't nickel, it don't look good. Dave in Bellingham, WA


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of page Link to this message  By David Dewey, N. California on Thursday, August 10, 2017 - 11:41 am:

Chrome is a somewhat transparent plating, with a bluish tinge to it, that's why the color change when you chrome plate (which is usually over nickel plating. Because of the corrosion resistance provided by the chrome, nowadays the nickel plate is done VERY thin; also back "in the day" the nickel plate had to be polished after plating to get the shine, today's plating systems provide the shine right out of the plating bath; another reason for the thinner nickel plating.
If you have a plater that will work with you, they will put on a heaver layer of nickel, and it will last a long time, given good care.


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of page Link to this message  By Robert Brough on Thursday, August 10, 2017 - 01:17 pm:

So why no nickle hubcaps for the wire wheels? Are they the same for Model A's, so the vendors do chrome for the Model A's and that is what is available for the T's?

I know it's minor, but it just seems like I'm going to have what little metal is not painted to be nickle with 5 reflective chrome hubcaps.


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of page Link to this message  By Peter Claverie, Memphis TN on Thursday, August 10, 2017 - 02:57 pm:

While renovating a house years ago, I took a bunch of doorknobs and escutcheons whose shine had worn off, to a plating shop and asked for "chrome" re-plating. I was told that chrome plating would not stick to steel, and the parts must be first coated with nickel - and then chrome. I was told that the shop's experience was that chrome was not used 'in the day,' and I should come look at the parts after they had been plated with nickel, and decide whether chrome was needed. I liked the look of the nickel, as did the owner, and we never went for chrome.

That was in the late 1940's, and the parts still look good today. I know, because it's my family home.


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of page Link to this message  By Steve Jelf, Parkerfield KS on Thursday, August 10, 2017 - 03:06 pm:

I should have checked before I posted. Chaffin's sells the nickeled hub caps (Pages 50-51), as well as Snyder's, and I expect most of the other dealers too.


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of page Link to this message  By R.V. Anderson on Thursday, August 10, 2017 - 03:36 pm:

Robert, chrome can be stripped off the nickel plate by a plating shop in just a few minutes. I had that done once and they didn't even charge me for it.


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of page Link to this message  By Darel J. Leipold on Thursday, August 10, 2017 - 03:54 pm:

Chrome just looks out of place on a Model T Ford. I know that many T owners do not mind the odd look of chrome plate. That is okay. Just do not claim your Ford is "Restored" when chrome plating is used. "Restored" "Authentic" "Original" "Upgraded" -there are no, I repeat any upgrades on Model T Fords - just substitutions. And one more note" Any Model T Ford "speaks for itself" no mater what you claim, Any Model T Ford is what it is, nothing more and nothing less.Ford


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of page Link to this message  By Chris Paulsen - McPherson, KS on Thursday, August 10, 2017 - 05:19 pm:

It is traditionally accepted Oldsmobile was the first automobile company to use chrome plating. They did so in late 1925 on the 1926 models so technically chrome was available during the Model T era.

Wouldn't it be neat to find a T that was updated with chrome plating when it was a fairly new vehicle?


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of page Link to this message  By Bob Doris, AZ on Thursday, August 10, 2017 - 05:39 pm:

Robert, I had three choices for the 1926/27 wire wheel hubcaps I ordered from Snyder’s last month, brass, nickel or chrome. I replaced all of my dented ’80s repro chrome hub caps for new nickel plated.


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of page Link to this message  By Robert Brough on Thursday, August 10, 2017 - 06:17 pm:

Yes, they do sell the nickle. Even Lang's offers them, but to find them on the search is difficult. Chrome and Brass come up under one description and the nickle ones come up differently. But they are there.

Much ado about nothing, I am afraid. Welcome to my world.

I'll get a set of 5 from Langs for $72 and replace my banged up chrome ones on the Depot Hack.


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of page Link to this message  By Wayne Sheldon, Grass Valley, CA on Thursday, August 10, 2017 - 06:58 pm:

Chris P beat me to it. There were earlier attempts with chrome plating, but they mostly failed quickly as it had not been figured out that the chrome in order to stick and hold reliably needed an intermediate base for steel and most other metals.
Nickel plating had been around for a long time, in various forms and chemical (electroplated and non-electroplated) methods. It was used for both aesthetic and protective purposes through most of the latter half of the 1800s. I always found it interesting that in the so-called "brass era" antique automobile world, the earlier and later years were more likely to have nickel trim than brass. Cars built before about 1903 are more likely to have nickel, than brass. As are most cars (other than Ford) after about 1912. There are of course many exceptions to that rule-of-likelihood, on all sides of the equation.
Oldsmobile is generally credited with the first commercially viable use of chrome plating on a major product. As Chris P said.

When it comes to stripping the chrome off to reveal the more beautiful nickel beneath? I do prefer the reverse electroplating process, provided you have access to a plater that will do so for a reasonable charge (free is very reasonable). But, there is another way.
Hydrochloric/muriatic acid is is very dangerous. Toxic, poisonous, extremely corrosive, it must be handled with extreme care. But it is usually available through swimming pool supply stores, and still some hardware stores. It will dissolve chrome. But NOT nickel. Depending upon the size of the parts in question, setting up a bath of the acid and allow soaking for awhile will remove the chrome, but not the nickel, or anything beneath the nickel.
(In theory, a plated part should have enough nickel over the entire surface to protect the other metals below, even in those inside corners where the nickel plating is not visible. I DO NOT fully believe that myself, although I have tried to soak brass parts for many hours with no apparent damage, even in those corners. And hydochloric acid can destroy brass if soaked too much.)
There are SO very many cautions that can and should be made, they could fill a book. Just a few of the most obvious and important;
Work outdoors, a ways away from anything you care about downwind (fifty feet is usually enough). Even the fumes are nasty and can cause damage to people and property if not dissipated adequately.
Heavy winds are not a good thing in some ways, although do dissipate the fumes faster. No wind is also bad. You really cannot know where the fumes will end up, and you could suddenly find yourself in the middle of them (been there, done that). A constant gentle breeze is best for weather conditions.
Do ALL your work on the upwind side. DO NOT breath the fumes!!! (There aren't enough exclamation points for this!) One deep breath could kill you! And you cannot see the fumes (hence the gentle breeze and distance downwind). If you do begin to breath in fumes, you will likely feel a strong burning sensation in your sinuses or throat almost instantly. With whatever air you have left in your lungs, blow them out, hold your breath (lots of fun when empty), and move quickly away from anyplace the fumes would likely collect.
Keep some baking soda handy, to neutralize any minor spills.
Wear rubber gloves, and clothing that you do not care about (they may not survive the next washing).
When done, dispose of as responsibly as you reasonably can.

Be VERY careful! But it does work.


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of page Link to this message  By Chadwick Azevedo on Thursday, August 10, 2017 - 07:52 pm:

So a '27 whippet would that have a chrome or nickle radiator? I know it was plated but which?

If I'm going to plat it might as well do it right whichever it is.


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of page Link to this message  By Harold Schwendeman - Sumner,WA on Thursday, August 10, 2017 - 08:32 pm:

Actually, here is what I remember about a PROPER chrome plating job from younger days in Chicago when I was acquainted with a very good chrome plater who is long gone:

Polish the steel part to be plated, copper plate the steel, polish the copper, nickel plate over the copper, polish the nickel, chrome plate over the nickel, final polish.

Very, VERY labor intensive, and a very dirty job,....FWIW,....harold


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of page Link to this message  By Wayne Sheldon, Grass Valley, CA on Thursday, August 10, 2017 - 09:35 pm:

Chadwick A, I can't say with any certainty what finish plating a Whippet would have had in any given year. I have seen several Whippet and Overland shells with what appeared to be original nickel plating, and suspect that nickel would be correct. 1927 model year was only one year later than Oldsmobile hit the market with chrome. Most other cars had nickel at least until '28. The '29 REO I had years ago had original nickel, and according to Harrah's famous research, was correct for REO through the '29 model year. REO had chrome in '30. A friend's '29 Whippet I was told was chrome.
This would really be a good question for the Willys/Overland/etc forums. The WOKR and the AACA both should be good sources.
It might be best to not mention that the shell is not going on a Whippet on those sites :-) .

Then again, this model T site is one of the best on the web. I know several of our T owners also are active with the Overland cars,and may know for sure.


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of page Link to this message  By Allan Bennett - Australia on Thursday, August 10, 2017 - 09:36 pm:

Harold, that's how it ought to be done on a custom job like a car restoration. On T's, plate a little more heavily at the nickel stage and delete the final chrome plate.
Yes, it is labor intensive, at every stage other than the actual plating. The labour is where the dollars go on a top class job.
My local shop lets me do the initial polishing on parts. Brass is easier than steel, which often requires abrasive belt work. Much care is needed to avoid heating and warping like you get on radiator shells. If I had to pay them to do this prep work, I would have to think more seriously about having work done. They are happy to finish polishing off any areas this novice has missed a bit.

Allan from down under.


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of page Link to this message  By Larry Smith, Lomita, California on Thursday, August 10, 2017 - 09:56 pm:

Another point. There are very few places that know how to do the correct nickel plating. Do your homework. If it is done correctly, all it need is to be wiped off once in a while with a soft cotton cloth.


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of page Link to this message  By Frank Kelley on Friday, August 11, 2017 - 12:51 am:

Of course I don't think there is such a thing as an authentic Depot Hack. I'm putting together one on a '26 chassis and using chrome on the radiator shell, headlight rims and lug nuts. They go well with the disc brakes! And it stops well with 5 of us in it.


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of page Link to this message  By Steve Jelf, Parkerfield KS on Friday, August 11, 2017 - 12:57 am:

"Chrome and Brass come up under one description and the nickle ones come up differently." That's why it's often easier to find things with the paper catalogue.


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of page Link to this message  By Bill Alexander in Albion, Maine on Friday, August 11, 2017 - 06:35 am:

There is a good shop in Holyoke, MA that does Nickel plating and does it very well. D & S Custom Metal Restoration. 413-533-7770. Mickey DuPuis is on the ball in all kinds of plating. He tells me that things have to be Nickel plated before they are chromed if the job is done right. He has done both T and A parts for me. They are years old and still look great.


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of page Link to this message  By Russ Furstnow on Friday, August 11, 2017 - 09:52 am:

TECHNICAL TIP: I've had speedometer bezel rings nickel plated for years, but on one batch of plating, my plater used chrome. I got the bezels home and noted the blue color of the plating and called the plater. He said I could bring the bezels back (a drive of over 300 miles), OR I cold simply go to Home Depot and purchase some Muratic Acid and dip the part in the acid for two minutes and the chrome would be gone! I was a bit worried but I tried it and the parts came out perfect...the nickel was not damaged at all!!

I have used this practice on small chrome items that were purchased from various vendors, including hubcaps and radiator caps. I hope this helps.
Russ Furstnow


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of page Link to this message  By Steve Jelf, Parkerfield KS on Friday, August 11, 2017 - 10:11 am:

That's the treatment I use when I don't have original nuts and bolts and have to adapt modern ones. Paint won't stay on the cad plating, so I get rid of it with a bath of muriatic acid for a couple of minutes, then prep, dry, paint, and bake.


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of page Link to this message  By Darel J. Leipold on Friday, August 11, 2017 - 11:30 am:

I keep a gallon of muriatic acid handy at home. I use it for many purposes. I have never worn rubber gloves. I have never had it burn clothing. I do avoid breathing the fumes, but I have never been harmed. As with any solution, used right it does a good job when needed.


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of page Link to this message  By Erik Johnson on Friday, August 11, 2017 - 01:18 pm:

"The Works" toilet bowl cleaner is diluted muriatic acid aka hydrochloric acid.

Some bathroom cleaners (tub sink and tile cleaner) that come in pump bottles also contain hydrochloric acid.


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of page Link to this message  By Wayne Sheldon, Grass Valley, CA on Friday, August 11, 2017 - 08:02 pm:

(Darel J L, I actually almost never wear rubber gloves either. However, it is a good idea, and highly recommended. As my dad used to say often, "Do as I say. Not as I do." All the other precautions? I follow almost religiously.)


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of page Link to this message  By Terry Woods, Richmond, Texas on Saturday, August 12, 2017 - 01:27 am:

I have always been told and led to believe that nickle is what gives a part the silvery shine, while chrome as just a process producing a protective tarnish inhibiting coating. Triple chrome plating is a three step process involving the base metal plated with a layer of copper; then a layer of nickle; and finally, chromium. If done correctly, even parts that are just nickle plated, should be copper plated before the nickle process. Commercial chrome plating was developed in 1924 by Fink and Eldridge at Columbia University based on the 1920 theory paper written by Dr. George J. Sargent. He found for Chromium to plate, the solution had to be exactly one part Sulfuric acid to 100 parts of Chromium acid. Any more or any less and the chrome would not plate. Chrome plating of automotive parts did not take off until the summer of 1927, about the time the last Model T rolled of the assembly line. That is why chrome plating was not ever used on a T, whereas various models of the Model A used nickle and/or chrome plating, as well as rustless steel (stainless steel).


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of page Link to this message  By Chadwick Azevedo on Saturday, August 12, 2017 - 08:37 am:

And yet one might argue that chrome or chrominum plating was around a long long long long time ago (well a couple thousand years at least). Just another bit of forgotten technology that was reinvented.


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