CUTLASS Chrome plating plastic?

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I don’t think, in my case anyhow, that the elements will be too big an issue as the Olds will be a garage queen with Antique Plates. Not to say it won’t be driven, but it won’t be out intentionally in foul weather or daily driven anymore. I’m also hoping that just rehabbing the two originals will be a bandaid fix until an NOS surround comes my way and i have the pair to install permanently.

Thanks for the input guys, will be looking into all options this week!👍
 
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"Sputter Coating"?? Care to elaborate for us luddite types that still think chrome comes from out of a large tank??



Nick
 
"Sputter Coating"?? Care to elaborate for us luddite types that still think chrome comes from out of a large tank??



Nick
It's a small version of the vacuum metallizer process that CK80 described except that it is used for things that don't necessarily get a bright mirror finish. You can change the consumable foil to different varieties to get different output finishes on the part.

Finding a shop that would have one might be a pain, but I used to work in a factory that made headlights and us technicians liked to have the sputter operator throw a few spare pairs of safety glasses in there so we would have tinted safety glasses for 4 wheeler riding.
 
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So the reflective surface that was applied to the lamp interior was applied using this sputter technique?



Nick
 
So the reflective surface that was applied to the lamp interior was applied using this sputter technique?



Nick
Typically the inner reflector is done with a base coat/metallizer process where a reflector is molded out of a thermoset plastic, (think bakelite, won't melt again and can take a ton of heat), coated with with some chemicals and baked to turn them into a layer that will help the metallizing stick and look REALLY shiny.

The sputter was used more for outer bezels and trim pieces that didn't actually focus the light.


This is a headlight with a regular metallizer coating.

Screenshot_20220904-162421_eBay.jpg

This is a sport version of the same headlight with a sputter coating. It has more of a pewter finish and looks nicer with darker paint colors.

Screenshot_20220904-162106_eBay.jpg
 
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Strictly speaking, the factory didn't do chrome plating, you can't chrome plate plastic. I think it was some kind of aluminum gassing process. It's been a while since I looked into it.

As I recall, it's hard to find a place to do it in the US now due to regulations.
 
Actually, it is possible to chrome plate plastic. What it takes is an intermediate layer of copper that is applied to the plastic first to create a conductive surface that will accept the subsequent layers of nickel and chrome that complete the process. The copper is either sprayed on or done using some kind of immersion process to completely submerge the component and literally encase it in the copper coating. Once that copper layer has dried or set, then, apparently, the item can be treated and dealt with just as if it was metal.

Chroming is actually a term that covers a range of alternatives. Standard chrome is just a layer of nickel and the top coat of chromium, both applied to an otherwise sterile clean surface. The level of cleanliness is vital to get the electrical bond to work properly; any contaminants in or on the metal and the finish might look good and then suddenly start to peel or flake.

"Show Chrome", aka Triple Chrome or Triple Plate, is a process that adds an initial layer or substrate layer of copper to the item being plated. This serves a couple of purposes, The copper is soft and can flow into cracks and crevices that otherwise cannot be buffed or ground out. This useful when working with old or frail components. It also allows for multiple layers of copper to be applied and between each layer, rinsed, and then buffed or polished out to create a totally smooth or flawless surface. After this degree of prep is reached, the component is then thoroughly rinsed and inspected and dried and then it receives its layer of nickel, gets buffed and cleaned again, and then gets chromed. This extensive process is why show chrome displays that deep blue tint in it, the copper, and why it is so hideously expensive, the time and labor needed to do.

There are other variants such as hard or shaft chrome that get used in hydraulic shops when rebuilding the cylinder shafts and rams. Shaft chroming is valuable for the amount of durability and life it can add to to a service item. I had the front fork tubes on my Electro-glide hard chromed almost 40 years ago and they are only just starting to show some wear and tear. Bummer because the hydraulic shop that did the work is no longer in business; long time gone.

And there is a spray on version that uses chemicals to create and simulate a chrome finish; this process was actually discussed and used on an episode of Counting Cars.

You Boob might be useful here as a show and tell source for plating non ferrous materials,



Nick
 
For copper you need to look for tree stump remover. It is copper sulfate. You put the blueish crystals in distilled water and sulfuric acid, doesn't have to be super strong solution. You need electrode of stainless steel, you can use just a stainless bolt. The part you are plating is the other electrode. Use 6vdc batt, adjust resistance by adding old school head lamps in series. It needs just light volume formation of bubbles.

I have a plater for gold, silver, PGMs; never did plastic. 1980 would just be a basic polystyrene, so shouldn't be that difficult, just never did it before.
 
Future chrome, it's a two part process using the metallic spray and distilled water. There's a few videos on YouTube about there systems. I've picked one up from a friend but haven't gotten around to using it. I want to use it for the chrome bumper trim on my 81 Monte and other pieces
 
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