If you're not already set up for plating, your project could end up costing you a killer amount of money. Assuming the plating is ornamental, not industrial, in order to prepare the parts for plating they will need to be properly buffed, then chemically cleaned. That would require a reasonable polishing machine and plater's wheels, which are usually tight sewn and covered with glue in which the abrasive is held. If your parts are not of an ornamental nature, and could tolerate sand blasting, they could be stripped by proper blasting with a fine abrasive, perhaps aluminum oxide. That would not only remove the old plating, but the rust as well.
In order to plate, you need the proper plating solution, anode, tanks, heaters, the ability to control the temperature of your solution, the ability to determine the condition of your plating solution and a variable voltage rectifier. You also would have to deal with considerable toxic waste when it came time to discontinue what you were doing and to discard the solutions and other waste material. Unless you want the experience of doing it yourself, including going through a considerable learning curve, you'd be much better off taking your parts to a custom plater. Nothing is beyond most people's ability where plating is concerned, it's just a matter of economics and knowledge that may limit you. There's not a lot in print that is of much use to those that want to learn.
How large are these parts? If they aren't too big, "brush plating" is what you want. You will want to renove at least most of the old plating, preferably all of it. You should then thouroughly degrease the parts with 50/50 Acetone/Xylol. Acetone and Xylol are available from most hardware stores and paint stores.
When polished and degreased, you should electroclean the pieces. See
Then you need your plating solution(s). Caswell is a good source, I hear. I haven't used them since I made up my own solutions.
Caswell can supply you with the tools but I made my own. My applicators/anodes are graphite rods (carbon will do but don't use metal). The rods are held in machined holders and the business end is wrapped with cotton batting for the plating.
It sounds complicated and certainly isn't trivial but it sure is nice to be able to plate. Over the years I have done Nickle, Silver, Gold and a few other metals with excellent results.
Ted, how durable is this brush plating? I often have small plating chores, a pistol frame or a cylinder from a small antique outboard motor etc that may need a durable finish. Always wondered about it. Greg Sefton
When a project must be done on a minimum basis, I can't think of anyone better than Ted to come up with the solution. I had completely overlooked the possibility of brush plating. You can pretty much take Ted's advice to the bank. He's had outstanding results with minimum equipment, and often pulls me back to reality. Thanks, Ted.
As durable as any plating. There is a family heirloom making the rounds that was sterling silver with some gold plated parts. The original gold plating was badly worn so I was asked to re-plate it. I did so in
1959. When I saw it a couple years ago it looked like the day I did it. I have had similar results with other metals. But please note what I said about cleaning/prep. Cleanliness is ahead of godliness in plating.