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Thread: Anyone try Electroplating?

  1. #21
    Quote Originally Posted by jdfoxinc View Post
    I plan 9n using my Frank fort Arsenal media separator and a rotisserie motor. Hanging ss wires from the rotisserie axle. One onthe outside for electric contact, multiple inside basket touching bullets. Going to make copper acetate with equal parts white vinegar and hydrogen peroxide for the solution.

    instructables.com/id/High-Quality-Copper-Plating/
    Just to give you an example of what I experienced:

    These are the best acid copper plated bullets I ever produced. That was in 2014. After trying dozens of different combinations I finally arrived at a bath chemisty and prep method that made good looking and well-adhered copper plating.
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    Here's what those bullets looked like after being fired into a water jug from a Baretta PX4:
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    Note how the copper was completely peeled off by the pistol's rifling. Totally unacceptable at any velocity. This never changed until I went away from the acid bath.

    Interesting background: Companies like Speer and Berry's use a method called "cyanide strike plating". This is also an alkaline plating bath. It's much more efficient and plates onto lead faster than the alkaline I use. Except as you might guess, it's full of cyanide. And who TF wants a bucket full of cyanide in their garage??? Most of them also use this nasty stuff called flouroboric acid to prep the lead base metal. It's one of the worst acids on the market. Extremely corrosive and noxious. Much more so than the sulfuric and hydrochloric acids used in home plating bath recipes....anyway, I found so many reasons to not use acids baths I just gave up on it.

    They ARE useful to bullet plating in one sense...If you first put a thin "strike" layer of alkaline copper on the bullet, and then switch to an acid copper bath, you can build up the copper thickness faster since it's a more efficient plating medium than alkaline is.

    There ya go...bullet plating 101
    Last edited by 45Reverse; 06-23-2020 at 09:48 PM.

  2. #22
    Boolit Buddy Dapaki's Avatar
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    OK! You got my attention!!!!! Beautiful bullets, BTW.

    Quote Originally Posted by 45Reverse View Post
    .... I have an AR-capable cast bullet that needs no GC, no lube, no reduced charge, no case fillers...nothing but FMJ load data
    Attachment 264027

  3. #23
    Right?

    I'm really drawn to the idea of making my own AR-food, but not so much interested in having to take all those measures to make it work.

    This way of plating isn't fast. It can take up to 36 hrs to put the full .011" thickness on, but the process is mostly just letting the plater run. Easy, if you're patient.

  4. #24
    Here's the acid formula I got to sort of work on lead:

    Needless to say, be careful, don't do dumb things with acids, wear the right gear...all that stuff.

    -1 gal distilled water with 3 cups poured off
    -2 cups copper sulfate crystals
    -2 cups dilute sulfuric acid (car battery acid)
    -.5 ml (just 2-3 drops) dilute hydrochloric acid
    - 3/4 teaspoon of Tarn-X (the stuff your grandma uses to remove tarnish from her silver) this helps make the copper plate shiny
    -1/8 teaspoon of PEG 3350 -polyethelene glycol (found in over the counter laxative powder) this a leveler, it helps the plating bath put an even layer of copper over the entire surface of the bullets.

    Heat (don't boil) the water.
    Fully dissolve the copper sulfate crystals into the water
    SLOWLY add your acids to the water, then cap and gently shake to mix.
    Add the Tarn-X and PEG3350, gently shake to mix.

    If you want to get fancy, check the ph and make sure it's around 2. Adjust as needed with more distilled water or sulfuric acid.

    Plate with a very low current density, about 4 amps per square foot and between .7 and 2 volts. Bath temp should be around 105-110 degrees.

    It's about as good as one can do for a DIY copper plating bath made from readily available stuff...works ok on lead. Great on other metals.

  5. #25
    Boolit Master
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    Quote Originally Posted by 45Reverse View Post
    ...and PC is harder than the barrel, so it won't leave invisible deposits? You are correct, it's no more a problem than any FMJ, HiTek, or PC bullet is.

    Federal has had a plated 5.56 bullet out for years. Full velocity too.

    Alkaline plating solutions are "typical"...and infinitely reusable. Buy once, use forever. They're also reasonably priced, you just have to know where to look.

    I size my bullets to make sure they're concentric, the same as you and everybody else does I imagine (Y)

    [edit]- To be clear, alkaline solutions are very tricky to make on your own. Basically impossible unless you have a really nice lab. Acid solutions are easily made at home, so in that sense one could argue alkaline isn't "typical"...but given you can readily buy it by the gallon online and it lasts forever, I call it "typical".
    PC obviously is not harder than the barrel, but the friction coefficient of the polymer is much less than copper or any metal. This explains the 5% increase in velocity gained with PC when shooting an identical loads compared a lead or jacketed bullets. Are there any traces of polymer left in the barrel? Probably, but it would appear it tends to be either much less or is tends to remove itself with repeated firings.

    I hate to break the news, but conventional sizing does not make a cast bullet concentric. The problem is a cast bullet is not concentric when it comes out of the mold. I can size the bands and make the bands round, but the remainder of the bullet is still not concentric (lopsided). You can easily check this with a concentricity gauge. A lopsided bullet is where we have an accuracy issue with full power loads at distance, regardless of what coating is put on the cast bullet. Short range accuracy can be acceptable, but at a point the bullet is going to start to wobble and once the wobble starts it only gets worse. Swagging is the only answer I can see for this problem.

  6. #26
    Boolit Master Idz's Avatar
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    45R. You seem reluctant to share your alkaline bath formula and technique is there a reason for that? Your photo looks like a typical CuSO4 solution. I had read that commercial plating outfits use tumbling, polyethylene beads, and brighteners like glycerin to get smooth, shiny plating but also use noxious cyanide solutions. It would be interesting to see what you're doing.

  7. #27
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    Quote Originally Posted by Idz View Post
    45R. You seem reluctant to share your alkaline bath formula and technique is there a reason for that? Your photo looks like a typical CuSO4 solution. I had read that commercial plating outfits use tumbling, polyethylene beads, and brighteners like glycerin to get smooth, shiny plating but also use noxious cyanide solutions. It would be interesting to see what you're doing.
    Hey there...So, this is 45Reverse posting as '36Power'. My normal acct got pretty messed up after the server upgrade. Still working on getting it completely fixed so for now I'll post as 36Power.

    Anyway, not reluctant to share the alkaline formula at all, but like I was telling Dragonheart, it's really hard to make. I'd need a well stocked lab (and a Chemistry degree) so it's not my formula and not something I can tell you how to make like the acid formula is. Working on a word doc that covers all of this in detail. Will share it once it's done, but for now:

    Use Caswell's non-cyanide alkaline bath. Flash copper they call it. It's a 3 part mix that comes pre-portioned so you don't need a chemistry degree to mix it. This is literally the only copper I've been able to get to truly stick to lead. The acid plating bath is faster and builds a nice shiny plate, but b/c acid doesn't play well with lead you need to wait to use it until you've put a well bonded layer of alkaline copper all over the bullet. .001 is more than enough....after that you are plating copper onto copper, so acid is the way to go.

    Watch this vid...it's pretty cool. Should give you a great picture of how prep (chem etch), then alkaline (cyanide) plate, then acid (sulfuric) plate work for the big boys. I'm mimicking this process on a tiny scale and replacing the cyanide and fluorboric acids with safer alternatives...Thanks to Caswell for doing the chemistry and making it available to us.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WALUO9sopJI

    Re: the additives...The acid copper bullets I put in the post above were done w/ an acid bath that contained laxative and Tarn-x to control the shine and evenness of the plating. Worked great. Adds a little complexity to maintaining the bath, but results are worth it...Makes sense that gylcerin might do the same since they are all 'current masking agents' of one sort or another. Wondering if the poly beads might perform a similar function(?)

    Anyway, the basic jist is that you need to take what these guys are doing and scale it down....basket tumbler instead of great big barrel tumbler, newly cast bullets instead of oxidized cores, dried fluoride based acid instead of liquid fluorboric acid, non-cyanide alkaline instead of cyanide. About the only thing you can almost copy exactly, is the acid formula itself...took years to figure this $*it out, lemme tell ya

    Very first range test last weekend. Was pretty good but had some hiccups. Nothing too critical tho. Will put the deets in another post.

  8. #28
    Boolit Mold
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dragonheart View Post
    ...Are there any traces of polymer left in the barrel? Probably, but it would appear it tends to be either much less or is tends to remove itself with repeated firings.
    The same is true of j-word bullets. My findings appear to suggest the same for plated rounds. If we're going to debate which leaves less microscopic stuff behind, thanks but no. I have a barrel brush and patches like everybody else, I'll use 'em and be happy that I'm getting no leading and my patches are free of visible copper...same as it when I'm shooting my factory LC 55s or 62s.
    I hate to break the news, but conventional sizing does not make a cast bullet concentric. The problem is a cast bullet is not concentric when it comes out of the mold. I can size the bands and make the bands round, but the remainder of the bullet is still not concentric (lopsided). You can easily check this with a concentricity gauge. A lopsided bullet is where we have an accuracy issue with full power loads at distance, regardless of what coating is put on the cast bullet. Short range accuracy can be acceptable, but at a point the bullet is going to start to wobble and once the wobble starts it only gets worse. Swagging is the only answer I can see for this problem.
    Well, if you're PCing swagged bullets then that's a sweet deal I guess. If you're doing it to cast boolits, then you're stuck with all the same concentricty issues as we all are and the land of 'full power' isn't available to you (or any of us) ...Except I'm going for it anyway.

    I'm making these as target and plinking AR-food. I'm not quite at plinking quality yet but it's getting close. Interesting to note: I tested 3 loads this past weekend. Min/Mid/Max...Min got me 2750 fps and huge groups (minute of dinner plate). Mid got me 2850 fps and 5"ish groups. Max got me 3000 fps and 4ish" groups. I like that trend...Will put the deets/pics in another post.

    Anyway, I like my plinking to be at 3000 fps and I don't want to use a GC or lube. I think I can get that 5" down to 2" through load workups. I got three other powders that are worthy of the task. At that point it won't really matter what any misgivings might be from the gallery about my results since plinking quality will have been achieved AFAIAC...wish me luck
    Last edited by 36Power; 06-30-2020 at 08:43 AM.

  9. #29
    Boolit Master
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    The cyanide solutions do degrade over time .....Ive long used a cyanide plating bath for increasing the size of steel bearings ,to restore a tight fit......saves many dollars in machine work .....Anyway ,cut a long story short ,grandkids got to the old solution,causing some panic in the female side of the clan ..........Now if youve ever tasted copper solutions ,you would wonder why a kid would use it to make her lips blue ,but kids aint very bright......Turned out the old solution had no cyanide,just copper.

  10. #30
    Boolit Mold
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    Quote Originally Posted by john.k View Post
    The cyanide solutions do degrade over time .....Ive long used a cyanide plating bath for increasing the size of steel bearings ,to restore a tight fit......saves many dollars in machine work .....Anyway ,cut a long story short ,grandkids got to the old solution,causing some panic in the female side of the clan ..........Now if youve ever tasted copper solutions ,you would wonder why a kid would use it to make her lips blue ,but kids aint very bright......Turned out the old solution had no cyanide,just copper.
    Glad to hear no little ones got sick or hurt.

    It doesn't surprise me that they (cyanide baths) need to be maintained. I *thought* the Caswell formula was pretty much indefinitely reusable. Turns out there is some maintenance that needs to be done to it every once in a while. On the upside it's easy and can be minimized, so it's a still a good way to go.

  11. #31
    Boolit Mold
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    So, my first outing to test these on a shooting range was this past weekend. Results were about as good as I could have expected. More load workups to do and some maintenance is required on my alkaline bath, but otherwise I think I have something I can work with here.

    First, the thing that didn't go as planned:

    Didn't have a ballistic gel block so I did something a lil more down and dirty. Fired a few rounds into plain white paper from a distance of about 5 ft. The idea was to capture any patterning that would happen if my plating was not well adhered. Two of them left behind this mess:
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    The spray patterning is from delaminated copper peeling off the bullet as it exits the barrel...Long story but during the plating of this batch I forgot to perform a critical test. That's smashing a bullet or two to test adhesion. Got cocky and assumed the alkaline bath would always 'do its thing' and the plating would just work. This is ok because I have some of these loaded from a previous plating run that did not experience any delamination...A lil' research determined I had not maintained one of the chems in my plating bath correctly. That's been resolved and the next run of test bullets is tumbling in the plater now.

    A good time to place this reminder to everyone doing plating (or coating in general) *Always* smash test your finished bullets. Nothing will expose problems with your coating faster or easier...A well adhered copper plate will not peel or come off in sheets. Good copper plate will only break when the base metal it's plated on breaks underneath it...If you can smash a bullet and see copper coming off in sheets, or the copper breaks in places where the lead underneath it didn't break, you have adhesion problems.

    Example:
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    Note the bullets on the left...smashed to smithereens and not a trace of peeling anywhere. The only place the copper breaks, is where the lead underneath it broke. The bullets on the right are a problem...notice how the copper peels in sheets without any evidence of the lead underneath it breaking first. Left- great adhesion. Right- Terrible adhesion.

    Never forget to test this before loading them up :)

    In this case one of the chems in the alkaline bath was depleted, all I had to do was replenish it. Live and learn.

    Shooting results:
    Test range: 118 yrds.
    3 loads, 22.1 gr, 23.1 gr, and 24.1 gr VV N530.

    20" DPMS flat top (1:9 twist) shot from a rest over a chrony.

    The 22.1 gr group wasn't even worth posting, just two rounds hit the paper. Average velocity was about 2750 fps.

    The 23.1 gr group tightened up pretty well. 2800 fps-ish:
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    Best results were with 24.1 gr. 3000 fps-ish
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    Will play around with the charge, COL, and a few other things (including Varget, N133, and N135) to keep refining the load. Correcting the adhesion issue should have a positive effect as well. Quite satisfied with how this is going so far.

    Note: all the ancillary damage and debris holes in the target sheets were from rocks I used to steady the boxes the targets were taped to. The bullets hit the rocks behind the box and exploded sending rock and bullet debris back through the box from behind.

  12. #32
    Boolit Master
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    GONRA hasn't plated (Zn plating brass primer cups ~1970) for a looong tme, but reminds us Basement Chem Lab Crazies -
    when you hava Cyanide Plating Bath, be SURE to verk OUTSIDE and NEVER ADD AN ACID to the Cyanide plating bath!
    >>> (Do NOT wanna HCN gas the Little Family!) <<<

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Abbreviations used in Reloading

BP Bronze Point IMR Improved Military Rifle PTD Pointed
BR Bench Rest M Magnum RN Round Nose
BT Boat Tail PL Power-Lokt SP Soft Point
C Compressed Charge PR Primer SPCL Soft Point "Core-Lokt"
HP Hollow Point PSPCL Pointed Soft Point "Core Lokt" C.O.L. Cartridge Overall Length
PSP Pointed Soft Point Spz Spitzer Point SBT Spitzer Boat Tail
LRN Lead Round Nose LWC Lead Wad Cutter LSWC Lead Semi Wad Cutter
GC Gas Check