Decorative chrome plating (as opposed to hard chrome plating used in industrial applications) is the technique of galvanizing a very thin layer (millionths of an inch) of chrome on a metal object. Because the chrome layer is incredibly thin, chrome parts are always plated with nickel first and then chrome is plated over nickel. Nickel plating provides smoothness, much of the corrosion resistance, and most of the reflectivity, while the thin layer of chrome adds a bluish cast, protects the underlying nickel from tarnishing, and minimizes scratching. Some of the advantages and disadvantages of chrome plating are listed below.
Looks great! Chrome parts have a true mirror finish with a slight blue tint. For many, this look is essentially cool.
As a carbide, chrome is resistant to scratches and swirl marks, so it should look good for years.
Because it is a hard metal, it is also easy to care for. You can wash and polish it without worrying about scratching it. Also, as the chrome layer provides a protective barrier to the underlying nickel, rust and corrosion shouldn’t be a problem.
Chrome is very expensive. The coating on a 21 “motorcycle tire can cost up to $ 500.
If the chrome is scratched or damaged, it is not possible to treat the problem locally; The entire part needs to be stripped of its coating (about $ 100, usually) and then plated again. So if some fool hits your bike and scratches your pipes or a pebble out of nowhere hits your chrome bumper, you have to live with it or part with a good sum.
Worse still, your chrome plating suffers enough damage to get through nickel, you will have serious corrosion problems, as the electrochemical reactions of the chrome plating process can force the underlying metal to corrode more quickly.
Chrome retains heat. It’s not a big deal for a wheel, but it chromates your alternator and it’s asking you to fail.
Plating adds metal. If there are tight tolerances to adhere to, then chrome plating can be a problem as it adds metal to metal. With an exhaust, this may not be a problem, but if you want your gun to be plated, those extra millimeters of metal on the slide can inhibit your ability to move freely along the rails, leading to jamming and even possibly an explosion.
Because plating adds metal, it also adds weight. This can be a problem depending on the amount of chrome plating done and the type of parts in question.
Is high polish a viable alternative to chrome plating?
High polishing is the technique of using abrasive discs and compounds to achieve a mirror finish on metal surfaces.
By polishing metal smooth to a microscopic level, light is reflected back to the eye rather than being refracted by microscopic incongruity on the metal surface. It is like the difference between looking into a pool of still water and looking into rippling water. What the high polish does is smooth out the ripples so that the light reflects back towards you and thus shows your reflection.
It looks great too! High polish can also produce a true mirror shine, but unlike chrome, there is no bluish tint, but a pure white sheen.
High polish is inexpensive. The 21 “wheel that can cost $ 500 to silver will only cost about $ 100 to polish.
Unlike plated parts, a scratch or bump on a polished part can be repaired in one place for minimal cost and made to look like new again.
Everything that is veneered is polished first. To achieve a perfectly even finish with a plated part, the metal must be perfectly even (no scratches or dents) prior to plating, otherwise all these imperfections will show through the plating. So, you have the option to polish your pieces and then take a look. If you like the results, then maybe the less maintenance required with polished parts will make it worth saving the hundreds or thousands you would spend for plating. Otherwise, your pieces are already polished, so they should be less expensive to iron, if you wish.
Unlike chrome parts, highly polished parts are prone to scratching. You should be very careful when washing and polishing your highly polished parts, as a single grain of sand or dirt on your towel can leave your part covered in swirl marks. However, there is the option of applying a clear coat of powder paint, which will seal and protect the finish.
Because highly polished parts do not have a protective chrome coating, they require maintenance to keep their finish looking new. The porosity of aluminum, for example, opens it up to oxidation, so you should always wax your polished aluminum after washing it. This will help to prolong its shine. Again, applying a coat of powder to the parts after polishing them will protect them from corrosion.
As you can see, there are clear advantages and disadvantages to both chrome plating and high polish. I hope this information helps you make a more informed decision when choosing between them. If you choose to polish your parts, please take a moment to view our site at http://www.RKPolishing.com and see some samples of our work.