Her Favorite Color is Chrome....


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Nov 9, 2006
Doylestown, PA
Thread starter #1
I receive many questions every month about how to manage chrome for motorcycle and car parts, so I've decided to publicly reply.

Chrome is a process that needs to be managed well if you are to have a good outcome for your projects. I have tried out quite a few chromers in the last 10 years and currently only work with one. He has been an invaluable help for technical questions and he handles the engraved parts I give him with care. He is also in on the planning of certain projects depending on the base metal of the project.

Starting at the beginning. Chrome is a hard plating that is applied during a submersion process where the part(s) are put into a tank with an electrical current. The metal (copper, zinc, nickel, chrome, etc.) moves in small particles from a metal bar that has also been suspended in the tank, through the carrier medium and onto the part(s) that have been suspended in the tank. This allows an even distribution of metal to all areas of the part at the same time. Chrome (as well as the other metals) "build up" at differing rates and leave anywhere from millionths of an inch to thousandths of an inch of the new metal on the surface.

There are 2 main types of plating. One is called hard chrome plating or "hard chrome" and is used for industrial and engineering purposes. This proces puts a relatively thick coating on a part and is not necessarilly shiney. It would be used on parts that need protection from the elements so they don't rust, etc., but it is not set up for looking good. Many chromers will only do industrial type chrome. It is not meant to look great and can have many slight imperfections. A shop set up for this type of chrome may refuse to do any high end "show" chrome at all.

The other type of chrome is called decorative or "show" chrome. This is the type of chrome that is on fancy cars and Harleys. Sometimes it is also called "triple plating". This is a very labor intensive process if done correctly and is the type of chrome we want on the high end bikes.

Before the plating even begins the original parts must be stripped of any existing chrome and polished to a mirror shine. It is possible to engrave through chrome, but I refuse to do it. Customers are not very happy when their expensive bike parts start to rust, chip or peel. The better the mirror polish, the better results for the end chrome. Once I receive the parts back from the chromer, I'm very careful with them because any imperfections such as scratches or dings will show. This includes slips from engraving, burs, etc. The plating process will cover all the surfaces equally and will not hide any problems the metal has.

I then engrave on the mirror surfaces of the parts. One foot note here... To avoid going blind looking at the mirror surface I sometimes spray the surface with hair spray to dull it a bit.

Once the engraving is done, the parts go back to the chromer. They are put through an acid bath to remove any debris and oil and then put into a copper tank. After a sufficient layer of copper is applied, the bike parts are removed and hand buffed back to a mirror shine. Then it's back to the acid bath and into a nickel tank. After the nickel tank again the parts are hand buffed. One more time it goes into the acid bath and into the final tank of chrome. It is buffed one more time and put through the acid bath and is packaged in plastic without dust or even fingerprints.

As you can see the chrome is a labor intensive process. The more attention to detail the chromer gives to each step the better the final project. Many high end bikers will not think twice about complaining if the chrome on the job is not perfect even though the engraving is. Also, I give quotes to many people who didn't consider that the process would also involve a chrome charge and who then abandon the job.

I've had this question many times "Why don't you let people take care of their own chrome?" I will. People are free to take their engraved parts and go anywhere. However, I tell them that if their chromer puts too much copper or nickel on the part and obliterates the design, it's not my fault. I did quite a bit of testing with the chromer I use so he is mindful of the engraving. Also, if the design is buffed too much and wrecked, or the chromer puts too much metal on the part it is not just a process of backing off the metal. After the stripping the metal needs a lot of buffing to bring it up to the mirror shine and away goes all your work....

I hope this info is helpful. There is probably someone at the cafe who knows more about this process than I and if he/she can give even more tips that would be great - we could all learn more.
Dec 22, 2013
I usually have them send the parts back to me in copper then I engrave. But I would like to try your process but I'm aways afraid to not engrave deep enough. Plus the stripping and polishing of bare metal is a pain.


New Member
Sep 4, 2017
I've tried some fuel tanks for my friends and i must say it's too hard to be done imperfectly. As nappara said, i am also affraid going too deep. My interesting concept was foiling the whole body, attach it to bare metal and engrave from scratch

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