View Full Version : Electroless Nickel at home.

07-19-09, 12:06
I assume that this is the proper forum...

During the summer months, I sweat a lot. Well, I sweat a lot during the winter too. This has limited my pistol selection - here's what I did to a stainless Sig P220 in less than one day's worth of carry.


I thought about sending some pistols off to Robar for refinishing, but I did some mental math and figured that I should just wait until I hit the lottery.

Then I ran across Caswell Plating's website, and decided to order one of their Electroless Nickel plating kits. (http://www.caswellplating.com/kits/electroless.htm). They have four sizes - Midway sells them too, but for a higher price. I went with the second smallest. Shipped Priority mail, the cost was right around $125.

I received it in 3 days and got right to work.

Here are the contents of the kit. Not pictured is the instruction manual, which is an excellent resource for all forms of refinishing, not simply electroless nickel.


Before I started to brew the solution, I had to remove the finish from my victim - in this case, an exceptionally ugly Kimber Custom II.


On a good day, I could get the entire left side of the slide to rust. In a kydex holster.

So, as I was saying, I needed to remove the old finish. There are several ways to accomplish this. Initially, I chose to strip it. To do this, you need water, and a substance called muriatic acid. I bought a quart of it in the pool section of my local Ace Hardware for $2.99.

Caswell's forum recommended a 5% solution, so I put 950ml of water and 50ml of the acid in a little tupperware type container.

I started out using gloves, then found that the solution did nothing more than cause a pleasant tingling sensation. I wouldn't recommend it as a body wash, however.


This solution worked very well on the slide and small parts. In fact, simply dipping it in the solution and giving it one or two swipes with a steel AP brush was essentially all that was needed.


The frame, however, proved to be a tougher nut to crack - so I added a little muriatic acid. I don't know how much. This didn't strike me as the "exact science" part. I wasn't able to get everything, so I let the frame soak in the tub for a while.

When I was done, this is what everything looked like. I did not choose to plate the sear or disconnector.


At this point, I needed to clean the surfaces of all the parts. I failed to do this properly the first time around, and ended up having to redo the slide and the smaller components.

When I finished degreasing all of the parts, I had used the contents of large can of Powder Blast. It worked great - when I did it right. After I sprayed the PB on the part, I held it with a paper towel and wiped it off. Then I did the water break test, which is described in the Caswell manual - put some distilled water on the part, and watch its behavior - if it beads up, it still has oil or grease on it. If the water comforms to the surface and does not bead up, you're good to go. The degreasing is the most important part of this process, believe me.

Now for the solution. I had ordered what I thought was quite a bit, but in hindsight I would have ordered a larger kit. I will certainly be able to refinish several handguns with it, but only if I pay attention, degrease properly and don't have to redo half the pistol. http://www.ar15.com/images/smilies/smiley_smartass.gif

Caswell does include a replenishment solution with the kit and sells more on their website. The "bath" can be replenished up to 10 times, and there are some pretty simple calculations for how much to replenish on their website and in the manual.

Mixing instructions are very simple - distilled water, Part A, Part B, and Eye of Newt. All in specific proportions. 1 pint of distilled water, 3oz of one solution, 1oz of another solution. I used 6 pints of water. You do the math.

After you mix the solution, you have to heat it. Caswell includes an electric heater. Plug it in to an outlet and drop it in the bucket - really, it's that simple.


Once the solution heated up, I added parts. Then I waited. I did pull the frame and slide out and rotate them from side to side every 15 minutes or so, though I'm not sure if it was necessary.

The thickness of the plating depends on how long you leave the part in the solution. It seemed that 1 mil (1/1000in) per hour could be expected. Caswell recommends .5mil for firearms, and 1 mil for parts requiring extra corrosion resistance. Robar's website isn't very clear on the subject, but seemed to indicate that they plate firearms with 2mils of electroless nickel.

I ended up plating right over 1 mil on the parts. Here is the result. It isn't perfect, but it's way better than the previous finish. I now have no excuse to not carry this fine firearm. You can see that the slide and frame internals received a healthy dose as well. I am completely satisfied with the kit - this is something straight out of 7th grade science class. Very easy to do and very reasonably priced. I'll be plating several other pistols and also the bolt carrier groups of several ARs.


I refinished my stainless 1911 as well, which also gave me rust issues at times. Prep was a lot easier, no finish to strip. Here is the result. You can clearly see the difference between the blasted finish of the stainless 1911 and the brushed, more lustrous finish of the carbon steel 1911.


Heavy Metal
07-19-09, 12:15
Too Cool!:cool:

07-19-09, 12:40
Nice work.

07-19-09, 13:08
I'd definitely be interested in seeing how the finish holds up at the friction points , especially on the AR bcg's you do.
I have been considering starting up a few things similar to this, such as a parkerizing tank/etc.

07-19-09, 13:42
Wow! The finish on the first Kimber rocks!

That looks great. Could you post more pics of the first Kimber?

Are you going to nickel plate your P220?

07-19-09, 19:24
Great post

Dave Berryhill
07-19-09, 19:48
Very cool! I've never thought about doing it myself. It looks like you plated the grips on your Kimber too :D

Here's a tip: don't store the muriatic acid anywhere near your guns, tools, or anything else steel or you'll have serious rust problems no matter what type of container you store the acid in (ask me how I know).

07-19-09, 19:55
Nice! That's a fine looking peice. Good write-up too. I too, am anxious to see how it does on friction surfaces, specifically the BCG. I love chemistry!!!

07-19-09, 20:18
Wow - that is very cool. Thanks for this post and the step by step. I have a few ideas...

07-20-09, 00:51
Thanks for the pics and detailed write up. The Kimber came out great!

07-20-09, 02:07
Now I got to see how my Kimber Custom II would look in that finish! Cool!

Greg Bell
07-20-09, 07:20
Excellent post.

07-20-09, 07:59
Very cool, looks just fine to me.

07-20-09, 08:59
Very interesting thread.

Thanks for sharing.

07-20-09, 10:11
That's pretty damn cool. If you've got kids, you've also got a bitchin' turnkey science project for the next science fair:D

07-20-09, 10:45
Fantastic Job!!!!

Would it be possible to post some pictures of the other side, top & bottom of the gun as well?? I have a Rock Island Armory Tactical that I would like to do that to!!


07-20-09, 15:26
Can you do that to my Glock?

07-20-09, 16:38
I redid the Custom II. Wasn't happy with a few spots. Preparation is key with this process - I switched to an industrial degreaser found at Home Depot in concentrate, and carefully monitored the temperature (it needs to be between 185-195 F) via a thermometer from Safeway. If anyone plans on doing this themselves, I'd strongly recommend that you use these two things.

I think it turned out pretty well...


07-20-09, 16:46
What's with the chingaderra on the front of the slide?

07-20-09, 16:48
Got a little aggressive removing the old finish. That's in the metal, not the finish. Like I said, it kinda highlights any imperfections...

07-20-09, 18:15
To say that I am pleased is...an understatement.



07-21-09, 07:09
What's with the chingaderra on the front of the slide?

MisterWilson.....that's one I havent heard used in quite a few years. I used to work with a guy that used it waaayyyy to much. Pretty much anything he was talking about became a "chingaderra".......LOL

You should be proud!! That looks great on a used and worn gun. I can imagine how it will look on my new Rock Island Armory Tactical. I will order the kit sometime this week. I am really looking forward to trying this. I have a questions though.......I am guessing you did all the pins as well, so how did they fit in their respective bores after plating???? What about the slide to frame rail fit? Did you have to do anything to any close tolerance fit on the gun after plating???
Thanks for the great pictures!!


07-21-09, 10:55
You should be proud!! That looks great on a used and worn gun. I can imagine how it will look on my new Rock Island Armory Tactical. I will order the kit sometime this week. I am really looking forward to trying this. I have a questions though.......I am guessing you did all the pins as well, so how did they fit in their respective bores after plating???? What about the slide to frame rail fit? Did you have to do anything to any close tolerance fit on the gun after plating???
Thanks for the great pictures!!


I actually didn't do the pins. The finish on them was pretty resistant to the acid solution, and holding them still while trying to scrub them was a bitch. I was also a little concerned about their fit. If you add 1 mil to the pistol, that means the ID of every hole is reduced 2 mils, and the OD of every pin is increased 2 mils. So I'd be dealing with 4 mils less clearance for every mil - and when I was done with this pistol, it had around 2mils EN plating! The smaller parts don't have so much, but still...

I did notice that the barrel bushing became tighter vs. the frame - bushing still fits fine on the barrel, but it almost mandates the use of a bushing wrench now. That's fine with me - this pistol was pretty loosey goosey before. Slide to frame fit - like I said it was loose - now there is a reduced amount of movement.

If you have any questions, feel free to email or IM me. Also the caswellplating.com forums are a great resource. My first and most important piece of advice is take your time and don't skimp on the prep. Make sure all the finish is gone, then properly degrease it in a solution of degreaser and water that is over 150 degrees. You can use the heater they provide with the degreaser solution, no harm done.

07-21-09, 23:58
I do not know how to put this back together...no...seriously...

By the way, Tex45acp, keep some spray bottles of distilled water around, one for the parts as you remove them from the solvent, another to flush your eyes and/or other areas after splashy-splashy...


07-22-09, 09:23
Was that the Belgian one?

07-22-09, 11:24
Yes, but like I said, it is not as rare or valuable as you think it is... And the finish sucked...It came off in about 2-3 seconds in the muriatic acid. At this point I need to either use the pistols I have or sell them. I don't want to sell this one. So it's coming out of storage and I'm going to use it. Meaning a refinish.

07-22-09, 11:29

07-23-09, 10:52

Thanks for all the information!!! Oh by the way I really like the look of that Kimber in the bottom picture. I am hoping that since my RIA is new without any blemishes or marks it will look as good. I do plan to do a fair amounf of dehorning before plating. I also am thinking of texturing/stippling the front of the grip frame and back of the slide & possibly the top of the slide before plating as well. Here are the grip frames of a couple of guns I textured.
Browning Hi Power

Stainless CZ75

07-23-09, 10:53
That looks great, what did you use to texture it?

07-23-09, 13:45
Yeah, that looks outstanding. I'm sure you have the patience to do the e-nickel right.

My Kimber was fairly beat up, but enough time with a steel brush got rid of most of the dings...A new pistol would look great. My BHP was like new, it looks outstanding.

07-23-09, 15:25

I have been looking to get the frame plated on the 1911 that I am building. The issue is that I can't find anyone around here that will do it so I would have to drop a chunk in shipping alone.

I think I might order one of these kits. :cool:

07-23-09, 16:20
I use these files and a dead blow mallet. I lay the file on the surface gently pulling downward and tap with the mallet until I get the desired texture. Each piece took me about 1 hour to do.


09-08-09, 12:00
Bump...Now with Glock...




09-08-09, 12:56

Those are some large pics.

My desktop os 1680zx1050 and I have to scroll to the right to see them

09-08-09, 14:14
Very cool!

Did the finish add enough thickness to cause any fit issues putting it all back together? (Disregard this question, I posted it before I realized there was a second page).

How shiny will it get if you polish it?

09-08-09, 15:00
Nice work and a good write-up, 87GN.

09-08-09, 16:45
Thanks guys...

How shiny will it get if you polish it?

If you want, you could bring it to a mirror finish. Better to do so before you plate, but it's possible afterwards too.

09-08-09, 22:41
How is the Kimber looking these days? I'm highly interested in this now.

09-09-09, 10:19
I wonder, can this be done on a LW Commander frame i.e. aluminum?

09-09-09, 10:22
I wonder, can this be done on a LW Commander frame i.e. aluminum?

Yes, you just have to use a product called Zincate first, provides a clean surface for the nickel to plate to. Since aluminum forms surface corrosion instantly on contact with air, or something like that.

09-09-09, 10:28
How is the Kimber looking these days? I'm highly interested in this now.

I don't have my SLR at the moment...here's a quick pic with my old Sony digital...

No rust, a few scratches from a kydex holster with some dirt in it...Oh, I tried going for a 2 tone look, with blued components, but the bluing wore off the thumb safety & slide stop after a week or so. Need to just redo those parts in nickel.


09-09-09, 22:36
Looks nice, thanks for the update. I might be going for this on my Springfield 1911.

09-12-09, 20:52
Very nice!!