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nickel plating 36 -7 barrels, and heads

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  • nickel plating 36 -7 barrels, and heads

    I would like to have my cylinders re plated. I believe they were electroless plated. So my question is: can I have the cylinders plated then rebored? Will the boring operation cut through the plating which will be on the cylinder walls? Stan

  • #2
    pretty sure they cap the top and bottom Stan.


    • #3
      I assume you know all the pros and cons of nickle plating them,I have a few Fours and although they are pretty original MCs on the ones that have needed cylinder work I choose NOT to refinish theem OEM it doeasnt seem to last very long and looks better not done,but thats my opinion and I sure you will loose points because you didnt do it! I dont care about points Ilike to ride mine
      Good Luck which ever you choose!


      • #4

        It is good that you are already aware that electroless is superior to electroplate, as it not only covers deep into the fins, it does not build up upon the edges of gasket surfaces or accent machine marks.

        Pro plating providers use a waxy compound that is painted on to prevent adhesion where it is not desired. I have heard it referred to as "Stop-Plate".



        • #5
          I have had many cylinders plated including four cylinder bikes. Electroless is the way to go and you can specify dull to bright plating. Dull is generally correct and puts less nickel on the cylinder. My plater hates to prep them becuase he is an industrial plater and time is money in his business. For masking he prefers lead tape which you can get from McMaster Carr. You may want to check with the plater you are going to use and find out what he prefers for masking. My plater gives me a great price on doing cylinders because I do all of the prep work for him and all he has to do is plate them. I'd give you his name but he doesn't take new work.

          In the past I have had cylinders plated and machined after. I got no complaints from the machine shop so I can only assume there is no problem. I do find this a bit difficult to believe becuase nickle is a mother to machine and will kill a high speed steel tool. Carbide cutters will cut nickel but if it was me I would charge extra for the possiblity of dulling my tooling.

          Nickel holds up great on cylinders and keeps them looking good for a long time. I had the jugs on my '40 Chief done a number of years ago and they still look fresh. When I do see a bit of rust between the fins I use a Q-tip and dab some high heat aluminum paint on the rust and it seems to blend perfectly.


          • #6
            I've heard that the electroless was initally bright back in the day. It dulls over time. Is that true? Makes sense to me. Why are we trying to match something that has oxidized over 60yrs plus.


            • #7
              My plater requests the finish you want on the job order. He can make it dull if you want or bright. I just had a pile of Henderson stuff plated and divided it into dull and bright. He delivered his usual quality. I should add that I do all of the polishing so I have control over the finish as well. If I want a part to look like it was tumbled and plated I use a stiff wire wheel brush to give the part a light stippled finish.

              Nickel color is a guaranteed argument with many early motorcycle people. A few years ago a club member who owned a plating company claimed that all early nickel was "gray nickel" and that modern nickel plating was to bright. I have heard that bright nickel is a post WW2 finish and that it was discovered that adding sugar to the nickel solution during plating will make the nickel bright. There is some truth to this but I have seen and posessed many early N.O.S. Henderson and Excelsior parts and they are very bright and have the look of modern nickel plating. My rule of thumb is, if a part is a 'glamour' part such as shifter handles, handlebars, valve covers, or pedal cranks the parts were polished by the factory and intended to look bright and reflective. The more utilitarian and structural parts were tumbled in huge tumblers to remove burrs, machine marks and scale and then nickeled. The finish is very dull and gray.

              Nickel will dull and oxidize with age and get that antique look. Personally, I think that is why some people believe gray nickel is the correct finish. However, H-D, Indian, Excelsior and for that matter Ford, Packard, and Buick didn't nickle plate parts to have them look silver. They wanted a bright refective finish and chrome wasn't a practical process at that time.

              Sorry to drone on about this but I've been a number of arguments about this and it always gets me going.


              • #8
                Thanks for stateing it so clearly! I agree.

                In this case w/ the 4our barrels. Was it the intent of Indian to try to match the reflection (or color) of the aluminum cast parts on the engine? Any thoughts?


                • #9
                  Thanks for the great info re this Eric.
                  What do you suggest the correct finish for my 1922 Power Plus barrels should be then? Bright, or dull?
                  They are surface rusting, so I need to replate them.

                  Best wishes.



                  • #10
                    From my observation, early motorcycle cylinders were dull on the fins but somewhat bright on the smooth barrel section between the mounting flange and fins. I think this is because that section was often turned on a lathe to true it up. And I think that was done just for looks because I can't see any production advantage for that added operation. Regardless, that turned surface always has a bright finish because nickel is naturally reflective on a smooth surface and dull on a textured surface. . . . But let's not go there again !

                    I think the factories wanted a bright nickel finish to contrast to the aluminum, and their advertising literature always bragged about ample plating. Take a good look at many of the pre-1925 motorcycles and notice the number of parts that were nickeled. If you're restoring one you'll be stunned by your plating bill.

                    Baytown, you may want to consider blasting your cylinders with walnut shells. It will remove the dirt and oxidation but take very little metal off. If they are still in the original finish but rusted through the nickel you will most likely have to strip them if you want them to look perfect. I would go for a dull finish to be on the safe side of the judging staff.

                    As a side note, I talked a friend through reverse plating a part on his VL this weekend. It was a part that needed to be Parkerized but had been jazzed up with nickel some time in the past. He had tried all of the usual methods of getting the nickel off but nickel is tough stuff. I suggested that he reverse plate it by putting the part in a salt solution and using a battery charger for his DC power source. He was fixated on using miratic acid as his solution which I advised against but he did it anyways. The part with the plating becomes the anode and is hooked to the positive (+) terminal. Copper makes a great cathode and that goes in the tank hooked to the negative (-) terminal. 6 volts at 2 amps works well. I was surprised to see the acid worked quite well as a solution but I still wouldn't recommend it because it can be dangerous stuff and hard to dispose of.

                    Again, I'm sorry to go on and on, I know this can be pretty boring stuff. By the way, it was 34 degrees here in Sarasota this morning.


                    • #11
                      Very interesting stuff indeed!!! I've seen the results of the reverse plating process. It works pretty darn good! A friend of mine had the misfortune of having his shop burn to the ground and he lost one of his bikes in the process. It wasn't a total loss. He did manage to rebuild the shovel. But his plating was absolutely screwed!!! So he did the ol' battery charger in a solution trick ( I can't remember what he used?).

                      Thanks for all the info Eric, this has been a valuable thread!


                      • #12
                        I agree with Cotten that electroless is the best for cylinders. It penetrates into the bottom of the fins easily, as sulphamate, or nickle no brightener does not as easliy. If the nickle is not that bad, don't remove what is in deep and re-electroplate it. Electroless, as far as I understand, was developed during WW2. It is a different color than the sulphamate but tones in nicely. The big problem in electroplating is that most platers don't know how to get penetration deep into the fins and try to make up for it by leaving it in too long which results in too much nickle, yet not enough to get to the bottom. The end result is a gobby looking job that rusts in the crevaces and creates poor gasket mating surfaces and adds to overheating due to poor heat transfer through the overly thick layer of plating. Preventing plating from going on unwanted surfaces is commonly called masking. It is always best to talk with your plater if you want to mask yourself, as there are many ways to accomplish masking. I think plating then machining is the logical step. As with all plating jobs, I always pick up as soon as possible and then immerse the freshly plated parts in clean hot non detergent motor oil and only wipe clean before assembly.. If you do that, you will thank yourself many times over ten years from now when the plating work still looks good and is not rusting from the inside out.


                        • #13
                          The plating is very ruff on the boring tool.. I paint all the machine surfaces with a lacquar base paint, It is the correct PH for the plating tanks