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Old April 8, 2011, 06:57 PM   #1
steve1147
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Copper plating finally coming together...

Been working on this for a while, a LOT of initial information from a guy screen named Horseman almost two years ago. All first attempts were a mess. This has not been easy or cheap, but I'm finally putting a .005+ copper coating on 158 grain cast bullets swaged down to .351, then resizing to .357 after the copper coating. I can still only produce about 25 per day with my simple system.
I could add amperage, etc. and coat as thick as I want, but this seems good.
It's NOT economical, but it's a hobby, right? Suppossed to be fun.
Anyone else experimenting with this?
Thanks! Steve W.
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Old April 8, 2011, 07:25 PM   #2
Horseman
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Looks like a good project but I don't remember contributing....
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Old April 8, 2011, 08:36 PM   #3
Edward429451
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I played around with plating pewter figurines with copper sulfate from the plumbing truck and a 9v battary. It worked pretty good but I shoot too much lead to add a step like that.

So how do you do it? How about a pic of your setup? They look good.
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Old April 9, 2011, 06:51 AM   #4
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Oops, sorry, different "Horseman" from different website. Here's the link to the old posts I got my basic info from. I'm doing a few things differently than him after some trial and error, and yes, it is very time consuming and anything but economical. BUT it's neat.

http://forums.handloads.com/archive/...TID=22347&PN=1
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File Type: jpg plater_47 003.jpg (151.5 KB, 184 views)
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Old April 9, 2011, 11:50 PM   #5
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Wow I think that is awesome. I totally understand the notion of "impractical but way cool"

Have you actually shot any of these things yet??

Good luck and keep on platin'

-cls
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Old April 10, 2011, 12:24 PM   #6
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Looking at your setup, I see your method of grasping the bullets. I understand that you have to have some method of grasping the bullets and making the electrical contact with them. Does the contact areas create small points on the bullets with no plating?

I have looked Berry's bullets over with a magnifier, and the plating looks absolutely uniform over their entire surface. I see no evidence of anything gripping them. I wonder how they do that.
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Old April 10, 2011, 01:11 PM   #7
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I use a set-up sorta kinda like yours, but I use it to remove rust from tools and things before I paint them.

I accidently hooked it up wrong the first time and removed all the chrome plating from a few wrenches.

Pretty neat set-up, what are you using for a power source?
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Old April 10, 2011, 03:20 PM   #8
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There's a really simple process by which bullets can be evenly plated, and I'm positive this is what Berry's does. It's called barrel plating. In this system, which I used in my business for many years (not bullets BTW) the pieces to be plated are placed in a barrel with holes in it, the barrel and parts are lowered into the plating solution, the barrel is slowly rotated and the parts tumble, constantly making and breaking electrical contact and plating is very uniform in thickness.

It would be very easy to barrel plate your own bullets but I find it much easier to buy Berry's. For what they charge, I wouldn't bother trying to do it myself.

Now, if you just want to see if you can do it, that's fine, and it would be very rewarding to be able to say "I did it" but that's a personal choice.
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Old April 10, 2011, 03:22 PM   #9
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Looks like several PC power supplies for the power. And is that a Marine battery in the case? or is that the tank. Curious how your holding the bullets.

Mike
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Old April 10, 2011, 03:28 PM   #10
steve1147
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Quote:
Looking at your setup, I see your method of grasping the bullets. I understand that you have to have some method of grasping the bullets and making the electrical contact with them. Does the contact areas create small points on the bullets with no plating?
Yes, the contact points do not plate, so If I have a 8 hour plateing going, I have to remove the bullets and reposition the hangers somewhere midway for a full plateing. I know I'm not getting the full plateing on those areas, but it works out well.
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Old April 10, 2011, 03:37 PM   #11
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Quote:
I use a set-up sorta kinda like yours, but I use it to remove rust from tools and things before I paint them.

I accidently hooked it up wrong the first time and removed all the chrome plating from a few wrenches.

Pretty neat set-up, what are you using for a power source?
I started with a 6 volt .5 amp power supply from like a cellphone charger, but it was too slow, took 24 hours for 12 bullets. I'm now using an old computer power supply I scavenged using the 5 volt output at 1.5 amps, it will do a full .005 plateing of 16 in about 6-8 hours.
I did the same thing, if your polarity is reversed, it'll take lead off and deposit it on the copper donor plate!
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Old April 10, 2011, 03:48 PM   #12
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Quote:
Looks like several PC power supplies for the power. And is that a Marine battery in the case? or is that the tank. Curious how your holding the bullets.
No marine battery, that's the plater tank. Only one power supply is being used, I scavenged it from the old computer you see in the lower area. I use the 5 volt output at 1.5 amps. One of the ones you see was used earlier, and the 12 volt regulated supply is yet to be tried.
Look at the link above and you'll see how the bullets are held. Read all his stuff, then I'll tell the changes I've made if anyone is interested.
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Old April 11, 2011, 02:03 PM   #13
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Quote:
Have you actually shot any of these things yet??
Absolutely! After plating they're re-swaged back to .357 with a Lee sizing die.
As of today only as a 38 special in a GP-100 with great results. I've gotta change the machine over and I'll start with some low-vel .357 mags and see how they hold up.
My alloy I'm using is 92/4/4 lead, tin, antimony and water quenched so already pretty hard showing a BHN of 15 to 15.5 before plating, I doubt the plating makes any difference in that.
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Old April 12, 2011, 08:44 PM   #14
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Quote:
then I'll tell the changes I've made if anyone is interested.
YES!
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Old May 25, 2011, 05:22 PM   #15
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Very interesting

DO TELL!
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Old May 26, 2011, 06:43 AM   #16
steve1147
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Whoops! Forgot about this post for a while.
Like I said, I followed the basics of that other article, but the 6 volt .5 amp dc power was too slow, so I scavenged an old computer power supply and use the 5 volt 1.5 amp dc supply. Instead of 24 hours to get a .005" plateing it becomes 6-8 hours.
I remove them 1/2 way through and rotate in the hangers so I don't have two bare spots (just for looks...).
Instead of "a few drops" of bleach, I found about 1/2 cup in the two gallons of sulfate solution seems to work better.
Instead of the acetone cleaning prior to plateing which didn't seem to work well for me, I found a quick dip (5-10 seconds only) in pure muriatic acid etches them well and allows a good all over plate.
After dipping in acid, they are not to be touched. Use clean tools only to handle them at this point, if you touch them w/fingers while wet w/acid, it eats your fingertips, if they're dry and you touch them, they won't plate in that area.
I use a double outlet aquarium pump into two 1/4" copper pipes w/tiny holes drilled in them to keep the solution rolling good.
Still, be prepared to throw a percentage of them in the re-melt pile, they won't all come out just as you like.
Last, I tumble them for 24 hours in walnut, they shine-up pretty well.
Attached is the drawing I gave to the machinist to make the first .352 swage die (he charged me $125.00...). I gave him standard bolt stock, then when it was done I heated it cherry red and quenched in oil. The second die I bought from Lee (a standard .358 lube and sizing die for $15) to swage them back down to firing size after plateing.
Good Luck, it's very time consuming and un-economical, but kinda cool.
Steve W.

Whoops again, couldn't link to a 'word' document, here's the text info for the machinist:
DIE #1

7/8” x 14tpi x 1-1/2” long
.352” +/-.0003 bore
Increase bore .100” x ½” taper one end only
Polish interior with 600+ grit or comparable to smooth finish
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Old May 26, 2011, 06:49 AM   #17
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Also....at first I was using a 3/8" copper pipe curled in the bottom of the tank as the donor plate. I found after a hundred or so bullets, most the donor copper comes off right about water level, and the pipe fell apart there and I didn't know it, so it wouldn't plate.
I went to a heavy 3/4" pipe and keep an eye on it now.

THEN, if you still have too much time on your hands, you can build a holding block, set-up the drill press, and make them into nice hollow-points like this:
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Old May 26, 2011, 08:28 AM   #18
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If you want to see how its done come on down and you can help us rebuild our forward bath. You can climb in with a hazmat suit and join in the cleanup. We have to re-fit the tanks every 3 years or so, great fun. The one process you don't have that is present in a barrel is that the bullets burnish each other to a nice polish while they are plating. Take a look inside a hollow point or hollow base where they can't contact each other and you will see that frosty copper finish.
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Old August 10, 2012, 01:15 PM   #19
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I've been contemplating this idea for a while now. Proof of concept is well documented on youtube with these 2 series of videos. Each is multivideo so look up the remainder of the videos in each series.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=to4j5...=results_video
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2KM_hr5eCNo

Both of these fellows processes are crude but lay the groundwork for refining the process which I will go into later. But first, I will admit that I have no desire or patience to wire up boolits individually. The drugery of such would drive me mad. Further research revealed that barrel plating would be ideal for this process. One advantage of barrel plating is that the plating process could be performed on multiple pieces. A second advantage would be that the boolit would be totally plated. Thirdly, the barrel plating process creates a more uniform plate thickness. Commercial barrel plating machines cost far more than any hobbyist would be willing to pay. But, I did find this one guy who's home made barrel plating machine would be quite inexpensive to replicate.

http://www.nulltime.com/zincplating/index.html

This guy is using his machine to zinc plate, but changing the anode and cathode as well as the plating solution could easily be configured to accomodate copper plating.

Briefly, my reason for wanting to copper plate boolits is to accomodate a shrinking supply of lead wheel weights. I lived through this before with the loss of linotype and now it's happening again. I like the idea of just going to the local metal salvage yard and buying scrap lead at the going price. Scrap lead has few, if any, ingredients that lend themselves to good cast boolits. The scrap lead tends to be on the very soft side. I just want to cast up some boolits of unknown hardness and plate them so I have no leading issues.

Back to copper plating. I set up some goals for quantity and such and worked backward to try to accomodate these goals. I'm sure my numbers aren't precise, but I found that one square foot of copper plating requires 18 amps and the thickness would be determined by time of plating. Initially, I set my goal to be 100 230gr RN 45acp boolits. After some calculations, I found that the surface area of one 230gr RN 45acp is about 1 (one) square inch. That made it quite convenient. So 100 boolits is 100 square inches. 100/144*18=12.5amps of current. The voltage is apparently irrelevant, only enough voltage is required to reach the 12.5 amps. Variable power supplies to achieve 12.5 amps are pricey. So I reduced my requirements to 50 boolits so that only 6.25amps are required. I found a 10amp power supply at a price I can justify and the calculations reveal that I can do 75 boolits at just less than 10amps.

I have read ASTM B319 Standard Guide for Preparation of Lead and Lead Alloys for Electroplating.

It's 4 pages long and has 9 different kinds of gobbelygook but the upshot it would seem is a bath of sulphamic acid would be a good "pickling solution" for pre cleaning the boolits prior to plating. Home Improvement stores sell this stuff as grout cleaner. Comes in granular form and is mixed similarly to the copper sulfate you would use in the plating bath. Rinse in water between pickling and plating.

http://www.homedepot.com/h_d1/N-5yc1...pper%20sulfate
http://www.homedepot.com/h_d1/N-5yc1...lphamic%20acid

Then I need to figure out how long it takes to plate 50-75 boolits to a thickness of .003 to .005".

My plating process will begin at the casting table. I will cast my boolits then quench in water where they will remain until the plating process begins. I will keep them in water so they won't oxidize in free air. I will have 3 baths setup to accomodate the barrel plater. I will build just the frames of the barrel plater for all the baths and just insert boolits into the basket/drive assembly for the first bath of sulfamic acid. After the requisit time in that bath, I'll just insert the basket/drive assembly into the water bath for a minute or so and then finally into the last bath, the plating bath. I do plan to heat the water in the plating bath as illustrated in the first set of youtube videos I posted in this post. I may experiment with differrent mixing chemicals for the plating bath. The second set of youtube videos shows the guy using vinegar to mix into the copper sulfate. I may try that. Anything that enhances the plating process that doesn't cost too much or is too dangerous I'd be willing to try.

Last edited by Tyrod; August 10, 2012 at 01:21 PM.
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Old August 10, 2012, 02:10 PM   #20
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Never done it with boolits, but I have indeed used a 12 volt battery, a salt solution, and a piece of copper water pipe to plate brass trolling spoons...

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Old August 10, 2012, 06:21 PM   #21
Tyrod
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Reloading is an investment endeavor that in some cases takes a very long time to get a return. The return for most folks is directly proportional to the amount of shooting they do. Some would say there is never a return because the money you're saving is being used up by shooting more. These days it seems the industry goes into ond out of phase with supply that is relative to which way the political wind is blowing. Boolits are the most expensive component I buy. If I can find a way to reduce my boolet expenses then I can reload more economically. As with most things in life, it's a balance between time spent on reloading and money spent on components. Most reloaders don't cast their own boolits for lots of reasons. But, with the cost of any kind of boolit or any other kind of reloading supply going up 30% a year and in some cases there simply isn't any availability of components. I'm simply trying to create a method of furnishing a component where the supply has dried up. Or at least economical supply has dried up. What I'm trying to do is to create a method of furnishing a component outside of the shooting or reloading industry. One that is only minimally invested in political endeavors.

Once I get my stuff together and have a published working method then others will find it easier to accomplish the same thing. I'm not even breaking new ground. I building on the backs of other who've gone before me. Who knows, someone may figure out a safe and economical way to produce smokeless powder and primers. Assuming these new methods are competitive with commercially available alternatives then it's not out of the realm of possibility that nothing (or very little) need to be purchased from the shooting or reloading industry.

I'm retired, so I have plenty of labor I can contribute. I also have a well stocked workshop with a metal lathe and vertical mill. What I don't have is a lot of money to spend on this endeavor, so I'm going to have to go at this by bits and bobs until I can afford all the stuff I need. Maybe a month or three.
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