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Old August 16, 2022, 05:41 AM   #1
Doc Hoy
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Nickel plate removal

In a previous post, I mentioned the .32 H&R that I acquired in a trade. This is the pistol for which the cylinder was missing. I have been looking, half-heartedly, for a cylinder and finally came up with one on eBay. It arrived yesterday and fits properly. Locks up on all six, and lockup is (IMO) tight enough to shoot safely. But the pistol has a finish (nickel) that is really rough.

I read with interest some of Jim's posts from some years ago. It does appear that Potterfield's video using sulfuric acid is a relatively forgiving method. Any thoughts or experiences on this process would be helpful.

I will post some photos of the pistol as it is.

If I decide to go with the Potterfield/Midway process, I need to know about the sulfuric acid. I can get "solution" from Amazon. But the listing does not reveal the strength of the solution. Then it turns right around and mentions "sulfuric acid" without the "solution" delimiter.

A guy on the Internet said he uses the acid from batteries which is about 50/50 acid to water. If you have tried it, what did you use, and how did it work?

My plan would be to de-nickel the frame with the barrel in place. That is because, while I have not tried, I am not looking forward to trying to remove the barrel.

Thoughts?

You can see that the finish is bad on this pistol. My goal is to de-nickel it and then blue it.

I ordered a 6 mm bore scope for my phone. We'll see how that works.

Both grips are chipped badly. So I will be trying my hand at building up the grips with epoxy and then reshaping the built-up area.

We shall see how that goes too.
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Old August 16, 2022, 01:42 PM   #2
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You can often buy technical-grade sulfuric acid as a drain opener. That will not be diluted. However, if you have not worked with sulfuric acid before, its affinity for water is so great that it will boil water if you pour it in too fast and will give off a lot of heat even if you pour slowly and constantly stir with a glass rod. If you drop anything organic in the undiluted stuff, like a piece of paper, it quickly turns black as the acid has sucked all the hydrogen and oxygen out of the cellulose and just left the carbon behind. Microscopic droplets splashed on your jeans will attack and weaken the fibers and after a couple of washings, small, white-edged pinholes start to appear that grow with every subsequent wash cycle they go through.

So if you are getting the idea that a face shield, gloves, and chemical-proof apron are necessary, you are correct. The undiluted stuff can do quite a bit of damage.

As for removing the nickel, an alternative to the acid electrolyte bath is to use any nickel-plating solution instead. Then, with the gun disassembled and the guts removed and the bore and chambers plugged with silicone stoppers, use the frame and cylinder as the anode to reverse electroplate the nickel onto a target cathode (steel would work). It will be slower than the acid, but you don't run the risk of burns or splattering from boiling water as you add it.

By the way, if you are familiar with the statement that you always pour acid into water and never the other way around, that boiling effect will immediately blow acid all over the place if you try it with undiluted sulfuric acid.
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Old August 16, 2022, 01:55 PM   #3
Bill DeShivs
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Caswellplating.com sells nickel stripper. It works well.

Keep the sulfuric acid away from the gun. Not only will it etch the exterior, it will etch the interior of the gun.

Bead blasting is probably the easiest way to strip the nickel. It will also hide some of the pitting.
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Old August 16, 2022, 02:09 PM   #4
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Two very helpful responses. Thanks

I will read into the Caswell Nickel remover.

Very casual experience with acid many years ago, but rubber glove, apron, faceshield were to be part of the process.

Unclenick, you mentioned mixing water and acid. You also said that drain cleaner is pure H2SO4. So can I assume that the acid to be used for denickeling must be diluted and if so, to what strength?
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Old August 16, 2022, 02:46 PM   #5
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Well, most drain cleaners are lye (sodium hydroxide). You have to look for one that is sulfuric acid. As to what concentration Potterfield used, I don't know, but the acid will work best when ionized, and for that, you would put two water molecules together with each sulfuric acid molecule at a minimum. However, there are four different hydrates of sulfuric acid, so a maximum of four water molecules attached to each sulfuric acid molecule would work. So I would try four water molecules to each sulfuric acid molecule first, then add double the amount of acid if that doesn't work.

Water has an atomic weight of 18, while sulfuric acid has an atomic weight of 98. So to get the 4:1 mix, you would weigh 4×18 or 72 of your weight units of water and add 98 units of sulfuric acid by weight to it.

If you want to mix by volume, it's less accurate, but it would look like this: A quart of room temperature water will weigh about 33.3 ounces (fluid ounces are based on water density at the boiling point, not room temperature, so a fluid ounce of cold water is about 4% heavier than a scale ounce by weight). 33.3/72=0.465 ounces per 1/72 parts of the water. 0.427×98=45.3 ounces of sulfuric acid. Sulfuric acid has a density of 1.83, so a quart of it will weigh 1.83×1.04×32=60.9 ounces. 45.3/60.9=0.744 and 0.744×32=23.8 fluid ounces. So you would add 23.8 fluid ounces of acid to 32 fluid ounces of water very slowly while stirring. If that solution proved inadequate, you could stir another 23.8 fluid ounces of acid into it.

Note that this process will leave the steel surface highly reactive. It will rust fast, so you want to remove the plugs and rinse it really well, then I would use a double boiler with the upper pan filled with distilled or deionized water and let it have a slow boil in that for 15 minutes aftward to convert and slight surface rust to magnetite, and then dry it and then get a rust-inhibiting oil on it fairly fast. Later, you can eliminate the surface activation by polishing it.
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Old August 16, 2022, 02:54 PM   #6
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I looked up the Potterfield video.
He used a sulfuric acid bath for electrolytic stripping, car battery for power.
Not just a dip like the Caswell or Brownells solutions.
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Old August 16, 2022, 07:32 PM   #7
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Plus, despite the video being titled about removing nickel, in the video, he says it is chromium plating that he's removing.
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Old August 16, 2022, 07:51 PM   #8
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But if the gun shown is neglected original, I bet it is nickel. .
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Old August 16, 2022, 07:52 PM   #9
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Yeah, that would have to be so. He misstated rather than mistitled.
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Old August 16, 2022, 09:14 PM   #10
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ONce again, thinaks for the many very useful posts.

After viewing probably six videos including two that involve vinegar and salt instead of acid I am getting the impression that the solution of sulfuric acid to water is not super critical. Nor is voltage which includes both five and twelve volts. In one the negative electrode was brass rather than lead.

I found a ZEP product available at Home Depot that is a sulfuric acid solution drain cleaner. the solution is not revealed but Unclenick's data and calculations will help in that area. Possibly as helpful would be a call to to ZEP.

I am about ready to begin gathering the supplies. First on the list will be the PPE.

Still need to know what happens if I try de-nickeling with the barrel in the frame.
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Old August 17, 2022, 10:13 AM   #11
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You'll get the nickel off, but if acid gets between the barrel and frame, long-term corrosion and weakening can be expected. However, any attempt to apply a sealant is likely to prevent the nickel removal from being complete. I can think of workarounds with wicking sealants or glues applied to the barrel threads on the frame side, but then you want a way to get them out again, which may not be so easy.

On reflection, I think that after the initial rinse, you may want to hose the gun down with Formula 409, which is a strong alkaline and penetrating cleaner you can get from a big box store. Maybe let it rest a bit. It is its own wetting agent and should penetrate the nooks and crannies pretty well. I've used this method in the past to neutralize cold blues that had strong acids and that tended to see after-rust. It works pretty well. After resting, rinse it off as well as you can in the sink, including hot water, then place the gun in the heated distilled water.

The double-boiler I suggested was for convenience. You can also heat the water directly but will then want to suspend the parts in it with wire hangers to keep them from lying on the bottom against the heat source (though if the pot has a heavy copper heat spreader on the bottom, that may not be an issue). I would use stainless pots to avoid the potential for galvanic reactions. A ceramic or Pyrex pot will also work. Maybe dump that water and replace it a couple of times. You can use a pH tester to see if the water is near neutral (pH 7). When the gun doesn't any longer change the pH, you've changed the water enough. The heat of the last hot water rinse will dry the gun rapidly, which helps prevent surface rust. At that point, you can submerge it in water-displacing oil overnight or until you are ready to polish.
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Old August 17, 2022, 10:34 AM   #12
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Thanks, Unclenick

Sounds like I had better try to get the barrel out of the frame.
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Old August 17, 2022, 11:21 AM   #13
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Sounds like you should take my advice and keep the sulfuric acid away from the gun. I have stripped and plated just a few guns.
Bead blasting will easily remove the remaining plating.
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Old August 17, 2022, 12:30 PM   #14
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got it

Gotcha Bill
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Old August 17, 2022, 01:49 PM   #15
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Quote:
By the way, if you are familiar with the statement that you always pour acid into water and never the other way around, that boiling effect will immediately blow acid all over the place if you try it with undiluted sulfuric acid.
There is more than a bit of wisdom in the saying
"do what you oughta, add acid to water (wata)"

What is not included in the old warning is information about amount and rate of additions.

The key, besides using suitable vessels/tanks/containers is using SMALL amounts, added slowly until the strength of the mixture reduces the heat generating reaction (which is what boils the water causing the splash effect from steam).

This is done to create a dilute acid for a specific use, and quite a different matter than using large volumes of water to flush away acid.
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Old August 17, 2022, 02:23 PM   #16
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Never used a bead blaster

So I looked into it.

Called every place in Naples that has anything to do with sandblasting or bead blasting. It turns out that the only place that did small parts is out of business.

A fella who once sent stuff to him said he thought the cost would be about a hundred bucks to do all of the parts on the pistol (This is a fifty dollar pistol).

Harbor Freight sells a mid range bead blaster for about 229.00. I already have a good air compressor and shop vac. Wouldn't mind having a bead blasting cabinet. It is not so large that I would need an addition to the shop. I would put it on casters.

Found a guy about 2.5 hours from here who has a used one for sale for 300.00. This one IS large enough to need a bigger shop.

I am still looking into this option, but I must say, I am a bit discouraged.
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Old August 17, 2022, 06:20 PM   #17
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To Dochoy...Google (pressurized sandblaster) it's a very easy project and easy on the wallet.
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Old August 17, 2022, 08:47 PM   #18
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S and R Looking for your recommendation

I checked out the HF site. Looks like the 85.00 job is the right choice for this application. (20 pound). (159.00 for the 110 pound job is probably overkill). These units do not get good reviews and the similar blasters in Amazon do not do much better.

At 159.00 I would add a couple bucks to it and get the 40 pound cabinet.

On the other hand, they have a handheld job for 22.00. Gravity feed and just over one pound. Videos do not show impressive results, but the user demonstrations all use sand rather than glass.

I reasoned that better quality units were available on Amazon, but they are selling the same equipment under a different name, a little more money but delivered to the front door in one day. In fact, I noticed that the review profiles (percent of each numerical score) are very nearly identical to the HF.

Are my questions clear? Two levels available - Handheld gun $20 - $40), or pressurized tank ($85 - $200). Will the lesser unit do the job?
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Old August 18, 2022, 01:10 AM   #19
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The small cabinet will work.
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Old August 18, 2022, 05:03 AM   #20
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Got it.

Very helpful, you guys.

Tnx,

Doc
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Old August 18, 2022, 08:02 AM   #21
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Just learned that

A friend who builds race cars has a bead blaster in his shop, to which I have access.

For Bill Deshivs, looks like I will be able to take your advice. Thanks a million!

Tnx,

Doc
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Old August 18, 2022, 10:46 AM   #22
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Alternately, strip the gun, securely plugging the barrel and all frame openings, put the frame in a stout, secure box about 1/4 full of sand. Fasten the box to the back of a dirt bike, or snowmobile for a few days/weeks of riding.

You'll be amazed at the amount of finish that gets removed!
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Old August 18, 2022, 10:57 AM   #23
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Hmmm.. Dirt bike $$$$ Snow mobile $$$$

Think I'll stick with my pal's blasting cabinet.

;o)
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Old August 18, 2022, 01:52 PM   #24
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Disappointment...

The race car shop is run by a group of people, one of whom fancies himself a gun-repair expert.

He feels that bead blasting is a terrible idea.

I am trying to soften him up.

In the mean time, got the pistol apart but the barrel won't budge.

Soaking it with PB Blaster and will try heating the frame.

Tnx,

Doc
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Old August 18, 2022, 03:51 PM   #25
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Hmmm.. Dirt bike $$$$ Snow mobile $$$$
Well, I never said you had to buy your own!
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