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Were the results worth the effort?

  • Not worth it, just buy a new rim.

    Votes: 3 37.5%
  • Totally worth it on all counts.

    Votes: 5 62.5%
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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
Poll added, please vote. Spoked rims, Rust Removal and DIY Zinc electroplating.

I've had the idea in my head for quite a while now that I could refurb a rusty chrome rim by removing the rust with vinegar and then quickly electroplating Zinc onto the areas where the rust used to be, well in the past week and a half I've done it. Here's some photos and the story.

I recently sold a member the hub from a 78 CB400T spoked wheel, leaving me with a set of spokes and the 18 x 1.85 36 spoke rear rim. It had rusty spots under the rim strip and on the area where the tire bead seats. The visible areas of the rim had some light rust and pitted chrome, and it looked like a previous owner had put some serious elbow grease into cleaning the chrome with steel wool which left some nice, deep scratches.

First I filed down any burrs that had been raised by tire irons, then I scrubbed the outside of the rim (where the spoke nipples seat and the tube and tire go) with a heavy wire brush to get the majority of the loose rust off then gave it a scrub with simple green and a plastic bristle brush on all surfaces, I don't want to scratch the chrome any more than it already was.

Next I put together a machine with a timing motor turning a 3 inch foam roller that I could set the rim onto, this machine will turn the rim as it dunks into a shallow dish of regular white vinegar just 2 or 3 inches deep. The rim makes a full revolution every five minutes and doesn't dry out before reaching the vinegar again on the next revolution. It may have been quicker to submerge the rim, but in the final design my setup only used only 1/2 gallon of vinegar to de-rust the wheel in about 3 days. I checked on it at intervals from one hour to 1 day, best not to leave it alone too long in case something went wrong.




I'll post more in a bit.
 

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Brilliant!
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 · (Edited)
Thanks Gents.

Some more before photos, notice the baby food jars full of water I placed in the vinegar to take up space.





 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
About halfway through de-rusting it started looking like there was brass beneath the chrome layer.





 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
and the inside (visible with tire on)





 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Nice and clean finally after 3 or so days, next after a good cleaning it's time to set up for Zinc electroplating.





 

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What you see as Brass would be a layer of copper.

Chrome Plating is a build up of:

1 layer of copper
1 layer of nickel
1 layer of chrome.
 
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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
I was amazed at the amount of chrome missing from the inside of the rim.





 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
plating:

Zinc suspended above:


and zinc below:


Starting to see some action:


 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
Thanks Yendor, that's what I'd have expected too but it looked too bright for copper at that moment.

I called it done after 6 hours plating, I didn't expect the Zinc to plate so well onto the chrome, it was a cool effect and I might leave it that way on a wheel set someday.









 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
But not this time, I polished it all out by hand with the last of an old jar of Mother's chrome polish I cracked open in 2004...







 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
We've got a few days of rain coming, I'll leave it outdoors and see how it fares.






 

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This is incredible. Great results and post (love how many pictures you shared).

Do you think this would work with a complete rim with the old spokes still on it?

I didn’t want to re-spoke mine until next winter.

Also- I didn’t realize zinc plating was so easy! I’m going to go search around and read up on how to do this too.

Thanks!
Phil



Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
Thanks Fillmarr, it should work on an assembled wheel but I'm not sure if there would be any advantage over de-rusting and plating the rim, spokes and nipples separately. You'd certainly want to be sure your wheels are true at very least.

On second thought it may be that with an assembled wheel you'd never be able to neutralize or even rinse the vinegar from some of the "nooks and crannies" and it'd remain there with all of its acidic goodness still doing its thing... Not an appealing prospect.

I considered this process on an assembled rim, but I figured on loosening each spoke individually to just one or two threads engagement so more surface area would be available to de-rust and plate. Then true the wheel after plating. But if polishing were in the plan it'd sure make it tough having the wheel assembled.

I've plated spokes before too, its important to thread your spoke nipples onto your spokes now and then to be sure you haven't added to much zinc as it can interfere with normal threading if you plate too thick.
Its easy to remove at least, more vinegar and start over.
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 · (Edited)
I've added a poll to this thread, I have mixed feelings and although some have hit the LIKE button not many have replied, which kinda leaves me wondering what you really think.

I'm not completely impressed by my results but a different wheel may come out differently, it is rust free and zinc did plate where the rust used to be and the zinc did fill in all of the other nicks and scratches where the chrome layer had been breached. But it didn't really shine up much, some other items I've plated were able to polish up quite well, I suppose the broken surface is responsible for that. I was reluctant to use a polish that might scratch the chrome, or to use any power tool for polishing either as this was the initial outing.

That was one reason for adding so many large photos, the effort was to show in detail the results and let everyone see if it was worth it or not.

The bang for the buck ratio is very high though, but I'm not sure how well the finished product would look on an assembled bike.
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
I left this rim out in the rain for a night and a day through an inch and a half of rainfall. I expected some ozidization What do you think?

I'm thinking the unpolished gray state would weather quite well, polished however it'll need constant touch-up.









 

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Discussion Starter · #17 · (Edited)
Please don't forget to vote in the poll i put at the top of this thread.

It looks like the solution is Blue/clear chromate, this is a trivalent chromium solution that the plated and cleaned part is dipped into breifly to essentially create a clear (slightly bluish) coating that protects the zinc from oxidizing (white rust). Yellow chromate is also available, it's the finish you find commonly on grade-8 bolts.

I'm not sure how coverage would be with the patchwork of zinc and chrome on this rim.

https://www.caswellplating.com/blue-chromate-8oz-makes-1-quart.html But it looks like some nasty stuff that can never go down the drain, not quite sure i'm interested in that for a DIY adventure.
 

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Discussion Starter · #19 ·
It also appears that acrylic clearcoat over zinc plating is a durable way to keep a bright shiny finish.
 
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