Electroplating Cases


February 7, 2012, 09:12 PM
Howdy all. I have been doing some experimenting with copper plating cartridge cases. I have been the doing the plating myself with a little home made rig.

I don't have any real use for these cases, I just thought they sure looked neat. Especially the annealed one.

Any thoughts or concerns about firing these cool looking little buggers?

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Striker Fired
February 7, 2012, 09:55 PM
I wouldn't think there's any issues with firing them.The base metal should be the same as long as the copper was going to the cases(case-,copperanode+) and not something else going the other way,(part + anode-).
The center two are the plated ones by the looks of it . It doesn't look like they are plated with very much.

February 8, 2012, 01:02 AM
They were plated for about 3 hours. I thought it was thicker than it turned out to be. When I polished the mouth, the plating wore off fairly quickly.
To be honest, I wasn't sure what was an appropriate length of time. It was also tough to tell the "depth" of the finish because it looked rough and almost oxidized until buffed with a cloth.

February 8, 2012, 05:06 PM
I wouldn't think there's any issues with firing them.

Except some dimensional changes, and the possibility of the plating solution damaging the brass (depending on what is in it).

Steel cases are sometimes copper plated to reduce rusting issue, but brass is already pretty good.
Steel cases for military use are not reloaded anyway.

February 8, 2012, 05:14 PM
does the plating process get the cases hot enough to anneal them? that's the only danger i can think of, but i'm not familiar enough with plating to know if heat is used.

February 8, 2012, 06:20 PM
Increase the current you're using. Plating thickness (speed of deposition) is a function of current.

February 9, 2012, 10:07 PM
The process I used uses 4.5v and 400 mA. There is no heat generated whatsoever. The copper bearing solution is simple 5% vinegar. I'm not completely clueless regarding metallurgy, but certainly claim to be no expert. I don't think vinegar would leach any of the brass alloys component metals, but have no serious way to be sure. On another forum, a poster suggested there was the possibility of embrittlement if the pH of the solution was too low, or high temperature is achieved. I have been playing with voltage and have found that 8-12 volts works great as long as the solution is stirred. Otherwise, a "powdery" film develops on the surface. As far as i can tell so far, case thickness change is nominal. After cutting a plated case in half, no copper thickness was even visible. Thanks for all the input. I'm curious to ask other fellow reloaders; do you guys think they look interesting? I'm not sure why, but I'm just fascinated with the look.

February 9, 2012, 11:23 PM
.I'm just fascinated with the look.
They are bedazzling!

February 10, 2012, 01:52 AM
Thx C.D. They are bedazzling

February 10, 2012, 01:58 AM

February 10, 2012, 05:51 AM
Wouldn't it easier to just tumble the brass? :rolleyes:

February 10, 2012, 06:25 AM
I do the same type of plating on bulk brass spoons for trolling Salmon...

I like the color, and so do the fish...

February 10, 2012, 04:40 PM
If I have too much lemishine in my US cleaner solution or use my standard amount with Speer brass, they turn pinkish. & that's after 24 min in an acidic solution. 3 hrs in vinegar - wouldn't that do the same thing? Make copper leach out of the brass? Or does already having a certain amount in solution prevent it?

February 10, 2012, 10:20 PM
I have a bunch of very old 38 spcl. Peter's brass that is very pink looking. It always looked much different than other brass, but it turned pink after having been tumbled for about 24 hrs.?

February 10, 2012, 11:06 PM
I've been refining the process and will try to update the info to match the current technique and address any topics brought up.
I have always used brass that was tumbled after sizing for about 4 hours. I use treated corn cob for my brass because of I like the particular colour it leaves the cases. The problem with the treated media is that is requires much wiping to remove the oil before plating. Dry corn cob doesn't get rid of the "yellow" brass look the way I like, but it makes it very shiny, perfect for plating.
Immersion in the copper solution has been reduced to two 10 second dunks from the 3 minutes. Over plating leaves a nice thick plate, but affects the neck thickness on some cases. It also requires a ton of hand rubber to create a shine from the dull satin electroplating.
The result is very shiny copper finish.
I still have no way of knowing if alloy integrity is compromised, but 20 seconds in vinegar seems safe enough. fyi; I was worried about zinc leaching rather than copper. I put the case into the solution "hot", so it is receiving molecules of copper from the instant it is immersed. That long winded explanation brings me to your other posts about pink brass. Brass is composed of both zinc and copper, so maybe its just a higher percent copper alloy they used. Anyway, hope to post pics of newest product tomorrow. Forgot the camera at home.

February 10, 2012, 11:22 PM
Why ?

Will this process improve the integrity of the brass or just make it look different ?

T Bran
February 10, 2012, 11:25 PM
You may want to do a search on electroplating bullets. I beleive edwin41 was the origional poster. He was doing much the same thing as you are but the solution was different. Pretty interesting read anyway. Please keep us updated on your progress. Very cool results so far.

February 11, 2012, 08:14 AM
I simply use salt in water, two wires, and a piece of soft copper pipe for the 'positive' connection...Connect the receiving metal to the negative, and immerse in the solution...

I made a 'frame' of wire so I could do a half dozen items at one time...

They come out black...Rubbing with a clean cloth and a bit of toothepaste reveals the plating...


February 11, 2012, 08:17 AM
Bullet Bling.:D I think that they look cool but the extra work would be what I consider excessive for my needs. You might tape stripes on the casing and then plate them causing striped brass. Really easy to ID your brass at the range.:cool: Have fun and do keep us posted with this.

February 12, 2012, 04:34 AM
The process is purely for aesthetics. In fact, since the oxidation rate of copper is faster than brass, the plating reduces corrosion and tarnish resistance. I just think it looks really cool. And feels cool. Very smooth.
After a clothe buff, like salmoneye said, the case feels amazingly slick.
The extra work is excessive, but worthwhile as a niche hobby of its own.
Its is amazingly rewarding.
Thanks for suggesting Edwin for info. Its a funny coincidence that i read that very forum discussion about two days before trying it.

February 12, 2012, 06:02 PM
what a great idea !
looks good to , especialy the second case from the left..
when i read this article i immediatly wanted to try it and grabbed an .303 case
cleaned it of a little with some scotchbrite and then some aceton.
i hung it in my plating setup , as you saw on "copperplating ", and used the very same 1.5 volt penlight battery.
the result you see is straight out of the bath , with no polishing .
i can do better then this , but the layer of copper you see is very hard to get of so polishing would be easy in a tumbler..
by the way , the case hung about 2 minutes in the bath...
the whole process of cleaning and plating didnt take more than 4 minutes.
but .... what a great idea !

February 12, 2012, 06:05 PM
saw the fotos , in reality this is a very nice casing , it looks somewhat poor on foto though....

February 12, 2012, 06:17 PM
im gonna make another some time soon , and will put a little more effort in it.
the pictures of the results i will post here....

damn , what a good idea.

February 13, 2012, 04:23 PM
Careful edwin, it's addicting! Pretty soon you'll have a 2 dozen copper cases.
Those lures are so damn good lookin' I'd swallow one.
I keep playing around have good luck adjusting finishing techniques. fyi; 0000 steel wool is your friend. Between "coats".
That rimmed cartridge looks good in copper.
Try a pre-soak in an acid of some type immediately prior to plating, seems to help, not sure why.
I've attached a few of my latest attempts.

February 13, 2012, 04:25 PM
Here's the pic. I messed up the first try.

February 13, 2012, 04:27 PM
p.s. annealing copper coated cases yields some pretty spectacular colouring. It can be manipulated as well by varied lengths of case tumbling. The longer you polish, the less colouring is left.

February 13, 2012, 04:43 PM
i especialy like the fourth of the left...
i now definitly gonna make me a batch of 50 , .357 magnum casings !:D

February 13, 2012, 05:20 PM
i would definitly try the solution as mentioned in "copperplating" , it works super
for your destined use , and within minutes instead of hours..

i don t put it on in layers , one coat .
the longer in the solution , the thicker the layer becomes , i by now had the previous . 303 casing tumbled around in a tumbler with walnut and a little car polish , the kind one would use for dull paintwork .
must say that the result is very good !

had i mentioned that i really like your idea ? :D

February 18, 2012, 05:56 PM
tried something completly different today...
a steel knob i took of my lathe .
i first got it somewhat polished on a electro powered polish cloth.
then i got it matted with some scotchbrite , cleaned it with some solvent and then in the tank with the solution.
when it got out i polished it again with the electro powered polisher.
here the results.... the first foto being the bare knob.

February 18, 2012, 06:02 PM
the layer of copper is clearly though and thick enough to polish.

the one thing to overcome now is the sticking to the material , as i could scrape of some with a screwdriver , as you can see on the next foto...

one of these days im gonna get it right though...:D

oh , i scored a voltage supply for my experimends... its a hobby on its own i guess as its a phillips regulator with tubes ... from 1961 !

February 18, 2012, 06:08 PM
oh , yet another thing , this time on topic.
i said earlyer i would also make me a batch of copperplated .357 brass.
i did and they came out very fine , actually to good.
i was at the gunrange today and i took the casings with me , there was someone who was much impressed by it.... long story short , i ended up giving the entire batch to him .... so i have to make somemore for the fotoos! :cool:

February 19, 2012, 11:00 AM
Keep it coming...

Love to watch people play, and I love the voltage regulator lol

Striker Fired
February 19, 2012, 11:08 AM
Did that regulator come with some of those thick ,black framed glasses also?:D

February 19, 2012, 05:37 PM
haha , its indeed a very old regulator..but i measured the current with a modern
digital fluke meter , and the regulator is still spot on !
how about that for "oldies but goodys " !

this is what i got from using 6 volt and 300 milliampere .
first a couple of lead 170 gr semiwadcutters of my own casting.
the left would be straight out of the mould.
the second from the solution.
the other three i polished with a benchgrinder with a polishing cloth.
[ i actualy don t know if its called this way though , but my language limits me ]

second foto you see a nickled case that i intentionly polished through , the second my copperplated one the same to get some idea of thickness.
the other casing you see is just a little polished.

February 19, 2012, 05:43 PM
and now some results of my experiments , some completed cartridges
ready to go , and i must add , they are very , very smooth when you
go over them with you fingertips.
the layer seems to be alright , as i felt them going trough my sizer.
sizing didnt hurt the plating , so i guess hafting is okay. :D

February 20, 2012, 12:45 AM
Wow! You have been busy. And with good results to boot. I have to say those long straight cases look like they belong in copper. The rimmed cartridges seem to have matching nostalgic feel. I wonder what a 45-70 would look like?
Btw, nice find on the power regulator. If you don't mind me asking, how did you come across a survivor like that?

p.s. I have now once fired my copper plated .270 win ammunition (20 rounds, 10 annealed). Case inspection showed no signs of abnormal stressing.

February 20, 2012, 02:16 PM
hi square pants
the regulator i found on a site like ebay or so , but then in holland.
it was kind of cheap , and in the neighbourhood so i picked it up.
theres some new info coming my way now , since i am in a plating companie
for my work now.
i was lended a sort of plating guide book , and tomorrow someone there would sit down for a minute to explain one or two things to me.
as it seems for now the regulator doesnt supply enough amps for me , but i am still figuring that out. the desired voltage seems to be around 6 volts dc though.

when i got more info how to perfect it , i will post it here so you can also benefit from that if you want to .

greetings from holland !

T Bran
February 20, 2012, 02:43 PM
I'm still following your progress and I must say you are rapidly aproaching perfect. Great photos keep them coming.
You now have me thinking about all the things I could plate. How do you think a carbon steel hunting knife blade would take the copper. If it would I'd love to try it for looks as well as rust prevention. A copper blade with a stag handle would be a thing of beauty.

February 20, 2012, 09:47 PM
Perfect. Any inside info is always appreciated. I have been using 6-12v and either 800ma or 2a. A little trick I have been playing with is plating a couple of "test" pieces for a few minutes before plating my actual piece. It seems to "wake up" the solution. Also, if you have access to a heating method, warm solution seems to allow a higher concentration of copper. Around 60-75 degrees c worked great for me.

As for carbon steel, it will plate. My best results are when I have polished the steel to a near mirror finish before plating. Oxidized steel that looks black won't plate. I agree, a "primitive" feel knife would look awesome in copper. Maybe even some hammer peening marks for authenticity? Only things to remember is, copper (even though it looks great) requires quite a bit more upkeep. Tarnishes on its own in less time and is softer(scratches easier). That said, a week of natural copper tarnish has a look all of its own.

February 21, 2012, 02:17 PM
Check out my video of copperplating a 30-06 case.
Let me know what you think.


February 21, 2012, 03:22 PM
great squarepants !
i see youve made great improvements so far .

nice to see in the background that you have the same reloading set up
from lyman as i do !

i also made a huge step now... read the following post !:D

February 21, 2012, 03:35 PM
i think i also made big improvements now
i was lent a technical book about plating techniques , it full of things i dont really get , but also some great tips.

in the book are some steps for treatment before plating , for example casing brass , wich is called here messing in holland , not sure its the same with you.
first step would be degrease alkalisch , the second zwavelzuur dip and then rince of with water.
in free translation this would be something like this :
alkalisch degreasing , ive been told that vinager would do this.
to enhance this cleaning the vinegar should be heated to some 40 degrees
celcius , i dont know the fahrenheit equalvent , have to google it.
the secondstep is the dip , i think its good to do it with battery acid , wich is easely optaind at some hardwarestores.
batteryacid is essentially "zwavelzuur"with added water.

February 21, 2012, 04:14 PM
the third step is to rince off with water.
ive been told tap water is better suited than gedemineralised water.
then in the solution.
this solution is ideally when its of an "acid " type.
a good mix would be water with 275 gram per litre coppersulfate
60 gram per litre zwavelzuur.
as i mentioned before i use batteryacid as a source for this zwavelzuur,
as batteryacid is essentially zwavelzuur with water and easy optained by
hardware stores and automotive stores.

February 21, 2012, 04:25 PM
the bath for the plating can also be optimised.
a good improvement would be to have a square tank with on both ends a stick
or tube of copper standing straight up.
this would allow for a better spread of the copperparticles in the bath.
these two rods would be de positive side for the regulator.
another big improvement would be to have a plastic tube bended in a u shape
with both ends straight up and above the tank , one end closed.
in the tube you drill some holes , evenly spread over the lenght and about 1 millimetre in diametre.
now you can blow air through the open side with a aquarium pump or a compressor for instance , till you see some nice bubbling.
this would be an ideal bath movement.
the solution itself is best at a room temperature , no need for heating.

February 21, 2012, 04:33 PM
now its time for the powersource
there appears to be a thumb rule for the current , and this is 1 ampere
per square decimetre of material in the tank.
the voltage itself is not a big issue , somewhere between 1 and 15 volts
seems to be fine.
decimetre is a dutch measure , my language limits me sometimes , sorry for that.
maby some google and the american equalvent can be found?
so , its desired to pre calculate the surface of the material in the bath and set the ampere to the roughly right setting and re adjust as you go.

i for one have got the regulator sorted out now !

February 21, 2012, 04:43 PM
today i was for my work at a plating compagnie.
i thought to get some tips and hints there , wich i did by the way , but.....
we where talking about the powersource i recently bought.
it has a max output of 300 milliamperes wich is good for plating small things.
remember ... 1 amperes per square decimetre.
this guy said to me to leave my compagny car open for a while.....

an hour or so later i got curious , and this is what i found in my car :

February 21, 2012, 04:51 PM
hmmm the picture didn t get through.

its a friggin proffesionel plating powersource of high quality ! :what:
its an old thing and may not look to good , but when i lifted the top
i was very pleasantly suprised as its an all coppertype , and looks like new !
no fancy electronics but build to last and last.
check the ratings of this thing max 25 volts and a whopping 50 amperes !

February 21, 2012, 05:05 PM
the best part of this regulator that when you turn the knob amperage
increases , but..... voltage adjusts automaticly !
this regulator adjusts itself to the surface in the tank .

now some results from my new toy....
i used the bath i made sometime ago and by now i know its not ideal.
the casing i plated is a .303 british , cause i plated one before.
the left case you see i plated using a penlight battery.
it was in the solution less than a minute , i rinsed it off at dryed it.
it came out kind of dull looking , i had it tumbled for some hours for this result.

the second case i plated today with the same setting as the left case ,
but now with the new regulator.
it was in the tank less than a minute.
you see it straight out of the tank... no polishing or anything afterward.

i looked at the scales of the regulator when i plated it.
it was some 1.1 volts and some 0.4 amperes.

i dont know if you can see it well on the foto , but the second case is real shiny and looks almost perfect to me !:D

February 21, 2012, 05:22 PM
maby one or two tips more...
polish the casings prior to plating them... the smooth surface plates smooth !
when they are plated with copper , stick then in some cow **** ...
yes ... i said cow **** .....
leave them there for some time and you will end up with a flamed look !
the ammonia in the cow droppings darken the copperlayer , and since the ammonia varys from place to place in the dropping you end up with flamed brass!

dont ask me where i got this tip....:D

second , if you wish to plate steel , the pre treatmend would be a little different.
first step woul be to degrease it with the previously mentioned warm vinager bath ... after some fine sanding it ...
give it a dip in "zoutzuur" [zoutzuur is a dutch word ..google for american]
then rinse it off ..
the trick here would be to get the steel object already connected to the
regulator before it goes in the solution !
if you dont , it will catch some "contact copper" from the solution .
cause steel in coppersulfate raises some current of its own...
the contact copper compromises the adhesie of the plating.
so yes t bran ... youre knife will plate just fine ! google tells me that zoutzuur is hydrochloric acid , use it in mixed version with water.

February 21, 2012, 05:25 PM
forgot a thing...
t bran , if you do plate youre knife i would defintly let it lay covered with cow dropping for a while ...
the result would be really stunning !
and in the case you don t like it , degrease the blade , add another layer of copper ....voila!

February 23, 2012, 05:47 PM
i ve seen i am corrected by the moderators of this forum.
i didnt realise that the words ive put down where offending in anyway.
i used a free translation of a dutch word , will be more carefull in the future.

that said , i really think my language is improving since i read alot and post some on this great forum , another benefit for me !

greetings from holland !

February 23, 2012, 09:15 PM
Not offended at all, edwin. For all the info you have posted so far, you may say anything you like. As far as I'm concerned. Your english is just fine. In fact, superior to many North American posters.
Thanks for all the detailed information. It gives me much to consider while I plate my next batch of .270 win cases.
One question. Do you think you would need the air line if you had one of those lab devices that uses a magnet to stir the solution?
p.s. Those .357's look amazing.

February 24, 2012, 05:12 PM
no squarepants
you will not need the airtube when you got a stirrer.
its the movement in the solution what counts.
today i bought a airpump as is used for aquariums and little ponds.
these things are cheap and work really great , you can control the "bubbling "
with a valve , i got two stony diffusers with the set , and two valves.
it will certainly improve plating when you got more things in the tank.
in your video , a very good one i must add , i saw you moved the casing by hand
and in this case you will not have to use any movement of the solution , cause the object itself is moved.
i will post some pictures so you can see the difference for yourself , just not now cause its kind of late , maby tomorow.:D

February 24, 2012, 05:25 PM
maby another tip,
this evening i made myself a electro degreaser .
i think its called electrolytish degreasing in english.
its a real simple set up that you can easily build yourself , and mine works with
a household product called "soda" over here.
will post pictures of this set up too , maby you can get something out of it.
i am currently trying out this new set up , results are very promissing !
it will be used voor degreasing more things at the same time , or the bigger
i also had some very good results in cleaning cases by hand using a lime type,
called "wener lime" , just make it wet and rub over the casing with a cloth or so,
then rinse of with water ... does an exellent job !
for cleaning by hand i much preffer this wener lime , its a white lime.

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