January - March 2002
I haven't decided whether restoring hardware items such as bolts, screws, brackets, etc. is worth all of the effort or not.  Maybe I'm just at the stage where I'm getting a little burned out.  I've spent nearly all my free time for the last 6 month's working on Maych's restoration.  I did take a break for a couple of weeks around Christmas to help my grandson build an n scale model train layout.  I have restored quite a few items, but I still have a whole "bucket of bolts" (so to speak) left to do.  The items left are all of the bolts, nuts, etc. used to attach the front outer and inner fenders.  These  have been sitting in the basement for a couple of weeks now and I haven't yet found enough enthusiasm to get started on them.  I'm thinking right now that I may just buy all new bolts, nuts, and whatever that will be needed to re-install the fenders.  I still have a couple of months before we'll need them, so maybe I'll change my mind before then.

The problem with restoring these items is that it's so time consuming.  Plating or painting doesn't take all that long, but getting them ready is a real pain.  A wire wheel on the bench grinder does a good job of cleaning up the rust, but the pieces are small and there's lots of them, so it takes a long time. 

In anticipation of restoring these kinds of items I asked Santa to bring me a metal blackening kit and a tin zinc electroplating kit for Christmas.  I think Santa got them from the Eastwood Company because they looked just like the one's in their catalog.  

The first item I restored using these new toys were the door striker plates and the associated hardware.  I debated on whether to blacken the strikers or tin zinc plate them.  It appeared that they were originally black, but they looked more like they were painted rather than chemically blackened, so I wasn't sure if they had been repainted at some time or not.  While cruising on the internet, I ran across a site describing the restoration of a 72 chevy pickup and they had zinc plated the strikers.  They said zinc plating was what was originally used and the photos of the strikers installed on the pickup looked really sharp, so I decided to zinc plate mine.

Of course, before I could plate the strikers I had to get them down to bare metal.  I've discovered from experience that the items to be plated must be absolutely clean - no rust, no oil, no grease, no paint, no nothing - just bright, shiny metal.  The majority of the strikers and mounting hardware cleaned up using a wire wheel on the bench grinder, but there were lots of areas that couldn't be reached with the wire wheel, so they had to be done with a variety of attachments (grinder, wire brush, sand paper, etc.) on a Dremmel.   Once all of the rust and paint were off, I wiped them down a couple of times with lacquer thinner and I was then very careful to not touch them with bare hands before I plated them.

To tin zinc plate an item, you immerse the item and a zinc anode in an electrolyte solution.  This solution contains sulfuric acid, so it's best to wear rubber gloves and old clothes.  You then attach the positive lead from a battery pack to the anode and the negative lead to the item.  How much time you leave the item in the solution varies by size and how many items you place in the solution at one time, but it's usually 10 minutes or less.  After the item is plated, you take it out of the solution and rinse it off with water.  If you attach the negative lead directly to the item, then you have to immerse the alligator clip in the solution which will also plate the clip.  Instead, I attached an 18 gauge copper wire to the item and then attached the negative lead to the copper wire.  This also works well to do several items at once - just wrap the wire around each item and insert them into the solution all at once.  The only limit to the number of items you can do at one time, is the size of the container.  Of course you also have to have enough solution to completely immerse the items.

When the items come out of the solution they are an ugly, dull, gray color.  To get them nice and shiny, the directions say to polish them with Autosol metal polish.  They even include a tube of the polish in the kit.  However, I did not have very good luck with the polish.  It would eventually work, but it took a lot of time and a lot of rubbing.  The directions also say that using a wire wheel is not needed and not recommended, but I found that the wire wheel does a much better job of polishing the plated items than does using the metal polish.  As far as I can tell using a wire wheel does no harm, so I'm not sure why they don't recommend it.  I guess if you got to aggressive, you could remove some of the plating, but it only takes very little pressure to polish the items, so I don't think that's a big danger.

The striker plates were too large to completely immerse in the electrolyte solution using the plastic jar that came with the kit so I bought a shallow, rectangular plastic storage container at KMart.  I wasn't sure how it would hold up to the sulfuric acid, but I've used in several times and it seems to work fine.  After I plated the strikers, I also plated the associated hardware - backing plates, bolts, star washers, and shims.

The next items I plated where the bolts, nuts, and washers that bolt the bed to the pickup.  You can see in the photo how I used the copper wire to plate all of the washers at one time. It took about 2 hours to clean and plate the 8 bolts, nuts, and washers, so if you are the impatient type, this work is definitely not something you would enjoy.  It gets real old, real fast, but it does a good job and the results are nice looking, as you can see in the photo of the bolts before and after.

I'll probably do more plating in the future when I get around to detailing the engine compartment but for know I just wanted to get all the hardware done that would be needed to get Maych  back together when she comes home from the paint and body shop.  I've also decided to just buy new screws for the fenders.  I just don't have the time to restore all of the old ones before they are needed.

Speaking of paint  - the next episode will chronicle how I painted the frame.



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