Chroming

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Chroming a Pan

There is no doubt that a good chrome job on a pan can look spectacular - the constant curves on the pan make it gleam in every direction.

The traditional chroming process usually consists of three separate coatings - copper, nickel, and chrome. The copper is applied to the part to fill in any pits or small holes, and is then polished to a sheen. Copper is relatively soft and so is easy to polish; however, it corrodes/tarnishes very easily. To keep the object shiny, the copper is coated with nickel. The nickel can be applied in a smooth coating and has a yellowish tinge to it. Chrome is then applied over the nickel in a very thin protective layer (less than a few thousandths of an inch). This copper-nickel-chrome process is often referred to as a the "triple chrome" process.

A property of Chrome is that it prefers to adhere to the outside surface of an object. For example, if you were to dip a metal pipe into a chrome tank solution, the chrome would adhere to the outside of the pipe only. There would be virtually no chrome on the inside.

For the most part, this is not an issue in the world of chroming - think in terms of car bumpers or wheel rims. However, on pans, the effects of this are readily visible - many pans, especially cheaper ones, have decent chrome coverage on the skirt, but on the playing surface the chrome coverage is not very good. You'll notice this because the pan will appear blue-ish on the outside edge of the rim notes, but the center of the pan is a yellow hue.

To get the chrome to throw all the way down into the bowl of the pan requires the use of specialized equipment on the part of the chromer. Most budget chrome plating outfits don't have this equipment and aren't going to invest in it - the typical cost of such equipment runs in the region of $ 5000.00 or more.

I often have people send me their pans asking me to "Buff them up so that they shine". Sadly, this cannot be done; its true that one can remove the grime and dirt that makes an already-shiny pan appear dull, but one cannot make an inherently dull pan look shiny by buffing it after it's been chromed.

A great, high-shine chrome job on a pan starts before the pan is chromed. The function of the nickel, and then chrome over the nickel, is simply to stop the shiny steel from corroding and becoming dull. Most of the cost of a high-shine finish on any item is the cost of the polishing, not the cost of the chrome itself.

Polishing a pan is a dirty, time consuming job. It typically takes me 4 hours or more to get the surface of a pan ready for chroming.

Essentially, using an angle grinder, I go over the entire surface with 180 grit sandpaper pads, then 220, and finally 320. Following that, I switch to a sisal buffing wheel on a polisher and use a black compound with it. This is followed by a brown compound on a stitch mop, and finally a green compound on a loose wheel.

Throughout the entire process I wear protective eye gear, an industrial breathing mask, and headphones.




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