Dissolve 135 grm. pure nickel in sulphuric acid diluted with twice its weight of water, and heat until the metal is dissolved. Add water and neutralise with ammonia. Dissolve separately 70 grm. ammonium carbonate, and neutralise the solution carefully with sulphuric acid. Add this liquid to the nickel sulphate, and make up to 10 litres with cold water. In both cases filter the liquids or dilute after standing. Adams ascribes a good deposit of nickel to the absence of potassa or soda, while in reality excellent deposits may be obtained in ammoniacal baths containing salts of potassium or sodium.
(i) A short time ago nickel plating was nearly as expensive as silver plating. This is explained by the fact that only a few people, at least in this country, were expert in the mechanical portions of the process, and only a very few chemists gave attention to the matter. To this must be added that our textbooks were fearfully deficient in information bearing on this subject.
The salt used, and also the anodes, were originally introduced into this country from America, and latterly from Germany. I am not aware of any English manufacturer who makes a specialty in the way of anodes. This is a matter on which we can hardly congratulate ourselves, as a well known London firm some time ago supplied me with my first experimental anodes, which were in every way very superior to the German or American productions. Although the price paid per pound was greater, the plates themselves were cheaper on account of their lesser thickness.
The texture of the inner portions of these foreign anodes would lead one to infer that the metallurgy of nickel was very primitive. A good homogeneous plate can be produced, still the spongy, rotten plates of foreign manufacture were allowed the free run of our markets. The German plates are, in my opinion, more compact than the American. A serious fault with plates of earlier manufacture was their crumpled condition after a little use. This involved a difficulty in cleaning them when necessary. The English plates were not open to this objection; in fact, when the outer surfaces were planed away, they remained perfectly smooth and compact.
Large plates have been known to disintegrate and fall to pieces after being used for some time. A large anode surface, compared with that of the article to be plated, is of paramount importance. The tank should be sufficiently wide to take the largest article for plating, and to admit of the anodes being moved nearer to or farther from the article. In this way the necessary electrical resistance can very conve-niently be inserted between the anode and cathode surfaces. The elimination of hydrogen from the cathode must be avoided, or at any rate must not accumulate. Moving the article being plated, while in the bath, taking care not to break the electrical contacts, is a good security against a streaky or foggy appearance in the deposit.
At one time a mechanical arrangement was made, by which the cathodes were kept in motion. The addition of a little borax to the bath is a great advantage in mitigating the appearance of gas. Its behaviour is electrical rather than chemical. If the anode surface is too great, a few plates should be transferred to the cathode bars.
When an article has been nicked plated, it generally presents a dull appearance, resembling frosted silver. To get over this I tried, some time ago, the use of carbon bisulphide in the same way as used for obtaining a bright silver deposit. Curiously the deposit was very dark, almost black, which could not be buffed or polished bright. But by using a very small quantity of the bisulphide mixture, the plated surfaces were so bright that the use of polishing mops or buffs could be almost dispensed with. When we consider the amount of labour required in polishing a nickel plated article, and the impossibility of finishing off bright an undercut surface, this becomes an important addendum to the nickel plater's list of odds and ends.
This mixture is made precisely in the same way as for bright silvering, but a great deal less is to be added to the bath, about 1 pint per 100 gal. It should be well stirred in, after the day's work is done, when the bath will be in proper condition for working next day. The mixture is made by shaking together, in a glass bottle, 1 oz. bisulphide, and 1 gal. of the plating liquid; allow to stand until excess of bisulphide has settled, and decant the clear liquid for use as required. It is better to add this by degrees than to run the risk of overdoing. If too much is added, the bath is not of necessity spoiled, but it takes a great deal of working to bring it in order again.
About 8 oz. of the double sulphate to each gallon of distilled or rain water is a good proportion to use when making up a bath. There is a slight excess with this. It is a mistake to add the salt afterwards, when the bath is in good condition. The chloride and cyanide are said to give good results. I can only say that the use of either of these salts has not led to promising results in my hands.
The metal is dissolved in a mixture of nitric and dilute sulphuric acid, with the application of a gentle heat. When sufficient metal has been dissolved, and the unused nitric acid expelled, the salt may be precipitated by a strong solution of ammonia sulphate, or, if much free acid is present, ammonia carbonate is better.
The precipitated salt, after slight washing, is dissolved in water, and strong solution of ammonia is added. A clean iron plate is immersed in the solution to remove any trace of copper. This plate must be cleaned occasionally so as to remove any reduced copper, which will impede its action. As soon as the liquid is free from copper, it is left alkaline, and well stirred so as to facilitate peroxidation and removal of iron, which forms a film on the bath. When this ceases, the liquid is rendered neutral by addition of sulphuric acid, and filtered or decanted. The solution, when properly diluted, has sp. gr. about 1.06 at 60° F. It is best to work the bath with a weak current for a short time until the liquid yields a fine white deposit. Too strong a current roust be avoided.