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Starting a Decorative Chrome Plating Business
Ken Emilio   

Profile: Owner of a Motorcycle / Hot rod repair shop.

"We do customizing and original frame work. We powdercoat, paint and are serious chrome buyers demanding the highest quality. We work with new and reconditioned metals. We are currently sending our work to outside platers. The prices for chrome are outrageous and delivery takes forever. If the quality is poor we just get excuses."

"Is it practical for us to bring in our own chrome plating?"


The answer is yes and no. If you operate a motorcycle or a custom rod shop I am going to try to talk you out of doing your own chrome plating. But the first step in answering the question is for you to do your homework and understand just what electro-plating is. This will take time and effort on your part.

I am now addressing myself to the people who are thinking about doing professional chrome plating as a business. This means doing plating for themselves and others and charging for the service for profit. This is a serious business. I am not talking to those who are only interested in chrome plating as a hobby or for very small parts. I will deal with these folks in another article.

If you are really serious you might start by visiting a plating shop in your area and talking to the owner. I know - I know you feel uncomfortable about doing this however you may just find out how tough this business can be.


About 98% of the folks who ask us about chrome plating never get into the business-Why? Because they find out that chrome plating is not just dipping a handle bar into a tank and having it come out shinny. That handle bar, also called the "base metal" needs to go through at least 15 process steps before you get a quality finish. Many of those steps such as multi-stage polishing require development of skills that take time to learn properly.

Most motorcycle and car parts done for restoration already are chrome-nickel plated or have some other finish. The old finish needs to be removed (or stripped), and the base metal needs to be prepared properly (polished) to accept the chrome.

A decorative chrome finish is not just chrome. It also involves a minimum of one sub-layer of nickel plate. In many cases two layers of nickel are applied before the final coat of chromium is plated.

So in addition to stripping, polishing, cleaning, nickel and then chrome plating, not to mention multiple stages of rinsing, one can see that taking on decorative chrome plating as a business is no small enterprise.

And by the way we have not even begun to talk about the environmental, safety and permitting issues that you will need to address.


They are losers! Why? Because if you are serious about doing high quality chrome, those internet kits are totally inadequate. They are designed to get you to spend a few hundred dollars and then back off. Yes, we have sold plating kits too, but not for repairing decorative chrome and certainly not for going into the chrome business for profit. You might as well buy spray paint. These kits do not even help in teaching you how to enter the chrome plating business or how the chemical process actually works.


All this being said, however, I must also say this… The decorative chrome plating business can be a great business provided you go into it with knowledge and a solid team of experts who can build your shop and teach you the ropes. Your new facility must be designed by people who know how to build systems and not just operate them. It is not enough to just hire a guy who has been a plater for thirty years. Yes he may know more than you, but there are few people in this country who understand chemistry, polishing, plating, environmental, air and water pollution control, permits, building occupancies and on and on …. You need a plan in writing and drawings before you buy one piece of equipment. Spend your money on getting to know this business first.

Our industry can use more shops. Many of the old timers like my family are now out of it. There are fewer and fewer quality shops left. There are many reasons for this but it does leave a large window of opportunity for the right person.

Still Interested? Then Take a Free Class Now!

Sign up for a free class about getting into the chrome business. Each day for 5 days you will receive a lesson in your e-mail.


Ken Emilio

Ken is a multi-generational metal finisher. He grew up in four of his father's chrome plating shops. For more than 40 years he has been designing and building plating and anodizing shops for the aerospace, automotive, electronic and commercial industries. He is a consultant and teacher to some of the biggest and smallest firms in the world.

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