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Hardware and Gages

November 15th, 2010 Comments Off on Hardware and Gages

Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen, thank you for joining us for this National Boating History Conference.

I think everyone here would agree that few things are as pleasing as a gorgeous mahogany boat. The beautiful varnished wood is enhanced by fabulous chrome plated hardware. What makes this hardware so beautiful? The outstanding chrome plating.

In the teens and twenties marine hardware was bare brass or nickel. Both would become dull with age. Around 1932 Chrome plating became available, to keep the nickel bright. It is a complicated and unpleasant process; to find out more about it I visited Bob Maerisch, of Annapolis Plating and Polishing in Maryland; he walked me through his process.

Once your parts are received, photographed and logged in, they are separated according to the base metal and what processes are required. Then they are placed on shelves to wait their turn. First your parts are scraped clean on the bottom and dipped in muriatic acid. Then they are moved to a sulfuric bath where they dangle from wires and a 6 volt D.C., 1500 ampere current removes the plating, which falls to the bottom of the bath, in the form of sludge. This thick heavy mix must be removed every month when he renews the bath and taken to a recycler. The parts have to be checked regularly and gasses vented away.

The rinsed parts are inspected and moved to the polishing room. Here, masked men put the part through a rigorous series of polishing steps, against three different grits of polishing compounds and wheel sizes as varied as the contour of your part. Dust and metal powder flies everywhere. The part is inspected again and washed in an ultrasound bath, then dipped in a pickling acid, rinsed and taken to the cyanide copper bath. Here, it is a cathode, dangled from a wire and receives electrical energy in the bath for about 15 seconds, as only a thin coat is required. It is removed, rinsed and taken to the acid copper bath. The cyanide copper plating protects the part from the acid copper which is corrosive and would eat the part. The part is washed, pickled in acid and rinsed again, then hung in the acid copper bath, which is agitated by bubbles. The acid copper can be plated on as thickly as needed to fill any pits or grind marks. The copper anodes hang in little bags suspended in the acid solution. The operator times the plating and can leave it in there for hours, if heavy plating is required. Then the part is rinsed and taken to the polishing room for final polishing with rouge and wheels. This work is critical as any flaws will be seen on the finished part. Then a wash, pickle, rinse again and the part is hooked up to the nickel tank, cathode bar which moves back and forth for agitation. Green nickel sulfate crystals, mixed with water, conduct metal, from nickel nuggets, hanging in bags, around the perimeter of the tank, which is 300 gallons, so it can hold a 6′ long part. They hang there for about 20 minutes, are removed, inspected, washed, pickled, rinsed, and placed in the Chrome tank. Parts here are suspended in Chrome sulfate, bubbles agitate the mix and higher power is required, 100 amps per square foot, for only two minutes. The Chromium deposit is so thin it just preserves the shine on the nickel and is very hard. Parts left in the chrome bath too long look gray and have to be stripped! If all goes well the beauty we want is achieved.

The work and problems go far beyond what we have heard so far. The ph. of the baths have to be checked every day. They have to be cleaned and recharged every month. All water must be kept in house and cleaned. Heavy metal waste goes to a recycler and the EPA and OSHA come once a year. All employees wear a lot of protective gear, buffers and polishers must be renewed frequently. Chemicals, equipment and electricity bills are high.

I came away from my visit deeply impressed with all I saw and far more understanding of the prices!

We could talk quite a bit more about hardware but right now I would like to discuss gages and things you can do at home to improve them.

Most of our gages are similar to this one out of a Chris Craft. On inspection one of the first things you usually notice is that the gaskets are dried out and the glass is loose. Many times the face is soiled and the numbers have become rusty or fallen off. Looking at the gage from the back you will see six dents in the rim that holds the glass onto the cup. Using an electricians screwdriver, with the gage face down on newspaper, gently but strongly twist it and move ahead 1/32″ and twist again, Urging the dent out. Do not slip or you will spoil the rim. Carefully unbend each dent. Then the rim will easily come off. In the case of gages with a rolled edge, a million tiny twists are required to urge the rolled edge out enough that the rim can be removed. Many times the rim and trim ring are dull and must be sent out to be chromed. If the face and works are severely rusty, the boat was under and you need other gages or must send them away to California Classic Boats, Mark Clawson, or Pat Powell for restoration. If the numbers look rusty, they can be brought back by using Zud, a cleanser for rusty sinks, found in many grocery stores. Make a thick paste with water and heavily paint this on and let it sit until dry. Rinse without getting the Zud in the works. After painting the needle white you can give the face a coat of clear lacquer or pledge. Pledge is a clear furniture wax that is quite handy for shining things. By now you probably know if this gage works or not. I sometimes wash the works with Brakekleen solvent, blow off with air and lubricate with Tri-Flow. Tri-Flow is great for everything that moves, I even use it as penetrating oil. In the case of temperature gages, the borden tube may be broken and the alcohol that makes it work is gone. You can find places that repair these in Hemmings Motor News under Services Offered. Truck repair firms found in the yellow pages offer tachometer service and cable replacement. Clean the cup and repair cracks with goop.
Replace light windows with scotch tape. Clean glass with four ought steel wool and windex. Sand and paint spacer rings with flat black.

When you go to assemble your cleaned and lubricated gage, the old seals are completely dried up. Make a tiny applicator tip for your silicone tube. After you are sure you have everything installed in the correct order, fill the bump in the rim that fits against the glass with black silicone. Don’t worry about the extra that squeezes out; you can clean this off tomorrow with a razor blade. You can gently remash the dent spots or use tiny gobs of goop to retain the ring.

Much of this you can learn by puzzling over it yourself, I am always tickled when I don’t have to go to someone else for help. Now,- Don and I will be glad to take your questions.

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