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Getting an old frame chromed.

Old 11-16-19, 09:21 PM
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jackbombay
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Getting an old frame chromed.

15 years ago I bought a Hercules 3 speed off Ebay with the intention of getting it chromed and doing a resto mod build on it, but, the frame had notable pits from rust despite the seller's description. I did build that up into a super awesome restomod townie that I also ride on long rides, it did get a full sandblast and powder coat....


BUT....

I never got that bike chromed due to the rust issues. I now have in my possession a 5 speed (Sturmey Archer S5 hub) 1969 Raleigh Sprite, the paint/finish is ok, but nothing to write home about. So I started daydreaming about getting this frame and fork chromed, but I really don't know anything about it. I was told that if you want a nice shiny chrome finish you need to polish the frame and fork, I'm not scared of that, I have all sorts of tools to accomplish that, anything else to be aware of? I'd like to get the fenders chromed as well, but maybe buying some chrome Hercules fenders would be the easier path?

Yea, chrome on chrome on chrome, gaudy as all get out. Or maybe respraying the fenders black would be a good contrast to chrome?

This will be a full resto mod build, I'm not particularly intent on "period correct" so anything and everything is on the table for this build, but the S5 hub will be part of the build!
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Old 11-16-19, 09:36 PM
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It's expensive, platers often don't know what they're doing in regards to bikes, eco friendly (modern) chrome isn't as durable as vintage chrome, threads are usually masked so chrome doesn't interfere with tolerances, chrome is hard on tools, show chrome isn't the same as hard chrome, chroming things that are assembled from multiple parts with small gaps probably won't chrome well, and beware hydrogen embrittlement.
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Old 11-16-19, 11:02 PM
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Originally Posted by Kuromori View Post
It's expensive, platers often don't know what they're doing in regards to bikes, eco friendly (modern) chrome isn't as durable as vintage chrome
Is it less durable than paint or powder coat? This bike will live a life of luxury with me, so while I'd like it to be tough as nails, that's not all that important.
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Old 11-17-19, 01:24 AM
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I didn't quite phrase that right. You can still get proper quality chrome, but you will probably have to pay out the nose for it. High quality chrome used to be much cheaper due to being able to dump toxic carcinogenic chemicals in the river. Caveat emptor when it comes to bad chrome shops.
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Old 11-17-19, 01:51 AM
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An interesting bit I learned when asking why my Marinoni with full chrome under the paint has no vent holes - Chrome platers hate bike frame vent holes! Apparently the small diameter of the vents tends to build up chrome on the edge with poor adhesion, or something along those lines.
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Old 11-17-19, 02:21 AM
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About the only chrome places around here anymore are places that re-chrome bumpers etc for classic cars and a industrial chrome shop that does hard chrome which is as the name implies hard but not very shiny. You might also find someone that does motorcycle parts and maybe truck bumpers although lots of that is imported from places that don't have to keep the EPA happy. Finding one that is familiar with bikes will be unlikely. The chemicals to do it and their disposal makes it expensive to do so don't expect it to be inexpensive. The better the part looks before it is done the better it will look afterword. If chrome doesn't work out for you it can be polished and clear coated.
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Old 11-17-19, 04:11 AM
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I believe Jan Heine of Bicycle Quarterly had his first Rene Herse chromed. You could send him an email to see where he had it done - it looks stunning.

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Old 11-17-19, 06:33 AM
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you could look into some chrome PAINT.
it's a expensive product but probably cheaper than actually having a bike chromed.
i was thinking of painting my CF bike with chrome paint.

https://alsacorp.com/

or possibly chrome powder coat.

Last edited by mrt2you; 11-17-19 at 06:39 AM.
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Old 11-17-19, 07:05 AM
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Check with Jack Trumbull at Franklin Frames in Ohio. He has a guy who does bike rechroming and does an excellent job, such as these head lugs and fork:
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Old 11-17-19, 07:47 AM
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As rccardr says Franklin Frames and maybe someone near you can do fabulous work but a full chroming will be $$$. I have used Quality Plating in Sterling, IL for less demanding work on my rescues and been very happy. Forks for less than a $100 w/shipping, frames for just over $200. On a fender as in all chroming work you have to have the old chrome stripped (don't let a bumper plater chrome over chrome) so I would guess ~$100 each.
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Old 11-17-19, 08:13 AM
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Don't forget you need to polish the frame too. If I understand the process correctly the metal must smooth as possible or you won't get a good mirror finish.

Someone posted about a good place to get a fork chromed I believe in St Louis anyone know about it?

Franklin may only do rechroming, I think I saw that on their price list once
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Old 11-17-19, 08:17 AM
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Originally Posted by Dfrost View Post
An interesting bit I learned when asking why my Marinoni with full chrome under the paint has no vent holes - Chrome platers hate bike frame vent holes! Apparently the small diameter of the vents tends to build up chrome on the edge with poor adhesion, or something along those lines.
Cross tank contamination is the issue
any fluid trapped in the frame is going to mess up the chemistry of the next tank.
that and it's not pull rinse move the parts.
has to be hand manipulated between Every switch. Also this takes time- quite a bit.
no, plugging the vent holes is rarely the way to go- a pinhole can let fluid enter - even if it gets plated closed- there is a chance of corrosive material inside that will wreck havoc years later.

Raleigh on some models squished and riveted the seat stays at one end or both
( maybe limited to the DL-1 )
that is a type of assembly a plater will not like. Yes, Raleigh made chromed 3speed frames for recognition of achieving dealers, in their own plate shops.

aside from the above- it can be done.
the better the surface the better the outcome.
multiple copper layers with buffing between can address this, more money.
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Old 11-17-19, 08:24 AM
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Was worried my post would vanish:

tabs such as used to to mount a chain guard will catch a buffing wheel- the fewer places to catch the better.

the late Brian Baylis managed chrome plating of parts or whole frames very well.
he polished the parts to be chromed to the point that it looked like a custom knife blade - mirror grade- then sent it to the plater. More predictable outcome. He also was able to control the shape, there are platers who will do the same to a point or as part of the copper layers stage but control the surface shape? No.

i have a semi production frame from Italy that suffers from this at the fork crown. The detail is half gone.
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Old 11-17-19, 09:13 AM
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You cannot believe the amount of time and effort that Brian spent on those chrome frames. If you are going to pay a plater to do a really good job, it will be really expensive.

the comment about contamination is a good one. You also want to make sure that the plater does not over-polish and damage lugs and other frame features. I've seen a Cinelli frame "ruined" by over polishing.

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Old 11-17-19, 09:52 AM
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Originally Posted by repechage View Post
multiple copper layers with buffing between can address this, more money.
Copper is easier to smooth than steel, so adding a fill layer of copper can reduce buffing time. Back in the day it could have been cheaper add copper. Today, probably not so with disposal costs.

I have been also told the steel to copper to nickel to chrome adhesion is the most durable. But I'm no chemist so I'll just keep spreading that as a rumor.
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Old 11-17-19, 09:53 AM
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One thing to consider is that you will need to take care of any dings and the like on the frame before you ever send it to the plater. I sent a frame to a local plater who did an overall nice job. Certain areas did not get polished as much as the remainder, but I decided it represented a typical French chrome job. That was $150 some years ago. They now charge at least $250. Jack at Franklin Frame is really good. But a full chrome will be $$$ as mentioned. He quoted me $235 for fork crown and head tube lugs. So figure accordingly.
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Old 11-17-19, 11:45 AM
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Originally Posted by iab View Post
Copper is easier to smooth than steel, so adding a fill layer of copper can reduce buffing time. Back in the day it could have been cheaper add copper. Today, probably not so with disposal costs.

I have been also told the steel to copper to nickel to chrome adhesion is the most durable. But I'm no chemist so I'll just keep spreading that as a rumor.
copper, nickel, chrome is still the "correct" way. For durability anyway.

In Southern California the local air quality board, the SCAQMD, EPA, OSHA, CAL-OSHA has driven out all the platers who "cheated" in various ways.
When one visits a plate shop today, it smells much less, ping pong balls float on the surface of the tanks to limit the fumes, (cool idea actually)

That and the big trade in straightening and replating auto bumpers still exists, but there may be only one now who caters to that market.

The platers who continue orient the business to Aircraft and electronic industries.
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Old 11-17-19, 11:48 AM
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Originally Posted by mpetry912 View Post
You cannot believe the amount of time and effort that Brian spent on those chrome frames. If you are going to pay a plater to do a really good job, it will be really expensive.

the comment about contamination is a good one. You also want to make sure that the plater does not over-polish and damage lugs and other frame features. I've seen a Cinelli frame "ruined" by over polishing.

Mark Petry
Bainbridge Island, WA USA

Brian went way way too early. A Cool Dude. As only California can produce.
In the mid 80's I worried about him, a friend in school who did paint cars at one point, stated flatly, "there are NO old Imron painters".
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Old 11-17-19, 01:43 PM
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I had a frame chromed by a local guy who does car parts, industrial parts, etc. He used to race bikes and said he knew how to chrome a bike. As it turns out, he did a fine job but I didn't get the bike back for a year. Cost was about $400 for polishing and chroming, plus $50 for blasting. Cheap in money but not in time.
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Old 11-17-19, 02:13 PM
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Thanks for all the info and first hand experiences!

Prices people have paid are a bit more than I'd hoped.

There is a place about 4 hours south fn me in northern Utah that does automotive stuff/bumpers, I'll give them a call and see if they are interested and get an estimate if they are. I would do the polishing myself so that will keep costs down compared to having them polish the frame and fork.
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Old 11-18-19, 01:31 PM
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I love all chrome bikes, even though they are a pain to control oxidation on. That said, all chrome does not quite do it for me, anymore. A touch of paint adds something to the completed project, in my opinion...


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Old 11-18-19, 09:35 PM
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Well since your bringing it up, Heres a freshly chromed Automoto frame. Just got it back last week. The head tube is going to be painted to show the Clover lugs.
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Old 11-18-19, 10:22 PM
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Originally Posted by randyjawa View Post
That said, all chrome does not quite do it for me, anymore. A touch of paint adds something to the completed project, in my opinion...
I'm a bit torn there, I may add some paint to it, but there is a piece of me that wants to use as many chrome part as possible. Cost is of course part of the decision as well.

Originally Posted by Manny66 View Post
Well since your bringing it up, Heres a freshly chromed Automoto frame. Just got it back last week. The head tube is going to be painted to show the Clover lugs.
It's beautiful!!!!!

Did you polish it yourself or have the chrome shop do it?
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Old 11-18-19, 11:07 PM
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I dropped it off at my buddies chrome shop and he returned it to me as you see it.
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Old 11-18-19, 11:17 PM
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Originally Posted by Manny66 View Post
I dropped it off at my buddies chrome shop and he returned it to me as you see it.
Does he do bikes regularly?
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