On Plating - Touch up and replace Nickel

The nickel plating of many parts is what makes typewriters a joy to behold. The plating is there not only for cosmetic reasons. It also protects unpainted parts of the machine against rust. On most machines  the plating is  nickel. Sometimes it is chrome.
One problem with nickel is that it tends to wear off. Often you'll see brass shining through. And when the part is damaged (i.e. a scratch that goes through the nickel layer) the steel underneath will begin to rust.

There are several ways to deal with damaged nickel layers. You can leave them as they are, paint them, strip them and polish the steel or renew the plating.

Leave it
How far you take a restoration project is always subject to discussion. If a machine has been well stored, shows only minor surface rust and normal wear to the plating (the carriage return handle that has been swung a million times) I wouldn't restore the plating at all. The machine should be cleaned and polished, but the wear is part of its history and charm.

Paint shops and auto parts dealers sell special glossy chrome paint sprays that can be used to touch up the chrome on cars. You can use this on a typewriter, but beware: This stuff is intended to fool the eye when it flashes by at 60 miles an hour. Don't get close to it and don't touch it.
A duller kind of chrome lacquer is also available. I don't recommend it.

Strip and polish
Bare steel can be made to shine almost as brightly as chrome or nickel. So one cheap solution you can use for cosmetic reasons is to strip whatever remains of the plating off the machine with a steel brush, then sand it (400, 600, 1000) and buff it with green compound until it shines like a mirror. The shine tends to disappear  soon and the part may begin to rust. I you're not planning to write letters to your friends on the machine, you may protect the shine with a clear metal varnish.

Renew the plating
You can have typewriter parts replated by professional galvanizing companies. This is not a cheap solution. It may cost even more than you paid for the machine, as you usually have to pay for a whole plating bath, no matter how many parts you bring. So the best thing is to bring as many parts as possible (making sure that when you get them back you remember where to put them!).
You will still have to do the strippng, sanding, polishing and buffing yourself. But the result of course is a plated part that looks exactly as it did when the machine first came off its production line.

You can also try home plating. It is relatively cheap and fun, because you keep everything under control. But here too, you need to realize that the nickel plating is not as hard and strong as it would be if it came from a professional company. This is a great cosmetic solution but it will wear if you use the machine often.
Caswell Plating in New York (www.caswellplating.com) is the only company I found on the Internet

that sells complete kits for home plating. They go from simple, cheap kits for small parts, all the way to your basement lab for professional plating. (You can also check the Caswell site for a very handy, downloadable instruction booklet on buffing wheels and compounds.)

Since with typewriters, we usually deal with small parts (and because I didn't want to spend a fortune on an experiment) I invested a full 23 dollars in a small copper and nickel plating brush set, consisting of two bottles of nickel sulphate solution and copper sulphate solution, plus matching electrodes and brushes. (You could also look for nickel sulphate and copper sulphate powder and produce your own solutions and electrodes. That's even cheaper, IF you have access to the chemicals.)

Next, what you need is some hydrochloric acid solution for the final cleanup of your polished piece, some de-mineralized water to rinse it, and an adjustable 3 to 9 Volts power source for the actual plating. You can use a dry cell battery, a battery charger (connect the electrodes to the poles that normally touch the batteries) or get yourself a regular AC/DC converter and DC power supply like the one in the picture. (Don't forget to wear gloves and protective glasses and to work outside or in a well ventilated room. You're fooling around with some nasty materials!)
Before you attack your first typewriter part, it's a good idea to invest a quarter in a cheap steel tea spoon. You'll have something that is well polished to practice on and you'll see that the result can be astonishing. Keep this piece at hand when you start working on old parts. If they don't shine like your spoon, you didn't polish it enough.

First copper, then nickel
The Caswell instruction claim that the nickel plating will work on steel. Forget it. It may work, but not very well. The best way to go is to first put a copper plating on the part and then add the nickel plating.

The first real part I tried this out on was the paper scale that is on the front of the carriage of my Smith Premier 1. The piece was badly rusted (see top picture), so I had to use a steel brush to remove the rust. What I was left with finally was bare steel, seriously pockmarked with tiny dents where the rust had eaten into the steel. Getting out the pockmarks would be impossible, so I settled for sanding, polishing and buffing.

After bathing the piece in acid, I applied the copper plating (see pic), followed by the nickel plating (pic). The nickel at first looks a bit dirty and black, but if you wipe it with a soft cloth, it'll come out quite nicely.

The last picture shows the piece back in place on the carriage. As you can see, the small dents are still visible. This is not a problem, because other plated parts that did not rust, are somewhat worn. They go together very well.