How to zinc plate steel

Written by c.l. rease
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How to zinc plate steel
Zinc plating protects screws from corrosion. (zinced screws image by amlet from

Electroplating steel with zinc produces a barrier between the surface of the steel and moisture. This reduces corrosion and keeps steel parts from seizing with rust. Zinc plating produces a pure zinc coating on the steel unlike galvanised, which creates different layers ranging from pure steel to pure zinc. The electroplating process requires a pure metal anode, a solution containing the plating metal and electricity. The amount of electricity required to plate the base metal will vary depending on the thickness and size of the steel part.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Glass bowl
  • Epsom salt
  • Sugar
  • White vinegar
  • Zinc anode
  • Hacksaw
  • Copper wire
  • Wire cutters
  • Steel bolt
  • Electrical tape
  • D battery

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  1. 1

    Place 1/2 teaspoon of Epsom salt and 5/8 teaspoon of sugar in a glass bowl. Fill a glass bowl half-full with white vinegar. Stir the solution.

  2. 2

    Cut a zinc anode into 1/16 inch slices with a hacksaw. Drop one anode into the vinegar solution. Allow the zinc anode to dissolve in the solution for 12 to 24 hours.

  3. 3

    Cut two lengths of copper wire 8 inches long with a pair of wire cutters.

  4. 4

    Wrap the end of one copper wire around a steel bolt. Wrap one end of the second copper wire around a cut piece of zinc anode.

  5. 5

    Hold the loose end of the copper wire containing the zinc anode to the positive (+) side of a D battery. Hold the loose end of the copper wiring containing the steel bolt to the negative (-) side of the D battery. Wrap electrical tape tightly around the battery to hole the wires in place.

  6. 6

    Lower the steel bolt and zinc anode into the vinegar solution. Do not allow the two pieces of metal to touch while in the solution.

  7. 7

    Remove the steel bolt from the solution when it displays a bright zinc coating.

Tips and warnings

  • Increase the size of the container and the voltage of the battery when plating larger pieces of steel.

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