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De-Chrome Parts

De-Chroming
Kit manufactures will provide sprues in pre painted chrome to enhance some mechanical parts. Typically these are in auto kits, motorcycle kits, some aircraft kits and various other kits. This on its surface seems like a nice touch. You think you can get away from having to create a nice metallic finish. The reality of it is that you are getting a mixed blessing. While some of the pieces will be useful in their production chrome, most won’t.
Background
When you de-sprue pieces you are inevitably left with small nicks in the chrome paint. Repairing these nicks and cuts is the least of your worries. The chrome pieces have to be glued to something and anyone who has tried to use glue right on the chrome will know that it will fail. You have to remove some portion of the chrome to give glue a surface to adhere to. So you will be preparing some portion of the parts by removing this silver paint. Add in any seam lines, ejector pin marks and flash clean up and you have more chrome problems. If parts don’t fit well, you may have gaps that need putty work. Now you have putty to deal with and sanding marks.

Sometimes you are just going to re-chrome the entire piece. To do that you have to first remove the production chrome. The rest of this feature will deal with various products that are reported to do the job.
The products
I have read various articles and threads that list things that remove chrome. To me if a product is hard to get or hard to use it’s not worth the effort: especially if there is a cheaper alternative. My goal was to try three products that I have readily available in my house that I did not purchase for modeling. These are:
  1. Coke,
  2. Formula 409,
  3. Soft Scrub
Coke
I have heard that Coke is a cleaning agent and have tried it on pennies. It does clean them and yield a nice shiny coin. So when I heard that Coke could be used as a De-Chroming agent I decided I had to try it.
The technique is self evident in that there really is no other way of using Coke other than to soak the piece in it until the chrome is gone.
I poured some coke in a container and then dropped my part in. The first drawback to this product literally pops up before your eyes. The parts pop to the surface. The carbonation and sugars in Coke make the pieces float. So I used some loose change and a metal ring to hold the piece under the surface. I checked back in about 45 minutes to an hour and noticed that some chrome was being removed. It resembled rusting more than anything, it was jagged and rough. Clearly more time was necessary. I returned in 24 hours. I was disappointed with the results. There was quite a bit of chrome on the part; in the creases, corners, and even on part of the flat surface. On top of poor overall results, the part was sticky from the soda. This means another bath just to get the part in workable form. I do not recommend this method.
Formula 409
This is a liquid spray cleaner available at any home store, or grocery store, and even in some DIY stores (in the US). It is advertised as a “multipurpose” cleaner to be used in kitchens, walls and on stainless steel.
With no experience outside household cleaning my first attempt was too simply to mimic how I would use 409 in the kitchen. I sprayed 409 on my chrome part and rubbed it first with a paper towel then with a toothbrush. This was unsuccessful.
My next attempt was to pour some 409 in a container and let the piece soak. The first thing I noticed was that the piece was not inclined to float as much as with the Coke.
I checked the piece after a few minutes and was happy that the chrome was already starting to disappear. The chrome was totally gone after roughly 15 – 20 minutes. This product is a good option. It doesn’t take too long and it’s very easy to do.
Soft Scrub
This is a widely available cleaner in the US. This is a thicker pastier product, more like a gritty mustard or ketchup consistency.
This stuff needs some elbow grease or man power to make work. I squirted a drop of the stuff on my finger (use a glove if you have sensitive skin). Then I worked the Soft Scrub over the part. Once it was covered I used an old toothbrush and scrubbed the part. This worked very well on the “open” areas. Soft Scrub is a gritty substance and it acts almost like wet sand paper.
The negative aspect of this product is that it does not get into the small crevices. Any nooks or crannies that the brush can’t get into will be unaffected. This stuff is ok for large open areas, not highly detailed parts. It is also not recommended for delicate parts that may be damaged or broken due to the scrubbing action.
Combined Soft Scrub and 409
I like the results of the 409 and the speed of the Soft Scrub so I wanted to see if I reap the benefits of both by combining the two.
Note: Be very careful mixing cleaning products. Read the labels and be aware that you should only do it in well ventilated areas and do not go against the warning labels. I had combined these products before in my day to day house cleaning so I knew they were mixable.
I first took a drop of Soft Scrub and coated the piece, working the material into the chrome. Then I dipped it in a bath of 409. I left it in there and found that it cut the time down to around 5-10 minutes or so. It was a bit faster. The results were just as good as the regular 409.
Video
Included with the text and image of this feature is a short (9 minute) video on the actual use and results of this process. Check out the video at the top of this feature.
Summary
The products used were Coke, Formula 409, and Soft Scrub. Here is a small table of the results
ProductOverallAvoidAcceptable
CokeForget itAlwaysIn a glass to drink
Formula 409Good to useDon't avoid Large scrub able parts
Soft ScrubGood to useDelicate Parts or highly detailed partsAcceptable
  • original
  • razor
  • tools
  • all
  • cokehalf
  • coke4
  • coke5
  • coke3
  • Coke1
  • coke2a
  • 409b
  • 409good
  • SSa1
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About Scott Lodder (slodder)
FROM: NORTH CAROLINA, UNITED STATES

I modeled when I was a teenager. College, family and work stopped me for a while. Then I picked it back up after about 12 years off. My main focus is dioramas. I like the complete artistic method of story telling. Dioramas involve so many aspects of modeling and I enjoy getting involved in the ...