Spotlight Hobbies

Something to consider when stripping "chrome" from model car parts!

This plating is actually a 3-step process: First, a glossy non-penetrating lacquer is applied (early on that was flow-coated, then fine spray came along, finally flow-coating seems to have come back), which gives a very shiny finish to the plastic parts. This is done in order to get both adhesion and a glossy surface for the aluminum plating, which is applied in a vacuum chamber, where pure aluminum is vaporized by a high-voltage shot of electricity through strips of pure aluminum--resulting in a layer of aluminum that is mere molecules thick--any surface imperfections, even dull plastic surfaces WILL show through! Immediately after plating, the pieces are removed from the vacuum chamber, and quickly sprayed or flow-coated with a water-clear non-penetrating lacquer, which seals the aluminum plating, without which the metal layer would disappear very quickly, due to contaminants in the surrounding air, not to mention wearing away quickly if handled.

For best results, not only the top clear coat and the aluminum should be stripped, but ALSO the base coat--certainly if you want to get back to the original, often very fine details in the plastic part(s). For years, I used Lewis Red Devil Lye (crystals of sodium hydroxide) mixed in water to a very strong solution--but Red Devil Lye is no longer available--Lye can be very hazardous, capable of serious skin damage if no precautions are used, or it's mixed improperly--very much a "product liability" issue for the manufacturer.

Easy Off Oven cleaner, in the yellow-capped can is lye, sodium hydroxide. As it's already dissolved in water, that negates the primary hazard, that being improper dilution in water--but skin protection (Nitrile examination gloves) is very important. Also, good ventilation is important, as any overspray will irritate eyes and nasal passages (always spray the stuff AWAY from you!).

I simply use a glass cereal bowl (you know, one of those straight-sided glass bowls that just about every Big Box store has in their housewares department--set in my bathroom sink. I simply place the parts to be stripped into that bowl, in the sink, and spray Easy Off downward into the bowl, until it covers the parts completely--it goes without saying that pets and young children should not be in the room, or allowed in there during this process! I simply walk away from it, and in about 10-15 minutes, the plating is all gone, down to the bare plastic, although with some older parts, those than may have been heavily precoated, it might take a second shot to soften and remove that.

I then take the parts out of the bowl, scrub lightly with an old toothbrush, and if everything has stripped off, rinse under the cold water faucet, and lay out on folded paper towels to dry.

The leftover Easy Off can be poured down the drain--chemically, it's the same stuff as Drano, or any other drain opener.

It's no more and no less hazardous, in my experience, than say, chlorine bleach--just use simple safe-handling practices, and it works.


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