Ludwig chrome plating rumor

HoorayGuy

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I had a set of Cragar S/S “mags” on my hot rod back in the day. Turns out the wheel is steel and the center piece is aluminum. Never had any chrome flaking in any event, but, only kept the car for about 2 years.
I remember guys back in the day talking about, "Cracking Cragars".
 

K.O.

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I toured it in '79. The drum corps I was in was stationed in Chicago suburb (Schaumburg). Some of our members worked there. Oh crap, or was it Slingerland? Ugh, I'm not sure. Nevermind...
Our High School band made the 140 mile journey into the big city in the fall of 1976 for a field trip. We spent the morning at the Ludwig plant and then the band director (a Chicago native) turned us loose for a couple hours downtown. My drummer buddies and I accompanied the band director (who was also a drummer) to Frank's Drum Shop , my first time there. Three members of the group Boston showed up at the store while we were there. It was quite a day for a 14 year old drummer and memories I'll always treasure.
 

Matched Gripper

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I also thought it might be a conductivity thing, but level of success seems to be down to the level of surface prep required. The very surface property that resists oxidisation so well also resists the plating process if it's not really well polished and cleaned with all sorts of nasty chemicals before plating with the copper & nickel. I assume that the level of prep on Aluminium shells wouldn't have been much different (in terms of effort spent) than that for brass in a plating firm churning stuff out 50 years ago.
My understanding is that chrome causes a galvanic reaction with aluminum from direct contact with each other, and that Ludwig eventually resolved the problem with a layer of zinc plating between the aluminum and chrome. Could be wrong about the zinc.
 

Matched Gripper

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I remember guys back in the day talking about, "Cracking Cragars".
Really? Never saw that on my (or any other), Cragar S/S’s, coolest looking wheel ever. Funny thing, I thought the term “mag” meant that they were a magnesium alloy. But, I think maybe only the lugs were magnesium.
 

1988fxlr

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Really? Never saw that on my (or any other), Cragar S/S’s, coolest looking wheel ever. Funny thing, I thought the term “mag” meant that they were a magnesium alloy. But, I think maybe only the lugs were magnesium.
Real high end racing wheels were magnesium but were impractical for daily street use so aluminum wheels in the same styles were produced and termed Mags as well
 

HoorayGuy

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Really? Never saw that on my (or any other), Cragar S/S’s, coolest looking wheel ever. Funny thing, I thought the term “mag” meant that they were a magnesium alloy. But, I think maybe only the lugs were magnesium.
Yeah, I have a cousin in Phoenix who would always say, "Crack a Cragar". He's a car guy. I am not, so, I don't know a damn thing about it. lol Shouldn't have mentioned it actually.
 

1988fxlr

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Yeah, I have a cousin in Phoenix who would always say, "Crack a Cragar". He's a car guy. I am not, so, I don't know a damn thing about it. lol Shouldn't have mentioned it actually.
That would be one of the impracticalities of true mag wheels for street use. Cast mag wheels are brittle and corrosion prone, I don’t think they had forged mags back in the 60-70’s but even now they are expensive enough to be for serious racing and rich guy toys.
 

Skinsmannn

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Slingerland's chrome plating was excellent as well. Nicer than Ludwigs but maybe not quite as nice as Premier's.
Slingerlands was triple plated. Scratch coat of copper, then nickle then decorative chrome. All done at the Niles factory in house
 

HoorayGuy

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That would be one of the impracticalities of true mag wheels for street use. Cast mag wheels are brittle and corrosion prone, I don’t think they had forged mags back in the 60-70’s but even now they are expensive enough to be for serious racing and rich guy toys.
Ok, thanks for clearing that up. I was talking about the '70s, and, for street use.
 

HoorayGuy

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Our High School band made the 140 mile journey into the big city in the fall of 1976 for a field trip. We spent the morning at the Ludwig plant and then the band director (a Chicago native) turned us loose for a couple hours downtown. My drummer buddies and I accompanied the band director (who was also a drummer) to Frank's Drum Shop , my first time there. Three members of the group Boston showed up at the store while we were there. It was quite a day for a 14 year old drummer and memories I'll always treasure.
Now that I think about it, it was the Slingerland factory I went to, because, I remember them saying Neil Peart would come to the factory to tap on shells to pick the ones he wanted.

Getting old sucks.
 

Matched Gripper

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Yeah, I have a cousin in Phoenix who would always say, "Crack a Cragar". He's a car guy. I am not, so, I don't know a damn thing about it. lol Shouldn't have mentioned it actually.
I was a car guy 40+ years ago when dual point ignition and dual quad carburetors were high performance. Now I can’t even change spark plugs ‘cause I can’t find them under all the crammed up plastic covering everything.
 

HoorayGuy

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I was a car guy 40+ years ago when dual point ignition and dual quad carburetors were high performance. Now I can’t even change spark plugs ‘cause I can’t find them under all the crammed up plastic covering everything.
I would help guys with their projects back in the day ('70s). That's about all. I was too busy banging on my drums. lol And jamming the stereo. And eating Pop-Tarts.
 
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CaptainCrunch

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Not a slight against Ludwig, but if there was a so-so plating shop in-house or a block away, and an incredible one 10 blocks away, there's no doubt as to which they'd use. Efficiency & profitability was the name of the game, and travel time helps neither.

Of course now, it's cheaper and easier to outsource to places... less finicky about their groundwater, other side of the planet travel time be damned.
 

K.O.

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My understanding is that chrome causes a galvanic reaction with aluminum from direct contact with each other, and that Ludwig eventually resolved the problem with a layer of zinc plating between the aluminum and chrome. Could be wrong about the zinc.
Chrome never contacts the aluminum because plating is a three step process. The first layer is copper, then nickel, then chrome. The silver surface you see is the nickel. The thin layer of chrome on top is basically clear but it prevents the nickel from tarnishing and gives it a slight blueish cast.

The problem with plating aluminum is that when aluminum oxidizes it forms crystals. The crystals push the plating away from the surface of the aluminum. Of course it's all at a microscopic level at first through tiny holes in the plating but as the oxidation spreads it becomes a problem.
 

campbellh

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From HCSPLATING.COM:

10 Most Common Chrome Plating Problems
Electroplating is generally an efficient and effective process, but sometimes defects occur either during or after plating. Below are 10 common chrome plating defects you may encounter:

1. Blistering
Blistering occurs when gases, generally hydrogen or nitrogen, expand from inside the pores of the plated object. These gases often come from the lubricant applied to the die during manufacturing. When the object becomes heated enough, the gases expand toward its surface and push against the chrome plating, creating a visible bubble or blister. A severe blister can also cause the plating to lift off entirely.

Blistering can also occur if the object’s surface was unclean when the plating occurred. In this case, dirt particles may cause blistering because of the plating’s poor adherence. Ensuring the cleanliness of the base metal can help avoid this issue.

2. Burned Deposits
Burned deposits typically form in the areas of highest current density, often near endpieces or irregular shapes. Extremely high current density means the chrome plating builds up incredibly quickly. When the chrome builds up under these conditions, the affected areas can burn. Controlling the current density avoids this issue.

3. Cleavage Points
Cleavage points typically form during the die-casting process. During die casting, the plating may split in two along its structural planes. Cleavage points can cause structural rigidity issues in finished plated products — they substantially reduce the product’s fracture toughness. Controlling heat during die casting and monitoring the process closely can help reduce cleavage.

4. Cold Shuts
Cold shuts are some of the most common problems in chrome electroplating. These defects occur when different parts of the plating material harden at different rates — typically because the cooler die cools some of the molten metal. When this happens, some of the metal cools before the mold is full. When the next flow of molten metal arrives, it fills in the cracks, and the molten metal bonds with the colder metal.

When a warmer area of metal hardens against a cooler area — instead of an entire molten section hardening at once — it interferes with the metal’s bonding and creates visible lines or flow marks on the surface of the plating. This cosmetic flaw is also a structural one — under stress, the product will be more likely to fracture along these lines. Making sure the die is not too cold can prevent the metal from hardening at different rates and causing this flaw.

5. Cracking
Chrome plating cracking can take a few different forms:

  • Hydrogen cracking: Hydrogen, which often makes its way into metal parts, is problematic in metalworking because it makes the metals brittle and fracturable. Hydrogen embrittlement, or hydrogen cracking, occurs after plating is finished and becomes subject to industrial stresses during operation. To minimize the negative effects of hydrogen cracking, manufacturers often try to increase the strength of metal components through techniques like stress relief baking.
  • Microcracking: Hard chrome plating microcracks occur as the chromium plating builds, particularly with deposits that range from 1 to 3 µm. Minuscule cracks develop in one layer, the next layer covers them and then that next layer also develops microcracks — such that the cracks do not extend throughout the entire thickness of the chromium deposit. A minimal amount of microcracking is innocuous and can even be desirable — it holds lubrication and minimizes friction. However, too much microcracking will compromise the chrome surface by roughening its texture.
  • Mud cracking: Mud cracking gets its name from its resemblance to the cracks that form in dried, cracked mud. This type of cracking forms when the manufacturing process uses an improper grinding technique, and it makes the plated metal much weaker and less corrosion resistant.
6. Dull or Milky Deposits
Dull or milky deposits can result from numerous conditions, including:

  • Chemical imbalances or contaminants in the bath.
  • Incorrect bath temperature.
  • Improper current density.
  • Unbalanced current distribution.
  • Insufficient preheating.
  • Ineffectual rinsing.
  • Inadequate submersion of the base metal part in the bath.
Controlling chemical balances, temperature, current density and distribution, along with preheating, submerging and rinsing the metal object effectively, can help the deposits form as they should.

7. Oxidation
One of the primary reasons to apply chrome plating is to prevent oxidation of the metal beneath — but what if the metal oxidizes before receiving its plating? If rust forms on the metal before the process is complete, the plating may not adhere to the metal correctly, or it may stick but then lift off. Applying the plating quickly before the metal can react with water or air can help prevent oxidation.

8. Pitting
Pitting occurs when small holes form in the chrome plating. It is common under a few different conditions:

  • Fume suppressants: The chemical fume suppressants used on the metal’s surface can sometimes cause pitting, though this type of pitting is becoming less common as technology advances.
  • Quality of the plated product: Sometimes the product’s condition can cause chrome pitting — pitting in the base metal is often a culprit, as are unclean surfaces. Wire brush debris and blaster grit can also cause pitting.
  • Thicker deposits: Thick deposits can lead to pitting because they contain more buildup that can become deformed.
These are a few common causes of pitting — others include reworked metal, stop-off residue, buss arching and bath residues such as oils. Using high-quality base metals, keeping deposits small and taking care with avoiding contaminants and residues can help prevent pitting.

9. Poor Adhesion
Poor adhesion occurs when the chrome plating fails to stick to the base metal, and it is one of the most common causes of part failure in plated metal components. Poor adhesion can result from a dirty metal surface — the chrome plating cannot stick to dust or debris. It also occurs when the surface holds oils, dye-releasing substances, alloying agents or oxides — or when the pretreating agent expires before applying chrome plating. Ensuring the cleanliness of surfaces before plating can help with proper adhesion.

10. Roughness or Sharp Edges
These defects involve the condition of the base metal.

Rough edges often occur because of poor-quality base metal. The reason is that unlike other metals like copper, which tend to fill in cracks, pits and unevenness smoothly, chromium usually follows the form of the metal exactly. If the base metal is rough, the plated metal will be rough as well.

Sharp edges in the base metal present a challenge for electroplating because of how the base metal interacts with the electric current. Some shapes — including sharp edges — attract more electric current. Where the current is denser, excessive layers of coating tend to pile up, and they make that section of plating more brittle. Grinding and deburring sharp edges is essential to preventing structural weakness.
 

KeenAmateur

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My understanding is that chrome causes a galvanic reaction with aluminum from direct contact with each other, and that Ludwig eventually resolved the problem with a layer of zinc plating between the aluminum and chrome. Could be wrong about the zinc.

That sounds about right. I watched a surprisingly absorbing YT video on plating, can't remember the details, but that definitely had two metals before the chrome - I think thick copper plating first to fill in surface blemishes (and copper loves to plate), I think nickel next and then the chrome. I think there was something about having to crank up the current for the chrome to play ball as it doesn't inherently love the whole plating thing?

Anyway, sounds as though plating aluminium without an intermediate metal would have indeed been doomed to a short span of prettiness.
 

Matched Gripper

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Chrome never contacts the aluminum because plating is a three step process. The first layer is copper, then nickel, then chrome. The silver surface you see is the nickel. The thin layer of chrome on top is basically clear but it prevents the nickel from tarnishing and gives it a slight blueish cast.

The problem with plating aluminum is that when aluminum oxidizes it forms crystals. The crystals push the plating away from the surface of the aluminum. Of course it's all at a microscopic level at first through tiny holes in the plating but as the oxidation spreads it becomes a problem.
I think you are describing the solution to the problem. My understanding is that Ludwig originally tried to plate the chromium directly to the aluminum.
 

Monday317

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I wonder if Ludwig did the chrome on the hoops and hardware too. I toured the plant in 1976 and didn't see any plating operations but that doesn't mean they weren't doing it there, just that we didn't see it.
The snare shells and die-cast items came from outside suppliers so a swing though an outside plating firm before delivery could make sense. But they did make their hoops and stands in house (a lot of those Ludwig home movies were devoted to the hoop making process, although it didn't show them being plated) and it would have made sense to do the plating as well, at least on that stuff. Then again it was Chicago and at the time there may have been 4 or 5 industrial plating outfits within a mile of the Ludwig plant...so who knows?
It would be interesting to find out. I'd think WFL III would know the answer. Perhaps not the nitty gritty details but surely he should recall whether there was a plating department within the plant or if they sent it all elsewhere.
Until the late ‘80s they were not playing Supras properly, which was why the chrome peeled off all the time. To plate aluminum, you have to plate copper, then nickel then chrome. Plating chrome directly to aluminum doesn’t work, same for steel. Beyond that, I couldn’t say.
 

Formula 602

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Certainly UK voltage is 240v, compared to the US standard of110v. What difference that makes to the process I'm not sure, as most platers would use transformers if they need different voltages/ amperages.
Have heard the same thing..the 240 v made the plating better.....
 


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