+ Reply to Thread
Results 1 to 9 of 9
  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jan 2014
    Posts
    4

    Default restoring plated copper tub

    I have an antique wood encased copper bathtub that looks as if it originally had grey metal plating, probably tin. The plating is wearing away, and there seems to be a clear brownish coating (varnish?) that is chipping off the areas that are still plated. The tub has seams that appear to be soldered (silver?). The tub is stamped "HENRY STEEGER 16 oz Warranted". Any suggestions for how to make the tub aesthetic and usable?
    Last edited by frustrated1; 01-09-2014 at 12:16 AM.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Dec 2010
    Location
    Houston Texas
    Posts
    2,969

    Default Re: restoring plated copper tub

    You can have the tub re-coppered. That would require taking the tub out, removing everything that doesn't get dipped in molten copper and then re-assembled.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Dec 2013
    Location
    Montreal Canada
    Posts
    218

    Default Re: restoring plated copper tub

    We used to chrome copper pipes on site when we wanted the pipes to look better than just copper. we would clean the copper with sand cloth then apply paste and gently heat the copper and apply solder the very quickly wipe off any excesses solder. If it was done right it looks very good for a year or two.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jan 2014
    Posts
    4

    Default Re: restoring plated copper tub

    Quote Originally Posted by HoustonRemodeler View Post
    You can have the tub re-coppered. That would require taking the tub out, removing everything that doesn't get dipped in molten copper and then re-assembled.
    I thought I would remove the plating to see how the original copper looks. Is there a way to do this in my house?

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Jan 2014
    Posts
    4

    Default Re: restoring plated copper tub

    Quote Originally Posted by bill shack View Post
    We used to chrome copper pipes on site when we wanted the pipes to look better than just copper. we would clean the copper with sand cloth then apply paste and gently heat the copper and apply solder the very quickly wipe off any excesses solder. If it was done right it looks very good for a year or two.
    I think I would prefer the look of copper. Any ides how to remove the plating without damaging the copper?

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Jan 2008
    Posts
    2,203

    Default Re: restoring plated copper tub

    Plating of this size will need to be done at a shop- the DIY kits for plating are not sufficient in their ability to deposit a thick enough plating nor are they economical at this scale.

    But there may be some hope here- are you certain that this is copper plating, and not a plating of nickel over copper which has worn away? Make a deep scratch under the tub where nobody will see it and see what lies at the bottom of the scratch- that will be the solid base material and it may be a copper alloy! To determine if it is steel, apply some iodine to the scratch, wait a few days, then see if any rust has appeared. If it is indeed copper, then all you'll need to do is to buff off the remaining plating to obtain a copper finish, and that is certainly a DIY scale job.

    Phil

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Jan 2014
    Posts
    4

    Default Re: restoring plated copper tub

    Quote Originally Posted by Mastercarpentry View Post
    Plating of this size will need to be done at a shop- the DIY kits for plating are not sufficient in their ability to deposit a thick enough plating nor are they economical at this scale.

    But there may be some hope here- are you certain that this is copper plating, and not a plating of nickel over copper which has worn away? Make a deep scratch under the tub where nobody will see it and see what lies at the bottom of the scratch- that will be the solid base material and it may be a copper alloy! To determine if it is steel, apply some iodine to the scratch, wait a few days, then see if any rust has appeared. If it is indeed copper, then all you'll need to do is to buff off the remaining plating to obtain a copper finish, and that is certainly a DIY scale job.

    Phil
    I looked up the stamp on the tub and found a listing for the business which states that they sold copper tubs that were tin plated. How should I buff off the plating without damaging the copper surface? What about the seams that may have silver solder? I was told silver solder may have lead in it. After I get the plating off, should I seal the surface with something? Thanks

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Dec 2010
    Location
    Houston Texas
    Posts
    2,969

    Default Re: restoring plated copper tub

    As long as you aren't gnawing in the lead seams there is nothing to worry about

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Jan 2008
    Posts
    2,203

    Default Re: restoring plated copper tub

    Quote Originally Posted by frustrated1 View Post
    How should I buff off the plating without damaging the copper surface?
    Don't worry about the silver solder. The lead in it isn't going to leach out at any significant rate and some studies show silver to be good for you.

    Remove the old tin with abrasives- ie sanding, but nothing coarse- especially if using power tools. Start with some open-coat 220 grit and see how that goes, switching to ever-finer grits until you're happy with the finish. Tin is harder than copper so as soon as the tin is gone go easy. For a really shiny finish you can go from the finest abrasives to steel wool, single "0" to "0000" grades, then to brasso, then to Simichrome paste polish. Alternately go from the steel wool to tripoli rouge and a buffing wheel, then simichrome to fix the shine in place better.

    Using the tub is going to render any polishing job duller, and the shinier you had it, the worse it will look so I'd go to single "0" steel wool and stop, letting the copper attain a patina over time, perhaps keeping the outside polished if you wish. Metal polishing is tedious but easy, just don't sand or polish in straight lines; rather aim for circles or random patterns, and be careful to not over-do any spot thus creating a 'divot'. Copper is soft- another reason to not over-polish. Once again be aware that power tools remove metal PDQ so light pressure and go slow with them. There should be some vids on youtube to help you along.

    I've never been a fan of applying anything but paste wax on polished metals. Coatings such as lacquer will fade, wear, and chip over time leaving the exposed metal oxidizing while the coated metal doesn't, creating a blotchy appearance. To repair that you first have to remove all the coating- 100% everywhere- then re-polish the metal. Not much point in adding a step when you can just polish it as maintenance or allow it to patina naturally.

    Phil

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •