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  1. #1
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    Can Reynolds 853 be Chrome-Plated?

    I have a 1998 Paramount that was built by Match out of Reynolds 853, and it's time to repaint it. I have considerable sentimental attachment to this particular bike.

    I own older Paramounts that feature chromed lugs and stays, and I'd like to do the same with this frame. The alternatives - buying a $3K Waterford 953 frame or the $6K 70th Anniversary Paramount frame - are beyond my budget.

    I sent an email to Curt Goodrich, one of original Match framebuilders, and he said he saw no reason why the stays and lugs couldn't be chromed. I've also seen sites from other framebuilders that show 853 frames with chromed chainstays. However, Waterford claims that chroming 853 compromises the tubing.

    So, I throw the question to the experts - not the question of whether adding chrome aesthetics to the frame makes any sense, but whether it can be done without ruining the frame.

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    Dude, chrome is fine on steel frames. Not the best idea if you live and ride close to the ocean as it will eventually rust, but my 20 year Tomasini has chromed seat and chainstays and it looks nice.

  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by facefirst View Post
    So, I throw the question to the experts - not the question of whether adding chrome aesthetics to the frame makes any sense, but whether it can be done without ruining the frame.
    You already asked one of THE experts!

  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by Live Wire View Post
    You already asked one of THE experts!
    True - I should have said "other experts who care to comment." The question remains; Waterford says you shouldn't chrome 853, and others say it's no problem.

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    It would be a benefit if you told us why Waterford said 853 couldn't be chromed. I would put a lot of credit in their opinion if there was some kind of technical reason that others might not be aware of. If their reson were numerological it might detract from their opinion slightly.

    I've never chromed a bike, but am I not right in saying that mostly the lugs get chromed, and any overlap might well be within the butts? The lugs aren't made of 853, and the butts are tougher than the rest of the tubing, any relief there?
    Last edited by NoReg; 10-12-08 at 03:59 PM.

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by Peterpan1 View Post
    It would be a benefit if you told us why Waterford said 853 couldn't be chromed. I would put a lot of credit in their opinion if there was some kind of technical reason that others might not be aware of. If their reson were numerological it might detract from their opinion slightly.

    I've never chromed a bike, but am I not right in saying that mostly the lugs get chromed, and any overlap might well be within the butts? The lugs aren't made of 853, and the butts are tougher than the rest of the tubing, any relief there?
    Here's what Waterford says (at http://www.waterfordbikes.com/2005/d...n.php?qid=13):

    More importantly, chrome cannot be used on heat treated steels such as True Temper OX Platinum, Reynolds 753 and 853. The plating process compromises the benefits of heat treatment. Plating also adds much more weight than paint.

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    Thanks my connection is so slow, that would have taken me ages to fish for. Basically the only thing that is serious there is the compromise of HT. Durability of paint or corosion resistance are all problems in any high stress tubing.

    There is a reason that stainless takes a big haircut in structures. It doesn't polish like chrome either.

    I found quite a few examples of 853 that had been chromed. Still not sure whether the beef is Hydrogen embrittlement, or drawing the temper. The latter would not seem to be possible. But I don't really follow these super steels so I hope someone who does will jump in.

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    My Iron Horse Victory is chromed, haven't had any problems with it so far.

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    mentioning the heat treat makes no sense. As far as I know, chrome doesn't involve heating the frame. Framebuilding and bike company owning do not necessarily qualify anyone to answer a technical question.

    Having said that, I don't think it's a good idea. And I'm not particularly happy about that. What I do know about chrome is that poorly done chrome jobs mean a quick or slow death for the frame. Most American chrome shops don't do anything else that is like a bike. I've heard many reports of problems. In other countries there is much more expertise. You should find a shop that has experience with chroming bikes.

  10. #10
    I ride my bike Revtor's Avatar
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    Maybe shoot a tech question to Reynolds. Id love to hear the real deal answer.

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    Quote Originally Posted by unterhausen View Post
    mentioning the heat treat makes no sense. As far as I know, chrome doesn't involve heating the frame. Framebuilding and bike company owning do not necessarily qualify anyone to answer a technical question.

    Having said that, I don't think it's a good idea. And I'm not particularly happy about that. What I do know about chrome is that poorly done chrome jobs mean a quick or slow death for the frame. Most American chrome shops don't do anything else that is like a bike. I've heard many reports of problems. In other countries there is much more expertise. You should find a shop that has experience with chroming bikes.
    Please correct me if I'm wrong on this, but would the issue be hydrgen embrittlement? As I understand the process, correcting hydrogen embrittlement after chroming involves heating. Might that heating process compromise the temper of the tubing?
    Another thought..might Waterford be taking extra, and possibly unnecessary precautions on legal advice?

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    I've polished stainless to a chrome-like finish...

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    Quote Originally Posted by Six jours View Post
    I've polished stainless to a chrome-like finish...
    I'm thinking that tubing like Columbus XCR can be electro-polished. There is a Cinelli frame
    that looks like they did that to it. The process is the opposite of chrome plating, you
    use the frame as a cathode which removes the high spots. I have seen some
    stainless where this was done, and it was pretty shiny.

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by facefirst View Post
    Here's what Waterford says (at http://www.waterfordbikes.com/2005/d...n.php?qid=13):

    More importantly, chrome cannot be used on heat treated steels such as True Temper OX Platinum, Reynolds 753 and 853. The plating process compromises the benefits of heat treatment. Plating also adds much more weight than paint.
    The answer is Hydrogen embrittlement: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hydrogen_embrittlement Read the section called Process. Plating is mentioned as a culprit. Me thinks they are using CYA, cover your arse.
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    Quote Originally Posted by unterhausen View Post
    mentioning the heat treat makes no sense. As far as I know, chrome doesn't involve heating the frame.
    "The plating process compromises the benefits of heat treatment."

    Waterford is not saying that chrome plating involves heating the frame. They are saying that it compromises the heat treating benefits.

    From what I gather, it appears that some frames made from 853 are not heat treated. That is, heat treating the frame is an optional (additional) step. Maybe, chrome-plated 853 hasn't been heat treated?

    Quote Originally Posted by unterhausen View Post
    Framebuilding and bike company owning do not necessarily qualify anyone to answer a technical question.
    I'd say that Waterford and Reynolds are clearly reasonable sources for technical answers. Both rely on doing things properly to maintain their reputations. It seems almost certain that Reynolds provides technical info to Waterford and Waterford talks to Reynolds about what building methods are appropriate.

  16. #16
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    Did Reynolds offer an opinion? I would take anything I heard from Waterford or any other framebuilder with a grain of salt until I knew the source of the info. It doesn't take an engineer to build a frame. Of course, chroming one of their frames would absolve them of any further involvement with that frame. In fact, I might tell you the same thing about one of my frames, because juries have not been kind to manufacturers no matter what crazy modifications people make to their products.

    It does appear that the last step in chrome plating is a heating cycle to approximately 400 degrees for the purposes of removing hydrogen. This would put it in the range that would probably affect the heat treatment. Hydrogen embrittlement is bad, but I don't think it makes much sense to say that it affects the heat treatment.

  17. #17
    THE Materials Oracle Falanx's Avatar
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    I'll never understand the fascination with chromium plating steel. It's a corrosion nightmare, and while when perfect, it increases the fatigue life of a component just as any surface hardening treatment would, it's too frequently imperfect to warrant performing.

    Right, to address a number of metallurgical considerations;

    Hydrogen embrittlement - while it is true to say that the plating process releases hydrogen, and the temperatures involved encourage diffusion of hydrogen into the substrate where it collects over time at grain boundaries in the typical hydrogen embrittlement phenomenon in steels, all reputable plating shops perform a hydrogen bake-out as the final thermochemical step in the process to eliminate this deleterious behaviour.

    It is not true to say that all steels suffer from hydrogen embrittlement when plated in an acid bath, nor do those that do suffer, to the same extent, but in essentially all cases, the substrate will be damaged. The diffusivity of hydrogen into a steel is based upon its crystal structure, and the degree of embrittlement on the (usually) inverse relationship between strength and remaining ductility in the substrate.

    For reference, the bakeout needs to progress at no more than 250 degrees celsius, much less than 400 degrees, unless the figures you quote are in farenheit.

    Heat Treatment - no presently used heat-treated/thermophilic/whatever you want to call it steel for bicycle frames is tempered or aged at 200-250 degrees celsius. That's spring-temper range, and as such, the steel would have unnacceptably low elongation to failure figures. They aren't tempered at just above that value either, as the 300 degree celsius area is also know as the temper embrittlement or blue brittleness zone, associated with the decomposition of martensite to free carbide and ferrite.

    There is no technical reason why chromium plating of Reynolds 853 without associated hydrogen embrittlement or damage to the careful heat-treatent isn't practical and practicable when you approach it with sound materials science. What I'm more concerned about is the deleterious effect such a cathodic layer would have on the corrosion performance of the steel when compromised.
    Last edited by Falanx; 05-07-09 at 07:05 AM.
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  18. #18
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    I don't feel like going back to look it up, but I believe that it was 400F. I'm not a steels geek, and it's been 25 years since I looked at a phase diagram for any steel alloy. My one and only experience with tempering steel was with O1 steel, and it turns a nice straw color at 450F, so something is going on (sorry about the technical terminology).

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