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17. June 2013 · Comments Off on Differences between Nickel and Chrome plating for Guitar Hardware · Categories: General · Tags: , , , ,

One common question facing many guitar players looking to replace or upgrade their hardware is…Nickel or Chrome?.  Many think there isn’t much difference between the two or that they look the same.  It is sometimes hard to tell them apart unless you have them next to each other.

Nickel and Chrome tailpieces

Nickel(left) and Chrome(right) tailpiece.

Nickel plating was used on a lot of vintage instruments.  It has a slightly yellowish tint and warm look when compared to chrome with its blueish tint and cooler look.   Nickel plating is corrosion resistant but tarnishes easily.   Nickel isn’t as hard as chrome and will age nicely with normal use.  Usually the metal is copper plated before the nickel is applied.  The copper is easier to polish then the bare metal and will give the nickel a smoother finish.

Nickel tailpiece, Chrome TOM, Chrome tailpece, Nickel ABR-1

From left to right: Nickel tailpiece, Chrome TOM bridge, Chrome tailpiece, Nickel ABR-1 bridge

Chrome(chromium) is used on many guitars today for its ability to stay looking new longer.  The benefits of chrome are that it is very durable, corrosion resistant, and won’t tarnish.   Something that is seen often is the term “triple chrome plating” or “show chrome”.   Both of these terms mean that the item is first plated with copper, then nickel, and last chrome.  Copper is used for its ease of leveling and polishing.  Nickel is used because it is needed for good chrome adhesion.  If the copper plating is omitted then more polishing is required of the bare metal to give the smooth liquid appearance commonly seen on chrome products.

Nickel and Chrome Pickup covers

Nickel(left) and Chrome(right) pickup covers.

You should not mix chrome and nickel hardware on the same guitar unless they are a distance apart.  Tailpieces, bridges and pickups should all be the same finish because of their size and close proximity to each other.  A chrome bridge and nickel tuning machine might not be as noticeable  Small screws don’t always make that much difference.  Some will find that small zinc plated screws from the hardware store are a good substitute for either nickel or chrome screws.  Everyone will have a different opinion about what is acceptable.  

Nickel Chrome and Zinc screws

Nickel(top), Chrome(right) and Zinc(bottom left) screws.

It can be frustrating when you receive your new part only to find that it doesn’t match your existing hardware.  I sometimes find myself grabbing a known nickel or chrome part to compare the finish.  Looking at the pictures above, you can see how easy it is to tell the difference when they are next to each other.

We hope the information and pictures provided here will help you pick the correct parts for your next project.  If you have any questions please contact us at support.

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