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Hot Rods Can I copper plate exhaust headers

Discussion in 'The Hokey Ass Message Board' started by tlaferriere, Feb 23, 2015.

  1. tlaferriere
    Joined: May 14, 2007
    Posts: 151


    I am building a project where I want a copper headers and exhaust (please don't ask why, that's another story). If I made the headers from steel (similar to whats pictured) and copper plated it, would it withstand the heat? I would expect it to discolor, however what should I expect if I did this? Would the copper peel off?[​IMG]
  2. Copper is the second step used in triple chrome plating,I think it would work but I guess you would need to contact a chrome shop for a definitive answer. HRP
  3. ChampRod
    Joined: Dec 10, 2013
    Posts: 15

    from Tucson, AZ

    I mean engine exhaust temperature should not rise above 1600º F, and the melting point of copper plating is around 1980º F, so I don't see why not, I don't think it would crack or flake off if it is that much below the melting point. I would like to know the story behind the copper plating though, that's for sure. And is that a Straight 8??
  4. Diavolo
    Joined: Apr 1, 2009
    Posts: 819


  5. tlaferriere
    Joined: May 14, 2007
    Posts: 151


    My exhaust will be real
  6. Hnstray
    Joined: Aug 23, 2009
    Posts: 12,173

    from Quincy, IL

    It appears to be a Buick Straight 8........would like to see more pics of the whole car.

  7. Like to see more pics of your car.
  8. metlmunchr
    Joined: Jan 16, 2010
    Posts: 777


    Exhaust gas temperatures in gasoline engines regularly exceed the point where copper will oxidize in the presence of air. The oxide is a dull medium dark gray color. Its not all that difficult to remove, but you're losing material with each cleaning. It wouldn't take long for the copper of a typical plating thickness to be gone.

    FWIW, this oxidation happens in a matter of seconds once the copper reaches the necessary temperature. So, its not something that happens gradually over a period of time.
  9. blowby
    Joined: Dec 27, 2012
    Posts: 7,960

    from Nicasio Ca

  10. I recall this engine from another thread.
    Just wanted to get slightly OT, and ask if your going the copper route for rest of the system?
    An old fella I know told me some old Speedsters would run copper straight pipes, and reckoned it has an awesome sound.
    Another thought for the headers, if you didn't do copper coat, would be a copper colored coating. Most coating places have all manner of colors nowadays.
  11. midroad
    Joined: Mar 8, 2013
    Posts: 294


    If you want it shiny it will cost plenty. Copper doesn't go on like chrome. It is used as a filler and has to be polished to give the nickel and chrome top coats a smooth shiny surface.
  12. When chrome headers burn blue, it's copper underneath discoloring from heat. Copper will only stay copper color if you don't fire the engine. I'd go with the copper colored ceramic coating.
    kiwijeff, turboroadster and pitman like this.
  13. clem
    Joined: Dec 20, 2006
    Posts: 3,462


    I was more worried about the heat transfer to those carbs. That aside- that motor looks neat!
  14. Diavolo
    Joined: Apr 1, 2009
    Posts: 819


    Just... wow

    I give you a link to a post in a 3 page thread directly related to what you asked and you say yours will be real. I'd be offended if my skin is thinner...

    I changed my answer, the answer is no. Taken from the same thread.

    Or maybe yes, who knows.
    Hnstray likes this.
  15. 19Fordy
    Joined: May 17, 2003
    Posts: 7,306


    Apply heat to an old real copper penny and you'll see what happens.
    Dean Lowe and Hnstray like this.
  16. Blue One
    Joined: Feb 6, 2010
    Posts: 11,175

    Blue One
    from Alberta

    Yes, and real ugly if you run exhaust heat through it. As you have been shown in the example you were given of the system that was built for looks not functional the copper looks nice.
    As you have been told there is no way copper will stay looking like copper once you make it "real"
    Go with ceramic coating, or build the exhaust from something besides copper.
  17. Is there fake exhaust? ;)

    There are a couple of things that you can do to keep your pipes from bluing (discoloring) one is to keep your timing correct, I have seen more then one car or bike with the pipes blued because they were timed slow and it will happen quick, not purdy. The same goes for valve lash if you get an exhaust valve too tight it will blue the pipes faster.

    Another thing that guys I knew that had "show bikes and show cars' and drove them was to run their carbs a little fat, not enough to foul plugs or burn your eyes but fatter then one would consider optimum.

    As for copper plate if the plate flakes on your exhaust it is going to be on the plater, proper prep is the key to keeping any kind of plating on anything and on exhaust it is even more important.
  18. GRX
    Joined: Mar 28, 2014
    Posts: 68

    from MD

    In addition to oxidation mentioned, you have sulfur in the atmosphere to deal with. Ever wonder why bronze statues always look green? Copper sulfate.
  19. Petejoe
    Joined: Nov 27, 2002
    Posts: 11,091

    from Zoar, Ohio

    Interesting fellow here.........
    fiftiescat likes this.
  20. stimpy
    Joined: Apr 16, 2006
    Posts: 3,547


    ceramic coat the inside the pipes to keep the heat down , but the only problem is if you accidently mistune your motor you can make the pipes glow red hot and that will ruin the appearance ( one of the reasons why they say do not put ceramic headers on a new motor when breaking it it ) I would look for a exterior copper colored coat contact Jet hot .
  21. dreracecar
    Joined: Aug 27, 2009
    Posts: 3,212

    from so-cal

    Most platers will only process new headers, once it is run on the engine they will not replate for fear of contaminating their tanks
  22. tlaferriere
    Joined: May 14, 2007
    Posts: 151


    Thank you all for your comments, its a great education on the process. I will be making headers for a teens era 6cyl T-Head that will feed a full exhaust. My goal is for it to be copper plated steel and do understand it will discolor, but will want to polish it on occasion when shown. The entire exhaust will be copper plated.

    Has anyone used a copper colored coating from Jethot as suggested above?? I just don't think it will be shiny or polish-able?
  23. if you have to have copper, you can go the heat shield route like motor cycles.
  24. Fortunateson
    Joined: Apr 30, 2012
    Posts: 4,283


    I thought copper was the first step followed by nickel and then chrome. In regards to the exhaust system I know you can anneal copper tubing so you can bend it easier to make an exhaust system. Perhaps you could do the headers as well so they would not have to be plated and risk flaking. The tricky part may be soldering (silver solder) the joint. Good luck.
  25. langy
    Joined: Apr 27, 2006
    Posts: 5,735

    Member Emeritus

  26. I still remember the time I spent polishing the bottoms of my mothers Revere Ware pans, They looked great but I wouldn't do it again.

    Charlie Stephens
  27. Hot Rods Ta Hell
    Joined: Apr 20, 2008
    Posts: 4,341

    Hot Rods Ta Hell

    Run the questions about withstanding heat and peeling by a couple of reputable plater's. They'll go over the expectations for your proposed application. They may even be able to provide some first hand examples of work they've done. Its such a rare setup that I don't think you'll get many (or any) first hand experiences related to your proposal.
  28. Diavolo
    Joined: Apr 1, 2009
    Posts: 819


    This is actually an excellent approach to the problem! It would be easier to probably make the shields out of pure copper or plated steel, attach with a clamp to keep them in place. As an aside, you could keep them off the headers until showtime and just clamp them on at the show after a quick shine to chromed pipes.
    Joined: Jun 3, 2005
    Posts: 8,284


    It's been my experience that the ceramic coatings can be, or have to be, polished for a bright "plated" look. While not nearly the same as aluminum or chrome it's still reflective. For the cost involved maybe get 1 pipe ceramic copper coated and polish it yourself. The polishing is the money and it's done similar to paint as in sand and buff. I wouldn't expect it to be the same exact color but shiny copper parts together, regardless of the shade differences, might even lend a more realistic look to what you're doing.
  30. Toast
    Joined: Jan 6, 2007
    Posts: 3,885

    from Jenks, OK

    Everything I have had powder coated or Jethot coated came back shinny, I would just be concerned more if the color would be what you are looking for.

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