Alright, so, since everyone lately has been asking tons of questions about anodizing and whatnot, i'll post a little bit about anodizing and other coating methods
Part I: anodizing
1. What is anodizing?
first off, lets classify anodizing. anodizing is a form of coloring that is done to pieces of aluminum. Anodizing cannot be done to other metals such as stainless steel or titanium(titanium has its own coloring process). The benefit of having your aluminum parts anodized is that you can take a nice soft aluminum and when you anodized it, it hardens the surface, protecting the aluminum. The color also bonds directly into the metal, so small scratches will not show raw metal as the top layer is anodizing, but it is actually metal, not a coat like paint. Anodizing also looks more professional, but is limited in what you can do with it. Patterns, acid washes, splash jobs, and decals make anodizing more expensive as the job becomes more difficult and detailed.
2. Stripping anodizing
so, you have an entire gun, or just a piece of your gun that you want to strip the anodizing off of eh?
well, oven cleaner will do it, so will lye and water(the more lye, the more potent the solution). The problem with removing your own anodizing though is that with these home chemicals, it is very dangerous to the common amateur, very easy to get hurt and to ruin your mom's stove if you do not know what you are doing. The other downside to stripping your own anodizing is that you eat away at the metal at the same time, which isn't good for it. If you get the anodizing stripped professionally they would use a mix of chromic and phosphoric acid which would strip the ano off without hurting the metal at all, they also have the means to dispose of the waste product properly also.
3. Home Anodizing
too cheap to get something that will look good? want to try it yourself. Step back for a second and think to yourself..."self, the home anodizing kits will cost me roughly $250 for just a starter kit, so unless I am anodizing tons of stuff for my paintball gun, car, computer, etc...I should just send my stuff out to a shop which can do single color anodizing for under $100." Just to give you all an idea, check this website out http://www.focuser.com/atm/anodize/anodize99.html
as you can see, the dyes are not cheap. This process is also not safe for amateurs, as it involves the use of electricity in order to bond the colors to the metal and it also uses acids(lye) in the process as well. The end of the process also involves baking the pieces, so unless you have a spare oven, mom probably does not want you risking ruining hers
Part II: Powder Coating
1. What is powder coating?
Powder coating is like painting, the difference is that powder coating is a lot stronger than paint. powdercoating.org relays, "The powder used for the process is a mixture of finely ground particles of pigment and resin, which is sprayed onto a surface to be coated." Which is what powder coating is. Powder coating is commonly used in the automotive industry. If you look at a lot of the frames and such, they are powder coated. If you look at the motorcycle frames, powder coated as well, I am sending my harley frame off to powder coating soon as a matter of fact. A nice benefit of powder coating is that it is a lot cheaper than anodizing, and you can also do a lot more with graphics than you can with anodizing.
2. Stripping powder coating
OK, so you have a tippmann...and you want the powder coating off right? well, there are a few types of methods, one of the easiest I can think of is sandblasting. I wouldn't reccomend this for paintball applications, but would work good for car parts. otherwise a molten zinc kettle is also used to strip powder coating. Of course, acids once again can be used to strip powder coating as well. This happens to be another situation where you would want to get it done professionally.
3. Home powder coating
Unlike anodizing, powder coating does not need to use electricity to be bonded to the metal, but it does need to use quite a bit of oven time. Home powder coating is another expensive for the home user kind of thing. It also has its inherent risks and whatnot which are involved.
Part III: Nickel Plating
1. What is nickel plating?
ok, i'll try my best at this one, but i'm not all that well versed in nickel plating. So, essentially nickel plating is kind of self explanatory, its a nickel plate. Simply a shell added on to a piece of alluminum or steel, etc. Some nickel plating jobs are better than others, never look to KAPP for a good nickel plating job, theirs always flakes off. Nickel plating is a very shiny type finish, most everything in paintball is not chromed, it is nickel plated, but nickel plating has the chrome look, most people cannot tell the two apart.
2. Stripping nickel plating
Well, if you've got a KAPP fat ram, or pull pin, just wait for it to fall off, it will come off easy enough(sorry, still bitter at KAPP because they make such poor quality products). Anyways, in order to strip nickel plating, there is a power that a company called metalx makes called B-9, it comes in a powder form and is then mixed with water. Just like ano stripping, this is another caustic solution that is sure to do some damage. In fact, there are a lot of anodizing places that will not strip nickel plating from something before they anodize it. I believe White Wolf Airsmithing will not, and others the same because of the process, it is not like stripping ano persay, and probably has more risks in damaging the product involved. So, there are places that will strip nickel plating, and not damage the metal, and be able to dispose of the waste properly, so if you want it done, i'd suggest finding a place that does it, not doing it at home.
3. Home nickel plating
The broken record goes 'round once again. Don't do it. Nickel plating requires the use of very carcinogenic and toxic chemicals which require the proper ventilation hoods and methods of disposal, you even need a wastewater treatment facility for this kind of thing. There are home kits out there, the cheaper ones will run you about 130 bux, you need to also run electricity through this one, car batteries work fine, and you need to keep the water tank at about 110 degrees F, which isn't bad, but you also need a circuit to regulate the nickel anode, to go about .05 Amp per square inch. overall, very tedious, and should really be done only on a large commercial scale where you have the proper facilities to do so.
4. The difference between chroming and nickel plating
OK, here it is, so, there is a process called "hard chroming" also known as "engineering chrome plating" which is a very thick chroming, very tough, durable, something you'd want on say like a carbeurator, or harley footpegs, handlebar grips, and the like. This is a much more expensive process than "decorative chrome plating" also called "nickel-chrome plating"...this nickel chrome plating is essentially nickel plating, which is a much thinner layer, and is well, not meant to take a serious beating, its just decorative, so like a spyder ASA, or a cocking rod, or feedneck. This stuff really doesn't get abused, whereas harleys, well, do...that is why people will pay absurd amounts of money for harley parts, genuine, because they are hard chromed, durable, not chrome plated.
Part IV: Polishing
ok, heres a little "how to" with polishing. For one you are going to have to strip off your anodizing or powder coating first. If you are simply going to polish a body, for home amateur purposes I reccomend just sanding off the coating. Do not go crazy with a dremel, instead be more precise, spend some time and make it look good with some sand paper and good old fashioned elbow grease. Now you'll want to start out with a lower grit sandpaper, but I wouldn't reccomend under 200 for starters really, you don't want to ruin your piece. once you have stripped the anodizing, then you will want to move to a 600 grit sandpaper, and sand the whole body. If you feel patient enough, move to a 1000 grit sandpaper after the 600, it is very fine, but you will be pleased with the results in the long run. Finally, get some Mother's Mag Polish, which you can find at automotives stores like track or napa. Now use the mother's to polish the piece, you can use a nice polishing cloth, or to speed up the process you can not bust out the dremel with the mandrel and polishing cloth/wheel.
Polishing aluminum will be much much shinier than chroming(more commonly in the paintball world it is actually nickel plating). The hassle with polishing is obviously the polishing itself, and it also looses its luster after a while, but, you can always bring it back to a bring shine with some more polish.
Some helpful links
Jackal Machine, for anodizing and milling
White Wolf Airsmithing, for anodizing and milling
Fireball Mountain(FBM) Factory, great work here also
PBReview.com and i are not responsible for anything, just don't be an idiot, get your marker done professionally...quit penny pinching, paintball is an expensive sport, so spend your money to the fullest...