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On the plating,I guess I am kind of an plating expert as I do all kinds of plating but smaller parts than headers. Electroless nickle and electro plate nickle are 2 different processes.Electroless is a thinner plate and the adhesion isn't that great,not suitable for headers,more of a decorative thing. True electro plate is better,better adhesion and the plate can be as thick as you want depending on the time spent in the tank.Nickle is super hard and almost scratch proof but it will blue at the heads eventually.The bare steel headers will have to be absolutely rust free and super,and I mean super clean before plating or you will end up with imperfections or delamination.Headers are big.Might be tough finding a commercial plater with big enough tanks.
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