Model A & B

Ford Garage

Nickel and Chromium Plating

Butler Finish

Pictured here is the old General Motors and Fisher Body Materials and Appearance Standard for M1 Butler Finish for electroplated parts.

This standard is shown on an ABS plastic substrate, but that is irrelevant for appearance purposes. (Plating on ABS plastic also uses the copper, semi-bright nickel, bright nickel, micro-porous nickel, chrome plating process). Z-150 refers to the normal high luster finish, before any satin or brushed finish is applied.

The Butler Finish on plated parts was essentially the same at Ford, but was mostly applied only to nickel during the Model A era, and then finished with chrome in the 1932 and newer V8 era.

The soft brushed or satin Butler Finish appearance was achieved by mechanically abrading or brushing either the substrate or the nickel plated finish surface with either abrasive belts, wire wheels, or embedded abrasive wheels.

In the case of a nickel plated steel, or copper and nickel plated steel, this abrading process would typically be done after the application of Bright Nickel over a layer of Semi-Bright Nickel. The Semi-Bright nickel is more galvanically active, and creates a lateral (sacrificial) nickel corrosion layer under the Bright Nickel appearance (show) layer, and actually prolongs the life of the visible finish appearance.

If the part is also to be chrome plated, the chrome layer is applied last, over the butler finished nickel. The thin chrome layer forms a hard protective surface over the softer nickel below, and further preserves the life and appearance of the finish and deters oxidation of the more reactive nickel below. The satin or brushed (Butler) finish nickel is preserved under the nearly transparent chrome layer. The chrome tends to give a whiter or bluer appearance to the yellowish nickel below.

In the event of any subsequent scratches or damage to the chrome layer, the corrosion cells formed by the abraded nickel layers below are exposed, and subsequent corrosion primarily takes place out of sight at the lateral interface between the duplex nickel layers.

In the pic above, the original Butler nickel instrument panel on the left shows the duplex nickel-over-steel finish in the area where it was protected by the On-Off switch bezel. The areas of the panel which were exposed show increased levels of corrosion and oxidation.

Most original Butler nickel instrument panels had a very soft level of butler finish compared to a shift lever, for example. The restored panel on the right was achieved by using a 'scotch-brite' scour pad on the nickel finish.

In the pic above, the original Model A hand brake handle on top shows the high luster nickel finish in the grip area, while the remainder of the handle had the butler finish applied. The restored handle on the bottom shows the bright grip area and the soft butler nickel finish everywhere else.

More related information on Ford Garage:

  1. For more Model A & B related information, use the Site Search box at the top or bottom of this page.
  2. Model A 1928 Gear Shift Lever and Tower Assembly
  3. Model A Transmission Shift Lever Differences
  4. Model B Transmission Shift Lever
  5. Model A Shift Lever Spring Compressor and Removal Tool

March 2002