The recipe for basic electroplating.
1. Vinegar. 2. A dash of salt. 3. A piece of whatever metal you plan to use.
I recommend starting with Nickel.
I don’t know what other metals will work or not. Experiment like a mad scientist and find out. Just be careful around chemicals.
I don’t think there is anything particularly nasty about the nickel, copper, or zinc solutions. But I’m not a chemist so use your own judgment. I wear gloves and don’t go out of my way to breath the fumes. There will be a small amount of chlorine gas produced by the salt. Just don’t be a dork and you’ll live through it.
A couple of notes…
Don’t try and plate over zinc plated parts with anything other than zinc. The zinc will destroy the nickel/copper solutions. I mean, don’t let me stop you experimenting, but that’s probably what will happen.
Be careful around stainless steel. It contains chromium. I don’t know what happens when you try this with stainless, but best not to mess with anything that might contain chromium.
For that matter, real chrome plating at home is out of the question unless you have a death wish. Hexavalent
Chromium, which is what’s used for electroplating, is really nasty stuff. A cobalt/nickel mix is a close enough visual match for chrome plating.
When you’re ready to step up to a kit, for New Zealand and Australia, I recommend Jane Kits. For the rest of the world, google Caswell Plating.