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Gramp34 has it exactly right. The main difference between the two is the prep and process. Decorative chrome uses some brightening alloys and is designed to throw well into nooks and crannies in very thin layers where industrial chrome is engineered for hardness, and speed of deposition but the material is similar.
Decorative chrome typically uses a copper layer first primarily to seal the parent material for corrosion resistance as plated chrome is very porous. That is not to say industrial chrome can not be plated over copper,(it's done all the time for carbon steel marine duty piston rods) it's just that industrial applications don't normally require it so industrial shops have no need to dedicate space and expense to have a copper tank.
Ind. chrome can easily be deposited in thicknesses exceeding .020",however .002" would be lots for a winch that combined with the harder deposit (78 RC) means much greater wear resistance. Because mirror finishes are not required, Ind. shops won't have the buffing equipment to get a show finish, again, not to say ind. chrome can't buff up surprisingly well.
So what it boils down to is what your priorities are - Dec. chrome will look fantastic, wear reasonably well and protect the base material well whereas heavily plated ind. chrome over copper will last for the life of the boat and if reverse etched for 30 sec. after plating will grip your lines like sh*t to a blanket but will have a grey appearance. BTW you would expect to pay 2 to 3 times more for the industrial chrome proces described.
And yes, I did stay at a Holiday Inn Express last night (and own an industrial chrome shop).
Last edited by dillybar; 12-17-2009 at 12:25 AM.