Nickel Plated vs. Soda Blasted?

I have two of the same throw, one nickel and one soda blasted. I’m trying to decide which one I want to keep in mint condition. I have a few questions. If you drop a soda blasted yoyo and damage it, is the color of the scratch the raw color of the yoyo? I figure it must be, so if that’s the case, how thick or thin is that soda blasted finish? It’s a hard question to articulate, but I’m wondering if anyone has had a soda blasted yoyo and beat it to death. What does it look like beat up? Anyone got a pic I can see? I’m also curious if the soda blasted finish gets darker with age. Also, which finish is more expensive to do…the nickel plate or the soda blasting? One is adding something and one is taking something away…so my guess is the nickel is worth more…or is it? I know they’re both a different look and feel. Which do you prefer? It’s a lot of questions, so please answer as many as you can, if you are knowledgeable in some of those areas. Thanks.

I have a lot of experience blasting in the wristwatch world, not so much in yoyo’s but it’s the same process. Soda or bead blasted finishes can take a pretty good beating and getting down through the finish entirely typically takes a hit hard enough to deform the metal. But, the finish is very succeptible to surface blemishes. These usually will appear to be lighter in color and be shinier than the surrounding flat blast as whatever abrasive they’ve come in contact with effectively “sands” that rough finish to a smoother one which better reflects light. Unfortunately that’s usually very noticeable even for the smallest imperfections and there is really no way to spot treat it. A total re-blast is almost always required since even slight variations in the abrasive media used will cause different colorations/textures. It will not get darker with age since it’s just a bare metal finish, not a coating. “Thickness” is in microns, not really a practical measurement. It’s akin to lightly scratching the metal.

In terms of cost, I usually charge about $30 or $40 to blast a watch case, and I’d charge about the same to do a yoyo. Maybe a little less since I don’t have to do very much disassembly. Nickel plating as a profession requires a much greater setup cost and inolves toxic chemicals. What I know about this process on watch movements tells me that getting a nickel finish redone would be much more time intensive and expensive. Good thing about nickel though is that, like bronze, most people value the worn patina it develops over time. So, I’d probably play that one.

Here is one of my customer’s watches with blast that is lightly damaged like you might expect during play that isn’t incredibly abusive. The metal is in good shape, but you can see above the clasp-lock that the edges of the clasp has spots that are noticeably shinier and lighter in color than the rest of the finish. It looks worse in bright light.

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That was an awesome answer, especially the thorough description of how blemishes appear on a soda blasted surface. I appreciate the photo too. It has a great look and feel, but I was wondering how long that would last if I played the yoyo alot. You cleared that up for me. Thanks a lot!