The Espresso Machine Restoration site
A non-commercial site for those interested in espresso equipment repair and restoration.
|My thoughts on restoring vintage machines
|Let me start by making a clarification. I do see a big difference between an overhaul and a restoration and although
for me it involves exactly the same amount of work and effort the difference for me lies in the age and condition of
the machine involved.
So permit to make the following classification.
Overhaul - a strip down and rebuild of a working machine that has come from and will go back to being used
daily. Spare parts are readily available.
Restoration - a strip down and rebuild of a non-working machine that has not been used for some time and
needs some new spare parts to get it working again. Spare parts may be difficult to source or need to be
To me there is something magical with a both of these tasks - but of course my preference will always be restoring
older machines. The challenge and the risks involved (finding spares) are far greater.
|Overhaul vs. Restoration
An overhaul in my view is a lot easier than a restoration. Spare parts are far easier to source and let us take for
example the overhaul of a Linea. There have only been a few minor alterations since the model was launched in
1989 and these have mostly been to the group and boiler flange. Apart from that I have a huge stock of parts for
Lineas and FB70's and nowadays I can get a Linea in and out within about 7 days and it will leave me in the same
condition as they are leaving the factory to this day. So what I could do is just take new parts off the shelf and the
machine would leave with new components. For example I can install new solenoid valve and vacuum breakers
etc..BUT to me there is no skill involved and this is what restoration is all about.
To me the skill of an overhaul and a restoration is having the ability to send a machine back out and it has 99.9% of
the same parts that it came in with but in perfect working order. Isn't that cheating the customer? No, in my mind
it shows that I know exactly what to change rather than blindly replacing everything. On a Linea/FB overhaul I strip
everything down, I mean everything, descale in an ultrasonic bath and the inspect and test. For example if you are
replacing the entire solenoid valve rather than just the plunger or a coil then you are mad - and wasting money. If
you are replacing the entire vacuum breaker than just the o-ring then you are mad.
So with regards restorations I believe the skill and the art is being able to use the same components but you have
reconditioned them and replaced the parts that need to be replaced like gaskets, o-rings and safety valves.
What parts should we upgrade?
There are some parts and upgrades which we cannot ignore. For example if the machine is over 10 years old I will
do a complete rewire. If the machine is more than 24 months old I will replace the safety valve on the steam boiler
and replace the gasket and spring in the expansion valves. On my GS2 the modern 1.8bar safety valve was too big
to fit so rather than leave it off I spent a long time finding a suitable place for it and did the pipework. At the end of
the day romance and sentiment to keep something original is always behind safety.
|When restoration becomes "over restored"
The best analogy for this (sorry for the constant reference to my watch hobby) is with watch dials. Amongst watch
collectors you will find that having your watch dial restored is a definite no-no. In fact watches with old and pattina
spotted dials are more valuable and more atttractive than a redial.
I think therefore with machines it is best to know your limits otherwise all your hard work may look like you have just
bought new parts and swapped them out. For example it may be a compliment to be able to fool people into thinking
your original Faema E61 is one of the newer re-editions but it is also not a good thing. If people cannot feel the
history of the piece then you have definitely lost the charm and soul of the machine.
I was guilty myself of almost over-restoring my GS2. The bakelite group covers were faded and chipped. I had
contemplated filling the chips with filler and then spraying. Fortunately I soon realised that this would be a mistake
and left them well alone. Since the rest of the machine is as good as new the well worn groups are a good indication
that the machine has been used for a few decades.
|This website is created by Paul Pratt, Hong Kong 2004. If you would like to use any of the images or text I am sure I
will say yes, but please ask first!
Email me here.