1957 Urania 2nd gen refurb

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#1: Post by mingiunate »

After a long time lurking on this forum and being inspired by the very many threads, I took the plunge and decided to make a project out of refurbishing a lever. First a tour of the machine:

This is a 1957 2nd gen Urania - mid generation single group. It has a 1st gen thermosiphon group, 9-bolt boiler, brown bakelite, red front glass, and water spout to the right of the manometer over the drip tray which has the 3-diamond grill pattern. The boiler serial (13387), and manometer dates (57-12) checked out against the database. I believe this is an export version of the Urania based on the lack of ANCC number and date on the boiler tag - also, the 270v spec is a head scratcher - it would be great to understand that one better if someone knows. Despite that, it was found on the border of Tuscany in Umbria, my father's home province, so it either made its way back to Italy, or curiously never left.

Based on pictures, it looked very complete. I was looking for as many original parts as possible and trying to avoid unobtainium or odd replacement parts. I noted some of the original parts to watch out for based on all of the research I was able to do with the help of the many awesome posts here: the cup warmer plexi and sliding mechanism (with little red knob), bakelite consistency of water, vapor, lever, and portafilter handles, drip tray, manometer, back glass, neon, feet, boiler fittings, and electrics.

From the photos I poured over, the boiler flange and bolts looked ok. Since this is my first project, I was pretty concerned about getting one that had a ton of visible rust since I don't have a lot of experience and I know it would be a challenge to disassemble. I really wanted to avoid brazing/soldering/cutting bolts since I'd for sure need to get expert help. I knew photos could only tell a partial story - so I had to make my peace with the visual inspection and deal with the reality once in hand.

Now for the bad news - I was a bit worried with the amount of rust and corrosion on the body. A lot of the chrome parts are in pretty rough shape, and I know I can't polish this away. I'm willing to live with this situation, as the machine is nearly 65 years old, and it should build character. If one day it really bothers me, I'd go the extra mile and rechome it - but it shouldn't technically detract from the machine's ability to make an espresso.

I'll add posts of my progress as I work through this project.

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#2: Post by IamOiman »

It's nice to see you post about this project from beyond our little chats 8)

It looks pretty complete, the only thing I can note as missing is the snipped steam wand. Back then there were some wacky voltages used before power was standarized to 220V. I've seen 125V, 160V, 220V, 260V, etc but you can purchase 110V elements new. Your small stubby boiler will probably be compatible with the 1500W element seen on Lambros. I know Thijs/Brooks Espresso has the 9 hole boiler gasket + aluminum ring for when you start purchasing parts.

The boiler looks like it was painted over at some point, which can usually be seen when bits like the nuts or part of the backsplash has paint on them (meaning it was applied while everything was together already). There might be rust hiding under that paint.

If you have not poked pootoogoo directly now would be a good time to note the date and serial number in the ANCC thread.Dating vintage espresso machines [ANCC, Serial]
Using a spice grinder violates the Geneva Convention
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mingiunate (original poster)

#3: Post by mingiunate (original poster) »

The first order of business has been to strip everything down to the frame.

Most fittings came off the boiler and frame without too much trouble. The only bolt casualties so far have been the right element bolt on the flange - it was pretty rusted, and two screws that held the skirts to the frame. I haven't yet gotten to the boiler bolts, but I've been adding a few drops of liquid wrench every few days for the past few weeks in the hopes they wont give me trouble when I do get to them.

The bolts on the cup warmer are very rusted. I'm going to treat them with a liquid wrench for a long while before I attempt to disassemble and clean. I don't want to mess up the plexiglass.

The drip tray is also very rusted... its not visible, so I'm not too worried, but I will think about how to deal with that one.

The bottom of the sight glass came apart easily (the glass was broken at the bottom under the seal - i don't think I caused it, but I'm not sure). The top seal was fused to the glass and I had to pick it apart bit by bit, and it took way too long.

I made a boneheaded error on the steam knob thinking it popped off before I realised it screwed off... In hindsight, it's so obvious given the build quality that nothing would be 'popping off.' The two divots should have also clued me in, and I'm pretty annoyed with myself for that one. I'm hoping some crazy glue will sort this one. Oh well.

The frame isn't in terrible shape - some rust which I cleaned off, I think I will skip a powder coating for now. The skirts and all major body panels were cleaned and polished as much as I could. I reattached them to the frame so I can stare at it and think about if it is good enough while I work on the harder bits.

mingiunate (original poster)

#4: Post by mingiunate (original poster) »

definitely! I owe you many thanks for your guidance.

I just DM'd him - not sure how to poke on threads yet.

I have the broken off steam wand part, and fixing that without just replacing it is on my list as a sidequest :)

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#5: Post by pootoogoo »

Thanks for the thanks.
My pleasure. :wink:

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#6: Post by Marcelnl »

mingiunate wrote:definitely! I owe you many thanks for your guidance.

I just DM'd him - not sure how to poke on threads yet.

I have the broken off steam wand part, and fixing that without just replacing it is on my list as a sidequest :)
Thijs also made a different steam pipe than the original, I have one on mine (and the original in storage).

NICE project, seems you have the twin brother to mine!
LMWDP #483

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#7: Post by espressotime »

I hope the spring is stillok because finding a new one could be a challenge.

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#8: Post by Paul_Pratt »

That is a really nice and original machine. Your patience and due diligence has paid off. The front panels were made from steel, as you can see mine was in terrible shape.

Mine has the larger boiler, same group. Parts are simple, but IIRC the 9 hole boiler end plate is unusual. I have a few Lambro's with that. The brown bakelite is also unusual on a later Urania like this.

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#9: Post by Marcelnl »

Paul, great that you chime in, I was also wondering about the differences I did not spot initially.
Do you also happen to know if all/most Urania's came with the lever for fill/hot water?
Mine has a wheel knobwhich is pretty tight at times, and I was thinking to swap it for the lever if I can get my hands on one (might be as difficult as finding that brown portafilter handle for a Faemina)

The spring may not be as difficult as it may seem, but there are a few sizes so measure it up first.
I bought one (spare) from TSE in Austria, Feder Zodiaco gruppe.
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#10: Post by espressotime »

The Zodiaco spring at their site had different dimensions from the spring in my machine the last time I checked.
At the moment I'm using the stock one.
These are three others.

All slightly different.I haven' t been able to get an exact replica yet.
I measured different strength in all three of them .
One is way too strong,one too soft and one should be exactly right.