Tools and supplies needed for a vintage lever restoration?

A haven dedicated to manual espresso machine aficionados.

#1: Post by sheedapistawl »


I was hoping to poll the folks here who have done a vintage lever machine restoration (have a line on a Faema lever...) - this will be my first time restoring a machine (and my biggest "project" ever) so was hoping to get ahead of the game and setup shop to tackle it. Machine will only get here next year, we are moving into a new apartment and there is a small shed in the yard that I was hoping will now become the vintage espresso machine restoration shed instead of the wife's bike storage shed. The machine will come with the parts needed (flanges, nuts, gaskets, o-rings, pstat, etc.)

I am currently only in possession of the following:
Dewalt drill with a bit/bolt set, a torque wrench, basic toolbox, two adjustable wrenches that can tackle up to 1.5 inch nuts, some wet/dry sandpaper and an ampere meter for electrical stuff, a variety pack sand paper wet/dry 150 to 3000 grit

What other tools and supplies (citric acid? penetrating oil? ) would I need to do this safely and properly?
Particularly thinking for these challenging things:
descaling boiler,
getting stubborn nuts off,
getting coffee gunk off of various surfaces,
lubrication of various kinds (and where to apply),
any tools not to lose a finger while doing spring work

Please let me know your recommendations! Hopefully this thread also helps any future folks who are starting out.

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#2: Post by nirdvorai »

Every time I think I have the "perfect" set of tools to refurbished espresso machine, I enter a new project and I found that I missing this and that. So it is a case study, your tool box grow with your projects.
Few things are basic:

1. don't think in inches. it's 99% metric.
2. set of metric wrench from 7-19
3. smaller and bigger metric wrench 6, 21,22,24
4. vise grip and or more wrench. a lot of the time you will need to wrench to open or close a pipe.
5. dental tool set- cheap at Amazon
6. clipper
7.snap ring pliers
8. set of metric hex key wrench
9. pipe cleaners set
10. 5 gallon backet
11. table vise plus soft pads

I'm probably forgetting somethings..

Good luck

Team HB

#3: Post by Jeff »

If you've got a "wish list" going...

I find Knipex "plier-wrench" to be better than even the adjustable wrenches of decades ago. They self tighten on the nut/hex and tend not to slip the way a conventional adjustable does. The 86-05-nnn series and the 86-03-nnn series seem to differ just in the grips. As they're pretty close in cost, I prefer the nicer grips of the -05-. Over the years I've collected all of the sizes and probably most commonly use 150 and 180, with the 250 fitting E61 mushroom nuts.

For "persuasion", I've also got Knipex "water pump" pliers (87-01-250 and -125). I don't recall why I went with the black finish on these.

Long-nosed things, in all flavors. At least a set of hemostats. Pointy tweezers are helpful as well, even if not as long as hemostats.

Tools so resolve "shoot, I dropped it". Three-finger spring-thingy parts grabber, a big magnet (I know that little washer is on the floor here somewhere), a bright LED flashlight (shine beam parallel to the floor), dental inspection mirror (small head)

Nirdvoral mentioned snap ring pliers and I agree they're essential, Ones that don't have good tips or have some janky, floppy mechanism are nearly as bad as none at all.

Nut drivers are nice at times. Wiha is one of the manufacturing-quality lines that I like in today's tools (wish-list pricing though).


#4: Post by Alslaw »

I agree with what others have said and I would add a pair of nice wire crimpers and a variety of terminals, as well as an oil-filter removal wrench. You will definitely need some penetrating oil, citric acid, and Dow-111 grease.
LMWDP # 606


#5: Post by LObin »

You can add these to the list:
Scrub pads and 00 steel wool
Heat gun or another heat source (not always needed but can come handy)
A set of quality metric Allen keys
A bunch of blue spade connectors
Oh and food grade pipe thread sealant! That's a must have! Rectorseal #5 is easy to find although I've been very happy with Loxeal 18-10.

2 advices that I received and ended up being quite useful:

1- avoid applying force to the end of a wrench when trying to unscrew any fitting, nut or bolt that's either connected to the boiler or to a copper pipe. Instead, strike the other end of the wrench with a small hammer until it loosen enough that minimal force is needed. This will prevent bending those fragile pipes. The same technique can apply when tightening a fitting although people tend to over tighten everything on an espresso machine.

2- soften/round/grind the edges of any wrench that you'll use on a visible chrome nut (on the outside). It'll keep your chrome and front panel nice and scratch free.
LMWDP #592


#6: Post by mikel »

Most important tool, unless you like creating extra work, is patience!

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#7: Post by baldheadracing »

+1 on the Knipex pliers wrench. That's all I have used for brass espresso machine fittings on my machines since I learned about the wrenches last year.

The thing that I will add are the three chemicals to handle exposed lead if one is working on an older machine with a brass boiler. (Vinegar, hydrogen peroxide, and sodium/potassium phosphate. Sodium phosphate is sold in pharmacies for use as an enema.)

Brass in pretty much any machine made in the last century is going to contain quite a bit of lead. Lead makes brass easier to machine so leaded brass was commonly (but not always) used. Machines made in the European Union after Dec 2003 have to meet standards for drinking water, so the brass in newer machines has very little to no lead.

Normally lead is not a concern as brass surfaces are treated during manufacture to handle the exposed lead (to be correct, the lead has been 'passivated'). However, when one strips the protective surface oxides, etc., from brass - for example, when using an acid or a physical abrasive - then everything looks clean, but the lead in the brass has now been exposed and will leach into the water.

The lead passivation process is straightforward and uses readily-available chemicals - vinegar, hydrogen peroxide, and potassium/sodium phosphate.
Rpavlis (RIP) gives the passivation process here: Older portafilters with internal brass exposed and taste post #10
What I'm interested in is my worst espresso being fantastic - James Hoffmann

sprint jinx

#8: Post by sprint jinx »

A small tubing bender has been a life saver for me- in recreating pipe routes of crumbled or corroded vintage stuff. And, to go along with that - the mushroom caps, pipe, lead free solder and a torch to sweat these fittings together. With a little skill and patience, a full rebuild of tubing can be achieved.

I have also used muriatic acid as a dip bath to de-scale parts in a large bucket. - I've also used electrolysis, with a battery charger, threaded rod and a bath solution with borax. It works well.

The biggest hurdle, for me, is finding the fitting hardware for not only the machine's plumbing, but for merging that to the american house water supply and drainage. Its a nightmare of an array of different systems, all at odds with each other.
Having a good supply house that can supply BSST fittings would be great.

good luck-


#9: Post by sheedapistawl »

Thank you all!

wow, this forum is really helpful, I am really excited for this project!

this is a Faema Lambro, and thankfully the seller is also providing with a full kit of parts (Pstat, spring, bearings, nuts, gaskets, a Vac breaker, etc.)

A few deeper questions on process... and I will, as is customary, start a thread with detailed photos (and have read many threads) but this is the stuff that I couldnt discern because I feel like folks on here come in with a baseline level of knowledge which I lack, hence forgive me if these questions feel basic:

(1) When undoing nuts e.g., the boiler/grouphead etc. - is there a good regimen you use? like soak in penetrating oil a bit, see if it budgets with a wrench? do you have any video demonstrating a good regimen?

(2) Post disassembly, I understand that a good compromise of cost and protection is to get the frame media blasted and powder coated. Should the copper boiler also be treated similarly? I know chroming is super expensive in the US...let me know if you have some indicative pricing information on what it would take for example to put a nickle plating on a copper boiler...

(3) Grouphead externals: should this be powdercoated? or just sanded with rising grits of sandpaper e.g., 300 to 3000, and then polished with some polish (any favorite polishes?)

(4) do you have any high level guidance on how to clean different surfaces, I know some materials should not be mixed. I know that boiler and copper piping goes in a heated citric acid bath, but how to get rust off of an internal part of the frame? or coffee grime off the lever/group head?

(5) When you put nuts back together and reassemble, after everything is clean and ready, is there a general norm to follow? should thread sealant be applied to every nut or a few particular nuts? Is there a particular torque "feeling" you go for? want to think about safety/reliability and also not screw this up...

(6) Wiring: thank you for suggestions on crimping! I need to convert from the oldy wobble weight and mercury switch to a 110V US element, Sirai PStat and so on. What types of electrical supplies are needed? Any high grade high temp wires and connectors you recommend? Bonus question: and forgive me if this is not the purist answer, I am thinking of committing the blasphemy of putting a simple LED circuit - green light for machine on, red light for element on (inspired by another member). Anyone here done something similar, would you mind sharing parts used?

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#10: Post by Marcelnl »

sounds as if you have everything listed, patience and a good first aid kit aer most important :wink: (serious about the last part)

O and if you can find one, an ultrasound cleaning bath (sometimes found quite cheap) can do wonders on some sorts of gunk.
LMWDP #483