1955 Gaggia Internazionale restore

Equipment doesn't work? Troubleshooting? If you're handy, members can help.
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#1: Post by dmccallum »

I was lucky enough some years ago to acquire a 1955 Gaggia Internazionale.

The machine is largely complete with only missing part being the drain-tray (although I do have the cup plate that sits on top of this), Gyro & Olivier in Lyon have kindly assisted with photos of original in order to refabricate - more on this later. All other panels and body parts have the same serial number stamped on them. I suspect one of the groups is not original.

The main other challenges have been the boiler and obtaining some now out of production parts, for which I was extremely lucky to acquire new unused but old stock from a distributor.
In particular, the machine came with flat lever handles (definitely not original). The rounded ones are heavy bakelite and yet unused.

One group head had a broken pin-sprocket.

The sheer weight of these machines is impressive. I haven't weighed the whole machine yet but some of the components are,
Boiler inc lid-plate - 17kg
Group-head - 10kg each (a Faema series 3 is only 6)
Steel frame - 14kg

The steel frame has no hollow parts, all welded solid steel bar.

Boiler inspection
The boilers had a hard life, note the crude attempt at descaling on the bottom side.

The studs came out of the group bulk-heads easy enough.

Can't say the same for the lid studs. Five of the 10 holes had been previously drilled out to 10mm but unfortunately steel bolts were put back in and these will sheer as easily as an 8. Only one of the 8mm stud holes retained a sound thread, none of the 10mm holes were any good and at the bottom of two holes were the broken remains of hardened drill bits which took some effort to remove.

So a bit of a pickle and all these years it's kept me from progressing. Only recently I've learned the UK has a number copper boilersmiths who cater for the model steam locomotive & traction engine community. These guys are just about the only people who manufacture in copper to this scale and are noted for their skills. I was able to persuade one of them to fit my boiler in between his other commissions. Here's one of his boilers.

These things run at close to 200psi, ten times the pressure of an espresso machine and come with a CE mark of manufacture compliance. Must be fascinating to watch one being made.

The original plan was to drill each hole out to 11mm and braze bronze plugs back in place. In the event the boilersmith felt applying the required 650degC heat would risk disturbing other joints owing to expansion of the flange plate and age of the piece. So plan B and each hole & plug was threaded to ½" BSP and sealed in place with BondLock B290. A bit like an oversize helicoil and this is what we arrived at.

The boiler lid had also suffered previous repairs. One of the studs had been acetylene brazed in place I suspect going by the cavity blown out the side of one of the stud walls.

It got the same treatment as the boiler,

I discovered a crack in one of the grouphead to boiler weld seams. A learning for me but apparently common with this boiler config owing to its age and the fact that the entire boilers weight is suspended on these welds. I don't know if this translates to a leak yet but annoying as its only just come back from the boilersmith.

Now then, who likes my Kawasaki Green frame?

Nice isn't it..

The pins that mount the front panel are a great example of the over engineering in these machines. The front panel is a 50x12cm pressed brass sheet and yet it seems four 8mm brass bolts were necessary to support it.

All for now..

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#2: Post by Dayglow »

With that amount of work thus far, I can't wait to see it finished. Looks like quite the project, to say the least.

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#3: Post by drgary »

dmccallum wrote:Hi,
I was lucky enough last year to acquire a 1955 Gaggia Internazionale.
That's the understatement of the year. And what a masterful job of showing your restoration. This is a pleasure to see and read. Thank you for posting it.

What I WOULD do for a good cup of coffee!

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#4: Post by arcus »

Thanks for sharing! I can't wait for the next update!!

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#5: Post by JustinBrown1 »

Beautiful machine. Interesting restoration, and very well documented. That green is an interesting choice! :mrgreen:
Is this machine for yourself, or for a client? As I live in Cambridge and regularly visit London, I'd be interested to meet you and see the machine when the restoration is complete...

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#6: Post by doubleOsoul »

Yes! Thank you for posting.

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#7: Post by Tom@Steve'sEspresso »

Fantastic stuff Derek. Are you able to get a few more rounded handles by chance? I have a 70's Orione that I'm slowly working on, and would love to get hold of signature Gaggia wares.
And btw I did a Spanish Gaggia frame in a very similar (if not the same) Candy Apple green last year, a really nice lively color.
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#8: Post by zeb »

Wow !!! Two Internazionale quite at the same time and not too far one from other !

I'll talk a little time to time here but any can follow job restoration on the French coffee forum there :

Gaggia Internazionale 1 group restoration

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dmccallum (original poster)
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#9: Post by dmccallum (original poster) »

Tom@Steve'sEspresso wrote:Fantastic stuff Derek. Are you able to get a few more rounded handles by chance? I have a 70's Orione that I'm slowly working on, and would love to get hold of signature Gaggia wares.
And btw I did a Spanish Gaggia frame in a very similar (if not the same) Candy Apple green last year, a really nice lively color.
Unfortunately not - I was told I got the last two. Prior to stumbling on them I was about to borrow an original and do some silicon casting to create replicas. It should be quite doable - refer EMI Consul Restore for an example of some previous.

I'm also restoring my 62 President in tandem. It's frame got the same green treatment...

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#10: Post by dmccallum (original poster) »

A little update..
We've all been enjoying Paul Pratts thread on his Supervat restoration. I'd love to be able to get on and progress as fast as this. Time passes slowly in my workshop. Still, in theory I'm not too far away from being able run the boiler up.

Main activities over the past few months have been getting the serving areas re-chromed - taps and rear panel. The rest of the cabinet will just get the autosol treatment. In places the plating has worn through to brass, but I rather like the aesthetic this way. I've seen examples of other Inters that have been completely re-chromed and I remember seeing an Inter on display at Selfridges in London 10+ years ago that had been taken completely back to brass - was quite striking. While I'd love the group-heads to gleam they'll have to do with a polish for the time being.

And after back from chrome shop,

Had to acquire a few custom parts: PTFE gasket has been laser cut, pyrex/borosilicate 10x210mm glass tubes from a medical labs supplier and 2 x 1100W elements. I had to ask around before getting a reasonable quote for the elements - ended up getting them done for the same retail price as a current equivalent which wasn't bad - some quotes were up to 10x as much. Someone wasn't paying attention on first attempt.

Eventually found I had suitable rubber gaskets for the glass tube, but liked Pascals solution of using PTFE tape to form a plug which forms a seal when compressed on his Single Group Inter thread - http://espresso.cultureforum.net/t8689p225-restauration-d-une-gaggia-internazionale.

I'm going to start with two different group-head configs. One original piston without the rubber o-ring in the inlet valve is still good. I've put some autosol in the valve seat and set my driver to spin - a bit like grinding valve seats on an engine headblock. I'll set this head up as per original Gaggia spec.
The other head gets a new Ascaso piston and I may experiment with Faema style shower screens.
Here's my head compressor - 18+18mm mdf & ply at both ends. Flip it over and the posts on top allow me to do Faema series3 heads as well.

Regarding the gasket stack the usual reference is Gaggia Orione gasket stack but I've found a 2x2 v-gasket stack puts my inlet ring a little high of the water supply hole. My brass v-rings measure correct, maybe the rubber gaskets I have are a little thicker than usual? I'll revisit at some stage but for now I'm proceeding with a 1paper/1v x 2v gasket stack which places the inlet ring about right.

Yet to come, refabricating the drain tray, an adaptor to allow me to squeek both anti-vac and relief valves under the cup tray and also need to get a neon tube done.

I'm missing a couple of bits. Can anyone help with ?
- Tap handles: bakerlite or otherwise
- A water inlet tap. The original would have been a lever type