Fix for La Pavoni Europiccola with dented boiler?

Equipment doesn't work? Troubleshooting? If you're handy, members can help.

#1: Post by salperta »

Hi Everyone -
I've long been using the wonderful information on this site as I repaired my first machine - a pre-millenium Pavoni Europiccola. So thank you!

Now I am in need of some help, as I haven't been able to find anything on my particular issue in the archives (correct me if I'm wrong!).

I recently acquired a beautiful 1991 copper and brass la pavoni europiccola with a real problem! From what I can tell, the pressure valve was pushed into the copper boiler, causing the copper to dent inwards, and the machine no longer holds pressure, since that seal is no longer tight and the hole where the pressure valve attaches is slightly warped. I'm guessing it was dropped at some point, pressure-valve side down. Someone had tried to fix it, but it didn't do the trick - steam constantly escapes from where the pressure valve connects to the boiler.

So I'm wondering if anybody has some advice on fixing this. My first thought was to anneal the copper and somehow push the copper back out (or sort of pull it back into place by connecting the pressure valve and slowly wiggling it back and forth), but I'm no expert on that process and would want some advice as to whether that might be possible. I'd be worried of loosening the soldering joint between the boiler and the flange for the cap (this is not a plated boiler, it's a solid copper/brass one). My second thought was to solder a washer - perhaps even the very brass washer that is used to attach the valve to the boiler - into place (inside ideally, although that seems very difficult). This would create a nice solid round hole for the valve to seal against.

My main question is: can this be fixed without replacing the boiler? The new copper boilers cost quite a pretty penny.

Thanks so much everyone! Let me know if you need any more info from me, and I appreciate your help.


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#2: Post by redbone »

I had a similar issue as was able to get the boiler to a useable stage. The issue outside of the deformation of the area is the tendency for cracks to develop at the port. I used heat and a small punch with a tapered head on it from the inside. I heated the area with torch and pulled repeatedly with channel locks from the outside. This acted as a reverse punch pulling the depression outward. You may have to get creative to re-flatten the contact area at port. Some flattening will occur as you tighten inside nut to steam fitting also.
You will have to use either a thin teflon washer and / or good teflon tape (blue monster) on the fitting which connects to the port. If there is any cracking of the area you will have to repair the area of have it done. Solder for brass or possible loctite steel putty, Permatex Cold Weld or similar may suffice.
The late 80's and early 90's machines were the dark years of LP using thinner boilers. These have a tendency to dent at the steam valve fitting and also become loose with time from heating and cooling cycles. You will need a thin locking washer or lock nut to prevent this especially with your imperfect / damaged port area. To answer your initial question, can this be fixed, simple answer is yes to an extent and depends on your level of repair.
You can drink that wine now. ;)

Between order and chaos there is espresso.
Semper discens.

LMWDP #549

salperta (original poster)

#3: Post by salperta (original poster) »

Hi @redbone. Thanks for this advice! That is really helpful. What sort of torch did you use? I have a regular bernzomatic propane torch, but I'm worried about melting the solder around the flange for the cap threads. Is that a possible issue? Should I use a more direct torch (like what they use for culinary purposes), so I can aim the heat better? Or maybe it doesn't matter.

I get the impression that it was the head of the punch that stuck in the hole from the inside, and that you fixed the channel locks to the "punch" end and pulled that way? I have a small metal lathe, so maybe I can fashion some sort of tapered rod that will fit well and use that. Although I wonder if it wouldn't be even more effective to use something that resembled a bolt, which might keep the contact surface relatively flat?

I didn't know that LP was skimping on the copper in those years, but it definitely helps to explain the seeming ease with which this thing was dented. When I get this guy back to working, I'll definitely find an appropriately sized teflon washer and locking washer - that's good advice.

I guess I'll wait til this evening for the wine, but...


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#4: Post by redbone »

I used a soldering plumbers torch but was careful not to overheat the area. Maybe a heat gun with your copper boiler would suffice as you're looking to add some malleability to the metal to prevent cracking.
Between order and chaos there is espresso.
Semper discens.

LMWDP #549

Team HB

#5: Post by ira »

If you know the temperature the solder melts at, you can get a tempilstick of an appropriate temperature and know when it's time to stop heating.



#6: Post by OldNuc »

Dent removal is best performed in the reverse of how it was installed. That means start at the deepest part first. If this was my project I would remove the boiler from the base and and then remove the element. Now you can push it out from inside. Shape a piece of oak to match the contour of the boiler top. Heat the copper top with a propane torch until you see the copper start changing color as you heat and then pull torch away, I do not mean red hot. Hot copper oxidizes rapidly and when you pull the flame away the copper will darken as it oxidizes and reapplying heat it will clean up. Let it cool without add water etc. Set boiler on a sand bag and push out the dent. Use you oak pusher and a light wood mallet. Alternate heat, cool push dent until it is all back in place. Reinstalling the relief valve and getting it leak tight is much easier when the element is out.

salperta (original poster)

#7: Post by salperta (original poster) »

Hi everyone - thank you all for this help!

What I ended up doing:

1) Removed everything, including element (but not base) from boiler.
2) Heated the dented area with my propane torch until I could just see a glimmer of warm color with the lights off.
3) Made a few different wooden rods with various ending shapes - oval, squarish, round - to use as punches, as it were.
4) Flipped the machine upside down and with a soft mallet and my hard wood rods (soft wood just got deformed and couldn't stand up to the copper) undented the machine from the inside, then worked it from the outside until the contact surface was flat.

It's not perfect, aesthetically, but it's not leaking! Yay! Thanks for everybody's help. Still a bunch more work on this machine to get it up to speed, but I feel as though the major problem has been solved. Thanks again!