Restoration Lessons Learned the Hard Way

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

#1: Post by drgary »

Hi Folks:

As I move through my first challenging restoration I've been learning the hard way. I believe these are lessons well learned.

I won't use a rotary buffer to polish steel again. That's for sure! I now have a "feel" for polishing hard metals and won't attempt it without the right tool -- if I ever do -- a large, expensive and dangerous buffing motor. Those require adequate breathing gear and must be used without loose clothing or gloves that can get caught and drag you into the buffer. Let's say there's a certain beauty to brushed steel. I now know how to do that and it's fast, cheap and easy. I also have a better appreciation for chrome plating shops! :mrgreen:

For all the restorers and tinkerers out there, please tell us your lessons learned the hard way. It's even better if you can share a H-B link or photos so we can see the bad and the ugly. Let's keep it to something you've done to restore or fix an espresso machine. It you're itching to share another newbie pratfall, there's a great thread for posting that here:

Hall of Shame: ''What I did when I was a newbie...''

What I WOULD do for a good cup of coffee!


#2: Post by beanmuncher »

Don't know if I'd call it a restoration lesson per se, maybe more of a repair lesson - I had a Bezzera BZ99 for a few years, and right after I got it, I tried to repair a leaky fitting - wound up snapping the fitting in question (too much force with vice grips), got great advice here about how to fix it and wound up fixing it with parts from McMaster-Carr. For reference, don't pay for Saturday delivery on parts unless you need to. IIRC, $12 of brass plumbing parts... and $28 to ship.

User avatar
drgary (original poster)
Team HB

#3: Post by drgary (original poster) »

Posted on another thread too but it really belongs here. Don't put aluminum parts in a dishwasher unless you want to see how fast oxidation can work. And if you're dealing with a corroded Microcimbali boiler where a layer of scale and corrosion protects against further corrosion, this is also the most efficient way to restart the corrosion and introduce black flakes into the brew water. Oh, and I'd spent well over an hour polishing the dishwashed boiler on the right so it looked just like the one on the left. :oops:


What I WOULD do for a good cup of coffee!

User avatar
Supporter ♡

#4: Post by GVDub »

I have a tendency to just bull ahead sometimes. If I have a goal in sight, sometimes I don't pay sufficient attention to details on the way there. Case in point - I had stress cracks develop at both sides of where the group head brazes on to the boiler in the Ellimatic I had just purchased, due to the person I bought it from not having used all the parts when they put it back together after doing a thorough clean and descale. They left out the piece of h-bar that locks the boiler to the frame to keep the group from flexing when you lock and unlock the portafilter. Rather than take the time to find a welder who also knew what a boiler needed, I had an offer for a "free" repair. Here are the results: First, from the replacement top boiler half I had to source and buy (in this case, the cost of "free"), how it's supposed to look:

Then, what the "free" job looked like:

Lesson learned - take your time, make sure the solution you have in mind doesn't have a trapdoor waiting at the end of it, and "free" usually ain't.
"Experience is a comb nature gives us after we are bald."
Chinese Proverb

User avatar

#5: Post by rpavlis »

From time to time restoring espresso machines (and other things too) requires either cutting threads or running taps or dies over existing threads to repair them. Larger threaded objects may be simpler to cut with a lathe. Metric threads are designed to be sensible and they are really very much that way. It is difficult to get the wrong diameter of tap or die, but it is all too easy to get the wrong pitch. What am I going to do with the beautiful steam tip that I made for my La Pavoni with M6x0.75 threads?

Now what about the portafilter handle I was making for my 1978 Europiccola? I had it all finished and I reached for the tap to thread it. I saw the M10 on the tap and looked no farther. It was the wrong pitch. Now since that year's group handle used a larger diameter thread (M12) my beautiful new portafilter handle got transformed into a beautiful new M12 group handle. I checked VERY carefully to be sure I had the correct tap the second time.

I have to confess also to making devices that were supposed to screw together and to using one pitch for the tap and another for the die!

With lathes the problem is even worse. It is easy to produce threads for which there exist no other device on this planet with threads like one has just created by gearing the lathe incorrectly!

User avatar
Supporter ♡

#6: Post by yakster »

When I rebuild my La Peppina, I stripped one of the original bolt heads that holds the dispersion screen in place. These are notoriously difficult to remove and I was unsuccessful even after trying to grind a new slot in the head with a Dremel tool and using an easy-out screw removal tool.

I ended up drilling out the screw and re-tapping it, but I tapped the hole with a SAE instead of Metric tap. I was lucky enough to be able to successfully re-tap the hole with the correct metric threads and use the replacement screws that came with the Orphan Espresso rebuild kit and besides the group head being just a bit off-center it works fine, but Robert is correct, make sure you have the right size tap or die and thread pitch before you start cutting.

LMWDP # 272