Monday, November 15, 2010

Restoring American Made Coffee Mills - Elgin No 42

At usacraftsman, we take great pride in restoring and reconditioning pieces that were Made in the USA. Our latest project is a great piece from back in the late 1890's, an Elgin No 42 Antique Coffee Mill. The owner of this Mill is Larry Itoney, our partner with This Mill is special not only because it was Made in the USA, but as any great collection piece, it has a story behind it.. Years ago, Larry reconditioned two coffee mills and kept them for years, situations changed and the Mills were lost... One Mill was a deep hunter green and the other rich, deep red burgundy, both were cherished pieces, reconditioned by Larry himself (a true craftsman_... Through our hunts for treasure, Larry found a rusted, old Mill with great design and appeal, the Elgin  No 42, but the Mill was in rough shape. The wheels were frozen solid to the body, nothing would move, rust head to toe and it looked like it was left out in the elements for years. But Larry had a vision for this Mill, he wanted to restore it and made it 100% functional. Most important bring back the rich deep red burgundy and gold trim memories of the antique coffee grinder he lost years ago..

We set the Mill up on his bench table in the work shop and talked about his vision. The project came to life... We placed the rusted treasure into Electrolysis, a week later pulled it out and still nothing would move (typically electrolysis can break down severely rusted materials within a week in the tank).. So, Vicki and I broke out the torches and attempted to break it free with some "heat", two hours later, nothing moved... And we heated it up 'cherry red'..  Back into the tank for another week..

A week placed and we pull it back out to see if we could get it apart, again no luck. Vicki, Larry and I all know, nothing good comes easy.. We developed a special application fixture and used an impact wrench adding heat and torque to free it up. Once we dis-assembled the wheels and body, we found the internal hardware totally rusted away.. We can make just about anything between Larry and I, but we can not duplicated the grinding plates of the antique mills (that we could afford anyway).. Now the fun begins, we need to track down a set of 1890's Elgin No 42 grinding plates (or burr plate). More to come on the story and new found friend along the way on the grinding plates to follow in an up-coming blog on the great people we meet..

We work through cleaning up the mill, sand blasting, machine parts and working to duplicate fasteners used 100 years ago.. After 200 hours of detail work, the Mill regained it's life and is now fully functional like new.. The deep red burgundy paint, gold trim and polished solid brass came out great. Vicki found a solid brass Eagle finale (from a other antique coffee mill on Ebay) to rest on the top... As all projects we complete, the detail is outstanding, each and every fastener is high polished, the mating thread re-tapped and lubricated (anti-seize to prevent future corrosion) . The hand painting on the trim and accents by Vicki are exceptional. The wood working by Larry for the base and handles is beautiful. The mechanics are perfect, the Mill is smooth are silk and fully functional, the coffee beans are burr ground perfectly (burr grounds make the best coffee vs the grind blends from the modern electric coffee grinders)..

Attached is a picture of the Elgin No 42 before the restoration process. We'll follow up with the completed pictures in the blog on 'meeting great people' in a couple days... We need complete the fabrication of the receiver cup (the catch cup from the coffee grounds. We are fabricating a cup with highly polished copper to finish off the vision of Larry's treasure.

Thanks for your time, if you need help with restoring an Antique Coffee Mill (that's was Made in the USA) feel free to contact us on our website at

Sorry, this one stays with Larry, it's not on our website store..  (It's a prize piece once you see the completed pictures.. )

Chuck Kowalski

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