Monday, February 23, 2009

Leaky Vintage Faucets

A year ago from around this post date, I've been scoping out Ebay for vintage faucets and found some nice ones here and there. Passing them up, into a summer of virtually nothing of interest, I thought I'd never find any again. Then these beauties popped, and I watched them closely for almost a full week. By then my emotions were high and I was willing to pay a lot more than the winning bid.

Despite good advice from some knowledgeable AHA Tech Talk respondents (who advised stainless Perlicks are the best...which I will end up getting one or two), I went ahead and bid for these vintage faucets. They were listed as separate auctions, so I wan't sure if I'd get them both. In the end, I was only the second person to bid on them, and was able to win them both at only $23.50 each. They looked brilliant in the listing, and except for some fairly deep scratche of character, they look brilliant in my hand. They're solid and hefty pieces as well, weighing in at 3.5 pounds each. They're big and impressive, but...

They LEAK! Not in one spot, but in three different places. If these old faucets can pour beer again, I will be a very happy brewer, and the host with the most. I've already drilled shank holes in my kegerator collar with these in mind.

I'm writing this because I'm looking for anyone who knows anything about this style of faucet, and how I might go about restoring them. After dismantling them for all the technical people I know, I've come to a few indications as to how they work, what materials the seals could be, and how to go about fixing them. But I'm not totally sure. I appreciate any accurate feedback on how to get these functional again.

First, I'd like to talk about how they work and what I believe the seal is made of. Please look at the photos, or visit my Flickr to see them better (click on photo).

The faucet flows when the holes line up, and passage opens up. Pull the handle, match the holes, beer flows and its all good. When they are fully assembled and under dispensing pressure, they leak constantly, but there is a definite "pour" when the holes match. There are holes drilled into the disc seals, but they are drilled in different places on each faucet.

They leak in three places. Through the down spout, through the threaded part that makes the seal compartment, and through the end where the handle is attached.

I can probably fix the leaks to the threaded part and the handle area, but it is the seal that's most problematic. They are worn down, and my first attempt at a quick fix is to cut a thin plastic disc that essentially closes the hairline gap between the discs.

I believe the seal material in the main body of the assembly is made of a certain kind of wax. Simply bees wax perhaps? It does have a solidity to it, but its also sort of soft and peels like a dense wax. It seems to have been poured into a hex form which keeps it from rotating and coming loose while assembled. There is a circular indentation where the other half of the seal comes in contact.

The material of the seal on the lever side looks the same, but seems to be more like a plastic rather than wax. But on one of the faucets this material has been stripped off, and the remnants do seem to scrap off like wax.

At first I thought it was made of leather, and now I think it could be a combination of wax and leather. When burning a tiny piece of the seal material, it did kindof melt a bit like wax and then a tiny crumble of charred material remained.

So, that's about all I have right now. I haven't done any real extensive research into them, which is fairly difficult to do. I don't have any knowledge of manufacturer, as there isn't any makers mark on them. Since they were sold as part of an estate sale, I would like to think they came from an old mansion in Florida that once was the home of a wealthy beer connoisseur. These taps could have been set up in the parlor/bar.

I really do appreciate any feedback
or a contact info.
Reach me here in the comments
or by mail...

Thank You


Josh said...

Ew? While leather was a gasket material, beeswax wasn't terribly common because it was far too soft.

OK, so a few tips coming from the hot-rod department - Teflon tape is your friend. Buy it in bulk and put it on any threads which are leaking. The thread-seal stuff they sell at home depot isn't worth it (won't work under significant pressure), so stick to teflon tape.

Another good friend are those generic rubber gaskets they sell. Go to the faucet area and ask to look at their replacement gaskets. You will find ones with holes in them and ones without holes ("blind"). For a tap like this, invest in several blind gaskets. Try to buy one grade above "cheapest" because the cheap ones bind. The high end ones have felt on them, but this may or may not harbor weird infections, I would go for the middle grade ones which have a "slick" feeling to them. These are silicon. Now peel all the old gasket material off your lovely taps, and drill holes in your new gaskets. You may have to use two or three to get the right thickness, because of the tap design here, I would suggest using a bit of liquid gasket (please make sure it's food safe and resist the urge to buy the cheap stuff from pep boys) to glue the gaskets together.

And that's pretty much how you do faucets, I would imagine your taps would be similar. I would definitely bring along the (disassembled) taps along so you can find o-rings and gaskets which look close enough. Harbor freight also sells gaskets. I would definitely make sure it comes from the plumbing aisle, however.

Ted Danyluk said...

Thanks Josh, your response was speedy indeed.

My guess is that I'd find a blind gasket with a large enough diameter, so a "hex" shape can be cut around the edge. This hex shape keeps the inner seal/gasket from slipping while the handle gasket rotates.

The more challenging part is the rotating gasket. I don't see how it is attached. It almost looks like its fused/melted on. There isn't an adhesive apparent. And the faucet with this part, its on secure.

You'll see on the last photo, the black gasket is missing, with some remnants of seal material. I'm wondering if any gasket needs to be put on that side?

Also, when the seal is working properly, there probably wouldn't be any leaking through the threaded area and handle area.

Josh said...

Yes, the joys of RSS readers!

I see what you're talking about, but I don't think that was a gasket. I do think it was an o-ring which went around the "hat" part with the offset hole. I think the inner mess is just where the beer was.

Anonymous said...

Having bought similar taps hoping to use them in a bar I have some info for you. These are vintage seltzer taps. The washer is made of leather and a possible source of new ones are The new ones might be a little larger than the originals and you will have to trim. I am not sure how well they adapt to beer. I would think you will experience stickiness after the taps have been unused.

Greg W