Saturday, November 24, 2018

Porcelain Repair.

From time to time I find myself with a piece of broken vintage porcelain. Most often this is the result of poor packaging or handling during shipping. As often as I am able to, I replace such pieces with salvage parts that are intact but one cannot always find alternate parts. It is especially difficult to find parts from the better manufacturers like J.L. Mott and Ludwig Wolff.  When it comes down to a repaired part or nothing, I opt for repair.  Last week I had to make such a repair and I took the time to take some photos so I could share my technique with you.

This broken part belongs with a large order I am processing. All of it is J.L. Mott. One of the distinctive characteristics of Mott faucets is the porcelain cross handle with the nickel plated brass center. The handle has four porcelain tips and a porcelain index button. Several manufacturers used porcelain index buttons and not surprisingly they are for the most part not interchangeable.

Certain index buttons such as this one marked Waste are less common than Hots and Colds. 
Very difficult to find are buttons that read Spray. 
Under the index button is the screw that is used to set the handle on the stem and the button is held in place by the brass threaded ring that fastens to the threaded raised ring in the top of the handle. 
The repaired index has already gone to the client at this point but I have this photo to show an intact handle

A few years ago, when I made my first such repair, I realized that I could not get a good result with clear epoxy. Clear calk and clear epoxy show the darkness that is on the other side of the joint. For instance, when one sets a cast iron kitchen sink with clear calk the darkness of the closed cabinet shows through and makes the calk look black. Likewise, clear epoxy repairs will always look dark. This dark line in the repair highlights the repair and robs some of the intended grace of the presence of the fixture. It is better to have a repair that is too white and let it darken than to have it start off quite dark. A little research on the internet lead me to products intended to tint epoxy.

This is my regular 30 minute epoxy with my hobby shop's logo on it. 
The white color pigment is made to compliment epoxy.  

The epoxy of course must be mixed in equal parts, the pigment does not have to be equal to either or both. 

In this case I used a piece of heavy paper when I made my repair. 
It will keep my table clean of epoxy and form a permanent backing for the repaired part. 
Later I will trim the paper with a light grade sanding block stroked across the back edge of the part. 
Fortunately no small chips of porcelain were lost and this repair was quite successful.  

While I had my epoxy mixed I thought I would make this second repair. 
There was some very minimal material loss at the fracture and at that point I did not 
wipe my excess epoxy fully away. 

When your epoxy is properly mixed the parts will not readily separate. I have sent such repaired parts to be plated and they came back intact.

In a side note, There are times when I am faced with this problem. These are also J.L. Mott. The original porcelain tips were set with plaster of paris, as were all brass and porcelain handles of the time. When the tips break away there are no available replacements.

I am currently in the process of creating such tips as replacements so that these handles can be complete and intact once more. The first such tips I will be reproducing are for L.Wolff tub valve handles and lavatory faucet handles. I will be showcasing them on my main website when they are ready and available.