Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Replacing J.L. Mott porcelain escucheons.

Plumbing fixture restoration certainly can be challenging. One of the most demanding aspects of it is the need to replace lost or badly damaged parts. It demands all of my skill and creative problem solving at times to simply approximate the original aesthetic appeal of beautifully designed fixtures.

This is especially true when working on L. Wolff or J.L. Mott plumbing fixtures. There is a far smaller pool of salvaged parts available for those manufacturer's products than there is for Crane, Speakman, or Standard brassware.

I have made great progress learning ways to recreate brass parts, but sourcing or recreating porcelain parts remains elusive at best.

I am just wrapping up work on a large project for a home on the other side of the country. All of the fixtures I have been sent were made by The J.L. Mott Company. Two lavatory faucets arrived without china escutcheons or china index buttons. This post is about what I eventually did to provide escutcheons for the fixtures.

I received four faucet valve bodies for the two faucets, two hot and two cold. 
 These threaded brass rings were on two of the valve bodies. 
When I saw them I knew what style escutcheon was originally used to trim the faucet. 
These brass rings are not in good condition, The outside rings are neither perfectly round nor perfectly flat. 

I had a machinist make a new pair for each valve body.
The inner ring is the top mounting nut for the valve assembly. 
The outer ring will be embedded into the china escutcheon. 

Here is a view of the faucet valve body assembly. 
Note the lower nut and gasket for the under side of the faucet deck. 

This photo shows the intended application of the outer ring. 
Some manufacturers used this type of threaded ring to make their escutcheons self attaching. 

Speakman used the same style of embedded ring to make their self attaching escutcheons.
Note that the escutcheon is cast with two flat sides that correspond to the two flat sides of the ring. 
The ring is then plastered into place with Plaster of Paris. 
One distinctive feature of  self attaching escutcheons is the size of the hole on top of the escutcheon. 

The more common way to attach china escutcheons is with a threaded tube and escutcheon retainer nut. 

Note that the packing nut has a female thread to receive the threaded tube.  

The packing nut on the J.L. Mott stem does not have the female thread to receive an escutcheon mounting tube. 
Furthermore, there is not enough height differential between the packing nut and the top of the stem to allow the additional parts. My new stems are replications of the original in all dimensions. 

My task was to select china escutcheons that are wide enough to receive the outer rings and the proper height to both clear the packing nut and leave some amount of stem visible between the handle and the escutcheon. My research brought me to images of Mott fixtures with escutcheons that were low and wide, I knew that I was recreating the original motif fairly accurately. 

The original Mott escutcheons would have had stem size holes. 
The escutcheons that fit my parameters had escutcheon nut size holes. 
To remedy this I selected a set of four escutcheon nuts of the proper size. 
I altered them on my lathe to give them a smooth rounded shoulder. 
In this way I also removed the striations that would allow them to be hand tightened.  

This is the motif I was after.

One of the things I must do is establish a rough-in specification for this faucet. 
I will not be installing it so I must do all in my power to help the installer to be successful. 
The valve body height is driven by the length of the spout inlet tube.  Earlier I set all of the assemblies up in a mock installation. At that time I determined the optimal height of the stem end above the faucet deck. 
Here I have temporarily fastened a wide washer to the stem. 
This will help me to see the height without tilting my tape measure. 

I should mention that I have mounted the valve body to a section of 3/4" chipboard that I sometimes use as a base for my gasket cutter. I know that it is quite flat and true. I drilled a 1-1/8" hole in it expressly for this task. 
I intend to join my threaded brass outer ring to the inner wall of the china escutcheon with epoxy putty.
In order to keep the epoxy putty from joining to the threaded inner ring it has been coated with bee's wax taken from a new toilet wax ring. The top of the chipboard has likewise been treated. 
The wax is not featured in any of these photos.  

Because the inside of my escutcheons are glazed I used a diamond grinding bit to break the surface of the glaze. 
I am hoping this will give the epoxy putty a better grip on the escutcheon. 

The benchtop lathe was a good platform for this task. It is easier to adjust the chuck speed on it and it is a good height with lots of light and visibility for the work. This sample for the photo has not been ground. 

With the inner threaded ring waxed and the outer ring unwaxed and scuffed on the wire wheel I was ready to epoxy. 
I threaded the outer ring onto the inner ring to within 1/16" of the board.
Half a J-B Weld epoxy putty stick was enough to make a ring of putty along the outer top of the outer ring. 
I then pressed the china escutcheon down onto the putty and ring until it was flat to the board. 
It was centered when one of my smoothed escutcheon nuts could drop into place and spin freely. 
Five minutes later the joined escutcheon and ring could be threaded back away from the valve body.  

With the epoxy putty set but still soft enough to trim with a razor cutter I removed any excess putty.
After the putty was set a little harder I clear epoxied the altered escutcheon nuts to the tops of the escutcheons. 
They will never move and are threaded to nothing.  

Here it is, done and fully set. 
The stem is a two part arrangement like a gate valve and like a gate valve the stem neither rises nor falls in operation. 
The gap between the handle and the dummy escutcheon nut will remain constant. 

I had enough of these china escutcheons in stock to really cherry pick
the lot of them. I have to say that I'm quite pleased with the result.

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