TOOLS How to: Pasta Machine - Extreme Care

Have you reached the end of your rope with your Altas or Pasta Queen pasta machine?

I purchased my two Pasta Queens in 1994. By 2000 or so the one I dedicated to polymer clay really got on my nerves. The rollers were so misaligned, sheets were spiraling out - because one side of the roller gap was significantly wider than the other side. In addition, because it kept depositing bits of old hard clay on to the clay I was trying to roll through, I had given it a really serious soaking in alcohol. Each soaking resulted in degrading the lubricants, so it would squeak and grind more and more. All the oiling/greasing I tried after the alcohol baths didn't seem to get the oil in the right spot.

It was so unusable, I set aside the thing to throw it out. I cracked open my other pasta machine (the Pasta Queen that I had planned to use to make pasta). At least the rollers were evenly spaced. However, new machine had its drawback. Fresh steel rollers tarnished quickly, smearing black corrosion on the clay.

Faced with two less than wonderful Pasta Queens, I decided I had nothing to lose and chose to go "all the way" with the machine on the brink of being trashed.

I had taken my machine apart a few times, after learning that removing the fenders made reassembly much easier. But I had never tackled the dial side. I knew that's the side where the secret lay to fixing the squeakiness and correcting the roller gap differences between the left and right sides. "All the way" for me meant somehow removing the springy thickness adjusting dial and getting at what lurked underneath.

With nothing to lose, I decided to wedge a screwdriver into the dial face, apply a little hammer force, to try pry off the inside cap on the dial. It worked!

Inside was a nut and simple spring. I unscrewed the nut and removed the spring and then the numbered portion of the dial knob. Then I removed the one little screw in the machine's side panel, thus revealing the 'mystery of the inner sanctum' - a small metal brace, a couple of gears on the roller ends, other bits and pieces.

I cleaned, lubed everything that needed lubing, tightened the nuts. I put it all back together... and it's was as good as new!

How exciting!

What a complete turnaround. I took the machine partially apart shortly after I bought it. I felt lucky to have gotten back together and swore to never attempt that again. As my machine got squeakier and more problematic, I figured one day soon, I'd simply have to throw it away. Not anymore. I feel I can rescue any pasta machine I come across.

I needed the following tools:

  • flat head screwdriver
  • a cross head screwdriver (phillips head)
  • a couple of sockets( 9mm, 10mm) and a socket wrench
  • hammer
  • vaseline or the best substance - silicon grease
  • packing paper (unprinted newspaper) or any absorbent paper

There's no difference between my Italian made Pasta Queens and the Mercato Atlas. The same methods I have applied to my Pasta Queens will work on an Atlas as well. Other or newer pasta machines may be constructed differently. I recommend taking pictures of each step if you decide to disassemble your machine.

 

Update (2009)

There has been a tragic flip of Atlas from being known for as some of the highest quality machines to being known as the lowest. The Atlases manufactured in the 1990s were and are still fine machines. Durable, sturdy frame; heavy duty gears; well machined parts. Even after 16 years, they've held up quite well. Sadly, their most recent successors have been the exact opposite.

For some people, their new Atlases don't seem to stay in top shape past a few months. Many people have reported their new Altases breaking down, dealing with significant clunking, gears wearing down until the rollers can't turn, metal shavings from worn down handles, etc.

They're now not worth the cardboard box they come in, IMHO!

When it comes to my Atlases I now proudly refer to them by year, like one refers to classic cars. I have a couple of 1993's and recently acquired a 1995! :)

 

1

Set your PM to the widest setting.

You'll need to remove the dial cap. I wedged in a narrow blade flathead screwdriver and hammered away.

The cap's inner edge will get a dent, but that won't prevent it from being put back on when you reassemble the machine.

2 Once the cap is removed, this is what you might see. Remove the nut.
3 Underneath the nut is a spring, which will be easy to remove.
4 Next to pull off is the thickness setting dial. Then using a Phillips screwdriver, remove the side panel screw.
5 Remove the side panel.
6 On the PM, you may see this bracing bar. Remove the two nuts that hold the bar.
7

After removing the bar, you should be able to see the gears. Each tooth should look solid and even.

So why are you here?

Pasta machines are elegantly simple so maintenance or repair is relatively straight forward. In many cases cleaning, lubrication, retightening or replacing parts will fix most problems.

The gears and other areas where metal meets metal might need lubrication. I use silicon grease or vaseline. That may be all your machine needs.

8.

If you've been hearing or feeling significant clunking when the thickness setting is at its widest, it may be because the gear teeth have drifted apart too much due to metal wear or looseness. Or some of the gear teeth may have actually worn down or unevenly. Of late, some PMs just aren't made as well so the gears are of poorer quality in size and durability.

Diagram A illustrates when a barely working PM is on the widest setting and the gear teeth barely touching as they interlock. When they're like this, you may hear clunking; you may see ridges in the clay sheet.

Diagram B illustrates better positioning. This is happens when the PM is built better or when you crank the dial to narrow the space between the rollers.

If the PM is clunking, sometimes it means something is too loose. Simply retightening nuts and such may help. Worn gear teeth are a bit more serious since they will need to be replaced.

 

Another possible source of mechanical problems is the opening in the bracing bar where the threaded pole from the master roller comes through may be positioned or worn just enough for the master roller to cause the gap between the rollers to be uneven.

Best you can do is to try tightening the nuts to see if that stabilizes things.


There's nothing better than having a great tool when you need it. This is one of the best!

Enjoy,
Desiree

Last update to this page: 19 Mar 05. Send comments, questions or suggestions to Desiree McCrorey.