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Morning Ed, I haven't done any green coffee hoarding yet but am hoping the supplies don't end up like the toilet paper isles!

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Hey quarantined home roasters! I hope you have great coffee! If they have a run on coffee, I hope you're set with your great home roast! Find me on Facebook! Ed Needham

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Faema Compact S Rebuild - Part 3
Here is a first draft of my Faema Compact S rebuild article (Part 3). Please review and I’ll incorporate your changes and suggestions.


The Home Stretch

Almost able to taste the shots now...

This article will cover:
1. Steam and Hot Water valve rebuilding.
2. Exterior panel renovation.
3. Boiler insulation
4. OPV valve adjustment
5. Wrap up

Steam and Hot Water Valves – Rebuilding

As mentioned, the Faema Compact S has commercial steam and water valves so this is likely applicable to many other machines as well.

Materials needed:
- Patience (Though not much if you do it the way I did the second valve…
- A valve seat and 4 o-rings (x2 for 2 valves.)
- Digital camera (take pictures during disassembly so you can get it together again.)
- Food-grade grease for re-assembly.
- A pair of circlip pliers.
- A brass wire brush (NOT stainless steel…)
- A small scraping tool for getting in to the hard to reach areas (I use a dental pick but a small screwdriver works fine too.)
- Small container of citric acid/warm water. (big enough to hold all the parts for a little while.)
- A clean, contained work space for disassembly.

Removal of the Valves from the Chassis:

The valves are held on the chassis by a nut under the plastic knob. The nut must be removed in order to remove the valve. Therein lies the first problem: Removing the plastic knob so that you can get the nut off the body of the valve and remove the valve.

The way I did it… - Skip down to the next section if you want to do it the easy way. If you enjoy pain and suffering as much as I do, continue on through this section.

1. Loosen the nut and discover that the knob does not simply pull off…
2. Swear.
3. Separate the valve body. (it unscrews from the front to expose the valve seat and o-rings.)
4. Recognize that this does not quite get you where you need to go.
5. Swear using different words.
6. Reassemble the valve.
7. Look at the diagram and discover that under the center cap of the steam and water valve knobs, there is a cotter pin that holds the knobs in place on the shaft.
8. Attempt to remove the center cap via prying using the two helpful ‘slots’ in the front of the knob – remember these slots for later…
9. Fail miserably and attempt success by using new and more varied swearing.
10. Discover that if you separate the body of the valve that you can compress the rod far enough that you can poke the cover free of the knob.
11. Rejoice!
12. Attempt to pull the cotter pin from the knob using every needle nose set of pliers in your collection while swearing using various combinations of earlier words and fail miserably.
13. Finally succeed by bending the cotter pin beyond all hope of reshaping and remove it from the shaft.
14. Remove the knob, securing nut and the valve from the chasis.
15. Take Tylenol and some deep breaths.

The EASY Way – Otherwise known as the way I did it the second time.

1. While recovering from the first valve removal, look for a new steam knob online and notice that the replacement knob looks funny… Almost like the end of the knob unscrews… !
2. Unscrew the end of the knob using the helpful “prying” slots that really aren’t for prying.

3. Casually remove the cotter pin.
4. Remove the retaining nut and the valve.
5. Try to pretend that this is the way you did the first one.
6. Try to get the kids to stop repeating the words you uttered during the removal of the first one.

The valves look identical but since they list different part numbers, I marked the steam valve so I would not confuse them later.

1. Separate the valve body – it simply unscrews.

2. Slide the shaft out of the front of the valve body. Note in the picture below: A – 2 o-rings that should be replaced. B – Valve seat that should be replaced. Also note the gunk on the shaft! Soak the front of the valve and the shaft in a citric acid bath for a little bit and brush it using a wire brush (BRASS not stainless.)

3. Remove the circlip using the circlip pliers and note the spring, washer and steam/water arm positions in relation to each other.

4. Slide, washer, spring and steam/water arm off of the shaft. Note two o-rings C and D in need of replacement. Drop the back of the valve, the arm and the rest of the bits in the citric acid and wire brush (BRASS) occasionally to clean up.

After things have cleaned up a bit in the citric bath (with some help from the brass wire brush and some small scraping tool for the holes and hard to reach spots) rinse well, dry and re-assemble in the reverse order of above. Remember to use some food-grade grease on the valve shaft and a bit on the o-rings where the steam/water valves go.

Exterior Panel Renovation – Removing the Ugliness

Now that most of the components were back in the painted chassis I began to worry about the body panels and what it would look like if I had to depend upon my painting skills…

Here is what I was dealing with… The panels are made from Makrolon, a pretty tough poly-carbonate derivative and are in two colors – white and dark gray. The black paint was adhearing pretty well but there were scratches showing and lots of waves, orange peel, etc. – though not quite as bad as if I painted it. (A shows the back of one of the white panels and B shows the back of one of the gray panels – if the paint were removed from the faces, they would look like this on the outside as well.)

I decided to try and remove the paint since I *knew* my paint skills would not be improved by the artifacts already on/in the painted panels and if I were to farm it out to someone they would be able to do a better job without the armature paint job in place. I also *knew* that I wouldn’t be able to get enough of the paint off to make it look good again but figured I’d give it a try.

My first attempt was using ‘Goo-Gone’ a commercial product for removing paint, adhesives, etc. from places that you wanted them gone. 10 minutes of concerted rubbing in the drip tray yielded: 1. a sore thumb, 2. a spot that went through the paint and down to the surface below and 3. The realization that the spot was only about ½” in size so I would be much older, much more tired and crankier by the time I would be done if I stuck with this method. On to the internet for some research…

I spent a couple of hours looking at pages where people attempted to remove painting wrongness from plastic parts… Lots of methods out there that could yield success but may damage the plastic in the process and likely make it a bit stinky for a long time to come (Pine-sol, harsh chemicals, etc.). One particular, inexpensive way turned up from an unfortunate fellow who painted the dash of his Honda Civic, bright metallic green (using special, plastic paint – like what appeared to be on my Faema) and later decided that it was tacky. (Go figure… ;) ) He used Easy-Off Oven Cleaner with good results. A quick trip to the Bayer Plastics ( they maker of Makrolon) web site showed that Makrolon was non-reactive to Lye (the active ingredient in Easy-Off Oven Cleaner). A trip to the market yielded a can of ‘original’ Easy-Off (lemon scented, no less) for about $2. I donned rubber gloves, safety glasses and some old clothes. I put all the panels on some cardboard laid out on the garage floor and sprayed them liberally with the foaming oven cleaner. After about 30 minutes I went to work, using water and my wife’s toothbrush (the old one!) and the paint literally fell off of the plastic panels! The results were almost unbelievable and easy to boot! (Even a blind pig gets a truffle some times, after all…)

It turned out so nice, I decided to leave it the original colors rather than paint it (or if I wanted it to look good afterwards, have someone else paint it.

Cleaning up and Insulating The Boiler and Putting It Back Together Again
While the machine was apart, after the boiler was clean and it was sitting on my workspace (otherwise known as the family room floor by less enlightened members of the community), I decided I should insulate it. It wouldn’t get any easier than this. I inquired around and obtained some thin glass-based insulation in just the right length to insulate around the boiler.

Materials Needed:
- Insulation – plenty around, get some glass based or some other high heat material (around 300 degrees F should be enough ) that is easy to work with
- Rubber gloves – that glass is itchy when it gets in your skin
- Scissors for cutting the insulation
- Large Zip-Ties for attaching it around the boiler
- Citric acid/water container – large enough to fit the boiler
- Brass wire brush
- New element gasket
- Possibly a new element if the one that’s in there is bad or far gone.
- Copper gaskets for any tubes or fittings that had them for reassembly/reinstallation of the boiler.

The boiler during cleanup – not much scale inside the opening for the element. I soaked it in the first – go around for about 5 hours and again for another 3 or 4 hours. I also pushed/circulated the citric acid/water through the heat exchanger circuit as well since I had easy access. I used the brass wire brush liberally inside the unit and rinsed it well afterwards.

The element during cleanup – The element cleaned up nicely and was in good shape. Note that you will need to remove the over-temp breaker from the back before you soak the unit in the citric acid. Scrubbed away with the brass brush on the element as well. (Note, you should replace the round gasket, near my thumb, on re-assembly.)

Re-assembly of the element to the boiler. Note the re-installation of the over-temp switch in the bottom center of the element back. Also note that you will need new copper gaskets for any of the tubes or bits that had them when you disassembled/removed the boiler.

Insulating the boiler. The strip of insulation that I had was just the right width to go almost to the top and bottom of the boiler. I cut holes for the water level tubes and cut a v-shaped notch for the heating element so that access could be had without removing the insulation. I used several large Zip-Ties around the boiler to secure the insulation. (The “Baling Wire” of our age?  ) I intentionally left insulation off of the top of the boiler as I was not sure how much dribbling I would have from the anti vacuum valves, etc. and I wanted both evaporation room and cup warming.

Re-installation of the Boiler into the chassis and re-attaching to group head.

A side view showing the tubes that go to the boiler water level sight glass.

A view from the front. Note sight glass for water level (A) – I rebuilt by soaking in citric acid/water, brass-brush scrubbing and replacing the two gaskets inside. (Very straight forward bit.) The fitting on the top, B, is the water level sensor. It’s just a probe with some plastic sheeting on it for sealing. It protrudes down into the water. When it makes contact it closes the circuit and disengages the boiler auto-fill circuit.

Another view from the front. Wiring done (routed about the same as pictured in Article 1), pump switch installed into front-top fascia panel, pump installed (after circulating some citric acid/water through it and some careful external scrubbing.) and ready to hook up to power and water.

A view from the top, on the right hand side, showing the wiring for the switch. Note the installed water softener in the right top of the picture. It proved to be so troublesome, leak prone and difficult to find a working insert for that I bypassed it completely. We have soft water here anyway and I filter externally.

Another view from the top showing the reinstalled pressure-stat.

The moment(s) of truth! (Via bottomless-portafilter  ) The start of the shot…

The end of the shot…

Adjusting The OPV Valve

Now that I had my machine rebuilt and working, I noticed my shots were thinning out a bit early… A quick trip to home depot yielded a $7 pressure gauge and a fitting to adapt to the bottom of a portafilter. Locked in place, it showed a brew pressure of about 6 bar!  Time to adjust the OPV. The OPV is attached to the back side of the pump (shown below). It has a lock nut and a threaded barrel. It basically feeds excess pressure back into the inlet side of the pump. Excess pressure as defined by how you have the OPV adjusted.

A bit of adjusting yielded the following on the gauge:

9 bar with no way for the pressure to exit tends to be about 8.5 bar through coffee, which is about where I like it. 

Wrap up – The End!

Pictures of the finished project:

Parts places that I used during the project:
(Good place for cups, baskets, group head gaskets, etc.)

Information on Faema Machines was somewhat hard to come by but most of the info I could find came from searching here:

Left to do…
Let’s see, there’s still a few items that could be done to the machine.

1. Put in a combination boiler pressure and group pressure gauge. This would require boring out the existing pressure gauge hole and mounting a slightly larger gauge body and plumbing the group pressure opening in to the main water distribution valve.
2. Either find or make a new metal housing for the main electrical box. Its got a rust hole in the bottom and though it doesn’t affect functionality or even show, I know its there…
3. Replace one of the steam knobs. It was slightly cracked when I got it. I glued it but it would be nice to have a new one.
4. Find a power switch knob that will fit. I did locate one for the water inlet but haven’t found a suitable one for the power switch. (I leave it on all the time anyway and switch it via a 15amp timer – you can do it manually or automatically this way.)
5. Might be fun to adapt a rotary pump to the machine and there’s plenty of room inside if you want to have it inside the unit instead of external to the machine.
6. Would also be fun to adapt a PID to control boiler temp. Its really easy to do and I’ll likely write up another article on this.

Now if I were keeping the machine I would do all of the above… However, another Craig’s list machine fell into my lap! It’s a single group La San Marco 95e – electronic dosing (automatic), rotary pump, larger boiler, commercial machine. It had been used twice and I paid $300…

So the Faema Compact S will be sold. (I tried to argue the point that we really needed a commercial espresso machine on each floor of the house but my wife just wasn’t buying it.) I’ve already added a PID to my La San Marco and plan to insulate the boiler soon so I’m not drowning in my sorrow… ;)
Edited by jimoncaffeine on 11/29/2006 10:36 AM

Great article. Enjoyed your writing style immensely, as usual.

I particularly enjoyed the section on the valves. I'm restoring an old La Marzocco Linea (two group with two steam wands) I'm thinking that they use the same valve as the Faema. My process with the valves was very similar to yours ;~) ......the second valve was considerably easier. You might ask Devon at EPNW if the steam valve knobs are interchangeable.

It's a shame that you couldn't float the commercial machine on each floor idea.

BTW do you have anything that will read a 'T' thermocouple? If so, I should have a Scace thermofilter that will fit the LSM PF in the near future.



Glad you enjoyed it! The first valve was far more frustrating than it should have been - as it sounds like I successfully illustrated... :) Fortunately I didn't scar up the knob too bad - the main damage was to my mental well-being... The more I look at the parts in the commercial units, the more surprised I am at how many use the same parts with slight differences in the trim pieces. Its a good system since a business that specializes in valves can usually make a better and cheaper valve than a company that has to re-invent it for their particular espresso machine.

Actually if I sell the Faema there will be less resistance if I find another Craig's list special in the future... Maybe I need to try a lever... ;)

I don't know if I have anything that will read a T, directly. I suppose I could just put a vom on it and translate it though. I'll check the books on the pid that I put on my LSM. Seems like it takes a few different tc's but I don't recall one of them being a T.

Take care,

Hello Jim, I've been lurking and, as always, grinning! Let me know anytime you do a project!
Thanx again!

Sorry it took me a while to respond. Started a new job and it's been consuming a lot of my attention.

Glad you enjoyed the article series! I had a great time doing them. I wrote another about adding a PID to my san marco machine but haven't done much since then.

Take care,

Have just bought the same machine myself for 60 bucks and Will have a plumber fit it this friday, good to know if I have any problems I can look right here. Awesome , thaks alot
Have just bought the same machine myself for 60 bucks and Will have a plumber fit it this friday, good to know if I have any problems I can look right here. Awesome , thanks alot
Can you explain exactly how to add the PSI gauge? I'd like to set my Faema Compact S to 9 bars. Right now the water is coming out so fast that a shot is poured in 5 to 10 seconds.

Also, would anyone have a manual for the Compact S? I was wondering what the "0" & "1" knob, on the right front, does and what the water level button, on the left front, does.

I used a portafilter and removed the spout. In its place I attached a gauge using a plumbing adapter from the gauge to the portafilter. I bought both at home depot, if memory serves, for about $10.

I'm not certain if I have a manual for the machine any more. It's been a while but I can try and see what I have.

Knob on the front - Power - 0 = Off, 1 = On. Note that this is boiler element AND pump so you will want to fill the boiler with the button you mention, before turning the power on - see below.

Button - when the unit is plumbed in with positive pressure in the water line, pressing this button opens the water valve and fills the boiler. You can keep an eye on the level via the sight-glass. This has no electrical connection and is dependent upon water line pressure. Water line pressure should be around 2-3 Barr.

Hope that this helps.


Hi Jim:
Thanks for the info. Would it look something like this?

How do I adjust the PSI? I thought the OPV needed to be loosened so I turned it counter clockwise. Now it seems that the vib pump won't pull water out of the jug of water (I don't have this unit plumbed yet).

Last but not least... How long would this unit take to heat up? I'm using a candy thermometer in a cappuccino cup and I'm getting about 175F from the portafilter and 200F from the hot water spout.

I'm not sure but I think I picked up your restored unit. The seller told me that the restore article was online. Also I have the metal bowl where a cylinder water filter (?) once was.



espresso_joe wrote:

Yes, that is a more heavy-duty one than what I have used but, that is the same idea. Home depot should be able to set you up - take a portafilter with the spout removed with you so you can match it up. It won't fit perfectly so you will need to use some teflon tape to seal it. Mine leaks a small amount - roughly equivalent to the amount extracted during a pull.


espresso_joe wrote:
How do I adjust the PSI? I thought the OPV needed to be loosened so I turned it counter clockwise. Now it seems that the vib pump won't pull water out of the jug of water (I don't have this unit plumbed yet).

If you broke the seal on the water line, the pump may not get enough suction to start pulling water without a little positive pressure on the line. Temporarily plumb it in using an adapter from your kitchen faucet or garden hose.

I don't recall, off the top of my head, which direction the adjustment nut goes for increasing/decreasing the pressure. Usually I have the machine running and adjust it on the fly. Likely, tightening the valve will increase the pressure.


espresso_joe wrote:
Last but not least... How long would this unit take to heat up? I'm using a candy thermometer in a cappuccino cup and I'm getting about 175F from the portafilter and 200F from the hot water spout.

Generally I don't like to use a commercial machine of that size without about 30 minutes warm-up time. The group head takes a while to come up to temp. That unit will run on 15amps and you can get a cheap 24hr, 7 day per week digital timer that will work on it. The unit should be hot enough after 30 minutes to do the 'water dance' when you do a cooling flush from the group head. If not, then likely you will need to adjust the pressurestat.


espresso_joe wrote:
I'm not sure but I think I picked up your restored unit. The seller told me that the restore article was online. Also I have the metal bowl where a cylinder water filter (?) once was.

It could be... I've seen a few of the machines around with that 'modification' as the water softener does not come apart without breaking it if it has been ignored for a long time.

If you are in the Seattle area, I might be able to take a look at it for you in the next few days.

Also I was able to find a manual that I can email you. Pmail me at my homeroaster account with your email address and I can send you the pdf - it's not much but you are welcome to it.


Just an aside, but it's great to have you around again, Jim. Good man.

Roaster: CoffeeAir II 2# DIY air roaster
Grinder: Vintage Grindmaster 500
Brewers: Vintage Cory DCU DCL, Aeropress, Press, Osaka Titanium pourover

Lot's of 'irons in the fire' but, too few of them have been all that much fun lately. Did finally get to rebuild a La Marzocco GS last year - with lots of Mike D.'s help.

I keep thinking that I will do an article or two on that but, I've been so busy for the last year or so I have to choose between sleep or hobby stuff.

Take care,

Hi Jim:
Thanks for all the great advice! To adjust pressure down I turned the OPV bolt counter clockwise. I almost had the perfect shot and then (like you mentioned) I broke the seal and in order to get the vibe pump up; I had to tighten the OPV clockwise until it finally kicked back in. Hopefully I'm not damaging the pump.

I'm going to pick up the pressure gauge and necessary plumbing soon.

How difficult would it be to add a rotary pump? Also if you can recommend one; I would be very thankful. Preferably a pump that could fit inside would be good. My main reason to swap out the pump is that I don't like the noise that vibe pump creates. A rotary pump would be quieter; right?

Thanks again!

No worries.

Note that once the machine is plumbed in, the opv will need to be adjusted down. (line pressure affects pressure to the puck.)

Rotary vs. Vibe

for non-commercial use, as you surmised, noise is the only real benefit.

Some things to note:
a rotary pump may push the machine past 15 amps forcing you to upgrade your wiring.
You will need a large capacitor to start the pump. Be carefull where you mount it as even unplugged the cap will store enough energy to make touching related wiring a "memorable" experience.
Consider adding a way of timing pump engagement to allow for some pre-infusion. Rotary's go almost instantly to full pressure on startup while vibe pumps ramp up a bit.
Rotary pumps are not happy if they run dry and things will quickly get expensive when that happens, so you may want to consider plumbing it in first or using a small pump from your water supply to prevent this from happening.

Noise insolation of the current pump would be cheaper, if less "cool" :)



Pump recommendation - procon seems to be a pretty common and dependable brand.
Hi Jim:
Noise insulation of the current pump is an excellent idea. That won't effect the pump? I notice that it's floating on 2 rubber pieces. Maybe there's something out there that's more robust. I'll search around to see if anyone has written about it.

I've read one article about using an external rotary pump which would allow me to avoid upgrading the wires but I don't know if this Faema would allow for that.


The first thing I would do is evaluate exactly where the noise is coming from... It may not be the pump but vibrations transferred to the body panels or to some of the copper pipes. Often you can eliminate the noisiest bits by putting a bit of rubber around other parts that are vibrating. You can use a bit of rubber tubing with one end held up to your ear, while you poke the other end around down below the cup warming tray to help isolate where the noise is coming from. It might be as simple as replacing or reinforcing the rubber pump mounts.

If you end up insulating the pump itself, be careful that you don't make to hard for heat to bleed away from the pump. Those vibe-pumps are pretty tough little beasts and when they go bad, they only cost about $50. They are pretty resilient to letting a reservoir run dry as well. They just oscillate on the electric frequency that is coming from your house line - 50-60Hrz so there aren't many moving parts to go bad.

Actually, most commercial machines use externally mounted pumps. I've only seen single-group machines that have internal pumps. You could use another 110v circuit to power the pump but, it has to be on a different circuit and not just on another outlet of the same circuit - assuming you are running 15 amp wiring to that circuit. Implementing this on the machine side would be pretty simple. You could get an SSR (solid state relay) that on the switched side was AC 110v and on the Power side was AC 110-220v. You would then use the same two wires that hook to the current pump and attach them to the switched side on the SSR. On the new pump (when I say pump, I really mean: pump+electric motor+capacitor) you would split the hot line and connect it to either side of the 'power' connections on the SSR. That way, any time the pump was actuated from the machine (via water fill to the boiler or via switch for activating the brew group) the new pump would still actuate. You would have to get a bit fancier if you wanted to delay actuation of the pump to allow line pressure to pre-infuse the puck.

I currently use 2 outlets and 2 circuits to power my La Marzocco but, I use them a bit differently as I have the main power to the machine and pump on a 220v circuit and the 110v circuit is used to power the pid for the brew boiler and the switched side of an AC SSR for the steam boiler. This is a very low-amp draw situation and it allows me to put the pid (brew boiler heat element) and steam boiler heat element on a cheap digital 24hour,7 day per week, timer.


Edited by jimoncaffeine on 11/18/2009 8:02 PM
Hi Jim:
I'm experiencing technical difficulties that I can't quite understand. I temporarily plumbed the Faema to my kitchen sink. I set up a pressure gauge on the portafilter and I had it at 120psi. I was all excited and tamped up a shot. When I pressed the brew button it came through way too fast (in a couple secs).

I then adjusted the kitchen sink water pressure so that it was just on enough to provide about an 1/8inch steam of water. At that point I noticed less water going through the portafilter. I tested the pressure to be only around 60psi so I adjusted the OPV tighter until I got 120psi. Unfortunately the shots are coming through too fast still (4 to 5 secs) and I'm making mud water.

Any ideas? Could I have broke the pump or OPV seal? I'm confused. The other day I had the pressure so light that I had some really nice looking, decently timed shots with lots of crema. I was even able to get some shots to pour too slow. At which point I would then tighten the OPV up a little to increase the flow.

Any help or advice would be much appreciated.

Edited by espresso_joe on 11/21/2009 1:18 AM

120 psi on the portafilter gauge is pretty close to where you want to be.

A couple of things:

1. What type of grinder are you using?
2. The wall/sink valve will only change the amount of water provided to the system, so while the pressure may drop upon running the system since it is running out of water in the line but, static state pressure will remain unchanged. You will need a regulator for this.
3. If you broke the seal on the pump or opv seal when it is plumbed in, you would notice it, as a large puddle of water will form pretty quickly.

So, my two theories:
1. The coffee grind is not fine and or regular enough.
2. The opv valve is sticking. Usually if it sticks it will do it fairly frequently and you should be able to catch it ramp up with the portafilter gauge in place. Opvs are simple devices - Think of them as a cylinder with two holes in the side and a piston inside it with a spring at one end. Tightening it down increases the tension on the spring, making the piston harder to compress. When the piston is compressed down to the second hole, water is released back into the system rather than taking the harder path through the other hole to the group head. If the piston sticks, it can stick before the second hole or after it. If it sticks before the second hole you get time where the pressure builds up past what you want. If it sticks afterward, you can't build group pressure enough to pull a shot.

What type of espresso machine / grinder did you have prior to the Faema?


Hey, Jim.

I'm a complete newbie when it comes to brewing my own espresso, but I just bought myself a machine that looks very much like yours. The only difference is that mine has a panel with one/two small/big cups where yours have just a switch.
The past week I've done exactly what you did with yours: taking it apart, cleaning and fixing it and reassembling it.
Yesterday was the first day of trial brewing, and I'm getting better by the cup.

I just have one question right now: do you know which year your machine was made? It looks like yours is called C85, but I'm guessing mine has a slightly different model name.

Wanna help me guess?

And another thing: where did you find a steel bowl that fit into the hole for the water softener cap?

Edited by Vanilla_ninja on 12/12/2009 2:14 PM
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