# Trying to fix a pasta machine

Homework Helper
Gold Member
This is a not very physics-related question, but I suppose fixing mechanical things involves a bit of physics, so I thought I might as well ask here.

I have a Marcato Atlas 150 pasta machine that has stopped working. The crank won't turn because the rollers won't turn. The crank directly drives the near roller, which drives the far roller by interconnecting cogs. The gap between the near and far roller can be modified by turning a dial knob which changes the location of the far roller. To turn that dial you first have to pull it slightly away from the machine's case so it clears a locking nub and becomes free to turn. When you release the dial, it settles with a hole in the dial over the locking nub so that it cannot turn. A metal rod goes through the centre of the far roller and through the centre of the dial, with a squared cross-section where it goes through the dial so that the dial and rod cannot rotate relative to one another.

The picture below shows the rollers of the machine, the "far roller" on the left. You can see how the rod is offset from the axis of the roller.

Turning the dial (and hence the rod) changes the inter-roller gap by the part of the rod that locks to the dial, and also the part of the rod that attaches to the machine casing at the other end of the far roller from the dial, being off-centre from the axis of the roller. So rotating the dial and the rod moves the far roller axis in a small circle, thereby changing the gap between it and the near roller, whose axis is fixed.

So far as I can tell, my rollers won't turn because the far roller won't turn relative to the metal rod that goes through it. Since the crank locks to the near roller, which locks to its cog, which locks to the far roller's cog, which locks to the far roller, which locks to the metal rod, which locks to the dial, which locks to the machine casing, the crank won't turn.

The only explanation I can think of for how it is supposed to work is that the far roller is supposed to be free to turn around the metal rod that goes through it - ie that that rod serves as an axle for that roller. And mine is frozen. I've sprayed it with WD40 over several days but still can't get it to turn.

Now to my question - to anybody that has experience with Atlas, or indeed any, pasta machines, or that is just good at solving mechanical problems:

Am I correct that the far roller is supposed to freely turn around the metal rod? If so, any suggestions about how to unfreeze it? If not - what am I missing? How is the far roller supposed to be able to turn when the dial is locked to the nub on the casing?

Thank you

Andrew

pinball1970

Lnewqban
Gold Member
It is possible the that dial only adjusts a cam which modifies the distance between rollers.
It seems that the distance between gears may be also modified, at the same time.
That makes the adjustment between the teeth of the bearings very loose and tending to get stuck after they develop some wear by dry working.
Could you open the side cases, in order to inspect and lubricate the gears?

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andrewkirk
hutchphd
Homework Helper
So far as I can tell, my rollers won't turn because the far roller won't turn relative to the metal rod that goes through it. Since the crank locks to the near roller, which locks to its cog, which locks to the far roller's cog, which locks to the far roller, which locks to the metal rod, which locks to the dial, which locks to the machine casing, the crank won't turn.

The only explanation I can think of for how it is supposed to work is that the far roller is supposed to be free to turn around the metal rod that goes through it - ie that that rod serves as an axle for that roller. And mine is frozen. I've sprayed it with WD40 over several days but still can't get it to turn.
I just got out my Atlas (which I motorized twenty years ago with a foot actuated switch!. I can feed it with two hands.) But I haven't used it in a while.
The knob seems to eccentrically drive a (probably nearly roller size) shaft and the far roller can spin relative to that. The outer rollers (far and near) are geared together and the gears are designed to work even as the center distance adjusts.....big round teeth.
So your analysis seems correct. The far roller needs to spin on the adjustment eccentric rod/tube.
It looks to me like you may be able to heat the eccentric roller assembly as a last resort. Maybe throw it in the deep fryer (well maybe not after WD 40). But that sucker definitely spins (a bit tightly) on mine .
Maybe I'll make some ravioli....good lucki

sophiecentaur, Klystron, jim mcnamara and 1 other person
Baluncore
While rolling pasta, the eccentric rod should be locked to the frame, while the roller rotates freely on the eccentric rod.
Maybe the roller is glued to the rod with “flour paste”.
You might try placing the seized roller in boiling water, or in a dishwasher, for some time to soften the glue.

sophiecentaur, Klystron, jim mcnamara and 3 others
jim mcnamara
Mentor
As @Baluncore describes, my pasta machine also got flour glue-itis. Symptoms very like what @andrewkirk has. A long soak in hot water loosened it.

Downside: it seemed to recur more and more frequently.... until the last freeze up sent it on a oneway trip to recycling.

sophiecentaur and andrewkirk
Baluncore
Downside: it seemed to recur more and more frequently.... until the last freeze up sent it on a oneway trip to recycling.
If the gluten can get in, then the good oil can get out.
I would lubricate it with a hydrophobic foodgrade oil, or with silicon grease. Maybe there is some way to fit an O-ring seal onto the shaft/roller.

andrewkirk
hutchphd
Homework Helper
The rollers are some kind of stainless I believe. The machine I have is nearly 40 yrs old..I don't think I ever submerged it in water ...but it seems unchanged. Does the roller come apart? I've never been inside.

anorlunda
Staff Emeritus
The machine I have is nearly 40 yrs old..
If the gluten can get in, then the good oil can get out.
Put those two things together and that suggests the cause; the lubrication dried out after 40 years, allowing gluten in where there should be oil.

You may have to take it apart and scrape away dried lubricant and gluten, then re-lubricate to do the job. I was surprised to find so many hits on this search.

andrewkirk
pinball1970
Gold Member
This is a not very physics-related question, but I suppose fixing mechanical things involves a bit of physics, so I thought I might as well ask here.

I have a Marcato Atlas 150 pasta machine that has stopped working. The crank won't turn because the rollers won't turn. The crank directly drives the near roller, which drives the far roller by interconnecting cogs. The gap between the near and far roller can be modified by turning a dial knob which changes the location of the far roller. To turn that dial you first have to pull it slightly away from the machine's case so it clears a locking nub and becomes free to turn. When you release the dial, it settles with a hole in the dial over the locking nub so that it cannot turn. A metal rod goes through the centre of the far roller and through the centre of the dial, with a squared cross-section where it goes through the dial so that the dial and rod cannot rotate relative to one another.

The picture below shows the rollers of the machine, the "far roller" on the left. You can see how the rod is offset from the axis of the roller.

Turning the dial (and hence the rod) changes the inter-roller gap by the part of the rod that locks to the dial, and also the part of the rod that attaches to the machine casing at the other end of the far roller from the dial, being off-centre from the axis of the roller.

Thank you

Andrew
I'm no engineer Andrew but there is an alternative. I think you may just get as much pleasure if not more from this approach.

Klystron
Gold Member
I also own an old Atlas pasta machine that has never seized; i.e., stopped rolling. My family used it to roll and cut homemade pasta for many years. I detached the roller and cutter assemblies and cleaned them under a faucet then on one cycle on top rack of the dishwasher, as needed. Run a soft towel moistened with olive oil (or a food grade lubricant) through the roller assemblies using the hand crank, wipe and store parts in food grade plastic bags.

If dough is leaking into the internal roller mechanism, it suggests your dough is too liquid. Basic pasta dough mixes semolina flour or baking flour with either whole eggs or egg whites for those reducing cholesterol intake. Kneaded pasta dough should be smooth, not sticky. Finish the dough with a light coat of olive oil depending on the desired pasta or incorporate a slight amount of olive oil with the egg whites.

Colored pasta dough incorporates pureed vegetables into the initial dough. Spinach leaves make emerald green, parsley for pale green, tomato for pale red, beet for bright red, carrot for orange, etc. Adjust for moisture using slightly more flour. Use thicker roller settings and wider cutters to avoid breakage while boiling vegetable pastas. Rainbow pasta sheets make interesting tasty lasagna and raviolis.

The kneading and rolling aligns the glutens and particles in the pasta. Generally, the finer the cut, the tighter (thinner) the rolling. Hang finished noodles on drying racks before cooking or storing in the refrigerator. Raviolis can rest on parchment sheets before cooking.

WD-40 has its uses but I would not trust it on food preparation machines. Likewise, driving the rollers with an electric motor or a heavy-duty mixer works for an adult producing large amounts but I use the hand crank with children.

Old Atlas pasta machines make great supervised toys for older children who enjoy play-dough and colored putties; old enough to safely use stainless steel rollers with a hand crank. I bought and softened fine art clays for my granddaughters to use in place of pasta dough. We not only emulated fancy food dishes but used sheets and sticks of clay to construct buildings and roadways. Once used with clays, do not return machine to kitchen use.

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hutchphd and anorlunda
sophiecentaur
Gold Member
2020 Award
Maybe the roller is glued to the rod with “flour paste”.
Mechanical things stop work because of either slipping or binding. The system looks pretty simple so take it apart. Put the bits in a dishwasher (as long as there's no aluminium in it). Soak it in hot water / vegetable oil. check whether gears are fixed to the shafts they should be. Are there ratchets / pawls involved, which can stick engaged or disengaged. The camera phone is a godsend these days - if only people would get in the habit of photographing everything as they take it apart - and you stand a chance of getting the thing back together again.
Am I correct that the far roller is supposed to freely turn around the metal rod?
I'd suggest that, to ensure the pasta strips do not curl up, the two rollers should both be driven at equal speed. if one roller is free then there can easily be curling. If one roller is supposed free then what is the end gear there for (in the picture)?

I imagine that the construction is of the form describable as "bent tin" and you need some serious machine skills to deal with that if something's actually broken. Pasta machines are horribly over-priced until you pay really high prices, at which point the construction can start to be good. (That's a general principle of kitchen ware.) The gears in the picture look pretty worn and will suffer from the spacing adjustment not being correct. The drive should mesh with the same spacing, whatever the spacing between the rollers. It doesn't look like that to me.

I'm sure that I could mend it but doubt whether it would be worth my (or your) while if a simple clean-out doesn't solve the problem.

If the OP acquired the ailing machine for free then no loss in throwing it out. If he paid money for it then that could be a lesson learned about Car Boot Sales etc.. If it's been used enough to actually wear it out then perhaps a new one (or a rolling pin) would be the way to go.

Lnewqban
hutchphd
Homework Helper
If one roller is supposed free then what is the end gear there for (in the picture)?
You misunderstand the system. The rollers are constrained to counter-rotate in unison by the gears. The near roller is driven by a crank and drives the other roller which rides on a spindle (just smaller than the roller I think). The spindle is attached eccentrically to the adjustment knob which has detents to hold it. It is the rotation of the roller to the spindle which is compromised.
The drive should mesh with the same spacing, whatever the spacing between the rollers.
Surprisingly not in this design. There is plenty of slop in the gear design and this is neither high force nor high speed. The total adjustment is at most 2mm and the gears don't really care and the design does not maintain the spacing. There is a little more lash but who cares?

My Atlas is still working fine after forty years.

Klystron and andrewkirk
Homework Helper
Gold Member
Thanks for all the suggestions. I tried all of them that I could, including putting the rollers in boiling water for a while. I couldn't get them moving and they seem designed not to be taken apart.

So I gave up and bought a new one, which arrived this morning.

It goes against the grain, as someone that would always rather fix than replace, for environmental reasons as well as those of personal satisfaction. But this one just seemed too hard.

I haven't thrown it away yet though. So if anybody has an idea of how to take apart the roller I'd like to give that a go.

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I'm no engineer Andrew but there is an alternative. I think you may just get as much pleasure if not more from this approach.
View attachment 281840
Ha ha, yes that's what we ended up doing when the problem declared itself, which was when we had a total of eleven people for dinner. Fortunately I had invited them to come early to participate in the fun of making the pasta. Little did they know of the manual labour they were in for! It's really hard work rolling pasta dough until it's thin enough to make ravioli, using just a rolling pin.

It was an exhausting afternoon, dinner was a bit late and the ravioli had, shall we say, a rustic look. But much fun was had by all.

Lnewqban, Klystron and hutchphd
Tom.G
Hey, since it is already declared obsolete, cut it apart or take a hammer to it.

You will probably learn Something (or at least get a bit of 'therapy' by bashing the thing! )

Please let us know what you find.

hutchphd
sophiecentaur
Gold Member
2020 Award
You misunderstand the system. The rollers are constrained to counter-rotate in unison by the gears.
Yes - I get that cos it's pretty obvs but there was a question about one roller being free to rotate. Both rollers have to be driven in sync, of course. Neither roller should be "free to rotate" but should always be locked to the drive handle.
I now get how the spacing is adjusted. It's cheap and cheerful and at the expense of the gear meshing but, as you say, over the range needed, the gears can cope - it's not Formula One is it?

My earlier comment about the construction of the machine is relevant though. The mechanism seems to be fixed / riveted together so getting it apart would be a massive problem. Perhaps hammering out the shaft from the middle of the gear may work - but very little is available to support it. Or a 'gear puller'?

If I had bought a replacement then I might roast the roller system with a flame and see is that loosened things up. There is always a possibility that there's a plastic sleeve bearing inside or (worse still) a different metal that has corroded / welded the inner and outer together. Two inappropriate metals, (even s/s) held together in the dark, with no oxygen, could weld themselves together in the presence of pasta dough fluids (salt?). Drilling out the joint between the cylinder and gear should release the cylinder but not if it's welded itself to the spindle

I am in the process of refurbing a charming old brass and cast iron water pump. The bit that totally failed is the steel con rod that connects (under water) to the brass piston (a massive lump of brown rust and the rod corroded to just a point at its bottom end. My planned replacement con rod will be stainless steel and the air will always be there. Brass stock is expensive, too.

Lnewqban and hutchphd
hutchphd
Homework Helper
I haven't thrown it away yet though. So if anybody has an idea of how to take apart the roller I'd like to give that a go.
Hammer, large.
Take pictures! I am really interested in the failure mode for entirely selfish reasons.
Ciao!

sophiecentaur
Baluncore
Hammer, large.
Be gentle.
The eccentric shaft should NOT be pushed or hammered through the roller, it should be pulled. The inner shaft will reduce diameter when stretched, the roller will increase diameter when axially compressed.
To pull the shaft, place a stack of flat washers on the eccentric shaft, pressing on the gear hub. Lubricate the thread, then gradually tighten the crank retaining nut, given time, the shaft may begin to creep out, tighten the nut again each time it creeps forward, insert more washers as needed.

The roller and possibly also the eccentric may be stainless steel. Since chlorine salt and water are present the steel should be grade 316. Stainless steel is known to gall and seize if insufficiently lubricated.

sophiecentaur, Klystron and hutchphd
sophiecentaur
Gold Member
2020 Award
PLEEEESE SEND PICTURES.

pinball1970
Klystron
Gold Member
Some engineering works so well that the design obviates planned obsolescence -- referring to incremental improvements that require regular equipment updates. I imagine @hutchphd bought his pasta machine during the pasta making craze ~40 years ago. I bought my stainless steel Atlas from Italy about the same time at a crafts store for ~$40 USD. AFAICT the excellent design remains unchanged. I found this photo online with a$98 USD price:View attachment 281942
The top assembly cuts noodles. I deep cleaned the cutters once or twice in the upper dishwasher but always clean the bottom roller assembly by hand. Marcato includes a neat brush tool to remove pasta bits from the roller. Use the graduated dial to separate the rollers and clean the spaces. Lubricate lightly with food grade oil. I use vegetable oils as I do on chef knives and frying pans. AFAICT every exposed part is food grade stainless except the crank handle.

Here is a web page with various owner manuals for download, so there do appear to be several models.

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sophiecentaur
sophiecentaur
Gold Member
2020 Award
Some engineering works so well that the design obviates planned obsolescence
There are some lovely old bits of kitchen equipment. The hand cranked 'mincer' will last several lifetimes, when it doesn't have plastic parts and is thick chromed. My wife still insists on using my grandads old hand whisk which works fine for meringue. (I think she's nuts not to use my Kitchen Aid Artisan but never mind.)

Klystron
Baluncore
My wife still insists on using my grandads old hand whisk which works fine for meringue. (I think she's nuts not to use my Kitchen Aid Artisan but never mind.)
Kitchen chemistry leads to some interesting habits and practices. For example a bronze or copper whisk, or a copper mixing bowl can make a different meringue.
https://www.thoughtco.com/copper-bowls-better-whipping-egg-whites-607890

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Klystron and sophiecentaur
sophiecentaur
Gold Member
2020 Award
a bronze or copper whisk, or a copper mixing bowl can make a different meringue
Yes - not half. After several decades of baking bread, I am still chasing the what's and the why's of the results I get. It's mostly pretty scrumptious though, so I must be doing something right.

Kitchen chemistry leads to some interesting habits and practices. For example a bronze or copper whisk, or a copper mixing bowl can make a different meringue.
Exactly, the bowl you use makes a difference when you are whipping egg whites. ... The copper ions form a yellow complex with one of the proteins in eggs, conalbumin. The conalbumin-copper complex is more stable than the conalbumin alone, so egg whites whipped in a copper bowl are less likely to denature.

Klystron, hutchphd and sophiecentaur
Klystron
Gold Member
I remember pasta making experiments substituting stiff meringue for liquid egg whites. Yolks were left unchanged except for cooling (double bowls in ice water). I think I folded the merengue in a bowl with fine semolina flour. I forget how the merengue improved the pasta texture but, as I remember, the taste was extraordinary.

We used wooden pasta rollers on floured cotton cloth, not an Atlas, to roll the dough. Pasta rollers look and are utilized like tortilla rollers but with slightly larger diameters. IOW a smooth unfinished wood dowel.