Sunday, November 29, 2009

Early Jug Handle Shape

Just came across a jug in a second-hand shop - on its own, just the jug - which caught my attention because of the shape of the handle. It is almost triangular in cross section, and is a very simple "ear" shape.

On closer inspection, I made the further discovery that the handle is riveted to the metal, not bolted. This was common with the early models, so I'm picking this is a fairly early example. I have seen pictures of this handle shape before, but this is the first time I have actually seen it in real life, so I thought I'd post a pic or two.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Black Knob Stemac on TradeMe

You don't see 'em very often, but a Stemac Robbiati model has been offered on New Zealand's TradeMe site with a black steamer knob. The machine looks a little bit tired around the badge, but otherwise very tidy, and the relative rarity of the knob should make it interesting for a collector.

At a rough guess, I would say that 98% of all Atomics that change hands have the classical deep red steamer knob. Early Sassoon models often had light blue or light red knobs (these were slightly smaller in diameter than the "standard" model). The American La Sorrentina (the original ones!) sometimes had an emerald green, but these are fairly rare. Black knobs and yellow knobs are also out there, also fairly rare.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

OTTO Now Available in New Zealand

The Otto Espresso, easily the cutest salute to the genius of the Atomic, debuted at the Auckland food show and is now available at Atomic Roasters in Kingsland (Auckland) and Caffe L'Affare (Wellington). Retail is NZ$875. My friend Graeme has tried the coffee and says it is pretty good. I understand supplies are still limited, so if you want one it would pay to get in early.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

More on Electrical Atomics

Frank Kletschkus sent in these photos of a recent Atomic acquisition. It looks too professionally made to be a backyard mod. The logo on the badge curls gracefully around the pressure gauge and the bar in the base of the coffee clamp is nicely engineered from a metal that expands and contracts at the same rate as the machine.

He notes: I have just bought an electric Atomic like the one in the [earlier] blog on German ebay. The Atomic is somehow bolted to the hot plate which makes a nuisance for cleaning, and renders the unit unusable for camping, which in my opinion is one of the great places to use an Atomic. Though a couple of years ago I saw also on German ebay the same type with the same hot plate as a seperate unit. The badge is very interesting. Though it reads Atomic, it is not in the familiar shape but in circular writing to wrap around the gauge which is centrally mounted. The gauge's needle just starts moving when coffee begins to pour, and reads just above 1 bar when it's time to froth the milk. I used the Krups stainless coffee basket and tamped lightly. Instead of the infamous brass steam wand this Atomic has a little stainless wand with small holes and a bakelite lever so the coffee flow can be shut off. One has to be careful though not to burn the fingers when doing this. The wand's material seems to have the same expansion rate as alloy, as it is doesn't get stuck after cooling. Also it gets hot and expands with the group holder, whereas the brass rod is inserted cold into the hot alloy. The wand and its holes look professionally done. So is it a prototype or some engineer's home conversion?

Anyone able to share any more information about it?

Friday, July 17, 2009

Enduring Design 2

I decided it was about time to incorporate all the ideas, suggestions and critiques into a new edition of the book. So keep an eye out on - Enduring Design 2 has now been published, replacing the original book. Main changes are:
a. chapters on anatomy and variants have been combined to reduce duplication
b. new chapters on early manufacturing history and marketing arrangements based on conversations with those involved
c. some new reseller badges
d. more details on research resources

Overall, about 20% more text and 20% more photos, but a few less pages because the new edition is single-spaced instead of 1.5.

My thanks to all those who have contributed.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Green Bakelite Atomic on eBay

There is an Atomic (badged La Sorrentina, but genuine, if you know what I mean!) with green bakelite, just been listed on eBay. Currently in Japan. Bit worn around the badge, but otherwise looks OK.

UPDATE: That machine sold for AU$1225 (US$975). Is this good news?

Sunday, June 14, 2009

The Mystery Deepens...

My friend Lucio del Piccolo decided recently to call the Robbiati family in Milan and ask them about their involvement with the Atomic. He spoke to Robbiati's daughter and soon discovered that the family does not really want to discuss Atomic history. They have their family memories and that's the way they want it to stay. Lucio thinks this is a great shame, and so do I, but on the other hand the family is entitled to their privacy -- and it leaves us free to pursue the myths and legends around the Atomic, and to create new ones as we wish.

Electric Atomic

Troy Davis supplied these pictures and would like to know if anyone has any information to share. It appears to be a standard late-model Atomic, badged Robbiati, mounted on an electric element. The quality of workmanship is high. There are several known electric Atomic variants, but this is one I haven't seen before.

A short-lived miracle

I'm told (14 June) that Bon Trading are once again advising customers they are out of stock with supplies expected "in a few months". Let's keep our fingers crossed.

Some more reseller badges

Here are a couple more reseller badges. The Robbiati Milano one comes from Francesco Ceccarelli and the Frentana one from Greg Dahl. I'll add these to the website shortly.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Plus ca change...

Well, it's taken a while, but Bon Trading have finally delivered on their promise to import brand new Atomics. You can see one below. I haven't seen it personally, but I'm told it is a dead ringer for the vintage models, right down to the sample coffee grind in the manual and the bland cardboard box. With two important exceptions. First, as you can see in the top photo, the underside of the kettle has an embossed stamp on it saying "Made in Italy". The second, as you no doubt guessed, is the hole pattern in the baskets. This is circular rather than star-shaped, but since BT has been supplying the round pattern for several years, this is not a surprise.

It remains to be seen whether the market will come to regard these "modern" Atomics as simply a continuation of the vintage pedigree, or whether they will be viewed as yet another pretender to the Atomic throne alongside the La Sorrentina reproductions. The first clue is already here - prices for good vintage machines are flat, which might just be a reflection of the global economy, but maybe it also suggests buyers are happy to accept the modern versions for their looks alone. And prices for the modern versions have been set within a fairly narrow band, which might stabilise prices around this level, and provide a "ceiling price" for vintage machines. I guess we'll see.

My grateful thanks to Jon for the pics.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Two New Badges Added to Website

Ugo da Milano has thoughtfully provided images of two badges from his collection (which you can see at his website) The one at left is a Swiss badge - Culinor - while the one at right is another Milan one: Stemac.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

New Bon Trading Atomics Available?

Just got a report that a new Atomic has just been purchased from Bon Trading in Sydney. How do we know it's new? Well, the underside of the base has a "Made in Italy" embossed stamp which distinguishes it from the "vintage" machines that don't have any stamp at all. Cost was A$495. I hope we'll get a pic of the stamp to post on the website sometime soon.

Nothing much else has changed, reportedly. The box is still plain and junky, the coffee sample is the same, the manual is no different. So in some respects tradition dies hard. We'll have to wait for history to tell us whether these new Bon Trading Atomics are regarded as an unbroken continuation of the vintage tradition or merely another modern version.

So the "Atomic wars" are hotting up... Now we have these "new" Bon Trading machines joining the ranks of pretenders to succeed Robbiati's vintage cutie, alongside the La Sorrentina reproductions, and shortly the Otto espresso.

Long live the Atomic!!

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Earlier date for brass steam rod?

A seller on New Zealand's TradeMe auction site has an Atomic (no badge, but a Thos. Cara manual) with the brass steam rod included in the coffee clamp. I always thought this innovation was quite a late one - most likely 1980s - but the seller is adamant that she bought the Atomic in the 1970s. So I guess I'll be rewriting that little bit of my version of Atomic history!