Antique Stove owners...How much rust can be removed?

navi_jenJune 16, 2013

Hi all...

Still on the hunt for a vintage stove. I saw one today that has all the features that I want, but it has a LOT of surface rust. On the enameled cast iron, it does seem to be surface rust and has not eaten all the way thru the iron. However, the chrome is pretty heavily rusted. (see pics). How much were you able to remove on your original finish? Or, said another way, given the state of this stove, should I factor re-chroming in a potential purchase price?


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Underside of burner cover

    Bookmark   June 16, 2013 at 12:36AM
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    Bookmark   June 16, 2013 at 12:38AM
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Crumb Tray

    Bookmark   June 16, 2013 at 12:41AM
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Sophie Wheeler

Rechroming all of that will be thousands. The rust has to be removed, then if there's any holes, they have to be repaired, then you have to replate it with the base next, then dip it in the electroplating chrome tank. It's something people are willing to go to the expense for for an antique car, but it's not cheap. And then, if the enamel is worn on the stove itself, you have to decide how you want to approach that as there is no one left who re-enamels anything anymore as that involved lead. High temp powder coating is the best process of what's left that can work on stoves. All of the old enamel has to be scuffed or sanded smooth, and all of the rust breaking through it has to be removed. Bead blasting is the best method for that. Finding a powder coater with a big enough oven to bake something as large as a stove may be tricky. Most smaller shops won't have the capacity to do anything beyond something the size of an engine block.

There's a reason that the fully restored ones go for 10K or so. The person doing the restoration usually has more than that in them.

    Bookmark   June 16, 2013 at 9:54AM
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Circus Peanut

hi Navi_jen,

Rechroming and reporcelaining doesn't cost thousands, but you might want to budget the pieces that are important to you as you go along.

Rechroming the knob bezel rings is $12 apiece, and the vents are around $80 the set. Check out GrapeVineSally on eBay - she's located in Pasadena and re-chrome-plates all these pieces, the crumb tray handles, door handle ends, etc. Alternately she keeps a large stock of vintage stove parts, so you can just find the ones you need in her online store -- link below. She's done a number of chrome pieces for my 1949 OKM stove in the past year, and also provided some bits I was missing. I can vouch for her quality and service (real sandblasting and re-plating, not just fake recoating).

She'll send you a price list for rechroming and reporcelain services (burner grates, etc) if you shoot her an email - contact me for a copy of her 2013 list, or find her email on her eBay profile.

The white porcelain enamel doesn't rust per se unless it has bad chips that are spreading -- could it be just caked dirt on those white parts? (Got pics?)

The white bakelite knobs and door handle ends you can fix up yourself with some Wenol chrome metal polish (you can try it on the chrome, too, although it does look like there's a lot of pitting on yours). It polishes beautifully and looks brand new when you're done.

Nota bene: some of the pieces that concern you don't actually need chroming, like the underside of the iron stovetop halves you show in the second picture. That's just what they look like over time and exposure to the heat. They were never originally finished because nobody ever sees that side. Just scrub off the loose rust and (optionally) treat them with a rust inhibitor like Penetrol, and you're good to go. More critical is what shape the chrome on the stovetop pieces is in. Mine have a few pitted areas and have worked just fine for years; someday I'll splurge and have them redone, but it's really a cosmetic, not a functional issue, unless the pitting is so bad it's caused actual peeling of the chrome surface.

I'd say that if this stove has all your features and these are the worst bits pictured -- and the price is right -- go for it, definitely! Having all the valves, tubes, wiring and other functional bits present is actually more valuable than whether the finish is perfect. And as I've learned, you can pretty much fix up or replace the entire stove save the base iron carcass itself.

May I inquire what price they're asking? Depending on where you are -- these stoves are generally cheaper in southern CA where most of them were manufactured, and a bit more expensive out my way in Maine -- a decent 50's vintage gas stove in need of some tlc but basically functional will run between $200 and $1000. It's all so terribly dependent on the seller and circumstance. You could get lucky, or else happen upon someone who, alas, radically overvalues it.

Crossing fingers for you!

Here is a link that might be useful: Grape Vine Sally's eBay store

    Bookmark   June 16, 2013 at 11:08AM
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Circus Peanut

PS: your candidate looks like my model 600 O'Keefe & Merritt? If so: yes yes yes! We just adore the old gal.

    Bookmark   June 16, 2013 at 11:11AM
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I had every plan for making my antique 6 burner, double oven, double warming ovens Smoothtop stove the focal point of my kitchen reno. Having used it for at least 20 years by the time I got around to my remodel, I was determined to keep using the best stove I ever had. However, I also needed to reroute the gas line in order to make it fit into my new layout. In the process of doing so, the plumber busted the unit's manifold in several places. Yikes!

Although I might have tried to go ahead with repairing it, I was stopped dead in my tracks by all the rust on the innards -- mainly the massive burner plate. A bit of research convinced me that, between the busted manifold, rusty innards and new enameling, I'd have to spend something in the neighborhood of $5k for the complete restoration that was needed. On top of it, the best restorer I could find would not guarantee return of the unit to me in restored condition in less than a year's time. Finally, there was the whole issue of disassembling, crating and shipping the stove hundreds of miles away to the restorer and having to pay the reverse costs on return. All of that was just too high a bet to place on a stove that was already some 90 years old. So, in the midst of my remodel, I surrendered and bought a modern range with an old world look -- an Aga 6-4, 6 burner, 4 oven range instead. I know that you did not ask for this advice, but I must tell you that, for its looks, power, size, convenience and reliability, I could not be more happy for having made the choice of going with a "contemporary-yet-vintage" range.

Whatever you decide, good luck!

    Bookmark   June 16, 2013 at 11:12AM
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Thanks everyone for your responses!

Circus...You have PM :-).

There are some chips in the porcelain. The most noteable one is on front edge of the stovetop cover (maybe maybe 4 inches). I would have to get the TOAC repair guide on this one, as it's pretty big. Otherwise, they are pretty much limited to the sides, which would be covered by cabinets anyhoo.

I love Wenol. I use it on my cars :-). Didn't think about this for stoves, great idea. On one of the stove top pieces, the chrome is actually peeling in one I assumed that at the very least, the 3 stovetop pieces would have to get rechromed. For the underbody 'stuff' I was thinking about restoring with POR 15, it's highly regarded by the old car community

I did not realize Sally did rechroming too...thank you for that recommendation! I will check with Grapevine on her prices (if you have a list, that would be appreciated). I also ran across the name John Ballantyne on some old appliance forum. Sounded like he does a lot of work for the old appliance companies in CA. Has anyone ever heard of him? make some valid points. I was seriously considering a Bluestar/Capital/American. I like the burner output and the lack of electronics, but I don't love the look of a professional stove....and it still seems these stoves have issues on a somewhat alarming basis. In regards to visuals, this gal hates the look of today's commercial kitchen cabinets and is trying to find an old butler's pantry to retrofit into my I am concerned a new commercial stove would be really jarring. That's the good thing about living in New England...a lot of old house parts to choose from. Aga or any super high end stove is likely out of the budget range, given everything else I need to work on in my old 1928 house :-(

Finally, if anyone has any of the TOAC restoration manuals they would not mind sharing, that would be great. I ordered the 'how to date' and 'how to buy' and they were not quite as detailed as I expected.

Finally, if it helps, I like to cook (baking, meh) and am a pretty darn good amateur, but by no means a professional.

Thanks everyone, keep 'em coming :-)

This post was edited by navi_jen on Sun, Jun 16, 13 at 11:52

    Bookmark   June 16, 2013 at 11:38AM
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Unfortunately we're in CA so the local places I know that do this won't help much, but we did send our grates down to Southern CA for re-porcelaining. I have mixed thoughts on that--we did it mainly because one grate needed to be repaired and had to be re-porcelained to hide the repair, so we figured why not do them all, but since the rest of the stove has a vintage look, the brand-new look of the grates is a bit odd. The cost was comparable to what circuspeanut paid, though (I think?) it was a different place. I also didn't know about using Wenol--we used Simple Green on all of the Bakelite (and on the whole stove actually!) and it cleaned up really nicely, though our rust wasn't as bad as yours. I have found with the smaller parts that it's sometimes cheaper to buy someone else's that's in better condition than to have yours re-porcelained/re-chromed/etc., too. Watch eBay for deals--we got most of our handles that way after getting gouged by one of the local restoration places on the first one.

We were lucky to already have our OKM--it came with the house--but chose to keep it largely because a high-end range was out of the budget, and the vintage stoves perform a lot better than the low-end models you can buy new. I think we've spent around $500 on it all told--some on cosmetic fixes, some on new parts, some on rewiring (which you could also do yourself pretty easily--we just had too many projects going on at that stage in our remodel), and some that was totally for fun to fix our periscope (mirrors, glass, etc.)

We have similar rust under the top and just haven't worried about it, as it's not visible, and as circuspeanut said, it comes with the territory. (We did not do any restoration "under the hood" except what was needed to get it functional and tuned up.) The other place ours is badly rusted is our griddle cover, but when I tried to get a quote for re-chroming it, no one had even heard of an OKM that still had its griddle cover and there were some concerns that if it were re-chromed it would no longer fit properly (since it drops in around the griddle edge). Since we weren't going to re-chrome anything else, we decided it wasn't worth the risk since it wouldn't match the other chrome parts anyway and could not be easily replaced if it no longer fit. We did manage to take a chunk out of the otherwise perfect enamel (ugh--hit it moving our cast iron sink in!) and just used stove enamel touch-up paint, but I learned then that while it was going to be quite costly to have the whole side piece re-porcelained, I could buy the side piece itself in good condition for $75 locally. (We decided not to worry about it and are just living with the patch, though.)

Good luck!!

    Bookmark   June 19, 2013 at 1:20AM
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navi_jen, thanks for the POR-15 tip. I'm DIY-restoring my recently acquired OKM. It looks to be in good shape on the outside.

But there's a bit of rust and corrosion just under the surface that I want to clean off. I want my OKM to outlive me, so I want to get it back into good shape. It was neglected for too long.

    Bookmark   December 24, 2013 at 2:55PM
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