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Fixing old Revere Ware sometimes requires some DIY

Amazon.com product returns have always been a black box.  People return items and often choose a category for the return for which they don’t have to pay anything to return it.

Defective item and Inaccurate website description seem to be favorites, and provide us with almost no information as to what went wrong.  We suspect that most returns are people simply not reading our product pages to make sure they get the right item, or buying things despite the warnings that it won’t work on anything but Revere Ware.  (In contrast, we have very very few returns from items sold on our website, and people almost always ask for help if they have a problem.  Even if they don’t, we often are able to avoid a return by providing suggestions along with the return info.)

Buried within the Amazon returns there are some people that have a problem they just need some help with.  We recently started putting stickers on all of our Amazon.com products that list our Gmail address to contact for help, and we’ve gotten a few responses and have been able to help some folks.

As much as today’s consumers like expect things to just work, those of us familiar with vintage things, know that it sometimes takes some time and effort to fix things.  Sometimes, you aren’t sure exactly what you have.

The part wasn’t defective.  It just didn’t fit my pot. I assumed it’s a Revere Ware pot; it certainly looks like it.  However, since the writing on the bottom of the pan is totally worn off, I could have made a bad assumption.

Sometimes you can’t find the right part and have to find an alternative.  Sometimes things break and you have to find a work around.  Sometimes you have to build something yourself.  And sometimes, even specially made replacement parts like ours don’t fit.

Pot handle that won’t fit on one side

Take this example from a very nice Amazon customer that contacted us for some help.  He ordered our single screw pot handles, and one side fit just fine, but on the other, the hole in the handle didn’t line up with the screw hole in the bracket.

He tried the working handle on that side and it also didn’t line up.  It seems the bracket on the pot is different between the two sides.  This leads me to speculate on a couple of things; whether our replacement handles are less flexible in situations like these than OEM Revere Ware ones, or perhaps  these situations happened in the factory on occasion and they just accommodated a slightly different bracket by modifying a Bakelite handle to fit.

The latter is what I suggested to the customer that he try, and widening the hole in the Bakelite just a bit allowed him to get the screw in and all is well.

I decided to get out my Dremel tool to demonstrate some modifications for a situation like this.  You can either widen the screw hole, as the customer did, or enlarge the area where the bracket fits, so the handle can slide down a bit.

The one one the left has had the screw hole widened upward using a round Dremel bit, but a round file will work just as well.  The one on the right I ground down some of the bottom ledge of the recessed area where the metal bracket on the pot sits, so that the handle can slide up a bit, thus centering the hole in the Bakelite on the hole in the bracket.  The nice thing about both of these modifications is that they are at the back of the handle, and won’t show, and / or will be hidden by the screw from the front.

As a reminder, whenever sanding, filing, or grinding Bakelite, like other materials that will generate a fine particulate dust, always wear a safety mask, preferably an N95 type. We’ve all got some of those around these days.

Knobs that won’t screw on

Another situation we’ve run into a few times recently is when our knobs won’t screw on customers Revere Ware lids.  While we do see the rare defective nut insert that is missing threads entirely, this isn’t very common.  I’ve tested our knobs on quite a few of my lids lately and haven’t yet found a knob or a lid that won’t work together.  But I have found some that are a bit difficult to screw on.  This can be caused by rust developing on the threads, making them slightly larger.  Because water can often get under the Revere Ware lid knobs and that area doesn’t dry out easily, rust can develop.  Yes, even stainless steel can rust given enough opportunity.  Rust can also develop when you have dissimilar materials touching, like stainless steel (screw) and aluminum (nut insert) together.

To get past this, you can try “sanding” the rust off with  some WD-40 and a green Scotch Brite pad.  Sometimes screwing the knob on a little, then backing it off, and screwing it on some more, repeatedly, can get it on.  One customer sent us the knob that didn’t work for him and it worked fine for me on all of my test lids.  The point is that usually it isn’t the knob that is the problem.

In conclusion

One point of all this is to give some perspective.  Things don’t always work the way they should but often a solution can be found if you just ask, or do a little web searching.  We are always willing to help solve your problems, whether you buy from us or not.

 

 

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When replacement isn’t an option – restoring Bakelite

We sell quite a few replacement Bakelite handles and what now now, but there are some parts that don’t have enough demand for us to produce, given the minimum quantity we must order for each part we make.

Assuming it isn’t cracked, restoring an old, faded Bakelite part is the only option.  There used to be a restoration service (that was expensive) that was an option before we started producing parts, that involved sanding the Bakelite with progressively finer sandpapers.

But we just came across a guide that makes it sound much more simple.

Step 1

Wipe down the handle with warm soapy water to wash away as much of the grime as possible.

Step 2

Rinse with warm water and dry with a clean cloth.

Step 3

Buff away deep scratches gently with fine gauge sandpaper.

Step 4

Apply liquid metal polish in a tight circular motion with a clean cloth. Rub with as much pressure as needed to polish away the accumulation of stains and dirt. Wait for the polish to haze over.

Step 5

Rub with a clean, dry cloth to remove the polish.

In terms of what fine gauge sandpaper is required, I am guessing perhaps 200, 400, or 600 grit would be possible options.

 

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Restoring Bakelite when replacement isn’t an option

We sell a good number of replacement Bakelite parts, but it just isn’t economical for us to produce everything.

When replacement isn’t an option, you can try to restore the Bakelite part.  Here is a good tutorial on an old Bakelite radio.

In short, clean the piece, rub it thoroughly with 1000 grit steel wood, and then polish with Brasso.  I’ve also heard that Simichrome polish works well and might have a little bit of chemical reaction with the Bakelite that helps the restoration.

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Finding old-style 2-screw pan handles

Our 2-screw handles fit Revere Ware cookware made since the early 1940’s.  However, from 1939 to the early 1940’s Revere Ware briefly used a type of handle that was somewhat different, but looked very similar.  These handles had 2 screw holes near the pan side of the handle, and another screw that went through the hold where the hanging hook goes.  They look like this:

Unfortunately, because of the limited number of pieces that have this type of handle, we don’t sell a replacement.  However, from time to time (like the ones above) they do appear on eBay.

The key is to save a search on eBay like “Revere Ware handle) such that it will email you new matches.

For the less patient, we have a guide to adapting our handles to this style of cookware.

For the more ambitions, you could grind down the metal spline to get a perfect fit.

 

 

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Fix a warped skillet?

We’ve tried on several occasions to fix a warped skillet, with little success.  However, we recently came across an article that talked about heating and pounding out a warped pan.

The technique is to heat them up, put a 2×4 long enough to go from edge to edge of the pan on to the crowned side, and beat the heck out of it — all over it’s entire length, while revolving it so the entire pan surface gets its share of whacking.

If the pan is warped so the crown is on the outside, you have to rest the lip of the pan on a flat surface, so that the handle doesn’t touch the surface; a stair step is good.  If the pan is warped so the crown is inside, you have to cut the 2×4 to fit — as closely as you can but without making a big deal out of it.

Just keep reheating the pan and keep on whacking ’til you get bored.  The flattening will hold longer if you do both the inside and outside, but you can get most of the goodness if you only flattened the crowned side.

If anyone tries this, please let us know if it works.

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When you can’t find a replacement part – buy a donor

We often get queries for replacement parts not in our catalog.  Unfortunately, it isn’t economical for us to supply every type of part regardless of the amount of demand out there for it.  One option, is to search eBay for new old stock replacement parts.

When that doesn’t work, it isn’t necessarily the end.  Given that there is a very rich marketplace on eBay for Revere Ware cookware, you can very likely find the same piece you are looking for a part for, that is complete, and use it as a donor for the parts you need.

One example of a part that is critical and can no longer be purchased anywhere is the over pressure plug for the vintage pressure cooker.

While this may look like a simple screw, it is not.  IT has a hole in the center filled with solder that will blow out at high pressure.  Once the over pressure plug has been blown out, it must be replaced.

eBay typically has quite a few listings for the vintage pressure cooker.  For example, here is one for $30 shipped.

If you are attached to your vintage piece (as many of us are) this probably isn’t too much to pay to get your pressure cooker functional again, and you’ll get some other extra parts to boot.

So, the next time you can’t find a replacement part, consider buying a used piece as a parts donor.

 

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3D printing a new tea kettle trigger

We’ve completed our first 3D printable design – a trigger for the larger 3 1/2 (or so) quart Revere Ware tea kettle.

trigger_rendering

Here are the old and new trigger side-by-side:

old_new_trigger

We gave the new trigger a more curved end as we felt that the original allowed the finger to slip off too easily.

The only material available for our printer that matches or exceeds the temperature resistance of Bakelite is called Z-GLASS and is semi-transparent.  While the trigger won’t win any beauty contests (it is a bit of a rough finish due to the nature of 3D printing) it is quite functional.

Here it is on a kettle:

trigger_on_kettle

If you have a 3D printer that can print to a material that has a deformation / deflection / softening temperature (the point at which it will irreparably bend) greater than 350 degrees F, you can print these yourself.  Here are the Solidworks and STL files.

If you would like to get one of these triggers, please contact us.

Update: Unfortunately, despite the temperature rating of the material we used, the trigger started softening up pretty quickly when we tried it out on the stove.  We are still looking for a material that can be 3D printed and will withstand the temperature.

 

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3D printing low-quantity replacement parts

zortrax-m2003
We receive a lot of requests for parts that we don’t carry because they are too low volume to justify the cost of making molds and of minimum order quantities. In short, we’d lose money on them.

However, we recently purchased a 3D printer for another project and are intrigued with the idea of being able to do small runs of low-quantity parts, to make some of the rarer pieces available again.  There is one material in particular that is a good fit as it has a melting point that is high enough for normal stovetop cooking (and is above that of Bakelite).

We’ve love to offer a download library of parts as well so people can print them themselves if they wish.

While our own rudimentary 3D design skills might get the job done, there are probably much more qualified people out there.

If you are as passionate about Revere Ware as we are, have 3D design skills, and want to contribute to this effort, please contact us.

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Taking off old 2-screw handles

Sometimes, handles that have been in use for years can be very difficult to get off so you can replace them with new ones.  Frequently, screws and nuts will rust together, making them impossible to get apart (the nut simply spins).  Take this one for example.  Years of grease make even the handles reluctant to separate.

Unfortunately, in this case I had to break apart the handle to expose the screws so I could twist them apart, and the screws themselves broke off rather than unscrew.

In this case, I used a screwdriver to pry the handle halves apart until one of them broke off.  I tried prying the rest of the Bakelite off, but the handle spline started to deform.  So I placed the handle against a hard surface (concrete) and repeatedly hit it with a hammer until all the Bakelite was off.  Then I used two pairs of pliers to try to unscrew the screws, which broke off.

Sometimes it simply isn’t possible to save the old handle or hardware when removing them.

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Handle repair options

We often get asked how to repair handles when the metal part that is attached to the pan body starts separating or has completely come off.  We aren’t aware of any services where you can send your cookware in to get repaired.

Brazing

The surest way is to find a local welder that can either spot weld (typically how they were usually attached in the first place) or braze the pieces back together.  Brazing is similar to soldering, where a metal filler is heated up such that it flows in the space between the two parts.  I’ve seen one estimate for $35 for repairing a handle in this way, which is more than the typical Revere Ware vintage piece is worth.  But for sentimental hand-me-down items, cost may not be an option.

I also investigated using an epoxy to repair a handle.  By all indications, on a gas stove, the cookware can reach very high temperatures, perhaps as high as 500 or more degrees.  JB Weld, a product well known for bonding metal together, does offer a high heat formula, but it is rated only up to 500 degrees.  Another product is stainless steel putty, which is rated food grade and is often used to repair stainless steel food processing equipment.  Unfortunately this is only rated to 250 degrees.

A third option is to drill small holes and use stainless steel hardware to reattach the handle.  This is perhaps the most unsightly option.

I recently came across this DIY option that involves the use of a propane torch and silver solder rods.

I’d love to hear if anyone has tried this method or has had success repairing broken handles any other way.

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