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The benefits of new (spread the word)

Customer Kathy sent us this picture of her handle.

It reminded me of how many people suffer with sub-standard handles because they love their Revere Ware so much, they refused to replace them, despite severely damaged or even missing Bakelite parts.

Like home-made wooden handles:

Tapes up handles:

Welding on a new metal spline:

We’ve also gotten reports of people simply grabbing a bare metal spline with a pot holder or using pliers where the handle has come completely off the spline.

We’ve been selling parts now for 10 years.  Before that, there was about a 25 year period where no replacement parts were available.   People had a long time to get used to not being able to get replacement parts.  Combined that with the fact that many of the Revere Ware generation are older, and not exactly internet savvy, we’ve probably reached just a fraction of the people that need our parts.

Revere Ware was sold from 1939 to 2018, almost 80 years.  There have likely been 50-100 million people in this country that have used Revere Ware at some point during their lifetimes, and I would guess 10 million or more that continue to use their cookware.  In the 10 years we’ve been selling our parts, we’ve sold to 40,000 customers.  That means there are many millions of people still diligently using their Revere Ware, many of which are doing so with less than suitable Bakelite and other parts.

Please help us reach the people that need our parts.  Help someone who doesn’t have access to the internet purchase parts.  Tell your friends.  If you come across a forum that is discussing Revere Ware and availability of parts, let them know about our parts and all of the information we’ve gathered.  We need your help to keep this business going and help it reach the people that need it.

 

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When Bakelite emits a foul odor

When we think of overheating plastic, we think of plastic melting.  But Bakelite is a little different.  When overheated, it doesn’t melt, but instead breaks down into its constituent parts, one of which (formaldehyde) smells nasty, and isn’t good to inhale.

Bakelite is safe to 350 degrees Fahrenheit; putting it in an oven is not a good idea.  The most common culprit for overheating is a gas stove where the flames are too high, and the lick up the sides of a sauce pan and heat the handles directly.

While we always assumed that overheating was the only ways to cause problems, there is at least one anecdotal report that once overheated, Bakelite may be sensitive to overheating at a lower temperature.

After many years steady use, I’m getting toxic fumes when I use them on anything but very low heat. It smells exactly like burnt plastic and the fumes seem unhealthful, not just smelly. I’m assuming it’s the handles, but they don’t seem degraded more than normal for their age. I do have a gas stove and tried lowering the flame, since the flames can lick around the edge of the pan and up toward the handles. But I am still getting the fumes strongly, even when the handles are very warm at all.

If you have the same issue, or if your handles have previously been overheated and seem sensitive to even lower heat, it is probably safest to replace your handles.  If replacement isn’t an option (you have one that we don’t make) you might try restoring them as described here, being sure to remove any Bakelite that looks damaged, to get to undamaged Bakelite.

To to sure, Bakelite is known to be safe as it has been used on cookware, and many other products, for around 80 years.  When used properly, there is no danger.  But it does have the potential for misuse if it is used in the oven or on too high heat.  It is better to be safe than sorry.

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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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Rethinking colored Bakelite parts

Colored Revere Ware Bakelite parts come up for sale on eBay occasionally, and often sell for ridiculous prices (like this).

But a slew of colored knob listings recently, has me wondering if all the colored Bakelite parts are just painted.  All these recent listings appear to be.

 

Bakelite can be made to be just about any color, and perhaps these knobs are simply ones that were painted by the owner and not the company.

We’ve been asked from time to time if we would produce a series of colored Bakelite parts, but that is a difficult proposition, as there is typically a minimum order quantity of any color we would have to run that is in the thousands; there isn’t likely to be _that_ much demand for colored parts.

Given what we are seeing above, your best bet might be to just get a can of high temperature paint and paint them yourself.

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eBay drop-ship retail arbitrage

We wrote a post on eBay retail arbitrage, termed by them as drop-ship listings, in 2017.  Since then, the problem has only gotten worse, with something around 150 currently listed items on eBay that are merely fronts for our parts sold on Amazon.com.

To refresh your memory on how this works, someone lists something currently sold on Amazon.com on eBay, with a markup.  When the order is placed on eBay, they have software that automatically places the order on Amazon.com with the eBay purchaser as the recipient.

We don’t like it as we prefer our customers get the items at a more reasonable price, and it can result in some odd activity on the other end when such drop-shipping sellers leave us negative feedback on Amazon.com; negative feedback on Amazon.com is a huge problem as compared to eBay.  on eBay, most buyers are motivated to leave feedback, whether they had a good or bad experience.  An Amazon.com, feedback is not at all integrated into the ethos of the site; there are disproportionately more negative feedback reviews per sales volume than on eBay because most of the people with a positive experience don’t bother to leave feedback.

eBay has a policy against drop-shippers that don’t actually hold inventory.  However it appears they don’t actually enforce this policy (see the chat with eBay support in that article).

In any event, what we worry most about is the damage to our brand that a poor buying experience can have.  What I mean by that is, our primary purpose in selling these parts is to make people happy and to provide them with a satisfactory buying experience.  Given the pain that Revere Ware owners went through for decades before we came on the scene 10 years ago.  Most people are thrilled that our parts are available, and we don’t want to temper that with a bad experience.

So, please buy our parts from our own website or Amazon.com, not from eBay, as we don’t list any parts there.

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So you think YOUR Bakelite is in rough shape?

I sometimes get a chuckle out of seeing poor shape of people’s beloved Revere Ware, that they simply refuse to let go of.  I’ve heard a few stories of the lid without a knob that is used with a pair of pliers kept nearby.  We often get pictures of really damaged Bakelite handles that people have been using that way for years.

It’s not surprising that people soldier on using damaged cookware thinking they won’t be able to find replacement parts.  While we’ve been selling them now for ten years, before we came on the scene, there was a good 30 years where parts were not available.

Today’s winner in that department is Alex, who sent us these pictures of his skillet.

I can only imagine how long they have been held together that way.

Sadly, that is the early style handle for which we don’t have a direct replacement, although our replacement handles can be used with those for a somewhat imperfect fit.

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Inferences from a wooden handle

A customer pointed out this listing for a vintage Revere Ware skillet with a wooden handle

It’s a beautiful handle, which gives the skillet a very pleasing and unique appearance.

You can see from the handle detail that this is a very old skillet, made within the first few years of Revere Ware production.

The spline, rather than being a straight piece on those handles, was the same shape as the actual handle.  This was the style that had two screws close to the pot, and a third screw in the center of the end, where the hook went through.  It appears as if this customization used the two screws for near the pot end, to hold the handle, forgoing the hook.  Here is a blurb on adapting our newer style handles to that older style spline.

Everything about this handle, including the workmanship, tells me this is something that would not have been offered by Revere Ware, but was custom made by someone who probably could not get a replacement handle.

Before we started selling our parts, we saw a lot of funky attempts to continue using Revere Ware pots despite handle issues.

  • At least one other home made wooden handle
  • People attempting to epoxy broken handles together using high temperature epoxy
  • Holding the metal spline on a pot that has lost its handle with pliers or oven mitts
  • A complex polishing and restoration process that involved 5 different grits of sandpaper

Because of this, when we first opened our shop for replacement Revere Ware parts, we got a lot of appreciation emails from customers.  While we still get one now and again, dealing with customers on Amazon.com has turned into a very different experience.  People are quick to pull the trigger on negative feedback over any issue, no matter how small, without even contacting us first for assistance, and then rarely respond when we follow with an offer to help after seeing their feedback.

We sell somewhere in the neighborhood of 10,000 parts a year these days across about 6,500 customers.  In our mind, that is 6,500 people we’ve had the opportunity to help continue to use their cherished piece of cookware.  We also answer somewhere between 500 and 1000 questions each year for people, whether they are customers or not.  The nature of a business like ours is service more than product.  Service to help people find the right part, service to answer questions and sometimes solve a historical mystery, and service to solve problems when they arise.

Retailing used to be about service.  Consider this bit from an article today in the Wall Street Journal:

Long before internet shopping, when a personal touch and pride of proprietorship were essential to successful local merchandising, Robert Lazarus Sr. was the president of the largest department store in Columbus, Ohio, my hometown. His name was on the building: the F&R Lazarus Co., among the most prestigious stores in the Midwest.

A dignified, respected man, he lived in a grand and tastefully decorated house. He kept his home number listed in the phone book.

Here is something his son told me, years after Robert Lazarus had died, and the store had disappeared.

One evening when the son was growing up, the telephone in their home rang. The caller, with nervousness in his voice, asked for Robert Lazarus, who came to the phone.

The man, almost apologetically, said he and his wife had purchased a tea set at Lazarus. They had never owned one before, but saw it on display and decided it was something they would like to have in their home.

Robert Lazarus waited to hear what was coming next. Was there a flaw? Was a cup or saucer broken?

That wasn’t it. The man said he and his wife did not know the proper way to serve tea—how to make use of the tea set when company came over. They sensed there was an etiquette to it, but no one had ever told them what it was.

Some of Lazarus’s customers had very modest incomes; to them, that downtown store was almost a palace, a place of aspiration, even if they were only looking. The tea set had represented a step up, a significant expenditure for this man and his wife. And they weren’t quite sure how it was intended to be used.

So the husband called the man whose name was on the store—at home, at night—for advice.

Robert Lazarus, his son said, stayed on the phone with his customer and, with great care, walked him through the steps of having a tea party, of using an elegant tea set. He told the man stories about tea receptions he and his own wife had given; he answered every question.

Then, before hanging up, he thanked the man profusely for having shopped at Lazarus.

I asked the son—by then an elderly man himself—if his dad had seemed at all bothered to have received the call in the middle of an evening with his family.

“Bothered?” the son said. “He couldn’t have been more pleased. He talked about it with great fondness for the rest of the night.”

I imagine the man who had placed the call did, too: The man who, in a time before customer service meant algorithm-generated email responses and endless waits for offshore call centers to answer, had taken a deep breath and dialed the phone, not knowing if he was making a mistake by imposing.

And who had been greeted, by the president of the F&R Lazarus Co., like an old friend.

Sometimes, dealing with customers on Amazon.com almost makes me want to quite the business.  I got in this business because I wanted to help people in a way that I wanted help myself years ago when I was looking for replacement parts for my Revere Ware.  With less business going to our website, where we have very few returns, almost no complaints, and the occasional praise, and more business going to Amazon.com, where we constantly struggle against abrupt and inconsiderate negative feedback and rarely a kind word, it is more of a burden and less of a joy these days.

While I love the convenience of ordering online and the benefit of being able to find things that used to be impossible to find, I had the impersonality of it all.  Perhaps this is what can save the malls and local businesses against the onslaught of  online shopping, good customer service and a very personal experience.

I’m trying to do my little part to keep business more personal.  While you can’t call me at home, I do answer every question, no matter how stupid you might think it is, frequently even during evenings and on weekends, and I try to make every customer happy if I can.

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Another option for Revere Ware mixing bowl lids

We often get requests for the lids for Revere Ware mixing bowls; apparently the original lids tend to fail after a while.  We did fine a crowdfunding campaign for some universal lids some time back, but a simpler solution may just be already available stretchy silicone lids that are pretty inexpensive.

Here are the mixing bowls.

The sizes are 9.75″, 8.5″, 6.75″, and 5.25″.

Here is a set of stretch silicone lids:

 

According to the listing, here are the sizes that they will fit:

❶ Special XL size 9.5” to14”
❷ 7.9” to 11”
❸ 6.5” to 9”
❹ 5.9” to 8”
❺ 4.7” to 6”
❻ 3.7” to 5”
❼ 2.8” to 4”

For 15 bucks, I think it is worth a shot.

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When your Revere Ware lid has a stub, not a screw

We’ve written about this before, but as it is the most common question we receive, it is worth mentioning again.

Over the years, Revere Ware had many different types of lid knob screw inserts (the part that provides the threads inside the lid knob).  We’ve seen brass, aluminum, stainless steel, and threads directly in the Bakelite (the worst, as they strip easily).  It is fairly common for the screw insert to rust to the screw on the lid.  Rust is common whenever you have dissimilar metals touching each other.  Customer Evelyn send us some great pictures of her lid that has this problem.

It makes it look like it requires a press-on knob, not a screw on one.

Evelyn soaked it with oil overnight, and then used a pair of pliers to unscrew it the next day.  It came off and she was able to use the replacement knob she ordered from us.

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