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Revere Ware deal of the week – a low start bid square skillet

Square skillets are almost always listed for $100 or more on eBay, as either a starting bid price or a buy-it-now price.  But there is little indication of whether they are actually selling at that price.  Here is one that should be interesting, an auction for the 11″ (larger size) square skillet starting at just $9.99.

If you are looking for a square skillet, this is a great one to bid one.  It will be interesting to see what it ultimately sells for.

Update

Here is another square skillet starting at a very low bit (although this one has no lid).

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Vintage cast iron pans

As far as I’ve always been concerned, cast iron is all about the seasoning.  You can take just about any cheap abused cast iron pan, clean and season it well, and it will perform like a champ.

In fact, that is exactly what we’ve done personally, purchase some basic cast iron pans at thrift stores, and clean and season them.

But, I am also a huge fan of history.  So while I don’t think a vintage cast iron pan would necessarily perform better (feel free to make an argument against this presumption), The idea  of owning an using a cast iron pan that has been around for 100 years, is interesting.

Along those lines, here is a video on how to identify vintage cast iron cookware.

Now, the video raises an interesting point about older models having a smooth finish, vs newer models having a rougher finish, which made me wonder, which is better.

Here is an article which discusses the difference, although has a much more complex explanation of why newer pans are rough and older ones are smooth.

The entire concept of seasoning cast iron, which acts as a leveling agent so the proteins won’t adhere to the pan, was a result of home cooks trying to fill in this new, rougher surface. The roughness that you feel on much modern cast iron is sand, which used to be removed during the cast iron production process. However, that step has since been removed by many modern manufacturers. “A lot of cast iron today is produced in 90 minutes,” says Powell. “But at the turn of the 20th century, cast iron would sit in molds for upwards of 48 hours before then being tumbled for 24 hours before it then received its final packaging.” As a result of this, vintage cast iron was incredibly smooth.

Ah, so it turns out that not all cast iron pans are equal, and older ones with a smooth finish are much easier to maintain, don’t require the same level of seasoning, and generally work better.

I’m off to the thrift store to try and find a vintage cast iron pan.

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Revere Ware Tri-Ply cookware

Revere Ware is most well known for its copper bottom cookware.  An often overlooked variety is the aluminum core Tri-Ply cookware, which has an aluminum disk on the bottom of the piece sandwiched between an inner and outer stainless steel shell.  An aluminum core is what most high-end cookware uses today to spread the heat out evenly.

The bottoms of these Tri-Ply pieces can be identified by the protruding disc on the bottom.

Here what our photo guide has to say about Tri-Ply cookware:

Kitchen technology changed in the mid 1980’s with the introduction of the smooth glass/ceramic cooktop surfaces. These surfaces used embedded thermostats requiring cookware with thick, cast metal bottoms (as opposed to the pressed steel or electroplated bottoms used by Revere Ware). In March of 1986, Revere responded with the Aluminum Disc Bottom Cookware, sometimes called “tri-ply” or “slab bottom” (identified internally as the 2000 line). It continued the classic Revere Ware styling of the earlier 1400 and 7000 lines, but used a stainless steel coated aluminum disc brazed to the bottom of each piece allowing for use on smooth cooktops (and giving it the heat dispersion capability needed for use on conventional cooktops. Initially, the discs were brazed and buffed in Korea, and the final product assembled at Clinton. Later the entire production process was moved to Clinton. The line was an immediate success, amounting to 20% Revere’s total cookware sales in 1986.

The aluminum disk is actually quite think and pretty effective at spreading the heat.

Because of the construction, these pieces are suitable for glass top stoves, as they are much more likely than the copper bottom variety to remain flat.

There is some danger though.  If overheated to the extreme, they can disintegrate, although that is extremely rare.

There were other versions of Revere Ware deemed Tri-Ply as well, that contained a carbon steel core between two stainless steel layers.  They were made to look like the tradition Revere Ware pans, sans the copper bottom.  I much prefer the aluminum disk variety over these, as I think they are better at spreading the heat.  The carbon steel core variety will not have the round disc on the bottom.

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Handle separation – repair or replace?

One of the most frequent questions we get asked is regarding handles where the butterfly wing-shaped piece of the handle spline has detached (either partially or fully) from the pot body.  Here is an example.

We’ve never had a good answer to this question, so we set out to see what could be done.

Years ago, a brass spoon that my wife brought back from Thailand snapped along the stem when I tried to adjust the bend.  At that time I was able to have it brazed back together, and the result looked pretty good. The stem was thick metal, and the brazing material was about the same color as the stem.

We posed this challenge to some experienced folks in an industrial metal-working shop, where lots of serious welding and brazing is done day in and day out.

Their first attempt was to weld the handle back on.  As far as we can tell from the dots in the butterfly attachment (as can be seen above), the handles are spot welded on.  This involves running a large amount of current from one side of the two pieces of metal to be joined, to the other.  The internal resistance of the metal to electrical current causes the metal to heat up considerably, which fuses the metal pieces together.

However, it is often the case that when the spot welds on these type of handles fail, they create a hole in the pot body, so spot welding would not provide the best results in this case, as the holes would still be there.

Instead, they tried arc welding, with a consumable electrode.  This is similar to spot welding, except that the electricity melts the consumable electrode, which leaves material behind to bind the two pieces together (and can fill holes).

What they found was that the metal of the pot was just too thin to perform any kind of welding on.

So instead, they turned to brazing.  Brazing is a process that joins two pieces of metal by melting and flowing a filler metal.  Think of soldering electronic components.

However, again because of the thin nature of the cookware metal, it wasn’t possible to heat up the metal quite enough to really flow the brazing metal enough to get a really clean seam.  The result is a functional, but somewhat ugly sauce pan.

For us, this leads to an obvious conclusion; it just isn’t worth it to try and repair separated handles.  The work will likely cost you far more than a used replacement piece from eBay (of which there are plenty), and the results are less than satisfactory.

If you do want to attempt this, find a local weld shop or machine shop and ask them if the can braze (not weld) the handle back on.

Thanks go out to Patricia for sending us her damaged pot for this repair attempt.

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Someone is selling our parts on Sears.com now

Did anyone else know that Sears.com had a marketplace similar to Amazon.com where independent merchants can list and sell items?  I certainly didn’t, until I came across this listing for our replacement pot handle there.

We’ve talked about this phenomenon before, where people are taking our Amazon.com listings and listing the parts on eBay and independent sites.  What happens is that, when you place an order for one of the parts there, they simply activate a purchase on Amazon.com and have it shipped to you.  But you are paying a premium over what you can buy it for on Amazon.com, as that is how these resellers are making money, and you are one link removed from us should there be an issue with the order; there is no guarantee that these resellers will field your call like we do, if there is a problem.

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Improving dishwasher-worn Bakelite

Prior to our providing new Bakelite parts, the only option we knew of restoring faded dishwasher-worn Bakelite to its original look was a complicated process of repeated sanding process with finer and finer sandpaper offered by one restorer.  They came out looking decent but it was a labor intensive (and expensive) process.

Availability of new handles made the a non-issue for many parts, but there are still some that we don’t produce, like the very early Revere Ware cookware handles.  If fading (probably from repeated washing in a dish washer – see our test) is the issue, then we just came across something which might help.

We recently came across a blog post that talks about restoring Revere Ware pots and pans.

Their suggestion for Bakelite is:

What you need to do with these is actually use Mineral oil and rub it into the handles. Let them sit for a while (mine sat for a day) and then wipe off any access oil. This will bring them back to looking good.

From the pictures, there does seem to be quite an improvement:

Before:

After:

There does appear to be considerable improvement, although you can easily tell the difference in the after photo between the original Bakelite shine on one handle, and the rest of them with mineral oil restoration.  For parts that simply aren’t available anymore, it can probably make a difference.

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Please don’t buy this

World Kitchen, which owns the Revere Ware brand along with a number of other iconic brands of yesteryear, no longer sells the classic copper bottom cookware.  This is probably a good thing, as the quality of the cookware produced in the last decade was even worse than the rest of the post-1968 cheaper Revere Ware.  We have oft heard stories of copper bottoms which appeared almost painted on, or simply fell off completely.  I suspect they discontinued the copper bottom cookware because, after decades of poor quality, it had finally cheapened the Revere Ware name.

But you can still find new copper bottom cookware for sale.  Consider this one on Amazon.com.

I was shocked to see the high price and the 4-star rating on this piece.

Do yourself a favor if you are looking to replace a sauce pan, or any other Revere Ware piece; buy a used one from eBay or your local thrift store.  You can get one for less than half the price shipped and the vintage items (with the double circle process patent stamp) are readily available.  They will last you another lifetime.

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