Sunday, November 21, 2010

My 1960s Stove - Restoration Cleaning

Ohhh, man. Am I ever sold on power steamers! We have about a 275-year-old farmhouse that originally had no kitchen. Well, I take it back, the kitchen was in what we now call the family room. It has a huge fireplace with a swing iron that sticks out of the brick (it eventually fell out and is somewhere, I want to find it)! Beehive oven, the whole shebang. That's where the family pretty much did everything - hang out, cook, bake, and I'd bet that room saw kids playing games, mom spinning yarn and dad going over the books, or maybe playing a banjo if he was the type. The kitchen, as we know it, was either added in the 60s or renovated in the 60s. I can't imagine anyone living in this house in the 50's with no "today's kitchen," but who knows. At that point this house still had all its farm land, not a neighborhood like it eventually became.

Anyway, I suspect it was renovated then. But in any event, one of the things I loved about this kitchen was the stove. It's a "drop-in" with cabinets underneath. The whole stovetop and its 4 burners are in the form of a drawer! You can close that "drawer" and the stove front is even with the cabinets. You can open it halfway and the drawer sticks out into the room a little. You get 2 burners then. Or you can open it all the way, and you get 4 burners, and it sticks out into the room. If you cook a holiday dinner and you have gravy splatters all over the cooktop, whoooosh. You can just close the drawer.

Well, this stove has been in this kitchen since the late 50s or early 60s, best I can tell. And I've cleaned this sucker but there's just no way to get off 50 years of grease, etc. off the many (and complex) brackets and crevices that let a drawer slide out below, but also (it gets worse) - the oven doors don't open top-down, they swing out toward you, and slide up. We are talking a LOT of "bracketry" which, I think is a new word, as of now.

Two kinds of horribles. One is the baked on black, where you can't see the surface at all. The other is that tannish brown glazed covering that's sometimes dull, but sometimes also gets shiny darker brown spots on it. This had both.

Along comes a handyman I hired to do other things, and he brought over a unit made by Wagner - Power Steamer 705. The thing only costs $50 on Amazon, but ohhh man! Talk about effective! This whole stove is brushed or shiny stainless steel plus some black metal. Bakelite handles. You get the idea. Could be gorgeous, but after all these years?

I took the steamer to this stove, and it is a painstakingly slow process because you shoot a blast of steam, then go at it with SOS pads. But it worked!! Dang, I was seeing a beautiful surface under all that. And seeing my glee, the handyman saw the question in my eyes as he was preparing to leave, and said, "Hmmm, do you mind if I leave the steamer in your office? I'll need it tomorrow when I continue with your cabinets."

"Uhhh, okaaaaaaay. If you must."

These photos are the result of a cumulative total of probably 15-20 hours spread out over a week, and I'd guess more than that. Plus, I'm guessing 10 gallons of steam.

Mais voila!! (click twice on the photos and they enlarge)

Range top drawer closed

Range top drawer open to the halfway position

Range top drawer extended full kick.

Range top itself!

Bear in mind, I've gone at this top surface many times with just SOS and a whole lotta elbow grease. I wish I'd taken photos before, but there was a "permanent" circle of brown around the burners that no amount of rubbing could get off. It was in all those teensy microscopic crevices that brushed stainless has. With the steamer, that stuff melts! An SOS pad gets it off. Still need the patience, but you just keep seeing progress, and... well, you just can't stop until it's perfect.

Now I reeeally wish I'd taken photos of the brackets that swing out to lift the oven doors because two things. One, you can only get at all parts of it by working on it a section at a time (holding the door open just so far) and then go at it again (holding it open just a little more). These tan metal brackets had that impossible brownish shiny coating with the dark brown spots. Stem to stern! 50 years??

Voila a 3rd time.

Dang, I'm just so thrilled with the results that are possible with a power steamer. And what I discovered to be THE most valuable tool for getting into crevices, corners and teensy areas was a nut pick! The point is totally fine, but it's rounded so it digs, but doesn't scratch. So down to the nitty gritty edges, baked on grease, charred blackened areas where you can't even see what's underneath it... all G-O-N-E !!!

Apparently this stove has a small but devoted cult following. It's called the Frigidaire "Flair" Custom Imperial, and in small print on the front, it says "Product of General Motors." Well, I'm thinking they used the same chrome on this stove that was on the early cars (you know the ones, they were made of steel then, not freaking fiber glass and plastic!! Horrors, and I mean it.

My only concern is... one burner has a built in sensor. It senses the temp of the pot that's set onto it, and is supposed to self-adjust to maintain the temp you set. I wasn't going to touch that, I swore I wouldn't, but this morning lust got the best of me and I blasted that sucker with steam and SOS. At least the top of it. I'm figuring that steam can't be hotter than 212 degrees, and pots get hotter than that. Right?? Right??? I sure hope I didn't mess that thing up.