Wednesday, 30 November 2011

2. Main No.3 Gas Cooker c.1890

As I did say these information pieces weren't going to be step by step instructions (kits already have them) there isn't much to add in this second part of the 'notes' on building this cooker.  The pieces went together fairly well and there was a lot of scraping paint off to glue pieces together and then a lot of retouching the paintwork.  I also found the gas taps extremely fiddly to try and glue in place between the gas pipe and the cooker top and it was impossible with epoxy resin and I reverted to my good old standby - Super-glue Gel.  I love the brass finish from Martha Stewart's metal paint - the downside being it cost something like $5.99 and I've used three or four tiny dips with a fine brush.

I don't understand why a manufacturer makes something as daft as five teeny gas taps with two different shaped holes on either side which you can barely see, let alone tell the difference between a 'flanged' hole and a plain one.  These then have to be glued and held in parallel between two pieces of the kit.  Surely they could have been moulded in with the gas cooker top?  Looking out for these sort of issues when you are deciding to buy something would be nigh on impossible as you've no idea of the construction until you open the box.

Epoxy resin is suggested as best for these models as it is rock solid when dry but if the object in your house isn't going to be handled much I don't think this is an issue.  If I did this one again I would probably use epoxy (the five minute kind) for the main build as the material is so heavy and I think it might need a strong fix; but  I would certainly take my chances with Super-glue Gel for the fiddly bits for speed and easy application.  At this stage the paint seems to have gone over any Super-glue which might have escaped on to the surface.  This was my concern when I decided against using it initially.

I chose a Martha Stewart Satin acrylic paint for the black which I really do recommend.  I have used a few different makes of acrylic paint for things over the years and this one went on like a dream.  That could be, in part, to my having primed it first?  The original real cooker was a high gloss black enamel (?) finish but I never like a high shine at 1/12th.  It doesn't seem to work - maybe even shines need to be reduced to 1/12th?  So it has a very slight sheen.   I think it could stay like this as it won't be handled very much but I might give it a satin lacquer finish when I get it home to make it more durable.

I am disappointed that such a complex and expensive piece wasn't made with a door which opens and closes.   Like my modern appliances in the Wentworth I would have liked a pie in the oven and a door which opened.  You have to choose - glued open at 90 degrees or glued shut .  This creates a multitude of problems for positioning it in the house.  I decided at first to have it open as it was a shame to lose the detail of the interior and the racks and drip tray.  I thought Daisy could have left Ellen an apple pie cooling/keeping warm in the oven for after her cold supper.  She would have to leave the door open as there was no regulator in those days so you couldn't just turn the temperature down.  Then I realised which ever wall it went on it would present a problem.  On the right I couldn't see what's in the oven, on the left I wouldn't be able to see the best side of the door; it might work if it was facing me but I don't really want the cooker on that wall....  and so on. 

As the reason for writing this is to point out the problems/difficulties it does read like a long list of grumps whereas I quite enjoyed making it after the first half hour during which I would have paid anyone anything to present me with a finished object.   I didn't find it too difficult considering I wasn't using five minute epoxy which would have been soooo much easier and I am happy with the finished cooker.  The detail is excellent.  On which topic you will perhaps have noticed I haven't picked out the RAM initials  (door, two sides and grill front) in white paint.  I tested my potential for doing this by choosing my finest brush and tracing over the lines with it to see how good/bad I was - talk about waaaaay off.  To be perfectly honest it may not, therefore, be historically accurate but I do like the appearance of it better without the white letters.  That's my excuse and I'm sticking to it.

When it was finished I considered ageing it in some way as in this story it is something like 20 years old.  It came from the big house (see the narrative).  Then I remembered my mother's cast iron, grey and white speckly vitreous enamelled  gas cooker that she had for more than forty years.  It, quite literally, still looked like new when she reluctantly had to abandon it when she moved house. She never did reconcile herself to her spanking new modern one and she was quite right in that it wouldn't last a tenth of her previous well-loved and much used oldie. So Ellen's can remain her pride and joy until she exchanges it for one with a regulator some time in the future.

In summary I wouldn't recommend making something like this as a first try with pewter models.  Something small and fairly simple would have been better to get the feel of the materials and what I could and couldn't handle.

PS:  The doorknob needs some clear nail polish.  I used that for the black enamel grill pan (under the grill) and it worked well.

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