Author Topic: How your kitchen can be hip, cool, retro and still have lip hair  (Read 4705 times)


  • Walrus Stache
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The lovely wife (LW) and I recently built a house (which is hopefully the house we will live in until they stick us in the big incinerator and set us on fire.)  LW is a bit of a cooking nut.  For me this is awesome as that just means lots of good food made from real ingredients.  But in building the house, this means she wanted serious cooking tools.

In my extremely non-scientific observation of friends and family, I have found that it seems to be that the cost and finish of a kitchen (and appliances therein) is generally inversely proportional to the amount of actual cooking that happens inside it.  As a cheap ass bastard, I was lucky that LW had been doing her research for several years and had landed on her "ultimate cookery machine" -- and that it wasn't a multi-thousand dollar behemoth.

It just so turns out that the "Cadillac" stoves of the 1940's and 1950's are: affordable, dependable, extremely simple to work on, darn cute and are a real-life cook's dream stove.  In particular I speak of: the beloved Chambers stove.

And here's where it gets all mustachey...  These stoves sold for around $360 in the late 40's.  Plug that into your inflation calculator and you're looking at a stove that was around $3400 in today's dollars.  And if you shop around craigslist and give it some time, they can be had for $100 or less today (see note 1) -- usually in working order.

But wait!  There's more!

The design of this stove (and the marketing tag line of it's day) was such that it cooks with the gas turned off.  The oven and thermowell (see note 2) are so well insulated that you generally bring the oven up to temperature and turn it off.  When you turn it off, all of the heat vents clamp down closed and the oven cooks on retained heat.  For example, a 20 lb turkey will cook with 45 minutes of gas and 4 hours of retained heat.

Caveats and notes:
1) As we were making it a bit of a center conversation piece, I bought a pair of them for $300 (with an additional Chambers cook top thrown in for free).  I could probably have cooked on one of these as it was, but did a total tear down and restoration on it.  I believe actual end cost ended up at about $1000 after rechroming and adding a "safety system".  I could have spent less -- and had it been for a rental house I certainly would have.
2) What the heck is a thermowell?  I am glad you asked.  Think of it as a bizarre combination of an oven and a cooktop.  It is a cooktop burner that sits down inside an extremely insulated well.  The small size and direct heat make it heat up very quickly.  The insulation means you don't have to burn the gas very long at all.  You can even bake in it with a special heat diffuser.
3) Check with your local codes. In some areas people have had difficulty getting code approval for non-electronic ignition devices.  Most people have been able to work around this with rational discussion and demonstration.... though a handful have met with a few overzealous types and have been thwarted.  Personally, I've seen electronic ignition fail in really bad ways.  Either ignition system has it's downfalls.


  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
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Re: How your kitchen can be hip, cool, retro and still have lip hair
« Reply #1 on: January 31, 2013, 10:00:38 AM »
Thanks for the tip! I have always liked the look of these appliances and one would look great in our 75 year old log home when we renovate it in a few years.

Debbie M

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Re: How your kitchen can be hip, cool, retro and still have lip hair
« Reply #2 on: January 31, 2013, 10:59:28 AM »
I have one, too.  We got it when our '70's-era oven would turn itself on and could not be turned off.  (Well, we turned the gas off at the wall.)  Probably could have been fixed--we used it as an excuse.  When I learned that a Chambers costs the same as a regular oven, I was sold.  They are beautiful and well built.  Plus my house was actually built in the '50's, so it fits right in.

Rechroming?  That would be cool.  Ours is a bit rusted in spots.

Here are my caveats:

1) That thing is HEAVY.  We ended up hiring a couple of guys to help us get it into the house.  Not mustachian at all.

2) Our oven is a little smaller than a standard oven, so if you're used to cooking multiple things at once or perhaps giant turkeys, this might not be for you.  I can still fit two standard cookie sheets or 9 x 11 casserole dishes in there, though.  It's not tiny--just a little smaller than standard.

3) Of course there's no oven cleaning setting; you have to clean it yourself.  But I always did that anyway.

We've had this probably close to a decade by now and I don't regret the purchase at all.


  • Walrus Stache
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Re: How your kitchen can be hip, cool, retro and still have lip hair
« Reply #3 on: January 31, 2013, 11:06:00 AM »

Yes, they are HEAVY.... I think they're about 450lbs.  but... I've moved them totally by myself.  :)

For getting it in/out of a truck, I use a tractor and a front end loader... but that's probably cheating.

If you pull off anything that isn't bolted down (especially the big cast iron oven burner and the cast iron oven bottom) you'll be lighter... and then just get it on a furniture dolly.  It's oddly manageable. 

And the oven is ever-so-slightly smaller, yes.  But (if you have never used one) it is a bit deceptive.  It looks REALLY SMALL.  However, it's just turned 90 degrees to the direction most folks are used to. 


  • Handlebar Stache
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Re: How your kitchen can be hip, cool, retro and still have lip hair
« Reply #4 on: February 04, 2013, 11:39:12 AM »
Has anyone on here ever mcgyvered their regular stove/oven in this way? As in, increased the insulation around their oven? What would be a safe way to do that?