August 20, 2017

Changing the colour of a 4 oven Aga range cooker

This was quite the job! The cooker in question below is a 4 oven post-74 'Deluxe' model in 'Oxford Blue'. The pictures cover the 5 hours or so we spent dismantling everything and rebuilding it with a newly re-enamelled front in 'Supreme Grey' and top in black. Its a gas cooker and we did not on this occasion convert it to electric. Each picture has an explanation below it. Do let me know what you think!

Dark blue 4 oven in building site

As near as we could tell this cooker is 22 years old. Now that is not super ancient for an Aga range cooker(I've worked on one installed in 1938 before!) but it had certainly worked hard. The top was very tired with scratches and enamel wear everywhere and the front had acid damage (see here for more information) and too many chips to repair (using our paint kits). Along with a new kitchen then the customer (hi Mrs H!) had decided to re-enamel rather than replace. Hopefully you'll agree that was a good decision!

Blue streaky acid damage

This picture shows the streak marks from acid damage more clearly. This could be cleaning products (the wrong cleaning products!) or acid foods like tomato juice etc that had been allowed to dry on and eat away at the top glaze. 

dismantling

Ok now it's time to start dismantling. In this pic we've removed the doors (easy as they just lift off on their pins. If you do it at home just be very careful not to drop them!). and the towel rail. This model has a central 'T' shaped towel rail bracket that pops off with two screws. It straddles the gap between the two hobs. Other models have two separate towel rails with 4 brackets. This way looks neater but is trickier to get back together! 

vermiculite

Now we have removed the lids and both section of the hob or 'top' of the Aga range cooker. Also gone is the top layer of rockwool insulation revealing a very uneven and low filling of vermiculite. Rockwool is the old fashioned type of insulation, we'll be upgrading this shortly in both sides of the cooker but first we need to remove a lot more of it to get access to the bolts that hold the front of the Aga range cooker in place. Cue the giant vacuum cleaner...!

front bolts

Once we have removed roughly half the vermiculite we can gain access to the bolts that hold the front of the Aga range cooker in place. Some we can access from the top but others are too low. In this picture Philip has removed the oven tunnels to get access to the lower bolts. The tunnels are the aluminium or stainless sections just inside the door before the oven 'proper'. You can see them on top of the Aga range cooker looking very twisted and mucky; these will be replaced with brand new ones don't worry! Even with tunnels removed and vermiculite gone this is a VERY tricky operation that requires a lot of patience and the arms of Inspector Gadget! Philip was one of Hotpoints most experienced engineers on washing machines and white goods before joining Blake & Bull so is a dab hand at removing tricky, tiny and downright annoying tiny bolts from inaccessible Aga range cooker places! 

Aga range cooker with front removed

With a bit of perseverance though the front can be lifted away. You can see the shield for the thermostat rising from the gas control box into the top of the main oven and also the 'transfer plates' (top left of control box) that transfer heat from the barrel into the left hand ovens. You may think it all looks a bit wonky and you'd be right. Every Aga range cooker is hand built and there are often compromises along the way. This one is actually pretty good as it goes, we've come across cooker held together with mole grips before (self clamping spanners). On that occasion it had been installed on a Friday afternoon in the 1970's and the fitter had been keen to get to the pub said the customer! To be fair it had worked fine for 40 years at that point so worth the sacrifice of his spanners for an extra pint!

Aga range cooker with no front

Eeek naked Aga range cooker, probably should be some kind of warning! We are not replacing the left hand oven aluminium sections but did give it a clean to remove the grease. If it annoys you that you cannot clean it perfectly then don't worry you are not alone. Neither can we!

Grey enamel front

Its time for some shiny new enamel! This is the main front and when we unwrapped it last time we spotted a tiny mark. This piece along with the other front section and the 5 doors were all re-enamelled again together. Everything must be fired together to get exactly the same shade of grey. Mrs H was very nice about our delaying her works and we turned it round in record time to come back again this week. Just one of the perils of what we do but it has to be perfect! This is why we disappoint people who have chipped a door and want a new one. We can supply a new door but the chances of it matching exactly the existing enamel are slim! 

Re-enamelled in grey

 Ok so the new front is on and vermiculite mostly refilled. Between this pic and the last is roughly 3 hours of fettling, adjusting and sweating! This is the first 4 oven Aga range cooker we have re-enamelled in this way and right about new we knew it was a stunner. Can't wait to see pics of it in the completed kitchen! This is a front that we brought with us that, as previously noted, we re-enamelled ready. It means we only have to make one visit and the Aga range cooker is out of action only for as long as it takes to swap everything over. We don't 'resurface' or paint the enamel; it's full on proper vitreous enamel. The cast iron pieces are shot blasted back to immaculate bare metal and then enamelled in the same process as they were when brand new from Aga range cookers Coalbrookdale foundry (soon to be closed after 70  odd years; boo!). Brand new enamel is deliciously perfect! 

insulation upgrade

After topping up the vermiculite insulation we fit a new top blanket of insulation. In an Aga range cooker the insulation under the hob and in the lids is the most crucial as heat rises. Our blankets are completely safe and non hazardous but a big improvement on the old rockwool that you saw earlier. We carefully line the Aga range cooker with no gaps or voids for maximum efficiency. The same insulation is used in the doors and lids to greatly improve fuel efficiency. You can buy our DIY lid liner kits and DIY door liners kits and choose insulation upgrades. There are full instructions and if you can use a screwdriver you can do these jobs! 

non stick door liner

This pic shows, on a different cooker, our non stick door liner replacements. Inside here is the same insulation you see on the cooker above; its fab stuff!

Re-enamelled in grey partially dismantled

Now we have got the new hobs on over the insulation upgrade (we'll trim the stray bits don't worry!). The lids and warming plate still need to be fitted but getting the hobs level is crucial at this stage. This can be a tricky part when all the wonkiness below needs to be accounted for!

Grey

And now we've added towel rails, brackets, warming plate and lids. We pre-assemble the lids in the workshop so in theory they just drop on! You can see the central 'T' towel rail bracket in this picture. If you have a post 95 cooker you'll notice that instead of shiny enamel as in this picture your brackets are a kind of dull paint finish. They are powder coated aluminium. We NEVER refit these as the age so badly, you'll only ever get beautiful shiny enamel towel rail brackets from us! 

Re-enamelled in grey and black

The lids are of course completely brand new. Along with new insulation they include the undersides, hinge blocks, spring handles, adjusting pins and grub screws. You can buy all these in our 'Spares for range cookers' section.

Grey

The product of many hours of work but very worth it. Everything went together about as perfectly as any we've ever done! These pics went viral on our Facebook page, you can read the nearly 100 comments of our followers here!


Matthew Bates
Matthew Bates

Author

Matthew is from a farming family near Bath and a graduate of King's College London who decided not to follow the 'standard' path into banking or the law. He has been working with these fabulous cookers in some form or another since 2003. Matthew runs Blake and Bull from beautiful Bradford on Avon, near Bath. Alf the golden retriever makes sure the working day finishes at 6pm sharp - dog walk time!