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!
As near as we could tell this cooker is 22 years old. Now that is not super ancient for an Aga (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!
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.
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!
Now we have removed the lids and both section of the hob or 'top' of the Aga. 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 in place. Cue the giant vacuum cleaner...!
Once we have removed roughly half the vermiculite we can gain access to the bolts that hold the front of the Aga 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 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 places!
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 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!
Eeek naked Aga, 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!
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!
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 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 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 Agas Coalbrookdale foundry (soon to be closed after 70 odd years; boo!). Brand new enamel is deliciously perfect!
After topping up the vermiculite insulation we fit a new top blanket of insulation. In an Aga 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 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!
This pic shows, on a different cooker, our non stick door liner replacements. Inside here is the same insulation you see on the Aga above; its fab stuff!
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!
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!
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 Aga cookers' section.
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!
Thank you so much for this review of our Aga drying rack Lynn!
"I've had this a while now but honestly wonder how I managed without it! Makes great use of all that heat coming off the AGA when we're not cooking - great for sheets, duvets etc, really cuts down on the ironing needed. Also great for airing ironing to make sure it's really dry before putting away. Folds away neatly when not in use. Invaluable"
Because we love pics of Agas with dogs here is one of Dixie the cocker spaniel with a 4 oven cooker we refurbished and re-enamelled a couple of weeks ago! Thanks to Kate in Lancashire for this picture :)
"I just love my drying rack. It was well worth getting you to post it all the way to Australia from England!
Now my AGA has more jobs. Cooking, keeping the cat warm, keeping the kitchen snug and drying my clothes."
Love getting e-mails like this :) Blake & Bull drying racks go worldwide!
"Hi, as promised, I send you a picture of my lovely newly installed Aga, and the equally lovely Aga rack that you supplied. I love them both ! And my 6 dogs (3 spaniels, 2 pugs, and 1 Japanese Chin ), favourite place is in the kitchen now. They of course have new Aga dog beds to match!"
"Blake & Bull clothes airer, drying rail in full use. Love the chicken design - matching tea towel, roller towel & oven gloves out of shot! Delicious geranium wax melt. Great stuff!"
Thank you Emma!