A really good friend of ours offered to give us whatever we could scavenge out of a 1970’s vintage RV trailer that had been sitting in a field, unused and untended for many years, if we would help get it out from where it was. We took the bus and our 4×4 pickup and a ton of tools down to the field which was basically an enjoyable hour’s drive away. (Well, within a few hundred feet, as the road down to the field was more washed out than the pick-up could take.)
We got some great stuff from the trailer, including the electrical box (forthcoming), a fridge that was just the size we were looking for (but it didn’t work), a water tank, water pump (pressure switch broken), LP regulator (works great!), and the LP stove (upon which I’ll focus in this post). The stove had been used in the past without being cleaned, the roof of the RV had developed leaks, and some field mice had discovered that the oven was an awesome place to live and the fiberglass around it was a special type of nest material. However, looking past the rust and mess, there was a full stove (range and oven) that had four burners. The sticker on the drip tray indicated that it was a Ward & Son 164-50 stove.
Now that may not help you visualize what the stove is, as it seems that Ward & Son is out of business and has been for some time. But, the stove measures about 21″ wide, 19 1/2″ deep and 17″ tall, so it seems small, but just about on-target for oven/range combinations. Modern ovens tend to be a little taller and have correspondingly taller ovens. They also tend to have piezo ignitors instead of pilot lights. And it is really hard to find one with four burners, as three burners seem to have become the standard, probably to make room for bigger pots on the range. That said, they tend to run between $500-$800 new (Amazon, Camping World), so I was really hoping the stove was okay. I gave it a really brief cleaning and got a 20 lb propane tank, hooked up the regulator and the stove and tested it. Each of the four burners worked perfectly, and the oven did as well. A big consideration here is that the oven has a pilot light but the burners do not – they need to be lit with a match or lighter every single time you want to use them (but it’s not a problem for us).
This successful test of the stove lead me along the refurbishing trail. The outer rails, heat deflector, and stove door handle were chromed, but covered with rust. The stovetop, oven door, and drip tray were a steel that was shined, but also pitted with rust and grime (I thought I had pictures, but I can’t find them). Investigating re-chroming, I was advised to get a little sand-blaster and paint the stove instead. This seemed reasonable, especially since the only high-temperature stove paint was the flat black type. I thought this would end up making the unit look somewhat like a cast-iron stove, which would fit with our concept of a Victorian era interior.
It turned out that the sand blaster, loaded with black diamond grit (coal), etched the chrome and removed the rust, and even the fake wood grain (on plastic or vinyl) wonderfully. The thing it really doesn’t do well with though, was the grime. This, I think, was old, cooked-on and reduced oils and fats. These I ended up cleaning off with a wire wheel on my angle grinder. Finally, I had everything that needed to be painted prepared, and spent some time cleaning (and disinfecting) the oven interior and the range-top structure, and reattaching the spring to one side of the oven door.
When I got to painting, I found that in addition to the flat black Rust-Oleum High Heat, there was also a gloss black paint in high heat, so I decided that I would keep the larger bits of the stove in the matte black, but make the trim (all that chrome) gloss. Overall, it came out nicely.
I did have one concern, however – that pilot light in the oven. I know that it has to be in there so that the oven can kick on and off to regulate it’s temperature. But I wouldn’t want the pilot light on while travelling as it could blow out and start to fill the bus with propane.
And, of course, having a pilot light going the whole time the bus is just sitting would just drain the tank needlessly. So I’ve been thinking on how to tactfully put a shut-off valve for the stove on the countertop so we could avoid all that.
But, in cleaning the knobs (they had plenty of grime caked on them) I found that the oven control knob doesn’t just go from ‘Off’ to ‘Broil’ with all the usual oven temperatures in-between, but it also has a setting for ‘Pilot Off’. I will of course be hooking it up again to double-check before installing the stove to make sure that it functions as it should, but so far, this stove is all that we could have asked for.