My O’Keefe & Merritt Stove Restoration – Intro

If I don’t respond to your comments here, please visit the ‘Vintage Stoves’ group on Facebook. I check that frequently.

I’m trying to document nearly everything I saw, did, bought, etc., during this restoration process. So it may take some time before this publication is complete. Why document it? I figure there have to be a few folks out there without thousands of dollars to buy a fully restored vintage stove, don’t mind getting their hands dirty and wouldn’t mind a few hints. The more I learn about them the more I get into them. These are awesome appliances.

I also have to document this so it’s possible to keep track of what I’ve gone through when I need to recall something important… well when I need to recall anything. ๐Ÿ™‚

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On Nov 2, 2013, I purchased an O’Keefe & Merritt gas stove (model # 500-2V) from a neighbor. After a kitchen remodel, there was not enough room for a 40″ stove, but she wanted to find a good home for it because she’d grown very fond of the stove. It’s my very first gas stove, an appliance I’d been anxious to acquire for several decades. It was also my first vintage appliance. Thus began an unanticipated yet tremendous educational adventure for me; my first do-it-yourself antique stove restoration. Hats off to Parkie O’Keefe and Robert J. Merritt (designer) for making awesome ranges.

My model 500-2V OKM is 39″-40″ wide with a “Low Back” (no vanishing shelf). I estimate its birthย  to be early 1950s, March 1953 according to its clock date. It was hard to miss its distinctive 37 degreeย  tilt-out control panel with the claim to provide ergonomic stand-up access to all controls. Not all OKMs have that characteristic, but it seems most do.

Weeks into this restoration process on my O’Keefe and Merritt vintage stove, I decided to name her Lucy.

Lucy looked fine on the outside. A few enamel nicks and corroded chrome in spots, but otherwise good for a often used home appliance over 60 years old. I loved her style, her lines. She was so welcoming and comforting, so wonderfully, blessedly non-stainless steel.

The backguard had two time pieces (a clock and a timer) that flanked two electric plugs and a stove-wide light. The backguard also had little chrome backguard trim panel that looked like a silver tab. I decided to call this a ‘tiara’.

Lucy had four cooktop burners, and side-by-side oven/broiler units; two simmer grates, two cracked spade grates, a slotted broiler top and an oven rack. A very basic model; clean and simple.

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Lucy had a “Grillevator” broiler on the left, oven on the right. And directions and cooking tips – right on the doors! So vintage. It seems that starting in the 1940s manufacturers were heavily promoting baking temperature accuracy as a selling point.

O’Keefe & Merritt Features

OKMsalesPitch

O’Keefe & Merritt antique stoves are classics and still one of the best quality ranges ever made in the USA. Due to their quality O&M value appreciates with time. Try finding any humble appliance today that’s designed to last for generations. Today’s manufacturers have forgotten how to make durable products.

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Award-winning stove brand
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Traditionally restored O’Keefe & Merritt model 500-2V

 

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My restoration took a slightly different direction with touches of red and installing a windowed oven door.

A vintage stove could decrease the environmental impact of your purchase by 300% to 600%. Restored vintage stoves use a small percentage of the resources needed to manufacture a new one. Additionally, it’s obvious these stoves were built to last generations. They were built to be repaired, not replaced. These babies will easily last another 50-75 years, if tended to once in a while.

Today, an average new gas stove is about $1000 not counting extended warranties.ย  It’ll be tiny, with no built-in griddle, clock, light, timer, no ability to bake up to 600 degrees. And it will have an average life of 5-7 years, if you’re lucky.ย  So that’s about $200/year.

A restored vintage stove will, on average, be about the same price, have all those extras, bake up to 600 degrees, come with a proven track record and can last about ten times longer.

Supplies, Tools, Purchased Parts

Supplies I’ve used

  • acetone
  • aluminum solder & flux brazing kit
  • aluminum tubing
  • Blue Magic QuikSteel Extreme metal repair
  • brass and zinc washers
  • brake grease (high temp lube)
  • gas line thread seal tape (yellow)
  • gaskets sheets
  • Goof Off
  • high temp epoxy adhesive
  • high temp or oven insulation
  • high temp spray paint
  • household degreasers (various brands)
  • Hyheet graphite grease for gas valves
  • JB Weld epoxy
  • Liquid Wrench Penetrating Oil
  • metal polish
  • Oately Great White pipe joint compound
  • paper towels
  • PB Blaster
  • phosphoric and muriatic acids
  • pipe cleaners
  • Q-tips
  • Rectorseal pipe thread sealant
  • Scotch Brite heavy duty sponges
  • steel wool
  • valve grease
  • wet/dry sandpaper
  • wood toothpicks

Tools I’ve used

  • brazing torch
  • buckets
  • cat food tins (emptied, cleaned)
  • center punches
  • Dremel with abrasive buffs, grinder bits, polishing wheel, wire wheels
  • hammers
  • high power steamer
  • mandrels
  • medium and large blade screwdrivers
  • needle nose, round nose pliers
  • putty knife
  • shop wet-dry vac
  • small steel and brass brushes
  • standard drill
  • steel machine screws
  • vice-grip pliers
  • wrenches

Purchased Parts

  • Front control knob with attached chrome bezel
  • 2 piece Grillevator broiler pan
  • 2 spade (arrow) burner grates
  • 1 gas burner valve
  • 1 set gas burner valve parts
  • 1 oven/broiler valve
  • 4 burner head high temp gaskets
  • Robertshaw oven/broiler standing pilot
  • model “Universal 9B pilot uni-kit”, brand news ones can be purchased at pexsupply.com for a little under $40 (Jan 2014)
  • Robertshaw (BJWAZ) 4500-006 oven thermostat
  • Porcelain wire nuts
  • insulated high temperature single stranded wire

Recommended Websites for Information

Recommended websites for parts and such

63 thoughts on “My O’Keefe & Merritt Stove Restoration – Intro”

  1. First of all, thank you very much for the information on this site.

    I bought a 1950 O’Keefe & Merritt stove in 1982 and have had it ever since. It is reliable and simple. I like that. I really like its appearance.

    The information on this site I found very helpful because I am in the process of cleaning the stove up. There is a plethora of information on your site.

    I am at the point where I am deciding whether to do it myself or to call a repairman. I thought I was all thumbs till I replaced the faucets on a bath and shower and it worked and still does. I may just continue to enjoy this adventure and do it myself.

    It is good to know that there is information on how to restore these great old stoves. From what I have heard from friends, new stoves are a real headache because they frequently require repairs, parts, and may even have to be replaced after a few years.

    I just wanted to let you know how much I appreciate all the time and effort you put into this website.

    Namaste,

    Don

    P.S. I hope that the section above “website” meant what website I am on currently. I personally do not have a website.

    1. Thank you, Don. I’m overjoyed you are finding something useful with the information here. When I started working on my stove, while educating and fun, it was also a little frustrating because there were only scattered, unrelated tidbits online for the DIYer about these stoves. There were also “experts” who were quite happy to charge enormous fees for their services. I decided to discover as much as I could and pay it forward so others might be inspired to repair/restore their own wonderful stoves. Like you said, they’re reliable and simple, rare qualities in appliances today. With a little TLC

      You just made me realize, since I’ve rented for more than 30 years, I’ve never bought a stove until my O’Keefe & Merritt. Seems like it was a good decision compared to buying a new stove. ๐Ÿ™‚

  2. Thank you so much for introducing your blog to me. I can’t believe all the work you have gone to in order to pass on this priceless info to vintage stove owners. I am in the process of restoring a 21″ O & M apartment stove. I was raised with a 1940’s Chambers that is still in the family. This is my first O & M. My daughter recently acquired a 36″ one. Vintage stoves are the only way to go!

    1. Welcome, Pam! Delighted to make your acquaintance. I’m so glad to hear you’re restoring an apartment size OKM. They’re a compact block of awesomeness. I’ve only seen photos of that size. And you have Chambers experience, too. I’ve yet to see one in person. They seem fairly rare on the west coast, but sound incredible because of their quality. You’re right, vintage is the only way to go. Nothing built today, even those high end models, don’t have the quality, performance and durability of vintage stoves.

  3. Desiree –
    So excited to have found your site/your work! AMAZING! I’m in process of trying to bring a 1950’s O&M back to life that I got a couple years ago. Has been sitting in the garage… looking so sad. Thank you for doing such a great job documenting and uploading pictures. This will be my first go to reference site as I dive in! Dana

    1. Dana, I’m thrilled to hear you’re restoring an OKM. They’re really not that hard and not too expensive, unless you want to restore everything to pristine condition. But getting one to simply help you do great cooking and baking is something even I learned, without much help.

      I can’t wait to hear about your stove and restoration process if and when you get going. Good luck!

  4. Thank you so much for your website. I was very pleased to find it and I have already begun cleaning and disassembling my stove based on your wonderful advice and instructions.
    I found and OKM in a salvage yard and bought it a few weeks ago. I have always wanted one. It’s in pretty good shape, some rust under the cooktop and in the drawers, the grill is corroded, and a few of the screws holding the control panel on are so rusted that I have not yet been able to get it off. But the control knobs are all intact, the exterior has only a few dings, and I am loving working on it. I would not have had the confidence to start without your blog. It’s great to join this community.

    1. Welcome, Sarah! So glad to meet another OKM fan and restorer. They’re such awesome appliances. Hard to find quality these days. It’s a shame these things get tossed when, with a little TLC once in a while, they can last another 50-70 years.

      I’ll be happy to help you as much as possible.

  5. I am putting my OK&M in the old house we’re fixing up and after being in the barn for six years it’s pretty sad looking. I loved how it worked before, but now I’m following your blog to learn how to fix the rusty, corroded parts, and hope it works again!

    1. Mary, that’s wonderful news! Don’t be afraid to ask me any questions. A lot of the information I have captured isn’t yet posted, yet. These stoves are amazingly resilient. I’m sure you’ll be able to get yours working again.

  6. Hello Desiree, what a find! I couldn’t find as much info on O&M stove till I found your blog. I agree with all the other reviewers how helpful your venture has been for the rest of us.
    I will be purchasing one this week and will use your blog to see if I can manage as you did.
    Any advice as to converting to propane use??? Or is there a way to check to see if the unit I’m getting is set for propane?
    Best Regards
    DeeTee

    1. Hello DeeTee. I’m very happy to hear you’re getting an O’Keefe & Merritt. They’re so wonderful. I’m happy to answer any question I can. WRT to propane, there are basically two options. Since propane is a more potent gas and than natural gas, the flow of gas through your stove’s system needs to be more tightly controlled. You can purchase a ‘switch’ that is called a natural gas (NG) propane conversion regulator kit. I would recommend contacting folks like the ones here: http://www.antiquegasstoves.com/pages/parts/newoldstock.html to see what they recommend, if you decide to go that route. Then, unless you’re comfortable and experienced in plumbing, have an experienced plumber install it. http://www.premierrange.com/faq-rangeconversion.php

      The other option is to manually reduce the amount of gas that flows out at each gas burner. That’s more complicated.

      1. Thanks for the recommendations…If I choose to go with that regulator, does that eliminate adjusting each burner orifice or any other adjustments for propane?
        Does that regulator attach to the incoming gas line to the stove?
        Is this specific to a certain model OKM, or universal?

  7. Hi there,
    So glad to find your website as I have just started a restoration project of my own, a 6 burner double oven Wedgewood with glass oven doors and porcelain top. Appears to be in seldom used condition but let’s see what I find. Only one oven is a clock oven with oven ready lights. I know I can get a bj s thermostat if I need it but I am concerned about the clock timer valve. What experience do you have with the solenoid valve for the clock?
    Just discovered your site and will poke around a bit. Thanks for posting all of your great discoveries!

  8. I had a OKM for years the door broke I was unable to fine the part so I tide it with a belt and hook it to the door and keep on cooking. Now I need a stove and would love to have another OKM but can’t afford on new. Do anyone no were their is a use one? Please let me no. Barbara.

    1. Hey Barbara. I would check your local craigslist for used OKMs. If you’re in California, the chances are excellent that you will find a variety to choose from. Sometimes you can even find one for free!

  9. I have been cooking with my okm for years now. It came with the house I bought in 1996. I have always loved the look of it. But it has never been a good baker. My cakes cookies and bread don’t raise up like they should. Anyone else with this problem and any advice?

    1. Just curious, when you state “don’t raise up like they should” what are you comparing it to? Have you calibrated your oven’s temperature to make sure it performing to spec? There are only two practical things to check regarding an oven, the thermostat and the insulation. If neither have been assessed or replaced before, it’s probable one or both are failing. For an appliance that’s 60 to 70 years old, it’s to be expected. Unfortunately, if either of these need replacement, the cost isn’t low. And it takes someone skilled in vintage stove maintenance.

      But before getting into any of that, employing a reliable separate oven thermometer to test your oven’s temperature would be an excellent start.

  10. Just bought OKM apartment size 20. I just discoverd your site and am so grateful….so much helpful information, thank you.
    i am anxious to begin cooking…but will take my time, clean her up and make sure all is working well before bringing her into the kitchen.

    1. Yay! Congratulations on being a OKM owner! Patience is the key when doing restoration. That and a little luck. ๐Ÿ™‚ I also recommend checking out the Vintage Stoves Facebook group. Lots of very helpful folks there where you can share your interest and get good advice.

  11. Hello there,I am new to this site.I ,like you rebuilt my 1950 O&M on my own.Gaining knowledge from tidbits online.It has worked beautifully untill now.I found the prob to be a gas leak coming out from the nut that attaches the pilot to the gas line.I have removed the pilot Nd placed it back sveral times but to no avail.I have used J&B weld on the furrel and it is leaking less but still leaking.Any ideas? I could use some advise right no.

    Thank you,
    Maureen (frustrated in San Diego)

    1. Hello Maureen. I’m honored you’re “here”. There aren’t too many of us DIY OKM restorers around. ๐Ÿ™‚

      If I understand what you’re describing, try using pipe thread sealant. It’s possible the old sealant disintegrated enough to cause problems. Rectorseal makes one for metal pipes carrying natural gas. Comes in a yellow tube.

    1. Well, I’m not an expert, but because you’re dealing with a vintage collectors item, the price can vary greatly. It will depend on how abundant or rare the stove is where it’s located, what works, how it looks. However, if the stove looks nearly brand new without restoration costs, you’ll stand a good chance of making some coin! I would expect to pay one to two thousand for what you call out of box condition.

  12. Thanks for your tips. Real inspiring.

    Maybe someone has an idea. Last week I was broiling one slice of bacon too many (three slices instead of two) and the drippings ignited. It took a minute to notice and another minute to smother. Now, the oven burner still lights but does not come to full flame. Am I looking at damage? where? soot?

    1. I’m not entirely clear on what your specific problem is. However, taking a wild guess, it likely the grease residue is clogging the burner’s gas openings. Try poking through the burner openings with a toothpick.

  13. Many thanks to you for this informative article. I was able to get our O’keefe and Merritt oven going by replacing the pilot assembly. Without your nice photos I think it would have taken me three times as long to finish the job.

  14. I can’t thank you enough for your great website. The links, pictures, your stories…are a wealth of information. We have a 1950’s OKM that we’ve had for 13 years and our oven recently died (somewhat; it lights, but the burner stops quickly), so I’ve been searching the web and found your site. You’ve provided us mere mortals with a wealth of information to help guide us which direction to go on problem solving so many things with our OKM.
    Great Job and many thanks!

    1. You’ve made my week! Helping OKM owners keep and be happy with their OKMs is one of my greatest joys. Please don’t hesitate to ask anything about your stove. I’ll be happy to help you solve your puzzles; answer your questions. We’ll both learn more about them. ๐Ÿ˜‰

  15. I just bought a wedge wood the pilot lights stay on but only a small flame comes from the burners I think Mabey my gas line is to thin and doesn’t release enough gas to the stove could this be the problem? The holes on the burners are clear thanks deseree

    1. Hey Joe. If the entire stove is suffering from small flames, it could be low pressure. It would be wise to have your gas company visit to check the pressure. If the pressure is where it should be, you need to check the paths where the gas flows, from the main line to the manifold to each gas burner. If the stove sat idle for a long time, it’s possible there litter critter debris (spider webs and whatever sticks to them, chunks of rust, etc.

      Another possibility is the stove was configured to run LP (liquid propane). That is more potent than NG, so the settings could have been cranked down to release less gas fuel and air. You might need to readjust everything for NG.

      I’d start with your gas company. Just let them know you’ve had a new gas stove installed and want a safety check.

  16. I’ve been thinking about checking/replacing the insulation on my OKM, and was surprised that with all of your write ups that you didn’t go into insulation replacement. Pretty sure that you covered everything else with great detail.

    Oh well, I suppose I’ll have to blindly tackle this by myself at some point.

    But seriously… thank you for all the work you’ve done. This blog is tremendous.

    1. 7/16ths diameter parts don’t appear to be common any longer. I would highly recommend online plumbing supply sites. Another source, surprisingly, are RV and travel trailer repair shops.

  17. This is a great resource for a great piece if Americana. My great grand father was Parky O’keefe, and I did know him. ๐Ÿ˜Š The ovens in the house I grew up in were OKM, but not the great old ones. I will own one, someday, like many of your readers. I had never seen his name in an article before, so that was thrilling. Yes, they designed a product that is loved by many, and I see it continuing for long into the future. Thanks for your love and dedication

    1. Virtual bowing to you several times! I feel so unworthy in the presence of O’Keefe family greatness! ๐Ÿ™‚ Wow! And thank you. I just love these stoves and learning about them, their history and the people behind them. It explains why I have personally collected about 20 OKMs as a hobby. About half of them had some salvageable parts but the frames and enamel surfaces were too far gone. The other half are sitting in my garage awaiting restoration. I’m a low budget restorer, trying to help DIYers restore their stoves cost effectively.

      I’d pleased and proud to give you one for free. Just ask! But note, any of the ones I give you will need some measure of restoring. ๐Ÿ˜‰ One day, I hope we get the chance to meet in person. I’d love to hear about you and your family. Maybe we can add a couple/few blog pages of your O’Keefe memoirs of your great grandfather, etc. Knowing about the founders can really help people appreciate their stoves a bit more.

      1. Hi. I have an O keefe and merrit down view I am fixing up, I messed up and broke the right side pilot fixture trying to get it out.I really need it, but cannot find one…. I also need the pilot fixture for the Grillivator. Is there Any chance you might have these please!!!!

  18. I love you!! This was so helpful especially to see what tools and parts you used. Thank you so much. I shall use this in my journey to repair my stove and I will video tape along the way so that I may also help others. You are a hobbyist, do it yourselfers dream come true. I now look even more forward to the project.

  19. Hi Desiree,
    WOW what a pleasure to run across your blog. My husband and I purchased a 1952 OKM Model #600 this summer and had it restored. We are doing a complete kitchen remodel and everything we are doing is designed around our new stove. The stove has always been a “bucket list” item for me. We were lucky enough to purchase two stoves and have since restored both but I will be using only one. My question; I would really like to find an owners manual for my stove and finding information has been a challenge to say the least. I would love to send you a picture of our beauty. Thank you in advance.
    Karyn

  20. Good Day Desiree, have a 50’s Ok/M that was converted to operate on LPG. We are back in the city so it’s back to NG. This will be a project since we do not have NG at the Kitchen. Need to find out the BTU rating of the 36″ wide , 4 burner,oven , boiler. Their is a name plate on the door panel but it was painted over. What I can make out is stamped , 20000 is visible and 12000 is on the plate twice. Onto to the conversion. I was able to remove the cap from the Harper-Wyman regulator, so I can see by reversing the cap a less pressure adjustment will happen. No need to change out the regulator? We are crock-pot, micro-wave cooking so you help will be much appreciated.

    1. Hello Leo. Welcome. If I understand what you’re asking, if your stove was converted to LP using a NG/LP regulator, all you have to do is toggle the converter back. That should be it! You might have to do some minor tweaking to get all the burner flames just right. Since your stove was moved, connections can sometimes loosen or crack. Be sure to have it checked for leaks by a certified tech.

      Oh, don’t worry about the BTU rating. Just adjust accordingly by following the flame profile for NG. Don’t hesitate to ask more questions once you get everything hooked up.

  21. Hi I feel like a real fool. I decided to clean our O’keeffe & Merritt stove after reading all the suggestions. I took pics and we started remodeling my childhood home. With delays and other life events happening the stove is clean but not all back together and my pics are gone. It has been several months since I started this and don’t recall as well as I had hoped. Can anyone help send pics or suggestions. Anything is appreciated. The stove worked before and now that our home is ready I really want to finish and use it again.

    1. About half the photos needed are within my blog. I’ll be happy to help you beyond those. For the best, it would be good for you to subscribe to the “Vintage Stoves” Facebook group. There you can easily upload photos and ask questions.

  22. Thanks for this invaluable information. I have a very rare 1945 O’keefe and Merritt in the old house my mother bought so I could have a place to stay to build my business and I couldn’t afford buying an expensive reprint manual. Gas stoves are new to me and the information in that guide was very helpful to understand why only one burner is turning on, and what to expect. I also was able to find out this company insulated their stoves which was a relief. Again thank you so much. With my Midcentury modern bar, 1920’s coffee table, 1940 loveseat and 1930 adobe house i can now live my secret subconscious evil dream of being a 1950s housewife.

    1. You’re so welcome. I glad my stove blog is helpful to you in some way. Nothing evil about that dream! We all have fantasies where we separate the good from the not so good so well can dwell on the good.

  23. This is SO SO AWESOME!! I have to tell you I just started my restoration and I have been pouring over this. You’re brilliant and amazing and just imagine all of the stoves you will inspire around the country and maybe beyond!

  24. I feel so empowered now. After reading what you have done. I too can do this. I have recently acquired 3 OKM’s. The one I want to restore myself is a 38″ double oven with the vanishing shelf. I feel confident after reading all your information. Your pictures speak a thousand words! Do you think that I should just replace the 2 thermostats for the ovens? They look so corroded and awful. I found some that are identical to the ones on my stove on Ebay. They are more reasonably priced than the ones on the vintage stove sites.

    1. Fist bump! ๐Ÿ™‚ Yes, you can do this. One of the nice things about these stoves is, as far as repair, they’re not that complicated. Three OKMs is amazing! Are you starting a collection? ๐Ÿ˜€ If you have any questions along the way, don’t hesitate to ask. I would highly recommend joining the “Vintage Stoves” Facebook group. Lots of folks there are looking for, selling and restoring various vintage stoves.

      You should get an accurate independent thermometer and test your ovens. Oven controls for vintage stoves are usually several hundred a piece. Don’t let the corrosion bother you. Just make sure they’re accurate. If you decide to replace your oven controls, you need to make sure you replace them with the right model; either a refurbished model identical to what’s in your stove, or replace them with the proper updated models. There are dozens of Robertshaw oven controls for various systems.

  25. Thanks for your site. I just inherited the family stove and am moving it to my house. I’ve been following your instructions about some basic cleaning. I will soon try to disconnect my stove and connect the OKM. It see that your brass gas connection is similar to mine -directly next to the left burner. Did you continue with more brass fittings to a flexible gas pipe in the back? I am worried about that fitting.

    1. You’re right to be concerned. That fitting needs to be perfect. I suggest you consider either of these options. One, have a plumber do the actual connection between your rigid gas line and the stove’s manifold. Two, if you have access to a really good hardware store, with competent staff (a very rare thing these days), take lots of photos and measurements and if you can remove it, take the connector off the manifold and take that to the hardware store. Tell them you need to connect the stove to the flexible hose, using that part. The store needs to have gas (not water) connectors.

      For peace of mind, I would highly recommend having a plumber do that connection. It can be maddening to DIY that part of the installation. I think I made 4-5 trips, once, trying to connect a stove for testing.

  26. Hi Desiree! I have been searching the net for about a week now about vintage stoves! I am intent on getting one. I have only really only had an electric stove in my house for the past 8 years. So when I started looking at vintage stoves, I was really only focused on the electrics. However I found a 1950s Roper (gas) stove nearby that has really spoken to me. Its the kind with the griddle in the center. Anyway, these vintage appliances worry me a little in terms of safety to begin with, that is until they are thoroughly examined, but the gas ones really worry me. I guess I am also a little concerned about pilot lights and about any residual heat from a pilot as well. I am going to look at an electric model this week as well as the Roper. The owner of the Roper of course says the electrical parts seem to work fine, but can’t speak to the gas. Is there anything I can do to get a feel for how functional or safe this stove might be? Thanks sooo much!

    1. Hey Jeff.

      The quickest answer I can give you is to join the Vintage Stoves Facebook group. I and many other vintage stove fans help each other when it comes to buying, restoring, repairing, sharing.

      I hope to see you there.

      Desiree

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