Fix it, polish it, keep it for years Restoration: A broken appliance or houseware isn't necessarily trash. You might be able to replace a part instead of the whole thing.

July 28, 1996|By Tina Danze | Tina Danze,UNIVERSAL PRESS SYNDICATE

The hinge on the silver coffeepot's been broken for years, and the belly's black with tarnish. The beloved old Mixmaster's useless without beaters. And what good is a great chef's knife so dull it won't cut Jell-O?

Candidates for a garage sale, one and all?

Not unless you want someone else to reap the benefits of your ignorance.

We've all got trouble spots like these in our kitchens, china cabinets and silver chests. But with a little TLC and phone shopping, you can enjoy years more service from kitchenwares for a fraction of the cost of new, and restore serving pieces and dinnerware to past glory.

Kitchen appliances can last for decades -- it's the little parts that don't always make the long haul, or just disappear. Fortunately, replacement parts are easy to come by, even for some discontinued models.

The most comprehensive source is Culinary Parts Unlimited, a ++ California company that specializes in quick shipment of parts for more than 35 lines of small appliances. Chances are, it will have your coffee carafe, work bowl or blender lid.

The company has carved a big niche in the Cuisinart market, amassing a huge inventory of parts for all models, including the original Cuisinart (Robot Coupe), which is 20 years old.

"Cuisinart motors can go anywhere from 20 to 30 years," says manager Wendy Gerhards. "That makes it easy to justify a $30 or $45 purchase of a work bowl, vs. $250 for a new machine." The steel blades can keep their edge for five to seven years; they're $30 to $35 to replace.

But there's more to Culinary Parts than Cuisinart.Got a broken Mr. Coffee carafe? A new 10-cup model costs between $12.99 and $14.99. Crack the reamer on your Braun juicer? Replacement is $5.

Culinary Parts Unlimited accepts phone orders and usually ships within 24 hours. Call (800) 543-7549.

European Bazaar Inc. is another source: (800) 243-8540

If your outdoor grill needs a part, you can find replacements through Grill Parts Distributors, (800) 447-4557

Cast-iron revival

No rust-encrusted skillet or pot is a lost cause, says housewares retailer Natalie Goring. She recommends scrubbing off the rust with steel wool, washing and drying the skillet thoroughly, then "seasoning" it, because steel wool can strip a skillet of its seasoning.

To season, grease the cooking surface with about a tablespoon of vegetable shortening and place it in a 300-degree oven one hour.

"If it's super-rusted, you may have to repeat the seasoning step several times," she says. New cast-iron skillets also need repeated seasoning. "If it's not seasoned well, it will rust," she adds. So will skillets that aren't thoroughly dried. To ensure thorough drying, place the skillet in a low oven for 15 to 20 minutes.

Goring recommends against using detergents to clean a skillet -- they strip the seasoning. She cleans a skillet by scrubbing it with a vegetable brush and "washing" it with boiling water. Then she dries the skillet thoroughly and seasons it to prevent rusting.

Saving the silver

If your silver-plated heirlooms have lost their luster, it may be time to replate them.

With proper care, a replated item could last another 30 years.

Silver-plated items will last longer if you hand-wash only. Dishwashing takes the patina out.

When not using silver and silver-plated items, store them in pacific cloth, which prevents tarnishing. It's widely available at fabric stores for about $15.99 a yard -- an investment that will save hours of polishing down the road.

Don't try to take shortcuts to a shine with quick-strip products, such as liquid tarnish removers that require only a quick dip in the solution to remove the tarnish.

Instead, use silver creams and foams that you wipe on and wipe off, such as Hagerty Silver Foam, Wright's Silver cream and 3M Tarnish Shield.

Or you can turn it over to a silver restoration company. But if the silver is worn off and the copper or pewter base metal shows through, it's time to replate.

Copper cookware

Long treasured by chefs, copper pots rank among the finest cookware. But with use, the tin lining wears off and the copper begins to show through. That's when retinning is a must, since the bare copper is unsafe for cooking.

To get the most life out of the tin lining, avoid overheating copper pans.

After washing copper cookware, wipe it with vegetable spray, inside and out, to keep moisture out of the tin lining, and prevent the copper from tarnishing. And using an abrasive cleaner or steel wool can "wipe off" the lining.

But ultimately, every lining wears off in spots, and retinning is necessary -- about every four years. Retinning costs about $50 to $75 a pot, depending on its size.

Cutting edges

A dull knife can drive a cook mad. But there's no need to suffer, even if you don't own a good knife sharpener. For as little as $1 a knife or 30 cents an inch, a sharpener service will put a new edge on your knives -- and even reshape a damaged tip.

These maintenance tips come from knife sharpeners:

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