Old glass top canning jar wire bail
November 23, 2022 3:44 PM   Subscribe

We recently bought an old farmhouse and in the basement are a bunch of old style glass lid canning jars. I'd love to reuse them but the wire bail assemblies that keep the lid secured are very rusted and corroded (to the point of falling apart) so they're not reusable.

Ideally, I'm looking for replacements for the wire assembly. I'm a pretty competent googler and have turned up one possible source - I've got an email in to them to see if they really exist / are for sale. Some turn up on ebay / etsy but for a pretty expensive price given the simplicity of the item. I'm hoping maybe someone has a source or better googling skills / keywords than I've found. Other ideas welcome!
posted by macfly to Shopping (5 answers total)
The wire bail parts may be hard to find since that type of jar is no longer recommended for home canning.
posted by Lycaste at 4:01 PM on November 23

Wire jar lid assemblies are still in common use in the UK, they are known as Kilner jars, that might help your search.
posted by Ardnamurchan at 5:41 PM on November 23 [2 favorites]

I’d say your googling skills are elite — I’m shocked you’ve found even a potential source from which to buy the harnesses.

I have more than a hundred of these jars of various sizes that I use for many things, mainly storage of non food items, and if you plan to use yours for canning you will probably need one more thing in addition to the harnesses: they were designed to be used with a thin, typically red rubber gasket between the edge of the glass lid and the body of the jar just outside the rim of the jar.

I write 'probably' because it’s possible to generate a water tight ground glass seal between jar and lid simply by holding the jar in one hand and the lid in the other and grinding them against each other for ~15 minutes. I’ve done this a couple of dozen times at least. I didn’t use abrasives on most of them, but I happen to have a bottle of finely ground dental pumice which cut the time in half the few times I did use it. I would also recommend putting a collar of 12 gauge copper wire around the rim of the jar to keep from abrading the rim of the jar while grinding, and also to center the lid as you grind.

I did actually use a few of the ground jars to make marmalade, and they sealed perfectly — which didn’t surprise me all that much, because some of the very oldest canning jars I’ve seen were designed around ground glass seals and didn’t use rubber at all. But I wouldn’t use a glass to glass seal on anything I was going to offer to anyone else to eat.

If none of your harness sources prove out, it is possible to bend your own by hand (and a pair of pliers with rounded jaws, such as my Knipex circlip extractors) out of 10 gauge nichrome heater wire, which I happened to have left over from a project. I also tried bicycle spokes, but the spokes which were barely thick enough were almost too stiff to bend, and the finished product was way too springy.
posted by jamjam at 8:45 PM on November 23 [4 favorites]

The deal with pasteurization is that you want to heat the contents of your assembly until steam pours out the gap between lid and jar. Depending on how much gloop is dissolved in the water, the interior temp will be over 100°C = 212°F _and_ there will be no residual air: so sterile. If you can then achieve an airtight seal between the jar and lid, the steam will condense inside back to water creating [sterile because of the +boiling temp] a partial vacuum inside. If you can maintain the seal until the gloop is cooled then atmospheric pressure will keep the lid down and the contents uncontaminated. The wire-works act as a) a temporary measure to hold lid and jar together b) a back up if the atmospheric seal fails later. The rubber gasket is also an idiot-proof way of ensuring a seal against the imperfections on the surfaces of lid and jar-top. If you can work out a system to keep lid and jar together with or without gasket for an hour while they cool, then your contents is good for a year.

I am in awe of jamjam's creation of the [gold-standard] ground-glass joint between two glass surfaces but these joints are / were standard in scientific labs for chemicals that needed to be kept dry and water-free: no rubber-gaskets need apply!

Come back to Ask next summer with your "can I eat this?"
posted by BobTheScientist at 11:18 AM on November 24

Response by poster: Sorry for not clarifying - no intention to can with these, just use them as general storage / decoration.

JamJam - how challenging was the DIY version? I've pondered that as an option but would have to purchase the wire (thank you for good info on wire that works) so I've been reluctant to dive in too deep before having some understanding of if it's really possible.
posted by macfly at 11:44 AM on November 25

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