Anatomy of a vintage appliance. Help me figure this out and start cooking!
November 9, 2007 10:49 AM   Subscribe

The vintage oven/range in my new apartment is so obviously awesome. And my landlord says it works. But how?

I have taken several pictures of the oven/range...and have many questions.

First off, what do I call this thing? Is it an oven? Is it a range? An orange? A roven? After we've figured that out, I have some individual questions pertaining to the parts seen below:

Picture of the entire thing can be seen here.
—How does this vent?

Picture of the entire thing, with parts labeled (I think) correctly, can be seen here.

Here is a picture of the mystery dial.
—There is one on each side of the orange roven. Little old school light switch style knobs at the bottom seem to turn, but effect nothing. Very curious.

Here is a picture of the mystery handle.
—Turning the handle makes a light clunking sound.

Here is a picture of the mystery box.
—The dial above this thing makes me question if this is indeed the broiler. I don't know. Somebody clear this up for me please.

Picture of "The Well".
—Neat-o. Now what? What can I make with this? How would I get something hot out of there?

And one of the inside of the broiler.
—This is strange indeed. Lid doesn't stay up (must have hand on handle). Can't figure out where to put the food! Do I cook on top (like bacon or pancakes) or put food inside drain tray (like salmon or steak)? Top doesn't seem right (drippings would run down the side), but inside doesn't seem right either (food would get crushed by metal thing above broiler pan).

And lastly, one of the oven.
—How do I clean this? Can't seem to lift bottom plate—what about drippings and stuff that falls beneath it?

Wow. That's a lot of confusion! If I can get one or two of these things dialed I'll be happy. I love to cook and would like to make the most of this sexy beast.

All other tips, suggestions or recipes related to this are most welcome!
posted by iamkimiam to Home & Garden (17 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Sweet! A Chambers range!! There are lots of fan sites.
Here are scans of the owner's manuals.

I'm jealous.
posted by Floydd at 10:55 AM on November 9, 2007 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Wow! Those sites are great. Lots of helpful pictures, but unfortunately the owners manuals must be purchased (~$45). I'll see if my landlord will spring for that...but its doubtful.

Looking at the pictures I've found that rangetop broiler (griddle looking thing on left) can be propped up on its own, but I still can figure out how to turn it on (especially since the heating element lifts with the griddle-top and that seems like a wickedly dangerous way to cook—like placing your hand into a hot alligator's mouth). Animated gif on this page for an example of what I mean.

But oh how I can't wait to make bacon!
posted by iamkimiam at 11:30 AM on November 9, 2007

The Wikipedia suggests that the “well” requires a special cooking pot.
posted by breaks the guidelines? at 11:35 AM on November 9, 2007

Maybe try contacting someone else with one to get some basic instructions? Here is one on Flickr. And another.
posted by sulaine at 11:38 AM on November 9, 2007

Best answer: Chambers Group on Flickr!
posted by sulaine at 11:40 AM on November 9, 2007

Response by poster: Holy Crap! What did we ever DO before teh internet!?!?!
posted by iamkimiam at 11:42 AM on November 9, 2007 [1 favorite]

That looks very similar to the oven that Rachael Ray uses on her 30 Minute Meals show; it may even be the same model. You can probably find a clip online that shows her lighting and using the broiler. She uses it all the time and I always think she's going to burn herself when she puts something in there. It's definitely exciting to see it going.
posted by whitelight at 12:13 PM on November 9, 2007

This Chambers Manual is $20 on eBay (same as in town), where you can also find replacement Thermowell pots.
posted by mumkin at 12:15 PM on November 9, 2007

Best answer: Here's the manual mumkin links only free and in in .pdf format. (from my last link above.)
posted by Floydd at 12:27 PM on November 9, 2007

I looked at your photos and I have one unrelated question...Where did you get that "Words on a shirt" shirt?
posted by routergirl at 12:43 PM on November 9, 2007

Response by poster: routergirl: t-shirt hell, for "Words on a shirt"

Floydd: That link is great! Lots of swell recipes too...glorified weiners, breakfast mush, toasted marmalade sandwiches, and the "absentee" dinner — Super!
posted by iamkimiam at 1:04 PM on November 9, 2007

Best answer: I don't know if you've gotten answers to everything yet, but I grew up with one of these and I think I can answer most of your questions.

The "mystery handle" raises and lowers the level of the broiler pan (inside). So this would be how you adjust the clearance, so that when you put the broiler down, you don't crush the food inside.

You light the broiler with a match. Remember, this stove dates probably from the 1940's.

I suppose one could in theory make pancakes on the top, but I doubt if it would be worth the mess and the experimentation.

"Mystery box" has no function except pan storage, as far as I can remember.

The "Well," which is essentially a slow cooker, requires its own insert container. We had one which was cylindrical (of course) and divided into two halves, so you could slow-cook two things at once separately.

I don't know of any good way to clean what falls down below the bottom plate of the oven.

I have a strong feeling that the mystery items, one to a side, that you called the "mystery dial," are indeed light fixtures. Stick a bulb in one and try it.

These stoves are indestructible and great. You're lucky to have one. Happy cooking!
posted by lowrypei at 8:31 AM on November 10, 2007

i used to use one of these, i loved it. And yes the well does need a special pot. Have fun with your cool vintage stove
posted by Black_Umbrella at 11:39 AM on November 10, 2007

Best answer: Don't ever forget that you do have to light it, and don't keep the matches on the stove; it's a fire hazard.
I used to give the kids when they got their first kitchen a gigantic canister full of baking soda, which makes a great fire extinguisher in a pinch, and you can wash it off the food if you have to. (You can't use water on a grease fire.)
posted by unrepentanthippie at 11:54 AM on November 10, 2007

By curious coincidence, I've just come across a Mac icon set that contains your stove. Download it here. Most of them are over-saturated and dropshadowed to hell, but the Chambers stove icon is rather nice. Why one might want an icon representing one's stove is left as an exercise to the reader.
posted by mumkin at 12:24 PM on November 10, 2007

Response by poster: Yes, I think I've just about figured out everything, thanks to you all!

Last night I baked a pumpkin pie whilst broiling bacon, sauteeing spinach, and heating tortillas. All at the same time! Wonders never cease. Everything came out scrumptious.

The PDF manual was invaluable, especially where gasless vs. temperature controlled cooking is concerned. And because of y'all, I now know that the mystery dial does indeed raise/lower the broiler pan. The mystery knobs are indeed light fixtures. And the mystery box is pan storage or warming plate.

The last thing I am trying to figure out is whether or not the pilot light inside the well is supposed to stay on 100% of the time. The lever for this is a little stuck and so I'm not sure if I actually have this thing set on low heat or just pilot-lit. Blowing it out just makes the kitchen reek of gas (and I can't tell if that is a result of the lever being stuck, or it wanting to be lit 100% of the time. The manual says you can use the thermowell as a freezer (wtf?), but the pilot needs to be out...which suggests, well, I don't know what it suggests. I won't be making ice cream soon...but I will be paying that gas bill.
posted by iamkimiam at 2:52 PM on November 10, 2007

Just a guess, I'd figure the pilot is supposed to be on all the time in that well because otherwise, you'd burn the hair off your arm every time you lit it. Please consult the manual.
It's worth knowing that the gas company used to adjust the pilot light for you for free, back when things had pilots instead of electronic igniters. You should also know that stove was built before they put thermocouples in them to keep the gas from turning on if the pilot was out. I once blew up a stove that way. That could be a two-edged sword, as they might be tempted to condemn the gas stove while they are there, so not to be undertaken lightly. However, there are probably private gas contractors who might know how it's done, or you could call the gas company from a pay phone and ask about it. (Maybe that pilot is what keeps the warming box warm all the time? I think people used to rise bread in areas like that. Not familiar with fancy old stoves, just cheap old stoves.) If it is supposed to be lit, it's worth considering that the stove was designed to have a special pot that fit in the hole in there all the time; the pilot may burn differently in its original configuration.
posted by unrepentanthippie at 11:12 AM on November 11, 2007

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