Monday, October 31, 2011

Easy Bake Recipe for Stove Burner Repair

Repairing a Faulty Two-Part Burner of a Typical Marine Stove

*** Update ***
I have since tried a couple of other materials for his repair, namely, fireplace cement and DOW 795. At this point, it seems that the DOW 795 works best. And there's no baking necessary.

Tools: scissors; knock-out punch and mallet; vise grip clamp; duct tape.
Materials: top of a tin can; Marine-Tex epoxy putty
Time (including baking, but not including looking for tools): 20 minutes

1. Trim lid with scissors to fit the bottom of the burner cap
2. Create an appropriate hole in the center of the lid with a few blows of the rubber mallet on the knock-out punch (I can’t imagine life without a knockout punch)
3. Fit the lid into the burner cap
4. Apply Marine-Tex epoxy putty to the bottom of the lid
5. Fit the bottom of the burner into the burner cap and onto the lid
6. Seal the edges of the bottom of the burner with epoxy putty
7. Clamp together with a vise grip clamp (apply duct tape on those points of the clamp that touch any epoxy so that the clamp doesn't stick)
8. Bake at low heat for ten minutes.

Disassembled burner & the tin can lid with an
appropriate hole that lines up with the hole in the
bottom part of the burner.
Momo is equipped with a fairly typical three-burner propane stove/ oven that has been on the boat ever since the vessel was built in 1982. It’s nothing flash, but it’s functional. At the time the stove was marketed under the “Seaward Princess” label (at least as far as I can recall, since the label on our stove pealed off years ago); now, judging by appearances, this same stove is being distributed by Tasco. Even though it’s thirty years old, we’re not about to replace it because marine stoves are expensive (especially in New Zealand) and we’re not convinced we would be replacing it with anything better. The principle of “better the devil you know” is especially appropriate when fitting out a boat like Momo because most of the “marine quality” equipment for such vessels is designed for a small, recreational market, which means that the stuff is often disproportionately expensive and qualitatively challenged compared to similar goods produced for the mass consumer market.

The tin can lid fitted into the burner cap; next, the lid
is smeared with epoxy putty and the bottom part of
the burner is fitted into the cap on top of the lid.
Our biggest problem with the stove has been its burners, which began giving us difficulties about a year or so after we moved onto the boat. In case anyone feels that we are expecting too much from our stove -- after all, by then it was over twenty years old --it’s worth pointing out that it wasn’t until we bought the boat that the stove was put to rigorous use.

The burners are made of two parts. The cap looks like it is made of aluminum. The bottom is made of thin mild steel. This steel rusts along outside edges where it meets with the aluminum cap, producing little holes in the bottom of the burner that then emit small flames.

Our first “temporary” repair involved simply smearing Marine-Tex epoxy putty along the edges where the burner bottom fits together with the burner cap. But since this repair worked remarkably well and lasted a long time, it soon became standard operating procedure. The repair itself takes no longer than making a cup of coffee, and if you pop the burner into the oven at low-heat the epoxy is sufficiently cured in about ten or fifteen minutes.

Clamp together, bake at low heat for 10 minutes,
 and we're set to go.
I should also add that, based on our experience, the burner is perfectly safe. The propane needs oxygen to burn, which it gets at the top of the burner cap; and even when exposed to flame, as far as I can tell the cured epoxy resin doesn’t really burn but rather gradually turns into ash. Eventually, however, small holes reappear -- both because the epoxy slowly deteriorates and, as Neil Young puts it, rust never sleeps – and we have to repair the burners again. But that’s just part of routine maintenance.

Recently, however, we have tried something new. It has been about six years since that first repair, and the rust has devoured so much of the edges of the burner bottoms that our simple epoxy repairs don’t last more than three months. I thought perhaps we might have to admit defeat in the struggle against planned obsolescence and purchase new burners or fashion new bottoms from stainless. But then I spotted the lid of tin can on the counter which fit the bottom of the burner cap almost perfectly….