Our Restoring Methodology

Based on the posts and info at Sheryl’s Blog and this post we tried the flaxseed oil (Barlean’s Flax Oil) and her heating regime. It worked quite well including smelling up the house a little with a different smell from burning oil. The iron comes out evenly black and gets deeper black with each re-seasoning. We occasionally polish the cooking sirface with steel wool that made it smoother and shinier. Those that were rougher were re-seasoned 4-6 more times.

Stripping and cleaning old cast iron

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Cleaning the inside
  1. Cleaning – If the gunk is heavy then soak it in a lye bath for a day or so depending on how hard the gunk is.  Then rinse, scrap and steel wool it to remove any remaining black gunk. But, I did  not get too stressed if there is a little left as next it goes into the electrolysis bath.
  2. Then dry off quickly with a towel and put in a 250-degree oven for about 30 minutes to dry. Note: If we do not want to strip the inside we used Easy Off Oven Cleaner on the outside.
  3. Take it out and oil it liberally the first time; let it sit for a few minutes to soak it up;  dry it off very well with a cotton towel as Sheryl instructed; put it back in the oven upside down for one hour. Turn the oven up to 450 degrees for an hour to start the creation of the magnetite.  [see Sheryl’s advice at this page.]
  4. At the end of the hour turn it off and let it stay in there until it cools off. The iron is often very warm when we take it out as we are anxious to see how it turned out. The high heat on the naked iron caused it to start turning black as soon as the first oil is added–as Sheryl says it will.
  5. The interior of pieces like dutch ovens and scotch bowls never come really clean with electrolysis method when fully submerged as described above. I believe that is due to the sides not facing the anode and the bottom is further away.
  6. To clean the inside:
    1. fill the pot with the electrolytic solution;
    2. hang a food can using copper wire–minus the food–and filled with the solution, in the center of the filled pot. Then top off the solution in the pot and the can so both are completely full.
    3. Clip the 6-amp charger’s black lead to the pot and the red lead to the copper wire that supports the can. Plug it in and watch it go.
    4. The small size of the pot’s interior and the can are much closer to what the 6-amp can push and so it bubbles quickly. The photo here was after about 3 hours. I left it overnight and the next morning there was a lot more reddish dirty foam indicating rust had been removed.

Re-seasoning method that works for us is as follows:

  1. Heated the seasoned skillet or pot to 250-degrees and wipe on more oil*. Then wipe dry. I use welders gloves and Mary has hot mats. We sit the hot iron on a piece of 2×4 sitting in an aluminum cooky sheet.
  2. Put the whip-dried iron back in the oven and turned up the heat to 450.
  3. “Bake” it for an hour then let it cool down in the oven with the door closed. Sometimes Mary takes it out after 1 to 2 hours while still very hot; wipes on more oil; dries it well; back in at 450 to bring it back to temperature then turn off and let it cool down in the oven; i.e. slowly.
  4. If there is a roughness after cool down we rub it out with #000 or #0000 steel wool and repeat the oil-dry-bake process. Occasionally there is a gritty feeling but the wool takes it off easily.
  5. The parts of the process we found to be most important is drying off the oil thoroughly before baking it and the high temperature.
  6. There are many ways to season cast iron you will find on the internet. This works for us.

*   We use edible grade Barlean’s flax oil found the first time at the local health food store  and now ordered on the internet.  Sheryl’s blog at http://sherylcanter.com/wordpress/2010/01/a-science-based-technique-for-seasoning-cast-iron/ explained that it goes rancid much slower than lard or Crisco. But, many CI collectors use lard or Crisco so it is a matter of preference.  We have had no issues with the seasoning going rancid and smoke, even at 450, has not been bad.

Cleaning After Cooking

  1. If there is residue that will not whip out we add water and heat it on the stove.  Sometimes it is heated to boiling but that is not necessary unless you have some very heavy stuff stuck on.
  2. Turn off the stove and let it soak and cool down.
  3. You may need to scrub it with a plastic scrubber to remove the last of the crud. Usually you do not need to do so.
  4. Place the pot back on the stove and heat it some to dry it. Mary usually grabs the oily rag from our last pot reclamation and whips out the inside before putting in back on the shelf ready to go next time.

The above method was as of August 2013 so there is surely still more to learn from experiences.

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