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Machining cast iron cookware

Joe Gwinn

Stainless
Joined
Nov 22, 2009
Location
Boston, MA area
I have a lot of cast iron pans, and my wife also loves them for cooking.

However, Lodge no longer offers the "polished" (inside surface sanded flat) finish, instead leaving the surface as cast. I also have a grill pan, which is a skillet with a bunch of parallel raised ridges on the bottom, for preparing sausage and the like. The ridge tops were too narrow for adequate heat transfer

So, my solution was to take these pans to the shop, and mill the bottom flat (first pan) and to flat-top the ridges in the second pan. Machined dry. (Don't clamp too tightly, or the pan will warp too much.) One can also use some kinds of angle grinder, ones that can abrade the bottom despite the sides being in the way.

This was easy enough, but I was unable to properly season the fresh-cut iron surfaces.

After a number of failed attempts, it occurred to me that there was one thing I had not tried, heating the pans up to the point that all organic material (the seasoning) burns off, and adherent gray iron oxide scale forms.

So I did this with one of those big roaring weed burners, with the pans on firebrick to protect the cast aluminum patio table. After the iron cooled, cleaned it up with a scour pad and allowed it to dry. Then heated up and coated with olive oil (which I had - almost anything works. Bacon grease was traditional).

This worked. At last. Wife happy too. This will surely accrue to my lasting benefit.
 

dalmatiangirl61

Titanium
Joined
Jan 31, 2011
Location
BFE Nevada/San Marcos Tx
There is a mfr or 2 left doing thin cast iron pans with smooth cooking surface, cannot remember name, seem to recall one of them posted here recently.

I switched (back) to cast iron cookware a few years ago, no interest in the Lodge dumbell series, got most of them (too many) from Goodwill and jaunts thru the scrapyard. Load oven full, crank it to 500 for a couple hours, wash and re-season.

I thought about machining a set of the Lodge dumbells, decided refurbing some old ones was easier.
 

Joe Gwinn

Stainless
Joined
Nov 22, 2009
Location
Boston, MA area
I know of some boutique makers of cast iron cookware, at astounding prices. I don't know of any realistic makers. (The Chinese pans one sees in discount shops are too thin and light to work well.)

I also get pans from the local dump, which as a recyclables table.

I did try the hot oven method, but didn't succeed. Just not hot enough, it seems.
 

CAMasochism

Hot Rolled
Joined
Jun 6, 2019
Location
DFW, Texas
There is a mfr or 2 left doing thin cast iron pans with smooth cooking surface, cannot remember name, seem to recall one of them posted here recently.

I switched (back) to cast iron cookware a few years ago, no interest in the Lodge dumbell series, got most of them (too many) from Goodwill and jaunts thru the scrapyard. Load oven full, crank it to 500 for a couple hours, wash and re-season.

I thought about machining a set of the Lodge dumbells, decided refurbing some old ones was easier.

Field Company is one that comes to my mind. They machine all of their pans. I got 2 of them out of curiosity. They are difficult to start the season on, but so far seem to be holding it fairly well. They are great for making cornbread in though, just flip the pan over and it falls right out.
 

64dumptruck

Plastic
Joined
Nov 11, 2019
The best way I have found to deal with the new lodge stuff is to sand off the rough cast finish and "pre-seasoning" and re-season yourself.
 

Dumpster_diving

Cast Iron
Joined
May 18, 2017
Location
Massachusetts
I've tossed them in the woodstove to burn off the organics. Seems to get the heat up long-enough and high-enough (hotter than an oven). Also a plus that if you leave it overnight in the ashes it cools down slowly.
 

Scottl

Diamond
Joined
Nov 3, 2013
Location
Eastern Massachusetts, USA
There is a mfr or 2 left doing thin cast iron pans with smooth cooking surface, cannot remember name, seem to recall one of them posted here recently.

I switched (back) to cast iron cookware a few years ago, no interest in the Lodge dumbell series, got most of them (too many) from Goodwill and jaunts thru the scrapyard. Load oven full, crank it to 500 for a couple hours, wash and re-season.

I thought about machining a set of the Lodge dumbells, decided refurbing some old ones was easier.

Lehman's (the Amish store) has some thin nitrided cast iron pans that are smooth surfaced.
 

Rob F.

Diamond
Joined
Aug 5, 2012
Location
California, Central Coast
I have a decent selection of nice old smooth surface cast iron pans. One year for christmas my brother gave everyone shrimp gumbo makings in a smallish (7") lodge fry pans. To my dismay, as you all know the surfaces of the pan was pretty rough. This could not stay, either smooth it or scrap the heavy little pan. I had some 5/8-11 coupling nuts and screwed one onto my angle grinder, a short set screw in the other end allowed the wheel to mount and reach down into the pan and still be flat. I used grinding wheel with a mounted hub, no nut to mar the surface.
That worked great with a follow up with flap disk sanding pad. (probably 80 grit)
I dont remember any problems seasoning it, but it has been 15 yrs or so.
 

strokersix

Cast Iron
Joined
Jul 25, 2009
Location
NW Illlinois USA
New to cast iron cookware. I hit my pan with scotchbrite pad on my angle grinder. Just took the high spots off and left some texture. I believe some texture is a good thing. Kind of like injection molds. Some texture to the surface releases better than polished.

My belief anyway and seems to work well. Perhaps someone can confirm.
 

BoxcarPete

Stainless
Joined
Nov 30, 2018
Location
Michigan, USA
Looks like a great tool...pricey, though.
What do you suppose, "machine soldered" in the "ringer" description means?

That each ring is soldered together after being stitched into the mail. And since this is a labor intensive process, it is automated. Higher quality mail has the rings soldered together so that they don't come apart, and in this case it also prevents loose ends from scratching your pan.

I've rarely come across anything that proper application of elbow grease by way of a bamboo scraper couldn't separate from my cast iron.
 

Joe Gwinn

Stainless
Joined
Nov 22, 2009
Location
Boston, MA area
I got one of these for myself for Christmas a few years ago.... Never an issue cleaning the cast irons anymore: https://www.amazon.com/Ringer-Original-Stainless-Cleaner-Patented/dp/B00FKBR1ZG

I have one of those, and it does work, but don't usually use it any more.

What I do is a method I learned from a short-order cook at a MacDonalds in the 1960s, when I worked there one summer. He would heat the steel griddle sheet up till it smoked, and then clean it with a wet rag pushed around with a rigid spatula, with much hissing and steaming, scraping all the while. It did a perfect job.

My variation is to heat the pan on the stove till the oil smokes, then pour a half cup of water into the pan, and scrape madly amidst the boiling. The boiling water immediately turns brown (the fond being removed) and the surface becomes smooth. Pour the rest of the cup into the pan and bring back to a boil, and then carry the hot pan to the sink and rinse it out with hot water. Put back on the stove and wipe with a paper towel, spreading the remaining grease (from the sides) around to a uniform look.

Over time, all the pans handled this way acquire a uniform black seasoning layer.

While this also works on aluminum pans, it soon ruins them from warping. Never tried it on copper pans.
 

Joe Gwinn

Stainless
Joined
Nov 22, 2009
Location
Boston, MA area
Field Company is one that comes to my mind. They machine all of their pans. I got 2 of them out of curiosity. They are difficult to start the season on, but so far seem to be holding it fairly well. They are great for making cornbread in though, just flip the pan over and it falls right out.

Field Company skillets look very well made, but a bit too rich for me.
 

Joe Gwinn

Stainless
Joined
Nov 22, 2009
Location
Boston, MA area
Lehman's (the Amish store) has some thin nitrided cast iron pans that are smooth surfaced.

The nitrided cast iron pans I found on Google has pressed sheet steel pans with cast iron handles. Not exactly what one usually means by "cast iron pan". Am I looking in the wrong place?
 

DDoug

Diamond
Joined
Oct 18, 2005
Location
NW Pa
The nitrided cast iron pans I found on Google has pressed sheet steel pans with cast iron handles. Not exactly what one usually means by "cast iron pan". Am I looking in the wrong place?

What would be the difference in using a stainless steel pan (some with a copper bottom bonded on the outside) rather than Cast iron ?
 

strokersix

Cast Iron
Joined
Jul 25, 2009
Location
NW Illlinois USA
Stainless steel is some sticky surface. The worst in my experience. Interested to hear if it can be seasoned like cast iron. I only own one cast iron skillet but I have several stainless items. (Revere ware type stuff)
 








 
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