Vintage Appliances

Discussion in 'Your Vintage Home' started by Rosie, Dec 2, 2006.

  1. Studebaker Driver

    Studebaker Driver One of the Regulars

    Back to something Lizzie said at the top of the page, about her seven cubic foot refrigerator; I don't know how many cubic feet mine is (I'm at work, 57 miles away from it), but it is a GE Monitor top from the early/mid '30s. I bought it when I bought my first house in 1980, for $160. It was in pretty good shape, intact, it worked, the glass drip tray was in it. The vanilla ice cream-white exterior paint was a little mottled when I got it, but most of that polished out with some automotive rubbing compound and wax.

    1980 was 37 years ago. When I bought it, I just wanted a cheap old-timey fridge, but I never dreamed I would have it so long. I have never owned a newer one. I did, however, receive a gift of a SECOND one, which also works (but had been painted turquoise with a brush), for the garage. The turquoise one is also a double-door one with a much larger coil on top.

    These refrigerators are absolutely amazing. They are both almost silent. They start with a tiny click and run so smoothly you wouldn't know unless you put your ear near the motor. When they stop, they give another faint click and a little shiver. They are both dependable as sunrise. The tag says they use 1/3 hp motors and they use a negligible amount of electricity.

    Anybody else using Monitor tops?
     
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  2. David Conwill

    David Conwill Call Me a Cab

    Messages:
    2,834
    Location:
    Bennington, VT 05201
    Alas, by the time I figured out what they were the Monitor Tops were all priced out of my reach. These days even a run-of-the-mill '40s Kelvinator or Frigidaire is climbing out of my grasp. I could kick myself for letting slip a Stewart-Warner a few years ago and I hold out hope that someday I'll find a Norge.

    I did just jump on a bargain-priced Zenith Cobramatic Hi-Fi, but that's not so much an appliance. We did have a lovely 1945-dated Caloric gas stove at our first home but it was very hard to find parts for and we don't have natural gas now that we live in Vermont.
     
  3. Studebaker Driver

    Studebaker Driver One of the Regulars

    David -
    Truth, when I bought that monitor top for $160, it was the very limit of my grasp. At that time I was earning about $9,000 a year and, out of that, I probably got to take home less than $6K, or $500/month. The payment on my new (actually old 1915) house was $318.08/month. After other expenses (utilities, insurance, food...), that Monitor top took all my available cash savings for several months! But if I had bought anything else, whatever I bought would have been hauled to the dump and replaced several times by now. The Monitor silently persists. It has never failed and stands in the kitchen to this day.

    Imagine the happy buyer who took possession of it more than 80 years ago. It was gleaming white and newer than new. It was the envy of everyone who was still buying ice every day and dumping sloshing drip pans. What a marvel. I can't think of a single thing for sale in Target or Lowe's that the buyer could reasonably expect to last for 80+ years. On the other hand, the happy lady who probably took delivery of my fridge couldn't imagine it would still be working in 2017.
     
  4. sheeplady

    sheeplady I'll Lock Up Bartender

    We have a monitor top (ck) and a flat top. Both need restoration (door seals, shelves rechromed), and they will be our fridges once we are no longer renting.

    The monitor top was $200 and the flat top $75. If you're willing to drive, I've seen them for free. They are particularly plentiful wherever GE had a plant- employee discount.
     
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  5. LizzieMaine

    LizzieMaine Bartender

    A lot of electric power utlities also had discount deals with General Electric. Our local power company maintained a downtown showroom where you could see the latest appliances, and they moved a lot of GE refrigerators and stoves from the 1930s well into the 1950s. They pushed the convenience of paying for your appliances thru a "small additional monthly charge" attached to your light bill, and especially when there was a lot money floating around in the years just after the war, a lot of homes here got their first refrigerators this way.

    The Monitor Top pioneered the idea of a permananetly sealed refrigerator mechanism, and this approach caught on with a number of other manfacturers in the 1930s. The Kelvinator "Polarsphere" unit in my fridge has run trouble-free in my kitchen for twenty-nine years now, so I can vouch for that brand's reliability. Consumer's Union considered the Norge "Rollator" unit to be the best quality refrigerator on the market in 1936 and 1937, and there are quite a few of these still in use as well.
     
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  6. David Conwill

    David Conwill Call Me a Cab

    Messages:
    2,834
    Location:
    Bennington, VT 05201
    I guess I should keep my eye on CL around Pittsfield and Schenectady!
     
  7. sheeplady

    sheeplady I'll Lock Up Bartender

    Yes! As a warning- most of the ones you will find will need restoration or be butchered. You likely won't find one someone has "restored" already. But if the mechanism is in good shape the vast majority of restoration is easy. If the gas is leaking, you have a very dangerous situation and a major repair. (Do some research on how to tell... if the gas inside has leaked out because the system was damaged by mishandling or corrosion.)

    For the vast majority it is only repaint (if you'd like), replace the rubber seal (under $100), and re-chrome shelves (you can send these out, but it is not necessary except for aesthetics). Hunt for the additions that go inside like the dripping pan, ice cube trays, etc. The seal on the door is going to need to be replaced- this keeps the motor from working overtime and is very important to do before you run it (besides a test run).

    It is *very* important when you move these things that you do so *very* carefully. The tops are like 200 pounds, and the freezer compartment hangs down. It is very difficult to get the top on and off without at least two strong men. It's very critical NOT to knock anything off. It's filled with SO2 or some other toxic gas depending on the model. Toxic gas, which if sealed in the system will not harm you, but if it starts coming out you *need to leave immediately.*

    Also, wait at least 24-48 hours after replacing the top to start it. At *least* 24-48 hours. The temptation is to get it home and get it together and then do a test run, but the gas needs to redistribute. Otherwise you can damage the motor. Whenever you move it, do this safety procedure.
     
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  8. Studebaker Driver

    Studebaker Driver One of the Regulars

    Yes, to all Sheeplady said; PLUS ONE MORE. When moving a monitor top, there may be a temptation to tip it so one man can hold its "head" and another man can pick up its feet. Aside from the fluid issues mentioned by Sheeplady above, the thing will come apart. The top is held on only by gravity and the "lid" will flip right off if you try carrying it "sideways".
     
  9. sheeplady

    sheeplady I'll Lock Up Bartender

    Oh, yes, good point. Do NOT tip sideways. ETA: the top could likely kill you. The top is incredibly heavy.

    I don't want to make a big deal out of the gas, and scare people. But you want to be very precise moving these things. Be delicate as far as moving. That said, I had two in our home with a young child, and I was never concerned. If sealed, they are completely safe. If you damage the seal... not safe.
     
  10. vitanola

    vitanola I'll Lock Up

    Messages:
    4,211
    Location:
    Gopher Prairie, MI

    I have been using them for thirty or more years. I have a DK series seven cubic foot machine in a tenant apartment, and had a big CG double door machine in my kitchen until I was able to replace it with a big fifteen cubic foot Kelvinator of 1925 vintage. The Kelvinator is a bit more trouble and expense to run, for it does not use a hermetically sealed compressor. It is a belt drive. When I rebuilt the compressor I installed modern seals and filled the system with "Hot Shot" R-414B in the place of the original Sulfur Dioxide. The machine works well and ices nicely. Now, I haven't been up to our "Up North" camp for four years, but if that little cabin has not been plundered we still have a Crosley "Icyball" there which also works quite well.
     
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  11. Angus Forbes

    Angus Forbes One of the Regulars

    Messages:
    261
    Location:
    Raleigh, NC, USA
    Our old (1920's) home has a vintage city-water-powered sump pump (along with a modern, electric one). Extremely helpful during power outages.
     
    Last edited: Feb 27, 2017
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  12. olskool

    olskool New in Town

    Messages:
    22
  13. olskool

    olskool New in Town

    Messages:
    22
    my 1930s magic chef stove I use every day,,,,,,,,,,,
     
  14. Bugguy

    Bugguy A-List Customer

    Messages:
    414
    Location:
    Nashville, TN
    Small appliance: I'm perplexed.... with the intense interest in all things coffee by the 20-30 y.o.'s, I can't understand why I've had zero interest in this vintage coffee maker. Even as a decorator piece, no interest on Nashville Craigslist. It's not even as big as a fridge. What a disappointment. Just the other day I finally had my only bite, and they gave me a lame story about why they only had $20, not the $25 I was asking. I'm taking the 20, but I'm a little bitter - its either that or Goodwill. Are my expectations unrealistic?

    IMG_3766.jpg IMG_3773.jpg
     
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  15. scotrace

    scotrace Head Bartender Staff Member

    Messages:
    14,248
    Location:
    Small Town Ohio, USA
    It's the same on so many fronts. 20somethings view all such things as junk, having been raised on watching "Hoarders" and other such shows on television. I've seen the prices of so many things plummet in the last 20 years. No interest. I lick around my house and realize I've lost my butt on pretty much all of it.
     
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  16. LizzieMaine

    LizzieMaine Bartender

    The coffee cult sneers at percolators. A new-old-stock Silex in the original box might bring some coin, but never a percolator.

    If there's one thing that I always try to hammer home when people ask me about "vintage appliances" it's that you should buy them to use them for their intended purpose, not because you think they're "worth money" and that one day you'll sell them at a profit. The supply far exceeds the demand, and once the boomer-nostalgia crowd dies off, the supply will even further exceed the demand. Buy a vintage fridge because you know it'll outlast any modern one on the market, not because you think it's an investment.
     
  17. Fading Fast

    Fading Fast

    Messages:
    13,431
    Location:
    New York City
    ⇧ Really smart. I'd only add, buy things you enjoy for themselves not for resale (leave that to the dealers who do it for living). We have some old fans, a few old appliances, radios and some old watches (none that were crazy expensive, most were inexpensive, but some were a few hundred bucks).

    We get use out of all of them - we only buy stuff that we use. But to be honest, for $20, I could get a "better" watch that will keep perfect time, will work for a long time and the battery is cheap to replace. My "vintage" watches are temperamental and need servicing now and then that costs more than just replacing a battery. But I enjoy them in the here and now - they aren't going to bankrupt me - and I don't care if they are worth something in the future. I'm getting my value out of them right now as we do with all our old appliances, etc.
     
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  18. Bugguy

    Bugguy A-List Customer

    Messages:
    414
    Location:
    Nashville, TN
    Friends... all I can say is Amen, Amen, Amen!
     
  19. vitanola

    vitanola I'll Lock Up

    Messages:
    4,211
    Location:
    Gopher Prairie, MI
    Absolutely!

    As far as percolators are concerned, the fast, high-wattage units from the 1950s and 1960s make pretty awful coffee. The older models from the Twenties and Thirties can make VERY GOOD coffee indeed. The common and inexpensive Mirro-matic, a 1937 design which was sold in great numbers well into the fifties, is one of the best.

    images (2).jpeg
     
  20. Nobert

    Nobert Practically Family

    Messages:
    789
    Location:
    In the Maine Woods
    Percolated coffee is not for everyone, but I love it. I've had at least four of them, my current main one is a Farberware 201. Very much like this model:

    [​IMG]

    Makes great coffee once you get used to the idiosyncracies that attend the proper usage of any machine.
     
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