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#1

Merchant
Central Maine
(This post was last modified: 11-12-2015, 09:59 PM by ShadowsDad.)
I remember Mom bought a range and had the thing, repair free, for decades. Most things were that way (autos excluded) in the '60s to 80s and maybe into the 90s. But somewhere along the way it appears manufacturers began making garbage, selling it, and claiming it to be quality. Amazing what a coat of "paint" will do to sell junk.

7 years ago we replaced our electric built in wall unit oven with a gas one. It needs to go into a 24" wide space so options were limited. The dealer got us a Frigidaire and I didn't realize just how bad US appliances had become when we bought it. Right from the start we began having problems with the upper door hinge. The metal parts were made of extremely soft steel, and the screws holding the parts to the oven were sheet metal screws. Of course I found this out after buying and installing the oven. If I had known it before installation I would have put a threaded plate behind the light sheet metal oven body and used a machine screw to hold the hinges on. Better yet, I never would have bought it.

A month after installation I had the hinge parts replaced and that worked for a short time, then everything began going downhill. I realized that it was junk and lived with it. Understand we cook most of our food and our appliances get used. They're not merely to fill a void in our cabinetry. When I would open the oven door it needed to be forcibly opened. I could see the "lead soft" steel parts bending so I knew that eventually something would give. Sure, I could have paid a few hundred dollars every year for repairs, but I didn't want to lease an oven. I'm an old fart and one should buy something like an oven and have it for decades with no repairs required. Mom did.

A week or so ago a friend was over for dinner with us and the food was ready. I tried to open the oven door and it opened possibly 6 inches and no more. I got it to open, but not in a nice way. Clearly the oven was toast. The door was bent, the hinges were destroyed, and the sheet metal screws had pulled out of the thin sheet metal body of the oven. Just junk but not unanticipated, just bad timing.

Oddly enough the bottom section of the oven, the broiler part, and a separate entity though built onto the upper oven, that door is incredibly smooth operating to this day.

So this time rather than just accepting "an oven that fits" I decided to search for one that I wanted and was built right. The short story is that very few 24" gas wall ovens are made today. I thought I wanted a European model, but the ones I could find that are imported into the US had terrible reviews. We went to various dealers, but the models that looked good on the floor in a range version had the same construction that our previous oven had when it was put into a 24" built in. I finally found Blue Star. We looked at them today. They are built like a brick outhouse. We have one on order. They aren't inexpensive, but I think this one will last. It's also designed "right" IMO. It has a side opening door that's out of the way when it's opened and not threatening to burn ones navel. I couldn't see anything on it that had me wishing was more rugged. Basically it's a commercial oven for the home. It might not be pretty and have doodads to impress. There are no computers onboard (our previous had a mother board poop itself), but putting a computer above the heat is a recipe for disaster. It's 100% manual.  I wish I had the room for a Blue Star range, but we don't. You can google it.

Maybe I'm old, but I remember when we made good stuff in the USA. Blue Star appears to be made right, and made here in the USA; Reading, Pennsylvania. I'm sure there are other quality ovens and such, I saw many brands of really high quality today, but not in a 24" gas wall oven.

This experience tells me is that when I need other appliances I need to really do my homework to separate the junk from the good items. What a shame for that. Yes, at one time we made generally fairly good stuff in the US. Today one needs to be extremely careful.

We recently also went through that with a stand mixer. We had a KitchenAid that pooped itself fairly quickly. I got rid of that as soon as it was returned to us (I saw the writing on the wall) , did the research, and I bought an Ankarsrum. Again, not inexpensive, but this mixer works and works excellently. In my research I discovered that the mixer that made KitchenAid a household name was the Hobart N (or R)50; I can't remember. Today they sell for over $2k and are butt ugly. Someone bought KitchenAid, cheapened the parts to make it sell, and they are what they are. They work great if they aren't used for anything more stressful than batter. I make most of our bread in the winter and that stresses a mixer. The Ankarsrum can mix and knead more bread dough than I ever want to make. I've done 4 loaves at one time and I was only at 1/3 capacity for the mixer. The KitchenAid never could do 4 loaves at one time. I destroyed it with dough for 2 15" pizzas, maybe 5 cups of flour. The Ankarsrum can handle 20+ cups of flour, it's no larger than a KitchenAid, much quieter, better looking, can operate all day, and never draw more than 200 watts of current. Oh, and it kneads much better. I never hand knead dough any more. Watch a cooking show where they make bread with a KitchenAid. The cook ALWAYS hand kneads the bread dough to "finish it". Ridiculous. That's what the mixer is supposed to do. Just junk intended for show.

Oh well. Clearly I remember a different time when things actually worked as they were supposed to. They still do, but one must seek them out. Caveat emptor I suppose. What a shame that it's come to that.
Brian. Lover of SE razors. Maker of Krampert's Finest Products.
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#2

Super Moderator
San Diego, Cal., USA
It's all planned obsolescence, Brian. I remember, about 15 years ago, my sister and brother-in-law needed a new dishwasher. They decided to go top of the line so they wouldn't have to worry about just the kinds of things you describe with your oven and mixer. My brother-in-law turned to my sister and said that at least they wouldn't have to think about getting a new one for at least ten years. The dealer turned to them and said they'd be lucky to get five out of it!
#3

Member
Ferndale, MI
It's mostly cheap Chinese junk anymore. A lot of companies start with a quality product to build up their reputation (and price) then outsource everything to be made cheaply elsewhere, all the while charging the same amount of money for it. It's sad.
- Jeff
#4
Blue Star makes some heavy duty looking stuff. I'm guessing you're going to love it.

All evidence has been buried, all tapes have been erased.
#5

Merchant
Central Maine
wyzeOne, I absolutely agree. I'll have no sympathy when these companies that build crap go belly up. But they might be "too big to fail" and our money might be used to keep them afloat despite our wishes.

Bruce, yeah. It looked bullet proof to me and I poked and prodded and kicked the tires with the salesmans "Go for it!". Made to last and easy to repair if ever required. The metal parts actually look to be made of decent gauge and not made out of foil. My wife didn't poke and prod, but I got no complaint out of her as she wrote the check and she had been complaining the day before. She thought repeating the previous oven error was in some way not insanity but desirable. Or maybe she thinks I'm an idiot after all the evidence to the contrary. I liked the line, "But we're not going to be around much longer.". To which my response was," And our job is to leave nothing to anyone else.". But I agree Bruce, the oven should last a very long time, hopefully as long as I have left to live. Life is too short to deal with frustration and I appreciate that more the older I get. I use my oven very frequently and I cook a great deal. I just wish I had gotten my Garland 40 years ago. I'd still have the thing.

In my research I ran into lots of bad reviews that had me scratching my head... Really? Can't get an ignitor? An ignitor? Really? It's just a mini spark plug. That review claimed that the ignitor kept sparking (just heat it up to dry it out then in the future don't be so anal about cleaning the cooktop and getting it wet... DUH! It happens with our Bosch every time I give the cooktop a thorough cleaning. ). Another lousy review stated that the oven got hot and could burn the children. It's an oven... it's job is to get hot. Cold ovens don't do squat or they're called microwave ovens. Tell the rug rats to leave it alone and that it will burn if touched. When I was a child and I disregarded the warning I got burned and never touched it again. Lesson learned. That's life. Really an oven that doesn't get hot or in this case does and gets a low mark?... Really !!?? What is it about the word "OVEN" that isn't understood?

The thing about the companies that build the crap... they also have their quality lines and we saw them in the showroom yesterday. The problem is that those lines are limited. If one has unlimited space in a kitchen then one can have them. But Blue Star proves that quality can be done in limited spaces; they just need to want to do it. But that 60" Blue Star range sure is seductive, but we simply don't have the room. :-) sigh , The cooktop of my dreams. If anyone remembers the Garland ranges of 45 years ago (I lusted after one), Blue Star is the Garland of today. Same factory; the burners are also clearly identical. Just gorgeously functional cooking gear, no fancy doodads, but IMO gorgeous in it's functional simplicity. We have friends who are into glitz, I have no doubt that she won't appreciate the new oven (no glitz) and she doesn't cook, when we go over there for Christmas she needs to figure out how to use the glitzy oven to warm things up (that other folks bring); but our friends who cook definitely will appreciate it.

So far we have no delivery date but were told that it would be 2-4 weeks away. Our thought is cooking the Thanksgiving Day bird, but as long as the weather is good I can do that in the Primo. That is actually a more accurately controlled oven than any indoor oven I've ever used. Yet another fantastic piece of cooking gear. It varies just a few degrees at worst when using the electronic control. I've checked our indoor ovens and they have varied as much as 50°F from the set temp; constant ups and downs around the set temperature. That's one place the Frigidaire did well at; maintaining an accurate temperature. I can't fault it's temperature control circuits; just the build.
Brian. Lover of SE razors. Maker of Krampert's Finest Products.
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#6

Member
Virginia
Agreed, most items on the market today in any category are crap. But some of the blame is on us too as most folks wont cough up the cash for a Blue Star oven, they'll take the $600 crap. This lack of volume makes those products even more expensive and prohibitive. I always laughed at folks who would rant about what Wal Mart was doing to the mom and pop stores in their hometown yet they'd be the first in line to shop there. Like you I shop for quality goods where needed and its a shame that more offerings aren't out there but we cast dollar votes in our market system and most folks vote "CRAP".
Bob from Virginia
#7
Our 45-year-old Westinghouse fridge is starting to show its age. The plastic on the interior is starting to crumble. Not sure what we'll do... Holy cow are decent refrigerators expensive!
---Shannon & Brian Trepka

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#8

Super Moderator
Brian, I feel your pain.  When everything is outsourced to Asia or wherever and the quality doesn't matter and then we wonder what to do with all these unemployed people who simply can't/won/t retrain to work in the information industry.  They used to work making good solid consumer/industrial goods.  You hit on something in your second post about the glitz- younger folks don't cook anymore but they want that show piece kitchen - a statement on our modern world, looks great but can't do a damn thing.  Many years ago I took an intro to philosophy course at university, the prof was an oddball who randomly drifted from english to spanish while lecturing.  Something he said that seemed odd at the time but now makes sense is his discussion about a chair - he pointed to a chair and asked "is this a chair? Or is it the form of a chair?' Now I get it.  You had the form of a stove and not an actual stove.  It was built to sit in a non-cooker's showcase kitchen used infrequently to warm up last nights take out.  

I admire your approach to life Brian, I tell my kids that if you can't feed yourself and your family wholesome, nutritionally balanced meals at a reasonable cost then what good are you?  How will you survive? You sit like a bird in a nest waiting to be fed - going to the drive-through or warming up awful convenience foods?  Thats a recipe for disaster - i.e., obesity, diabetes etc.  I recently read an article by a British Doctor named Dalrymple, he was a prison psychiatrist for many years and he used to do home visits to convicts' families.  One of the things he noted was that almost without exception in these homes there was no kitchen or dining room table.  Usually just a fridge and microwave.  Meals were taken whenever and wherever usually in front of one of the many televisions.  There were no family meals to bind and reinforce the family unit and the traditions.  Basically animals feeding /grazing when hungry.  

What sorts of memories will children have growing up today in non-cooking homes?  What family recipes will be handed down?  How to combine take-out in a unique manner? I have very fond memories of meals in my home.  I use a lot of my mother's recipes and my kids will too.  My wife is half German and she makes her mother's German recipes which are great.  I have the good fortune to be able to eat at my in-laws and compare my wife's cooking to her mother's  - they're both excellent.  Germans bring a precise, rigourous approach to cooking that generally yields excellent results.  I cook a lot as well but now and then I'll come across an intimidating recipe that I'm reluctant to try.  I'll show it to my wife and the German in her will analyze the recipe, determine what works and what won't work (some recipes are written for show) and then executes.     Man I'm lucky.  
Mark
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#9

Merchant
Central Maine
Mark, you understand exactly; form and not the actual item. You also understand me pretty much. I go so far as to fresh grind my own wheat to make real bread. I eagerly anticipate getting the new oven. It's bread making season and I'm missing out.

Brian T, If you want a quality refrigerator, but be sitting down when you see the price, check into Sub-Zero. They're too expensive for us but it's nice to know that they exist for those with deep pockets. Our Jenn-Air has been going strong since '99, but it started out with a problem in the compressor. Not a good omen, but after the repair done under warranty it's been fine. The Amana out in the shop is good too. It has to be 10 years old now and was free for the taking after it was only a few years old. It replaced a 20+ year old refrigerator.
Brian. Lover of SE razors. Maker of Krampert's Finest Products.
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#10

Super Moderator
Brian, we are on the same wavelength - bread making intrigues me, as does other things related to fermentation Smile

I've been roasting my own coffee for almost 20 years. I think that the coffee I drink is probably better than most folks have on a daily basis. Pleasure is in small things. http://www.sweetmarias.com is an excellent vendor of all things coffee. They have a brick and mortar in Oakland. There are some pricey machines on that site but also some reasonably priced decent options for the beginners. My first batch was executed in a cast iron frying pan with passable results and I had very good results for several years using a cheap hot air popcorn popper - the absence of chaff-catching and cooling cycle was a bit of an inconvenience but the fact the the machine only cost $12-$15 was a real bonus. You can even use the old fashion stove top popcorn popper that has a crank that agitates the contents. I've never tried that machine but I've heard from people who have. The bottom line is that I can have excellent coffee at a reasonable price spending about an hour a week to roast. You have to be careful though, your friends and family will start requesting custom roasted coffee and you may end up spending more time than you anticipated.
Mark
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