Preparing Copper for Retinning

Cookware Tips
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Sara, here

There is some discussion, going back several hundreds of years, on how to prepare copper pots and pans to be tin lined. Beyond that, though, is the debate among smiths and tinkers on how much to share about our trade with the public or others, in order to keep the information private and proprietary so that our trade was guarded, valued, and worthy of the fees we charge.

Today, in an informational age, I feel as though there are enough people asking the questions, if only to repair their own cookware, that it is fair and right to share some general preparation of copper pots.

This information is meant to be offered as suggestion only. I don’t take any responsibility by anyone using this information and incurring injury. Especially if the information is followed improperly. You will take full responsibility to any injury during use of the suggestions below. I am offering these steps based on my own experience, my own injuries, and my preferred way of tinning.

  1. Clean the copper cookware with soap, water, and a mild abrasive (like an SOS pad) to the interior and exterior of the pot.
  2. Soak the copper pot / copper pan in a vat of diluted caustic acid (lye / sodium hydrochloride) for a few hours to a week. Using safety equipment (apron, gloves, eye protection), remove the piece of cookware and scrub again with a mild abrasive. You may wish to use a wire brush around the handles and rivets and on any baked on food or grease.
  3. If the interior of the pot is still oxidized and dark, use sandpaper to remove the oxidation. If the shape allows, an orbital sander with 200 grit works great. Otherwise sandpaper itself works.
  4. If the interior remains quite dark, use a metal stripper to remove the oxidized tin, with the proper safety equipment.
  5. A Dremel with a small attachment or a sand blasting cabinet may be needed to fully clean around rivets.
  6. Wash the entire pot with water.
  7. Shortly before tinning, a wash through diluted muriatic acid is encouraged, followed soon after by painting the exterior with lime paste (garden lime powder and water). Allow the paste to dry a bit before putting over the fire for tinning!

The trick is to have a clean location for the new tin to stick. If your interior has grime, dirt, or highly oxidized tin, the new tin won’t stick or will soon peel or pop off. Cleanliness is the name of the game!

Anyway, good luck! Please feel free to reach out and I’ll do my best to respond to any technical questions. Barring that, I’ll send you in the direction of people who know more than me!!

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