We’ve had this beauty for four years now. Secondhand to us, broken on adoption. Most people don’t choose to acquire broken items, but we’d just moved here from Canada and I was trying to stay frugal. I really wanted to get back to using cast iron after giving up teflon pans, with their unimpressive lifespans and bird killing fumes, years earlier. Besides, this specimen could still do what cast iron is best at – park on an element, retain heat, and be the best and most bombproof pan I know for cooking all sorts of food.
The older a cast iron, the smoother and more stick resistant the surface. Some say vintage is best. This pan isn’t vintage, just used, but still. And we follow no rules. Metal utensils, soap, acidic food – bring it on. It sort of gets more or less seasoned depending on what we’ve been cooking, but no matter what I do, the pan itself will outlive all of us.
Except for the handle. Which was evidently the reason it was up for grabs.
This pan has a heatsafe wooden handle that wraps around a metal rod, which screws into the base of the pan. Somehow the wood has become swollen and cracked, probably from sitting in water. As a result, the wooden part no longer fits tightly around the metal rod. I can’t properly tilt the pan, as the wooden part just slips loosely around the metal when I try.
The broken handle mostly doesn’t bother me, except if I’m moving the pan around or trying to pour something from pan to plate. Lately with child safety on the brain, I started to wonder how I might fix it.
I thought Sugru, billed as the ‘self setting rubber’, or ‘mouldable glue’ depending on which of their marketing materials you look at, could be my best solution. I’d heard of this product years ago during the crowdfunding campaign. It definitely made me curious, but I’d never had a reason to try it, and I’d never seen it in my day to day life either.
My handle project met all of the Sugru parameters. The materials are wood and metal, and the rod doesn’t get hotter than the heat limit (nor does the wood).
I ordered from Sugru’s UK shop since none of the local sellers had expiry dates into the future, and those who’ve used it all cautioned that the expiry was critical to success. I ordered two packs of 3 small portions for a total of 6 individual portions for 25 AUD which included a small amount for shipping. The packages are quite small, which is why I thought I might need the whole lot, but in the end I only used two. I chose black, to blend in with the singed wooden handle.
Sugru starts to set within 30 minutes, so it was important to have my workspace and project laid out before opening the package. I had a few backup projects, like broken wiring, nearby in case I had extra Sugru to use up from an opened package. And then I went to work on fixing my favourite pan.
Did Sugru work?
I started the project in the afternoon on a Saturday and checked the next morning. Not quite 24 hours as Sugru suggests, but I couldn’t wait to see if it had worked.
It worked! The fill hardened and all seemed to be fused together – wood, metal and this clever mouldable glue. I can tilt the pan 90 or 180 degrees an back with control. I’m pretty pleased about it. Now that it’s been a few days I’m starting to understand how much I must’ve been compensating for the handle. It’s so stable now, so comfortable. For $8 worth of material and a few minutes of my time, this was definitely a worthwhile fix.
I’ve always intrinsically valued the act of restoration. I’ve preferred a patina of use over brand-newness. My interest in reducing waste has only deepened my pleasure and delight in fixing favourite things and keeping them out of landfill.
I have a few more ideas for using the remaining Sugru. The expiry is 13 months away and this would make for a a fun fixer-noon with friends.
Have you ever tried Sugru? What was your experience? What’s the best thing you ever fixed?
Update: this surge fix lasted for a solid two years before the handle loosened again.