After Joe was unsuccessful in his attempt to epoxy-coat his vintage porcelain drainboard sink, he replaced it with a new Elkay Lustertone stainless steel drainboard sink. Even though the metal drainboard sink looks great, Joe says he would have preferred to keep his old porcelain sink top and have had the original enamel restored, refinished or replaced. But he didn’t know of a source — and neither did I. Until now. Thanks to reader TappanTrailerTami, who let us know:
I hate to mention this after-the-fact, but it could be something that Pam can investigate for us, and report on. There is a company in Illinois — Custom Ceramic Coatings — that does actual REAL porcelain enameling (the baked-on kind). I’ve seen them mentioned on a couple of different websites. I don’t know how much the cost is, but I think it would be worth checking out and having the information handy just in case someone here wants to save their current sink. It is my understanding that they are the only company in the country to do real old fashioned authentic fired on porcelain enamel work.
Well, I followed up on Tami’s tip, made a phone call, and yes — Custom Ceramic’s owner John Ballantyne says that, indeed, he does true, old-fashioned re-porcelaining of sinks, tubs, stove parts and even vintage motorcycle parts. And, as far as he knows, he is the only small business person in the U.S. offering this service. He does lots of (all the?) reporcelaining work for companies that take apart and re-manufacture vintage stoves piece by piece, for example.
As I told you on the phone, I have been having some trouble with the thick heavy cast iron pieces since I had to change my porcelain supplier. My old supplier went out of business and we had things matched up pretty good. The stamped steel sinks are no problem. We are working with the porcelain for the cast and it has recently worked out on some pieces that had failed badly for outgassing. Once I try a couple of sinks that have failed and if they work out now, then I will return to doing the heavy cast iron again.
The porcelain re-enameling process is not cheap, because it is time-consuming and requires craftsmanship, materials and the tools and equipment. John explains that porcelain = glass. To re-porcelain a piece, he says, he first must blast away all the old porcelain down to the bare metal. He then applies a “ground coat” — a special primer, more or less — usually two coats, each fired separately. Then, he creates a special chemical mixture of ground glass and other materials — this is called “slip” — and applies thin coats in a wet spray, drying and firing in between. The firing all occurs at up to 1500 degrees F. The “outgassing” he refers to, is when there are problems getting the porcelain coats to adhere to the ground coats during the firing process. Expansion, contraction, chemical formulations — all must be just right or you get bubbles and pocks and flaking or worse.
John can create white porcelain, or color-match to about any color you want. Vibrant reds and yellows are more expensive, he warns, because the formula for these colors use cadmium, an EPA-controlled substance requiring special procedures.
Costs vary according to the piece. John read to me from his rate card: A 42″ sink runs $750-$800, plus shipping. As you can imagine, shipping can be a substantial part of the expense, too. For example, John is in Illinois, just across the border from St. Louis, and one-way shipping to California for a piece sitting in his shop while we talked was looking like $230. He says he works with a special shipper to help get the best cost possible.
That said, remember that it’s probably at least $1,500 for an Elkay Lustertone stainless steel drainboard sink. And I bet if anyone ever started making porcelain drainboard sinks new, they would be in that price range or higher. As I’ve said before, if you want or need to aim for cheap and cheerful: Take your measurements for a drainboard sink with you everywhere you go. Stalk your Re-Store, even renovation sites, and look for a sink top that is as perfect as possible. Or not-so-perfect, and use one of the porcelain repair products from deabath.com and don’t sweat perfection. If you’re embarking on a retro kitchen project, get started here — and settle in a while.
A 40″ stovetop, in white, with four burner holes, would be about $335, John said.
Currently, lead times are three-to-four weeks.
John says that he started his business in 1997, after running a large porcelain plant in St. Louis. He got his start when he reporcelained the exhaust pipes on his Harleys.
- Link: Custom Ceramic Coatings — tell John you heard about him on Retro Renovation!
But, maybe you just need this awesome cleaner I discovered recently
Another tip — See my story on ROG1 and ROG3 to clean porcelain. I found this stuff recently and use it to clean my old porcelain. So far — awesome: