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Old Rusty Tea Kettle - Japanese - Tetsuban?

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    Posted 5 months ago

    (4585 items)

    I've had this old kettle for a long time and am wondering about it. Is it worth restoring or is it too late when it gets rusty? Thanks for any input, as always!

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    1. Damonways Damonways, 5 months ago
      cast iron right ..? this will clean up nice doesn't show any kind of abuse to it ...nice looking pot ...
    2. kwqd kwqd, 5 months ago
      Not too late at all, probably. It appears to be a nice kettle. What does the inside look like? The issue with kettles like this is, when they aren't properly maintained, they rust from the inside out and get holes in the bottom. Never leave water sitting in a kettle like this. They are relatively thin cast iron and will rust out relatively quickly, though it will take a few years. Always empty it immediately after use and turn it upside down while still hot to let it dry out. If properly cared for, a kettle like this will last for generations.

      Bringing it back depends on what the interior looks like, how thick the remaining iron is, and if you want to do a restoration or just clean it up and seal it. I would restore it since it appears that some original urushi finish is left:

      Brush the loose rust off of the exterior with a stiff nylon bristle brush and see if that gets most of the rust off or if there is any thick rust still left. I suspect that will be enough, but if there is any thick rust left, you can get one of the steel pads in the link below and put some food grade oil on the kettle and lightly burnish the whole kettle. That should remove most of the rust and leave any remaining original finish undisturbed. These pads are what I use for cleaning up rusted guns without removing the bluing. You do not need to remove all of the rust as the next steps will seal the rust.

      You will probably need to use one of these pads on the interior as the rust will probably be thicker there.

      Next, boil some green tea in another pot and heat the kettle up and rub it with a cloth soaked in green tea, inside and out. Let it dry. It should start turning black in the next few days from the tannins in the tea. You may need to repeat this a few times. Once you have some sealing of the surface, boil some green tea inside the kettle for about fifteen minutes to thoroughly seal the interior. Black tea has a much higher tannin content than green tea and I think should make this process faster, but that is my theory, and I have not tried it. My study indicates that the Japanese use a mixture of green tea, urushi and other ingredients to apply the original finish while the kettle is very hot.

      Every time you use the kettle, thereafter, you should wipe the outside down with a cloth soaked in green tea while it is still hot and then turn it upside down to dry out. You may have to occasionally boil green tea in it to keep the inside rust free. Eventually, that will give it a lustrous finish

      Your kettle will last a long time if properly cared for.

      I have not tried using the process that I would used for restoring a cast iron skillet on a Japanese kettle or teapot but that should work, too, but the result will be a nontraditional finish.
    3. kwqd kwqd, 5 months ago
      And yes, this is a Japanese tetsubin. Not sure of the maker, possibly Oitomi or Oigen.
    4. ho2cultcha ho2cultcha, 5 months ago
      thank you so much kwqd! I knew you'd be able to answer this accurately. the inside is a little rusty, but not terrible. i'm sure it will clean up - just waiting till i have a little time...

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