This photo doesn’t do justice to the state of the old paraffin cooker by the time I finally despaired of it. Despite hours of effort and a lot of money on spare parts, the oven burner still leaked, one of the top burners heated feebly and the cracked cast-iron top was flaking with rust. The oven door wouldn’t seal even with a bent piece of wire to hold it closed.
Happily, there’s a small firm in the south of England which refurbishes Taylor’s stoves for much less than the eye-watering cost of a brand new one. Taylor’s Heaters and Cookers are engineering artists. When our replacement cooker came down the pontoon on a trolley, I couldn’t see the difference from a new one.
The old one was wheeled away in part-exchange and I was left with several plastic bags of pieces to install the replacement. I spent a peaceful day sawing and bending copper pipe and screwing up eight separate joints to connect the fuel tank to an on-off tap, a filter and the cooker itself. The swap gave me the chance to move the fuel tank lower in its locker so it sits at a better angle for pumping up the pressure.
A paraffin stove is an entertainment to light, but I wouldn’t change it for a gas cooker because it’s safer. Gas explodes; paraffin needs to be persuaded to burn hot enough to boil a kettle. First, you pump air into the fuel tank to put the paraffin under pressure. Next, you fill a cup under the burner with meths and light it so that it heats the burner for three or four minutes. Finally, you turn the paraffin on: the oil sprays onto the underside of the hot burner and vaporises, and you light the vapour, which burns with a hot, blue flame.
If you try to light the burner too soon, the paraffin oozes out in liquid form and a sheet of yellow flame leaps up and smears soot across the galley ceiling. It looks alarming but it’s not very hot.
So, now we have a working cooker with an oven, a grill and two stove-top burners. It might be time to bake Guiding Star’s own bread.
If you too have a paraffin stove on its last legs, you can reach the experts on 07984 692766.