Best camper van cooker
Long time followers of vdubxs may remember that ages ago I bought a classic Canterbury Pitt cooker to refurbish and use in my camper. What ever happened with that project? Well, there’s some good… and there’s some not so good news. The good news is that the project finally got finished!
My introduction to the cool Canterbury Pitt cooker unit was with my previous velvet green split screen camper. Having used this cooker on previous European road trips and shows, it is IMHO, one of the best and most practical cooker units out there for a classic camper van! The cooker itself is housed in a wooden cargo door mounted unit with a protective aluminium sheet lining on the inside of the upper half. The metal enamel cooker itself is housed within this area and features two gas rings plus a gas grill underneath. The lower half of the unit is a storage cupboard for tea/coffee/food supplies, crockery, cutlery, matches etc. with a removable middle shelf to help increase storage capacity.
Refresh not restore
When I got my replacement split screen, I was keen to try and get a replacement Canterbury Pitt cooker as part of my new interior design aspirations for it. They are not that common or easy to find, but I was fortunate enough to source one that was still pretty complete, just in need of a sympathetic refresh…
I thought I would first start off somewhere discreet and out-of-the-way, like the interior shelf of the cooker unit, just to see how things would look. This way I can decide how far I want to go with the rest of the unit. Or if things go horribly wrong it won’t be the first thing you see!
The shelf itself was solid enough, just grubby and stained from use over the years so hopefully a refresh can help clean things up a bit.
After working through a few different grades of abrasive paper with the sander, the stains and marks had mostly disappeared revealing a much cleaner version of the original mahogany veneered shelf, huge difference!
Cleaned, oiled and waxed
Once this stage had finished, it was time to apply some protective finish to the wood. Initially, I applied a few coats of Danish wood oil (rubbing down with fine steel wool in-between coats to help get a better/smoother finish). Once this stage was finished and the oil had dried and been fully absorbed by the wood, it was then time to rub in a final coat of Beeswax to finish off the refresh…
After the Beeswax had been rubbed into the wood and allowed time to be absorbed, it was then a case of giving it a polish up with a clean cloth — quite a transformation! The Danish wood oil and Beeswax help feed the wood and also help bring out the natural colour, lustre and character of the mahogany grain. So far so good.
So I removed the white enamel cooker unit so I could get to every nook and cranny of the cabinet. This way I could repair any minor cracks, splits or holes in the wood before working through the various grades of sandpaper to begin the refinishing process. It also gave me a chance to give the aluminium a clean up as well.
The grubby interior storage area needed cleaning up so I took the opportunity to brighten up the magnolia paint inspired colour scheme with a simple and fun transformation with some decoupage work and some fresh white paint. The unit would then look nice and original on first impressions from the outside, with a fun twist/surprise when you open the cupboard door to make your drink.
Now it was time to reassemble the Canterbury Pitt cooker cabinet. The original ‘Dog Bone’ hinges had all been cleaned gently in oil and now work perfectly. I have taken a ‘refresh rather than restore’ approach to everything as I wanted to keep as much of its original character and patina as possible. So having a few small character marks here and there add to its ongoing story. Its only ever original once!
The keen woodworkers out there will notice the change in grain on the units flip top lid. This must have been replaced at some point in its life? The veneer used looks like Oak rather than mahogany and was stained to try and match the more reddish colour of mahogany. Nasty, I’m not a fan of faking things in that way, so when it was all refreshed, I kept its colouring ‘au natural’ and honest to what it was, different! All part of its story. Anyway it came up pretty nice with some oil and wax!
The Canterbury Pitt cooker refresh is finished and all good to go, so what’s the problem?
Well at the time of sorting out the cooker, I was also looking for other interior components for the camper. A full-width rock an’ roll bed came up at a bargain price so I grabbed it thinking that would work perfectly to transform the then empty interior into a fully fledged camper! It was, having the extra full width bed over say a 3/4 width rock an’ roll bed makes a huge difference to getting a comfortable nights sleep!
The thing I hadn’t allowed for was that because the Canterbury Pitt cooker is fixed to the inside of the cargo door, when closed, it needs the extra clear space that a 3/4 bed gives to fit inside the bus! Unfortunately I had at this point already fitted the full width bed (and enjoyed its advantages), so something had to give…
Cooker or bed?
It was a tough call. It had been great fun refreshing the Canterbury Pitt cooker. I was so looking forward to using it in the camper. However I do always have my trusted Trangia to rely on, so in the end it has come the the decision, that after all the work, it was time to let the cooker go to a new home now!
It’s regrettably for sale now and will soon become part of someone else’s story moving forward…