The AGA saga

19 07 2011


About fifteen years ago, a very dear friend of mine was murdered by his schizophrenic stepson. A truly talented artist, Richard was English. He loved my home-brewed apple cider, and he owned an AGA. To cut to the chase, I bought it from his widow.

I knew absolutely nothing about AGAs. I had had experience with other combustion stoves, but AGAs, I now realise, are different. Like they’re not supposed to be moved in one piece, they should be dismantled and rebuilt on their new site. But it had been moved to where I first set eyes on it, and in retrospect, I really wonder how they got it down the 40 or so steps that were the only access to Richard’s house. Eventually, a more civilised mode of access was built, and I too moved it in one piece. Three times in fact. Apparently, you can “break the back” of an AGA by doing this…. but I was obviously lucky.

AGAs have been around for over 80 years. They are different from other combustion stoves because they are fully insulated, thus keeping the heat in the stove, which doesn’t make them a great room heater. And unlike their lesser cousins, AGAs have all their innards suspended on rather flimsy bolts screwed into the cast iron base which means that if you do break the stove’s back by moving it one piece, well you have a disaster on your hands.

Over a year ago, we ordered a custom-made stainless steel flue for our cooker.  That’s it just at left of the stove photo, looking all forlorn in the hallway. Yes, it took a whole year to get it, but dare I say it was worth waiting for? It’s almost a work of art, such is the quality of the workmanship. But when I attempted to fit it, I discovered to my horror that the bits the flue went into were corroded and broken.

Trust me, bolts and nuts that haven’t seen the light of day or been undone for fifty or sixty years are solidly fused together. Rust makes a very good weld! Applying heat and penetrating oil for more than three weeks only resulted in the removal of two of the four nuts that hold the top down, and eventually, I had to reluctantly resort to a bit of butchery, drilling the suckers out! Having removed the top, I discovered that a part called the manifold was broken, and the sandwich part that fits between it and the flue was in six bits…. depression set in. I had already been told by a local chap I met who owns FIVE of these AGAs that such problems were not only normal, you could not get parts. His dear wife pointed me to a website where one can actually download a manual, and before you knew it, I had a map of the beast’s innards. It helps to know what’s going on in there…

Excavating the diatomaceous earth out of the cooker almost turned into a Time Team effort.  It’s amazing how much of that insulation powder the stove contains.  Plus, I discovered that mice had got into the beast’s innards, dragging shredded bits of hand written notes and whatever else to make nests.  None of the handwritten notes were our handwriting, so obviously the archaeological evidence had been there for quite some time.

Luckily, I have now found a place in the UK where you CAN buy parts. The owner of the business even rang me from Yoxall for 25 minutes, and was extraordinarily helpful, and I am now confident that I will get Richard’s AGA going again for him. What would we do without the internet?

UPDATE:  The parts are on their way…..  YIPPEE!

UPDATE 2: AGA Saga almost over



6 responses

20 12 2011

WOW, great story, I am currently restoring My beloved AGA, have just started 2 days ago……. :-{
Same as yours. a CB that had been converted to natural gas, but I am now about to convert it to wood, have found a place in Victoria, Scandia that sells the conversion kits and also found a really helpful AGA enginerr, who doesn’t mind me asking many Questions….
Ok. would be great to hear from you!! A labour of love “definitely”.

10 12 2014

Hi hi – to Aga you and all Aga lovers – I have just replaced the long Aga I had when I first got married – BUT I HAVE TO DO A RESTORATION – and wanting to convert to combustion – be handy to have the contacts of the folks you have found helpful – Jo from Victoria myyybizzzz at g mail. Com

18 07 2012

hi all
i own a 4 oven aga ,moved from jhb south africa to george on the coast of sa,about 5 years ago and my aga came with all the way ,about 1300km.after a long 5 years without my aga in the kitchen i finally started to do some renovations ,yes and my aga is the main reason.i have been using it in jhb with the antrasite,here in george it seems to be a bit of a hassle to get hold of antrasite,wood will be a very easy and free main concern is how to make my oven work with wood,is it possable?

19 07 2012
23 08 2012
Hans Pelleboer


Could anyone please tell me how to reach this company Scandia, that’s
supposed to be in Victoria? –all searches from abroad have failed thus

23 08 2012

Hi Hans, try here…

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