Thread Number: 75766  /  Tag: Ranges, Stoves, Ovens
Persistance and resourcefulness really pays off! (Or how I saved a '56 GE Range)
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Post# 995989   6/2/2018 at 13:50 by dangerboy (Calgary, Alberta, Canada)        

In other posts I've talked about the '56 40 inch GE Canada Speedster Range that's in my summer cabin. Last year, I had problems with the oven. Skipping the details of a very long convoluted story, I thought I had the problems resolved and reinstalled the thermostat that I had taken out unnecessarily and later found to be still working. I'm not sure what happened but after I reinstalled it, I found it to not be working. I removed it again, then extracted the diastat and tested it using a digital micrometer and found that it was dead.

If you look at this thread ( you'll see the Canadian variants of this stove used a different thermostat than the American variants did. The Canadian thermostats were made by Oak Hart Mfg. and are pure unobtanium.

So, I'm out at my cabin about an hour drive from the nearest town and I need to get that oven working before my first renters of the season arrive and I desperately want to keep that Speedster working because it's the centerpiece of the kitchen and really adds a lot of charm to the place. I did have with me a couple working used 5208 thermostats which were used in the American ranges. The problem, however, was that the temperature selector knob for my stove was made to fit on and work with the Oak Hart thermostat and wouldn't fit on or work with the 5208 thermostats. I didn't want to go out and get a universal thermostat because that would mean I'd have to give up the functionality of the Bake/Broil/Timed Bake selector knob and couldn't use the old original temp selector knob. I REALLY did not want to do that because I'm a bit of a purist and it's important to me to keep the unit as original as possible so I wanted to retain the original two knob control system and the original temp control knob. With that in mind, the only chance I had to accomplish that was to see if I could swap in one of the working 5208 diastats into the Oak Hart thermostat.

The diastats from the Oak Hart and 5208 thermostats were similar but different enough that I couldn't just swap the 5208 diastat in for the failed Oak Hart diastat. Some Macgyvering was going to be required to give that a chance to work. Using my toaster oven set on its temperature contolled bake setting as a heat source, I started doing some testing and tinkering. I found that I could get the 5208 diastat to trip the Oak Hart thermostat but only if I turned the toater oven up to about 450F and set the Oak Hart thermostat to Warm. That meant I had too much clearance above the diastat which did not surprise me because the 5208 diastat was physically shorter than the Oak Hart diastat.

The first breakthrough I had was when I figured out that if I bent back the metal tab that acted as a stop for the thermostat knob shaft, I could rotate the shaft in one more turn and eliminate some of the excess clearance that I had. After screwing it in one more turn, I bent the tab stop back to lock the rotation in the new 350 degree rotation range. Further testing revealed that the thermostat worked better but I still had too much clearance above the diastat. I reasoned then that I might be able to make some thin metal shims of various thicknesses and through trial and error I might be able to find a combination of shims that would make the thermostat work accurately enough to be useable. Working with what I had on hand, I fashioned shims made from a dog food tin lid, a frozen limeade tube lid, a beer bottle cap and a tonic water aluminum soda can. According to my digital micrometer, they all had different thicknesses. After some experimentation, I came up with a combination of three of the four shims that seemed to make the thermosat trip at close to the same temperatures my toaster oven was set at.

Having accomplished that, I reinstalled the jury-rigged Oak Hart thermostat back in the Speedster and began testing with an oven thermometer. I had to use all of the adjustment I had on the underside of the temp contol knob to calibrate it but I got it dialed in fairly well. Here's what my tests showed:

Set Temp (F) | Actual Oven Temp (F)
350 | 350
400 | 380
450 | 450
500 | 490

It's probably more accurate than it's ever been! Best of all, I've kept it all original AND, I'll always be able to fix that thermostat now because used 5208 and 5209 thermostats are relatively easy to find compared to that unobtainium Oak Hart thermosat.

It took me a couple days of tinkering and testing to do all this but the end results were worth it to me. I know my late Mom who loved that old GE stove is smiling and feeling proud of me. Being persistant, resourceful and believing in yourself (or just being too damn stubborn to ever give up) really pays off sometimes. :-)

Post# 995992 , Reply# 1   6/2/2018 at 14:08 by Tomturbomatic (Beltsville, MD)        

Congratulations! Reward yourself for your valiant rescue.

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