Moma Dixie’s Hibachi – a project

KushiyakiI love Kushiyaki (Japanese-style skewer grilling), and one thing I’ve always wanted in my outdoor kitchen is an old-school Hibachi (not one of those crappy sheet-metal ones you see on the shelves these days, but the beautiful old cast-iron jobs) so when Moma Dixie told me I could have hers, I was pretty freakin’ happy.

Quick aside: Moma Dixie is Vickie’s mother, my mother-in-law, who’s been in Heaven almost a year, but as she was my mom for almost exactly the same amount of time that my own mom was my mom, and accepted this loud, weird, and often obnoxious guy her daughter brought home eighteen years ago, with open and loving arms…she will always be Moma to me.

‘Nuff said.

Now, just to be clear, Moma was not an “outdoorsy” kinda gal, either in recreation, or cooking (if you knew her, you’re laughing right now.) Smart, funny, a classy sharp-dressing lady of the fifties and sixties, BBQ and grilling were not in Dixie’s wheelhouse. πŸ™‚ This Hibachi was probably owned and used by Vickie’s dad, or maybe her grandfather, and sat in Moma’s shed unused for decades, before I discovered it while dispatching wasps (a whole ‘nuther story.)

Restoring a Hibachi grill

Post shop-vac, it looked a lot worse before. πŸ™‚

Greasy, rusty, and thick with cobwebs…it was love at first sight, which is kinda evocative of how Dixie made me feel, lol. As she had, I saw the potential buried within the mess.

So, all of that to say that, while much of this project is about my love of grilling and restoring a cool grill to its former glory, much more of it is about my love for Dixie, who filled a very special place in my heart.

As you can see, there’s a lot of work to be done (I’ll do you a favor and dispense with the metaphors here) and this post will be the first in a probable five-step process covering surface cleaning, deep cleaning, repairs, “beautification”, and finally of course…grilling.

Let’s get started…

Restoring a Hibachi grillFirst thing, I removed the grill and ash grates (I’m missing one ash grate…if anyone has a lead on one or two of these, you’d be my hero!) and have the interior a good scrub with a wire brush. As you can see above, there’s a ton of baked on gak, and I’m a little scared about what I’ll find underneath.

Hopefully all that crud isn’t the only thing holding it together.

Restoring a Hibachi grillAs you can see, that alone made a huge difference. The interior looks to be very solid, no pitting or major corrosion. The bolts and wing-nuts holding the legs and handles in place are in pretty bad shape and will likely need replacing. That hole to the right of the wing-nuts (below) is one of the air vents, which has some corrosion, but is still functional.

Restoring a Hibachi grillFlipping it over, the bottom is pretty rusty, and you can barely make out the word “Taiwan”. The feet appear to be solid, those they’ll need to be sanded and varnished.

Restoring a Hibachi grillIMG_0436 (800x598)Next, I removed the legs and feet (the screws and wing-nuts will have to be replaced for sure, but I think I’ll need to refurb the leg spacers – upper right in the pic above – as I’m not sure where I would find replacements. Some degreaser and high-heat silver pain should do the trick)

Then I took the wire brush to the bottom and sides, which are in really good condition. You can see the outside view of that air vent (below) and both sliders work perfectly. I’m concerned that I may not be able to get the handles off without damaging them, so we may be doing some taping during the painting process, and again when I sand and varnish them.

Restoring a Hibachi grillThat done (for now) I stated work on the grill grates, which were caked with grease and dirt, but looked to be in good shape.

Restoring a Hibachi grillIMG_0440 (800x598)Brushed and ready for deep cleaning, the grill grates are in excellent shape. The grate handles, like the main handles will be scrubbed, lightly sanded, and varnished to maintain the original color.

IMG_0441 (800x598)On the shopping list now:

  • High heat chrome paint
  • Black stove polish
  • Engine Degreaser
  • New screws, wing-nuts, bolts
  • Wood sandpaper
  • Steel wool
  • Clear lacquer

FYI… When translated into English, “hibachi” means fire bowl. It is a heatproof container designed to hold charcoal.

The use of the Hibachi as a kind of “space heater” is recorded as far back as 785 AD in Japan and China, by the samurai classes and aristocrats but gradually spread among the general population. Adding the grill and using it as a cooking device came centuries later. If you replace the open grills with a flat iron plate, you go from a hibachi to a teppanyaki, another very popular Japanese cooking method (think “Benehanas”.)

Next post: Deep Cleaning!

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