These two pans have a wonderful secret: they’re bottom-heavy.
|Type||Tin-lined Windsor and saucepan in hammered finish with iron handle attached with three copper rivets|
|French description||Sauteuse bombée et saucier, étamé et martelé, avec queue de fer munie de trois rivets en cuivre|
|Dimensions||17cm diameter at rim by 6.5cm tall|
(6.7 by 2.6 inches)
|18cm diameter by 10cm tall|
(7.1 by 3.9 inches)
|Stampings||JULES GAILLARD 81 FAUBG ST DENIS PARIS; 17; T; W||JULES GAILLARD 81 FAUBG ST DENIS PARIS; 18|
|Maker and age estimate||Gaillard; 1890s-1903|
|Source||Southwest Hand Tinning (eBay)||barttof (eBay)|
Next time you’re admiring an antique copper pan, lift it up by the handle and turn it a bit to get a sense of how the copper is distributed around the body. Many antique pans have thicker copper in the base than up the sides — sometimes as a consequence of how they were shaped, but sometimes done purposely — and it’s not just a nice surprise but an actual advantage.
A thick base is a great quality in a copper pan because it means there’s extra copper in the place where it really counts. Stovetop pans get heated from underneath, usually by flame points or heating elements that generate a lot of heat in relatively small spots. The pan’s job is to spread that heat across the flat surface and up into the food. Copper is great at this, and thick copper — say, 3mm or more — is really great not just at spreading heat but also retaining it so you get nice even cooking. All that spreading and transferring is most important in the base of the pan where the food rests against it, so that’s where extra-thick copper is going to do you the most good.
The trick is that this is often impossible to see — you have to lift the pan and feel it, or weigh it and compare it to pans of known uniform thickness. (Naturally, I have a post about this.) But if you can find an antique pan in decent (or restorable) shape with a extra-thick base, it’s likely a great addition to your batterie de cuisine because it will give you the cooking performance of a heavier-gauge pan.
These two Jules Gaillard pans have it, and I really love them for it.
Unfortunately you can’t lift these pans yourself and feel the heaviness in the base, but I can show you the weight difference because I have good pans for comparison. Here’s the saucepan next to its great-grandchild, so to speak — a Gaillard saucepan from the 1960s to 1980s or so, towards the final years of Gaillard’s existence. (The Gaillard saucepan is dark with tarnish because it’s one of the set I use almost every day to cook.) They look almost identical: same diameter, same height, same handle, 3mm of copper at the rim. They should weigh the same but the antique Jules Gaillard pot weighs half a pound more — 2568g versus 2318g. That extra weight is in the base and there’s a lot of it — I think the base has got to be 5mm or even 6mm thick.
I can compare the 17cm Windsor to a set of 1960s-1980s Gaillard Windsors (cousins to the saucepan set above). The Jules Gaillard pan is an odd size — 17cm diameter and 6.5cm tall — so I’ll compare it to the slightly larger Windsor, 18cm diameter and 7cm tall. Both pans measure 3mm thick at the rim, so I’d expect the Jules Gaillard to be about 100g lighter than the slightly larger Gaillard but in fact it weighs a hair more — 1746g versus 1736g. There’s about a quarter pound of extra weight and I estimate that makes the base 3.5mm to 4mm thick.
But that’s not all I love about them. They’re just really gorgeous pans.
This little pan packs a lot of personality in a small size. It has quite a bit of surface character — tiny nicks and scratches all over that form a uniform texture overlaid over the pot’s existing martelage finish. Valerie Maguire at Southwest Hand Tinning refurbished this pan and her work on this piece showcases the delicacy of her technique: instead of harsh acid baths and heavy polishing that lift the blackened residue off of pieces like this and obliterate the surface marks, she chooses gentler methods that bring out the deep gleam of the copper while preserving its character. The copper feels almost soft, more like silk than metal.
The pan carries four stamps: the Jules Gaillard maker’s mark; the initials T and W (actually, a double-V, just as the French pronounce the letter W); and the number 17 to indicate the pan’s diameter.
The rivets are flattened on the inside, but as the copper bears signs of hammer marks from tightening, the interior rivet heads have been deformed a bit from their original profile. The exterior rivets are rounded and bear marks of hand-hammering. The handle itself is a the bulbous French style with a teardrop hanging loop.
The saucepan has been used a little more gently than the Windsor — its surface has more of a mirror shine, though it still bears small marks from more than a century of use. (This pan was restored by Erik Undiks at Rocky Mountain Retinning and he did a great job preserving its finish.) As discussed above, this is quite a bottom-heavy piece, weighing half a pound more than an equivalent recent-era Gaillard saucepan. It is not dovetailed so it was either hand-raised or formed on an early metal press.
The base shows two beveled planes along the edge.
It carries two stamps: the maker’s mark for Jules Gaillard, and a faded “18” size stamp.
Its internal rivets are different from those on the Windsor. They are flatter, virtually flush to the surface. The outer rivets are small and rounded. The handle is the classic French style, very similar to that on the Windsor.
These pans give us the opportunity to compare tinning work by Southwest Hand Tinning and Rocky Mountain Retinning side-by-side. These are antique pans and the inner surfaces have small scratches and divots from use, but even so, the tin on both pans has a beautiful mirror-like finish. I have long recommended Erik Undiks at Rocky Mountain Retinning for the quality of his work; Valerie Maguire at Southwest Hand Tinning is a more recent discovery and I am very happy to recommend her work as well. See for yourself what these two dedicated craftspeople can accomplish.
I love Gaillard copper in general and Jules Gaillard pieces in particular — at the moment I believe they were produced from about 1890 to the early 1900s, perhaps 1903. These two pans are not big monumental restaurant pieces but are sized for everyday kitchen use. I like to think that Jules intentionally made the bases extra thick because he knew that the cook would appreciate it. And here I am, more than a century later, doing exactly that.