Retinning & restoration

Guest post: Removing the layers



I’d been watching this pan on eBay for over a month and what attracted me to it was the stamp — “Specialité Hotelière Journel”.

VFC says: This guest post is by reader Bryan P.

While I have seen the stamp before, it was uncommon enough that I was interested, for the right price. Slowly the seller lowered his price until I pulled the trigger.


The pan was described as a “copper sauce pan” measuring 9 inches across and 5 ¼ inches high, in good condition. It is a copper sugar pan, and from the post it appeared to be dirty, with some green tarnish and what I took to be a fold at the base of the handle.

When my package arrived, I was eager to get a better look at my new pan. First impressions were that it was very dirty, with more green tarnish than I noticed on the eBay post. To get a better idea of what I had, I gave it a soap and water bath, scrubbing off the dirt with a dish rag. More rough green tarnish emerged from one side of the pan along with a generally thick layer of brown tarnish.

I decided to tackle the outside first, since I wanted a better look at the stamp and set up my workstation next to the sink. Laid down the wash rag to act as a cushion against the counter, got out my industrial size tub of Bistro and went to work. Slowly the layers of tarnish were removed to expose some interesting characteristics – the stamp turned out to be clearer than originally thought, what I mistook for a fold in the metal a the base of the handle is brazing and the pan has a hammered finish.


After 45-mins of scrubbing with Bistro, using the supplied sponge, the outside was mostly clean and my sponge looked the worse for wear. Around the base of the handle still showed signs of green tarnish and I didn’t want to chew up the sponge any further. Using a used soft bristled toothbrush I was able to clean off most of the remaining green tarnish around the base and into the handle. Taking a break, the pan was rewashed, paper towel dried and put over low heat to dry out. I watched as a little trail of green snot ran down the pan from the base of the handle, thinking how am I going to deal with this.


Wanting to speed up the process and knowing that the interior of the pan was in worse shape, I went looking for an alternative to Bistro, and VFC suggested Wright’s copper cleaner. Off I went to the store to pick it up, two stores later and no Wright’s, I resorted to Amazon.

Wright’s now in hand I tackled the interior. The Wright’s cut through both the heavy brown and green tarnish much quicker than the Bistro had. This impatient American liked the results, washed the pan again, towel dried it and set it on the burner to dry off… more green snot followed.


The pan sat for a couple of days while I contemplated the finish. At this point it was mostly free of tarnish, but splotchy. Thinking it can look better, I set up my cleaning station, reapplied Wright’s both inside and out, again using a toothbrush around the base and handle. Wash, dry, apply heat and more green snot…I settled for wiping off the green snot and the knowledge that there is green tarnish that I’ll never be able to get to, but its now a usable pan.


VFC says: Bryan, congratulations on the beautiful result of your hard work! It is a lovely sugar pan, and good for you for spotting it. I’m considering amending my “stuff I use” post about copper cleaner to note that Wright’s is better for tougher jobs — it is more abrasive and thus more prone to lay down visible scratches, but it does cut through tough tarnish better than Bistro. I would use Bistro on pieces that have a shiny finish you want to preserve while Wright’s is for tackling recalcitrant tarnish with less regard for the finish of the copper.

Tags: , , , ,


  1. I’ll second that, bravo Bryan. I love finding them like that, really rewarding and as you maintain it the surface just improves with repeatedly light polishing.

  2. I tend to get a little more aggressive with very tarnished pans. I give them a quick clean with a 3m pad and dish wash liquid then soak them in a mild caustic wash to eat through any fat residue that has accumulated. Then its a quick dip into a light solution of hydrochloric acid and water. From there its an easy clean on the polisher. Any difficult to reach areas I use a products called Brasso which is an abrasive brass cleaner.

  3. Hello all !

    Nice discovery! A supplier from my Lorraine region! I love !
    I will open my “JOURNEL” page on my site if you want some information. Unfortunately, the photos I took in 2012, 2013 and 2014 of this supplier are somewhere on a broken computer hard drive! Grrrr, I only found 2 photos now. I remember it was a very huge rondeau. But the details and other photos of this pot are on my broken computer with, moreover, so much other information !!!!!

    Regards, T.J.

  4. Thank you for sharing the page. Have you seen another “Journel” stamp other than the oval stamp?

  5. Hello Bryan,
    I have sold a Journel stamped Rondeau, but with a different stamp.

    Well done on getting the shine back, I know how hard it is from experience as a copper seller.


Comments are closed.