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Cast Iron seasoning won't turn Black and stay

I can't even count how many sites and pages I've read about seasoning cast iron, oils, temperatures etc over the past 2 months. The issue I'm having is I can get a nice black seasoning on my cast iron frying pan, but if I cook ANYTHING that has any sugar in it whatsoever it ruins it, bacon, salmon with lemon pepper seasoning, anything, the seasoning gets ruined and I have to start over. The pan I have is a Lodge 12 inch, I sanded it down so it's super smooth, cause it's pretty rough brand new and I seasoned it at 450 for an hour each time with a VERY THIN layer of crisco, it takes about 20 layers to even start to look black and I think that's because I sanded it down to raw iron and it just looks dark brown after seasoning (never sticky). Getting kinda frustrated with the pan, I have a carbon steel pan that I can reseason in 5 minutes on the stove so I don't care if the seasoning doesn't stay but the cast iron takes a long time in the oven, any tips?

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  1. 450 °F is too hot. I use 300, but The Pan Man recommends only 225. After a couple of seasoning passes, just using it for a few years should develop the seasoning.

    When you cook bacon in it, what then? How do you clean it?

    1. Different people use different temperatures. Some people prefer low temperature, and some prefer higher temperature. I am latter. I have just a few points to make.

      < I seasoned it at 450 for an hour each time with a VERY THIN layer of crisco, it takes about 20 layers>

      To me, 450 oF is ok, but you really don't need to season more than 3 times. Don't worry about getting the black seasoning color. You will get it later as you cook.

      <I have a carbon steel pan that I can reseason in 5 minutes on the stove >

      You can season cast iron pans on stove top too. The seasoning should stay on for carbon steel or cast iron cookware. In rare case, one may ruin the seasoning surface and need to restart, but it should be rare.

      <if I cook ANYTHING that has any sugar in it whatsoever it ruins it, bacon, salmon with lemon pepper seasoning, anything, the seasoning gets ruined and I have to start over.>

      When the seasoning is very new (like a week), you may not want to burn sugar or cook overly acidic (like lemon) food on it. Cooking with sugar should be fine, but you don't want to burn sugar on it. The burned sugar will grab and rip the seasoning surface off. A bit acidic solution is fine, but you don't want something too acidic.

      There is another reason why your seasoning won't stay on. It is possible that your pan has a layer of rust before you start seasoning. As such, the seasoning was built on top the unstable rust and will constantly fall off. Another explanation is that you over built your seasoning by doing 20 layers of seasoning. This could build a crusty layer that chips easily.

      Can you be more specific how your seasoning get "ruined"? Do you see the seasoning dissolves and show signs of grey color? Or do you see the seasoning chips off?

      If you want to restart from the very scratch. Remove all the previous seasoning surface (by chemical or by heat (self cleaning oven)). Then, clean off the burned off material and remove all rust. Then build your seasoning by 2-3 sessions of seasoning.

      20 Replies
      1. re: Chemicalkinetics

        <You can season cast iron pans on stove top too. The seasoning should stay on for carbon steel or cast iron cookware. In rare case, one may ruin the seasoning surface and need to restart, but it should be rare. >

        Carbon steel works fine for bacon, but if I put a piece of fish it like instantly removes the seasoning right where the fish was placed. Reaseasoning carbon steel is pretty fast though so I don't really worry about it.

        <There is another reason why your seasoning won't stay on. It is possible that your pan has a layer of rust before you start seasoning. As such, the seasoning was built on top the unstable rust and will constantly fall off. Another explanation is that you over built your seasoning by doing 20 layers of seasoning. This could build a crusty layer that chips easily.>

        That makes sense, but there's no rust, at least visibly that I see. I sanded it down, scrubbed with soap and a scrubber, rinsed very thoroughly , then wiped it down dry and then heated it for 10 minutes at 450 before applying crisco to season and there was no red rust or black rust... The crusty layer chipping off sounds more like it.

        <Can you be more specific how your seasoning get "ruined"? Do you see the seasoning dissolves and show signs of grey color? Or do you see the seasoning chips off?>

        after cooking something like bacon, or anything that sticks at all, I will rinse under super hot water and lightly go over it with a nylon scrubber. I use one of those baby bottle scrubbers, it's not that rough at all. The seasoning in the center will seem to scrub away and there will be a black residue that just never wipes away.

        1. re: vairox

          <Carbon steel works fine for bacon, but if I put a piece of fish it like instantly removes the seasoning right where the fish was placed>

          This is not normal for carbon steel pans either -- unless you were using very acidic sauces.

          <there was no red rust>

          Sounds like you were very thorough, so it is probably not the rust then. You may have seasoned too thick of many layers without letting each layers to settle. If you are to do this again, try to only season a couple layers and start using it. Again, you can season a cast iron pan on stovetop, just like a carbon steel pan.

          <a black residue that just never wipes away.>

          You can never wipe away all the black residues. Some of these residues are the seasoning layer. If you are willing to press down hard, you can always wipe off some black/brown residue. Try it on your carbon steel pan, and you will see the same thing.

          1. re: Chemicalkinetics

            Is this what it's supposed to "look" like? I just got done cooking bacon in the carbon steel pan, the sticky stuff from bacon comes right out with a nylon scrubber. the cast Iron pan I just reseasoned and haven't used it yet, it's like a really dark brown color not black.

             
             
             
            1. re: vairox

              Obviously, the second and third photo look perfect. Even the first one does not look that bad. A bit of stripping is not abnormal. You just don't want it to be stripped to the bare metal surface. I cannot be sure, but it looks to me that the seasoning layer was thinned, but not completely stripped. I would continue to use it.

              A lot of people say bacon is good for seasoning. I beg to different. I think it depends. If you are cooking soft and tender bacon, then yes. If you are trying to make crispy bacon, the sugar from most supermarket bacon will burn onto the pan which then can rip the seasoning off during cleaning. This is probably what you have experienced. You have some burned bits (likely to be sugar), and when you brushed them off, the seasoning came off with them. It was not your nylon scrubber's fault. It was your sugar. Try it, and prove it to yourself. Get your nylon scrubber and clean the cast iron pan now. Yes, I know there is nothing now, but just pretend and clean. What you will find and prove to yourself is that the scrubber alone will not remove the seasoning.

              <it's like a really dark brown color not black.>

              You don't need to wait for it to be black to use. Brown or dark brown is sufficient.

              1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                Yeah the carbon steel won't season like the cast iron, it's just different and really IDC because as long as there's a little oil in it it's fine and the grey stuff won't come off in food like you would have with cast iron. I saw a youtube video of a chef seasoning a volrath carbon steel pan 12 times with flax seed oil and when he was done it looked exactly like a nice black teflon pan, I just can't replicate that and I think it's cause the pan is too big for the burner and it won't get hot enough all around.

                The cast iron I just redid, that's what it looks like now after 5 seasonings at 450 with crisco and 1 at 525 with avocado oil. I guess just be careful not to cook anything that has any sugar in it, those burnt on bacon sugar stuff comes out pretty easily from the carbon steel but with the cast iron it ruins the seasoning like u said. So should I just cook fried potatoes, sausage, eggs and everything else in it for a couple months before trying bacon again?

                1. re: vairox

                  <I guess just be careful not to cook anything that has any sugar in it>

                  I want to clarify my earlier statement. I should have written that burned-on sugar is especially not good for new seasoning layer. However, once your seasoning layer has stabilized, you should have little problems with the burned-on sugar. It may still cause minor problems, but nothing major.

                  <So should I just cook fried potatoes, sausage, eggs and everything else in it for a couple months before trying bacon again?>

                  Do something for me. Just for the sake of trying. Put your nicely oven seasoned cast iron pan on the stovetop. Heat it up on the stovetop without any oil. Just heat it up dry. As the pan heats up, you will start to see a faint fume of smoke coming off the pan. Stop and let the hot pan sit. In my experience, this process can *something* stabilize the seasoning. This is just a mild suggestion, but I figure that it is quick to do (5 minutes) and won't hurt.

                  As for cooking, yeah, you can cook fried potatoes, sausage, and eggs for maybe a week or two (depending how often you cook). You shouldn't have to wait for a couple of months.

                  1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                    I'm gonna try that on the stove top, what is YOUR stove top season method that works? I've only tried it in the oven and it seems that the stovetop might be faster, I'm willing to try anything so throw it at me cause I'm still learning about CI

                  2. re: vairox

                    I can easily burn off the seasoning layers at 525. 450 is pretty hot too. Probably be ok if you don't leave it too long. Very hot temps left long enough will cause the layers to become unstable. It makes it too hard and brittle. I have tried various oils, but lard seems to hold the best for me. I use bacon grease for seasoning too. I buy bacon with no sugar. The skillet does not have to be black. That will happen over time. My CI is various shades of brown to black. Brown being my newer seasoned ones.
                    Just a note. I never sand my CI down. The roughness smooths over with a few layers of seasoning and nothing sticks. Over time, the roughnes just wears down. At least mine does. I use metal utinsils and often scrub with SS pads. Yep, it does ding the seasoning layers a bit, but I just add another layer periodicaly anyway. My CI has several layers and they do sometimes chip off. I just recoat and keep cooking.

                    1. re: dixiegal

                      <Probably be ok if you don't leave it too long.>

                      I think one hour is fine. The oven may be 450, but the pan is probably cooler than that.

                      <The roughness smooths over with a few layers of seasoning and nothing sticks. Over time, the roughnes just wears down.>

                      I have a cast iron skillet and two cast iron Dutch Oven. All of them appear to have smoothen out over the years, especially so for the cast iron skillet. The thing is that I don't know if it smoothed out because the seasoning layers slowly filled in the valleys (low points) or because the utensil removed/sanded out the high points. I suppose if I really want to know, I can burn off all the seasoning and see if the metal (without the seasoning) is more rough or not.

                      1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                        hmmm, I cooked 3 salmon filets in the CI, just coconut oil, salt and pepper. There was no sticking, and the pan cleaned up well but the seasoning came off (well a lot of it) and it was almost down to the grey iron, I could smell the iron smell. I reapplied some crisco and heated it up on the stove top until it smoked, the paper towel I used to put the crisco on was pretty black. Seems I'm gonna have to do this after each time I cook and a real stable seasoning layer may never develop. First pic is after washing it out with hot water and a nylon brush, second is the paper towel, third is after putting crisco on, not a real big difference and nothing like it was when it came out of the oven.

                         
                         
                         
                        1. re: vairox

                          Thanks for the photos and the feedbacks.

                          I would keep using the pan without seasoning. It is possible that when you seasoned the cookware, part of the seasoning layer was not stable and was really easy to fall off, and part of it is stable and stay on. If this is true, then all you have to do is to continue cooking without reseasoning. Just take a leap of faith, and cook consecutively 2-3 times without reseasoning and see what happen. You have nothing to lose.

                          1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                            Yeah I guess you're right LOL! It doesn't wash off to the bare iron, but man it almost does. I'll keep using it without reseasoning it and see what happens. What is your stove top method? I've only tried in the oven...

                            1. re: vairox

                              <What is your stove top method? I've only tried in the oven...>

                              My stovetop method is the same as that for my carbon steel pans. You season your carbon steel pans on the stovetop, right? Just use the same method.

                              I heat the pan up, and then add oil (enough to cover the pan), and then wait for the oil to start to faintly smoke, and then swirl the oil around the pan a bit, put the pan back on the stove, swirl some more...etc.

                              1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                Eggs this morning

                                http://tinypic.com/r/2j1v137/6

                                ... they slide around, maybe a SLIGHT stick but a little nudge and they coast around in the pan, I'll just cook eggs and avoid anything with any type of sugar for a while and see how it goes.

                                1. re: vairox

                                  Wow, very nice. Very nonstick. No, I won't even say that is "slightly stick" for a cast iron pan. Yes, for a Teflon pan, but what you have is probably as good as a cast iron pan will go.

                                  I take it that you don't see your seasoning get thinned/ruined after cooking the eggs, right?

                                  I think a lot of what you believe to be "ruined" may be acceptable wear. Next time just cook with it without seasoning and see if it works out at the end.

                                  1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                    With just eggs no the seasoning seems just fine, in fact it was still a little shiny after I rinsed it out with hot water after those eggs and if I would have cooked fish or bacon it would have been really dull and "thin" with an iron smell but with eggs it's like I didn't cook anything in it. I'll just keep using it and see how it goes and be careful about what I decide to cook it in. I cooked the bacon in the carbon steel, the burnt on sugar from the bacon just comes out with a little scrubbing from the nylon brush and it doesn't pull any seasoning off like it would with the CI.

                                  2. re: vairox

                                    I think you got it. To me, fried eggs are the ultimate test. I think you are good to go. Good job!

                                    1. re: dixiegal

                                      <I think you got it. To me, fried eggs are the ultimate test. I think you are good to go. Good job!>

                                      Thank you! I sanded that thing down for a while (new lodge is real rough). I figured I might have ruined it by doing that cause the seasoning would keep coming off in residue or getting real thin but I think it was from cooking things with sugar in them that stuck and ruined it too soon after seasoning it so I'll just use it for a while with eggs and whatever else like grilled cheese etc and see how it goes with bacon later

                          2. re: Chemicalkinetics

                            >I suppose if I really want to know, I can burn off all the seasoning and see if the metal (without the seasoning) is more rough or not.<

                            LOL I have done this. Not just to see if it was smooth under the layers, but because it was just time too. (well as far as I was concerned it needed to be done :o))

                            Yep, the bare iron under it was smoother than when new. Not completely smooth like a vintage skillet, but smooth shallow bumps. I wonder if the heat plays a part in smoothing it out too.

                            I think too, the kind of fat used to season with could make a difference. I am thinking fats with a low smoke point would also become brittle and flake off at lower temps. I say this, because all the vegetable oils that I have ever used,(except refined peanut oil. It worked great) came off pretty quick. I tried coconut oil and it didn't last no time. My eggs stuck in it too. I have fairly good luck with Criso Shortening. But lard just plain works. Bacon grease works for me too.

                            1. re: dixiegal

                              <Yep, the bare iron under it was smoother than when new. >

                              I think you are right. I may have had to do that once or twice. I cannot be sure, but I remember the brand new cast iron cookware was rough and "pointy". That is to say the surface is rough and sharp too. During the re-seasoning process, at the very least the surface was no longer sharp.

            2. I've always seasoned mine on the charcoal bbq. I just wait until we are done grilling something for dinner and then put the pan on with a thin layer of lard. Personally I don't like oil for seasoning cast iron. My husband ruined one in a sticky mess once. I just leave it on the grill with the lid on until everything has cooled to air temp. Always comes out black and well seasoned and ready to go.

              1. Try not expect your carbon steel to look like cast iron. You can find blackened cast iron pans anywhere they've been used and maintained properly. Blackened carbon steel isn't as common. The steel itself doesn't take to blackening as well as quickly.

                It usually takes at least a year of regular use of a carbon steel pan to really get that dark luster. Even then, it's not as black or as all-over as cast iron given similar treatment and use.

                1. I've had this same problem and this is after extensive research on the internet and trying every method many times. It is a complete mystery to me too.

                  1. I think people fiddle with CI too much. Do your initial seasoning and cook on it. Heat and oil it after use and before you know it the thing is nice & black. Trying to get a completely black pan during the initial seasoning just shows the "I have to have it NOW" American mentality. To me, going too fast can develop the "surface veil" seasoning that can flake off. My old CI that I "borrowed" from my parent's home have never flaked anything off of them.

                    I don't use detergent to clean them, I hand dry them, I may or may not heat them on a burner, and (most importantly) I wipe just enough oil in the bottom with a paper towel to just give it a shine...after every wash. I have treated new CI like this and it has seasoned itself over short periods of time.

                    I have never had to re-season (strip & start over) a piece of CI...ever.

                    Lightly season it and just use it. Don't fiddle with it and don't be afraid of it.

                    3 Replies
                    1. re: JayL

                      JayL has a good point. I've taken the same path with my carbon steel pans. I did an initial seasoning and then have proceeded to use the sh*t out of them. Seasoning just happens with usage. The pans have gotten really fugly, but now work wonderfully. Do the basic seasoning, dont use soap, dry them, oil them, use them...it will be alright.

                      1. re: JayL

                        <To me, going too fast can develop the "surface veil" seasoning that can flake off.>

                        This is a good point.

                        1. re: JayL

                          Being "southern" I have been exposed to cast iron pans my whole life.

                          I have never heard anyone talk about seasoning their pans. One reason is that CI tends to be handed down so they are already seasoned. Another reason is that we just use the pans. You likely do a quick initial seasoning and then just use it.

                          Seasoning a CI pan just isn't a topic of conversation for southerners. It's not something we worry about. Heat it, oil it, use it....and use it, and use it.

                          Heck, we use steel wool to clean it...there's nothing that flakes off.

                        2. My suggestion is to forget about getting the pan a particular shade of black. That nice deep black patina just takes time and use. Instead, just keep using it, and heat it up and lightly oil after washing.

                          My pans and dutch ovens have typically gone through a weeks'-long "ugly" phase where the seasoning is mottled...black in some spots, honey-colored in others.

                          A stiff stainless steel spatula with a straight edge really helps scrape things down...the stuck on bacon stuff can be lifted with a bit of hot coffee and thickened with a bit of bacon fat and biscuit flour to make a gravy.

                          1. When you look at your cast iron pan, do you see any red on it? Not the red of rust, but like someone colored on it w/ a crayon. It will be streaked and kind of in loops on the pan. If you do, then your pan may have been heat damaged. Heat damaged CI will not season properly. It will flake of every time and there is sadly nothing you can do to fix it. :(

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: CastIronHoneybee

                              This is a picture of a fire damaged pan.

                               
                            2. "Restore a cast iron skillet on an open fire. Many will gasp at the thought of this, but cast iron skillets can stand up to a LOT of abuse. They are the only pan for cooking over a camp fire, for good reason. You can heat them to extreme temperatures, and the only thing likely to suffer any damage is the seasoning. You can also scour them with steel wool, or a steel scouring pad without hurting them one bit. When I am camping I scour my pans with creek gravel, and never damage the seasoning.

                              When you get a pan that is rusted, or has buildup on the outside, you can strip it down, and make it good as new, whole you are camping, (or you can do it at home, but it is not as much fun).

                              First, if your pan is rusted, use a steel pad to get most of the rust off. Pitting can be a problem, but I have a deeply pitted pan that works as good as the pan I bought new.

                              Next, build a big hot fire, and throw your pan in the coals. OK, just set it in there. Throwing is not good for your pan. Let the pan get red hot or close to it, all over. If you have build up it should be flaking off every inch of the pan.

                              Now take your pan to the river. A heavy piece of stiff wire hooked through the handle is one good way to handle it at this point. Welding gloves, or any tool in the old tool box that will work is fine also, as long as it is not covered in traney fluid or something disgusting. Let the pan cool a little if it is still red, then hold it away from you while you dip it in the water. This is called quenching.

                              Now when the pan has cooled, scour it with the rocks to get any carbon (black flaky stuff) off. The bottom of the pan is generally the worst. I like to lay it on the rocks and spin it like a steering wheel.

                              This process should not cause any damage to the environment, unless you happen to kill a fish, while quenching by some twist of fate. You're body puts more pollution in the river when you swim..

                              Finally, by the time you get back to camp, your fire may have died down enough to season your pan. Oil it inside and out with plenty of oil, and set it on the grill upside down. Leave it for a half hour or so then oil it again and heat it right side up. Repeat the inside seasoning a couple times, and scour off any excess oil that starts to get thick inside the pan right away. Avoid anything salty or acidic in your pan for a couple weeks, and as always keep it dry and lightly oiled all the time, except when washing.", from: http://www.ebay.com/gds/Restore-a-cas...

                              "Methods used to clean vintage cast iron pans. Cleaning a well-used cast iron pan can be a challenge, to put it mildly. If you purchase a crusty, rusty old pan, you've got your work cut out for you. Before you can season it, you've got to clean it!

                              There are a variety of options available to clean your cast iron pan. Commonly recommended options include: elbow grease with steel wool, self-cleaning oven, oven cleaner and plastic bags, lye bath, and electrolysis. Sometimes used but not recommended options include using mechanical means such as an angle grinder to get to the bare iron, and sandblasting. This article will give a brief overview of each.

                              1. Elbow grease and steel wool and/or brass brushes: This method can work great if your pan is not a holy nightmare. If you just have a small amount of crud, roll up your sleeves and get to work. I like to use Dawn Powerscrub with a sink full of hot water. Let your pan soak for at least 5 minutes, then get it out and scrub it (wear rubber gloves!) with a coarse steel wool pad (you can get them at your local hardware store in the paint section). A brass brush (you can get these at the auto store - they are often used for detailing) can be helpful to get into any smaller areas. Once you've got the pan cleaned, rinse it well and thoroughly dry it immediately. Without seasoning, the pan will rust very quickly - this is called "flash rust." I use a big terry towel to dry the pan, along with paper towels.

                              2. Self-cleaning oven: Some people swear by this method; others claim it can warp the pans, and still others refute that. I don't know the answer. If you want to give this method a try, stick your pans in your self cleaning oven, and run the cycle. When the cycle is done, LET THE PANS COOL (this will take several hours). Then, pull the pans out and use the elbow grease option detailed in #1. This option works, but it will smoke your house to kingdom come. It also uses a lot of energy, and can discolor your oven racks since you need to leave the racks in so that you have something to set your pans on during the cleaning cycle.

                              3. Oven cleaner and jumbo plastic bags: Get yourself some heavy duty oven cleaner, jumbo or extra-large plastic bags (you can get these at Walmart or Target - Hefty and Ziplock both make them) and good plastic gloves. Spray your pan liberally with the cleaner, then put it in the jumbo bag, seal it, and let it sit for a few days. The bags keep the liquid from evaporating. After a few days, put your gloves back on and take the pans out and revert to the elbow grease method to scrub the crud off. It should come off pretty easily, though if you have a really cruddy pan it can be difficult and you may have to repeat once or twice.

                              4. Lye bath: Some folks are opposed to the lye bath method because of the use of chemicals. In my opinion, it works about as well as the oven cleaner/plastic bag method at getting crud off of your pans (probably because the oven cleaner contains lye, too!) For the lye bath, get yourself a big plastic container and fill it with hot water. Add a liberal helping of lye. Put a piece of twine through the handle of your skillet and place the skillet in the container with the twine hanging out so that you can easily grab it to get the skillet out without having to put your hand into the lye bath. Lye is very caustic, so you will want to be very careful so that you don't get splashed or get the solution on your skin. You also need to be very careful to cover your container (when I've used this method, I put a piece of wood over the container and put a brick on it to keep it on) so that it's not accessible to children and pets. If you can't find lye at your local hardware store, you can order it online. Look for the "Red Devil" brand. Let the pans sit for a day or two (I've left them up to a week), then pull them out and rinse them off well. Then, revert to the elbow grease method.

                              5. Electrolysis: I love this method and it works the best of any method I've tried. Do a little googling to find the instructions - the instructions are too lengthy for this little guide. When I do the electrolysis method, I let the pan "cook" at least overnight and up to a few days. I take it out, rinse it off, and revert to the elbow grease method. I don't typically have to use much elbow grease, as the crud is all lifted off the pan, and any rust is removed.

                              Here are some photos of a Griswold griddle #18 that I recently cleaned using the electrolysis method.

                              Before: < picture at link >

                              During: < picture at link >

                              Immediately after being taken out of the electrolysis bath; before cleaning with steel wool: < picture at link >

                              After scrubbing with steel wool, drying carefully, and "cooking" for an hour at 450 degrees: < picture at link >

                              After seasoning with Crisco: < picture at link >

                              6. Angle grinder or other mechanical methods:
                              If you are desperate and have tried everything with no luck, and are willing to risk ruining the patina of your pan, you can use an angle grinder with a brass brush or a dremel to get to the bare iron. I do not recommend this except as a last resort, as it will change the surface of the pan. It can also result in a mottled or uneven appearance and finish.

                              7. Sandblasting: Sandblasting will certainly get any and all crud off of your pan, but it will totally remove the lovely patina that you expect with a vintage pan. It also leaves a rough surface instead of the satin surface that you want on your great vintage skillet. Most collectors will not buy a pan that has been sandblasted. The pan will come out a light grey instead of the lovely black you want. If you must try this method, after sandblasting you can use a very light touch with an angle grinder with a brass brush to smooth out the surface. After the surface is smooth, if the pan is properly re-seasoned, it should again revert to black with a nice patina. If the surface is not smoothed, you will not likely be able to get the pan black with a satin patina.

                              Hope you have found this guide helpful!", written on April 26, 2012 at: http://www.ebay.com/gds/Methods-used-...