Vintage cast iron shopping?
What do I need know when looking for a vintage cast iron skillet? Brands? Tips? Advice? Thanks!
Flea markets, garage sales, auction sites.... They are everywhere. I have a collection of Lodge, Griswold, Carlisle... I picked up a nice #8 Carlisle #8 Dutch oven at a handtool auction last week for $18. It needs a good cleaning though.
Generally, the cruddier they are, the cheaper they are. I clean the really nasty ones with a wire wheel on an angle grinder but sandpaper would work as well.
I wouldn't worry too much about brand. Look at condition; if it is close to being rusted through, pass. Surface rust, fixable. I'm sure you're aware of the dozens of cleaning and seasoning posts on this board.
I have 6 CI pieces. My most used, due to size, is a no-name that I've had for 25 years. Slick as a baby's rear. Others are lodge and wagner.
I used to look for the Griswold or Wagner name on the bottom. But after talking to a dealer/collector at a flea market, he said most old pans are made by Wagner or Griswold, but they didn't put names on all of them, to sell them cheaper. He told me to look for the smooth inside. Sign of a well used pan. And to follow this method of seasoning.
Don't worry about crud or surface rust
Do worry about deep pitting or cracks
Check if it sits flat on a surface
Look for USA made vintage cast iron - the surfaces have been machined smooth - It is fairly easy to tell the difference between that and newer Chinese stuff - they are often side by side in the flea market and thrift stores
If you are looking for use not collector value don't worry too much about brands/logos etc but Wagner and Griswold are common to find.
I have entirely too much CI - it can get quite addictive to discover, clean and put to use these lovely functional antiques. Enjoy the hunt.