The Taylors Paraffin Cooker!

The delightful Taylor’s cooker – needs a bit of a polish though!

The look of dismay on Dom’s face when he saw that Sumara had a Taylors paraffin cooker was rather alarming. I think he might have even exclaimed something unpublishable. Memories flooded back of him attempting to light the very same beast on Will Stirling’s yacht in Greenland. The burners needed to be pre-heated with both absolute precision timing and exact quantities of methylated spirit. If either was wrong the burner would erupt into a massive flare up followed by clouds of black smoke. Then everything had to cool down before a second attempt could be made. By that time, the opportunity of a tea break would have gone as all hands would be needed on deck to hoist the topsail. Of course, the whole procedure was made all the more painful because both Will and I could light the stove with little trouble, as if by magic. Mind you, I have been practicing for decades – and I am still learning.

A few years back I fitted some new Hanse burners to my cooker. They were German made and reputed to be very reliable but even I found them a struggle to light with the meths pre-heating method. I resolved the problem by buying a small gas blow torch. It took about 60 seconds plying the torch flame onto the burner and bingo a roaring clean blue flame. Using a blow torch slightly grated on me as one of the best excuses for owning a Taylors cooker is that you don’t like to have gas on board. Actually that might be the only excuse. Although it is just a small gas cylinder (plus a few spares) I am pretty certain it could cause a substantial explosion.

This year I found my blow torch to be faulty. It wouldn’t pump out any power so I changed the gas cylinder and the same thing happened. It is one thing having a gas blow torch on board, but quite another thing having a dodgy one. I have now reverted to using meths to preheat the burners and this time it seems to work fine. So I’ve now ditched the dodgy blow torch.

Moored alongside me in Dunstaffanage is a fine clinker yacht called Amulet. Amulet also has a Taylors cooker and we got chatting (maybe there should be a Taylors cooker owners club somewhere, I can just imagine the young vibrant crowd it would attract). Amulet’s owner had the brilliant wheeze of using a veterinary syringe to administer the exact quantity of meths. So I took his advice and bought one.

Veterinary Syringe for Methylated Spirits

Vets syringes are big and made to last, they don’t worry about using a new syringe for each jab. The syringe is graduated up to 30 ml in 5 ml jumps. Using a syringe is a great idea because it saves bending down in the dark to see when the pre-heat tray is flooded. If you are just squirting the stuff from a squeezy bottle it often overflows. Spilt meths can cause a bit of extra onboard excitement. The chrome and glass syringes also look rather nice! I have repurposed a soup container to hold the meths so it is easy to fill the syringe.

Old Soup Pot for holding the Meths

He also mentioned that John Gardner (link in the links section) is selling tops for the pressure tank with a bicycle valve fitted so a small bike pump can be used to pressurise the tank rather than the pump supplied.

Cap for Pressure Tank

My original pump still works but it isn’t very effective. I’ll keep this new gizmo as a spare for the time being. By the way, with the new Hanse burners it seems best to keep the tank pressure rather low at around 15 psi.

Flexible Fuel Hose

I always keep a spare flexible fuel hose. These seem to last about six years and tend to burst mid-Atlantic. Eagle eyed readers will note there is a little barrel bolt fitted to the bottom of the cooker. It is wise to secure the cooker when sailing down wind or the rolly motion will cause unnecessary wear and tear on the fuel line. A few spare pads for the pre-heating trays are handy too.

Pads for the pre-heat trays

I moved my Taylors pressure tank to the forepeak next to the Baby Blake. This freed up valuable space under the stove for storing cooking pots. I also had a shaped aluminium paraffin storage tank made which fits against the ceiling – you can’t say that, you deckhead! It will gravity feed paraffin to a small tap over the sink so that my oil lamps can easily be filled and paraffin can also be decanted (slowly) to transfer into the Taylors pressure tank. It means I can carry a years worth of fuel and need not worry about all the hassle of getting hold of the correct gas cylinders.

Filling the paraffin tank via a flexible hose and stainless funnel through the vent
The aluminium tank originally came with sight glasses even though I asked for a tube. The days of pink paraffin are over so sight glasses are next to useless. I eventually had it altered.

Paraffin is a great wood preservative. So if you find you have a leaky hose or minor spill, you can be assured it will be looking after your fine timber yacht.

That is jumping to the conclusion that only people mad enough to own a timber yacht will be mad enough to buy a Taylors cooker!

8 responses to “The Taylors Paraffin Cooker!”

  1. […] Alasdair Flint on his blogsite, Sumara of Weymouth […]

    1. Thanks Matteo!

  2. […] my cooker decided to squirt paraffin everywhere. I couldn’t work out exactly where it was coming from so I […]

  3. […] other fixed tank is the Taylors Paraffin Cooker pressurised tank. I moved this from using up valuable space under the cooker, to a dead space in […]

  4. […] to get confused with shore lights or stars. A full tank will run for about 25 hours. All the cooking on Sumara uses paraffin so I always have plenty on board. I have also used it as a back up […]

  5. As you’ve now had these Hanse burners for quite a while, I wonder if you can tell me how they compare with their predecessors. I have been offered at Taylors 028 in mint condition and, having cooked on paraffin cookers – both Taylors and Optimus – for the best part of 40 years, am tempted to go back to one. I presently cook on meths, but here in NZ it’s derived from fossil fuel, so doesn’t have any ‘green’ advantage. However, parts and burners are both fantastically expensive in NZ – the burners alone are $700 from the kiwi chandler. I used to get 2 years out of the older burners and I cooked a lot – I still do. However, I simply cannot afford $2 a day simply to replace burners, let alone the extra costs of the prickers and nipples – and the kero costs an arm and a leg, too!

    What I’d dearly love to know is whether from either your experience, or the people you have talked to, these burners last significantly longer than the old Patria or Optimus burners. This would make it a lot easier for me to make a decision as to whether or not I should return to cooking on kero.

    PS: I love Vertues: one of my best friends is presently sailing hers in Malaysia!

    1. Hi Annie, It is a bit tricky to answer with any certainty. I have a vague memory of one Hanse burner not functioning from new. I was also surprised at the time they took to pre-heat but I have bonded with them now and find them very reliable. I don’t live on Sumara, so the burners only get a few months action each year. I would certainly expect to get 5 years service and hopeful 10 years but that may only equate to a couple of years of full time cooking. The cookers are very Marmite, but I love my one which is about 32 years old now, and needs a good polish!
      Enjoy New Zealand. Alasdair

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