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  • wood oven bakers known as "smoke jacks"

    from the book from 1900 "practical break making-a usefull guide for all in the trade" (this book reports on ovens in the late 1800's)

    This brings us briefly to the baker and his wood oven as found at the end of the seventeenth century, which was continued away into the eighteenth or until coal came into use, which it did very gradually. With the advent of coal, the geniuses of the trade had to look around for means of heating their ovens, for wood began to get very scarce and dear. The first expedient adopted was the arrangement made from sheet-iron, and placed partially over the doorway of the oven, thus giving a sharper draught and allowing the cold air to pass underneath, and so to feed the fire. This was known as a "blower," and came very generally into use, the fire being made in one corner of the oven, sunk somewhat below the floor of the oven, and fed with fresh coals from the one doorway. From this beginning, iron having become pretty common, or rather more generally used, a door was cast for the oven mouth, and then some happily inspired individual hit upon the idea of having a special door for the furnace; at first it was placed below the oven floor, and was, I believe, known as the "Chaffer dven." Whether named after the inventor, or for other reasons, I know not; but it was here, and the principle being once evolved of having a separate fire, a special flue was not very long in following, and then came the side-flue oven, which was once, I believe, the subject of a patent, to serve mankind. This oven, with very many improvements, is with us to-day, and there seems every likelihood that it has come to stay. In almost every village or town this same oven is to be found, and is admitted to do its work both economically and well.

    Its principle needs very little description, as it is very well known to almost every baker in the kingdom. The ironwork has been strengthened to such a degree that it is practically everlasting; the brickwork, too, is so very solid and substantial that its life is almost unlimited. I know ovens that have been in constant use for over fifty years, and they seem in quite as good condition as when first built, excepting, of course, the tile floor, which has to be renewed periodically, and so also does the furnace lumps; but then so do all furnaces, no matter where they may be situated, either at the back, underneath, or at the side.

    For general work these ovens have stood the test of time well, and there are many who would not change them for any other; and, when you come to think of it, there are very few advantages to be gained by change. In the first place, where only a small trade is being done, the advantages offered by the patent ovens over the sideflue are more imaginary than real, besides which they are more expensive to fire. A side-flue oven can be filled, emptied, and again filled with the second batch, in much about the time necessary to carry out the operation in the continuous ovens now upon the market, and I have seen very large trades built up and maintained with them; but then there have been little inconveniences to contend with, and so there are with the patents.

    I think that a few examples of oven work with the side-flue oven may serve a very useful purpose here, so, first of all, we will commence by firing the oven. For starting the oven either shavings, straw, or wood, would have to be used. Clean out your furnace free from clinkers with an oven raker (Fig. i57); then lay in a good handful of shavings, and then a few sticks of wood, flatten down close on to the bars, and on
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    top of the wood place a few shovelsful of coal; apply the match, draw out the register, pull down the flap, open the draught door under the furnace, close the furnace door, and, providing your oven has a good sharp draught, she has fairly started away. Given decent fuel and a fairish draught, the oven furnace requires very little stoking, though, of course, some is necessary. When fairly away, just lift up your fire with the back of your shovel, and then place more coals at the back of the fire; never by any chance throw them right over the top of the fire, and into the oven, but always lift the fire forward to the oven, and place the fresh fuel just at the back. This is the plan generally adopted to ensure the fire burning with the smallest possible amount of smoke, and was practised with unvarying success in London during the worst days of the smoke nuisance Act, which, although not extinct, is practically a dead letter, its administration being shifted to the local authorities, who very seldom put it into force; I believe for the very simple reason that it is for the public to take the initiative, instead of the much-abused and often interested official vulgarly known to the baker as a "smoke jack," whose duty it used to be to spy out all infringements of the Act, and put it in force.

    Usually your oven will not require more than three good fires, or four at the outside, and when "she" is clear "she" is ready for your batch, after, of course, being "scuffled," "cleaned," or "wiped" out.

    For an oven which has a somewhat sluggish draught, it is usual to leave the outer furnace door open : this will aid combustion considerably, and help your oven along immensely, but " she" will require more constant attention, and must be stoked often and have a smaller quantity of coal fed into "her" at the time.

    Another thing, you may have been too liberal with the coal, with the consequence that your furnace is full, and the oven-door commences to "chatter." The remedy for this is just to open your furnace, and draw the fire back a little with the raker, and so cause the fire to beat upon the "drop-lump " placed across the top of your furnace, instead of going directly into the oven as it did to cause the "chatter." Very simple, is it not? yet I know hundreds who cannot explain it away, or remedy it.

    The worst evil, and luckily one that seldom visits the baker, is to have his oven do what is termed "blow back," which is generally caused by the draught being interrupted, or changed in some way or other. The fire will spout out under the bars, and smoke and soot deluge the bake-house. Remedy there is none, but it can to some extent be prevented. It is usually caused by the fire being banked up too high, or by too much dusty fuel being fed into the furnace, and so checking the draught, with the consequence that it blows back. Of course, the obvious prevention is not to fill up the furnace too full, and it would be much better if your oven is inclined to blow


    back to fire "her" little and often, and in that way reduce the risk to a minimum, if you cannot entirely abolish it altogether.

    Your oven being ready for filling, you will run the batch in the best way you know; to please your customers, which is the principal thing to do in these days of competition.

    That is the first batch. Now it often follows that you have to turn out a second, and possibly a third, from the same oven, when your management and abilities will be called into play. Usually the second dough would be ready to throw out as soon as your first was drawn from the oven. Now, if your oven is empty, get away the fire at once, and stoke pretty frequently to get as much fire as possible into " her," and by the time you have your dough scaled off and partially moulded up, "she" will be ready for scuffling out. And when ready, "run," or set in your second batch; give your third dough a turn over, and get ready to throw out. When the second batch is drawn from the oven, start "her" away, and throw out and follow along as quickly as possible in the same way as before.

    If you have got your oven a good solid heat for the first batch, the second will require less fire, and the third less again. And usually two hundred-weights of coals would be sufficient for the three batches, at a cost of is. 8d. for, say, three sacks of bread, a cost of less than 8d. per sack, not a very large amount, all things considered, and I may say that I have often accomplished three batches with this amount of fuel, and in about six and a half hours. I do not mean that the doughs have been made and got into the oven in that time, as the doughs were all made in the first part of the night, but only so far as scaling and getting into the oven is concerned. Of course, if the dough-making time was added, it would work out to about nine and a half to ten hours.

    So much for the side-flue oven. We now get along to the "patents," which in this connection are generally known as "continuous baking." The principle is nearly the same in them all, although it is carried out in a different manner, some being fired externally and others internally; but to my mind those into which the fire goes are to be preferred to those in which it does not. The principle on which they are constructed is that the baker is able to get a considerable quantity of bread out in a given time; but, whichever oven you have, you will have to take very particular care to keep up the "gauge " or " pyrometer," or your batches will be more boiled than baked. Again, do not think to add on more fuel after you have set your batch, without you are able to draw it up through the main flue, in which case take care to shut all dampers connecting with the baking chamber, or you will have a fiasco, for besides drawing up the fire you will be drawing all the heat and steam out of the oven, with Tthe result that you have many headless loaves, and a very dry batch into the bargain.

  • #2
    Re: wood oven bakers known as "smoke jacks"

    Chapter X.


    THE oven, in connection with bread-making, plays

    a very important part, and so now comes here

    for consideration.

    In the earliest times the oven, as we know it, really did not exist; and yet, from the first, food was baked in some fashion or other, and there are many interesting relics of the contrivances used still extant and collected together in museums in different parts of the country. Truly, it would be interesting, and offer a vast field of research, to chronicle the many vicissitudes that the oven has passed through until it has reached the high state of perfection that we know to-day. But a resume of all the appliances in this connection would serve no very useful purpose in these pages, and so we will commence at a time not so very remote, and endeavour to chronicle some of the progress made of late years to bring the bakers' oven to perfection.

    You are all, no doubt, acquainted with the earlier method of baking on the hearth, and will remember the unfortunate king who burnt the cakes in the swineherd's cottage, the said cakes simply being meal and water to serve as provisions for the swineherd's family; and you know something about the process of baking usually adopted in rural England at a later date, and described on page i0 in this book. This is not yet extinct, as will be seen on reference to that page.

    After that, from one cause and another, public bakeries began to be set up, where all the village took it in turns to bake their bread, making it at their own homes and carrying it to the bakehouse to bake. The oven used was fired with wood, and in many parts of the

    country to this day there are ovens so fired. These were built first of clay and turf, with slabs of rough earthenware or stone to form the crown, with only one opening, and that the mouth, which served the purpose of a doorway and flue for the oven. The oven would be filled with wood and set on fire, and then, when it had burnt itself out, would be cleaned and the bread set in, and closed up tight with a large slate or tile and left to cook. This oven was usually built in the open air, and outside the hut that served as a bakehouse. Then the use of bricks was called into requisition, and the oven blossomed out with tiled hearth and arched roof, but with still the one opening which served as doorway and flue; but a chimney is now added in front and above the doorway to carry off the stifling smoke that was generated by the green wood so often employed to heat it. This created a good draught, and it became possible to conduct baking in more regular order, and it now comes about that folks tire of making their own bread, and depute it to others, laying the foundation of the baking craft, for although bakers have been from very remote times, they were simply maintained as servants in the establishments of the great, and not the independent craftsmen they now are.


    • #3
      Re: wood oven bakers known as "smoke jacks"

      Great read! Only I take from the extract that rather than those who bake using wood for fuel being known as "Smoke Jacks", that those whose business was to spy out a smoking oven/chimney were so named.

      "... instead of the much-abused and often interested official vulgarly known to the baker as a "smoke jack," whose duty it used to be to spy out all infringements of the Act, and put it in force.

      So what is the full title, author, date of pub etc.? (asks one who would hope to find a copy)



      • #4
        Re: wood oven bakers known as "smoke jacks"

        Practical bread-making: a useful guide for all in the trade
        By Frederick T. Vine circa 1900


        • #5
          Re: wood oven bakers known as "smoke jacks"

          Its principle needs very little description, as it is very well known to almost every baker in the kingdom.
          I find a problem with a lot of old technical writing is that they presume a knowledge of standard procedure, and glaze over the no-longer-existing details that really interest you, to go off on tangents or minutia.
          My geodesic oven project: part 1, part 2


          • #6
            Re: wood oven bakers known as "smoke jacks"

            I find the opposite, but only in comparison to modern technical writing.

            That was a good chapter or 2.