Sunday, September 14, 2014

Another Reason I'm Glad I Was Born in 1955

From Mechanical Devices in the Home, by Edith Allen, 1922.

A brief explanation of stoves is given in this chapter to help the woman with a new stove or with an old one which she does not understand so that she may manage it without wasting fuel and nervous energy. Cooking stoves (Fig. 1) were invented as a convenient means for holding pots and pans in close proximity to the fire. They include a device for regulating the supply of air to the burning fuel.

1. Air Supply for Fire. A proper amount of air must be supplied to the fuel to produce a hot fire. A smoky or yellow flame indicates a lack of sufficient air to produce complete combustion of the fuel. Smoke is unburnt fuel. A smoky fire does not produce as much heat as one which burns with a blue or almost colorless flame. It is usually not the fault of the fuel, but the way it is being used that causes a smoky fire.

2. The Grate. Cooking stoves may be constructed for burning either wood or coal. In both cases, the operation is similar, except that more air should be passing thru the stove while wood is being burnt. For burning coal, the grate should be less open in order to prevent the coal from falling thru. Some modern stoves are made with double grates. These may be turned so that the more open part of them is used for supporting the wood, and the less open part for coal.

These grates are usually reversed by a stove shaker. The housekeeper must understand how this is done in order to avoid reversing them when she shakes down the ashes. Two difficulties arise in reversing the grate when the stove is filled with fuel. The coal may be wasted by falling thru the part intended for wood, or pieces of fuel may fall between the parts so that they cannot be moved. When this happens, it is best to let the fire go out, take out the fuel, adjust the grates as they should be and rebuild the fire.

3. Drafts or Dampers. There are from three to six dampers on a stove  as follows:
1) The draft below the fire box, found on all stoves, is to let in air to the burning fire.
2) The draft above the fire box, not found on all stoves, when slightly opened, lets in air which completes the combustion of the gases arising from the top of the fire. When opened too wide, it checks the burning of the fire.
3) The oven damper, found on all cook stoves, is placed at the point where the flame naturally enters the stove pipe. When this damper is closed, the flame must go around the oven instead of directly up the chimney.

To see the oven damper, take off the lid nearest the stove pipe and watch the direction of the flame. The handle to the oven damper may be at the side of the pipe on top of the stove or at the front of the stove under the top near the reservoir. Closing this damper causes the hot gases from the fire to go back over the top of the stove down behind the oven, turn under the oven and come up the chimney. Good stoves are constructed so that the hot gases come in contact with every part of the oven. This makes a longer journey for the gases, but, if the drafts in the front of the stove and chimney are properly adjusted, the gases will make the circuit without forming soot.

4) A damper in the stove pipe for letting air from the room into the pipe serves to check the burning of the fire by taking the place of the draft thru the stove.
5) A damper, or shutter, found in the pipe or chimney of most stoves, when closed, checks the draft up the chimney, and, when open, lets it pass freely.
6) The reservoir damper, found on some stoves having reservoirs, lets the hot gases pass next to the reservoir when open and prevents this when closed.

4. Starting the Fire. If the stove has a reversible grate, see that it is adjusted to suit the fuel before building the fire; then adjust the drafts. Open the draft below the fire box, the oven damper, and the shutter in the chimney; close the draft above the fire box, and the draft which lets air from the room into the pipe, so that the air may pass up thru the fire box and directly up the chimney. Some chimneys produce such strong drafts that the shutter in the chimney has to be kept closed most of the time, even when starting the fire. After the fuel has become ignited, the draft below the fire may be partly closed so that it burns less rapidly. If the fire is to be used for heating water or food on top of the stove, it is now ready for use. If it is still burning too rapidly, the draft may be entirely closed, or the shutter in the chimney partly closed. If at any time the stove smokes, the shutter or drafts above the fire may be closed too much and should be opened enough to let all the smoke pass. Adding too much fuel at one time and not spreading it in a thin layer over the entire surface of the fire may cause the stove to smoke.

5. Keeping a Fire. If, after a fire has been used, it is wanted for use later, close the draft below the fire box, open the one above the fire box, or, if there chances to be no draft here, tilt the lids on the stove to let in the air; close the shutter in the chimney and open the draft in the pipe that lets in[19] air from the room. With the drafts so adjusted, the fire should keep a long time, as it will burn very slowly.

6. Heating the Oven. When baking is to be done, wait until the fire is well started; then close the oven damper. The eveness of heat in the oven depends upon the even distribution of the hot gases below and on the sides of it. This is provided for in the manufacture of the stove itself. The heat in the oven may be regulated by the intensity of the heat from the fire as well as by the damper. Whenever a cooler oven is wanted, the flame may be permitted to go directly up the chimney. Since hot air is always seeking a higher level than cold air, opening the oven door cools the oven, but it will not prevent food set on the bottom of the oven from burning on the bottom. In a closed oven, the greatest degree of heat is at the top, excepting sometimes the surface of the bottom of the oven. Many stoves require the placing of a thin grating on the bottom of the oven to prevent food from burning on the bottom. If food does not brown sufficiently on the bottom, remove the grating so that the dish comes in closer contact with the heating unit.

The insulation of the oven door helps to hold heat in the oven, but the amount lost here is so small that many housekeepers prefer the convenience of the glass door, which, in turn, saves heat by doing away with the necessity of opening the oven door to watch the cooking food.

Some housewives adjust the dampers for heating the oven and then never change them. They heat the kitchen in summer more than is necessary and use more fuel than they need for cooking. It has been estimated that where the careful manager of a stove uses one pound of fuel, the careless manager uses three and a half pounds.


Lady Anne said...

I can remember my grandmother going through all these contortions early in the morning. Since we spoke German at home, my first words were not generally acceptable in polite society, and my mother refused to allow me downstairs until she smelled bacon.

Bunnykins said...

My grandmother had the next generation up from this: gas with a firebox on the side. She'd inherited her great aunt's house (with the gas lines still in the walls), and used the firebox to heat the kitchen as the cellar wasn't dug out under the kitchen extension of that Victorian semi. I've never seen another stove like hers even though they must have been standard at the time. It was a hybrid, with steel top and gas burners, a large enamel back with warming oven, and the stove box attached at the left side. That had a couple of round lids and grates and who knows what as I was never allowed near it. Both the firebox were kept shiny with stove black and special steel polish. Last job at night and first job in the morning was to get the fire going. It was either that or freeze in the kitchen. I hated to see that stove go when she replaced it with a new gas range. Smaller, more efficient, and meh by comparison.