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Thursday, 13 April 2017

Did they really?

Common black powder such as old women use to blow out the copper flues.
R. Austin Freeman - As a Thief in the Night (1928)

Apparently women sometimes did this when the washday copper was heated by a coal fire and sooty flues were a problem to be resolved without the expense of a sweep.

The intrepid ladies went out and bought little packets of gunpowder, threw a packet into the fire under the copper, slammed the door and – whoomph. The gunpowder blew a thick black cloud of soot out of the flue. Job done.

Different times, different ways.

4 comments:

Sam Vega said...

I would have thought it was a fairly safe process, with more "whoosh" than "whoomph". Just a flash of hot flame that burns up the previous residues.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jgV7d9OITzk

Local boys might have had fun placing a tin tray over the top of the flue, and weighting it down with a load of bricks, though.

Roger said...

When I was a lad it was common to clean the chimney with a shotgun.

Demetrius said...

This was strictly for the common people. Others had the chinese laundry to collect and return.

A K Haart said...

Sam - I prefer to think of it as a flue cannon although I've heard that some people would set their chimney on fire to clear the soot.

Roger - reminds me of Laurel and Hardy in Dirty Work, although in their case it wasn't intentional.

Demetrius - but how did the Chinese laundry clear their flue?