Flying to Tasmania to collect a boat and staying to run an old-fashioned bakeware business is the definition of a twist in the tale. Manufacturing and selling handmade tin bakeware is a passionate way of life for Paul and Denise Kenyon of SG Emmett & Son. Baking Business chats with Denise about her change of scenery.
HOW DID YOU END UP IN TASMANIA?
We ended up in Tasmania because Paul bought a wooden boat on eBay. He came from Queensland to Tasmania intending to sail the boat back. When he arrived, he found the photographs used to sell the boat were decades old and the boat was a wreck. Paul is a man who doesn’t give up easily. He lived onboard while he gutted and rebuilt the boat over a period of about two years. During that time, I came down to Tassie for visits and we both grew to appreciate the kindness, generosity and simple, relaxed lifestyle of most of the Tasmanian people we met, not to mention the beautiful scenery.
We decided that we could not ever have found anywhere better to live. We chose to remain and live in our own kind of paradise. We were looking for work or a business on Gumtree. This business was listed for sale. We were fascinated by the lovely old machinery. It was something we believed we could learn to do well and continue to do into our old age. The business was within the price range of what we could borrow so it made sense for us.
TELL US ABOUT THE HISTORY OF YOUR BUSINESS.
The business was started by Stanley Emmett in 1924 after he had completed his apprenticeship as a tinsmith. We did not fully appreciate the history or the unique nature of the business at the time we purchased it. We have since met Mr Emmett’s daughter, Anne, and some of his grandchildren, so we now have a much better understanding and we value the history. After working for six years in the laundry of his house at New Town, Hobart, Mr SG Emmett & Son moved to a factory in Hopkins Street in Moonah. He purchased second hand machinery, so the machines we use are more than 100 years old. Mr Emmett and his son Dennis worked in the factory at Moonah for many decades. They produced all manner of tin products. We still have his patterns for metal baby baths, canisters, jugs, buckets, watering cans, candle holders, biscuit tins, etc. We currently only make the baking products as we have little time to explore the patterns at our disposal.
HOW DO YOU PRODUCE YOUR TINS?
The tins are made using traditional methods so the squares and rectangles are cut, notched, folded and then joined together using a hammer on an anvil. Wires are rolled into the top for strength. The round tins are manufactured on very old belt driven John Heine & Son machines in addition to a range of jennies.
Mr SG Emmett & Son had the machines set up to run from one stationary engine (as they used to in old shearing sheds) but we have several small electric motors driving them instead. We make square, rectangular and round tins ranging from 4″ to 16″ in inch increments and from 1″ deep to 4″ deep. Our bread tins are 1lb, 2lb or 4lb (weight of flour used). The only other business we know of in Australia who manufactures tins in this manner is Cecil & Co. Cecil & Co also started in 1924. Chris Cecil is a fourth-generation tinsmith. We are very grateful for his help and advice.
WHAT IS THE MAIN DIFFERENCE BETWEEN YOUR HAND-MADE TINS AND MASS-PRODUCED TINS?
Our method of making tins enables us to produce a tin that is of thin metal. We believe it transfers heat to cook cakes more evenly than thicker metal. Our bread tins are made using a heavier metal because most people want a crust on the bread and a soft centre. Most mass-produced tins are manufactured in a press so they have to use thicker metal than we are able to use. Because our tins are not pressed, they have neat edges and a 90-degree angle between the bottom and the side. This gives a neat finish for cake decorators.
HOW WOULD BAKERS AND BUSINESSES BENEFIT FROM YOUR TINS?
We believe our tins are competitive on cost and of good quality. We have been told that our tins cook cakes better because of the thinness of the metal. We have heard this from some of our customers as well as some of the CWA ladies who run the cooking competition for the Huon Agricultural Show. With care, our tins will last a lifetime. One of our customers was still using tins she had purchased from Mr Emmett more than 40 years before. We are proud to be making a product that can be passed to the next generation.
WHERE IS THE BEST PLACE TO GET YOUR TINS?
We have a number of outlets in Tasmania and one wholesaler on the mainland who distributes Australia-wide. Many people come to our shed at Cygnet simply to see the old machinery, although we are a manufacturer and not a museum.