Butter Churn, "Blow", made by Blow Churn
Co., England. Tongarra Museum
Butter Churn

Butter churns are machines that are used to produce butter by the violent agitation of separated cream. In the early dairy industry of Australia, the most common designs were constructed from wood, cast iron, steel and glass.

The earliest designs were worked by a crank handle and integrated gear system. The larger models in use at dairy factories were powered by energy obtained from the operation of a windmill, steam engine or oil engine. 


Cream Separator 

Cream Separator, made by Alfa Laval
Separator Co. Ltd., Stockholm,
Sweden. Tongarra Museum

Cream separators are used to separate the fatty content of milk from its watery constituents in order to produce cream. The earliest cream separators were worked with a hand crank to initiate the centrifugal process. This source of power was later replaced with the installation of steam turbine engines connected to the separators by a belt drive and later still with the widespread availability of electricity. For a period of time the separators were also powered by horses who walked on a treadmill like machine.

The introduction of the cream separator into Australian in the 1880s was an event which dramatically shifted farm and factory methods of producing cream, improved hygienic standards and raised the productive capacity of the local dairy industry.
Museum Examples

 Cream Setting Pan
Cream Setting Pan, iron with tinplate,
made by J. T. M. Bega Cheese Heritage Centre

A setting pan was used in the early decades of the dairy industry in Australia as part of a manual method to produce cream. It worked on the principle of gravity separation, whereby if a body of milk was allowed to set for an extended periodmost commonly between 24 and 36 hours- the fatty cream would rise to the surface and float on the remaining skim milk liquid. The cream was formed from the coagulation of fat-globules present in the milk. This is due to the differing densities of the fat-rich cream as compared to the water-rich skim milk.

Museum Examples

Milking Machine

The design of early milking machines varied to a large extent, utilising different methods to initiate the flow of milk. The earliest known design is the catheter type which comprised an open teat sphincter that was inserted to force open the sphincter muscle allowing the milk to flow. The tubes used in these early machines were constructed from wood or feather quills. One model of this early design type is attributed to E. A. Hewitt from Groton, Connecticut but another similar design awarded C. Knapp an American patent in 1849.

Milking Machine, “Dangar G.”, pulsator
type, made by Dangar Gedye &
Malloch Ltd. Bega Pioneers' Museum

Another peculiar machine which appeared in the 1860s in England was a vacuum milker that comprised a hand operated diaphragm vacuum device that worked on four teats simultaneously. The milk was invented by L. O. Colvin and was awarded patents in the United States in 1860 and 1863. Criticism made of the machine was that it was injurious to the cow and often drew blood which then entered the milk supply.

By the 1860s experimentations with the design of milking machines shifted towards models that utilised pressure or vacuum to initiate the flow of milk. The vacuum or suction milking machine had a pump driven by hand or another source of power. The vacuum simulated the motion of calf milking to induce the flow of milk. This last type was most commonly used in later decades when the machines were more widely adopted.

Engineers from Australia and New Zealand was responsible for many advances in the design of milking machines, with three well known models- the “Jersey” milking machine, the “Dominion” milking machine and the “Austral” milking machine. These models altered the design of the teat cup and rubber tubbing so as to reduce the strain upon the cow during the process of milking.

Museum Examples

Milk Dipper

Milk Dipper, steel, made by Band IT,
Denver, Colorado. Tongarra Museum
A milk dipper was used in the process of testing milk. It was used to extract a small sample from the main supply to be poured into glass testing tubes. These tubes would be placed in a centrifugal machine to separate the milk into its two main components- fat globules and water. By reading off the graduated scale on the side of the glass tubes, a determination of the fat content of milk could be obtained. Milk dippers were widely used in the Australian dairy industry. They were most typically made from steel or a tinned material. They were held by one finger which grasped the handle's hooked end.

Museum Examples

Milk Tester

Milk Tester, manual, painted black cast iron with
tinned iron parts. Kangaroo Valley Pioneer Park Museum
Milk testing was introduced in many national dairy industries to combat malpractice on the part of dishonest farmers who watered down their supply to gain higher returns. The most widely used test in Australia was the Babcock Method, devised by Stephen M. Babcock from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. The testers used centrifugal force and a chemical agent (sulphuric acid) to separate the fat and water contents of milk. Once the sample was separated, a reading of the fat content would be made from the graduations on the side of the test tube, and a percentage determined.

Museum Examples

 Milk Carton

Milk Carton, 7, one litre, paperboard and
waterproof plastic coating, used by Bega Co-operative
Society Ltd. Bega Cheese Heritage Centre
Milk Cartons were used to store and market fresh milk. The cartons were typically constructed from a type of paperboard made up multiple layers of paper. Any company information or decoration was printed on the carton at the time of its manufacture and was most typically received at the dairy factory as flat packaging. The board was coated with layers of a plastic film or alternatively, was applied with wax so that it would be waterproof. When the carton was received at the dairy factory it would be assembled in preparation for it to be filled with milk.

After the cartons were filled, the upper edge would be sealed by heat. A form of adhesive would be initiated by a heated roller which would affix the sides together and protect the contents from being spoiled by exposure to air. By the time of the introduction of carton packing, pasteurising was ubiquitous throughout all dairy factories in New South Wales due legislation that made it compulsory. Pasteurisation halted the spoilage of milk and enabled it to be stored for more extensive periods than what had been previously possible.

Museum Examples

 Cream Skimmer

Skimmer, iron with tinplate. Kangaroo Valley
Pioneer Park Museum
The gravitational method of separating milk required the use of a creak skimmer to skim off the coagulated fat globules (cream) floating ontop of a skim-milk liquid. The method called for the use of a setting pan (see above) which was filled with milk and allowed to sit for an extended period, often between 24 and 36 hours. The skimmers were most commonly made from tin and featured small perforations or holes through a concave plate.

Museum Examples

Dairy Boiler

Boiler, copper and steel, made by
Frank Moorhouse, Nowra. Kangaroo
Valley Pioneer Park Museum
The sterilisation of dairy equipment between uses was a crucial routine for any hygienic dairy. In the earliest decades of the dairy industry this was achieved by the immersion of utensils and removable machinery components in boiling water that had been heated by the use of a boiler. The boilers were commonly made from copper, a practice that conferred them with the nickname “coppers”.

The boiler was worked by lighting a fire in the narrow fireplace in an enclosed section located below the main cylinder. The fire would heat the cylinder till the water reached boiling point.

Butter Roller

Butter Roller, "Australia", wood. Gerringong Museum
Butter rollers were a utensil used to imprint a pattern on the upper surface of large butter blocks. The rollers typically featured the name of the company, geometrical patterns and other intricate designs or the nation or region of manufacture.

In Australia it was very common for "Australia" rollers to be used to imprint a marker of the butter's origin, particularly for butter destined for sale in the New Zealand and British markets. Australian butter fetched a high return in English markets where it was seen as being of the highest quality. The butter roller was an important method of confirming the origin of the butter, but it also served to improve its appearance which would support the claim for a 'luxury' commercial selling price.

Museum Examples

Butter Worker

Butter Worker, rotary, made
by E. Cherry & Sons, Gisborne. Bega
Cheese Heritage Centre
A butter worker is a specially designed table with some attached component that was used to produce a smooth, even butter texture. The crudest butter workers had a rectangular tray that sat on long legs like a table. Along the length of the tray’s sides were two metal tracks with grooves. A long roller with protruding lengths (having an appearance much like a crude paddlewheel) was set sideways over the tray. It was turned by a crank handle positioned at one end of the roller that turned a gear system running over a metal track. Another similar design had the roller in a fixed position, while the tray would move forwards and backwards. Another design that was not very common in Australia compared to Britain was the Skinner butter worker that had an arc shape with the roller rotating itself simultaneously with moving backwards and forwards within the arc. 

Another commonly used butter worker was the rotart type which featured a round tray with the metal track extending around the table's outer circumference. As the crank handle was turned the tray would rotate. The roller had a unique shape which had the appearance of a wave or the tilde diacretic symbol (~). This roller spun as the table rotated around on the metal gear. Any excess buttermilk would be drained through the centre column which had a small hole in its side for this purpose. A bucket would be set under the middle part of the worker while in use, and the buttermilk could then be used to feed any pigs kept at the farm or factory.

 Butter Cutter

Butter Cutter, wood, cast iron and steel wire. Bega
Cheese Heritage Centre
A wooden butter cutter was a early machine used to slice large blocks of butter into one pound quantities. The earliest designs of this machine comprised a wooden table raised from the ground that had thick, rectangular grid incisions on the base. A wooden lid was constructed from two or four wood sheets with the same grid of steel or iron wire threaded through the outer frame. It was this lid that would slice the butter block into the pound quantities. The butter was first prepared into a perfectly formed cube and was placed over the base platform. The upper frame would then be brought down over the block.

This design, though effective, could only cut through a small block quantity at one time. A later design of the cutter was specially built for larger quantities and appeared in a self contained unit that had four legs. The cutter worked by inserting the large block into the centre cavity. By the movement of a crank handle, a wooden platform would push the block through the centre cavity towards the opposite end which had a wire grid. After extruding the butter for a sufficient length, a guillotine blade would be brought down, producing the one pound butter blocks. This later design was also known as a butter extruder.  

Museum Examples

Milking Stool
Milking Stool, wood, three legs. Bega
Cheese Heritage Centre

Until the invention of the milking machine all milk was obtained twice a day- by hand. The cow would be brought into a milking shed where it would be prepared for milking. The milker was positioned just off the ground to enable them to exercise the greatest control over the cow.

A short wooden stool was used because it provided the milker with the desired height needed for the process, and also because they enabled good movement if the cow began to protest and attempt to knock over the bucket. Though the stool was intended to reduce any strain on the back by bringing them closer to the ground, it still was a source of pain for many when the process extended beyond the usual four hours needed for each of the morning and afternoon milking sessions.

Museum Examples

 Butter Pats

Butter Pats, wood, two pairs. Berrima Museum
Butter pats were used in dairies and butter factories to work and shape butter to prepare it for sale. Alternative names for the utensils are butter hands or butter paddles. They were used as part of a pair by the factory worker who processed the butter on a table designated for this purpose. The pats were used both immediately after the butter had been produced and also when butter had been stored for an extended period of time and needed to be softened.

Museum Examples

Butter Kegs

Butter Keg, “DK”, “XXX”, “MAIRLIE”,
wooden staves and iron bands, used by
'DK'. Illawarra Museum
Butter kegs were used to transport butter over long distances. They were used repeatedly until falling into disrepair. Markings such as inscribed names or symbols were added to the wooden surface of the kegs to enable the owner to identify them when returned empty. The kegs are most commonly associated with the age of steam shipping companies which collected produce at ports along the coast and transported them to large centres such as the Sydney market.

It was common practice for the kegs to be filled with the butter from numerous dairy farmers in close proximity who would share the profits of their effort. The capacity of the most prevalent butter kegs used varied between 50 and 90 pounds (approx. 23 to 41 kg. respectively). The kegs were brought by dray and cart or packhorse to butter ports for shipping to the major ports.

Museum Examples

Curd Knife

Curd Knife, steel frame and wooden
handle, horizontal teeth. Bega
Cheese Heritage Centre
The curd knife was used in cheese factories to produce large quantities of cheese. The curd would be sitting in a large vat where it coagulated by the provision of heat by steam. After the curd had developed, the knives were used to break up the curd into pieces and to stir the mixture while it was being scalded. The knives would be be attached to a steel frame hanging over the centre of a vat which extended from a centre axis and rotated around the vat so that the knives would cut and stir the contents.

Museum Examples

Milk Vendors' Measure

Milk Measure, made by Malleys Ltd., Sydney. Bega Pioneers'
Milk vendors' measures recall an earlier time when vendors delivered milk directly to the home. Milk was carried in large cans, with the milk measures kept so that accurate measurements of the desired quantity of milk could be determined and dispensed. Commonly the milk vendor would carry a pint and half pint measure with them during their deliveries. Though much of the trade involved regular the delivery of milk to regular customers, much of the milk was also sold by milk vendors who yelled “milk” during their deliveries to entice oneoff purchases. The measure and can system remained in use until the appearance of pre-packaged glass bottles.

Museum Examples

Milk Vat

Milk Vat, stainless steel. Kangaroo Valley Pioneer
Park Museum
A milk vat was used as a storage container for recently obtained milk that needed to be cooled. It would be positioned on a specially installed bracket or shelf, overhanging the bar cooler. A tap fixture attached to the bottom front of the vat would regulate the contents so it flowed at a continuous rate. As the milk was drained from the vat it would fall over the cream cooler before being collected in a can, keg or vat. It would then be returned to pass again through the system until the temperature had been sufficiently lowered.

If milk was to be separated at the home dairy before being taken to the factory, it was important that the milk had been cooled first to prevent spoilage during its transit. Milk vats were in common use in most dairies located at farms and also at factories where cooling was completed. Some of the vats were tinned to prevent any corrosion.

Museum Examples

Scales and Balances

Platform Scales, cast iron, made by W. & T.
Avery Ltd., Birmingham. Tongarra Museum
In the nineteenth and twentieth centuries the commercial returns of butter production was determined for the most part on the quantity of output. The weight as determined by a reading obtained from a balance or scale installed at the factory or at the wharf. The cost of freighting and export duties was also influenced by a measurement of weight. Scales in use at dairy factories were most typically of the platform type which allowed for multiple butter kegs, boxes and cans to be determined simultaneously.

Museum Examples

Ice Cream Churns

Ice Cream Maker, "Lightning", oak, cast iron and
steel, made by Shepard's, U.S.A.  Berrima Museum
Ice cream was manufactured in the early days by specialised churn machines with some provision to cool the stored contents. These machines were worked by a crank handle and to cool the mixture ice and salt was packed around the container. These machines were satisfactory for producing small quantities of ice cream but they proved to be ineffective for factory level production.

While some of the models turned the bucket simultaneously as the internal paddles were rotated, others that did not were particularly tedious to work because the mixture would have to be churned for an extended period.

Museum Examples

Milking Bucket

Milking Bucket, steel, made by Malleys
Ltd., Sydney. Bega Cheese Heritage Centre
In the period prior to the invention of milking machines, all milk was obtained by hand at specially designed dairy buildings on the farm. The equipment involved in this method was very simple- a short wooden stool, a metal bucket and some form of restrainer to hold the cow during milking.

In early times, there was little variety in the design of milking buckets other than some small variances owing to the different methods of construction associated with particular materials. However in later decades of hand milking, a new form of bucket emerged that had a partial side lid that halted the intrusion of impurities from the air and the dairy building entering the bucket.

Museum Examples

Milk Can

Milk Can, iron, 3 bands, used by
Nicholas Ball, dairy farmer, Albion Park.
Tongarra Museum
Milk cans were used to store milk and cream in their transit from the farm to factories and thereafter to bring them to the marketplace for sale. Generally they were galvanised or tinned to halt the appearance of rust, and were also secured by iron bands. The average farmer would need a large number (often over ten) for transporting their daily milk supply. The cows were milked twice daily- early in the morning and in the afternoon- but in the cooler months of winter the cans were usually only transported after the morning's milking with the afternoon supply being held to the following day.

The cans offered little insulation against the sun’s heat during these warmer months. There are many documentary reports of the contents of milk cans going sour under the stress of the sun's heat.

Museum Examples

Butter Wrapper

Butter Wrapper, “Warrilla” Brand, used by the
Illawarra Central Cooperative Dairy Co Ltd., Albion Park
Rail, c. 1956. Tongarra Museum
Waxed paper wrapping was a common material used for packaging small butter blocks. The wrapping would often be highly decorated with a company logo or idyllic rural scene, in addition to details of the quantity, date of manufacture and company details.

Museum Examples

Butter Wrapper Cutter

Butter Wrapper Cutter, wooden base and steel frame.
Bega Cheese Heritage Centre
Butter Wrapper Cutters were a machine was used at factories to cut a desired section from a roll of butter wrapping. A roll of waxed paper wrapping was positioned on the steel frame. It was brought forward away from the roll and when the desired length had been pulled, it was torn against a sharp steel blade.

Butter Stamp

Butter Stamp, 2, wood, acorn and clove designs.
Kangaroo Valley Pioneer Park Museum
It was a common practice for butter presented at tables to be decorated with a pattern imprinted by a small wooden stamp. The stamps were carved from wood and were held in the hand by a curved handle on the reverse side. It enabled the user to impart the downward pressure necessary to produce a well-defined print. The stamps were designed typically for half pound or one pound quantities of butter.

There was much variety in the designs chosen for the stamps. They varied between botanical styles, to terrestrial animals while others featured complex geometric patterns. Some common designs included sheaves of wheat, stylised plants, abstract shapes, eagles, fruits, and acorns.
Museum Examples

 Butter Packer

Butter Packer, wood and cast iron parts,
20 pound size. Bega Cheese Heritage Centre

A butter packer is an instrument use to shape butter into large cubes so that it may be packaged as a bulk product. Packers were typically constructed from wood with cast iron hinges which enabled the lid and in some cases a side wall to be easily opened once the desired form had been acheived.

The packers were used together with a hand held packing instrument. The most rudimentary forms of this hand held packer was a wooden pole with a small, flat platform at the end for applying even pressure. Butter pats were also widely used to shape the butter into the box form. It was important that care was taken to remove any air pockets as long periods of transport would lead to spoilage of the total package if excess air was present.

Museum Examples

Butter Box

Butter Box, wooden staves, 56lb., used by the Jamberoo
Co-operative Dairy Society Ltd. Kangaroo Valley Pioneer
Park Museum
Butter boxes were used to store factory-made butter intended for transportation for distribution and sale. They were often crudely made from wood off-cuts with nails holding the box together. A stencil identifying the producer of the butter would be painted on the side of the box.

If Australian butter was to be sold in foreign markets, it would also be stencilled with a brand that identified it as Australian butter. This was a requirement of many nations at the time, including Britain, as it was customary to impose a tariff on any imported produce. The identification of butter as being made in Australia also had commercial benefits. As the Australian dairy industry was well respected internationally, butter that was indicated as being produced here was regularly sold at the highest rate of return.

Museum Examples

Cheese Press

Cheese Press, single thread. Bega
Pioneers' Museum
The use of a cheese press was an essential element of the cheese-making technique, and would be called upon numerous times in the production process. The key function of the press is in the first instance of its use is to give correct form to the product. This initial pressing allowed the cheese to be stored for curing and aging. The second pressing incurs a much higher imposition of weight (commonly one ton) to firmly compress the product.

The most commonly used models of cheese presses included: screw lever press (compression produced by bringing down a platform attached by a metal thread to a crank handle), horizontal designs (e.g. the Gang Press) and spring presses (where the compression of a powerful spring would provide the necessary pressure). Many cheese presses in use in the early cheese industry in Australia were home made efforts constructed from readily obtainable materials. These presses most typically comrpised cheese hoops, wooden planks, a few pieces of scantling wood and heavy weights.

Curd Vat
Cheese Vat, “Ceres III”, wood, steel
and cast iron, made by Fa C. Can’t
Riet, Utrecht, Holland. Bega Cheese
Heritage Centre
A curd vat is used to hold the coagulating curd while it is being heated and later cut. Many styles of vats were in use in the early Australian dairy industry. The crudest models were constructed from wood or copper with a tap located at the base. Later improvements on the vat design were jacketed models that were connected to a boiler. The boiler produced steam that would circulate around but not touch the sides of the vat. The reason for this type of arrangement was that if the steam came into direct contact with the vat’s sides than it would rapidly and unevenly cook the curd, producing an undesirable texture and taste.

The unsatisfactory elements of this design were overcome with an innovation whereby two vats were used with a pump installed to transfer the curd between them. The contents of the larger vat was continuously pumped into a smaller tub that heated the contents before pouring it back into the large vat. This design was not only a more stable means to heat the coagulating curd, it was also vastly more efficient.

The earliest designs of cheese vats were typically constructed from a wood such as oak or from copper. In later decades they were made from a tinned metal or steel. Common to most vat designs was the inclusion of a tap fixture located at the lower base that would be opened to drain away any excess whey during the process of coagulation.

Museum Examples

Curd Knife

Curd Knife, steel frame and steel
teeth. Bega Cheese Heritage Centre
Curd Knives were used in the early stages of the production of cheese to cut the curd after its initial heating. The curd would be sitting in a large vat where it coagulated by the provision of heat by steam. After the curd had developed, the knives were used to break up the curd into pieces and to stir the mixture while it was being scalded. In most instances two curd knives were used together as a pair, one with vertical teeth and the other having horizontal teeth.

The knives were typically attached to a steel frame hanging over the centre of a vat. They would be hung on this frame which extended from a centre axis and rotated around the vat so that the knives would cut and stir the contents. Primitive examples of the knives were made from a wooden frame with wire teeth, however steel was commonly in use for later models.

Museum Examples

Curd Rake

Curd Rake, wood. Bega Pioneers' Museum
A curd rake was used in a similar manner to the curd knives, except that the rake was handled directly by the cheese maker while the knives were typically held by a frame attached to the curd vat. The rakes were manufactured from wood and often featured wire or steel teeth.

Curd rakes are significant for their association with early methods of cheese production. They illustrate the intensity of human labour involved in the process of producing cheese. Examples of curd rakes also demonstrate the improvisation made by dairy farmers in forming utensils from readily available materials.

Museum Examples

Cheese Barrel

Cheese Barrel, wood, used for transporting
cheese at Dundindi, Bega River.
Bega Cheese Heritage Centre

Cheese Barrels were used to store cheese wheels during their transit. They were typically constructed from wooden staves arranged around a round or square base. It was common for dairy factories to stack two cheese wheels within the barrel, though after extensive transit the product often arrived in a deformed state from the pressure. During shipment, the barrels were stacked to take the best advantage of limited space.

The lid and sides of the barrel were typically burnished or stencilled with a mark to identify the producer or the place of origin. The barrels would be reused time and time again until falling into disrepair.

Museum Example

Cheese Box

Box, wood, made by Kraft Walker Cheese Company Pty.
Ltd. Bega Pioneers' Museum

Wooden boxes were commonly used from the early decades of the twentieth century in Australia to store domestic quantities of hard cheese. The boxes were constructed from a inexpensive wood, commonly quite light, with nails holding the sides together.
The sides and lid of the boxes would have a stencilled decoration that may have included a company brand or details about the contents. These boxes were commonly reused in the home to store various small items.
Museum Example