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Title: Making a Fireplace
Author: Saylor, Henry H. (Henry Hodgman), 1880-
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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                               MAKING A

                         _By_ HENRY H. SAYLOR

                               AUTHOR OF


                               NEW YORK
                        McBRIDE, NAST & COMPANY

                          Copyright, 1913, by
                          MCBRIDE, NAST & CO.

                       Published, January, 1913

    [Illustration: The fireplace of long ago, made large enough to
    accommodate most of the kitchen’s pots and pans beside the fire]


  INTRODUCTION                                           1

  CONSTRUCTION                                           7

  MISCELLANEOUS ODD FORMS                               22

  FACINGS AND MANTELS                                   25

  MENDING POOR FIREPLACES                               31

  FIREPLACE ACCESSORIES                                 36

  BUILDING THE FIRE                                     45

                           THE ILLUSTRATIONS

  THE FIREPLACE OF LONG AGO                 _Frontispiece_

                                             FACING PAGE
  AN ENGLISH BASKET GRATE IN BRASS                       4


  AN INGLENOOK WITH STONE HEARTH                        22



  WHITE WOOD MANTEL                                     38




In a book of this kind there is no particular need for dwelling at
length on the desirability of having a fireplace. That will be taken for
granted. It is enough to say that in these days a home can scarcely be
considered worthy of the name if it does not contain at least one
hearth. There is some inexplicable quality in a wood fire that exerts
almost a hypnotic influence upon those who eagerly gather about it. The
smoldering glow of the logs induces a calm and introspective mood that
banishes all the trivialities and distractions of the day’s work and
gives one an opportunity to replenish his store of energy for the coming

The open fire, unlike most of the comforts that we demand in a modern
home, has been associated with the race as far back almost as the home
itself. At first, of course, it was as a necessity and the development
from that to a luxury has been an exceedingly slow one extending over
the years down to the present time.

There are two forms of the open fire—a possible third one, the gas log,
being a subject on which the less said the better. We have, therefore, a
choice between the open fireplace designed for wood and the basket grate
in which to burn coal, preferably cannel coal. This latter fuel is not
nearly so well known in this country as in England where the scarcity of
wood necessarily makes coal the more commonly used fuel. With our own
abundance of wood, however, there will perhaps be little hesitancy in
choosing the open fireplace rather than the basket grate for coal,
although in certain cases, for example an apartment where the flue has
been built too small, or in a house where an available chimney offers
only a small flue area for fireplace use, the basket grate will prove a
welcome solution of the problem. Of course there is no excuse whatever
for building a modern home with a chimney too small for the sort of
fireplace you want, but where the chimney has already been built without
this provision it may possibly be found that a small terra cotta flue
lining may be inserted in the larger flue without seriously damaging the
latter’s power of draft. In that event the addition of a basket grate
fireplace to an old house would be an interesting possibility.

However fully we may appreciate the desirability of some sort of
fireplace, there seems to be a rather widespread impression that the
attainment is largely a matter of chance. Too many home-builders have
instructed their architects to provide a fireplace or two in the fond
hope that the matter was then practically closed—a mere matter of time
until they might be sitting before the fire’s cheerful glow. Too
frequently the result has been a disappointment when the first few
trials introduced into the room more smoke than heat or cheer. The
reason for this is that there is a scientific basis for fireplace
building which is frequently ignored absolutely by an over-confident and
stupid mason. Where the work of building the home has been entrusted to
an architect’s hands the latter usually appreciates the fact that the
building of the fireplaces is liable more than any other part of the
house to be taken into the mason’s own hands with, if he is not watched,
disastrous results. Undoubtedly every mason would resent most
strongly any insinuation as to his lack of knowledge regarding fireplace
construction. Each mason not only thinks that he knows how a fireplace
should be built, but it is almost as general a rule that he feels that
his particular method is the only correct one.

    [Illustration: One of the best forms of the basket grate in
    brass. The splayed sides send out more heat]

    [Illustration: A modern English fire corner. Facing and hearth
    have been worked out in a rather startling contrast of tiles]

In view of this it might be well for any man building his own home to
give some attention to the matter of his fireplaces, to insist on
knowing how they are designed and to follow their construction
throughout so that there is no chance for a blunder; and this chance is
not so slight as might be supposed. In a house in which the author had
carefully shown every detail of construction in the drawings, it was
found when the building was nearly completed that the cast-iron throat
flues, which ordinarily prevent any possible mistake of construction on
the mason’s part, had been put in reversed and it was necessary to tear
down the whole face of the chimney breast in each case to replace them

The matter of construction is not at all a complicated affair, as the
next chapter will aim to show.


The chief difficulty in attaining a successful fireplace design does not
lie in securing an abundant draft. In fact it is an easy matter to make
a fireplace draw if the flue is large enough and the opening from the
fire chamber into the flue unobstructed. There will never be any
question of getting a roaring blaze the moment the fire is lighted.

This is, in a way, the type of fireplace that our Colonial ancestors
built—great cavernous openings and generous flues, with the result that
the more wood was piled upon the blaze the more they blistered their
toes and at the same time chilled their backs. For it is evident that
when we secure such a strong, unobstructed current of hot air up the
chimney, enough cool air to take its place must be drawn into the room
through every opening and crevice. The result is a mighty draft that
rushes past those unfortunate enough to be sitting about the fire and
carries rapidly up the chimney almost all of the heat of combustion.

In the fireplace of our Colonial ancestors probably ninety per cent. of
the heat was entirely lost, being carried up the chimney. However, cord
wood was then to be had for the cutting.

We want a different sort of a fire in these days—one that will burn
with a steady, constant blaze or glow, conserving most of its heat,
which the back and sides of the fire chamber will reflect out into the

Such a fireplace will not necessarily be a large one. It is amusing to
hear how universally the demand goes up for large fireplaces—“great
big fellows that will burn full cord wood.” It is hard to see just why
this is. It may be based on the assumption that if a small fireplace is
desirable a large one is more so. This is a fallacy that the architect
and fireplace builder find it hard to dispel. There is no objection
whatever to a large fireplace in a summer camp or informal shack of that
sort. In fact a small one would in such a place be ridiculous, but when
we come to our year-round living-room or dining-room or den, where the
walls of the room are tight and the whole atmosphere quieter and more
restrained, a large fireplace would be distinctly a disturbing element.
Such a room as this, unless very poorly built, would not permit the
in-take of sufficient air for the draft of a big fireplace, whereas in
our slab cabin or log bungalow the conditions are quite different.

    [Illustration: A section through the fireplace and chimney. The
    broad cross-hatching represents brickwork]

For the ordinary room, therefore, a fair average size for the fireplace
opening is three feet in width by two and a half feet high, with a depth
half the width. From such a fireplace it is possible to get a maximum of
heat with a minimum of draft.

There are two vital principles that should be observed in the design of
any fireplace. One of these is the relation between the size of the
opening into the room and the size of the flue itself. A cross-section
of the flue—which incidentally should be kept the same throughout its
extent—should be one-tenth of the area of the opening into the room.
The second vital consideration is the introduction of what are known as
a “smoke shelf” and a “smoke chamber.” The reason for constructing a
fireplace with these two features will appear more readily by reference
to the diagram. This is drawn to show that when a fire is kindled on the
hearth the warm air current, which is generated immediately, begins to
rise through the throat (the opening between the fire chamber and the
smoke chamber) and at once induces a down-draft of cold air. If the back
of the fireplace were on the same continuous plane with the rear side of
the chimney flue, this downward current of cold air would strike
directly upon the fire itself and force smoke out into the room. The
smoke shelf is built just where it will prevent this action. The
sectional diagram does not perhaps make quite clear the shape of this
smoke chamber, but the accompanying perspective outline sketch will
indicate the fact that the throat and the smoke chamber at the bottom
must extend across the full width of the fire chamber. This width in
the smoke chamber immediately diminishes in rising until it joins the
flue at the flue’s own area.

The sectional diagram indicates a cast-iron damper built in the throat.
This is not necessary, for it contributes nothing to the efficiency of
the fire itself. Its one great advantage is that by furnishing the mason
with an unalterable form, it forces him to build the throat properly
rather than in one of the wrong ways that his own judgment might
dictate. Such a cast-iron damper also forms a support for the flat arch
of brick over the opening if bricks are used. If the damper is not built
in, it is necessary to use an iron supporting bar to carry this flat
arch. Then too, in case the damper is not used, there is lost the
advantage of being able quite readily to close the throat entirely,
which is highly desirable in the summertime and frequently in the winter
when the fireplace is acting too strenuously as a ventilator. If the
cast-iron throat is not used, therefore, it will be well to lay an iron
plate on the smoke shelf in such a way that it could be drawn forward
across the opening to close it.

    [Illustration: Perspective view of the fireplace, showing the
    shape of the various parts as built without a cast-iron throat

There are other types of dampers, most of them patented and all of them
aiming to provide an adjustable opening in the throat in some way. One
or two of these have a knob or handle projecting through the brickwork
of the arch, permitting the convenient adjustment of the damper from
outside. As a general principle, however, it is well to choose the
simplest possible device that will secure the desired result.

The terra cotta flue lining which is shown in the sectional diagram is
not absolutely necessary, of course, as it is a rather modern
introduction and unnumbered fireplaces have served their purpose without
it. There is no question, however, regarding its worth, for it provides
a flue with smooth, regular sides that will not clog nearly so readily
as an ordinary brick flue. Besides that, it has the advantage of
permitting a thinner wall for the chimney. It is dangerous to build a
chimney with a single four-inch thickness of brick between the flue and
whatever may adjoin the chimney. Of course no wood should be allowed to
come within an inch or two of the brickwork in any event, but with a
single thickness of brick, unlined, there is always the danger that the
mortar will crumble from a joint and leave an opening through which it
would be an easy matter for sparks or flame to do considerable damage.
The introduction of a flue lining, however, into the chimney built in
this way makes it entirely safe, provided the joints between sections of
flue lining are carefully filled and made smooth with cement mortar.

The sectional diagram, it will be noticed, indicates a difference
between the main back wall of the chimney, eight inches thick, and the
brickwork laid inside the fire chamber to form the hearth and the back.
The reason for this separation is that the rough brickwork of the
chimney is always laid first as simply as possible, leaving the fire
chamber with its sloping back and sides and the hearth to be filled in
later with a better grade of brick or perhaps another kind. Frequently,
also, tile will be combined with the brick finish as a hearth or facing.

    [Illustration: A cross-section showing the construction of a
    large stone fireplace with slightly arched opening]

A support for the hearth is usually obtained as indicated—by bringing
what is called a “row-lock” or “trimmer” arch between the foundation
masonry of the chimney and a pair of floor joists set out at the proper
distance, depending upon the desired width of the hearth. While this is
the customary method, occasionally a support is secured in some other
way, such as corbeling out from the masonry foundation, or by extending
two short projections of this masonry from the bottom up at either end
of the hearth and throwing an arch across between these. Upon a bed of
cement the hearth bricks themselves are laid, usually flush with the
floor, although occasionally enough higher to permit a beveled molding
strip to cover the joint between brick and floor more closely. In some
cases the hearth itself is raised the full thickness of a brick above
the floor, as in one of the photographic illustrations shown.

The width of the hearth is ordinarily made about sixteen or eighteen
inches beyond the face of the opening with the average size fireplace,
twenty inches or even more with larger ones. This width should be
increased, of course, if the opening is made considerably larger. The
question of materials for the hearth and facing will be discussed in the
next chapter.

The chimney itself should extend at least a foot or two above any nearby
roof ridge and it should work without any cowl, whirligig or other
device of that type on the top. There is no great objection to having
the opening a horizontal one at the top of the chimney, although in that
case if the flue is nearly straight throughout its course, some rain
will find its way down to the hearth in a hard storm. In most cases
there is enough bend in the flue to prevent this, and if not it may be
avoided by covering the top of the chimney with a stone and having the
openings vertical ones on all four sides just under this.

All of the brickwork throughout chimney and fireplace should be laid in
first-class cement mortar which consists of one part Portland cement to
three parts clean, sharp sand. Although lime mortar was used in all
brickwork up to recent years, it is not durable, particularly in the
vicinity of heat.

                        MISCELLANEOUS ODD FORMS

There are many unusual forms of fireplace with which we are not
particularly concerned. For example, one sees occasionally an opening
shaped like an inverted heart or like an ace of spades. It is possible
to make a fireplace of this kind work satisfactorily, but it is by no
means certain that this result can be accomplished at the first trial
nor that the fire will continue to work properly under all conditions.
It is safer always to adhere to the established type of rectangular
opening, or to depart from this only to the extent of having the top an
arch of large radius. Whenever the top is permitted to vary more than a
slight extent from the horizontal there is the danger of having the
smoke escape into the room at the top.

    [Illustration: The inglenook seldom fails as a dispenser of home
    cheer. Frequently the seats are placed too close to the fire]

There is one other type that deserves special mention and that is the
double fireplace, where two openings in adjacent rooms are served by a
single flue between them. The only way in which this affects the two
vital principles mentioned above is that the cross-section area of the
flue should be one-tenth of the combined areas of the openings. The
throat will in this case be in the middle of the chimney with the smoke
shelf on either side of it. It is essential in a fireplace of this kind
that there be no disturbing draft tending to pass through the opening
from one room to the other.

Still another type which is even more rarely seen is the open fire in
the middle of a room, such as may be desired occasionally in the
lounging room of a large club. Such an apparent anomaly could be
secured by suspending a metal flue and hood from the roof, so that the
lower edge of the truncated pyramidal form at the bottom would form the
upper side of the fireplace “opening” at a convenient height above the
hearth of brick, stone, tile or concrete. It is conceivable that an
effective and thoroughly practical fireplace could be thus devised,
having the flue and hood of wrought iron or copper, suspended and
steadied by chains or bars from the ceiling and surrounding walls. In
such a form the same principle of a fixed ratio between opening (here
the entire perimeter of the hood multiplied by the distance above the
hearth) and cross-section of flue would have to be observed, and here
also it would be well to provide as fully as possible against the
presence of disturbing drafts.

                          FACINGS AND MANTELS

There is not a particularly wide choice of materials available for the
finish of the hearth and fireplace. Stone, brick, cement and tile
exhaust the possibilities, although with combinations of these we have
all the variety that we could wish.

Stone is suitable only in certain environments—the informal shack or
log cabin chiefly, though of course it is impossible to make any hard
and fast rule in the matter.

Brick is almost never out of place. Perhaps it is the association with
the fireplaces that have been built by our fathers and grandfathers, or
perhaps it is the inherent worth and fitness of the material itself
that puts it forward as a first choice. Undoubtedly the practical
consideration that it is easier and more economical to build has
something to do with the matter.

Concrete is a newcomer in the field of fireplace facing and as yet it
cannot be said to have shown any particular reason why it should
displace the other materials. With the ordinary heat developed in an
open fire of wood there is no likelihood of cracking the concrete facing
if the material has been properly mixed and applied, although there
seems to be a vague impression that this might be a real danger. The
color of concrete gives it no particular recommendation, for it is one
that remains unchanged by fire, though not unstained by smoke. Brick, on
the other hand, and tile, have the very closest possible association
with fire in the making, which gives them a peculiar fitness for this

    [Illustration: Caen stone or its clever representation in cement
    serves well for the more formal type of mantel and facing]

Tile, the last of the four materials, gives more latitude in design than
any of the others, sometimes too much latitude we feel. If
understandingly used, nothing could be more appropriate and attractive,
but tile has been used so carelessly that somehow we have a feeling that
the tiled fireplace is for show rather than for use. In any case, there
is no question whatever regarding the unfitness of the glazed tiles
which have made horrors of thousands of pseudo fireplace openings. It is
only the mat-glazed or unglazed tiles that have any right to be used in
such a place.

Since this little volume has for its subject the fireplace rather than
the mantel, little need be said regarding the latter outward form,
though there is no doubt that a whole book on the subject might
profitably be written. To touch upon the subject as lightly as space
will permit, we can probably do no better than to suggest the obvious
type of mantel for one or two of the more common architectural styles,
and recommend that in other styles the architect be allowed sufficient
latitude in design and expense to distinguish this important feature of
hall, living-room, dining-room or library with the characteristics of
the style he has worked out for the house itself.

The modern home along Colonial lines is perhaps the commonest problem,
and incidentally the easiest, for the old models of delicately detailed
white-painted wood mantels are so well known and so universally admired
that modern reproductions along good lines and reasonable cost are
easily obtained.

For the English plaster or half-timber house the architect will
doubtless design a special mantel, in scale and in harmony with the dark
paneling and other architectural woodwork, probably with a paneled
over-mantel if the cost is not too rigorously held down.

In a house which breaks away from the historic architectural styles, as
so many of the stucco buildings of the day do, the mantel treatment
offers particularly interesting possibilities. Frequently the mantel is
done away with entirely and the chimney breast treated independently as
a whole.

With the very informal type of summer home where a rough stone for
facing and chimney is employed, the mantel treatment can hardly be kept
too simple and unobtrusive in its rugged strength. A heavy log, planed
to a smooth top surface and resting on two projecting stone brackets,
is frequently used with good effect. The chimney breast may be stepped
back at the shelf height to form a narrow stone ledge, or the breast
left without any shelf. Many simple variations with the informal brick
chimney breast will occur to everyone. In general, with these summer
shacks or bungalows, the fireplace is the chief architectural feature of
the living-room and for that reason will stand a moderate amount of
embellishment, but this latter should take the form of a slightly better
finish of the materials used throughout the room rather than the
introduction of more elaborate and costly ones.

    [Illustration: A fireplace and chimney breast of field stone,
    chosen with care and laid with more than average skill]

                        MENDING POOR FIREPLACES

It is well enough to say just how a fireplace should be built so that it
will work satisfactorily, but that does not go far in helping the man
who has a fireplace that will not work. Frequently it is possible
without any very great expense and trouble to correct a fireplace that
has been improperly built. If one has in mind a clear comprehension of
the few elementary principles of fireplace construction it will usually
be an easy matter to determine the reason why a fireplace smokes or
fails to draw.

The cross-section area of the flue is likely to prove the most common
difficulty. Usually this cannot be seen from inside the fireplace,
because of the narrow throat and the smoke chamber which in some form
may be above the shelf. If, therefore, the apparent essentials—such as
shape of opening, narrow throat across the whole width, and preferably
the slanting back—have been followed out it would be well to determine
the area of the flue itself. To do this it will be necessary to reach
the top of the chimney and, by lowering a weight on a line, find which
flue leads to the fireplace in question. Its area at the top will in all
probability be its area throughout. If the flue happens to be the only
one in that particular chimney it may sometimes be determined more
easily by counting the bricks in its two horizontal directions and in
this way estimating what would probably be the inside flue. This
conclusion is by no means sure, however, since the chimney may be built
with eight-inch walls or it may be simply a four-inch wall with the
flue lining. To one with a knowledge of bricklaying, however, the way in
which the chimney is laid up will usually indicate the size of the flue.

Having determined the size of the fireplace opening and the
cross-section area of the flue itself, it will in many cases be found
that the latter is too small for the former. The easiest way to remedy
this difficulty naturally would be to decrease the size of the opening
in the face of the fireplace. In order to check up the diagnosis,
however, it would be well to fit a pair of thin boards to wedge fairly
tightly into the opening at the top, one of which boards could be drawn
down past the other one so that the fireplace opening may be decreased
anywhere from six to twelve inches in height—using two six-inch boards.
By testing the fireplace in action in this way it will be readily
determined by what amount the opening must be decreased. The boards
then being removed, a wrought-iron curtain or decorative projecting hood
of wrought iron or copper may be fitted permanently to the front.

It is possible, however, that the opening of the fireplace and the flue
area are properly related, in which case it may be found that the
trouble is due to the lack of a narrow throat and smoke shelf. This too
could be constructed in the fireplace without disturbing anything
outside, such as the mantel or chimney breast, unless the fireplace is
not large enough to permit the addition of four inches of brick at the
back. If it is not, it will be well to examine carefully the thickness
of the wall at the back of the fireplace and if this is sufficient, part
of it could be taken away where the slope of the back joins the upright
wall—about a foot above the hearth surface—and the sloping back built
in from there up to form the throat. Or, to make perfectly sure of the
result, the mantel itself could be removed—this is usually merely
nailed to the plaster—and enough of the chimney breast taken down to
permit the introduction of a cast-iron throat damper.

                         FIREPLACE ACCESSORIES

Just as a turkey dinner depends largely for its success upon the
“fixin’s,” so the fireplace is in itself incomplete without its andirons
and tools. To begin with the most nearly indispensable appurtenances, we
must name the andirons—or, if the fuel is to be coal, then the basket
grate. I have wondered sometimes why the philosophers have not hit upon
the andiron as a particularly fitting subject for pleasurable
rumination. There are so few things which combine to such a degree the
purely utilitarian with the eminently decorative qualities. Most things
which do combine the two in any real measure have been developed on the
side of one at the expense of the other quality. Take man’s dress coat,
for example, the cut-away front of which, with the two buttons at the
back, was designed to permit the gentleman to loop the skirts up to his
waist when he mounted his horse. Or, take the modern lighting fixture
with its little pan still waiting to catch the drip of the tallow
beneath the flame, which has long since been displaced by gas tip or
incandescent filament. How few things there are, after all, which ages
ago—probably through a long evolution—were designed to meet a real
need in the best possible manner and which still meet that need and
combine true beauty with their usefulness. The wrought-iron shoe of a
horse occurs to us, perhaps a ship’s anchor, a string-bow or an axe

Some support is needed to raise the fuel so that the air may find a
clear passage under and through it to the flames, and nothing could well
be devised to serve the purpose better than the pair of horizontal
wrought bars, each with its single rear foot and its steadying front,
the upper continuation of which serves to hold the burning logs in

One is not likely to go wrong in making a choice of andirons for any
given type of fireplace. The simply turned brass patterns belong so
obviously to the Colonial brick opening with its surrounding white
woodwork; the rougher wrought-iron types are so evidently at home in the
craftsman fireplace or the rough opening of stonework, that misfits are
hardly possible.

Fortunately the old brass andirons of Colonial days have proven
themselves fitted to survive, and many of them are still to be found in
old cobwebby attics or in the more accessible shop of the dealer in
antiques. One of these confided to me his way of distinguishing the
really old andirons from artificially aged reproductions: the old ones
have the turned brass of the front post held in place by a wrought-iron
bar that attaches to the horizontal member by a screw thread on the bar
itself; on the modern examples this upright bar is drilled with a
threaded hole into which an ordinary short screw engages through a hole
in the horizontal member.

    [Illustration: The good old dependable Colonial type, with its
    simple brick facing framed by the delicately detailed white wood

Next after the andirons in importance are the tools—the three most
nearly essential ones being the poker, tongs and shovel. There is no
need of saying that these should harmonize with the andirons and
preferably be of brass if they are of brass; wrought iron if the
andirons are of wrought iron. There are two ways of taking care of
them—the ordinary method of using a stand which, if the tools are
bought together, will probably come with them; or in some of the
fireplace types where the whole chimney breast is of brick, concrete or
stone, sometimes a combination of three or more hooks is wrought in the
same metal as the tools and fixed securely in the chimney breast at the
side of the opening.

A brush for the hearth, although not so frequently seen, is exceedingly
useful in sweeping back the ashes and small embers. Then there is the
time-honored bellows, now hardly more than an ornament, for with a
scientifically built fireplace it should never need to be called into

A screen of some sort comes nearer to being classed with the necessities
than with the merely decorative accessories, for it is hardly safe to
leave a fire or even the smoldering embers without some protection
against the damage that is so quickly caused by sparks. The usual type
of screen is the woven wire one in several forms. Probably the most
convenient type is that made up of a number of flat sections which fold
upon one another into a compact mass which will not be in the way when
not in use. In recent years, however, there is another sort of screen
that is coming to be regarded with very high favor and that is the
screen made up of glass in combination with other materials. There is
the simple French screen of glass panes in a gilded frame, and there are
wonderful possibilities for the employment of the craftsman’s skill in
combining with plain or lightly tinted glass more decorative features in
the way of stained glass and leading or in the combination of glass and

The design of a fire screen depends, of course, on the purpose it is
intended to serve. If it is desired to secure a screen that will cut off
the heat but not the light of the fire, the craftsman will work with
larger areas of clear glass. On the other hand, it may be felt desirable
to make a nearly opaque screen to cut off both light and heat. These, of
course, are usually small rectangles on some sort of a pedestal and are
not intended to take the place of spark screens.

A wood receptacle of some form is a convenient accessory, as one will
avoid the task of carrying fuel up from the cellar or in from the
woodpile whenever a fire is desired. There is a broad field from which
to choose—brass-bound boxes of many sizes and forms, sturdy baskets and
the metal wood baskets which are made for holding the logs themselves.
There are those who prefer not to encumber the vicinity of the
fireplace with these rather bulky receptacles, but who find it
convenient to have a box built in near by in the form of a window-seat
or perhaps as a part of built-in bookcases. Two or three houses that I
have known had a very simple rough dumbwaiter running from the cellar up
into a window-seat. This could be loaded with fuel, hoisted into
position and locked there until the fuel was needed.

There are two other fireplace accessories that we must not overlook, and
these are the crane and the trivet. The crane is a very picturesque
feature in a fireplace that is large enough to hold it comfortably, but
it does seem unfortunate that in a great many fireplaces the crane is
dragged in with the idea of making it a decorative feature but without
any expectation of putting it to practical use. There are
fireplaces—in a summer camp, for example—where a crane could be put to
good use. Used elsewhere it is too often merely an affectation.

The trivet is not nearly so well known as the crane and yet it might be
put to use in a modern fireplace much more frequently. In England it is
found in various ingenious forms, most of which show, however, some form
of low stool which is stood upon the hearth, as near as may be
convenient to the fire, to keep warm a teakettle or perhaps even a plate
of toast. There are some rather interesting antique brass trivets to be
found in many of the larger antique shops.

                           BUILDING THE FIRE

I have no doubt that the majority of the readers who have patiently
found their way thus far through this little book will feel like closing
it with a sigh of impatience at the sight of the chapter heading above.
“Who doesn’t know how to build a wood fire? We might as well seek
instruction as to the most approved method of striking a match!” But if
you will bear with me for a moment I would say most emphatically that as
a matter of fact very few people really do know how to build a fire. It
is easy enough to assemble a bunch of newspapers, twigs, kindling and
logs so that it is possible to _start_ a fire, but perhaps you have
noticed that while many fires are kindled few burn out. If you are
seeking for the greatest amount of comfort and enjoyment from your wood
fire you will secure it only by sitting at the feet of that greatest of
all teachers, experience, or perhaps more quickly by experimenting a bit
with one or two of the simple expedients which I shall try to show are
based on the wood fire’s way of working. While there are those who would
not for worlds give up the pleasure of tinkering with the tongs and
poker while the fire burns, it will perhaps not detract from this
enjoyment if the tinkering is not actually the result of necessity to
keep the logs burning. Fire-mending is a delightful recreation only when
it is not imposed upon us by becoming an alternative to having the
glowing embers become discouraged and give up the fight.

    [Illustration: There is a splendid opportunity for home
    craftsmanship of a high order in making the copper hood for an
    example of this type]

First of all, there is the need of having fuel that is really dry. It
is not essential that the woodpile be kept indoors, but it should at
least have shelter above it and on three sides. The woodsheds of New
England farmhouses offer a practical and efficient solution of the
problem. Usually you will find these as an extension to the house, a
shed open only to the south, in which the cord wood is piled neatly to
the roof with sawn ends to the front. Two long logs are laid on the
floor or ground, at right angles to the firewood, so as to encourage a
circulation of air for drying.

In addition to the heavier logs which are cut to fit the fireplace
opening, there should be almost an equal quantity of twigs, brush and
smaller pieces, or else split kindling, to serve as starting fuel.

To lay a fire on the hearth, select first a heavy log which should be
placed close against the back of the fire chamber on the hearth and not
on the andirons. This is the traditional “backlog.” It will serve
through several fires and is intended mainly as a protection of the back
brickwork. Stand the andirons with their rear ends close up against the
backlog, and if the latter is of the best size its top will be well
above the horizontal bars of the andirons. Now select a smaller
log—preferably not a split piece—and lay it across the andirons. If a
big fire is desired, keep this log—the “forelog”—well to the front,
just back of the andiron upright posts, leaving plenty of space between
backlog and forelog for the main body of the fire. The distance between
these two logs will govern the size of the fire. In this space put a few
crumpled sheets of newspaper, some of the lighter twigs and small
branches, and one, two or three logs or split pieces, as may be required
to fill the space. The diagrams will make clearer this arrangement for a
small fire or a large one.

    [Illustration: Section showing the arrangement of andirons and
    wood for a large fire (at the left) and a smaller one]

As the central portion of the fire burns away, keep the forelog pushed
back against it, unless a less active fire is desired. It is well to
remember that where one isolated log will not burn, two close together
probably will, and a pyramid of three will do still better.

Many fireplaces show a tendency to smoke only when first lighted; this
is probably due to a cold chimney, and can usually be prevented or made
less objectionable by burning a newspaper just under the throat, thus
starting the proper action of the up and down drafts.

If it is possible for us to choose between various kinds of wood for our
open fire fuel there is opened up one of the most interesting phases of
the whole subject. To most people probably a wood fire is a wood fire,
whether the logs be of cherry wood, pine, hickory or anything else. For
the wood fire connoisseur, if we may call him by that name, there is no
difficulty whatever in telling with a glance at the fire just what wood
is burned. The crackle and explosive nature of hickory, the hiss of
pine, the steady flame from cherry, the hot and rapid disintegration of
sycamore, and the steady and thorough combustion of soft apple wood
soon become familiar characteristics to those who have the opportunity
to lay the fire in variety. Then there is, of course, the fascination
and the weird coloring in a driftwood fire—most spectacular of all but
unfortunately denied to most of us.

    [Illustration: A simple and exceedingly effective recessed
    design in brick and rough plaster. The hearth is raised above
    the floor]

Finally, the most important factor of all in the management of a wood
fire is an ample bed of ashes for its foundation. It is impossible for
anyone who has not actually tried fires both ways to appreciate the
immense advantage that a bed of wood ashes gives. It unquestionably
doubles the fire’s efficiency in throwing heat out into the room, it
halves the care and attention needed to keep the fire burning, and it
increases beyond measure the beauty of a wood fire, when it is nearing
its end, by rekindling itself with the embers and keeping alive for a
long time the quiet, dull red glow. Stop your ears to the importunities
of the over-zealous housekeeper and steel yourself against the pricks of
the conscience of cleanliness. If need be, fight for the retention of
that bed of ashes. You can scarcely get it too large or too deep. The
accumulation of two years is a priceless treasure. One of my own
fireplaces has a bank that has to be depleted about twice a year to make
room for the fire. A peck or two of the fine white powder is then
carried out to bring joy to the rose garden.

To one who loves a wood fire and knows its possibilities the mention of
such a thing as an ash-drop is as a red flag to a bull. Peace be to the
ashes of the man who invented this easy method of robbing the hearth of
half its charm. May he be forgiven it.

                            HOUSE & GARDEN

It is the intention of the publishers to make this series of little
volumes, of which _Making a Fireplace_ is one, a complete library of
authoritative and well illustrated handbooks dealing with the activities
of the home-maker and amateur gardener. Text, pictures and diagrams
will, in each respective book, aim to make perfectly clear the
possibility of having, and the means of having, some of the more
important features of a modern country or suburban home. Among the
titles already issued or planned for early publication are the
following: _Making a Rose Garden_; _Making a Lawn_; _Making a Tennis
Court_; _Making a Water Garden_; _Making Paths and Driveways_; _Making a
Poultry House_; _Making a Garden with Hotbed and Coldframe_; _Making
Built-in Furniture_; _Making a Rock Garden_; _Making a Garden to Bloom
this Year_; _Making a Garden of Perennials_; _Making the Grounds
Attractive with Shrubbery_; _Making a Bulb Garden_, _Making a Garage_,
_Making and Furnishing Outdoor Rooms and Porches_; with others to be
announced later.

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