On the origin of fireplace tools

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Collectors have referred to these implements as “furniture.”

Anyone that has a fireplace usually attempts to acquire the old implements for appearance whether the fireplace is old or new.

Many home owners that strive to reproduce the homey atmosphere are not acquainted with either the tools, their proper use or origin, or whether the tool is an import or made by a local blacksmith.

The more primitive or old manufactures are often the most avidly sought. A few unusual tools are quite rarely found for sale.

Brief guide. A brief guide and description is often a prerequisite to any collector. The following may be of some assistance.

Crane sometimes named a “Sway,” the most common fireplace tool, a quite plain tool consisting of a vertical and a horizontal iron bar firmly attached to each other.

The vertical bar serves as the pivot, the ends are set into iron sockets – “eyes” – which are placed in the stone work or other forms of masonry depending on the vertical bar’s length.

The horizontal bar fastened to the vertical bar serves to suspend kettles, pots and whatever over the fire.

Andirons. Everyone that has prepared a log for heating is acquainted with andirons.

These are found made of iron, on the average, and serve to suspend the firewood above the fireplace base thus permitting a sure draft underneath.

Some are plain, others quite ornate.

When first employed in the colonies, andirons were very low due to the need to suspend cooking utensils over the often employed large logs.

Brass andirons were utilized by the affluent families for the bedroom chambers or parlors. These ordinarily are quite ornate.

Firedogs. This term is synonymous to andirons. The name comes from the low stocky appearance, in other words dog-like, therefore any small squat andirons is termed “firedog.”

Another unusual andiron supportive addition is termed “creeper.”

These are quite small andirons placed between the larger andirons as a support for the center of a long log to prevent a collapsing burning log from casting live coals forward onto the hearth.

Upright prongs attached on the curved section of some andirons are termed “fender posts” and these serve as creepers.

Poker. A device also many are familiar with but only employed occasionally is the poker.

These are usually accompanied by other well known implements, the shovel and tongs.

Tongs and firebacks. A quite necessary tool for managing the fire, turning or placing the logs or if coal is burned to remove clinkers.

Firebacks, sometimes called “fire plate,” were made of heavy cast iron and usually decorated with embossed decorations.

These were placed on the back firewall to protect the masonry from heat damage. It also served to hold the heat and reflect heat out to the room.

Sometimes a complete unit of three parts were employed, with the two side parts protecting the masonry at the sides of the fireplace.

Trammels. These were of two types, long and short.

The long type were employed on the lug pole (described below) and the short variety was used on the crane.

Another well known fireplace implement was the bellows. Its job was to aid air onto the coals for ignition.

Lug pole. Also called a “trammel stick,” this tool was usually made from a green tree limb.

This was inserted upward into the fireplace throat and was six or more feet long. Onto it was placed trammels or chain hooks.

These suspended the pot and kettle over the fire.

Oven peel. Often also called a “slice.” It was a low-handled and rather thin flat shovel.

It was used to place bread, pies and other pastries from the brick oven that many built alongside the fireplace and was heated by it also.

A few less affluent families made their own from wood.

Fireplace furniture or tools were used in the work, operation and maintenance and are considered a separate category of tools from utensils. Utensils often number 50 or more for colonial cooking purposes.

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