Today we will cover common tools used in fireplaces and sometimes wood stoves. Wood stoves can also be known as cast-iron stoves. Keep in mind some of these things can be used on open fires too.
1) Ash shovel aka stove shovel aka hearth shovel
When you burn wood, you are left with ash. The ash will pile up until it needs to be cleaned out. If it is not cleaned, you will eventually run out of room to add wood. Cue the ash shovel.
These are made of metal. They are made of metal because, in the winter, it is not always an option to let the fire fully go out before shoveling the ash. Embers are smoldering pieces of wood. In other words, burning hot.
Scooping ash is a lot like shoveling snow. You slide it under the ash and lift the ash out. This usually takes five minutes.
Remember, ash is made of fine partials. When your character moves the ash, it will go into the air and likely be inhaled. This is not normally a large amount, and most people will cough a few times at the very most. However, this can irritate asthma and similar breathing issues.
Wood ash has a distinct smell, just as a burned-down house has a distinctive smell, and leaves have their own. If your character has been doing this for a long time, they will be able to smell if something more was added to the fire. Granted, small amounts might not make a difference to the smell, but larger amounts can.
2) Ash pale aka ash bucket
Once the ash is scooped, it is then placed in an ash bucket. “Why?” you ask. Because no one wants to take it out of the house, one carefully balanced scoop of ash at a time. It saves time. More importantly, it is safer in some situations. High wind has a harder time blowing ash and embers out of a bucket than off a shovel.
The ash bucket, just like the ash shovel, will be metal. It usually has a larger area on one end, so you can place it against the fireplace or woodstove and scoop out, without having to move things over the floor. However, I have seen people that have used everything from pots and pans to metal bed pans to carry the ashes out. Normally these people were poor, and the money was needed for more important things, but sometimes people are just stubborn and refuse to buy something when something else will work just fine.
3) Hearth pad
A hearth pad is a flexible fire-resistant pad that frankly looks like a thick cloth. It is used to keep the floor safe from fire. Whether the hearth pad is placed in front of a fireplace or under a wood stove, it helps ensure that if the fire gets too hot, it will not light the floor on fire. It also protects the floor if embers are dropped when your character shovels out ash. Accidents happen, and having this as a backup is a great help.
4) Fire poker aka fire iron
Can you guess what the fire poker is made of? Don’t guess toilet paper. You will be wrong! If you guessed metal, you are not only correct but likely listened to the first half of this. Fire pokers are metal sticks roughly 15 to 20 inches long. One end has a handle, and the other is pointed for poking the wood in the fire! There is usually a hook about four inches above the pointed end. Less often, there are two hooks.
Fire pokers are used to… Can you guess? Poke the fire! Ok, technically, it is to move things around, but it can involve poking. You might need to move things around to get the logs over the embers, to make better airflow, or for a variety of other reasons. The hook can also hook behind a log and roll it.
Another thing I used these for was cooking. The hook can remove or replace the lid when using something such as a Dutch oven in the fireplace. Or if there is more than one, they made great swords as kids, but it was painful if you caught the other person’s knuckles with them.
5) Wood rack
A wood rack is a place to store wood inside the home. These can be made of metal, wood, or both. These can be a V shape, a U shape, a circle, a rectangle, shelves, or anything else that can stack wood in a single place without letting it fall over. They can be small for only a single use or large for several days’ worth.
Not everyone uses a specific rack. My father uses an entire wall to stack the wood against. Keep in mind that your characters might choose not to use a wood rack.
Fun Fact: Modern fire poker sets come with a fire poker, ash shovel, fire tongs, a broom, and a stand to hold them all. These are used for both fireplaces and wood stoves.
What could possibly go wrong:
Likely to go wrong: Your character drops the ash pail, and ashes go everywhere! It would be messy, risk fire, and could cause breathing issues if the ash was accidentally inhaled.
Likely to go wrong: The ash bucket is not set close enough to the fireplace or wood stove, and as they shovel out the ash, your character makes a mess.
Possible to go wrong: Your character stacks the wood wrong or badly inside the wood rake, and the weight throws it off balance. This could cause the wood to fall. It could potentially cause injuries, or if there is a young child, it could be fatal.
Possible to go wrong: Fire pokers have been used as self-defense weapons since they were invented. They are sturdy and the perfect size to swing like a baseball bat. However, if your character does not hit someone hard enough, misses, or they are high on certain types of drugs, your character runs the risk of having the fire poker taken from them. Worse, they might now be hit with the fire poker.
Unlikely to go wrong: The ash shovel breaks mid-shovel and spills ash everywhere. This would be dirty, but if embers were still inside the ash, it runs the risk of catching things on fire.
Unlikely to go wrong: A character falls and impales themselves on the fire poker. I have heard of this when kids are running around and being silly. I have also heard of elderly falling on them. It seems rare, and I have never heard of anyone dying from it, but it is a possibility.
Improbable but technically still in the realm of possibilities: Some poor foolish character tries to dig with an ash shovel. They are small and flat. When I say small, I mean looking like the size of a kid’s toy. This would not only be very hard but would also risk breaking the shovel.
Improbable but technically still in the realm of possibilities: Your character could use a hearth pad to attempt to smother a fire. Keep in mind hearth pads are heavy. The character will need to be fit. However, if the house is on fire, and that is what your character needs to do to survive, they might find strength they didn’t know they had.
Interesting video about forging an ash shovel:
Fire prevention tips for ash buckets:
How a fire poker works: