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 also be used on open fires.
6) Fire tongs
Fire tongs are two roughly 38-inch metal rods. They are connected in the middle to make a lever similar to scissors. Fire tongs have an indent, hand guard, or handle on one end and an indent on the other end for gripping around a log. They are used for grabbing and moving logs, coals, and embers. I’ll be honest; this isn’t one I’ve used too often. We used it more for moving embers that popped out of the fire than for anything else. However, it does a great job of holding and picking up logs.
7) Fire grate aka fire baskets
Fire grates, also called fire baskets, are elevated metal grates that hold logs up an inch or two to allow for better airflow. The better the airflow, the easier it is to keep going. The downside is that the fire burns faster, so you need more wood if using it to heat a home. Personally, I have only seen these used by people who did not use a fireplace for heating, but that doesn’t mean it hasn’t been done. They do look ascetically pleasing if someone is trying to impress a date. Something to think about if you write romance.
8) Fire screen aka fireguard
Sometimes firewood holds trapped moisture in it. As the fire heats the water, it turns into steam, and if the steam has no escape, it can burst open or “pop.” This can cause embers to “jump” out of the fire. That’s where the fire screen comes in. These are a screen, or grid of screens, placed in front of a fireplace to stop sparks or popping embers from leaving the fireplace and potentially catching the house on fire. I have also had one that was chain link (Similar to chainmail armor) that moved like a curtain in front of the fire. It was built directly into the fireplace, while most screens are not attached to the fireplace. As with most things on this list, they are made of metal.
Originally, fire screens were made as a way to direct heat. They were made of leather, silk, wood, paper mache, or wicker. I’m cringing thinking about embers popping out onto some of those.
Both now and in history, fire screens could be anything from plain to elaborate. Many of the silkscreens had embroidery on them, while nowadays, the screens might have elaborate designs in the metal. However, most people have a plain screen that is about function rather than looks.
9) Gloves or pot holder
Gloves and potholders are used for touching any hot metal in the fireplace. This could be a cooking pot or a fire poker. The idea is to keep your hands from being burned. I’ve seen people use rolled hand towels or their shirt. I do not recommend a shirt, as I have seen several people get burned that way.
Personally, I enjoy using welder’s gloves the best. I still have a full range of motion, and they come all the way to my elbows to protect my whole arm because I am very good at accidentally burning myself. An added benefit is that it has a higher temperature to ignite than most others and has better insulation to keep the heat from transferring onto your fingers. That is my personal like, and I have not met many other people who do this, so take it with a grain of salt.
10) Heat shield (for ground and walls)
Heat shields are made to protect floors, walls, and more from becoming so hot they catch on fire. Heat shields can be made of many different things: brick, stone, tile, enamel, aluminum, copper, and other materials. Unlike heat pads from part one, heat shields are rigid and can be used on walls. Heat shields should be no thinner than half an inch; most are usually one inch or thicker.
Different companies make heat shields to withstand different temperatures. My personal rule of thumb is that since wood embers can be between 900° F and 1,650° F, I pick ones that can withstand temperatures higher than that. Ok, I admit it; I always pick the one that withstands the highest temperature, and so does everyone else I know. The reason? Just in case. However, a character who has never done this before might not even know how to check temperature ratings. If your character is selling them, they would likely know the best temperature ratings for the type of material the customer was trying to protect. At least, our local sellers know the answer to those questions.
They are mostly seen used on the wall behind a wood stove; however, there are times they are used by fireplaces. The house we lived in when I was a teen had a cabinet close to the fireplace because the living room and kitchen were attached. We used a heat shield on the side of the cabinet to keep it from becoming overheated.
Fun fact: As of 2022, roughly 1.7 million homes in the United States heat solely with wood. This could be a fireplace, wood stove, or pellet stoves. Pellet stoves use small wood pellets for heating.
What could possibly go wrong?
Likely to go wrong: Your character tries to move the fire basket without realizing it is hot and burns their hand. If the wood has burned down enough that it is now under the basket, they might not realize it has not had enough time to cool down.
Likely to go wrong: Your character decides to use their shirt as a pot holder, burns their hand, then drops whatever they are holding. If it is food, they might have scalding food spilled on them. The pot could also be so hot it could catch things on fire.
Possible to go wrong: The fire screen was not placed correctly or left open, and an ember pops out. This is a huge fire risk.
Possible to go wrong: Your character tries to use a cute oven mitt to take a pot or kettle off the fire, and their mitt’s top layer melts. Modern oven mitts with pictures are often made with synthetic materials that will melt when they come in contact with hot cast iron or even cookie sheets. It is why they are made to use the non-picture side. I learned that the hard way. I was disappointed to ruin my picture, and it left a hole in my glove.
Unlikely to go wrong: Your character uses the fire tongs in self-defense. They are the perfect size to swing like a baseball bat. However, if your character does not hit someone hard enough, misses, or is high on certain types of drugs, your character runs the risk of having the fire tongs taken from them. Worse, they might now be hit with the fire tongs.
Unlikely to go wrong: The fire screen falls over. This leaves the home vulnerable to catching fire.
Improbable but technically still in the realm of possibilities: The heat shield does not do its job, and the heat lights the wall, cabinet, or whatever it was shielding on fire. I have never heard of this actually happening before. However, this could be a possibility if the heat shield is not made correctly.
How to use fire tongs:
Fire basket buyers guild: