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Tuesday, February 11, 2020

A Working Fireplace

A Working Fireplace

Growing up, my family always had a working fireplace.  The fireplace was not used for heat, though it  gave off pleasant warmth.  The fireplace was not used for light, though it did give off a peasant ambient glow.  The fireplace was not used to cover odors, though the smell of a roaring fireplace did draw you in.

My first home did not have a fireplace.  For Christmas one year I constructed a fake wooden fireplace covered with brick print paper just to hang the kids stockings.  Looking back, it was pitiful.

Eventually we had a working fireplace added to our family room.  My next two homes also had working fireplaces.  Currently our townhome has a working fireplace in the living room.  

We never use the living room, we never use that fireplace.  We do use a family room in the basement where there is a gas “fireplace.”

The gas “fireplace” looks like a working fireplace.  It gives off warmth and lighting ambiance.   It starts with a flick of a switch and does not go out until you flick the switch to “off.”

The main difference between this fireplace and a working fireplace is this fireplace requires no work.  To many, especially young people, that is a plus. 

These people just do not understand the tradition of a “working” fireplace.

A working fireplace requires wood.  The wood has to be chopped and split, a testosterone pumping chore that only a man can appreciate.  Work is key to a working fireplace.  Even stacking firewood that is ordered and delivered counts.  Stacking delivered logs is not the same as chopping and splitting, but it does give a man that family protecting, testosterone producing high one gets from preparing for Winter.

Maintaining a working fireplace is much like hunting for meat.  Sure you can buy lovely steaks at Costco, but stalking, shooting and butchering your own steaks reaches back to the ancient DNA in our brain that kicks off the “providing for your family” endorphins that makes a man feel like a man.

I am not a hunter.  I used to get my manly testosterone endorphin lift from my working fireplace.  I do miss feelings from that experience, though at my age, I don’t miss the labor as much.

There is something about splitting wood, stacking wood, and admiring that property line defining stacked log fence that makes you feel like I suppose the pioneers of old felt.  A useful, family providing, family protecting feeling that just coming home with a pay check does not provide.

Men if you want your woman to appreciate you, she needs to see you providing and protecting.  She does not see you working at the office, so she can not appreciate all you do for the family.  If she sees you out back chopping and stacking wood, even though intellectually she knows she can just turn up the thermostat and flick a switch for heat and light, watching her man provide, kicks off some ancient female hormone deep in her DNA.

The process of starting and maintaining a working fireplace fire has the same effect.  It somehow makes a man think he is providing for his family.  A man takes pride in starting that fire, and keeping it going.  It is a whole process.  Using properly aged wood, how to place the logs, the type of kindling, all a part of the process.  Yes you could kick it all off with an acetylene torch, but that is just not the same.  When you need to tromp outside through a foot of snow to gather a few more logs it says as much to your woman as a delivery of fresh flowers.

Most new houses today are being built with convenient, common sense easy to use, flip a switch flame over fake ceramic logs fireplaces. 

They are great! 

They are not the same.



  1. We had a WBFP at our last home. For 22 years I suffered with headaches from the smell. A few years before we moved, we got an insert, which seemed to help, but I'm glad we have the fake gas kind here.

  2. We have a wood burning furnace that we use when it gets really cold. It does take work but Jack likes to do the whole chop, spit, stack thing. However, when he had to have surgery this winter we've been purchasing wood and it's easier but not as satisfying I'm sure (I however don't care where it comes from just that the house is toasty warm). The down side is the extra dust it creates..oh, the smoke mess last year when the chimney was blocked was a pain that required repainting and cleaning and now that I think of it I wouldn't mind a gas fireplace!

  3. It's true, every word of this is true. Modern fireplaces are good enough for me now though, I don't miss clearing out the ashes from the old working fireplaces we had when I was very young. on the other hand, in a modern fireplace you can't burn old letters, old newspapers, you can't hold a piece of bread on a long fork and toast it in the flames, I miss that part. I don't remember my dad ever splitting logs though, we would go to wherever they sold cut wood and buy it by the trailer load, then when 'briquettes' became the new thing we bought those by the sackful and they were great too if you didn't mind your hand getting blackened every time you put more on the fire.
    I think you really nailed it with the ancient DNA feelings of providing and protecting. It's hard wired into us and I think we may have gone too far in trying to deny it.

  4. I am nodding my head here. Our last two houses had working fireplaces. The last one was more work for little reason, we bought pre-formed logs. But, in Ireland it was different. We chopped wood (me and our son) and built the fire. It was absolutely essential for heat since fuel was expensive and we were cheap. So we had a fire going nearly all the time.

  5. I never chopped the wood, but I felt like I provided a valuable service when I latch-keyed home from school and got the fire started before Mom came home from work. Which meant she could get straight to supper, and not have to get the house warmed up first. Yeah. I wasn't valuable enough to start supper, too! By the time Dad got home, he could poke around in the glowing coals and add bigger logs.

  6. I loved our wood burning fireplace when we lived in Oregon. I helped hubby stack the wood (he didn't chop it himself but bought the load (cord?) from others. Best way to keep warm! I would sit right in front of it and just enjoy the heat it provided!


  7. I loved the fires of the past but I was younger and didn't have to clear out or lay a wood burning or coal fire. These days I use a gas fire - expensive to run but the instant warmth is fine.

  8. I love my gas fireplace. There is something to be said about rinstant gratification.

  9. We were very poor when I was young. We could not afford a real fire place. We sat in front of a picture of a fire place and sucked on strong mints.

    We were so poor we lacked a lot of essentials. For example, we tied a hedgehog to a stick and used it as a toilet brush.

    God bless.

  10. You brought back some fine memories and probably the only really good ones of my marriage. Bill really looked good swinging the axe. Don't have a fireplace here and really miss it. A wonderful tool for emptying your head as you stare vacantly into the dancing flames.

  11. oh you reminded me so many most beautiful days of my life back in village dear Joe !

    there each family would have special room where they would sit in winters near the clay stoves
    my brother would bring heaviest pile of woods on his shoulder ,mom would use those woods to lit fire in clay stove ,reflection of flames on faces around is something unforgettable :)

    i agree that ladies feel more feminine when men of their house split woods front of them :)

  12. We've had working woodstoves for 50 years, and never regretted any of it. I"ve spent many pleasant moments 'levitating the cookstove' (and some day it will happen...), and just soaking it in. We have radiators, but they have all the charm of...radiators. Not. Where we live, wood heat is almost a necessity, when you lose the power, and it gets cold very fast without a source of heat...
    (I learned to split wood, just because I had to. No shame, no blame.)

  13. I think fireplaces and swimming pools are very much the same. Everybody likes the warmth or the ability to cool off but nobody likes the work that goes along with them. Everything I love about a fireplace is everything I don't love about a fireplace. The smoke is what kills it for me.