YOUR lodge in the
wilderness demands a heart to make it lovable the fireplace. And you
will want a generous hearth built for service rather than for show, thus
will the old ties with nature be renewed.
And do not fear that
building for service will detract from its beauty. My word for it,
neglect its architecture for its utility and it will still "look right,"
though here as elsewhere we want no sham honesty or fake simplicity.
Build it for the purpose intended, and when the chill gray days do come
it will warm your very soul with cheer and make the home complete.
A fireplace of stones,
with its roughhewn log shelf, falls at once into complete harmony with
the cabin and its life. It needs no adornment, yet everything, from the
flintlock gun to a snowshoe, seems a part of it.
Select your stones with a
care for their coloration, and the moss and lichens clinging to them.
The opening should be
three or four feet wide, or even five; if the room be very large, about
two feet deep, and not over twenty-five or twenty-six inches high. To
hold cordwood, the dimensions are about four feet six inches wide and
three feet six inches high. A fireplace should not be too deep, or an
important proportion of the reflected heat will be lost. The sides
should not be set at right angles to the back, but should slant to
nearly an angle of forty- five degrees.
Now, the draught of a
fireplace is most important, and a mistake in the construction is almost
impossible to correct. Slope the back of the fireplace inward toward the
front, terminating at the throat about four
or five inches above the
front of the arch. It should be drawn in until the throat is narrowed
down to almost three inches. This will leave a ledge which will
accelerate the draught, and form a shelf to prevent too great a volume
of air from rushing down the flue.
Have the flue large; it
should not be less in area than ten per cent. of the area of the opening
of the fireplace. Constructed in this way, you will have no trouble from
a smoky fireplace.
Under no circumstances
attempt to build the chimney with a woodwork support. Dig down in the
earth and lay a solid bed of rocks and mortar as a foundation, the full
size of the chimney and the hearth, which should be about twenty-four
inches wide. This will keep the woodwork well away from the fire.
Neglect of this point, where I rested my hearth on woodwork, came very
near to having serious results.
Corbels may be built out
to receive the ends of the floor joists.
The fireplace should be
lined with firebricks, and iron bars must be put in to support the
superincumbent brick or stonework. Do not trust too much to your arch,
if you have one. A couple of iron bars, about two inches wide and a
quarter of aui inch thick, will make all secure.
Mortar is not difficult
to prepare. Get unslacked lime and put it into the box which you have
made to hold it. The lime is now to be slacked by wetting with water. As
you throw the water on it will heat up and steam, and enough water
should be added from time to time to keep the lime from burning or
slacking dry; it should be kept about the consistency of thick paint.
Lime should be slacked for several days before the time for using it.
To a cask of lime add six
bushels of sand, and stir until the lime and sand are thoroughly mixed.
It should be thinned with water until it mixes easily with a hoe. It
should stand for two or three days until ready for use.
Cement will greatly
increase the strength of mortar, and, when desired, should be added in
the proportion of one or two quarts of cement to each pailful of mortar.
Remember that, with cement added, the mortar will set much more quickly
than it would otherwise do.
Keep your work plumb by
means of cords fastened by nails in the roof and floor. As your work
emerges from the hole in the roof, select small and flat rocks and
insert some sheets of lead, cut ten inches long by eight inches wide, in
the different layers of stone in shingle fashion.
After the chimney is
completed the shingles may be inserted in the layers of lead, and so
make a tight joint around the chimney.
Now, if you are
unfamiliar with the building of a fire, you will be vastly entertained
by your inability to get the thing to burn. One after another the
various members of the family will be inspired to try their hands and
lungs. For pure cussed contrariness, an open fire takes the honors. When
you have all given up in despair and left in disgust, the thing is apt
to start up of its own accord.
The shavings which have
accumulated during the building of the camp should be kept for this
time. Between the fire dogs a generous supply of dry shavings; on top of
them, a few short, thin pieces of larger wood; resting in the fire dogs,
three sticks of wood with a space between each stick. Across these,
three more sticks, and across these, two more. Light the shavings. When
the fire is burning well a large greenwood log of maple or beech may be
put against the back wall as a back log. On top of it another green
stick should be laid and the fire drawn out to the front of the
fireplace. A slight replenishing from time to time will keep a fine fire
and the back logs will burn all day. At night the fire may be banked by
covering the embers with ashes. In the morning this covering may be
raked off, and fresh sticks laid directly on the glowing coals will soon
spring into life again.
Soft wood will crack and
sputter, and it would be dangerous to leave a fire without some
protection. Even the hard wood will at times throw burning coals out
into the room. A fire screen is the solution, and is easily made of
quarter-inch wire screen, fastened to a frame of quarter-inch steel
wire. The screen should extend an inch all around outside the opening of
the fireplace. It should not be flat, but should be from three to five
inches deep. This will prevent sparks from flying out of the crack
between the screen and chimney. The shape can be had by bending the
screen over a box or similar form.
If a crane is
contemplated, it should be put in place during the building of the
fireplace. In the North, where beans are a prominent part of the bill of
fare, it would be well to have a "bean hole" built in the center of the
fireplace. Make it about twelve inches square, and provide a stout iron
lid to cover it. An iron pot with an eccentric-clamped lid may be kept
here. Pork and beans cannot be cooked better than in such an
arrangement, with the hot coals covering it and left overnight.