Customer Reviews: The Forgotten Art of Building A Good Fireplace
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on March 21, 2006
When I was building my first home in 1972, I stumbled upon Orton's little book in the Library. I had never built a fireplace before, although I did have a little bit of experience laying block and brick. But Orton inspired me. I knew that I couldn't afford to have a fireplace of my own unless I built it myself. Long story short: I built my Rumford fireplace all by myself, from footer to top of the chimney, using this book as my only guide. And it worked wonderfully. It was unbelievably efficient and smoke free. My kids and I spent many winter evenings "camping out" there in our family room, with the electric baseboard heat turned off. I once built a fire on the front-most edge of the brick hearth (with several fire extinguishers at my side), just to see if this design could really "draw" as well as Orton claimed. It DID! And without any smoke in the room!

This book "clicked" with me for 2 reasons: first he laid out the history behind this invention, the biography of Count Rumford, and WHY this design was so revolutionary. Then he carefully laid out the principles of WHY IT WORKS, the theory and proportions. It was not a heady treatise for engineers, nor did it insult my intelligence with details on "inserting tab A into slot A" as most do-it-yourself books do.

I'm now building my second home -- this one with TWO Rumford fireplaces. And I decided that its high time that I had my own personal copy of this book!
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on March 19, 2006
If you are building a firplace this is the book about the man of all men. This simple how to works. This isn't like a Sunset book that has pictures of all steps but it is kept simple. If you supplement this with the Rumford and get their step by step instructions off of their website then this will be simple for most fairly talented home do it your selfers. The end result works and makes since. The products from the web site are hard to get and are costly but they make it so simple to build that you will be surprised and happy. This book is tiny and about a one hour read. A lot of this book is on the history and how the science of Rumford is applied. The shallow box is the way to build a fireplace right . Good Luck
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on April 1, 2008
I was looking forward to reading about exactly how to build a Count Rumsford fireplace, long acknowledged to be the most efficient in terms of heat produced and wood used. There were some scattered practical descriptions and a couple of diagrams, but most of the book was an indictment of the 'liberal' politics of Rumsford's contemporaries and today's liberals, that kept the famous Tory - who was a Royalist who went to Britain during the American Revolution - from getting all the credit he deserved for his design. Had he stayed in the Colonies as we became the United States, perhaps he would be well known to Americans today, but he choose otherwise. It was the design I was interested in, and what little information there was, was not sufficient to be able to build the fireplace. I can only hope I meet a mason who is familiar with the historical design and who can duplicate it.
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on March 20, 2007
A Rumford fireplace is a design artifact of functional beauty: maximizing radiant heat, while minimizing smoke.

The Rumford achieves the first, with a tall, wide, shallow firebox with widely splayed covings.

The second by laminar flow through the throat. Laminar flow is a non-turbulent, streamlined flow. In the Rumford fireplace the front flow layer is cool air, the rear flow layer is hot. The two key features of Rumford's design which produce laminar flow are 1) the rounded breast (the "breast" is the front of the throat. The "throat" is where the firebox meets the chimney.) and 2) the flat back.

Somehow, Vrest Orton misunderstood Rumford's original design, and propagated this misunderstanding. One can look at the original Rumford text from THE COLLECTED WORKS OF COUNT RUMFORD, Harvard Press, vol 2, for clarification.

Maybe Vrest had a modified Rumford (with a flat breast and angled back). In any case, his book would be improved by correcting this (significant) error.
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on September 13, 2012
This is a fabulous little book about the open hearth fireplace, and in particular about a "Rumford" fireplace.

The author talks about the beauty, ambiance and joy of a fire in the fireplace, and about the experiments and designs for fireplaces developed by Lord Rumford in the late 1700s. His research has never been bettered in 250 years.

I am a builder and in years past I have purchased copies of this book and given them to my masons to show them about the "Rumford Fireplace".

This small paperback that is very readable with excellent information.
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on March 11, 2008
The fireplace design is very simple. However the author spent much of the book lamenting the fact that history has almost forgotten Benjamin Thomas (Count Rumford)yet fondly remembers Benjamin Franklin. The former being a King Henry III loyalist. I don't think history should forget him or his design, I just don't know if this book is the best place to remember Count Rumford. At least not to the degree of detail set in this book. Otherwise it is a short read and informational.
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on January 18, 2013
This is the second copy that I have bought. Both of the others were "lifted" by friends that were building a fireplace. This book has it all. A Rumford is the only way to go if you are going to have a fireplace. We have built two so far.
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on December 14, 2008
We rebuilt an old Virginia farmhouse in 1980 using some plans from a Vermont architect whose names escapes me.
Friends and family have always commented on the extraordinary warmth that one of our two fireplaces radiates (the other fireplace that is, basically, worthless was put in when we added another room in the 1990's and allowed a local mason to construct according to his personal ideas).
The fireplace that was built using the directions of the Vermont architect closely follows the concepts and measurements that Mr. Orton describes in this DELIGHTFULLY written little tome.
Our Tidewater Virginia winters are extremely light compared to Vermont's but, even so, we love our quasi-Rumford fireplace which is fired up daily from October til Spring---throwing off tons of radiant heat.
I am getting a copy to give to friends who are preparing to build a house and might want to know about Count Rumford and his design.
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on September 23, 2008
Thank you Mr. Orton for this much needed book. It has what we need to know about building a good fireplace and how the other designs fall short. This book has helped drive a movement toward the construction of this type of fireplace.
There are 2 houses owned by my relatives that had Rumford style fireplaces built in the 2nd quarter of the 1800's. One of them had the livingroom fireplace rebuilt in the 1940's and later replaced by a room intruding wood stove, neither change ever worked to anyone's satisfaction. The other house's parlor fireplace proved to be so efficient that when in use with just a small amount of wood the room radiator had to be shut off. Three cheers for this book. It demystifies the principles, genius and construction of a truly efficient fireplace without the loss of the contemplative aspect of an open fire. Benjamin Thompson is man we should all know about.
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on March 22, 2015
Wow. As I have always loved fireplaces, I had no idea that there was a more efficient model. The shallow firebox is different for me but if it provides a better heating mechanism then I am all for it.
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