We all know I need to get a hobby. But until I do, I often read older posts I did like this holiday post I wrote back on November 21, 2009 about all things fireplace. This article really cracked me up. Ok, I'm my biggest fan but it's so MEAN it's funny. Come to think of it, I wonder where my mean sense of humor went? Probably to Los Angeles-meanness is highly prized there. Hehe. Anyhow, hope you enjoy it:
It's almost that time of year....THE HOLIDAY SEASON.....Yay! Soon we'll start dreaming of a white Christmas, making our gift lists, and snuggling up to the fire with lots of hot cocoa and plenty of valium.
So what could me more appropriate than a "hearth and home" post about antique pieces that enhance and beautify your fireplace?
You'd think this topic would be simple dimple right? After all, you just grab some andirons, throw on a coupla Cracklelogs, fire them up with your Aim 'N Flame lighter (btw, I can totally flame without aiming at all) and voilá: instant fire. Well, yes, if you're a complete moron (pronounced "MORE on"), this process is indeed that simple.
Moronic side note: When I was in my 30's and still a swingin' single, I had a condo with one of those concrete log, gas-ignition fireplaces. And when I had a hot date coming over, I'd put on my "crackling coals" cassette tape (see below) to create that oh-so-important romantic mood--it was actually very effective and my dates (all three of them) were never the wiser as to my faux romantic ambience. BTW, I SWEAR this tape shown below is the real thing-really-but I do wonder why I've kept it for 30 years. I'll ask my therapist...
Anyhow, before we can get to andirons, we should talk about log grates. A log grate is the metal frame placed inside the fireplace (often between the "arms" of the andirons) to prevent the wood or coal from falling out. This is a log grate:
BE CAREFUL NOT TO CONFUSE a log grate with a log rack. The grate sits inside your fireplace; the rack sits outside the firebox and holds your wood (Ok, that's hysterically funny--and Freudian-but let's just move on). This is a log rack:
Mistaking your rack for your grate could prove costly since firing up your log rack will get you 10-20 years for arson rather than a romantic evening at home.
But "HEY BUZZ!", you ask, "WHAT IF I'M THE ONE WHO'S BUZZED when I come home from a holiday parté and accidentally fire up my log rack instead of my log grate: how will I know?"
A provocative question but more importantly incredibly stupid. I like that. Luckily, the answer to your question is as simple as you are:
First, just say no to drugs. Second, if "No" is not in your vocabulary but you still don't want to star in the sequel to "The Burning Bed," here's the way to tell if you've done it right: start by staggering back AWAY from the fire and try to focus on the flames as best you can.If the flames look like this, then you've properly lit the wood on the grate, congratulations, and go to bed:
But if the fire looks like the photo below, then you've whoopsied big time. If this is the case, FIRST: call your insurance agent to file your claim, and SECOND, call 911:
But to truly undertsand the intricacies and nuances of your fireplace (who thought this could be so complicated??), our adventure must start with baby steps.
So here we go:
Baby step 1. What's a FIREDOG? Good question because many fireplaces do have one. But what exactly are they? Firedogs are DALMATIONS (duh) like this oh-so-cute (but highly flammable) example:
If I owned this firedog, I'd call him Spot (it's tres retro, don't you think?).
More relevant to our discussion of antiques, what's another firedog (other than "Spot") that could hang around the fire without spontaneously combusting? That would be an antique firedog that is just another word for andirons (pronounced "AN die urns").
Baby step 2: What are andirons? Andirons are metal supports for logs (real or phoney) that serve to lift the logs off the ground thereby promoting more air flow around them and making for a better fire. They also keep the logs from rolling forward. And, of course, andirons can be highly decorative too. Here's a nice pair (when I was in high school that meant something very different than andirons--but I digress):
Baby step 3: Our rich neighbors just got a new expensive set of andirons and offered us their creepy old ones that they "were going to give to Goodwill." These clowns bought Google at $105 a share because they thought the name was "so cute" and now they're worth gazillions and rub it in our faces constantly? What should we do?
Not a problem. You can be wonderfully passive/aggressive and effectively put them in their place with some fancy French fireplace terminology that they'll never understand. This will also make them feel less worthy and thereby brighten your holiday season immensely.
So what's the secret word to use? It's "andiers" (pronounced "ahn dee YAY") and means exactly the same thing as a set of firedogs/andirons. Just like pommes frites are just another name for French fries and their more Americanized cousins, the Tater-Tots:
So when you visit your neighbors to drop off that holiday fruitcake, make sure to compliment them on their shiny new store-bought "andiers", then say "au revoir" and leave smugly knowing that money alone can't buy you class (but then neither can this blog).
Baby step 4: If by some miracle the neighbors actually know what andiers are, then just call them "chenets" (pronounced "shuh NEH") which is yet another synonym for andirons. That ought to do the trick.
Baby step 5: "Ok, Buzz, got the andiron/firedog/andiers/chenets thing, but then what's a FIREBACK? I saw some on your website."
Firebacks can mean a coupla things. First, they relate to a time when men defended a woman's "honor" by slapping each other with gloves (this still happens a lot in West Hollywood) and then challenging each other to a duel (where each fool tries to shoot the other first). The duelers would typically march ten steps away from the other, turn and fire. The one who forgot to "fireback" would be the dead one and the other loser would "win" the girl. Talk about a Pyrrhic victory.
Ok, great. But what's an antique fireback? Antique firebacks are cast metal plates that protect the backside of the fire box against catching fire and spreading to the rest of the building.
Plus the thick iron plate serves to keep the heat radiating back into the room, thus working like a radiator and increasing the heating efficiency of the fire by as much as 50%.
Firebacks date back to the mid 15th century and were originally luxury items affordable only to royalty and the aristocracy. Thus the early firebacks show the crests and crowns of royalty and titled families. Later on, as firebacks became more affordable, they came to be embellished with more decorative designs about classical stories, nature and rural life. Today, these decorative antique firebacks are often mounted as handsome wall appliqués.
Baby step 6 (this is one long-winded baby): Ok Buzz, got the grate thing, firedog thing and all the other stuff, but then what's a fireplace FENDER?
Well. if you're a grease monkey, it's that part of the car that's usually dented and hence in need of your expert services.
If you're "in a band", which is another way of saying you're still unemployed, then a Fender is the coolest electric guitar ever. When I was in high school, my brother had a Fender Stratocaster that helped his band (called "The Periscopes"-don't ask me why) to win back-to-back Van Nuys High School "Sock Hop" Battle of the Band contests. Here's an example of a really sa-weet Stratocaster:
Sadly, in 1965, the British invasion came on the scene, my brother's music became passé, and his band was defeated by a Beatles knock-off group of freshmen called "The Shiverin' Bones" (again, don't ask how they came up with that brilliantly uplifting name).
Oops, forgot to tell you what an antique fender is. My bad. An antique fender is a low frame bordering a fireplace to contain falling coals or wood and to discourage people from coming too close to the fire. Also, fenders were used to protect the rug or floor from flying embers or sparks. Here's my favorite 18th c. brass fender:
And there you have it. And to all a good night!