How to Build Fireplace Bellows

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A traditional bellows
A traditional bellows (Image: Photo courtesy of Morguefile.com.)

You can make a fireplace bellows to help you build a strong, hot fire. Every fire needs three things: heat, air and fuel. If there is not enough air, the fire will smolder and die. If you use a bellows, the air blown into the fire increases the heat and will build a fire up from smoldering coals.

Things You'll Need

  • Wooden cutting board
  • Paper and pencil
  • Coping saw
  • Sand paper (600-grit and 1,200-grit)
  • Hacksaw
  • Metal pen tube
  • Epoxy weld
  • Tire inner tube
  • Scissors
  • Decorative furniture nails

On a piece of paper, use a pencil to trace a large teardrop that is half the size of the wooden cutting board. Draw a short handle coming off the center of the round part of the tear. Trace another teardrop next to the first.

Using the tracings as a pattern, cut two teardrop shapes from the wooden cutting board with a coping saw. Cut the tips (not the handles) off the teardrop shapes. Place the two pieces together and trim them to make them both the same size. Sand the edges with 600-grit sand paper, then follow up with the 1,200-grit sand paper.

Unscrew the metal pen tube from the pen and cut off the tip. Use an epoxy weld (J-B Weld works well) to adhere the tube on the end of one of the wooden panels. It should be opposite from the handle where the teardrop was trimmed.

Measure the distance around the bellows. Split the tire inner tube lengthwise. Cut it to a length that is the same as the distance around the bellows. Make sure that the valve stem is at the end of the section of tube. Trim the bellows from the center of the section of inner tube.

From the part of the inner tube that you have left over, cut a 3-inch diameter circle. Drill a 2-inch hole on the side of one of the wooden paddles and sand it smooth. Use epoxy weld to glue the circle of rubber around the 2-inch hole on three sides to make a one-way valve.

Use more epoxy weld around the edge of the large bellows to secure it to the wooden panels. The widest section should be attached to the teardrop shape at the rounded side so that the handles stick out. The rest of the section of rubber tubing should continue around the front and be secured around the pen tube. Make sure that the pen tube is sealed around the edges, as well as the metal tubing.

Test the bellows to make sure that the one way valve (the circular flap glued under the hole in the side of the bellows) works once the epoxy weld has cured. Do this by pulling the handles apart and together, pumping the bellows.

Tips & Warnings

  • For a decorative touch, fold the tubing over the edges of the wooden panel and fix it into place with decorative furniture nails.
  • Carefully test the bellows to make sure it is working properly. The one-way valve should open properly on the side of the bellows during operation so that sufficient air enters in by the side valve, rather than sucking air in from the front. Make sure that the bellows does not get hot enough to overheat.
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