Count Rumford Fireplace in Action

Fireplace at home of Greg and Margie Smith in Northern California. Greg is one of the builders I’m covering in my next book, BUILDERS OF THE PACIFIC COAST. This uniquely shaped fireplace is based on the designs of Count Rumford from the late 1700s, and features a tall, shallow opening and angled sides to radiate heat. It also has a streamlined flue for better draft. Construction details are in Vrest Orton’s The Forgotten Art of Building a Good Fireplace.

I was there on a cold December night and four of us sat around the fireplace enjoying the radiating heat.

Click here for a critique of Vrest Orton’s book.

About Lloyd Kahn

Lloyd Kahn started building his own home in the early '60s and went on to publish books showing homeowners how they could build their own homes with their own hands. He got his start in publishing by working as the shelter editor of the Whole Earth Catalog with Stewart Brand in the late '60s. He has since authored six highly-graphic books on homemade building, all of which are interrelated. The books, "The Shelter Library Of Building Books," include Shelter, Shelter II (1978), Home Work (2004), Builders of the Pacific Coast (2008), Tiny Homes (2012), and Tiny Homes on the Move (2014). Lloyd operates from Northern California studio built of recycled lumber, set in the midst of a vegetable garden, and hooked into the world via five Mac computers. You can check out videos (one with over 450,000 views) on Lloyd by doing a search on YouTube:

3 Responses to Count Rumford Fireplace in Action

  1. I can't get over why anyone would advocate "only the straight back" and call it the true rumford when the count was just begining to experiment with slanted backs because he discovered the intense heat increase that his first slanted version exhibited.
    The count really never built from scratch,rather he repaired existing fire places and had to adopt his boxes to thick masonry front walls[breasts],and that,in my estimation is why he built the backs sraight up,because if he had slanted them he would end up with deep boxes approximately 30" or better.

    Orton's observations are simply the results of keeping the throat imediately behind the thiner[4"to 8"]faces which results in a slightly sloped back.I find [as did rumford] that starting the slope about 10-5/8" is good as if higher it tends to cause turbulance.
    I've been building slanted versions ever since I first read orton's book back in 1972, and with time,Iv'e learned tricks as well as do's and don'ts which resulted in a smoke free good working,and very enjoyable fireplace.
    There is theory circulting that the slanted back which has a longer throat let's more heat out the chimnney but that's nonsense if one builds it correctly.
    I normally have my damper set about 2"to 3" and lay my logs horizontally[no need to stand up in tee pee style and hasten all the heat straight up the chimney]adding new logs at the rear.
    This results in a very hot and radiant sloped back wall that guides the heat just two bricks[8"]behind the face, thereby utilizing every wall in the box as a radiator,intsead mainly depending on the angled side walls.

    I have been avidly using my 50" slanted rumford for 18 years now less any escaping smoke,in fact the face is still as clean as the day I built it.A "real tell tale" sign of a smokeless good operating fireplace.

    Anyone is welcome to watch it burn with the damper [self crafted]set as I've mentioned by visiting Casini Masonry on facebook link;!/pages/Casini-Masonry/159609824086030?sk=wall

    Francis Casini Oxford,CT. owner Casini Masonry

  2. Well it’s been a while since I’ve been here and I’ll add some facts.
    I’ve gotten that same 50” slant Rumford burning at a 1:40 ratio.
    That’s 1-1/4” deep x 47” long.
    Very efficient and comfortable as I keep it going 24-7 all winter.
    The interior mass becomes very warm radiating which a minimal fire less the heat loss associated with a fireplace.
    Also I’ve had equal success in achieving the same small throats in StraightBack Rumfords.
    For instance a 36” slant or StraightBack can burn with a throat ratio as high as 1:60!

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