Good morning, homies. The Home Repair/Improvement Shop is open.
I have a job coming up to build 3 Rumford fireplaces in a major home addition. We're (the homeowner and I) planning to document these three as an instructional how-to, and may have a workshop, if enough people are interested.
On one of these three, we plan to use the pre-cast, fired-ceramic Rumford throat component that is now being marketed, and on the other two I will demonstrate my own system of casting the throat in place with poured concrete. The pre-cast component is over 800 bucks for the one piece alone, and I do mine in a day with 50 bucks of concrete and and an artfully-designed form I make on the spot.
If you google Rumford fireplace, you will come across Jim Buckley's site. Jim is to be credited with diligently pursuing and hounding the ICBO (Int'l Congress of Building Officials, which writes the building codes), for years, into accepting the Rumford-type configuration as an exception to the code, thus allowing them, as a Rumford is configured radically differently from a conventional fireplace. Buckley's site has some very detailed explanations of how and why the unusual Rumford design works so amazingly well.
Buckley has designed a pre-cast throat, which is the crucial element to the design, and gotten some manufacturers to make them and he holds workshops around the country to promote them. I met him a couple of years ago in ABQ for one of those, and explained my system to him, but I really need to do a whole presentation to pass on the knowledge.
Rumfords have been scientifically analyzed at LANL (Los Alamos Nat'l Labs) by the same folks up there (Douglas Balcomb et al) who studied the efficiency of the Russian stoves (the grubka) and passive-solar adobe applications, back in the late 70s and early 80s. What? You thought this was new, this solar and efficiency stuff? Passive-solar adobe homes have been built in New Mexico since the late 60s, and I have seen many of them; built some of them, too.
I started building Rumfords over 30 years ago, originally inspired by an article in the (of course) Whole Earth Catalog and there were many raised eyebrows on the part of building inspectors seeing these for the first time. The proof, of course, was in lighting one up and letting it speak for itself. But I did do some talking. I've never had a dis-satisfied client in the hundreds I have built.
You really have to experience a Rumford to get it, but I guarantee you have never felt a smaller open fire throw out bigger heat longer than is possible with this design. Count Rumford, (of the Holy Roman Empire!) Benjamin Thompson of Rumford, (now Concord) New Hampshire, invented this design in pre-Revolutionary New England, and some of these are still extant.
Thompson was a Ben Franklin kind of inquisitive, inquiring and inventive guy, but he was a loyal Tory. He went to England in 1776 or so, as General Gage's personal envoy to George III, and never returned to the US. Thus his work was never celebrated by American historians and he languishes in obscurity, despite an illustrious career in late-18th Century Europe.
We know of him at all through the curiosity of Vrest Orton, founder of the Vermont Country Store, who noticed these funny fireplaces in old houses that seemed to work so much better than modern ones and wrote a little book back in the late 50s-early 60s called "The Lost Art of Building a Good Fireplace", which is what was presented in the WEC. Vermont Country Store doesn't seem to offer this booklet anymore; I wonder if they are even aware of what an impact Vrest's book had.
There is also Rumford's own book which encompasses more than just fireplaces, but I'm not sure of its title, although I believe I did see a copy once somewhere.
This is one of my favorites...
and this is Chris Blaz, a graduate apprentice, beginning the one above. You can see the unusual shape of the firebox emerging. Chris, like all good apprentices eventually do, is now in business for himself doing these fireplaces.
Unfortunately for this fireplace discussion, I will be out early this morning checking on the acequia, as I opened the main gates to flush out the debris left by this year's cleaning efforts and I have to be sure all is well. I'll check back in by around 10am or maybe earlier, if nothing is amiss.