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What are Andirons?

When using woodstoves, logs often need to be stacked without the use of an andiron.
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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 15 August 2014
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Andirons are metal supports which are installed in a fireplace to hold logs as they burn. The use of andirons helps a fire burn more efficiently by ensuring even circulation of air around the log, and andirons also prevent logs from falling out of the fireplace and posing a safety risk. Many home supply stores stock andirons, and in some cases they may be built into a fireplace for extra strength and stability. If you have a fireplace, andirons are strongly recommended.

The principle of some sort of support to hold logs as they burn is very old. As woodstove users are well aware, it is possible to construct a fire in such a way that the logs support each other as they burn, but it is preferable to have some sort of stand. A fireplace with andirons will burn hotter, which ensures that the fire burns more clearly and helps to warm a room more quickly.

A typical andiron has short legs which lift the log just above the floor of the fireplace, along with a horizontal crosspiece to support the log and an upright section which acts as a guard to keep logs from tumbling out. Most fireplaces have two andirons which can be moved to support logs of varying sizes, and it is also possible to find long andirons which are designed to be used alone, as a single unit.

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Early andirons were simply crudely formed from basic metal. However, artisans realized the decorative potential of the andiron around the 16th century, which is when examples of andirons with lacy patterns and imaginative crests began to appear. Many modern andirons have a mixture of decorative metals, or medallions with crests depicting animals, woodland scenes, and so forth. Antique andirons were also designed to support roasting spits and stew pots, with strategically placed hooks.

You may also hear andirons called fire dogs or firedogs, especially in the American Northeast. In any case, they are available in a range of styles from minimalist to ornate to match an assortment of design schemes, and many companies make fireplace accessories like pokers which match their andirons. It is important to remember that andirons are only one safety and efficiency feature for the fireplace; fireplace owners should also routinely clean their fireplaces and chimneys, and consider using screens to keep sparks out of the room.

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