What is a Coal Scuttle?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

A coal scuttle or coal hod is a bucket designed to carry coal. Coal scuttles are typically asymmetrical in shape, with a design which facilitates the pouring of coal onto a fire or into a fire place. Although coal fireplaces are no longer as common as they once were, many people keep coal scuttles around as decorative items, especially if their decor or homes have an antique feel.

A coal scuttle is designed to carry coal.
A coal scuttle is designed to carry coal.

The coal scuttle was introduced in the 1800s; the word “scuttle” in this sense is derived from the Latin scutella, “serving platter,” which is in turn borrowed from the word for shield, scutum. Prior to the introduction of the coal scuttle, people used ordinary buckets or deep shovels to transport coal, which could be a real pain in large houses, since coal was typically stored in the cellar.

A coal scuttle is a bucket designed to carry coal.
A coal scuttle is a bucket designed to carry coal.

Most coal scuttles look sort of like gravy boats. The lipped end of the coal scuttle, just like that of the gravy boat, is designed for pouring, while the high end of the coal scuttle prevents coal from rolling out while the scuttle is carried up stairs. One or two handles may be attached to a coal scuttle, depending on the design, and coal scuttles may be short and squat, or tall and slender.

In many cases, coal scuttles were made from lightweight metals, so that they would be durable and easy to handle. Tin, brass, and copper were all used, with some manufacturers covering their scuttles in embossing and other ornamentation so that the scuttle could be left by the fire in a well-appointed room. Coal scuttles could also be made from wood.

Several companies continue to produce coal scuttles, for both practical and ornamental use. It is also possible to find coal scuttles at antique stores upon occasion, although the high demand for genuine antiques can sometimes make an antique scuttle quite expensive.

Some people with wood-burning stoves have picked up on the convenience of the coal scuttle, building or buying small racks to hold a few logs for the fire so that they do not have to leave the warmth of the room for wood. It is also possible to see especially large scuttles designed for carrying and storing logs for wood-burning stoves and fireplaces. Canvas is often used to construct scuttle-like carriers for wood, since it is lightweight and easy to handle, and it can be wrapped around the wood to secure it before carrying it.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Discussion Comments


@SarahGrove - You are very lucky to have such a thoughtful husband. I appreciate your advice. I have some brass lamps so I have been looking for an antique brass coal scuttle.

So far I haven't found one I liked in my price range. It's good to know I may still get lucky.

Do you think our ancestors would laugh at us using a coal bucket for a decorative piece? Nevertheless, I am all for it!


Coal scuttles make beautiful decorative pieces. My husband bought me a very charming copper coal scuttle for my birthday.

If you have your heart set on one like I did be sure that you shop around. The prices vary a lot. If you shop carefully you should be able to get one for a decent price.

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