Tool Set Buyer's Guide & Other Information
There are numerous fireplace tool sets offered by various manufacturers, but what is the difference between them? Do some tool sets work better for certain scenarios? Each set of tools will offer specific items that are better suited to certain tasks than others. Within that particular set of tools will be various size and color options to guarantee that there is the perfect set of tools for your fireplace or stove. By the time you have finished reading through this guide, you will have the knowledge necessary to equip yourself with the correct tool set for your needs.
Fireplace Tool Varieties
Each fireplace tool serves an intended purpose. While one can certainly get by with a basic tool set, it is ideal to have on hand all the tools you will need to ensure a satisfying and safe burn experience. Tools sets have also evolved in both quality and ease of use as time has gone on, making an upgrade to a modern tool set a wise decision.
Poker — Consisting of a fully steel shank or a steel shank with a cast iron end, a log poker is designed to be able to help manipulate and rearrange your log arrangement in a fireplace or wood stove. Steel pokers will usually have a single ninety degree turn at the end that allows for hooking the logs or pushing them, while pokers with a cast iron end will have two or more hooks made into the casting for enhanced manipulation of the logs. Because this is one of the most essential fireplace tools, almost every fireplace tool set will contain one.
Log Tongs — Designed for both loading new logs into a stove or fireplace, as well as taking on the larger tasks that a poker cannot do, log tongs are usually manufactured from steel and will have one or more hinge points that provide leverage for grasping and pinching logs. Log tongs may be made from steel or cast iron and can have a single hinge point or many to multiply leverage. Smaller or log cost tool sets do not usually contain log tongs, as they are typically large in physical size and are the most complex fireplace tool.
Ash Broom — A broom is another common tool that most sets have and can be made from straw or synthetic fibers. While it is not designed to sweep hot ash while a fire is lit, it can be used after the fire has completely burned down and fireplace has cooled to help consolidate ash into the fireplace opening or it can be used in conjunction with a shovel to remove ash entirely.
Shovel — Most shovels consist of a steel shank with a stamped steel shovel head that has been riveted or welded to the steel shank. The shovel will have a broad enough head to allow it to be pushed back toward the back of the fireplace opening or stove opening, scooping ash into the shovel as it is pushed. The remaining light ash can be easily swept with an ash broom. Shovels can also be used to scoop and consolidate hot embers beneath the fire and can be used in conjunction with an ash bucket.
Ash Bucket — Used to contain either hot or cool ash and embers, this product will often feature a lid to contain dusty ash and residual heat from hot embers. Some ash buckets will have a double bottom to insulate and keep hot embers from warming the exterior of the bucket to unsafe temperatures. Usually, ash buckets do not come with tool sets and must be purchased individually.
Types of Tool Sets
With a firm understanding of individual fireplace tools well in hand, we can now cover the different tool set styles and their intended purposes. Keep in mind that most of the various tool set styles we will cover here will be available with various combinations of the individual fireplace tools we discussed earlier.
Tools with a full height stand — This type of product evokes the classic image of a handsome tool set placed on a fireplace hearth immediately to the side of the fireplace opening. Available in a wide variety of finishes and styles, this type of set will almost always consist of a poker, broom, shovel, and log tongs. Ranging from simple square steel sets to cast sets with decorative shanks and handles, this category will offer the broadest range of options.
Tools with a wood holder — An all-encompassing option, this type of tool set usually consists of a central wood basket with a lower shelf designed for kindling or paper storage. One or more sides of the basket will contain a set of hooks or a storage rack for the fireplace tools to hang. While this type of set does offer a handy spot to keep all of your fire building materials consolidated, it is the largest type of tool set and will not fit all applications, especially if you have a shallow fireplace hearth or are at a premium for space around a freestanding stove.
Mini tools with stand — Ideal for small coal burning fireplaces or wood stoves, this type of set features a similar design to most freestanding tool sets but is much shorter at 12 to 16 inches on average. Because of their short height, these sets usually only contain a poker, brush, and shovel. Log tongs are generally excluded because the short height of the set means they would not fit.
Brush and pan set — Consisting of a brush and pan only, this type of tool set is often purchased in conjunction with a free standing tool set and used for larger cleanup jobs. While only a two-piece set, the brush and dustpan is more robust than the average tool set and can make quick work of cleaning out a firebox or stove opening.
Fireplace Tool Materials
When browsing tool sets, you will find that there are many different materials and finishes to choose from. Some of the material choices will make a significant impact on tool longevity, while other design choices are strictly for aesthetics. Below is a more in-depth look at the various materials and finish options and which product works best for specific applications.
Steel - Available in a variety of designs and finishes, steel sets allow for twisted or spiral shanks, baskets, hooked tool ends, and other complex shapes to be made all in one piece. They are available in a variety of baked on finishes for the desired appearance. Steel sets offer excellent durability for interior applications, but should not be used outside.
Cast Iron — This material is exceptionally durable, but the individual shapes of the tools are limited. In most cases, the handles of the tools will be steel, while the "work end" of the tool will be cast iron and threaded or riveted to the steel handle. Cast iron tools are ideal for extremely high-temperature hearth appliances, such as closed combustion wood stoves and coal burning fireplaces.
Stainless Steel — Ideal for outdoor applications, stainless steel tools sets are usually manufactured from 304 stainless and feature the same style options as standard steel models, but come in an unpainted stainless finish. While primarily intended for outdoor uses, they can be used inside as well.
Brass — Offering a striking appearance, plated brass tools offer a classic look and excellent durability. Brass plating is resistant to corrosion, easy to clean, and offers nice weight in the hand. Most brass plated tools feature a durable steel shank on the tool end, preventing the brass tool handles from exposure to excessive heat.
Not all tool sets are created equal. Some manufacturers put forth the extra effort to ensure that their products are superior and will stand the test of time under regular use. Thankfully, there are many solid manufacturers on the market, giving a wealth of options.
Pilgrim - In business for over 60 years and currently the nation's best selling manufacturer of fireplace tool sets, Pilgrim products are heavily built, with sturdy welds and smooth seams. Products are available in a wide variety of colors and styles. The manufacturer is so proud of these items that they offer a lifetime warranty.
Uniflame - Having roots in propane distribution, this manufacturer naturally progressed into hearth accessories and fire pits. Offering a broad range of inexpensive but sturdily built fireplace tool sets, Uniflame has just the thing for a customer not wanting to spend a bundle.
Minuteman - A strong mid to high-end manufacturer of tools, Minuteman produces a wide variety of tool sets and wood holders. Based in Massachusetts, the manufacturer has been a staple for hearth accessories for decades.
Napa Forge - A subline of the Pilgrim brand, the Napa Forge line combines excellent Pilgrim quality with simpler designs for an outstanding value.
Lifespan and Care
Because tool sets are inherently durable, they do not require a long set of detailed care instructions. That being said, there are several essential rules to ensure a long product life.
At the end of the burn season, it is recommended to wipe down each individual tool with a damp cloth and then finishing with a cloth dipped in vegetable oil. Avoid using other cleaners and oils, as they can give off hazardous fumes the next time the tools make contact with hot ash or flame. Light corrosion can be removed with fine grit sandpaper and steel wool. When using your tools, be sure that fireplace brooms are only used to sweep completely cool ashes and embers. The broom bristles can be quickly damaged if they come into contact with hot ash. Be sure to dump ash buckets as soon as the contents are completely cool. The high alkalinity of wood ash can accelerate deterioration of the ash bucket if left unattended for long periods of time. Any tools that are damaged or broken should be repaired or replaced to ensure safe operation.
When cared for properly, a fireplace tool set can last decades. Typically, broom and shovel heads see the most wear and tear. Avoid sweeping hot ashes with the broom and overloading the shovel head when scooping embers. A few extra small scoops instead of one big one will prevent straining of the shovel rivets. Should a broom head wear down from normal use, most manufacturers offer replacements to keep your tool set in top condition.
Most tool sets will ship via small parcel carriers such as UPS, FedEx, or USPS, owing to their relatively compact dimensions. The tool sets usually come mostly assembled, but sets that do require assembly will usually screw together easily and include easy to understand instructions. Should a tool in the set be damaged, an individual replacement part can be quickly shipped.
Find Your Perfect Tool Set!
Now that you have armed yourself with the knowledge to navigate the different tool set styles and materials, you can begin the search for your ideal size and finish. Remember, there are plenty of options to choose from. Enjoy your search and know that you will ultimately find the perfect tool set to fit your décor and tend your fire effectively.