Ash Bucket — Used to contain either hot or cool ash and embers, the ash bucket often features a lid to contain dusty ash and residual heat from hot embers. Some ash buckets 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 fireplace tool sets and must be purchased separately.
Common Types of Fireplace Tool Sets
With a firm understanding of individual fireplace tools, we can now cover the different toolset styles and their intended purposes. Keep in mind that most of the toolset varieties covered here consist of various combinations of the individual fireplace tools discussed in the previous section.
Full-Height Toolsets — Known as the most common type of fireplace toolset, the full-height version evokes the classic charm as that associated with a masonry fireplace. These tool sets are usually placed on a fireplace hearth immediately to the side of the fireplace opening. Available in a wide variety of finishes and styles, the full-height fireplace tool 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 of tool sets offer the broadest range of options.
Toolsets With Wood Holder — An all-encompassing option, this type of tool set typically features a convenient, built-in metal wood holder with a lower shelf 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 have limited space around a freestanding stove.
Miniature Toolsets — These are ideal for smaller fireboxes as seen in a fireplace insert or a wood stove. Miniature fireplace tool sets feature a similar design to most freestanding tool sets, but they are much shorter, standing at only 12 to 16 inches on average. Due to their height, these sets usually only contain a poker, brush, and shovel. Log tongs are generally excluded.
Brush and Pan Set — Consisting of a brush and pan only, this type of tool set is often purchased along with a free-standing tool set and used for larger cleanup jobs. While only a two-piece set, the brush and dustpan are more robust than the average ash brush included with a standard fireplace tool set and can make quick work of cleaning out a firebox or stove opening.
Materials Used To Make Fireplace Tools
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 available to you and a description of which products work best for specific applications.
Steel — Available in a variety of designs and finishes, steel toolsets allow for twisted or spiral shanks, baskets, hooked ends, and other complex shapes 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 high-efficiency wood 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.
Plated 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 durably 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 fireplace 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 complex maintenance instructions. Yet, there are still several essential ways you can 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 shovelheads see the most wear and tear. Avoid sweeping hot ashes with the broom and overloading the shovelhead when scooping embers. A few extra small scoops instead of one big one will prevent straining of the shovel rivets. Should the bristles of the broom wear down from normal use, most manufacturers offer replacements to keep your tool set in top condition.
Most fireplace 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. If you happen to have more questions that were unanswered in this article, our NFI certified technicians will be more than happy to assist you.
Do you have a set that is one piece, with no handles or shovelheads that screw on and get loose all the time?
Pilgrim hearth makes many sets that do not have handles, similar to this one. While the poker is a single piece, the tongs will have a pin where the arms hinge. The shovel and broom will have a screw or rivet holding the pieces together.