Introduction: Better Than a Bellows: a Fireplace Blower
Here's a video comparing the efficacy of manual bellows to the blower we'll make:
Step 1: Materials and Tools
1 - battery-powered blower like the kind used to blow up air mattresses. The one I had laying around the house was the Coleman 4D Universal Quick Pump that you can get for less than $15 on Amazon.
4 - D cells for the blower, $7 at Home Depot
Fabric Tape: Duct tape or Gorilla Tape
2 - hose clamps 1" or so, about $0.70 each
18" of 1" ID plastic tubing a couple of bucks at Home Depot
9" of 3/8" copper tubing
Copper Tubing Cutter
Step 2: Cut Tubing to Length
This will be for the nozzle end. About 8 or 9 inches worked for me. If you have a deep firebox, you might need a longer nozzle. If you have a shallow firebox, like a Rumford, you can probably also use less plastic hose. Use a tubing cutter for the smoothest edge.
Step 3: Wrap Tubing With Tape
The tubing's about 3/8" in diameter, and it has to fit snugly into the 1" diameter plastic tubing. There's probably better ways of doing this: flare joins or such, but I took the simple and stupid way out and just wrapped it with tape until it was the right diameter.
Step 4: Connect the Tubes
Insert the copper tubing wrapped in tape into one end of the plastic tubing. Secure with a hose clamp.
Step 5: Clamp Hose to Blower
Use the other hose clamp to attach the free end of the plastic tubing to the exhaust of the battery-operated blower.
Step 6: Done!
and you're done! Keep it by the fireplace and use as needed. Keep away from the open grate, as the blower and connecting tube are plastic and don't respond well to stray sparks.
As to price: the total materials for this blower is about $25. The cheapest bellows on Amazon are in the $20 to $25 price range. As to getting the job done, there's absolutely no comparison, go back and see the video in the intro. Since this is an air mattress pump, you could easily take the tubing extension along on your camping trip and use it to pep up the campfire after inflating your air mattress. I'm also sure other types of blowers, including AC powered ones would work as well around the home fireplace. So look around the house and see if you have a pump kicking around in the bottom of a closet and make your own blower!