Introduction: Medieval Rebar Brazier
From The Princess Bride to A Game of Thrones the medieval brazier is a ubiquitous set prop-- often a functional one crackling with bright fire.
While searching for images of braziers at work (BTW, be careful how you spell that on your work computer doing an image search because you never know if your Director, Toni, is going to walk by just as a hundred busty gals pop up on your screen. True story.) I found lots of the typical flat-bar cylinder-shaped braziers that looked like they were made artlessly. No character. Then I found one picture with a narrow waist, beautiful curves and with delicate curls on top (still not talking about those busty gals) and I thought, that's the one for me!
The advantages of a brazier fire over a classic fire pit are:
- More air flow means less smoke in your eyes
- It is elevated so it heats all of you, not just your knees
- You will never have an air-starved ash bed
- It is self-feeding and self-adjusting
- It can be used as a support for roasting or grilling
- It will dry nearby damp firewood
- You can add kindling to the fire on any level
- Move it wherever you want, including on uneven ground
If that sounds good to you, here's how you can make one too, done dirt cheap. Or if you'd rather, I can make one for you.
28 pieces of 3/8" rebar, 24 inches long (1 is for the bottom ring)
3 pieces of 3/8" rebar, 36 inches long (legs)
1"x1/8" flat bar, 6ft long for the top ring. (This could also be rebar but I liked the idea of forcing the flat ring down on the... side thingys... curvy spindles?)
A welder and an ardent desire to improve markedly as you go.
A forge and anvil-y thing and a good smash-y hammer.
Step 1: Here's the Real Reason I Did This.
I've owned a lot of these awful fire pits. They are really low braziers but we call them fire pits. They are terrible. They fill with wet ash, they rot through their thin steel bottoms. They are not cooking-friendly. And they are a pain to dispose of. Don't you agree? Now you're looking at a picture of my last one.
Step 2: Heat On
If you can fit them all in your forge then load up 27 of the 24" rods all at once. I've got each step boiled down to one heat per forging step. If I didn't do this the rods would get all jumbled. It would be bad to get mixed up.
Flatten the first 4 inches of each rod and return each to the forge to heat for the next step.
Step 3: Round the Horn!
I'm not using the horn in the picture because I love my anvil's ferrier's cams. You'll see why in the next step.
Round over the flattened end of the rods just short of a semicircle. Try to get them roughly uniform. Return them to the forge.
Step 4: Uniformity
Perfect uniformity is the adversary of aesthetics, while near-uniformity is the hallmark of hand-craftsmanship. Here I drove the flattened hooks between the cams on the heel of my anvil. You could make a jig to round them perfectly. Next, thrust that hot hook through your cams (or turning fork) and bend the rod back from the opening of the hook about 15 degrees. I used another rod set at an angle to be my guide for how far to bend.
Quench each hook and and stuff the other ends in the forge.
Step 5: Mass Production As Meditation
Here's where I had an opportunity to zone out and I fell into Something Deeply Hidden by Sean Carroll for a while. Audiobooks, am I rite? Repetitive actions allow the mind to wander.
The bottom of the brazier is an 7 inch diameter sunburst of rebar welded into a ring. In order to fit all of the spindles inside this ring the ends of the rebar need to be tapered into a wedge shape--like tiny pizza slices--then bent over 90 degrees. With those wedges inside the ring and the spindles emerging vertically from the ring, we're ready to weld. Oh, but first, 26 more wedges to make...
Step 6: Mass Production As Catharsis
I don't understand rage rooms. There's not a bit of latent irritation left in me by spindle number 12. By number 18 I'm zeroed out to operable hind brain only. By #27, I'm at straight monasticism, ready to shave my scalp.
And then they're done being shaped and there is a huge pile of spindles, ready to weld. But there has to be a ring to weld them onto.
Step 7: Bend Some Rings
Now is the time to bend the bottom and the top ring. I worked out the math so that neither top or bottom piece has to be cut. You should be able to fit 30 vertical pieces (that is, 27 spindles and 3 legs) of 3/8" rebar shoulder to shoulder into the bottom ring as long as they are tapered enough.
Once the rings are bent into approximate circles and welded shut it is time to brighten the welding surfaces.
Step 8: Polish and Weld
Now that you've ground up the welding surfaces to get to bright, fresh metal you can start to weld in the spindles. There's no particular order to it. Just tack them, leaving approximately 3/8" between them. Be certain that the points of the wedges are aimed at the center of the ring. Every 9 spindles, leave a space for the legs to be added later. Weld the points of the wedges together so that nothing wiggles a weld and then upend the whole thing.
With the bottom of the brazier pointed up, slide the big ring down over it. This flat bar ring will compress the spindles a bit (like banding a barrel compresses the barrel staves) and you'll have to hammer it down in place--a very noisy activity.
Step 9: Make the Legs
You will repeat the process of the early steps to produce the flattened curl at the top of the three leg sections. All the bends are the same except for tapering the bottom. The only thing you need to do for the bottom of the leg sections is to flatten them and give them a light curve--say 20 degrees of curve for the feet. This foot curve should point the same direction as the top curl.
Weld these legs in place where you left the 3 gaps in the spindles. Evenly spread out the spindles (and legs) on the top ring, tap it up into place and weld it.
I'm not going to kid you; there is a lot of welding to do here. But luckily the pieces don't really move once they are jammed in together so welding is easier.
Step 10: Tap Tap Tap
These final small adjustments give the brazier character and beauty. With a build this sculptural and organic you're never going to get every bend perfect and the heat of welding does tend to throw some measurements off. So, tap, bend and wrench everything that isn't perfectly aligned until it looks more or less okay.
You'll either be making small adjustments a year after building it or you'll be accepting the mild imprecision of the hand-forging process. Either way, you'll be doing it around a beautiful fire in an open brazier.
Participated in the