How to use a clay chiminea

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How to use a clay chiminea
A slow burn is the best way to use a clay chiminea. (Image by David Reber's Hammer Photography; Flickr.)

Chimineas -- free-standing, front-loaded fireplaces that originate from Mexico -- can add a charming, and warm, addition to a back garden or decking. Their distinctive, long neck may make you rush to make a roaring fire, but this isn't how chimineas work. In order to make your chiminea last, you have to start slowly.

Skill level:
Easy

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Instructions

  1. 1

    Set your chiminea outside (they should never be used indoors). Lift your chiminea by grabbing hold of its mouth with one hand, and cradling the body with the other. Place it into a three- or four-legged iron stand, and place on a level surface away from anything flammable.

  2. 2

    Seal your chiminea with a once-over coat of wax. Spray the outside of your chiminea and wipe down with an old rag to seal hairline fractures.

  3. 3

    Add stone or peat to the bowl of the chiminea, until the layer reaches about 10 cm below the lip. This insulates the fire, so that it doesn't directly touch the clay. Place two bricks lengthwise on top of this layer, to serve as the grate for your firewood.

  4. 4

    Cure your dry chiminea with small fires, made out of paper or kindling. Let the fire burn out naturally, and increase the size of the fire incrementally each time – but keep it small. Let the chiminea cool completely between fires. The chiminea should be properly seasoned after five to 10 fires.

  5. 5

    Use your chiminea for larger fires, but not so large that they come out of the neck: logs should be about 30 cm in length, and a third as thick. Not meant as a primary heat source, chimineas are meant to add ambience as they burn aromatic woods like apple or cedar.

Tips and warnings

  • Try to protect your chiminea against the weather, or bring them inside during a cold winter. Before storage, remove the sand. Then, take it off its stand, and store it on a pallet that allows airflow.
  • Never lift the chiminea by the neck. The bond between the chiminea's neck and the body is its weakest point.

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