How to build a fire bellows

Fire bellows push air into a fire in a controlled fashion to help stoke the flames. The bellows have a narrow nozzle, a wide centre chamber and narrow handles. Two pieces of wood are used to make the bellows. The centre chamber is encased with leather to allow for a pumping action. The pumping action takes air into the chamber and blows it from the chamber on to the fire. Make a homemade bellows at home using either leather or vinyl to create the air chamber.

Lay the board on a piece of newspaper and trace around the outside edge. Remove the board. Draw the shape of the bellows inside the tracing.

Cut out the tracing. Fold the tracing in half lengthwise to form a 7.5 x 35 cm (3 x 14 inch) rectangle. Open the rectangle and lay it flat. Place the 2.5 cm (1 inch) mark of the ruler on the fold of the newspaper. Make sure the ruler is in line with one 15 cm (6 inch) edge. Mark the newspaper 2.5 cm (1 inch) from each side of the fold. Flip the paper and repeat marking the opposite end in the same manner.

Draw two 7.5 cm (3 inch) vertical lines from the 2.5 cm (1 inch) marks on one end of the paper. This is the nozzle. Draw two 12.5 cm (5 inch) vertical lines from the opposite marks. This is the handle. Lay the paper vertically on a flat surface. Connect the two left lines with a half-circle shape. Use the entire width of the paper. Repeat the process with the right lines. This is the bellows chamber.

Draw inside curves and smooth out the shape of the lines made connecting the nozzle to the bellows chamber and the bellows chamber to the handle with curved lines. The transition between the sharp straight lines and the round bellows is needed for connecting the leather to the bellows. A good example of the shape is one half of an hour glass.

Cut out the bellows shape. Lay the pattern on the board. Trace around the paper shape. Remove the paper. Place the board with the tracing on top of the second board.

Clamp the two boards together making sure to line up all edges. Place a mark on the top and bottom of the two boards. Cut through both boards along the traced line with a band saw.

Remove the clamps from the boards. Use a rasp and round the outside edges of the bellows chamber and handle on the marked side of both boards. Set one board aside to use as the back.

Use a 1.5 cm (5/8-inch) drill bit and drill a hole through the centre of the bellows chamber and through the end of the handle. Centre the hole between the width of the handle and 1.25 cm (1/2 inch) in from the edge.

Locate the 7.5 cm (3 inch) end of the back board. Measure 5 cm (2 inches) from the end or nose of the board. Draw a straight line across the nose of the board at the 5 cm (2 inch) mark. Cut across this mark.

Glue the 5 cm (2 inch) board on to the front board with the holes in the centre and in the handle. Flip the board so the rounded edges are on the bottom. Locate the 7.5 cm (3 inch) end or nose of the front board. Match the 5 cm (2 inch) board to the nose making sure it lines up with the front and side edges. Place wood glue between the two and clamp into place. Let the glue dry for 24 hours.

Insert the glued boards into a large vice. Point the nose of the board on a straight vertical. Mark the centre of the glued board with a pencil. Use a 1.25 cm (1/2 inch) drill bit and bore a hole through the entire length of the nose. This is the nozzle hole.

Remove the drilled board from the vice and place it on a flat surface so the glued block of wood is on the top.

Cut a 7.5 by 7.5 cm (3 by 3 inch) square of leather. Centre the square and place it over the hole drilled in the centre of the bellows chamber. Tack two adjacent corners of the flap to the wood using carpet tacks.

Slide the male-to-male compression pipe coupling through the nozzle hole. Fit the brass flare nut to the coupling. Liberally glue between the coupling and the wood. Push into place and let it dry.

Cut a 5 by 5 cm (2 by 2 inch) piece of leather. Place the two bellows boards together and match the shapes. Line up the nose section that was cut. Place half of the square on the glued board and half on the cut bellows nose. Use four to six carpet tacks on each side of the leather square to secure the glued block to the bellows board that was cut.

Cut a 1.25 cm (1/2 inch) strip of leather 50 cm (20 inches) long. Loop the strip of leather through the hole in the handle. Match the ends of the leather strips and tie the long strip of leather to the handle. Lift the hinged top of the bellows 20 cm (8 inches) to extend it to the greatest expansion point. Tie the ends of the leather around the handle so it cannot extend any farther than desired. This is dependent on the exact placement of the nozzle.

Use scrap wood to brace the bellows open to it's greatest expansion point. Wrap a long strip of leather from the nose, around the bellows chamber and back to the nose. Rough cut the leather to fit the area. Add an extra 2.5 cm (1 inch) to use for attaching the leather to the wood.

Remove the blocks of wood from the inside of the bellows used for bracing. Place a line of strong glue on the top edge of the bellows nose, around the air chamber and end at the opposite side of the nose. Lay the leather in place. Tack the leather down with carpet tacks. Repeat the process with the opposite side. Dry for 24 hours before use.

Things You'll Need

  • 2 Wood boards -- 2.5 x 15 x 35 cm (1 x 6 x 14 inches)
  • Newspaper
  • Ruler
  • Band saw
  • C-clamp
  • Rasp
  • Drill
  • 1.5 cm (5/8 inch) drill bit
  • 1.25 cm (1/2 inch) drill bit
  • Bench vice
  • Leather or vinyl
  • Scissors
  • 1.25 cm (1/2 inch) male compression pipe coupling
  • 1.25 cm (1/2 inch) brass flare nut
  • Wood glue
  • 1.25 cm (1/2 inch) carpet tacks
  • Hammer
  • Strong glue
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About the Author

Kim Blakesley is a home remodeling business owner, former art/business teacher and school principal. She began her writing and photography career in 2008. Blakesley's education, fine arts, remodeling, green living, and arts and crafts articles have appeared on numerous websites, including DeWalt Tools, as well as in "Farm Journal" and "Pro Farmer."