Old-Time Camp Stoves and Fireplaces

Old-Time Camp Stoves and Fireplaces


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Created during the Great Depression by the U.S. Forest Service, this guide was designed to provide environmental safety and maintenance advice for visitors to national forests and parks. Loaded with finely crafted drawings and plans for outdoor stoves and fireplaces, this manual offers a window into a bygone era of handyman activity as well as a wealth of still-useful information for building barbecue pits, chimneys, warming units, and other outdoor heating sources.
Coverage includes considerations of general design problems and their solutions; discussion of detailed designs, from foundations to chimneys; construction materials, including iron, brick, concrete, stone, and sand; and specific types of camp stoves and fireplaces. Do-it-yourselfers interested in older construction techniques will find this volume a source of many tried-and-true ideas and methods.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780486490205
Publisher: Dover Publications
Publication date: 11/21/2012
Series: Dover Books on Antiques and Collecting
Pages: 108
Sales rank: 579,690
Product dimensions: 10.70(w) x 8.20(h) x 0.40(d)

About the Author

A. D. Taylor was a Consulting Landscape Architect for the U.S. Forest Service.
Paul Dickson is a consulting editor for Dover and author of more than 50 books. He has written introductions for most of the books in our baseball series and all of the volumes in our NASA reprint series, and he remembers the era in which Camp Stoves and Fireplaces was created.

Read an Excerpt

Old-Time Camp Stoves and Fireplaces

By A. D. Taylor

Dover Publications, Inc.

Copyright © 2012 Paul Dickson
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-486-32051-9



THERE is a variety of types of camp stoves and fireplaces, ranging from the simple types shown in plate I, figures 1, 3, 4, 5, and 6, to the elaborate and massive types shown on plates XII and XIII. In addition, there are the patented types of (a) fixed, (b) movable, and (c) portable camp stoves, some of which are used as assembled after shipment from the source of supply, and others are used only after being assembled and encased in masonry. The simpler forms of fireplaces, similar to those shown in plate I, are excellently adapted for picnic use on the forest recreation areas and especially on open areas, because these simpler features are less conspicuous and more natural in appearance.


(With and Without Masonry Encasement)

These stoves have a wide use, especially in the more urban park areas. The type of portable stove shown in plate I, figure 2 (designed to burn gasoline), is popular, especially where adequate cooking facilities are not provided on campground and picnic areas. This portable stove is often used where only fireplaces are available and the camper desires a cleaner and easier method of preparing food. These stoves are easily carried in the automobile, and with a few minutes of preparation they are ready for use. In some areas a large percent of the campers use this portable stove.

There are two other groups of patented stoves, one of which is used without a masonry covering and the other is used with a masonry covering (pl. XIV). The patented stove which is designed for use without masonry is best suited for the more intensively used recreation areas under city conditions. This stove is not well adapted, from the standpoint of appropriate design, to the natural forest surroundings. On the other hand, the patented stove intended for use only when encased in well- designed stone masonry (pl. XIV) is an excellent stove for use on campgrounds.


Fires, either in campfire circles (pl. XX, figs. 3, 4, 5, and 6) or in open fireplaces (pls. II, III, and IV) are always in demand on recreation areas where the fire hazard is small. These features range from the small circle for individual camp units or individual picnic groups, and the large circles for community gatherings, to the well-designed open fireplaces. Their main value is not for cooking, except on campgrounds. It is for light and warmth. There is a certain element of simplicity and charm in the atmosphere created by a campfire circle or an open, simple fireplace. No extensive campground or picnic area is complete without them, and their absence can be justified only in locations where the fire hazard prohibits their use.


On campgrounds and picnic areas which are entirely in the open, the camp stove and the fireplace should be as inconspicuous as it is practical to make it, because of the unattractive effect which is so often produced by any considerable number of more massive types of fireplaces on a single open area.

The most natural fireplace is one which is cut into the natural rock outcrop or ledge (pl. I, fig. 3), or a similar fireplace so constructed that it reproduces the effect of being cut from the natural ledge rock (pl. I, fig. 4). These fireplaces are most attractive in appearance and appropriate to the surroundings. Unless the natural rock outcrop happens to be of a kind which can withstand intense heat and water dousing, considerable damage will occur in practical use.

On some picnic areas, a simple form of standard grate with sheet-iron or stone sides (pl. I, figs. 6C and 6B) is adopted. This simple grate is supported on four legs which may be anchored firmly in the ground, if the fireplace is supposed to be in a fixed position, or the legs may be so set that the fireplace can be moved to other locations.

The stone masonry fireplace with both ends open (pl. II) is a simple and practical unit where the fire hazard is not great. Most open fireplaces are constructed with a definite back (pls. III, IV, and V). In all of these fireplaces, the cooking is done upon a grate or plate which covers a major portion of the firebox. The plate is sometimes used on fireplaces in preference to the grate because of the increased convenience of cooking, and to prevent smudging of utensils.

The fireplace of this type may have a top grate supplemented by a top plate, or a grate without any top plate. These two may be interchangeable. In some fireplaces there is a bottom grate; but this is an impractical feature, especially when the grate is only 4 or 5 inches above the hearth. The area under the bottom grate is soon filled with ashes and therefore becomes the same as a solid hearth. If the ashes are kept continuously cleaned away from the firebox, the cost of maintenance is abnormal and sometimes prohibitive.

In a few types of fireplaces, there is a single bar across the front of the firebox (pl. VI). When greater convenience in the use of these types of fireplaces is desired, the hearth is raised above the ground level in order to have the top of the grate at a more convenient elevation (pls. VII and X).


The camp stove which is primarily for cooking purposes sometimes may be converted into a fireplace, as shown in plates X and XI. The camp stove with the top plate at an elevation of 26 to 30 inches is apt to be rather massive and for this reason these high units should be developed only on campgrounds where there is an opportunity to partially screen one unit from another unit.

There is a type of camp stove, known as the "oil drum" (pl. XXVI, fig. 10), and the "icebox" (pl. XXVI, figs. 9 and 11), which is very practical in actual use but very inappropriate for use in natural forest surroundings. There can be little justification, even from the standpoint of practical use, for introducing these types of stoves into the natural areas.

Camp stoves are sometimes constructed with a chimney notch (pl. VIII), or more frequently with a chimney which may be low (pl. X) or high (pl. XII). Camp stoves should be appropriately designed (so far as a fireplace or a camp stove can be so designed) to fit into the natural forest surroundings. High-chimney camp stoves should be confined to the heavily wooded areas where there is opportunity to develop the necessary screen of natural planting. There is little justification for the type of camp stove with the high chimney except in locations where the fire hazard is great and the high chimney with its spark arrester is necessary to provide the desired protection.


It is sometimes desirable to use a combination warming and cooking unit as shown on plate XV. This combination structure is apt to be rather massive and it should be avoided wherever practical in favor of the construction of the convertible types of camp stove shown in plates VIII, IX, X, and XI. The combination stove and fireplace and the convertible camp stove are frequently used in connection with shelters (pl. XIX, figs. 1 and 5).


The multiple stove with the high chimney in the middle is a feature which should be avoided in forests, except where the congested use and kind of use on any area (especially the area of limited extent) makes the use of these units necessary. This type of stove may be constructed in units of 2, 3, or 4 (pls. XIII and III–A, figs. 7 and 8).

In general use, this stove in multiples of more than two (except where used within shelters) should be discouraged. The smaller type of stove in single units is much more practical and more easily controlled in actual use. A single stove unit permits a better distribution of use over the area and provides more family privacy. Its economy of construction, where multiple stoves are required, is one of the factors in its favor.


On many campgrounds and picnic areas, the warming fire (pl. XX, fig. 1) for the use of community groups is a practical feature. These units are desirable in locations where the evenings are cool, and also in some of the mountain areas where the natural temperature of the water and air is somewhat below that which makes for comfort. They are often used in connection with swimming pools in the forest areas. There is much more reflected heat from these fires than from the campfire circle. They cannot be used with safety where the fire hazard is great.


Plate XIX shows types of shelters which are used either in connection with an outside fireplace, or in which a fireplace is constructed. The type known as the" Adirondak shelter" (pl. XIX, fig. 5) and the type known as the "Trailside shelter" (pl. XIX, fig. 3) are very popular, especially in areas where there are frequent and sudden rains and also where hikers use trails during the early spring and late fall.

There are also shelter buildings for use during inclement weather, in which campers may live and prepare their food or keep themselves warm.


Other types of camp stoves are the barbecue pit and barbecue oven. In some parts of the western regions of the national forests and in Puerto Rico, barbecue pits and ovens are frequently used. The purpose of these features is that of cooking an entire carcass or large portions of a carcass at one time, in order to serve large gatherings.

These units must be carefully designed, and constructed for practical use. They may be an interesting and a desirable feature on any large and intensively used picnic area. They are seldom constructed on campgrounds.




The areas used for campgrounds and for picnic areas range from the heavy timber with a very great fire hazard to the open mountain country of the east where oftentimes there is little or no hazard. In all of these areas the camp stove or fireplace should be designed, first, for practical use and, second, appropriate design in keeping with the natural forest surroundings. Sometimes it is imperative that the high chimney type (pl. XII) be used in order to avoid abnormal fire hazard. These massive stoves with high chimneys are strongly discouraged because of their unattractive appearance when placed in the natural forest landscape.

The opinion prevails that there is no such thing as an attractive and an appropriate camp stove or fireplace, especially when introduced into the natural forest. Many persons feel that such features are entirely artificial and must be accepted as a part of the practical solution of the recreation problem. They insist that the design should be for maximum utility, and no effort should be made to develop a design which might be appropriate to the natural forest surroundings, inasmuch as no design can overcome the artificial character of this feature. Careful study of this problem of design leads to the conclusion that very much more appropriate and attractive results can be produced if the camp stove or fireplace is designed to be appropriate to the surrounding natural forest landscape.

The general practice is that of adopting only one type of design for the units on an individual forest camp or picnic area. It seems to the author that such a procedure, literally followed, tends toward monotony and a lack of interest, which otherwise might be avoided through the adoption of more than one type of camp stove or fireplace on a single area— especially the larger areas. It seems advisable in some instances to introduce an occasional camp stove type together with the very definite fireplace type.

The design of any camp stove or fireplace should embody the elements of simplicity. It must be remembered that if the more elaborate types of designs are used, then the resulting details of construction will be proportionately more complicated and the relative expense and work of constructing these units will be increased. These units should be simple in design and primarily for utilitarian purposes.

In some instances, a variety of mass design can be produced by introducing a "batter" in the side walls to overcome a contrast between the horizontal ground level and the more or less vertical surface of the side walls. This result is seldom successfully accomplished in an effective way because the fireplace is normally low, and unless the "battering" of the side walls is exceedingly well done, the effect is not apt to be pleasing. There is always the danger of attempting to procure an informal effect by increasing the "batter" on the side wall, sometimes to the extent that the base of the stone work, especially on the higher types of camp stoves, causes inconvenience in the use of the stove because the person doing the cooking cannot get sufficiently close to the stove. No one standard of design is the most practical or the most desirable. There are a number of ways to design these units, both in mass proportion and in detail, and it is the variety of design which creates interest and avoids monotony.

In order to reduce the height of the camp stove or fireplace, especially the chimney type, and the type with the raised hearth, it is sometimes desirable to do some grading around the sides and back of the stove or fireplace unit as shown in plate VI and plate X. If there is available a location on a slight slope, the fireplace or stove may be set into the slope.


There are important factors which directly affect the design and methods of construction for camp stoves and fireplaces.

The natural topography of the area will determine to some extent the type of design for camp stove or fireplace most appropriate to the area. On areas similar to the recreation areas of the national forests of northern New England, where the forest camp and picnic area is usually developed on open ground to take maximum advantage of the sun, the camp stove and fireplace must be as inconspicuous as it is practical to make this feature. On other areas, amongst the large timber of the northwest, it is entirely practical to adopt a type of design which is of larger scale and has much in common with the surrounding landscape.

If the topography of any specific recreation area is rugged and has considerable outcrop of rock, then the design of camp stove and fireplace should be governed accordingly, both as to the texture of the stonework and the kind of stone used for construction.

The number of camp stoves and fireplaces which should be constructed on any recreation area is determined by the intensity of use on any particular area and also by the type of vegetation which exists upon that area. If the recreation area is covered with a thick growth of trees-under which considerable undergrowth and ground cover vegetation exists, the number of units is determined by the number of individual camp sites which it seems advisable to develop and yet preserve the necessary seclusion and privacy which is so essential to camp units. It is estimated that the average number of persons per camp stove will approximate five to seven during any one time. So far as practical, the units should be so separated that each family or each group may have adequate space and may have its own individual camp stove or fireplace. This is particularly true with reference to camp stoves. The mixed use of any individual unit by more than one group leads to confusion and results in unsatisfactory conditions. On campgrounds, it is usually necessary to provide one stove for each camp site, and on picnic areas to provide one fireplace for the occupants of each three cars.


Excerpted from Old-Time Camp Stoves and Fireplaces by A. D. Taylor. Copyright © 2012 Paul Dickson. Excerpted by permission of Dover Publications, Inc..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents


Definitions and adaptations to location and use,
Types of stoves and fireplaces,
General design problems,
Discussion of detailed design,
Materials for construction,
Detailed discussion of specific types of camp stoves and fireplaces (adaptation to location and use; design and construction; variations in design),

Customer Reviews