Cast Iron Fireplaces - Popular choice for Manufacturers
Qualities of cast iron
Aside from their conventional use as a heat source, cast iron fireplaces can be excellent dramatic props. Or more specifically, pokers can - as the philosopher Wittgenstein proved when he used one to reinforce his side of a debate with Karl Popper by waving it at him (the scene was King's College, Cambridge, and according to the book Wittgenstein's Poker the offending article was eventually removed from the enraged Wittgenstein's reach by another philosopher who had crept up to him, crouching, through the roomful of astonished academics).
Cast iron has long been used in the making of fireplaces. Its durability and appearance make it very well suited to the job. Unlike some other materials (such as, arguably, marble) it's difficult to go wrong style-wise with cast iron.
Cast iron itself is an alloy made from pig iron - the least pure kind of iron - which is heated up in air to burn off the impurities such as phosphorus and sulphur which make it brittle and difficult to manipulate. What's left is a kind of iron which still has a degree of silicon and carbon in it (the silicon is needed for the carbon to exist in the right form within the alloy) but is more malleable and strong than its earlier form. Its melting point, at about 1450 kelvin, is considerably lower than pure iron, but still high enough to make it a good material for fireplaces. Its texture and the way it conducts heat also help to make it suitable for fireplaces, saucepans and fireplace accessories including, as we have mentioned, pokers.
Cast iron is a popular choice for many fireplace manufacturers. These include Coalite, whose fireplaces come in the standard 16 inches and a variety of colours. They are suitable for smokeless fuels (including the fuel made by Coalite itself) and ordinary house coal. Cast iron is also used by top-end designers. For more information about fireplace brands and styles, look at websites such as the Solid Fuel Association (www.solidfuel.co.uk) and Hearth, Patio & Barbecue Association (HPBA) (www.hpba.org) as a starting point. As always, remember to check that the fire you have chosen will actually fit in the fireplace before you order it.