One of our favourite products that we carry in our store is the fireplace blower or Bouffadou; and we fall in love with it all over again when the weather gets as cold as it has been lately. A practical tool with humble beginnings, it is a prime example of a functional object that has changed very little, given – in large part – to the fact that it works extremely well.
Blowpipes have been around in one form or another since before the birth of Christ. The Egyptians used blowpipes to fuel their fires and jewellers and glassblowers have used similar tools to help mold and manipulate their chosen medium into works of art. French chemist Antoine Lavoisier, noted for his discovery and documentation of the role that oxygen plays in combustion, used a blowpipe to help ignite charcoal. Oxygen mixing with fuel was discovered to result in the jet of air exiting the flame as being intensely hot: a discovery of major significance to the burgeoning Industrial Revolution.
Most blowpipes used on any industrial scale have since been powered by a mechanism of some kind, most commonly a bladder or bellows which would result in the creation of the traditional accordion-style fireplace bellows that so many of us grew up with. However, in some parts of the world, good old-fashioned lung power is still the energy of choice to stoke the flames required to cook food or heat shelters. The earliest examples of “Bouffadou” (or Bofador in Occitan) were trunks or branches of pine trees that were trimmed of any smaller offshoots or twigs and then hollowed out to create a long wooden pipe. Bouffadou were commonly found in the Massif Central, the Alps, Languedoc, Jura and the Pyrenees. Today they are created more often as a folk art object than anything else, but some modern iterations are available in metal, wood or a combination of both.
Our Bouffadou is made from anodized aluminum and beech wood. It is sturdy and flame-resistant while being extremely lightweight. The premise for use is straightforward; point the end at the base of the flames or where there is an accumulation of embers, hold the device by placing the hands on the wood handles and blow air through the pipe at the fire. Always remove your mouth from the mouthpiece prior to inhaling to avoid breathing in hot air or smoke. Reposition your lips over the mouthpiece and repeat. The Bouffadou – although a perfect companion to any set of fireplace implements – is also an effective tool for use year-round as it works beautifully to maintain and control heat on charcoal grills and BBQ’s.
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