In the old days, a fireplace bellows was a simple, functional necessity. The bellows was used to provide quick puffs of air to help the fire grow in size, literally "fanning the flames." The bellows was also used to coax an almost dead fire back to life, resurrecting embers that had almost been extinguished.
These days, we have ready kindling delivered to our doorsteps and mailboxes and matches are cheap. So even homeowners with wood fireplaces don't really need a bellows to coax a fire into action. The brute force method is simpler. And homeowners with gas or electric fireplace appliances have even less need of such a device. They can turn the fire on and off with the flick of a switch.
Nevertheless, the fireplace bellows endures. What was once a matter of necessity has become a matter of art. A fireplace bellows can add a quaint, decorative touch to any fireplace. A simple bellows can invoke a more rustic setting. An ornate, decorated bellows can be a three-dimensional unframed painting sitting on your hearth.
Because of all this, a bellows can make an ideal housewarming gift. It adds a simple, lovely touch to any fireplace without dominating the room or taking over someone's decorating scheme.
Depending on the size of the bellows, it can hold anywhere from two to five ounces of air. The bag portion should be constructed of durable leather. It may include rawhide lacing that holds the handles of the bellows shut when it is not in use. The cord can also be used to hang the bellows by the side of the fireplace. A simple bellows will have smooth wood paddles to which the bag is secured by rivets. A polished brass spout will complete the picture.
A more ornate bellows may have a design carved into the wood. A simple set of concentric circles can really dress up the look. More complicated designs such as leaves, flowers, and deer are also available.
Or the bellows can have a design painted on. In this case, the design can get really fancy. Many painted bellows are meant to be one of a kind works of art and are signed by the artist. Of course, it you're artistic yourself, you may want to buy a plain bellows and do the embellishing on your own.
Of course, even the simplest touches are primarily decorative since the bellows isn't generally used for its intended function these days. But a bellows should be able to function when called upon. If nothing else, a bellows is an almost irresistible toy for guests sitting near the fireplace (or, let's face it, for you as well). You want the device to be able to produce a satisfying puff of air. And who knows? You may even use it one day to bring a dying fire back to life.
Fireplace bellows are relatively small, easy to ship, and do not take up a lot of display space. They are typically a high margin item. Consequently retailers like to carry them since they can sell them as an "add on" to a fireplace or tool set. There are many different styles of bellows, but most are made of wood. You may browse the retailers below to view a few bellow types.
David Marketing Group - Bellows: Online retailer offering a variety of wood bellows with various decorations and styles.
Brass Gallery - Bellows: Home decor reailer offers unique oak bellows with brass accents.