Buckley Rumford Fireplaces
Proctor's Rumford Variations

Proctor Masonry, LLC
75-635 Mahi iu Lani Pl.
Kailua-Kona, Hawaii 96740
808 936 6961
Robert L. Proctor - 30 years experience


Ohhhh boy. We must love having these discussions.

I'm glad you appreciated the photo of the straight back firebox. I tried to talk the home owner into a Rumford but they insisted on a deeper box "to burn Logs". But it worked better for me because I had to throw the smoke chamber and flue back about a foot and a half to get by a structural beam above. So I made the box a little deeper and made the breast a little wider and slanted the smoke chamber back a bit and offset the flue to get by the beam. I tried to take a picture of the inside of the breast to the throat but my camera isn't good enough. But most likely the photographer.

I was being quizzed by the carpenters on the rounded shape of the inside of the breast to the throat. I was a little worried about the width (front to back) because I made it a couple of inches deeper than it should be. The boys suggested I go to the airport and steal a wing off a plane to get the angle right!! But you can imagine how hard it is to get on an airport tarmac these days. Thanks to a tall chimney, the draw works!!! The stress I burdened upon myself must have made something right. But, yes I made a rounded breast on the inside. I used to make a straight angle from the top of the firebox opening to the throat on a straight back Rumford, but always had a little problem with puffing smoke. Thanks to your experience and suggesting the airplane wing rounded inside breast, I have never had a problem. Thank you!! Tell your momma to give you a big slobbery kiss from me.

To other matters concerning the "Orton":

You know I hate that reference.

As you know, I have constructed masonry stoves (Russians). Rumford's, Rupert's, Savoy's and combinations of them all. According to the research of the NM Energy Research Dep't some 20 years ago, I can build a fireplace that will heat a house with 50 lbs of sticks a day!!! Ain't that sumptin'. Although the efficiency seems unimaginable to me, I have so much fun building a combination Rumford Russian incorporating passive and active heating energy that efficiency seems to be a by-product.

When I started as a laborer in '72 I learned to build fireplaces from the Flagstaff, Arizona cowboys I worked for. In '76 in Albuquerque, NM during a cold winter without work I went to the library to research fireplaces to get an edge on the competition, to do something with thought rather than the monotony of setting a thousand blocks a day for ten bucks an hour, and to get away from the nagging first wife. That's when I found Rumford. Then, a couple of years later the European masonry stove. Then, after the thing with the NMERD, I began doing combinations. I have the five volumes of Rumford's Complete Works that I bought in the late '70's. That footnote still intrigues me. You can only imagine how many times I have read that footnote over and over and over. Since I was combining Rumford with masonry furnaces I figured the Count must have been too busy with all the other great things he was doing and didn't have the time or interest to take his experiments much further than his masonry kitchens and ovens. But that damn mention of the slanted back kept getting to me. So I went after it.

I appreciate the fact you are a Rumford purist. The Rumford is the only way to get the general public back to wood burning efficiency from the standard firebox. The Rumford should be affordable and easy to build for any homeowner and any typical mason. What you are doing for masonry fireplaces is much more important than my experiments and I support you totally. I appreciate you are intrigued enough to think about my ideas and I am honored to have this correspondence with you.

The difference in efficiency between the straight and slanted back Rumford is probably minimal, probably within a few percent. The straight back is easier to build, therefore more economical in labor cost. The slanted back may absorb, then radiate more heat. Who says the throat has to be 4" deep, front to back? It can be the same area as a straight back throat, only longer (side to side) but thinner (front to back). I don't know that a grant for a test with miniature fireplaces in a little glass box with a controlled environment would be worth the time and money, But maybe I should challenge you to prove me wrong.

You gotta come to Hawaii so we can sit on my back Lanai, sip on a Mai Tai, and enjoy the view of the Pacific waters.

Waitin' for ya


Bob, 1/11/06

Yes, I think we both love these discussions.

I don't mean to offend you by using the term "Orton variation". It's just shorthand for a Rumford with a slanted fireback and the lack of an airfoil throat - like the one in the caparison below.

Now that I know that you do "round the breast" I will cease calling your Rumfords "Ortons".

But that little sexy footnote.... Here is the text leading to the footnote:

    "Thus, for example, supposing the wall of the chimney in front, from the upper part of the breast of the chimney to the front of the mantle, to be only 4 inches (which is sometimes the case, particularly in rooms situated near the top of a house), in this case, if we take 4 inches for the width of the throat, this will give 8 inches only for the depth of the fireplace, which would be too little, even were coals to be burned instead of wood. In this case I should increase the depth of the fireplace at the hearth to 12 or 13 inches, and should build the back perpendicular to the height of the top of the burning fuel (whether it be wood burned upon the hearth, or coals in a grate), and then, sloping the back by a gentle inclination forward, bring it to its proper place, that is to say, perpendicularly under the back part of the throat of the chimney. This slope (which will bring the back forward 4 or 5 inches, or just as much as the depth of the fireplace is increased), though it ought not to be too abrupt, yet it ought to be quite finished at the height of 8 or 10 inches above the fire, otherwise it may perhaps cause the chimney to smoke; but when it is very near the fire, the heat of the fire will enable the current of rising smoke to overcome the obstacle which this slope will oppose to its ascent, which it could not do so easily were the slope situated at a greater distance from the burning fuel.*"
If you follow that, Rumford is talking about a slope "quite finished at the height of 8 or 10 inches above the fire" and then it goes plumb above that - like the plate below - and only for very small fireplaces. He's describing a niche like we see in Victorian coal fireplaces - not a long Orton style sloping fireback in a big fireplace.

Well, we won't invent anything new or improve anything if we don't experiment. I admire you for that. My reading, however, has convinced me that everyone who has so far tried to improve on Rumford has failed. I've focused on fireplaces much longer now than Rumford did, however, so you'd think I could design a better fireplace. Maybe the Mai Tai on the back Lanai would be inspirational. Anyway it sounds enjoyable.

Warm regards,

Background to above exchange

>Robert Proctor
>75-635 Mahi iu Lani
>Kailua-Kona, Hawaii 96740
>Phone: 8089366961
>Email: proctorr003@hawaii.rr.com
>Add to website?:
>URL to add:
>In section: Architects
>Business Description:
>Over 30 years expereience in fireplace construction and design.

From: Jim Buckley [mailto:buckley@rumford.com]
Sent: Monday, January 09, 2006 4:30 PM
To: proctorr003@hawaii.rr.com
Subject: Re: Web Site Listing Request


Nice to hear from you again, Robert. You already are listed on our website at http://www.rumford.com/mason.html Are you still building those Orton variation Rumfords?

Warm regards,
Jim Buckley


Happy Holidays, Sir

Every year is better and I wish you the bestest!!!

I'm proud of you and I think you're doing a great job!!

I'm still going along with the aches and pains. There is so much construction going on here its hard to find good help.

As you know, Hawaii doesn't have a great demand for fireplaces, however Mr. Stockdale and I still have a few come our way on occasion.

I don't build "those Orton variation Rumfords"

As we have discussed before, I believe the Count didn't continue his experiment mentioned in the footnote of the slanted back Rumford.... (Because he couldn't find good help??)

Although I can't afford to prove it, I still believe the slanted back Rumford is more efficient than a straight back. because the slanted back absorbs then radiates more heat than a straight back. Common sense.

I don't want to make our difference of opinion an issue. I respect what Rumford did and I immensely respect what you have done and continue to do. What you do for masonry fireplaces is much more important than my opinion. I will continue to "overbuild" the fireplaces I construct. I'm not the best mason but I produce a high quality product through professional workmanship, which is fast becoming a lost art!

I am presently building a modified straight back "Rumford". The 42" firebox is 36" high 19" deep and width of back is 19". I don't think I could even call that a modified Rumford, but a straight back firebox, I'll send a photo or two.

I kinda wanted to update my listing to something like "Have trowel will travel for big bucks". But then again, I love Hawaii. It don't get cold here!!

Keep in touch
Your good buddy




Thanks for the letter.

Of course we won't let our difference of opinion become an issue. But....

Even if the slanted back may get hotter and radiate more heat (it might) it also casts the smoke forward into the room and makes it more difficult to build a tall fireplace that won't smoke - especially if you don't round the breast, as Rumford felt so strongly about he wrote his second essay to emphasize that point.

The airfoil throat handles the air flow so efficiently we can make it 1/20th of the size of the fireplace opening and greatly reduce the heated air lost up the chimney. Even if you round the breast in an Orton or slanted back fireplace the throat will have to be larger or the fireplace opening lower for the fireplace to draw well.

Besides, it's more difficult to build a tall tipi style fire to take full advantage of a tall fireplace against a fireback that leaning back at you.

So, for me, the real question is whether a slanty-backed Rumford that's only 36" tall and with a bigger throat is as efficient and puts out as much radiant heat as a fireplace built as the Count recommend with a straight back, a foot taller, rounded breast and with a tall tipi fire - like the ones pictured below:

Business has been good. Maybe one day we will be able to afford to prove it. Meanwhile enjoy the warmth of Hawaii and say hello to Leon for me when you see him next. It's raining here. I wish I were in Hawaii.

Warm regards,
Jim Buckley

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