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Fireplace cover-ups for the off-season.

WITHOUT A FIRE burning cheerily in it, a fireplace can become a dreary black hole. We seem forced to accept the empty firebox as the price we pay for having fireplaces, but there is a way to brighten and enliven these dark places once the fire season has ended.

We masked empty fireboxes with these simple free-standing screens that add color and texture to a room. Unlike traditional fireproof screens made to stop wayward sparks, these cover-ups are purely ornamental. They're flammable, so don't use them to screen a burning fire.

Each starts with wooden frames around different materials: a texture of slender bamboo sticks, and sheet aluminum with a pattern of nail holes punched into its surface.

Virtually no woodworking skill is required to make the screens. The only cutting is sawing across the 3/8-inch-thick bamboo stakes, but because the ends will be hidden from view, you don't even have to do a perfect job of this simple task. Since you use preassembled frames or precut canvas stretcher bars, no other sawing is required.

You will need to do some basic painting and should know how to turn a screwdriver to attach hinges to the sides of the frames.

Instructions for assembling each screen are on page 126.


The rugged, textural, and subtly colored bamboo screen was designed to mask a 48-by 30-inch fireplace. A pair of 11- by 14-inch picture frames makes each of the four panels. We found the unfinished frames at an art supply store for about $8 each, and 3-foot unstained bamboo stakes--the screen required 120 of them--at a nursery for about 15 cents apiece.

You'll also need eight 1/2-by 2-inch mending plates (shown below); nine 1 1/2-inch brass butt hinges, available at hardware stores; and a drill, a screwdriver, craft glue or a glue gun, sharp pruning shears, two semitransparent wood stains, acrylic-base satin-finish varnish, and highlight paint (optional).

Start by butting and gluing each pair of frames together along a short side. Screw the frames together with a pair of the mending plates. Place a weight on the frames to keep them flat while the glue dries. Tint the wood with a colored stain--we used a light blue-gray; when it dries, seal it with the varnish.

Cut the bamboo sticks to fit from lip to lip within the frame. We stained them light gray to contrast with the frame, then added color by dabbing on specks of antique blue and red paint with a sponge.

Using either craft glue or a glue gun, adhere the bamboo to the backs of the frames. Complete by adding the hinges.


We used eight 14-inch and eight 33-inch stretcher bars, but you can size the panels to fit your own fireplace. For the aluminum centers, we used 14-inch-wide aluminum flashing (about 85 cents per linear foot at home improvement centers). You'll also need nine small hinges, tracing paper, a 3 1/2-inch (16d) nail, small brads or tacks, a hammer, white glue, wood putty, sandpaper, and latex or enamel paint.

Assemble the stretcher bars; putty and sand the cracks. We primed and painted the frame with dark red acrylic latex, then gave it an "antiqued" look by adding streaks of a second, darker (almost black) red using a toothbrush.

Cut each sheet of aluminum so it is 1/2 inch shorter than the outside dimensions of the frame, then tape, tack, or clamp it to a scrap of plywood. On separate sheets of tracing paper, draw the full-size patterns or images you want to transfer to the aluminum. (Our example uses two geometric patterns.) Center and tape the patterns onto the metal, then use the hammer and 16d nail to punch through the aluminum. Also punch holes (for tacks) around the perimeter.

Tack each metal sheet to the back of a frame, with the ragged holes aimed upward. This keeps the front side smooth so it won't catch on clothing. Complete by adding the hinges to the panels.
COPYRIGHT 1992 Sunset Publishing Corp.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1992 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:fireplace screens
Author:Whiteley, Peter O.
Date:May 1, 1992
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