Object of the month

Nymans gun room fireplace

Each month we will be highlighting an object from the Nymans collection. This may be something that is already on display, or something which is usually kept in our conservation store. This month we will be looking at our collection of bellows.

Traditional bellows
Traditional bellows

Traditional bellows

Traditionally bellows are made from two bell shaped pieces of wood. One side will have a hole in the centre fitted with a valve that only lets air in. The sides are joined by leather sealed with metal rings or pins to keep it airtight, and there is a small metal nozzle at the thinner end. 

When the two wooden sides are pulled apart the valve opens and air flows into the vacuum inside the leather. When the wood is pushed together again, the valve closes and the air is forced out through the nozzle directly onto the fire. 

Mechanical bellows on display
Mechanical bellows on display

Mechanical bellows

We also have two sets of mechanical bellows on display in our Gun Room. These look and work differently, and they are more efficient. The whole device sits on a wooden base, with a wooden shell topped with brass that extends into a long circular nozzle. A driving pin goes through the centre and out of the side of the shell. A chord is wrapped around both the pin and a wheel attached to the base. 

As the wheel is turned the pin moves with it causing the fan inside the shell to rotate. It draws air in through the gaps in the side and forces it out through the brass nozzle.

Both sets of our mechanical bellows are missing their chords and driving pins and so sadly they don’t work anymore, but some of our traditional bellows still have their nozzles and valves intact. The leather has stiffened and it would be very difficult to try and pull them apart to use, but they should still function. Both sets of Bellows are currently on display in our Gun Room fireplace, and there is another pair of traditional bellows in the Library.