Iron Firebacks

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(Photo: Jacquelin Conner)

(Photo: Jacquelin Conner)

Decorative firebacks date to colonial times and may have survived for hundreds of years. Renaissance-man J. Del Conner—historian, artist, inventor, and amateur astronomer—was working as a graphic designer when a chimneysweep told him about the iron plates he was finding in old fireplaces. Intrigued, Conner explored fireback designs at nearby museums. He founded Pennsylvania Firebacks in 1979, and a few years later was offering fine cast-iron reproductions including a collection from Winterthur. The process involves a design sketch, a 3-D pattern sculpted in beeswax, a plaster mold, an aluminum casting, and a mold for molten iron poured at a foundry. The company offers historical reproductions and more than 30 of Conner’s own tradition-based designs. Del Conner also invented Saf-T-Boots, a support system to hold the fireback in position relative to the hearth floor and back wall. Pennsylvania Firebacks, (215) 722-1221, fireback.com.