There are times when you are doing a show when you need to make a fireplace. You just need a good fireplace, not some special effects masterpiece. Maybe something simple that you can burn a letter in.

You can make a good fireplace with ordinary scene-shop materials. You might start with a block of styrofoam. Or a piece of cardboard tube.
Or maybe an empty water bottle.

We’ll cover this one with alumnium foil. Shiny-side out. Let’s call it a foil roller.

You’ll need to engineer some way to mount it sideways. Sometimes the foil roller can roll well enough resting on the floor. Maybe it’s mounted on a stick of some kind. It needs to rotate like it’s on a spit.

You might use a mirror-ball motor to make the foil-roller turn. A variable-speed drill can work, too. You can put some spike tape on the trigger to set the speed, and plug it into a non-dim circuit.

You’ll need some sticks and logs, probably a log holder, depending on the look you need. You might spray paint your logs to blacken them a bit. Stack them so that there is room behind them to hide the foil roller.
The roller should rotate upwards in the back. Just FYI, some mirror-ball motors spin in random directions.

Install a small, directional lighting fixture that shoots straight down onto the foil roller. Give it a good flame color.

If you need to burn a thing or two in the fireplace, you might want to cut a hole in the back.Make sure the hole is hidden by the firewood. You can shove lots of stuff right through.

Patch the lighting instrument into the light board. At a medium-to-low level, the rising ripples of light will look like the smoke from a small fire.
At higher levels, it will look like the light from the coals. When an actor adds paper, just boost the level of the light for a moment.

If the audience sees a little glimmer off of the foil in the back, it looks like burning embers. If you really want to fancy this up a bit, you can add some flickering flame bulbs low and in the back. Just tuck them in deep behind the logs so that they are an accent. This fireplace works really well, though, without embellishment.

Music: “Deadly Roulette” Kevin MacLeod (
Music licensed under Creative Commons:
By Attribution 4.0 License

This video was made for Matt Kizer Design LLC
© 2019 Matt Kizer All rights reserved.