A clay chiminea is the most traditional style chiminea originating in Mexico hundreds of years ago.
They were typically used for cooking and baking or warming the family home....like a fireplace.
Chimineas were made from the abundant natural clay found in the region.
Because clay can be brittle, these chimineas tended to crack and break easily.
Fixing a crack was easy......just grab some clay from a nearby stream and presto...good as new!
The traditional chiminea is constructed in two pieces. The bottom or "bowl" where the fire is placed and the chimney or "neck."
After the two pieces are constructed they are allowed to dry then they are fused together to make one piece.
A chiminea will typically come in two different forms....kiln dried (treated) or air dried (untreated). Kiln dried chimineas are usually pre-painted and sealed. These are essentially ready for use.
The air dried chimineas will need to be painted and/or sealed before use. This allows freedom of choice in the color you want for you chiminea but does require more work.
The clay chiminea is lighter than a cast iron or cast aluminum model. This makes them easy to move and transport. However, there are some tips you need to remember when moving one.
Because they are constructed in two separate pieces, the seam is a weak point. The best way to move a traditional chiminea is to put your hand on the lip, or opening of the bowl and cradle the neck with your other arm.
Your chiminea should come with setup instructions from the manufacturer. Following these instructions is important and recommended.
After you have chosen the perfect spot, your ready to season your chiminea. Seasoning strengthens the chiminea and allows it to cure.....extending the life and making them more durable.
First, insulate the bowl by placing about 3 or 4 inches of sand or pea gravel in the bottom. This prevents the fire or logs from resting directly against the base which could cause it to crack.
Next, you can choose to add a grate or bricks inside the base to elevate the wood which allows increased airflow for proper burning.
You're now ready to start a fire in your chiminea! It's recommended that you start 5 to 10 small fires to season your chiminea. Seasoned firewood and newspaper work well to start your fire.
For safety reasons, never use chemicals, gas or lighter fluid to start the fire. Not only is it dangerous, but the clay will absorb these chemicals.
It's important to let the fire burn out completely and never use water to put it out. Throwing water on a hot chiminea will most likely cause it to crack.
Once you have seasoned your chiminea, you're now ready for a little bigger fire. Remember.....Chimineas are designed for medium to small fires. If the flames are coming out the mouth or out the top of the neck the fire is too big.
The clay style chimineas require more maintenance and need to be handled much more carefully than a cast iron or cast aluminum chiminea. Because of the clay and water construction, they can not be continuously exposed to rain and snow. Constant exposure will only increase the odds of your chiminea cracking.
Clay will absorb water causing it to expand. Clay will also dry out in the direct sunlight causing it to shrink. Some shrinking and expansion is normal, but extreme cases will weaken the chiminea causing it to break.
To help prevent unwanted damage, seal your clay chiminea at least once a year with a manufacturer recommended clay sealant. Also, look into a chiminea cover to help protect your investment.