The Texas Fireframe® Grate Story
It all began in December 1974 when the Cranberg family was feeling the cold chill of the Arab oil embargo. Homes all over the country had their thermostats turned down, and Dr. Cranberg decided it was time to get some heat out of his fireplace.
He built a fire that quickly fizzled out, and then he attempted another with similar dismal results. A physicist with credentials ranging from Harvard to the Manhattan Project to UVA professor, Dr. Cranberg decided more kindling wasn’t the answer.The answer was Kirchhoff. “I was about to give up,” he said, “but decided to use a poker to roll back the top log to peek into the hidden heart of what fire I had started. Sure enough there were hot coals hidden in the space I had opened up. It flashed into my mind that I was looking into what Gustave Kirchoff taught us a century and a half ago was a Hohlraum (German ‘hole space’) cavity that has very favorable radiating properties, and then something remarkable happened. As I held up the near side of the upper log, a line of flames erupted from left to right on the log below where radiation was striking it from the upper log…an unforgettable moment.”
In opening up the hot cavity of the fire, Dr. Cranberg not only created a fire that’s easy to light, but one that directs more heat into the room. How does it work? It all comes down to two adjustable arms that set the Texas Fireframe grate apart from all other fireplace grates (as well as those expensive fireplace inserts that draw large quantities of money from your wallet without producing hotter fires)..
The very first prototype was manufactured by the Weigl Brothers of Austin, Texas – Iron Works BBQ now being the source of great ribs rather than grate inventions. Much to the chagrin of Dr. Cranberg’s family, he tested his invention on a hot August day.
As it turned out, a hot day in Texas had never been hotter. The fire grate produced heat exactly as Dr. Cranberg calculated, and successive tests proved it reliably made fires easy to start and maintain. He named his invention for his home state (although he’s called many places home, from the Bronx to Cleveland to Los Alamos), and he quickly went into production, developing what Time magazine would later dub “The Physicist’s Fire.”
One and a half million years after early man built the first fire, Dr. Cranberg’s invention became the very first fire-making method ever to be described in referenced scientific literature.* And in the 40 years since, he has received a steady supply of grate reviews from customers and grate press. The Governor of Texas,Time magazine, USA Today and The New York Times are among those who have lauded Dr. Cranberg’s fireplace grate. He was interviewed by Tony Sargeant on CBS and then described his invention on the BBC’s “Tomorrow’s World.” The Dallas Morning News boasted, “An Austin physicist, Dr. Lawrence Cranberg, has received sudden national and international attention…for achieving a scientific breakthrough.”
As one would expect, there have been many imitators over the years – flattering, yes – but unfortunately for the public, poor imitators of his design. Another word of caution – beware the anti-fireplace fallacy, which falsely states that fireplaces draw more heat out of homes than they provide. (Never mind that virtually every home in America including the White House was heated exclusively with fireplace fires a century ago!) Educating the public has turned out to be an important chapter in the Texas Fireframe® grate story. You may also want to learn why wood fires are better for the environment (and your heating bill) than gas logs.
Of his dozen patents, Dr. Cranberg treasures his Texas Fireframe grate patent the most because of the profound pleasure it brings to so many people who have taken the time to write or call him. His repeat customers have been many, and the Texas Fireframe grate has proven to be a favorite holiday gift. Of course, every Texas Fireframe grate is made in the USA of hot rolled steel (not cast iron which burns out in a few years), and our welders continue to uphold our very high quality standards.
And now, a second generation of customers is enjoying the warmth of fires built on the principles of physics. In recent years, we’ve received many letters from early customers who are at long last replacing their original Texas Fireframe grates after decades of use. Many of these loyal customers put in extra orders for their children who now have fireplaces of their own and who grew up with happy memories of “The Physicist’s Fire” at home.
To all of our customers – past, present and future – the Cranberg family sends our very warmest regards! We hope to hear about your experience with the Texas Fireframe grate.
*Lawrence Cranberg, “Domestic Fire and its Improvement: Qualitative Insights,”
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