Anne Mills is a fireside bellows maker in Stanford in the Vale, Oxfordshire, UK

This is a little brochure about fireside bellows in flip-book form – just select the arrow to the right to turn each page…

Fireside bellows are traditionally made, but provide excellent modern efficientcy! English hardwoods are handcrafted by Anne to a smooth comfortable shape with a beautiful finish, highlighting the natural characteristics of the woods. Soft leather is attached with individually hammered tacks and the bellows completed with a strong, powder coated metal nozzle. Handmade, attractive and effective bellows make wonderful gifts! See bellows available now for free delivery to UK addresses.

Anne grew up on a property in New South Wales, Australia.  She was often referred to as ‘Dad’s offsider’ and was always keen to be doing farm stuff – as with many farms, most issues had to be dealt with by the family.  Fixing as against replacing was definitely a must!  Skills learnt when young have come in very handy since…   

From an early age, Anne was responsible for splitting wood and setting the lounge fire in the homestead.  Looking back it seems incredulous that she was given an axe, matches and a bottle of kerosene as her tools!

Settling in the Oxfordshire village Stanford in the Vale brought the genuine joy of having a fire to attend again.  However, the required blowing to get it going strongly can make a person almost faint – oh, for some bellows!  Given her background, it only seemed natural to Anne to work out how to make some fireside bellows of her own.

That first bellows using a lovely piece of recycled elm from Oxford Wood Recycling, some pigskin leather and a hand rolled brass nozzle is still being used all through the winter in her cottage (they are a little worn, but still deliver that satisfying push of air into lazy embers). 

Anne was captivated watching that piece of wood taking shape in her hands, adding the leather to create the ‘lungs’, tacking it all together and fixing its nozzle – then polishing it up to create something that looked good and worked well!

She continued to refine the features of her fireside bellows and, critically, had to find a way to create a nozzle that did not take forever to roll by hand.  In collaboration with nearby metal works she designed a strong, effective streamlined nozzle that is powder coated by another firm in her village.  Using timber mills in the area keeps it all quite local.     

Anne carefully selects pieces of wood with interesting swirls, grains or knots that she knows when finished with natural oil and wax will enhance unique features that make each bellows different.   She matches the wood with soft but strong leather and adds the elbow grease that delivers wonderfully tactile fireside bellows with just the right amount of puff to bring a fire to life.

Anne’s fireside bellows are unique. The smooth rounded edges of appealing English woods and the comfortable, balanced feel of the handles – as well as the rolled leather finish (rather than a raw cut edge), identify her distinctive quality firemakers!


What type of wood is used?
Real wood.  Usually British species such as oak, ash and elm.  Character in the grain or possibly knots to make each bellows different and attractive is important in choice of wood.  There is a respected and helpful timber mill in the region that generally has a range of timber that is very good quality as well as interesting. “It is a really fun trip for me to visit the timber mill!” 

Do wood choices alter the price?
Sometimes rarer pieces, such as rippled oak, or more exotic woods will be pricier.  Anne also occasionally uses quality recycled wood that has not only features that appeal but can be given another life. Specialist timbers can be considered for bespoke bellows and would be priced according to availability from the mills.

What type of leather is used?
Real leather.  Often ‘rescued’, such as off-cuts from upholstery outlets.  Softer leathers are sourced from various UK outlets – mainly cow, occasionally sheep – in colours that complement or contrast with the woods.  People who want bespoke bellows usually have a preference or two regarding the type or general colour of leather that is matched as best as is possible from that available at that time.  Off-cuts from other leather workers are sought to put to good use smaller pieces to provide greater variety so the bellows do not start to all look the same!

What about the nozzle?
“Wanting a nozzle that was strong, efficient and with a more contemporary ‘good look’ meant I needed to design a suitable nozzle – I had some guidance from the local metal fabricator who now manufactures these nozzles exclusively for me.  They are powder coated by another local firm, ensuring a smart nozzle that delivers a useful flow of air to where it is needed.”

How much are bespoke bellows?
For choices in the usual range of woods, as well as leather and tacks the price is normally the same as those bellows available online.  For more elaborate commissions, the price would be negotiated depending on the elements proposed.  Completion of bespoke bellows depends on workflow at any given time – and, importantly, supplies of materials – so orders are requested to be made well in advance, particularly for a special event!

I have just received my bellows which I commissioned Anne to make as a present for my husband.
They are simply stunning – I am super pleased with them.
Anne was easy and very helpful throughout the whole process. … The whole experience felt very personal. I’m very happy that I have such a unique and bespoke gift to give to my husband for his 60th birthday. Thank you Anne 🙂 – L.R., Hertfordshire

Do you repair old bellows?
Generally, no. Usually a full rebuild is required as bellows need dismantling to access the valve, the nozzle or internal problems – or the leather needs replacing. Time and moisture often ‘welds’ the tacks into the wood requiring far more time for removal than construction of a new bellows. There may be a chance to re-use a nozzle as a reminder of a past possession, though. Unless there is great sentimentality or importance attached to a bellows, it is recommended not to attempt repair due to the cost of the time involved…