This handsome antique bed warmer was hand made with a copper pan that has a lid pierced with three concentric rows of circles. The handle, Shaker-like in its simplicity, is turned from a single piece of birch with a lovely pale color. Most of the bed warmers we’ve found over the years have dark wood or iron handles, so this one is a nice change.
The overall length is 37 inches, with the wooden handle measuring 22 inches. The pan is 10 inches in diameter and about 3 inches high and the bed warmer weighs a bit over 2 pounds. As you can see from the photo of the interior showing the scorch marks of the heated stones, it has been used. There are dimples in the copper and a small chip out of the wood where it is riveted to the ferrule (photograph # 9). We’ve left the old, darkened color, including the verdigris, but you can easily polish it to a shine if you prefer. We think there may have been a knob or ring of some sort in the center of the pan to lift the lid, but if so, it’s long gone.
Bed warming pans with long handles like this one were passed over the sheets and then removed, unlike foot warmers designed to remain in the bed during the night to warm the toes. Pierced warmers had the advantage of allowing the heat to more easily escape; the story that hot coals were used is a fiction, because they would make a smoky mess of the sheets. Stones heated on the hearth did the trick. When placed in the pan, they were more easily handled than a hot brick, which is what was used prior to the advent of these long-handled pans. Today we use these bed warmers to decorate our hearths and the pierced patterns are pleasingly eye-catching.
© Linda Henrich