The Pesenbach stream splashes quietly past the remote mill “Sagmühle” in the northern Austrian municipality of St. Johann am Wimberg. Surrounded by woods and meadows, it is a place where fox and hare say good night to each other. And a place where wondrous objects are created: Round, with pointed hats or geometric-modern. These are the products of the fireplace builder Uwe Seidl. Since 1994, the mill has been the workplace of his company bearing the same name.
Influenced by his father’s stonemason and tiler business, Seidl knew early on that he wanted to follow in his father’s footsteps. At the age a mere twelve, he enrolled at the State Technical School for Ceramics and Fireplace Construction in Stoob and, after completing his vocational training, was awarded the title of Master Craftsman. With additional training in personality, management and business administration, he was finally equipped to found his own company.
It is above all the variety and the creative possibilities that fascinate Seidl to this day about fireplace construction and the materials used. Out of conviction, the master craftsman therefore passes on his knowledge to the apprentices whom the company has been training for over twenty years. However, it is well known that the shortage of skilled workers is threatening to spread to almost all trades. In order to encourage young people to undergo appropriate training even in times of upheaval, Seidl likes to remind them of the saying: “The craftsmanship has golden ground.”
The fireplace construction team obtains its materials mainly from its own country. During production, the following applies: “We only build things that we would build for ourselves.” And Seidl keeps his word: Once a customer began to discuss with him because he doubted the planning concept of his fireplace. At some point it became too colorful for the craftsman, so he offered his counterpart a bet: If the finished stove got a crack, he would pay back all the costs to the client. However, if the fireplace kept its promises, he would receive double the wages for his work. In the end, the customer did not dare to get involved in the bet. He had Seidl build the fireplace according to his plan and in more than twenty years he could not complain about a crack. In the meantime, Seidl and the customer have become good friends.
The product range includes fireplaces with round, curved shapes as well as simple designs in which the blazing embers are surrounded by black marble and glass. Seidl explains that the current trend is mainly towards straight-line models. In principle, however, his fireplaces are as different as his customers. He was even allowed to build a fireplace over six metres high with a self-supporting glass staircase, which had to be connected in three half days. Here it is important to keep a cool head before you can relax in the cosy warmth.
Several Sprinters 316 and 516 are at the team’s side during production. “It has been the only vehicle that has met our requirements for years. And believe me, I’ve tried almost all the others,” says the experienced craftsman.
The Sprinter has been the only vehicle that has met our requirements for years.
Despite its relatively small size, the company does not take developments such as digitization lightly. Seidl has not only digitized the entire administrative area, but has also equipped his employees with tablets to enable unrestricted access to all relevant data.
We left Uwe Seidl’s workshop with a series of exciting impressions. However, we have kept the essential question for the end: How do you build a fireplace at all? Together with Uwe Seidl, we have summarized the rough steps for the layman once again: