Skip to main content

Winter woodfires: how to light a fire

I learnt to light a fire when I was in Girl Guides.  Actually, to be more precise, my dad taught me to light a fire when I wanted to get my Camp Cook badge!  From then on I used to light the wood stove at my parent's house when I got home from school on cold winter days.  Fire lighting is a surprisingly useful skill and I think there's a few people around who have missed out on learning it, so here's my method.

Lighting a fire in a woodstove is a bit different from a fire outdoors, as it is really important to establish a draught.  That means that as the hot air and smoke rises out of the fire and up the chimney, fresh air is sucked in through a hole in the door.  If you don't have a draught, the fireplace will just fill with smoke and the fire will suffocate due to lack of oxygen.  Before starting the fire, ensure that the baffle that closes off the chimney is open and the vents in the door are fully open as well.

newspaper and kindling
I usually start with a few balls of scrunched up newspaper and lots of small pieces of kindling.  Kindling can either be sticks picked up from the paddock, or small pieces split of larger blocks of wood.  I arrange the kindling in a  "tee-pee" around the balls of newspaper and light the newspaper as low down as possible (because flames tend to climb).  If you light an edge or tear in the paper it will start more easily.  I then close the door of the firebox, but I don't latch it closed, so there's lots of gaps that air can get in through.

This is when you know if you have a draught, when the air starts to suck in through the door and the smoke goes up the chimney, you have a successful draught, the fire should start to "roar".  If the firebox fills with smoke, then you don't have a draught yet.  The best way I have found to fix this temporarily is to scrunch up another ball of newspaper and put it up as close to the chimney outlet as possible, either let it light off your current fire or light it again yourself and then close the door.  Often this is enough to get a draught working, or you may have to repeat it a few times.  For more details on permanent fixes, see my earlier post on our chimney extension!

closing the door and waiting
 When you have the draught established you can start adding gradually larger pieces of wood until the fire is established enough to take a large log.  Eventually you can start to close the vent on the door to restrict the oxygen and slow down the burn to control the heat coming from the fire.  You can also close the baffle that sends the hot air up the flue, in our case this will direct the air around the oven so we can cook with it.  On plain stoves without an oven, this will just allow the hot air to circulate longer instead of sending all that heat up the flue.  When you add another log, always open the flue so the creosote/tars that are produced from the log as it starts to burn go up the flue instead of getting stuck around your stove, as this can be a fire hazard.

building up to larger pieces

Any fire-lighting tips?  Who taught you to light a fire?

More about our woodstove - cooking in the woodstove and installing a woodstove.

Comments

  1. That is how I do it! Once it gets cold day and night, I very seldom use any matches. I keep some old dry sticks or scraps from a wood worker friend at hand and just toss them in on some paper and the coals that are still glowing in the back of the stove then open the damper and clean out door, it takes a few seconds for it to burst into flames. We are heading into late spring here, I am glad it is hot and I don't have to fire the stove!

    ReplyDelete
  2. All the beekeepers I speak to recommend using bits of leftover beeswax to start a fire. Apparently it acts like a natural accellerant that also happens to smell nice. I haven't tried it myself yet am definitely planning on it!

    ReplyDelete
  3. My husband is the fire builder in our house, he can keep a fire going for days without any matches!

    ReplyDelete
  4. Beeswax sounds like a great idea! I was told to take a bit of tyre inner tube to start a fire if you ever got lost in the bush, but beeswax is much nicer. We do keep the fire going day and night over the weekend, but not much point when we are at work all day, so I light it each afternoon when we get home.

    ReplyDelete
  5. I was reflecting on this a while ago when I was lighting the fire at my parents' house! It occurred to me that I had learnt how to light a fire at rather a young age using newspaper and kindling, and I wondered how many people my age (or younger) would also have this skill these days.
    Christine

    ReplyDelete

Post a Comment

Thanks, I appreciate all your comments, suggestions and questions, but I don't always get time to reply right away. If you need me to reply personally to a question, please leave your email address in the comment or in your profile, or email me directly on eight.acres.liz at gmail.com

Popular posts from this blog

Chicken tractor guest post

Sign up for my weekly email updates here , you will find out more about chickens, soap and our farmlife, straight to your inbox, never miss a post!  New soap website and shop opening soon.... Tanya from Lovely Greens invited me to write a guest post on chicken tractors for her blog.  I can't believe how many page views I get for chicken tractors, they seem to be a real area of interest and I hope that the information on my blog has helped people.  I find that when I use something everyday, I forget the details that other people may not be aware of, so in this post for Tanya, I tried to just write everything I could think of that I haven't covered in previous posts.  I tried to explain everything we do and why, so that people in other locations and situations can figure out how best to use chicken tractors with their own chickens. The dogs like to hang out behind the chicken tractors and eat chicken poo.  Dogs are gross! If you want to read more about chicken tractor

Getting started with beekeeping: how to harvest honey

While honey is not the only product from a beehive, its the one that most beekeepers are interested in and it usually takes a year or so to let the bees build up numbers and store enough honey before there is enough to harvest.  There are a few different ways to extract honey from frames.  We have a manual turn 2-frame certifugal extractor.  A lot of people with only a few hives will just crush and strain the comb.  This post is about how we've been extracting honey so far (four times now), and there are links at the end to other bloggers who use different methods so you can compare. Choose your frames Effectively the honey is emergency food stores for the bees, so you have to be very careful not to take too much from the hive.  You need to be aware of what is flowering and going to flower next and the climate.  Particularly in areas with cold winters, where the bees cannot forage for some time.  We are lucky to have something flowering most of the year and can take honey

The new Eight Acres website is live!

Very soon this blogspot address will automatically redirect to the new Eight Acres site, but in the meantime, you can check it out here .  You will find all my soaps, ebooks and beeswax/honey products there, as well as the blog (needs a tidy up, but its all there!).  I will be gradually updating all my social media links and updating and sharing blog posts over the next few months.  I'm very excited to share this new website with you!