The compete guide to the perfect fire.

Wood Fires

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Woodsman Vincent Thurkettle

How to Make a Perfect Fire

Fire lighting is really in four stages - the match, the pre-kindling, the kindling and the logs.

There are three key secrets to a perfect fire – the wood must be dry, the logs should be laid close but not touching and, thirdly, always make a fire on a bed of its own white ashes. A coal fire should be cleaned out each day – but only clean out the wood stove or hearth when the ashes are becoming a nuisance. A really good wood fire does need to sit on a bed of its own wood ash.

To get a fire to light quickly, take some care in preparing it. Lay a large log against the fireback (the ‘backlog’) and another log to each side to form a ‘U’ shape. Make a shallow depression in the ashes and arrange a small heap of your pre-kindling (cardboard, birch bark, folded paper, dried orange peel, pine cones), or a firelighter, in the depression.  Next lay some kindling sticks over the heap, but be careful not to squash the pre-kindling and leave a space to get the lit match in. Have extra kindling and small split firewood logs to hand, to feed your infant fire as the first flames catch. Don’t leave the fire at this stage – it may look like it’s alight, but it still needs you and may go out quickly if left unattended. Only when the kindling is burnt to glowing embers and the small logs are actually burning can you really relax, as your fire is now properly alight.

From then on, with an open fire, try to feed the new logs in from the side. Don’t place them directly on top of the fire and suddenly shield the room from the glowing embers.  These embers are the major source of the lovely radiant heat that warms you.  It is not so important how you feed fresh logs into a wood burning stove, as with these fires the radiant heat is coming from the stove itself.

A last thought on perfect fires is not to poke a wood fire too much. The burning coal fire needs to be opened up with a poker from time to time. This gets air into the embers and breaks up any clinker that is forming. But the wood fire is more of a thoroughbred and, much as it is fun to give the fire a good poke and watch the sparks fly upwards, the fire doesn’t like it!

So, to make your perfect fire - choose dry wood, use an ash bed and place the fresh logs in carefully. Good luck.

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