There is nothing to beat the cheerful blaze of a log fire, the home feels cosy and ready for all that winter can throw at us. By following five simple steps you will have a perfect fire in minutes and a steady ‘low’ fire for the rest of the day.
1. You’ll need an ample supply of fully-seasoned firewood logs. These logs should have a moisture content of around 20% and it’s best to have a range of sizes. Fill the wood basket in daylight to save going out to the woodshed after dark and remember that an open fire will burn around five times more than a wood-burning stove.
2. Good kindling is essential. Keep a small basket of dry sticks split to 1-2 cm diameter. These can be supplemented by fallen sticks and branch wood gathered during country walks – beech sticks are best. Pine cones and dried orange peel are also really good kindling.
3. Many people like to clean out the grate and remove the white fire ash – this is wrong. Leave a blanket of ash 3–5 cm deep and make a slight saucer sized depression in the middle where the kindling will go. The ash is brilliant at holding the very first embers and will help the fire to get going more quickly – it will also protect the inside of the woodstove prolonging its life.
4. Place a large log to the back of the fire and a smaller log to the left and right of the fire. You now have a log lined enclosure to light the fire, with an ash base. Place the material you will first light, rolled up paper, shreds of cardboard or a tiny piece of firelighter, in this space and arrange several sticks of kindling on top. Have a couple of small split logs, say 5-10cm diameter, ready to place on top of the kindling once you are sure it has lit. With a wood stove have of all the air vents open at this stage and maybe the door just slightly open.
5. The trick is to get the fire burning really well for 30 – 45 minutes to warm the chimney and get the stove up to working temperature – about 200 C if you have a stove thermometer. Then partly close the stove air vents, so that you have beautiful rolling flames above the fire. Feed your fire one or two fresh logs when the burning logs are half embers. Keeping the fire ‘low’, that is burning just enough wood to keep the stove running efficiently, is an art, but worth learning as it is the secret to an easy life of perfect fires.