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Nature's Cabins

Learn how to light a fire and keep it going

Instructions that may help in lighting a fire and keeping it going

(for dummies)

The do's and dont's of Firelighting

Every good fire appreciated

Below are the instructions of a friend and trainee fire guru. I appreciate his generic view but I would like to add specific information regarding our bakers oven and fireplace. A good firebox it is! and comes from New Zealand.

I’ll add my comments where they are needed though I think he has done a pretty good job:

First, there are two vent levers. One at the top pulls upwards and connects the heat flow between both chambers. You need to have this up if you wish to utilise both boxes and down, its normal operating position, if you want to only have heat from the top box.

The second vent is at the front bottom of the door and is circular. Spin anti-clockwise to open and clockwise to close.

1. Ensure that the stove firebox is not full of ash – remove ash if necessary using a suitable metal container. Hopefully, you will not have to do that as we try and have the fire ready to go. In winter, if it is not already alight, then we would have it ready to go. Just light a match and watch it burn. It’s the only bit of instant gratification we are in favour of.

2. Open the bottom air vent of the stove and open the flue damper if you have one. No. Only open the top lever after the fire has been started and is beginning to ramp up some heat. By opening the front air vent you allow more air to be sucked in and so the fire should start more easily and burn more readily.

  • 3. Tear single pages of a newspaper in half and then scrunch them into smallish balls. Place the paper balls in a circle in the centre of the firebox, in a circle large enough to cover about a half of the base of the firebox. (Some people use firelighters but you may not even need them!) Otherwise, wrap one up in the paper for a more assured event.

4. Now, make sure you have all the right pieces of dry wood you need before you light the fire. (read through the steps below and then gather your wood). Good advice and usually you won’t need to go much further than the back shed.

5. First up you will need some kindling, that is, small pieces of dry wood and sticks, thin and about 10 -15 cm long. Softwoods are best. Lay around 6 small pieces on top of the newspaper in different directions – a bit like the game pickup sticks. Remember that the idea is that air and flames should be able to get to each piece of wood. Now lay a few larger pieces of soft/lightish wood that are standing up-it should look like a tee-pee shape. Make sure the round vent is fully open and the top vent is pushed down.

  1. Light the newspaper in 2-3 places at the bottom and when they have caught alight you can close the door of the stove – although don’t close it fully with the handle just yet – just let the door lean gently on the frame. You want the fire to get very hot, because this will allow you to have some great hot coals burning away at the bottom of your fire (hopefully right through the night!). No short cut either. Good wood has to burn for a while before hot coals are available.

7. Once the wood has caught alight and the fire is going well you can put some larger pieces of wood into the firebox. Place them gently on top of the fire, in the tee-pee shape – this helps to prevent the problem of smothering the fire by placing the logs over the fire in a way that stops the air and flames getting to all the pieces of wood in the fire. Now that your fire is burning well, you can close the door fully. I concur (again): make sure the flames can breath. The hotter the fire the less flame and the more hot coals.

8. Do not fill the firebox with wood, maybe burn around 3-4 largish pieces of wood at a time. At this stage if your fire is going really well, you can close the vents a little, but keep an eye on your fire because you want to maintain good flames and don’t want the fire to smoulder. You can close the vent when the fire is really raging.  ditto but fill the box to its limit so long as you have good spaces between them or the fire is very hot with mainly coals. Fire also favours burning up and under a piece of aerated timber. You don’t want the fire to either smolder due to too many sealing off air-flow or, too much air and good wood wasted in heat you probably don’t want. ;At this point you can regulate the air vent on how warm you want the room to be.

9. Keep the really heavy, hardwood pieces until last. When you are thinking about heading off to bed, you may want to put your one or two large, heavy, hardwood pieces on the fire so they can burn through the night. Make sure they are alight on their underside before you head off to bed. The front vent should almost be closed, the top vent should have always been closed unless you were baking, and the red hot coals should be glowing under lightly packed, hardwood cuts.

  1. A good fire is a joy to behold.



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