Getting the fire off to a good start is key in providing a clean burning, efficient heat source. Lighting a fire can be a bit of a black art depending on the stove. Most stoves have their quirks.
Things we use
Lighting up should be easy provided you have a few key things at hand:
- Very dry, thinly chopped kindling. We dry ours on the top of the stove every night.
- Carefully chosen small pieces of dry firewood.
- Firelighters or preferably crumpled up dry newspaper.
- Clean unobstructed airways in your stove and chimney to ensure a good draft.
This is how we light our stoves
First we place a single piece of firewood towards the back of the stove’s firebox to rest the kindling on later. We don’t clean all the ash from the burning chamber. It is supposed to burn better with a little bit of ash in the grate pan provided it’s not interfering with the fire’s airflow. Next we crumple up some dry newspaper and place in front of the firewood piece. Never use plastic wrapping or coated card as a firestarter because they are both very polluting and emit foul smelling acrid smoke that will gum up your stove with tarry deposits. Paraffin firelighters have also been found to cause serious air pollution in a recent study.
Over the newspaper we place the smallest pieces of kindling, resting on the piece of firewood at the back then building up a couple of layers with the pieces getting larger in diameter and finally adding the light pieces of firewood leaving a space in the middle to light the paper. Leave gaps between the wood and kindling for air to flow
On both our stoves we open up the draft air controls to the maximum at the beginning to allow as much oxygen into the fire as possible. This helps the kindling can catch fire successfully and pass its flame on to the firewood pieces above it before it burns out.
One of our stoves is a modern wood-burner and needs to have the door slightly ajar for a few minutes to aid the airflow. You should follow instructions that came with your stove here and never leave an open stove unattended.
The Long Burn
After several minutes once we are happy the fire is going well and sustaining itself we add some more dry firewood logs. The goal here is to build up a bed of hot glowing embers. Once this begins to happen we slowly reduce the draft down until the stove is working close to its best efficiency, adding wood as we go until the flame is licking slowly in a very hot firebox. At this stage you could barely see the exhaust gasses coming from the chimney, perhaps only a shimmer may be visible and the stove is reaching maximum temperature. Having a roaring fire may look great but most of the fire’s heat will simply go up the chimney. You will also use much more firewood in the stove that you need to.