Wednesday, December 9, 2009

The secret of the flame -- Part 2

You've got your fire going and everything is cozy, so how do you keep it going 24/7.

It's more than just adding a few logs every now and then. Here's my routine:

Every hour I open the stove door and stir the coals. When there are only coals left and no wood mass, I add two sticks of firewood and TWO STICKS OF KINDLING. The kindling is important. Without it there's a good chance your fire logs will not ignite. If I only add one log, I use one stick of kindling.

My kindling is about half scrap wood from various projects and half split from firewood. (See kindling bucket in photo.) It shouldn't be more than an inch wide.

If I'm trying to make the fire last through the night, I fill the firebox full with equal parts firewood and kindling, alternating them in a stack. Green hickory is the best for overnight fires, but walnut or oak will work if it still has some moisture content. If I fill the stove at 11 p.m., I will usually have enough coals at 5 a.m. to start a good fire. Six hours is about all you can hope for.

A reader asked about building a fire in a fireplace. My answer: Don't.

Seriously, it you want a roaring fire to look at for a few hours, a fireplace is fine, but keep in mind that it sucks more heat out of the house than it puts in. When the fireplace ashes are cool, close the flue damper and go get under a warm blanket.