1. Welcome Hearth.com Guests and Visitors - Please enjoy our forums!
    Hearth.com GOLD Sponsors who help bring the site content to you:
    Hearthstone Soapstone and Cast-Iron stoves( Wood, Gas or Pellet Stoves and Inserts)

Cold start fire

Post in 'The Hearth Room - Wood Stoves and Fireplaces' started by Sully, Nov 10, 2013.

  1. Sully

    Sully Feeling the Heat

    Joined:
    Oct 28, 2013
    Messages:
    406
    Loc:
    Delaware
    When you guys start a fire on a non-cat stove, do you wait until temp is up to start shutting down air or once fire is completely going. I guess it is. A 10 min difference either way. Just curious. It seems like when I leave air wise open until 400 or 500 that my small shoulder splits take a big beating and I will need a relaid shortly after .

    Helpful Sponsor Ads!





  2. Backwoods Savage

    Backwoods Savage Minister of Fire

    Joined:
    Feb 14, 2007
    Messages:
    27,815
    Loc:
    Michigan
    I've never believed in leaving the draft full open until what you call up to temperature. Once the fire gets established, I've always started to close the draft. That usually means closing to half way. What this does is hold more heat in the firebox rather than sending it straight up the chimney. By the time the wood gets well charred and the fire is going nicely, that flue will be at the proper temperature. Most folks close the draft in steps when starting a new fire.
    jeff_t, MNtrees, Woody Stover and 2 others like this.
  3. Sully

    Sully Feeling the Heat

    Joined:
    Oct 28, 2013
    Messages:
    406
    Loc:
    Delaware
    That's what I just did, it's only 40 out I'm just trying to refine my "skills" before true winter, snow in forecast next week......I'm to excited for cold weather lol
  4. Backwoods Savage

    Backwoods Savage Minister of Fire

    Joined:
    Feb 14, 2007
    Messages:
    27,815
    Loc:
    Michigan
    That is good Sully. This is a good time to experiment. Just remember that when winter comes, you'll be doing things just a tad different. For sure you'll have more wood in the stove and won't be doing many cold starts. The draft will improve the colder it gets so that will be a big help. My prediction is very soon you will be asking about why you are getting all the coals in the stove and you don't have enough room to hold the wood. Yes, that happens and it happens most with folks who are burning marginal wood but will also happen to folks who have good dry wood. So, to get the jump here, I'll advise that when the need for heat becomes greater, watch the fire. Just about the time or a tad before the logs are down to the all coal stage, open that draft full and let it burn. This will hold the heat while the coals burn down and you'll waste very little. It certainly is better than shoveling out the coals and throwing them in the ash bin. Believe it or not, many do that which is a total waste of dollars.
    MNtrees and Sully like this.
  5. Sully

    Sully Feeling the Heat

    Joined:
    Oct 28, 2013
    Messages:
    406
    Loc:
    Delaware
    Thanks for the advice in advance
  6. Doing The Dixie Eyed Hustle

    Doing The Dixie Eyed Hustle Minister of Fire

    Joined:
    May 27, 2008
    Messages:
    5,078
    Loc:
    Ridge, LI, NY
    My goal is the get the coal bed going. With a good coal bed, you can deal with most any thing starting wise.

    Just started the fire ( went off from last nights coals, some kindling, and 2 splits ... cranking in 15 minutes !!), it's going good, added another split @ 400F, and shut if 1/2 way down. I'll watch it to maintain temps, but my goal right now is a good coal bed to load for the over night.

    Temps going down from 45F to 30F or less here.
  7. Sprinter

    Sprinter Minister of Fire

    Joined:
    Jul 1, 2012
    Messages:
    2,072
    Loc:
    SW Washington
    That's about the way I do it as well. I used to wait until the stove top was about 250 - 300, but that's really not necessary and it lets the flue get too hot anyway. Turn it down in steps and you'll find that the stove top actually gets hot faster as the secondaries get a greater proportion of the air and start doing more of the burning. At least that's the way it seems to work.
    Backwoods Savage likes this.
  8. lammi66

    lammi66 Member

    Joined:
    Feb 24, 2008
    Messages:
    36
    Loc:
    SW MI
    Backwoods, thanks for sharing your knowledge!! You have prolly forgotten more about burning wood than I will ever know!!
    Backwoods Savage likes this.
  9. northwinds

    northwinds Minister of Fire

    Joined:
    Jul 9, 2006
    Messages:
    1,362
    Loc:
    south central WI
    It depends on the stove. I keep the air wide open until my stovetop is about 550, and then start shutting it down. It doesn't take very long on my stove to get to
    550--maybe 20 to 30 minutes, depending what type of wood I'm using.
  10. Backwoods Savage

    Backwoods Savage Minister of Fire

    Joined:
    Feb 14, 2007
    Messages:
    27,815
    Loc:
    Michigan
    But it still would not do any harm to experiment with closing the air part way before your stovetop reaches 550. It very well may reach that temperature quicker and if so, then so much the better. I hate to waste heat with it just going up the chimney and that is why we close the draft part way way before we reach that temperature. As a matter of fact, by the time our stove top is around 250, we have our draft closed to about 25% open and sometimes less.
  11. BrotherBart

    BrotherBart Hearth.com LLC Mid-Atlantic Division Staff Member

    Joined:
    Nov 18, 2005
    Messages:
    29,138
    Loc:
    Northern Virginia
    With a modern non-cat Dennis that just shifts to cool air coming in through the secondary inlets above the load instead of the primary air into the front of the load. Three air inputs in a non-cat and at any draft level adjusting the primary air input just shifts the balance between primary and the other two.
  12. firefighterjake

    firefighterjake Minister of Fire

    Joined:
    Jul 22, 2008
    Messages:
    15,662
    Loc:
    Unity/Bangor, Maine
    I think Northwinds had the best answer . . . really depends on the stove, draft and truly how patient or impatient you are. My wife who has a lot more patience than me tends to shut the air control down sooner than me and then watch the temps . . . me, I like to get the fire going pretty well and then start to shut it down . . . seems to me it is less likely to have the fire "stall" out that way. Truth be told . . . either way can work.
    pen likes this.
  13. lopiliberty

    lopiliberty Minister of Fire

    Joined:
    Oct 7, 2011
    Messages:
    844
    Loc:
    Mineral County, WV
    Usually when I do a cold start I stack the kindling and use a fire starter if I have any or newspaper and leave the air control open all the way. Once the kindling is burning good I spread it out over the firebox floor and go ahead and load the stove full rarely do I use any small pieces of wood first. After its loaded I usually have instant crazy secondaries as soon as I close the door so I cut the air down to halfway then just watch the fire and turn it down in stages. I can have a fire going from cold to 550 degree stove and insane secondaries in about 20 to 30 minutes
  14. Sprinter

    Sprinter Minister of Fire

    Joined:
    Jul 1, 2012
    Messages:
    2,072
    Loc:
    SW Washington
    How much kindling do you use that way? I've always just started my kindling on top, or as part of, the main load. I may try your way sometime.
  15. Sprinter

    Sprinter Minister of Fire

    Joined:
    Jul 1, 2012
    Messages:
    2,072
    Loc:
    SW Washington
    I agree that it may depend on the stove, but if I kept my air full up until the stove was 550, my flue temps would be pegging my thermometer (well, pretty darn high, anyway:))! As it is, it can get to 1000F on the flue thermometer (internal) by the time the stove is even at 200 or less. I get the best results by starting to turn the air down when the fire is just going well regardless of stovetop temp. The stovetop actually seems to get hot faster that way. Just my experience.
  16. lopiliberty

    lopiliberty Minister of Fire

    Joined:
    Oct 7, 2011
    Messages:
    844
    Loc:
    Mineral County, WV
    Its really hard to say. My kindling is 14 in long square pieces that are about an inch inch and a half in diameter and I split most of them in half one time. I would say 10 to 15 pieces
  17. Sprinter

    Sprinter Minister of Fire

    Joined:
    Jul 1, 2012
    Messages:
    2,072
    Loc:
    SW Washington
    Okay, so maybe a few inches deep? Interesting approach to put the whole main load on kindling coals.
  18. BrotherBart

    BrotherBart Hearth.com LLC Mid-Atlantic Division Staff Member

    Joined:
    Nov 18, 2005
    Messages:
    29,138
    Loc:
    Northern Virginia
    With all of my non-cats starting down in increments at around 400 degrees stove top works well. By that point the firebox is hot enough that the secondary air is pre-heating and will start picking off the un-burned gases as it mixes with the gases and the flames from the load under it ignite them.

    At that point what Dennis was talking about starts to kick in since you are letting less unheated primary air in and more pre-heated secondary air. But take it down too soon and you will stall the burn.

    Takes practice and paying attention to what is happening in the firebox until you get used to how your stove works.
  19. lopiliberty

    lopiliberty Minister of Fire

    Joined:
    Oct 7, 2011
    Messages:
    844
    Loc:
    Mineral County, WV
    Don't wait until it burns down to coals. The kindling has to be burning very well and whole pieces if that makes since. I lay two large pieces of kindling front/back in front of the boost air under the door then put the fire starter in then crisscross the kindling on top of that
    Sprinter likes this.
  20. Sprinter

    Sprinter Minister of Fire

    Joined:
    Jul 1, 2012
    Messages:
    2,072
    Loc:
    SW Washington
    I don't mean to say that I turn the air fully down that soon; I just start the process then. Plenty of air with my lever about 1/2 way to allow the fire to continue to grow well, then down more in a few more steps. I'm sure every stove is different and every load is different.
  21. BrotherBart

    BrotherBart Hearth.com LLC Mid-Atlantic Division Staff Member

    Joined:
    Nov 18, 2005
    Messages:
    29,138
    Loc:
    Northern Virginia
    Two ways to do it for full loads. Ideally you build a kindling load top down to heat the flue and develop a coal bed. Then drag the coal bed to the front and load the stove behind it and place a starter piece on top of the coals and go up to 400 or so and start closing down in increments.

    Or, you can load it and put a bunch of small stuff across the front and start cold from there. But to make that work ya better have damned hot and clean fire starters, like Super Cedar, sitting on top of that small stuff and let it get the draft started while it also starts the small stuff under it.

    This all being for E/W loading. N/S is another story and method.
  22. Sprinter

    Sprinter Minister of Fire

    Joined:
    Jul 1, 2012
    Messages:
    2,072
    Loc:
    SW Washington
    I thought I'd try the "kindling first" method this morning. I don't have really small kindling, but just put several small splits in criss-cross pattern for a quick start. The fire took off and stove and flue got up to temp right away. I put a few larger splits on when the small stuff started to coal (didn't take long). Today is pretty warm so I didn't load it up, but it seems to work nicely. I'll try some different variations later. I think I like the method. BTW, I usually do N-S loads.
    lopiliberty likes this.
  23. WES999

    WES999 Minister of Fire

    Joined:
    Jan 12, 2008
    Messages:
    931
    Loc:
    Mass north of Boston
    I go by flue temp, I start turning the air down as soon as the flue temp reaches 875( measured on a digital probe).
    I usually use pallet wood to start the fire. I load some 1x2's on the bottom and smaller wood on top, add a fire starter
    in the middle and light with a torch.

    It doesn't take long to get the fire going, 5-10 minutes, and I can start turning down the air.
    I have found that the quicker you can turn down the air and not kill the fire the faster the stove will heat up.
    Sprinter likes this.
  24. Sprinter

    Sprinter Minister of Fire

    Joined:
    Jul 1, 2012
    Messages:
    2,072
    Loc:
    SW Washington
    My experience as well. I've never thought of waiting to add the main load until a smaller fire is established, but it sounds good. I imagine you may have to be careful that the coal bed is not too large to avoid a runaway. But a small bed like I did this morning was good. Flue temps get up there fast. I can hit 900 or more well before the stove top gets hot.
  25. northwinds

    northwinds Minister of Fire

    Joined:
    Jul 9, 2006
    Messages:
    1,362
    Loc:
    south central WI
    I think the griddle stove-top of the Isle Royale reads higher than a lot of stoves. When my stovetop is hitting 550 on that cold start, my flue temps are in the 800-900
    range. I could start shutting the air down at 450, but it would take longer to reach the point where my stove levels off at 550-600. If I wait until 550, I can immediately
    shut the air down to 75% and then to 95% about 10-15 minutes later. I've been running this stove a few years now, and it's very predictable with good seasoned hardwood.

Share This Page