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Fire Starting: Are you "peddle to the metal" or "easy rider"?

Post in 'The Hearth Room - Wood Stoves and Fireplaces' started by Nick Mystic, Mar 4, 2013.

  1. Nick Mystic

    Nick Mystic Minister of Fire

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    When I start a fire in my wood stove I tend to gradually build my fire up and let the stove take 15 - 30 minutes to climb up to around 300 F before I start adding larger splits. I will crack my side door for a few minutes to get my kindling going well, but then shut the door and let my open primary feed the fire, which makes for a much slower start up than leaving the door open until things are going like a blast furnace inside the stove.

    I've seen people go to the other extreme of even opening their ash doors to kick start their fire as fast as possible. We all know that isn't acceptable and will damage your stove, but I'm wondering what other people's fire starting style is. I let my fires build gradually because it seems to me like it is better for the stove to not have rapid expansion taking place. However, I also know that a hotter fire is going to let less creosote build up in the liner. So, what is your style, "peddle to the metal" or "easy rider"?

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  2. ScotO

    ScotO Guest

    I stack a tepee of kindling in there, couple of x-crossed smalls (2" rounds), couple of bigger splits on them, light a piece of fatwood under them and let mother nature do the rest. I let the doors cracked open til the glass gets good and warm, then chit the doors with the draft open halfway. Usually takes 10 to 15 minutes to get 'er up to secondary temperature. Then shut it down to where it needs to be......

    Works like a charm...
  3. Jags

    Jags Moderate Moderator Staff Member

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    I load it to the hilt. Light the fire and get it up to temp asap. The less time in the beginning stages, the better. That is the stage that emits the most smoke and your stove isn't up to temp to eat it.
    northwinds and nate379 like this.
  4. Highbeam

    Highbeam Minister of Fire

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    Me too. Nothing good ever came from a slow start, only coldness, dirty flue, and dirty air. I don't do this start a small fire with kindling and then load the fuel jive either. I load it up from the start with the full load and go wide open until steady state is reached.
  5. WoodpileOCD

    WoodpileOCD Minister of Fire

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    Full load with some kindling and a piece of super cedar and let 'er rip. That said I also have a steel stove not cast or soapstone.
  6. Jags

    Jags Moderate Moderator Staff Member

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    It doesn't really matter what material it is made from. In the world of expansion, even 15 minutes is an eternity.
  7. Motor7

    Motor7 Feeling the Heat

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    East TN.
    CrissCross for me....build a log cabin, a couple of sheets of newspaper in the center & let it rip with the door cracked. As soon as it's going good <5min I start stacking splits on top of it, leave the door open another 5, shut it and walk away. I have excellent draft which helps a new fire along rather well.
  8. PapaDave

    PapaDave Minister of Fire

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    For me, a smaller fire (cold start) gets to a good cruising temp faster than a full load (less smoke too). So, sometimes when doing a cold start, I put 2 splits in N/S with another on top N/S with a small bit of firestarter between the bottom 2 and light it up. Not much kindling used, although the firestarter is similar. The wood takes off in a minute or 2, and sometimes faster(because it's dry:cool:).
    Hot coal starts are similar, but obviously w/o firestarter. Once a coal bed is established, I load it according to need. Flame on!
    Not much need for kindling with dry wood, although I'll use some just because.....
    gyrfalcon likes this.
  9. ddddddden

    ddddddden Minister of Fire

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    Yeah, it depends on whether it's a cold start or on some coals. From cold, I'll load everything with 1/4 SuperCedar near the top. Light it. Close the door down to a crack for a few seconds to reassure myself that the draft is ripping, then shut the door tight and let the stove's air intake do it's job. I leave the air open enough for a vigorous burn to char the wood, but try to shut down in stages ASAP. The thinking is that more draft through the stove carries more heat up the flue, and I want the heat to stay in the stove so I can engage the cat. ;) Basically, I try to shut the air down as much as possible, as soon as possible, while still maintining some turbulence in the flames.

    Note that with my stove, running with the air on full and the cat bypass open might be like running with the door cracked on a stove that can't bypass the restrictive secondary baffle. Anyhow, my point is. . .um lessee. . .running with the door open while you build up the fire with kindling and add splits, like building a fire in a fireplace, seems to me to suck a lot of air through the stove, which isn't going to let it warm up as much as running with the door closed.

    Sometimes, when I do a semi-cold restart with small coals dredged up out of the ash bed after ~20 hours, I'll do the "build-up" thing, starting with splinters pulled off the splits placed on top of a small mound of coals between 2 splits. . .just playing boyscout, l guess, because my feeling really is that having the door open while I play around just sucks a lot of warm air out of the house and up the chimney. . .but if I've waited that long to reload, it's probably not very cold out anyhow, affording me a bit of playtime with the stove. :) When it is cold here, and I'm reloading sooner on hot coals, I don't play around. I want to keep all the warm air in the house, so I load the stove as quickly as possible, and shut the door, the same as when going in/out the front door of the house.
  10. firefighterjake

    firefighterjake Minister of Fire

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    I let the type of start up dictate on how it goes . . .

    If it's a cold start then it seems to take longer to get the stove and flue up to temp . . . and so it is a more gradual step up in heat.

    If there are some size-able coals . . . heck, even if there are just a few small coals . . . the temps come up to speed much quicker.
    PapaDave likes this.
  11. Slow1

    Slow1 Minister of Fire

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    I load it with whatever size load I want to burn, stick the SC in the middle somewhere near the back (maximizes flame path to the bypass/smoke exit at the top front), light the SC and close the door with air fully open. Once well established I'll generally turn the air down to around 50-60% open to slow the burn rate down and keep the cat area heating as much as possible. Generally within 30 minutes I'm at temp and have engaged the cat. After that it is just a matter of adjusting the air to the level desire for remainder of the burn.

    I would not want to burn kindling then feed splits on top. Not only does this seem to really generate a lot more smoke than the 'pseudo top-down' method I'm using, it also requires that I open the stove door when the draft may not be strong enough to suck all the smoke from the starter fire up the flue. I don't like smoke in the house.

    Besides, it is easier to just start and walk away with only slight changes to air and cat engagement... I don't have time most mornings to fuss with the stove - get it burning and let it do it's job while we run about getting kids to school etc.
  12. Backwoods Savage

    Backwoods Savage Minister of Fire

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    For sure I won't light a fire in the soapstone stove like I would in a steel stove. Still, it takes very little extra time to heat up with the soapstone. If you are starting with a cold stove then it is best to not hurry the fire too much. Getting the fire going then closing the draft to 50% allows the stone to heat up a lot quicker than leaving the draft full open. We can usually get the cat engaged in 30-40 minutes and that is quick enough for us.

    For starting a cold stove, I lay 2 small splits in the bottom, bark down and form a slight vee with the splits. In the middle I place 1/4 of a super cedar and light it. Then if I use kindling, I'll just add a couple pieces over the super cedar. Then comes the splits on top of that. We usually can cut the draft to 50% within 10-15 minutes but sometimes up to 20 minutes. This way the stove top heats up fairly fast but not too fast to be concerned about any crraking of stone.

    On reloads, one does not need to be concerned with how quickly the stove heats and if you have good fuel, you can engage the cat really soon and set the draft low to get good heat and a long burn.

    On steel, our old stove we just started with newspaper and kindling. Then we'd light the fire. As that got going we piled the splits on and left the draft full open for quite some time. That is how that stove performed the best.
  13. TradEddie

    TradEddie Minister of Fire

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    When first I read about the top-down method here, I thought it was crazy and couldn't work, but now that's almost exclusively what I do, sometimes adding another split when the kindling pile has burned down if I'm looking for a long initial burn. If I load e/w I raise the front split on a small stick to let air underneath. If I'm not closing the air fully and walking away for 4+ hours after 15-20 minutes from a stone cold start I've done something wrong. I've got "self-pruning" oak trees over my lawn so I never run out of kindling twigs.

    TE

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