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Hands down...top down

Post in 'The Hearth Room - Wood Stoves and Fireplaces' started by mikedengineer, Jan 10, 2006.

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  1. mikedengineer

    mikedengineer New Member

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    Loc:
    mentor(northeast), ohio
    I know I'm repeating what other have said about the top down method for building a fire, but I tried this method recently and have found it to work waaaayyyy better than I thought. I have an old Vermont Castings Resolute. I do nothing more than put 2 large pieces at the bottom, put some type of fire starter (I use a chunk of fire starting log) and then put some smaller stuff on that. I still can't get over how fast a hot fire gets started every time, granted your using dry wood. With the temperatures getting near 50 I let my fire go out down during the day and use this method to get a new one going knowing my stove will be throwing some awesome heat fast.

    -Mike

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  2. wg_bent

    wg_bent Minister of Fire

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    o.k. 50+ degrees here today, so stove went out. I just tried to light the stove with top down approach....

    Sorry...but this does not work!!!!!

    I put a criss-cross pattern of exceedlingly dry pine (for better burning) on bottom, topped with some smaller elm peices, then a lot of pretty small kindling, followed by twisted news paper.

    Result:

    a lot of burned news paper.

    I had to lift up the smouldering twigs put paper underneath and re-light.

    Then I had to put some small very dry peices of wood on top of that. Essentiallly building normal fire on top of the logs.

    After about 30 minutes, I now have a good fire.

    This technique is obviously stove dependent.

    My Osburn does not like it.
  3. Rhone

    Rhone Minister of Fire

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    Don't give up. First, you need DRY wood. If you try the top down approach, and it doesn't work and you open the door and hear hissing... you have wet wood and it won't work (or as I've found extremely frustrating forcing it to work with wet wood). If your wood is wet, better to start from the bottom.

    Try this. Load your insert as normal but use the front/back method. On the top of your wood in the back, lay 3 pieces of larger sized kindling. In front of that, lay several small pieces of kindling. Next, take 3 pieces of paper and twist it so it looks like a rope, then tie it in a knot. Still haven't decided if it's better with 3 pieces together tied in a knot or 3 seperate tied in a knot. Place that in front of your smaller sized kindling, and light the paper and shut the door on your insert. The paper will light the smaller kindling, which in turn will light the larger kindling, and you get a blaze. The problem may be your placement. I like to have it so it's centered over two log splits (my kindling forms a sort of bridge between two pieces) AND at the end so you can get a side of each log going and have a chance of getting the ends going as well. Lastly, you need to light it over the whites of the logs, and not over bark. I'm not certain but I think bark is harder to light than the whites.

    Anyway, don't give up just yet (unless you have wet wood). I'm still learning, I started out with a 90% failure rate and now I'm down to about 40% (usually because I guessed the wood was dry when it wasn't). I'll look for Franks post how he does it.
  4. bruce56bb

    bruce56bb New Member

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    Loc:
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    i'm with warren. tried it a few times but couldn't get it to work. my method is as follows......
    2 4"-6" in splits on bottom with a space in between them
    2 1"x2" 12"long perpendicular and on top of larger splits
    2 or 3 1.5 or 2" small rounds on top running same direction as large splits
    4 pages of newspaper wadded up and stuffed in space between large splits
    light both ends of paper and viola.........FIRE
  5. wg_bent

    wg_bent Minister of Fire

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    I used split wood with NO bark, bottom layer was pine which goes up like a peice of paper with coals, and VERY dry elm which also lights really easily. The peices of kindling were less than half pencil size to pencil size. split were criss crossed perpendicular with lots of air space. kindling randomly piled on top. Very dry kindling and I used news paper that didn't even have so much as black ink on it. (I have a large of rolled news paper from the local paper, with no print)

    it didn't work.

    Sorry, I didn't drink the Kool-aid.

    It's back to the old tried and true tee-pee method of starting fires I learned in boy scouts. That works.
  6. fbelec

    fbelec Minister of Fire

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    sorry it didn't work for you warren.
    it might just depend on the stove. i've heard other people say the same thing as you.
    i run two old stoves. the main one is 1978 defiant and a small box stove in the basement

    bruce i use alot more kindling than you.
    i tried using some slivers of a small dry log last night and it failed for the first time.
    i've been using pieces of oak floor cut offs that i split in half with small pieces of 2x3 go's great.
    i put about 5 layers that are 4 x 4 inches in the middle of the splits and it takes off well
    i also for the first 2 to 4 minutes keep the door cracked a half inch and it blows on the fire and that speeds it up after that i close the door and the bimetallic spring on the primary air does the rest.

    btw if you do use this method and find you have hissing wood double up on the kindling. it'll take off. but you do have to keep a eye on it. i find when i do that the stack thermo climbs a little high.
  7. Rhone

    Rhone Minister of Fire

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    Well, that's interesting. I use red oak and it seems to be rather high in moisture and it works for me 60% of the time. Everytime it doesn't, I open the door and hear the wood hissing (too wet).

    If you can't do it using pine & elm then my hat off to you your unit can't do it. I can usually skip the kindling if I place a piece of elm on the bottom and light the fibers.
  8. Donna

    Donna Member

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    Hi Guys,

    Well, urged on by this thread, I tried the top-down method again today. I do it about twice a year. It was a dismal failure. I have primo wood, dry kindling, small splits, I did it according to the book, but it just doesn't catch correctly.
    It baffles me why it does not work in my VC Resolute.
    I shall give it a few months and try again,
    Love the idea, just cannot get it to fly in this stove.

    Warm here in Quebec, letting the morning fire go out at noon, to be revived after supper for 2 hours or so, then that's it for the day.

    Donna
  9. JAred

    JAred New Member

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    I'm a top down fire starter my self. I can get a roaring fire in about half the time of a bottom up fire I also use no newspaper in that my pine splits into match sticks quite easily. I lay down some good size splitson bottom and about a shoebox full of 1'' peices haphazardly on top. then the cherry... a fist size full of match sized sticks picked up from beside the chopping block right on top. I light on little stick sticking out and the mess erupts in flames.
  10. BrotherBart

    BrotherBart Hearth.com LLC Mid-Atlantic Division Staff Member

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    Yeah I tried it a few times myself to no avail. I must be a wood burning failure as a human being. I also backed up and tried the old paper, kindling etc. stuff trying to be a safe, sane burner. Finally got tired of it. Tear up a beer case carton, toss some small splits on top and three hundred in a minimum of heartbeats.

    We all gotta do it the way we gotta do it.
  11. mikedengineer

    mikedengineer New Member

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    Loc:
    mentor(northeast), ohio
    If that's an old resolute with double doors that's what I have. When I do this method I place 2 pieces of wood, larger than kindling like a 4"-5" wedged split which is usually a maple or oak, with the smaller parts of the wedge touching. This makes a valley between the pieces. I then place a small fire starter type log, I buy large fire starter logs then break off chunks, in this valley. I light that then place some thin pieces on top, usually 4 pieces that are about 1" thick x 3" wide and 10"-16" long which is usually oak. I arrange them so they don't smother the flames, but not a straight shot for the flames to go up. I shut the door. The stove is set on the vertical mode which is basically the damper wide open. In 10-15 minutes I have a screaming fire with the stack reading 300 degrees.

    To those who don't have luck maybe your stove's air flow just is not conducive to this method. I'm not sure. I'm definitely not saying this is the best way to start a fire. For me, however, it is.

    -Mike
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