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General Fire Wisdom

Now that your fire is started (see Starting A Fire), you’ll have to learn to keep it going. Here are some general tips before we get into the meat of the matter:

Good Wood ! - First of all. don’t even start unless you have good seasoned firewood of mixed sizes and types. Unseasoned wood or wet wood will only cause frustration. Also, keep a good supply of fire starters and kindling handy…it can be very aggravating attempting to start a fire without small, dry kindling.

Fire needs a “critical mass” in order to burn well. Just one log sitting in a stove will not ignite or burn. You must first establish a good draft in the chimney and a good bed of red-hot embers to achieve a good burn.

A good Flame means a good Fire - Much of the heat from wood is in the form of the gases we know as “smoke”. If you burn your stove improperly, lots of unburnt smoke will escape up the chimney and cause excess creosote (tar) formation on your chimney and also pollute the great outdoors. A proper fire BURNS this smoke. In general you should always see a flame on your fire. This is a simple gauge of whether you are burning properly. A smokey fire is a dirty and inefficient one !

Leave some space between the wood - Musicians say “it’s not the notes we play that make great music, it’s the spaces between the notes”...same with a fire. Cris-Crossing your wood or placing odd-shaped pieces in the fire help the airflow through your stove or fireplace.

Less is More - Generally, it is better to burn Less wood with MORE air to get the most out of your stove or fireplace. A smaller, hotter fire will cause less smoke and creosote than a cold, smoldering one.

Good Draft - If you have a poor chimney suction, or an improper installation, your efforts will be in vain.

Three Types (L to R) Rumford (w/Tepee fire) -...
By Hearth.com contributor, Donald Jordan (elkimmeg@comcast.net):
Qualifying past experiences: He has cut and cleared over 100 house lots and at least 10 plus miles of roads. Has owned 15 chain saws and still has working ones from the 60s

The Huskys, Jonserred, and Stihl chainsaws did not start appearing till the early 80s. I even had a two man saw. My main Chainsaw now is a 1984 Stihl Farm Boss that still cuts as good as the day I purchased it.

First point: Purchase a saw that does the Job at hand.
If one is cutting a couple cords a year of 6” to 14” thick logs, then the cheaper Sears Poulan saws - under $200 with a 14” to 16” blade will do the job quite well. If you are into heavy-duty cutting, one might want to skip shopping at Home Depot and other such places. Even if they carry the commercial name brands, the models are often watered down versions. I have gone that route and repaired my share of power tools and there is a difference! Another source in picking out the right chain saw is to rent one, Not only do you see what stands up to novice abuse but you get to experience using one. For instance, a large 24” bar commercial saw weighs a lot more and can be much harder to control than the economy saw. It’s a lot easier and safer controlling a lighter saw.

Second points: Learn the capabilities of the tool. Keep it sharp and well maintained.

Let the tool do the job it designed to do. Forcing it is dangerous and reduces the life expectancy of the tool.

An Electric 6 ton Splitter will take care of most splitting jobs. Knarly Knuckle logs are always a problem even in large splitters. What I do is cut them up and I do not attempt to split them. There is also a safety concern. If it takes 30 tons of pressure to split it, I hope you are in a fox hole when splitting, because with that much pressure and something breaks off you will not have time to duck. The six-ton electric splitter will do 6 cords a year or more. This is not a pro model, but...
Watch a short movie on how to start a fire.

Seems like a simple thing…just put some wood in the fire, light a match and there she goes—NOT ! Anyone who regularly fires up their stove or fireplace knows there is much more to it than meets the eye.
I’m not the world’s best tennis player.. I can’t ski over those big bumps (moguls) and I’ve never run a marathon—but I do consider myself one of the world’s foremost experts on starting a fire. I was always a pyromaniac…loved those model rockets, fireworks and anything else that would blow up. I never thought any good would come out of my fascination with fire. Thus, I will pass this hard-earned knowledge down to the next generation. We’ll cover starting fires in closed stoves and open fireplaces. The basics are the same, however the technique can vary especially after the fire is established.

Ok, lets break this down to a simple series of steps. Each one must be done or the fire will be a bust.

1. Make certain the chimney is drafting upwards. Many chimneys will reverse (cold air falls) when not in use. Open the damper of your fireplace and/or the door of your stove..if you feel a cold draft coming down then your chimney has reversed itself. Keep this in mind and follow step #4 below in order to reverse your chimney.

2. Set the Kindling. Yes, everyone does this differently. Here’s the best way. Place firestarters, fatwood or crumpled newspaper (3 or 4 sheets balled up fairly tightly) on the floor or grate of your stove. Place small kindling over the paper or starter…TIP—the more dry, small kindling you have—the easier and better your fire will start. Crisscross the kindling so there is plenty of air space in between each piece. Wood that is packed too tight will not burn properly.

3. Set more Wood. Set larger wood on top of the kindling, and continue to set larger and larger pieces on top until the stove is over 2/3 full. If it’s an open fireplace, set one or...