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Steve Nix

How to Burn Wood

By January 2, 2014

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Seasoned wood always starts best when aged for at least 6 months. Properly stacked firewood does not necessarily need to be under a shelter but may need a tarp during very wet seasons. You need to burn wood only when its moisture content has dropped to less than 20 percent. This lower moisture content is almost assured when split wood is exposed to daily drying conditions typical in summer and fall. Storing fire wood outdoors is perfectly fine when stacked and slightly off the ground.

Start stoves or fireplaces with newspaper and dry, resin saturated, coniferous kindling. When using this method, increase wood size from ignition until the largest split piece easily ignites. Stoves burn best and stay clean when the fire is hot. Remember that proper airflow is critical for maintaining proper burning. Proper airflow requires regular ash removal from your wood-burning stove.

Fireplace Image, Digitalshay/Flickr.com


January 16, 2012 at 5:51 pm
(1) Phorester says:

To add to what Steve has said: Building, or “laying”, a fire in a fireplace or wood stove is just like building a campfire. Start with “tinder” – loosely balled up newspaper, paper towels, etc., something that will ignite easily from a match or lighter. Add “kindling” on top of the tinder- wood that is pencil size up to 1″ diameter. Leave an opening in front where you can reach the tinder with your match or lighter. Then add the “fuel” – larger sticks graduating up in size to the largest you want to use that will remain burning for awhile and is what actually provides the heat. Have all 3 parts touching each other; no gaps in between each. Completely build the fire first – tinder, kindling, and fuel, BEFORE lighting it. Hold the lit match or lighter to the tinder and watch your well laid fire burn. Sit back and enjoy.

A reminder; you don’t have to use any petroleum product to start a fire in a fireplace or wood stove; kerosene, diesel fuel, lighter fluid, charcoal lighter, etc., and certainly not gasoline. Gasoline does not ignite – it explodes. Gasoline fumes are heavier than air and will float out of your fireplace or stove, following air currents in the room and explode in other parts of the room or even another room when you light the tinder. Build your fire correctly as described above and it will light with just a match or lighter.

January 16, 2012 at 6:31 pm
(2) Michael De Matteis says:

I’m hoping you can help. I have a wood furnace in my garage and I know it is best to have 300 to 400 degrees going up the chimney. When the wood becomes amber’s is it ok to allow the temp go bellow 300 degrees of will this lead to creosote? Thanks.

January 16, 2012 at 7:43 pm
(3) forestry says:

Thanks Gerald! The simple physics of building an outside fire also applies to an inside fireplace or stove.

January 17, 2012 at 2:13 pm
(4) Miguel says:

This may sound a little odd, but I have been doing up-side down fires for over a year now. I am quite impressed with the performance of this style build. It burns the wood cleaner and hotter with less smoke. Burns the wood completely, and with less fiddlin’. I know folks like to stick with what they know works, but I believe it’s worth trying at least once. Same basic principle as Steve described, only in reverse. Start with your bigger pieces on the bottom, then slightly smaller layed at 90, and so on till you get to the kindling and finish it off at the top with your tinder. You light from the top.

January 17, 2012 at 6:42 pm
(5) forestry says:

Thanks Miguel! I like the idea….

January 13, 2014 at 5:47 am
(6) Skidder says:

I have built wood stove fires both ways, with satisfactory results, and both will work, but I prefer the method Miguel uses for a new fire. I was skeptical at first, reasoning if my usual method works why mess with it, but after trying it on a few morning fires, I have switch to using the kindling on top method for every new fire. If I have a good bed of glowing coals, I will start with the kindling on the bottom.

April 2, 2014 at 5:31 am
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