Saturday, February 19, 2011

How To Build A Fire

We had a lovely snow storm today. We were all at home safe and sound and so the blowing snow outside was not a worry. We built a fire, made chicken stew and ate dinner in front of the fire place. What a relaxing, enjoyable evening. I'll post the chicken stew recipe later this week.

We thought it might be fun to show you how we start a fire. Our boys were taught how to build a fire by their Grandfather when they were younger. It took them awhile to get the hang of it, but now they are experts. It is a super handy skill for them and hopefully it is something that they will use for the rest of their life.

You need some basic things to start a good fire. Dry firewood, kindling, newspaper, and matches. Gather these things up and we are ready to get started.

Step one is opening the flu. This is so important because if you do not do this correctly, you will have a house full of smoke. Your chimney has a little cap on it that should be closed when you are not using the fireplace. Pull or push the handle until the flue is open. You can stick your head in the fireplace and look up to make sure you can see some daylight. That will tell you the flue is open in case you are unsure. If you do not see daylight, then either your flue is closed or blocked somehow.

Now we can start building the fire. Our fireplace gets a lot of use and by nature they are kind of messy so please excuse the soot and ash. We had a leftover log from our last fire. We are going to use that for this fire.

We are also going to add another log to the fire set up. If you are starting from scratch, just use two logs in the same position.

Next we are going to add the kindling. Our kindling comes from the huge pile of branches that fall off our trees that we pile up behind our garage. You can buy kindling sticks, fat wood, or you can chop a few slices off a piece of firewood. Whatever you use will be fine. Just lay some kindling across the two logs.

Next we need to add the newspaper. Start with a sheet of newsprint. Do not use a shiny add page from the newspaper. You want black and white with a dull finish for your fireplace.

Our next move is very technical. Wrinkle and scrunch your paper up into a ball.

Then shove the paper ball under the grate. You want several paper balls under your grate. There needs to be enough paper to start the kindling on fire. A sheet or two of paper will not be enough. I think we used about eight to ten paper balls.

This is what our start up looks like.

Now we can start the fire. Light a few paper balls to get the party going.

Immediately you are going to know how your fire is doing. You want to see a big puff of smoke rising up your chimney. This is called drawing. You want the chimney drawing the smoke up and out of your house.

Then when the fire gets going a bit, you can add another log to the fire. You want a little space for air to circulate in between each piece of wood, so do not pack your firewood too tightly. Angling the wood is a good way to give the fire a chance to breath.

Firewood sheds bark and debris. Building fires can be a messy job to start, but it is so worth it. We always try to clean as we go so the mess is not too off putting.

Once you are happy with your fire, pull the curtain closed and all you have to do is sit back to enjoy the fruits of your labor. I hope you get a chance to listen to the crackle of a fire with your loved ones this winter.

Trouble Shooting:
  • Hissing noise? You have wet wood. Firewood should be at least a year old before you burn it and if you can keep it dry even better. Chances are that wet wood will be difficult to burn. You might get more hiss and smoke than fire.
  • Smell smoke? Either your flue is not open or your chimney is not drawing. If you are having a drawing problem light a twisted piece of newspaper and raise it up so the smoke automatically goes up the chimney. Once you get the chimney primed so to speak, this might solve your problem.
  • Fire just won't keep going? Try adding more paper and more kindling. Sometimes a fire can be a tricky thing to get going. Just keep fussing until you get it going.

After the Fire:
  • Leave the flue open until the fire is completely out. Any little bit of smoke coming off the coal will make your house smell in a hurry.
  • Pull the glass doors shut if you have them. This will help keep your heat from going up the chimney.

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