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Woodburning Basics: Lighting Your Fire

Whether you're a first-time owner of a log burner or wood fire or an old hand desperate to get your fire lit this year, it's always a good idea to refresh your knowledge and skills; there may just be a few tips you hadn’t heard of, or a few bad habits that have slipped in without you realising.

Like many things, a good fire lies in the right foundations. By this, we mean not just the wood that you are burning, but the way you light your fire. Here is everything you need to know about getting your fire or wood burner lit.

You will need:

  • Newspaper or firelighters
  • Kindling
  • Fuel (wood, heat logs, coal etc.)
  • Lighter or matches
  • Poker
  • Tongs or heat glove

We have all been there, trying to light a fire without newspaper or kindling. While a lot of perseverance and a little luck can help you to get the fire going, it is usually quicker and easier to pop to your local shop or garage to get what you need. If you have plenty of newspaper or scrap paper in the house, this can be a great substitute for firelighters. Don’t be tempted to just chuck a load of paper in, fold it, ball it, plait it or squeeze it into an empty toilet roll tube so that it holds its shape, otherwise it will burn too quickly.

  1. Prep your stove – always start with a clean stove; if your chimney hasn’t been swept since last year, get it done ASAP. Once you are ready with a clear chimney, give your stove a little clean out; you don’t need to make it sparkling as wood burns best on a bed of ash. Open your damper if you have one, otherwise smoke will billow back into the room.
  2. Warm your flue – if it is very cold, it can help to warm your flue up. You can do this by lighting some old paper or newspaper and letting it burn until the flame draws upwards.
  3. Build your fire – this is the important bit. There are different techniques for building a fire; it can take a little practise to work out the one that is best for you. The basic technique is to go from the bottom up, so put the easiest thing to burn (your firelighter or newspaper) at the bottom, followed by your kindling, criss-crossed to let plenty of air through, on top.
  4. Light your firelighter or newspaper and leave the door open until the kindling catches and starts to glow with embers. Gently place a couple of small logs on top, shut the door and wait for the logs to catch.
  5. Keep it burning! Lighting the fire is just one skill; keeping it burning is another, which requires attention and balance. Too much wood will stifle the fire, too little will burn out. Adjust the air vents at the bottom until you have the burn you want; check out next week’s blog for our top tips on keeping a good fire.

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