Did you know you can light a fire without a fire-lighter or tonnes of kindling? This Scandinavian fire technique is all about stacking your logs effectively. It catches very quickly and gives a cleaner burn too.
There are many different ways to start a fire. You’ve probably been shown the triangle or ‘pyramid’ method from a young age. You may also be familiar with the grid or ‘Jenga-like’ tower arrangement. Both methods suggest starting with kindling and once that’s burning, you add on your wood fuel. However, the Scandi or ‘top-down’ fire lighting approach is fast becoming the most popular and here’s we look at how it’s done and explore why it’s so well-liked.
Start by placing the largest pieces of kiln-dried firewood or hardwood logs at the bottom of your wood burning stove firebox or fireplace. When you start to build a fire, it is important to start with a good base. These should be the largest pieces in the load, 3” to 5” in diameter. If you are going to use hardwood logs then do bear in mind that they will expand once lit and are starting to burn, so remember to leave some space around them which will allow air to mix well with the fuel.
Build an extra level of wood fuel by placing a second layer of smaller pieces crossing on top of the main logs. These pieces are smaller than the large logs, half to three-quarters of the size of the main pieces. Always use kiln-dried wood – this is particularly important for your next step when adding kindling.
You have a few options in this next step. When placing a third layer of even smaller pieces crossing top of the second layer you can either stack this kindling in a grid shape, pyramid, or simply pile it up with a bit of space between the pieces to let the air flow around and through them. These pieces should be small, no more than 1” to 2” in diameter.
Spread some fine kindling on top of this. You can use thin split sticks or even cardboard.
Push several newspaper knots on top of the kindling. Rip off long sheets of newspaper, roll loosely, into a rope, and tie into a quick knot. Stuff four or five knots on top of the kindling, spread out across the width of the fire box.
Light the newspaper. If building this fire in a stove, make sure your stove damper is open or your combustion fan is on high. Then light the newspaper. A stick lighter is useful to quickly light several pieces of the newspaper and then quickly shut the door.
Enjoy your fire. Remember not to overload your burner – the assembled wood fuel should not sit above the fireplace opening. As the newspaper burns, it will ignite the kindling, and begin the slow downward climb through the logs. Depending on how many logs you loaded and how thick the logs are, you can count on two to three hours of beautiful flames. You’ll soon see why this is the best way to start a fire in a wood stove.
The top-down fire lighting approach will save you time, as you won’t have to check back later to ensure your fuel has caught fire. You will also notice that only a little smoke is produced, as the fire burns cleanly from the top of the stack.
This method can improve your overall wood fuel burning experience, as the top-down fire preheats your flue and warms the chimney without the obstruction of layers of wood fuel on top of your fire. If using a stove, remember to adjust your stove’s air intake after 10 to 12 minutes as less air is needed once your fire is blazing.