Our life living off the land in our log cabin, breathing fresh mountain air, and getting back to basics.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Making a Fire in a Wood Burning Stove

This morning we woke to 58 degrees in the cabin, 37 outside...quite chilly!  Of course, this required a fire!  While it may seem that making a fire in a cast iron wood burning stove is a simple matter...just wood and fire, right?  Well, there is a technique to getting the stove to function efficiently and to produce continues heat. 

Here is what I know about achieving a great heat producing fire in a wood burning stove:

Open the wood burning stove doors.  Ideally, you would have saved the ashes from the previous fire, enough to cover the bottom of the stove.  These can not be too thick, as they will not allow enough air to circulate below the fire, so you want to push some of them through the bottom grates into the ash tray that is below the stove.  Leave enough, about 1/2 to 1 inch as a base for your fire.
Crumple old newspaper to fill the bottom 1/3 of the stove.

Top the newspaper with small kindling, building to larger kindling (kindling = twigs and sticks).

Open the bypass handle to ensure the smoke does not fill the room. This is a large handle usually located at the back of stove, and has several degrees of being open.

Pull the air control all the way out, this regulates the amount of air feuling your fire.  This is a very small pully usually located at the bottom of the stove, and has several degrees of being open.

Light the fire.  Once it burns the paper and begins on your kindling, put in a few small branches; it is wise to use a fire-proof glove for this, but those of you who are rough and tough (like Johny) might just put the wood into the stove.  I am not a proponent of this, being that I like the hair on my arms.

Now your fire is beginning to warm your space, and provided you do not have flammable items all around your stove, keep the door open a while to allow the heat to permeate the space. 
You can then close the doors most of the way, but not entirely, to allow the heat to build within the stove.  Shortly after that, close and lock the doors, using either a glove or the oftentime provided little tool to do so (another thing Johny choosed to risk his skin for).  Remember, this thing is cast iron, meant for cooking on top of, and heating an entire cabin, so if you touch it, ouch would likely not be the word you chose at that moment. And if the hospital is far away, as it typically is when you live on the top of a mountain, you want to avoid serious burns!  The top of the stove can get up to 500 degrees F...

Last, and very important, is a pan of water, with a lid, on top (this photo does not have the lid, I wanted you to see the boiling water!).  While a wood burning stove is far less drying than electric heat, heat is heat.  So I put a pot of water, in an enamel cast iron pot, just because I love that it is red and has a little spout for the steam to escape from, to boil on top of the stove.  This allows the steam to keep moisture in the cabin. Good for your skin, including lips, hands and feet, which for me all seem to dislike dry air!
At this point, you can close the bypass handle, and push the air control in a bit.  The air control will be used frequently as you want to allow more or less air to flow and fuel your fire.

When it is time to add more wood, you must open the bypass handle before opening the stove doors!!!  If you don't, your smoke alarm will surely begin singing!

Finally, ENJOY your fire, the warmth, the glow with the one you love and your beverage of choice. For us this morning, it was goooood coffee.  And, enjoy free heat:), excluding the physical labor required to produce the wood to burn.

I hope my perspective of how to build a good fire in your wood burning stove is helpful.  I am not an expert, please be cautious when making a fire.

Do you have any tips about making a good fire in a cast iron wood burning stove?


Anonymous said...

Thanks for the great tutorial! One question on my mind when you discussed keeping the door open to let the warmth fill the cabin and the fact that the stove is 500 degrees on top is how would one keep children safe around a wood burning stove. Yikes!! I am going to have to research that more.

Lise said...

That is a very good comment Lisa, I suppose a gate or fence would be a good idea...I know most parents would tell their children not to touch, but we all know how that works!