Updated: Oct 30, 2020
Welcome to the 6 Elements tutorial blog on "How to light a wood fire fast and smoke free!"
When it comes to having your friends’ round and the night starts to draw in, you never want to be left looking like an amateur when you light your fire pit up. Nobody likes a smoking fire pit when you’re having a great time and you just want to feel the heat and flames and enjoy the night.
When you need to get that heat and flames going fast, use these handy tips to get your fire blazing within minutes without the plumes of smoke. You can also use the exact same method on your open fire and woodburner at home, I always do.
As with most situations in life, preparation is key to the whole process.
You will need some vital tools and equipment, but these items can all be prepared earlier in the day and stored in preparation for when you need the fire started up at your leisure. I’ve listed the typical amount and type of equipment you would need for one evening by the fire but please add more wood if you feel the need.
If you’re a serious fire starter I dare say these tools will be in your kit already.
Leather padded gloves - well fitting - wear during close range wood cutting.
Wood-burner gloves or welders leather gauntlets - for fire tending (I personally use a pair of wood-burner gloves for fire tending and close range log cutting as it's just easier at the time feeding the fire, but they can be clumsy for cutting. I would always use a seperate more suitable pair, as listed above, for log splitting or if I was only preparing kindling.)
Small sharp hand axe - Ensure you have a correctly sharpened axe. A whetstone is an excellent little tool you should have in your kit, for keeping your axe cutting edge sharp at minimal cost. (Blunt axes can also be dangerous and require more "handling" than a sharp axe due to the rolling effect the blade can have when it makes contact with the wood.)
Ignition source - Lighter or Matches (long reach lighters or cooks’ matches are generally easier.)
Wood Cutting Area - A secluded area if possible (for safety) with a solid base for splitting logs and cutting wood. (I always prefer cutting wood on a cut off tree stump, due to the security of the stump and the axe head embedding into the stump and minimising axe blade damage. You can create a similar set-up with a large log round, laid down on soil, as a cutting bed. Be aware that logs and kindling can eject quite violently during splitting.)
2-3 bags of dry logs – Either of:
Kiln dried logs in heat sealed plastic (vented) bags are usually best for low moisture content in the logs <10% and more suitable for people who don't have an active wood store.
Birch logs are recommended due to their general availability at store outlets in sealed bags and their beautiful smell when burning and cooking. They are easy to split and the peeled bark is also excellent fire starting tinder. Look for the silver papery bark and that unmistakable smell.
Well seasoned logs from your wood store will be suitable.
Try to avoid outdoor seasoned logs that have not been covered in the winter and spring as they tend to absorb too much moisture from rain and can be difficult to keep alight.
Firelighters – fast acting - such as wood wool lighters or dried pine cones (they both smell so much better than common paraffin-based firelighters and ignite much faster.)
Let’s get into Firestarter mode...
Step 1. First off, make sure your fire pit is clean i.e. most of the ash is removed and you have good air flow.
Step 2. Wearing your cutting gloves, split up 3 or 4 small logs into varying kindling sizes from half inch (13mm) to kitchen wood size 3-inch x 1-inch (75mm x 25mm), make sure you have about 8-10 small half inch pieces.
(I know wearing gloves and cutting wood isn’t very masculine, but neither is having half a knuckle exposed, it is also incredibly painful from past experience.)
Step 3. Using the smallest kindling pieces first, lay 2 pieces across the base plate with a 2-inch gap between them, then place 2-4 pieces on top of those at 90 degrees with a similar gap. Continue with this loose kindling wood tower until you are about 4-5 levels high.
Keep your larger kindling and kitchen wood size pieces aside in a dry place for use later.
Step 4. When you are ready to light your fire, get two wood wool firelighters or pine cones, pop your wood burner gloves on, light your firelighters up one at a time and drop them into the centre of the kindling wood tower you created earlier.
Step 5. Allow the firelighters to establish and fully catch fire. If you have prepared correctly you will have blazing flames with minutes.
Step 6. The kindling will start to catch fire quite quickly.
Step 7. Start placing the smaller of the kindling you had left to one side onto the fire with the same alternating pattern, two horizontal and then two vertical and so on leaving air gaps. The kitchen wood should be placed on last at the fire-starting stage.
Step 8. Leave the fire to catch and then add extra logs once the fire is established. When all of the kindling wood is completely ignited the base will be converted to embers and you will have a good fire base.
Do not load too many logs on at one time, two or three at a time should be suitable, ensure the maximum air flow possible by the method that you stack the logs on the fire.
If you find the fire starts to lose its heat and die down with the logs you are adding, then add smaller pieces in smaller quantities with a little kindling, and rake the coals through to remove the ash from the log basket to ensure better air flow.
Above all, have a great night, be safe and enjoy the flames!
One last note, please ensure the fire bed has been reduced to burnt off char-coals and dying embers before leaving your fire pit over night.
Sleep well! Until next time...