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Author Topic: Fire Starting 101  (Read 1505 times)

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Online WV Sawmiller

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Fire Starting 101
« on: December 23, 2018, 11:21:08 PM »
   I thought about posting this in firewood and wood heating but it is so basic and applies whether you are lighting your fireplace, wood heater or burning a brushpile so I figured it would be more useful here.

   I get frustrated watching people trying to start a fire and generally just making a lot of smoke. We have probably all done it. If we follow the basics you will get a quick fire going quickly and easily every time.

Basics -

   Fire triangle Any fire requirea Fuel, Air/Oxygen, and Heat. Remove any of these from an on-going fire and it will go out. Firefighters know this and separate the elements.

   Reflected heat - to keep a fire going it needs reflected heat. This is why a single stick won't burn. Even a single fat lighterd splinter will eventually go out while 2 will burn until at least one is completely gone if lit and placed adjacent to each other. This is why when you put a big and small log side by side in a fire the fire will burn till the small log burns up and the big one will die down.

Easy Procedure to start a successful fire -


 Start with 2 logs side by side for fuel and reflected heat.


 Add tinder - in this case I used a couple of pieces of crumpled up newspaper. In the woods it might be pine needles, crushed dry leaves, planer shavings, etc.


 Add kindling - larger pieces of dry wood, corn stalks, twigs, pine cones, bark, dry broken stickers, etc. I put these over the tinder on the base logs so there is plenty of air flow underneath and the heat from the tinder will pass through them. This is critical to get them to light! I see people put their tinder on top of their kindling and wonder why the pile does not burn - they fail to allow for oxygen flow and the heat from the tinder that does burn goes up and over the kindling rather than heating and lighting it.


 Add more small fuel. In this case I added several small dry limbs over the kindling allowing the heat and air to flow through and provide more heat to actually ignite the base logs.


 Apply heat to the tinder. Can be spark from flint/steel, electrical, a burning ember from friction or use a lit match or lighter like I did here. The tinder has plenty of air flow here and the heat passing up through the kindling lights it and the reflected heat keeps the process going.


 Make sure there is plenty of air flow if in an enclosed space like a wood heater  or such. This was approximately 3 minutes after the tinder was lit. The kindling is burning fully and the smaller fuel on top is already starting to burn. The heat from them will ensure the base logs burn properly.

   If you are burning a brush pile start a small fire like this under the pile with the heat rising under the pile and it will set the brush on fire. Or you can start a small fire like this and once burning you can start adding brush piece by piece or a bigger pile with a loader or such.

  If your fire in your heater has burned down to glowing coals/embers put two base logs down on either side like above and add smaller fuel on top of them allowing for good air flow and the coals serve as the tinder and kindling and the heat will reignite the fire.
Howard Green
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Dad always said "You can shear a sheep a bunch of times but you can only skin him once"

Offline mike_belben

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Re: Fire Starting 101
« Reply #1 on: December 23, 2018, 11:38:36 PM »
I have to light the stove several times a day and cant hardly keep enough kindling on hand, the wife will burn it all up.   I keep a bucket of sawdust and a dawn bottle full of red diesel inside for it. Scoop of sawdust and a squirt of fuel will take right off and get full sized wood burning.  I lay it out like you also.  Works great and saves me a lot of time.
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Offline doc henderson

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Re: Fire Starting 101
« Reply #2 on: December 23, 2018, 11:53:38 PM »
In scouts we teach making a Tee Pee or log cabin style of kindling, sticks and logs.  I make fire starters out of planer shavings and wax from old candles.  I make little wicks to put in the firestarter, made inside of cupcake liners.  Smells and looks like Christmas.  You can light them with a lighter and get 10 minutes of 10 inch tall flame.  Even more fun is to make a dime sized pile of potasium permanganate,  (coi fish filter cleaner) and drip on some liquid glycerin (infant suppository at any pharmacy) and you have spontaneous combustion.  check you-tube.

 

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Re: Fire Starting 101
« Reply #3 on: December 24, 2018, 07:04:01 AM »
I was thinking of making a thread like this yesterday. Mainly out of curiosity for everyone's method.

I start out with three broadsheet newspapers, ripped in half, then loosely balled making six balls to lay in the bottom of the stove. Newspaper's been getting more scarce, so I mainly use 24"x36" blueprints from work, each ripped in half. They don't work as well as newspaper, but they work, and they're free.


Then I add the paper trash I need to get rid of. Paperboard, bits of cardboard, old snus cans... Next comes the wood. A mixture of tiny twigs up to 1" branch pieces. These take up most of the firebox. If there's room left, I add small pieces of quick burning firewood. Then light. After it burns down a bit, I add big pieces of firewood, and the process is done.


I use a lot of little wood to start it cause I've got a lot of little wood to get rid of. On cool spring/fall mornings, I sometimes just make a stick fire. Cram a bunch of little stuff in the stove to take the chill off. Do three or four loads of that, and I'm good til the sun's up.

Offline SawyerTed

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Re: Fire Starting 101
« Reply #4 on: December 24, 2018, 08:26:29 AM »
I try to find an old pine stump to get "fat wood". It will have the heart where the pitch concentrated.  I split It into pencil size pieces.  When lit with a match it burns like it was soaked in diesel.  Otherwise my fire building is similar to Howard's method.  My biggest problem is collecting enough small "poles" to keep larger pieces going.
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Re: Fire Starting 101
« Reply #5 on: December 24, 2018, 08:35:14 AM »
    I was thinking about but did not mention short cuts people use substituting other things like fossil fuels as kindling and tinder. My grandfather had a glass jug  full of gas or kerosene with a corn cob for a stopper. He'd open the front of his old wood heater and slosh a big jigger on the hot coals. Sometimes a big tail of flame would follow him and I don't know how he kept from burning the house down. We bought fire starters and took with us to Africa on a camping trip one time. Little cubes you'd break off like Docs. Made of sawdust and paraffin wax. They worked great when kindling might be damp or such.

  The critical components is the air flow and making sure the heat can rise between the kindling and small fuel to start it and reflected heat to keep it going. The teepee or using two base logs with plenty of air flow underneath allowing the heat to pass through while providing reflected heat does the trick. One of the main problems burning brush piles is people pile the debris too loosely and there is not enough reflected heat to keep the fire going.

   When I find one I try to set aside any old splintered top or limb that broke. The splintered areas allow plenty of air flow and reflected heat and start very quickly.
Howard Green
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Dad always said "You can shear a sheep a bunch of times but you can only skin him once"

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Re: Fire Starting 101
« Reply #6 on: December 24, 2018, 08:44:59 AM »
 

 
I used one stick of this "Fat Lighter" 1 hours ago.  :)



And I now have this.  fire_smiley


 
On a side note, we just got a "two pack" of Scripto Lighters.  One has the standard flame shown below and the other has a torchflame shown above.  It is a kick in the butt for starting a fire.  smiley_idea
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Re: Fire Starting 101
« Reply #7 on: December 24, 2018, 08:59:03 AM »
    Yeah but let's face it - in Mississippi that single fat lightard splinter is probably all the heat you are going to need anyway. :D :D :D

    A good trick for brushpiles is using the leaf blower once you get a small fire going under it. The extra air flow will really speed up the process.

    A trick I saw the swedes and such use is take dry pine firewood log and cut a big X in the end with a chainsaw or split it then put the 4 pieces back together. Stick one end in the snow so the logs stands upright. Put some fine tinder and kindling in between the split pieces at the top and light them. The reflected heat will set all 4 pieces of split wood on fire. They set a coffee pot or kettle on top to heat and the fire will burn down evenly until you reach the bottom of the X or the melting snow puts it out if split all the way. This is the same principle as the birch candles you see at WalMart and crafts stores.
Howard Green
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Dad always said "You can shear a sheep a bunch of times but you can only skin him once"

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Re: Fire Starting 101
« Reply #8 on: December 24, 2018, 09:03:22 AM »
Yeah but let's face it - in Mississippi that single fat lightard splinter is probably all the heat you are going to need anyway.
Easy for you to say.  It was a bone chilling, knee knocking, teeth chattering 38 here this morning.  Now folks, dat is serious cold.  :o
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Offline doc henderson

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Re: Fire Starting 101
« Reply #9 on: December 24, 2018, 09:36:09 AM »
MM, I see in your profile picture you are wearing a jacket.  The grass looks green so probably about July 4th! smiley_flipping  We have taken logs that are dead and the pith is gone (has a hole up the middle)  and bore a side hole near the bottom.  Makes kind of a rocket stove, but the wood must be dry.  With my firestarters, I put one on the floor of the stove and light the wick, I can put whole split logs on it and the fire is blazing in about 10 minutes.  The key is well seasoned wood that is ready to burn.  After the Holidays, I will try to make a vidio.  The other thing is to know your stove.  I put the starter just inside where the air comes into the firebox, and its like a fan on the flame.  Blessings to all!!!

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Re: Fire Starting 101
« Reply #10 on: December 24, 2018, 09:49:57 AM »
I was thinking of making a thread like this yesterday. Mainly out of curiosity for everyone's method.
I start out with three broadsheet newspapers, ripped in half, then loosely balled making six balls to lay in the bottom of the stove. Newspaper's been getting more scarce, so I mainly use 24"x36" blueprints from work, each ripped in half. They don't work as well as newspaper, but they work, and they're free.
Then I add the paper trash I need to get rid of. Paperboard, bits of cardboard, old snus cans... Next comes the wood. A mixture of tiny twigs up to 1" branch pieces. These take up most of the firebox. If there's room left, I add small pieces of quick burning firewood. Then light. After it burns down a bit, I add big pieces of firewood, and the process is done.
I use a lot of little wood to start it cause I've got a lot of little wood to get rid of. On cool spring/fall mornings, I sometimes just make a stick fire. Cram a bunch of little stuff in the stove to take the chill off. Do three or four loads of that, and I'm good til the sun's up.
   I don't know what an SNUS can is.

   As I read your procedure you just put the paper balls down then pile kindling on top of that. If so you are losing a lot of the heat from the tinder and kindling. If you put your base logs down and your kindling across them you start heating your base logs at the same time you ignite the kindling. I only use about 1/4 to 1/3 the paper you describe and make sure it can flame up well and take advantage of the heat flowing between the pieces of kindling to heat and light them. Try putting the base logs down first next time and use them to keep the kindling elevated but be sure the kindling is not so tight the flames and heat can't rise through it. That is critical.

  Colored paper and magazines, like your print outs,  don't burn nearly as well as plain old B&W newsprint.

   My wife is bad about putting uncrumpled paper on top of a pile of wood and generating enough smoke to cure half a hog but not lighting anything.
Howard Green
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Dad always said "You can shear a sheep a bunch of times but you can only skin him once"

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Re: Fire Starting 101
« Reply #11 on: December 24, 2018, 10:04:41 AM »
I use the top down method.  

I normally put three pieces of wood in the firebox, then a few smaller pieces, maybe between 1x1 and 2x2.  Then I put a handful of small split up sticks on top of this and I light it for a few seconds with a propane torch.

If you have good kindling, you can light it with one match.

Dryer lint is a great Firestarter fuel. 
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Re: Fire Starting 101
« Reply #12 on: December 24, 2018, 10:52:18 AM »
 I don't know what an SNUS can is.

  

"Snus" is just Scandinavian for "snuff". They popularized that way of using tobacco, and it's reflected in the names of the old players; Copenhagen(capital of Denmark), and Skoal(an anglicized version of skl!(cheers!)). Both were developed by a German. In the midwest with a heavy Germanic presence, some brands were labeled as "snus" rather than "snuff". In more recent years, "snus" has come to refer to the Scandinavian method of processing tobacco. It's air cured and pasteurized, rather than the older method of using fire cured, fermented tobacco. I prefer the Swedish brands. They're more refined than American, though I do enjoy the infrequent can of Copenhagen.


Now that the thread derailment is complete  :^D ...


I've used my method largely due to personal history. I have a 1ac lot that's full of trees, so I get lots of little stuff that falls off of them. I also haven't been a "wood burner" per se. I'd scavenge wood from work, and generally get .25-.5 cord a year I'd save for especially cold and/or snowy days for ambiance burning. I also have a personal policy of things that grow in my yard, stay in my yard, one way or the other. That meant that small stuff was in overabundance, and big wood was precious. By starting with a big stick pile, I can get rid of a bunch of sticks, get a bit of heat, and leave a nice coal bed for the bigger wood. Ashes get spread on the lawn. Efficiency hasn't been a primary concern. I have all the time it takes to tend the fire since the reason it's lit is because I want to be next to a fire, not my primary heat source.


That said, with my fallen oak, I've accumulated 6-7 cord that's already split/stacked, another 1+ cord that still needs to be processed, and miscellaneous "big" wood I've cut on my property since I've decided I'm now a woodcutter  :^D  My heat is mainly from my wood stove this year. I keep the thermostat set to 50 as a fallback, and burn wood when I'm home. When the thermostat hits 53-54, and I'm planning on being home awhile, I light a fire.

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Re: Fire Starting 101
« Reply #13 on: December 24, 2018, 12:17:33 PM »
   Now I can say my education is complete and I can impress all I meet by knowing what SNUS is.  :D :D Actually I never knew or thought about snuff coming from Scandinavia although Copenhagen is a well known snuff around here.

   When I was a kid it was the old women who dipped snuff - not the men like today. Both my grandmother's dipped snuff and us grandkids would fight over who got the little metal tins. One grandpa smoked PA and the little flat tins were highly valued to keep knick knacks in. Old retired neighbor smoked Bull Durham and we loved to get the little cloth bags with the drawstring on them to keep marbles and .22 shells and such. 
Howard Green
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Dad always said "You can shear a sheep a bunch of times but you can only skin him once"

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Re: Fire Starting 101
« Reply #14 on: December 24, 2018, 12:36:51 PM »
After years of scouts and camping I have no issues of starting fires the "traditional" way. At home I cheat. Small propane torch for the fireplace and a rosebud torch for the boiler. The boiler was lit when I installed it and hasn't gone out since.

 

 

 
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Re: Fire Starting 101
« Reply #15 on: December 24, 2018, 01:29:20 PM »
When I was a Scoutmaster, it was only done by the original ways described, but no diesel or other shortcuts.
Now, for my evaporator I lay 2 logs (all wood is split to wrist size) one on each side from front to back and then a row across the top, then another row full front to back until the firebox is 2/3 to 3/4 full. Then I get out my 500,000 BTU weed burner torch, light it and hold the flame up over the wood to warm the stack. After maybe 10-15 seconds I hold the flame so it shoots under the opening just under that first cross layer of wood. 2-3 minutes at about 1/2 full force and the fire is lit. I then turn the torch off, close the doors and turn on the high pressure blower which blows both air under the fire and over the fire. Within 3-5 minutes the pans are at a boil.
For fires in my living room wood stove/fireplace I also split all wood wrist size to about twice wrist size in one dimension. I lay one each side, then I put about 1 cup full of wood pellets between them, directly in line with the fresh air inlet. I then put 2 or 3 across the top of the first 2. Then I use a propane torch (the size used to solder plumbing) to first warm the stack, then I aim the torch onto the wood pellets. In about 1 minutes it is going good enough to shut off the torch and close the door. We use about 1 bag (40#) of pellets a season. If I make my wood any bigger the house gets too hot. We only put 1 or 2 pieces on at a time as the first ones are burned down. This home is so well insulated that unless it is below zero we can't make the ire any bigger or we have to open the atrium door.
Before we started to use wood pellets we got little firestarters like brickettes , but I cut 1 in half and used that. It's been likely 15 years since we lit a fire on the home stove using paper and kindling. The wood pellets run us about $5-6.00 a year and the firestarters were likely 3-4x that. One propane tank lasts over a year.
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Offline Don P

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Re: Fire Starting 101
« Reply #16 on: December 24, 2018, 05:42:16 PM »
I think the weedburner has been one of the best purchases I've ever made for lighting brush piles, the smell of burning fur has gone way down.

We have taken logs that are dead and the pith is gone (has a hole up the middle)  and bore a side hole near the bottom.  Makes kind of a rocket stove, but the wood must be dry.  
I like doing that too, the intake notch is around back at ground level





Aside, When the Yankees were here during the war they developed a taste for the bright leaf and afterwards sent requests for tobacco to be shipped back up north. That little pouch of Bull Durham was the first individual consumer packaging. Up until then everything was shipped and sold in bulk.
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Re: Fire Starting 101
« Reply #17 on: January 02, 2019, 11:17:36 AM »
   I guess this should be re-labeled as Firestarting 102. If you have a bed of glowing coals/embers in the morning in your heater, fireplace or campfire it is very easy to restart. Simply rake the coals together in a straight line, put a log on each side to get the reflected heat then put some smaller pieces on top and the heat will reflect and start the fire right back up. This is also the simple method for an open fire like a campfire. In a heater or fireplace you can also push the coals against one side so the heater reflects on one side then put a log on one side and on top. Be sure to leave plenty of air space.


 Rake the hot coals/embers into a tight row


 Put a couple of pieces of firewood on either side to reflect the heat. Put another piece of firewood or small pieces of wood on top and they will catch fire pretty quickly and keep the fire going. For a campfire this would also work with a Teepee or hog pen/log cabin stack over the coals.


  In a heater or fireplace you can use the side to reflect the heat - push the coals to one side with a piece of firewood. Put another piece of firewood on top.
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Dad always said "You can shear a sheep a bunch of times but you can only skin him once"

Offline alan gage

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Re: Fire Starting 101
« Reply #18 on: January 02, 2019, 03:49:47 PM »
Instead of crumpling newspaper I roll each sheet up and tie it in a loose overhand knot. Keeps it in a more compact/slower burning shape. Only need one sheet to start a fire.

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Re: Fire Starting 101
« Reply #19 on: January 02, 2019, 04:12:24 PM »
Alan,

   You must have really good kindling for that and if its working for you then you are obviously doing something right. I only use about the equivalent of one sheet of newspaper but I like mine loose and crumpled so it generates a a big flame shooting up between and heating the kindling. I need those fast tall flames. By the time the paper burns out it has already lit the kindling and has started heating the larger firewood closer to ignition point. Rough small edges on your kindling is your friend. Things like old open pine cones come to mind as near perfect. 
Howard Green
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Dad always said "You can shear a sheep a bunch of times but you can only skin him once"

Offline alan gage

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Re: Fire Starting 101
« Reply #20 on: January 02, 2019, 05:28:21 PM »
You must have really good kindling for that and if its working for you then you are obviously doing something right.
 

It's either cutoffs from the shop, skinny sawmill edgings, or I try to rip off loose straps from the splits. That's easy to do now since they're all axe split. Next year's wood was split on the splitter so much cleaner. When I was building canoes the cedar strip cutoffs worked great!

The only newspaper I get is a small weekly shopper, about 3 pages, so I need to be stingy with it.

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Re: Fire Starting 101
« Reply #21 on: January 02, 2019, 06:07:49 PM »
   Yeah my paper is a weekly trader printed on single sheets about the size of one old newspaper page - not the double/folded size. I usually use about 2 of those size pages and they generate enough flame to start my fires. Planer shaving work well when I have them and they leave more residual small glowing coals to help heat and ignite the kindling.
Howard Green
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Dad always said "You can shear a sheep a bunch of times but you can only skin him once"

Offline Dave Shepard

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Re: Fire Starting 101
« Reply #22 on: January 02, 2019, 07:21:54 PM »
I use a Bernzomatic if I have kindling, the 500k btu if I dont. The 500k will heat the boiler by itself if the wood doesnt want to burn right away. :D

Some of the best kindling I've ever had was the thin shavings from fake hewing white oak timbers. A four inch layer in the bottom of the Ashley, then whatever firewood I had to fill the stove. Toss a match in and walk away. 
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Re: Fire Starting 101
« Reply #23 on: January 03, 2019, 10:31:11 AM »
I had a buddy fishing in Alaska a few years back.  They got caught in a squall and got wet.  Their guide pulled up on a beach and was going to start a fire for them.  It was about 35 degrees in a driving rain with the wind blowing about 30 mph.  He asked the guide how he was going to start a fire in those conditions.  The guide responded "Ancient Eskimo Secret".  He got the gas can off the outboard and had it rolling in just a second.  Use what is available.

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Re: Fire Starting 101
« Reply #24 on: January 03, 2019, 01:16:10 PM »
Wud,

   I think most of us have taken some short cuts like that and they are good to know for emergencies and such. There really is a time and place for such and they are good to know.

   This thread was intended to address normal routine fire starting. We could have another thread on "creative firestarting" and hear a bunch of tales about lost eyebrows and singed hair on arms and such. When you start adding some tales from military veterans it gets even more interesting, sometimes funny - sometimes not so much. I could tell you about the night I nearly burned down half the training area at Parris Island but I digress.
Howard Green
WM LT35HDG25(2015) , 2009 4wd Dodge PU, Kawasaki 650 ATV, Sthil 440 & 441, homemade logging arch (w/custom built rear log dolly), JD 750 w/4' wide Bushhog brand FEL

Dad always said "You can shear a sheep a bunch of times but you can only skin him once"

Offline mike_belben

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Re: Fire Starting 101
« Reply #25 on: January 03, 2019, 11:42:34 PM »
Boy i wish you had.  Oohrah. 
Revelation 3:20

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Re: Fire Starting 101
« Reply #26 on: January 04, 2019, 12:39:32 AM »
To some of us, a 500,000 btu is routine fire starting. ;D
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Re: Fire Starting 101
« Reply #27 on: January 08, 2019, 06:55:24 PM »
We use a plumbing torch outfitted with mapp gas to start our wood stove.  Kindling is usually kd scrap cutoffs from my shop although I caught my wife eyeing my sticker pile this fall and had to shut that down real quick!  :o

Over Thanksgiving, I was awakened about 5am one morning to the sound of that torch hissing away.  I hopped out of bed and caught my father-in-law trying to light an 8 dia log with that torch and no kidling or anything!!! They do live in Hawaii but apparently he had been at it for about 15 minutes when I woke up and was visibly frustrated and embarrased about how hard firestarting is!  :D :D

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