I love burning timber in our stove; timber is clean to handle, there is very little ash left afterwards, it is good for the environment and the ash can be spread on the garden afterwards, unlike coal ash. However, one of the difficulties with using wood in our small stove is that it burns quickly and as a result a lot of tending is required to avoid it going out. We usually have to add logs every 30 or 40mins. So I decided to try the unusual and counter intuitive upside down method of fire starting. This is designed to allow the fire to burn for a longer time using the same amount of timber while producing less black smoke. It started life with campers who wanted a fire that would last for 8 to 9 hours, through the night, without them having to wake up to add more timber. This is possible using this method in a large fire, so while it wouldn’t last 8 hours in our small stove; I wanted to try it to see how much more time I could get, without putting logs on the fire.
The method is simple:
- When setting the fire, put a layer of large logs across the bottom.
- Then put logs above, but in the opposite direction
- Then a layer of smaller logs above this.
- Then layer of sticks in the opposite direction.
- Then two layers of dry kindling, each in opposite directions.
- Then a layer of ripped paper with fire lighters on top.
My stove isn’t big enough for all these layers, I only had one layer of logs on the bottom row. The principle seems to be that because the fire is burning from the top, it burns for longer. Like a candle it only burns the timber at the top at any time. A normal fire is started from the bottom and shortly afterwards lighting, all the timber is alight at the same time. With the upside down method much less ash is produced as the embers from the top fall though the successive layers and are thoroughly burnt. In a regular fire the first embers produced are at the bottom of the fire and simply fall through the grate once they are small enough, whether they are completely burnt or not.
I did all this, lit the fire lighters, (at the top), and noted the time. It burned slowly for a while and then took off….slowly; I had to open the stove door for a few minutes to get the fire to take properly. It gradually burned through the layers of wood and it took an hour to reach the lower layer. The heat given off was good and I probably used less wood overall. More wood is used at the start than usual but none is added, compared with a regular fire where less wood is used at the start and more is added during. It was two hours and twenty minutes before I had to put the first log on the fire and as I said earlier it would last a lot longer in a larger fire or bigger stove. It’s definitely worth doing, especially if you are busy in the house and don’t want to be checking the fire that often. However it is of more use with an open fire, where there is little control. A stove is controllable and the fire burn rate can be slowed to a certain extent by restricting the air inflow through the adjustable valve.