How to Build a Fire in a Woodstove

You can learn how to build a fire in different types of woodstoves quickly and easily.

| December 1991/January 1992

The little cabin that serves me as library, study and workshop was plenty cold this morning, as it is every morning this time of year. But within seconds of walking through the door, I had a fire roaring in the ancient Monkey Ward's potbelly over in the corner. Another 15 minutes, and I was shedding shirts and closing dampers.

It's a wintertime woodstove routine I've come to cherish: In the late afternoon, I allow the fire to die out. Then, just before leaving in the evening — after checking to see that no live coals are hibernating down in the ash pan — I crumple up a couple of sheets of newspaper and toss them into the back mouth of the stove. Over the wad of paper I arrange a tepee of six or eight finger-thick kindling sticks. I top the fuel pile off with a tepee of three medium-size splits of pine or aspen, then close the doors and dampers (insurance against a spontaneous nocturnal flame-up), refill the stove-top caffeine kettle with a fresh load of well water, then close up shop and hump the hill to home and hearth.

Next morning, as soon as I walk into the board-and-batten icebox, I open the stovepipe damper and the draft control in the bottom stove door, strike a match, touch it to the waiting burnables and am instantly on my way to comfort and coffee.

Of course, my pyro technique wasn't always so surefire. Matter of fact, when I first began playing around with woodstove heat, I often ran through half a box of kitchen matches and a pint of charcoal lighter fluid — and got naught for my efforts but brief, explosive flames and choking clouds of smoke.

But we all have to start someplace. And since those unsuccessful early fires were more recreational than functional, it was no catastrophe when they (and I) failed. These days, though, wood heat is the only heat up here on this cold old mountain. Either I get my fires started — and keep them going — or I freeze.

Across the years, I've committed most every flame-making mistake imaginable, but I learned from my failures (albeit slowly and sometimes painfully) and eventually triumphed in my quest for dependable fire.

9/26/2014 11:34:02 AM

Hello, we have just recently rebricked our wood stove with firebricks, for the first fire, should we make just a small fire and monitor it closely? Seems like a silly question, but you never know..thank you

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