The Art of Making the Perfect Fire for Every Occasion
10:18 23 September 2020
Whether it is at your fireplace, a camp, or any other occasion, making the perfect fire often makes the difference between a successful event and a failed one. Even if it is just you sitting at home with your spouse, curling under a blanket and enjoying a movie, the fire needs to be perfect. What is the point of a fire that will die out every half an hour and force you out of the comfort of your blanket to reignite it? Making the perfect fire is an art in a way, and you need to know how to master it so you could keep yourself and your loved ones warm in those cold winter nights. It’s also just fun! Here’s what you need to know.
Before we get into the specifics of how to make the perfect fire for different occasions, you need to understand combustion and how it works. To any combustion process, there are three basics that you need to know, also known as the fire triangle: oxygen, fuel, and heat. If you want to set a roaring fire, you need to understand how to properly control all three. Your technique in controlling those elements that make up a fire is what separates your skills from an amateur who would just set any wood aflame and hope for the best. So, how exactly does the combustion process work?
The first thing that happens is the drying up of the fuel source –– wood in this case. In the pre-ignition stage, the heat source raises the temperature of the wood and dries away the moisture that is in it. The heat eliminates not just water, but also oils, resins, and any other compounds that could make the wood moist. These elements evaporate and give the flammable gases that you see rising from any fire that is still in the ignition stage. Up next, the combustion happens, where energy is released from the reaction between oxygen and the fuel gases, increasing the heat and generating enough of it to turn the fuel into the flames that roar on.
You need to learn how to manage the initial ignition process where the oxygen and fuel gases react with one another, because this is the phase that creates the fire and the heat that you need. The reaction zone then collapses to the wood so you could have the combustion. This is the phase where you have glowing flames and smoldering, which results in fuel gases that keep you warm, in addition to black carbon coats that represent incomplete combustion.
So, why do we use wood most of the time for making fires? The thing about wood is it’s not bulky. It doesn’t have a great surface area to volume ratio, which means it can heat faster than heavier fuel alternatives and the combustion gets going a lot easier.
Why You Need Dry Wood
We will talk more about wood later on in this article, but for now, you should know that it is important that you use dry wood for your fires. As we mentioned earlier, for the fire to burn on, you need enough heat to remove the moisture from the wood that is used as fuel. While moist wood would work, it would take longer to combust since the moisture will need to be removed first. This is why you should use dry wood so it could catch the initial flame faster and get the combustion process going.
How to Select the Right Type of Wood
Picking up from the last point, you need to acquire firewood to use as fuel for the fires you want to make, whether they are indoors or outdoors. In this section, we will explore some tips so you could source the best wood possible for your fires.
Make Storage Space
Before you even get the wood, you need to make sure there is enough storage space for it around your house –– preferably at a nearby shed, though it should not be too close to avoid having mice and insects sneaking into your place. Storing wood cannot be done haphazardly if you want to keep your logs in good shape. There needs to be space between the logs so they could dry and to minimize the risk of the wood rotting. So, in short, always make sure you have enough storage space to keep the logs stored with breathing room, especially if you plan on buying in bulk.
Choose the Wood Depending on the Fire
Making an indoor fire is not like making an outdoor one. If you’re inside, you need denser wood like maple or oak, and softer woods for the fireplace won’t burn as well or last as long. You could also try ash since it burns well, despite not being as dense as the other two. On a completely different note, fireplaces and campfires aside, if you are going to be cooking over a fire, you need to pay close attention to the kind of wood that you’ll be using. Each type of wood gives a different scent, and in turn flavor, to the meat you’re cooking.
When it comes to firewood, quality is everything. It might take you some time to shop around for quality service providers, but once you do find one, form a relationship with them because they’re going to be your source. As explained by the professionals from https://www.buyfirewooddirect.co.uk/, you should look for manufacturers who provide the highest quality kiln-dried hardwood so you could use it in your fireplaces or campfire. You should also remember to compare prices and find the most competitive ones that you can get because you’re going to be getting a lot of firewood, so it helps if the seller is affordable.
When it comes to burning firewood, you should only burn seasoned (dried) wood as we mentioned earlier. Green (recently harvested) wood can be pretty heavy because of its moisture content, and as explained earlier, it won’t burn properly and you won’t get the heat you want out of it. If you’ve purchased green wood, let it season for 9 months before you burn it.
Remember to also inquire about the seller’s complementary features before you strike the deal. A lot of sellers offer delivery services that are thorough and of high quality, which certainly beats receiving the logs as they are and having to split them yourself –– it’s exhausting, so it’s better if the seller sells split wood. Ask about delivery charges, and whether or not the delivery people will help you store the wood. You need to ask such questions so you could have the full picture before getting the wood.
How to Lay a Campfire
Setting up a campfire is a bit tricky and it needs to be done properly. Yes, not all campfires are the same. Some burn faster and hotter than others, and some require a lot of upkeep. Others burn for short periods and are slow, and you might not have to touch them until they die out. These are some common types of campfires and how to set them up.
The Teepee: this is the first and probably the most common campfire type that most people know. It is also an essential technique that you need to learn because it has many uses. The great thing about the teepee setup is that the fire burns for a short amount of time and it is steady. So, how can you build it? You start by putting the tinder bundle you’ve purchased or cut into the fire pit. After that, arrange the tinder bundle to form a cone. Make sure you don’t stack the bundle too tightly, and leave space for the air to flow through the wood to help with combustion. You can add a few more layers of kindling atop the bundle on the teepee. After that, all you need to do is light the kindle for your campfire. This approach is fast and simple, and it can help you get a fire going in no time.
The Log Cabin: this fire building method is named after log cabins because it gives you the warmth and convenience of being in an actual log cabin. The great thing about this approach is how you can set it up quickly and easily. More importantly, it can burn for hours without needing you to keep working on the fire to keep it going. This fire starts with creating a teepee as we explained in the previous point. After that, take the two biggest logs that you have and place them on both sides of the teepee, parallel to each other. After that, take another two big logs and place them perpendicular to the first two, covering the teepee.
As you have probably guessed it already, you need to keep stacking the logs perpendicularly like this –– each two in opposite directions. By the time you reach the smaller logs, put them closer together and cover the pile with a roof of those small logs. All that remains is reaching into the tinder carefully and lighting the fire. This one burns slowly and from the inside out, giving you enough warmth and durability for quite a few hours.
The Lean-to Fire: this fire is great if you are in a windy or rainy location and want to build a campfire. As implied by the name, the logs will be arranged in a way that would help protect the fire against the external conditions. You start by adding a long piece of wood into the pit at a 30-degree angle. The end of the kindling that is in the ground needs to point to the wind, and the upward end should face the direction in which the wind is blowing. Put your tinder bundle under that kindle stick and build a small teepee to enclose it. Then, take a small kindling and lean it on either side of the original stick, and build a tent shape around it while leaving one side exposed. You can increase the size of the bundle by adding a few more layers with bigger pieces of kindling, and after that, you can light your lean-to fire.
There are several other structures to building a campfire, but those ones are the most common. It is important that you practice making these a couple of times because it might not be perfect the first time around.
How to Start and Maintain the Fire
Regardless of the kind of fire you’re going to make, you need to get it going. You should always take it slowly and do it carefully. Light the tinder, and slowly blow or fan the flame. Be careful not to overdo it or else you could extinguish the fire. The flow of air needs to be steady and gentle to get the fire going. You should also have a poker or a twig in your hand to slowly push any loose timber back into the fire. First, you should keep adding kindling so you could build a decent flame. Then, once the flame is roaring, add some heavy fuel –– branches or logs to keep the fire burning for a while.
Maintaining the fire is a bit different than starting it. After you’ve chosen the structure of the fire you’re going to make, you need to make sure it keeps going so it wouldn’t blow off after a short while. To achieve that, you need to make sure there is a balance between keeping the wooden logs too close and too far apart. Either way won’t get the fire going for long, which is why you need to maintain a balance.
Making a fire is an art that requires knowledge, understanding, and practice. The more you try making fires, the better you will get at it. So, read up on how to select the best tinder for your fire, and understand how you can arrange the kindling and logs to make a fire. More importantly, take safety precautions to avoid any accidents happening.