Sunday, March 26, 2023

Something New in My Old Woodstove

 My woodstove (like my lawn tractor) is a "hard start." I've used this big, beautiful Jotul for decades, and after I stopped burning wood all night it always took some time (and multiple matches) to get it going in the morning. I started with crumpled newspaper topped with three pieces of fatwood (split by me with a cleaver in the kitchen), and kindling wood on top of that. Once it caught fire (whenever that might be) I added larger pieces of wood, and eventually larger still. 

I forget what I was looking for at the time, but one day last year I went down an internet rabbit hole of wood burning advice and found myself reading a blog by a guy who advocated the opposite approach: He starts his woodstove fires from the top down. With his stove loaded with wood, starting with the largest logs on the bottom and ending with kindling on top, he added "Nantucket Knots" of newspaper. He said the knots—made by rolling a sheet of newspaper corner to corner and then tying a loose knot in the middle—stay in place better than crumpled paper. He lit the knots and soon all the wood ignited and he had a roaring fire in the stove. Much too roaring for me.

I was intrigued with the knots, which I'd never heard of, and tried my hand at making some. I could have called them New York Nots. They were not neat, not effective, and not worth trying again. 

But something about the blogger's "top down" method had me thinking, and as I mulled it over a very much simplified version came to me. I tried it out, and ended up using it for the whole rest of the season. It provided quicker heat. It turned a somewhat dreaded chore into one I actually looked forward to. And most of the time it required only one match!

First, I lay down two medium-size split lots, leaving about 2" of space between them. Then I fold a full double sheet of newspaper, make a roll about 11" long, and put it in that space, starting at the back (farthest from me). If I have a cardboard cylinder from a roll of toilet paper I put it over the newspaper like a napkin ring. About 4 or 5" of space is left to fill at the front. I do this by rolling up a single sheet of newspaper into another 11" roll and then folding it in half. I stuff this in between the logs at the front.

On top of the paper I place two or three split pieces of fatwood, and on top of that a handful of what I call "twigs"-- small debris from dead tree branches, easily obtained in my yard, especially after a strong wind. Next comes one or two pieces of kindling my son splits for me, and finally a couple of smallish logs--round ones in these pictures. The twigs are good at making things stay put.

Then comes the fun part: lighting the paper. Despite the fact that my Jotul doesn't have the best airflow, everything catches fire quickly, including the larger logs at the bottom. It isn't long before the fire looks like this, and cats Rocky and Scruffy have moved into their favorite spots by the warm stove.

Perhaps you can keep this method in mind for next year!


Julia said...

Hi Sweet Rocket. It's good to see a post from you. It looks like you're a pro at lighting the stove.
Good airflow, dry softwood kindling, and dry hardwood with a little newspaper and match is the right recipe, and a clean chimney of course. Only burn seasoned dry wood.

Wet wood can cause a lot of problems down the road and is to be avoided. My husband used to disregard this rule and it has caused creosote to build up in the chimney and a chimney fire which cause a damaged chimney and a lot of money for a new liner. Now he cleans the chimney regularly.

Stay warm. It's still pretty cold here and we still are having snow storms, one after another.
Hugs, Julia

Susan said...

Hi, Julia - Good advice on the wood. Still chilly at night here, and to my surprise a significant snow squall is in the forecast for late this afternoon into evening. They even mentioned the possibility of downed trees. I'm glad I don't have to go anywhere!

You stay warm too. I've eased back into hooking by working on a mug rug. :-)

Hugs back,