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Puy de Dome 10-15-2008 09:16 AM

Are my logs too big?
I have tried to fire my oven today, but with poor results.

I have started with kindling, and built up to logs perhaps two inches in diameter and then logs.

The trouble is that the fire goes out, then the smoke really starts in earnest until I can get a flame going again.

Are my logs perhaps too big? Please see this photo:

When building a fire, I try to get at least a few bits off the oven floor to try to ventilate, and I sometimes blow air in by mouth to generate some oxygen. But sometimes I end up blowing out what flames I do have!

Thoughts on my log size?

Many thanks

P de D

egalecki 10-15-2008 09:32 AM

Re: Are my logs too big?
Well, they're bigger than mine. My husband cut my logs about 12 to 14 inches long, and split them so the biggest of them is probably not more than 4inches across in the largest dimension. They're easier for me to handle that way. And they're really dry.

Do you have a door yet? I find that my fires do much better when I have the door in- raised off the floor about an inch and tilted back so the top of the door is just past the vent. This allows air in the bottom and hot gas (and most of the smoke) out the chimney. They catch better and burn better this way, although it's not as satisfying for the pyromaniac in me...

If your oven is still drying out, and it takes quite a while even after the curing fires are done, it will be harder to make the fire catch. Or it has been for me.

And take a look at Jame's top-down fire video- that's how I build my wood pile for fires and it works pretty well. The only difference is I usually use a couple of newspaper twists to start with, on top of newspaper strips (fold it in half and tear off 1 inch or so strips) in addition to the kindling and loose bark I use on top. I sometimes use a firestarter, but usually the newspaper does the trick.

I do envy his match, though!

james 10-15-2008 11:17 AM

Re: Are my logs too big?
Hey P de D,

Take a look at our [brand new] Top-Down Fire video. You can see the size of wood that easily catches fire and fully combusts there. Your comment on putting your head in the oven and blowing on the fire is so familiar to me. It was the smoke smell in my hair and clothes that motivated me to be more serious about my fire building technique. :-)

The general idea is that you can go up in wood size (kindling, to 1", to 2" to 3", etc.) as your oven gets hotter -- but you need to make sure your oven is hot enough to almost immediately combust your wood. Not smoke or smolder. That is one easy way to know your wood isn't too big.

I bought an axe and I split my wood on a big granite stone. One big piece into 2-3 smaller piece is pretty easy.

CanuckJim 10-15-2008 11:28 AM

Re: Are my logs too big?
P de D,

Two thoughts, one of which echoes what already has been said. Your logs are far too large to use to START a fire. Once it gets going really well--lots of flame--with smaller sticks, then you can use larger pieces. Second, looking at the cut ends of the wood in your pic, I see hardly any discolouration and very little checking (radial cracks) that always appear as the wood dries. These suggest to me that your wood has not been seasoned long enough, hence the difficulty in keeping the fire going.

Split up a bunch of your wood, set it aside to season well. In the meantime, search for wood that's really, really dry. It will make all the difference.


Puy de Dome 10-15-2008 12:00 PM

Re: Are my logs too big?
James, thank you, brillaint video, very encouraging. Nice one.

Jim, I take that on board about the logs - I bought the logs 'seasoned', but in retrospect...

Both, I'm certainly going to split down my logs now. I notice how many of them, the large ones, appear to be quarters from a tree. Maybe that's how the machine (log splitter) works?

To get anything smaller you need to chop by hand. Who knows, and anyway, that's my only option now! But they're not an easy chop, and I have a sharp hatchet (incidentally made in the US from hickory, so if all else fails!)

P de Dome

Puy de Dome 10-15-2008 12:04 PM

Re: Are my logs too big?
btw, James, you pointing out about sticking your head in the fire made me laugh - and made me realise how silly I must have looked! Yes, I now smell of fire even after a good shower!

Jim, if i leave these logs insitu, outside under cover, have you any time scale they might take to develop radial cracks?

Thank you

RTflorida 10-15-2008 12:24 PM

Re: Are my logs too big?
I may be mistaken, but isn't the general rule of thumb - 12 months (1 yr) of seasoning for every 4" of log diameter? That is of course, IF you have the logs stacked properly for air flow and covered (but not wrapped) to keep heavy rains and snow off of them.


Puy de Dome 10-15-2008 01:23 PM

Re: Are my logs too big?
I can't say that mine are stacked for airflow by any means. It's got to amount to a quarter to a half a litre (sorry for metric) cubed of timber. Loosely packed. Dry, but 'outside'.

james 10-15-2008 01:54 PM

Re: Are my logs too big?

Originally Posted by Puy de Dome (Post 42824)
....Yes, I now smell of fire even after a good shower!


Ken524 10-15-2008 02:50 PM

Re: Are my logs too big?
I sprang for a gas log splitter from the Big Orange Home Center. Building an oven and arbor pretty much did in my elbow and shoulder.

The splitter is amazingly easy. Be careful, I know someone who lost a finger with one. Still, I think it's safer than an axe and a lot easier on my wimpy, middle-aging frame.

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