Page 1 2
We’re talking literally here, not about what the late Jim Morrison had in mind (randy old goat) – on the subject of the dead though, I have actually attended a funeral service at a Crematorium where the dearly departed had requested that very song be played as the coffin trundled through the curtains, but I digress…
So you’ve got your brand new wood burner (or perhaps inherited one as a result of a house move) and it’s starting to dawn on you that there’s more to this than pressing an ON switch. Well don’t worry, it’s fairly straightforward if you follow a few simple tips.
One important thing to bear in mind if your stove is brand new is that you need to allow the paintwork/enamel to temper, so only light small fires the first few times. Also you need to maintain a bed of ash a couple of centimeters deep that acts as an insulating bed for fresh wood and these initial small fires will help build that up. It’s for this reason that you never fully clear the ash bed either when cleaning the stove.
The main thing you need to become comfortable with is that controlling a wood burning stove means adjusting to variable conditions.
There is no set in stone right or wrong way – it’s a bit like cooking, in that the ingredients may vary in type and quantity and you may be cooking for a different number of people. You need to learn to make adjustments.
In the case of a fire, the variables can include the type and condition of the fuel, the direction and strength of the wind, the efficiency of the flue, the nature of the room and how much heat you want for how long.
These in turn can affect how you adjust factors such as the firing intervals, air control settings and lighting techniques. So as you can see, it can take a bit of getting used to before you feel really familiar with your own particular setup.
I’m sure you already know this, but for completeness and for those who may be totally new to wood burning, you should never burn either “green” (newly cut) or wet wood. Also do not use driftwood scavenged from the seashore (it contains high levels of salt which will cause serious damage to both your stove and chimney) or wood that has been impregnated or treated in any way (so garden timber, railway sleepers, laminated wood and chipboard are all off limits).
Ideally you want plain old logs that have been split and left to dry naturally for at least one and preferably two years. Always split larger logs (diameter greater than about ten centimeters) in order to decrease the drying time. Nothing fancy is required for “seasoning” logs – just an area open to the air but sheltered from the rain. Wood with a high moisture content has a reduced calorific value (amount of potential energy/heat) and also results in more smoke.
Also, the efficiency of any wood burner is massively affected by the quality of the wood being used as fuel. Hard woods have roughly twice the calorific value of softwoods since they are obviously a denser material. Note though that hardwoods are not as easily combustible and you should therefore use softer “kindling” wood to get the fire going (as we’ll get to in a second).
Page 1 2