I discovered something about myself this week. I found out that I don’t cope very well when I find out I’m not good at something. You’d think, after 31 and a third years of life, this would be something I’d know but it has literally only just dawned on me.

Okay, so it’s not even lunchtime but…

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It started because of the log burner in our new living room.

It seems, dear readers, that lighting a fire is a lot harder than it looks. You’d think, given all these house fires and spontaneous combustions we hear about all the time (alright, I mean, not ALL the time…) that making something go on fire would be pretty easy, but it’s not. And do you know who I blame? Husband, that’s who I blame. He made it look soooooo easy. One flick of a lighter and WHOOSH, we’re all basking on the orange glow of his manliness, toasty warm and cosy as you like. (Take a look at fireprotectiononline.co.uk for everything you need to keep your fire safe)

However, when it came round to my turn to get the fire going…pffft. I am, as Jen from the IT Crowd would say, a damp squid. Sure, I’d get an initial burn but nothing past that, it would fizzle out to nothing and I’d be left with a log burner full of half-charred newspaper and not much else. This would not do. The fact that I was failing HAUNTED me. I am not the sort of person to accept that I can’t do something, so I made it my mission to get that baby burning.

I consider myself a fairly independent type of person; I don’t really like asking for help with things that I should be able to do myself and I take personal failure pretty hard. There is NO bigger critic of me than myself. Having said that, it’s not all bad – being tough on myself in this way often drives me to MAKE myself more capable, just so that I don’t have to turn to someone else for help.

Now, I’m not saying that I’m any kind of expert, but using the knowledge that I managed to leech off of Husband about his elite-level wood-burning skills, I have managed to become pretty proficient at making a decent fire. The most important thing, perhaps quite obviously, is heat. If you try to stick a massive log on the fire before it’s hot enough, you’re going to murder it. I use the following method:

  1. Clean your grate and ensure you have about 1cm of ash left in there from the previous fire for insulation.
  2. Place around 5-6 pieces of balled-up newspaper (making sure it’s super dry) at the bottom – this is your tinder and it what takes the initial flame. (Egg boxes, loo rolls and dryer lint are also EXCELLENT for use as tinder)
  3. Take 3 or 4 pieces of wood, small pieces which feel light and papery, as these will be very dry and will burn easily, and stack them like a teepee around your tinder – this is your kindling and are what you use to build heat before you add your main fuel.
  4. Light the paper at the bottom and push the door of your burner so that it’s ‘to’ but not clamped shut.
  5. As the tinder lights and burns the kindling and the flames build, add more pieces of kindling.
  6. Once you start to feel heat coming from the burning kindling (probably after adding about 6 pieces), add your fuel. Choose a log which feels super dry – lighter logs will catch better as there’s air between the laters of wood, whilst heavier denser pieces will burn for longer but may take longer to catch.
  7. Keep an eye on your flames and open the oxygen vent if they look like they’re dying down too much. Once your log has really caught light, close your door as this will make your fuel burn slower and give you a more sustained heat.
  8. Add fuel for as long as you want to keep a fire going – bear in mind that a piece around 7-inches thick will probably burn for over an hour, so if you’re planning to go to bed any time soon, don’t add too much more wood as you’ll be left waiting for the embers to die out before you can sleep!

And there you have it. The art of building a fire. I’m sure I’ve got something wrong somewhere along the line, and I still keep wondering if it was a total fluke every time I see the logs actually catching fire, but it’s worked a few times now so I must be doing something right!

Do you have a fire in your house? Do you ever struggle to light it? Come on, tell me it’s not just me!