How to lay the perfect fire in a woodburner – with Charnwood

We installed Charnwood’s C4 woodburner almost a year ago now and it is the single most brilliant thing we’ve done since moving to the country. While planning our escape, holed up in our tiny London flat, we were fuelled by the romantic dream of cliff-top walks, rosy cheeks and coming home to a roaring woodburning stove… Three years on and… ta dah!

2013-06-29 17.16.12I wrote about the stove when we first installed it, but after a year’s use I can honestly say it is the simplest, most efficient stove I’ve come across. We don’t live in a period, cosy cottage so wanted a burner that was modern and simple in design that would fit in with our 20th Century aesthetic. Charnwood do a range of wood burners, from the traditional to the contemporary, they’re based on the Isle of Wight and I really can’t fault the design, quality or efficiency of these British stoves.

We were so chuffed with the stove that I contacted Charnwood with the idea for this post, I wanted to get their top tips for novice woodburner owners – how to light the perfect fire, what logs to buy etc. Happily one of their team, Cedric Wells, got back to me and was more than happy to share some of their knowledge and gave me this great advice:

CF: When I’m buying wood what should I be looking for?

2013-11-09 13.59.58CW: It’s always important to use well seasoned wood (ideally cut, split and stored for a minimum of 1-2 years.) Stack your logs outside and undercover but ensure that air can circulate to allow the logs to season correctly. Bring in basketfuls as and when you need them.
Wood that is properly seasoned burns efficiently and cleanly and should have a moisture content of less than 20%. The bark will be cracking, the wood will be lighter and the log will sound hollow when knocked on another piece of wood.
In terms of the best woods to burn – hard woods such as oak are the best value for money as they are dense and will burn for longer. We at Charnwood rather like this old poem published in Punch during the 1926 coal strike:

Logs to burn; logs to burn;
Logs to save the coal a turn.

Here’s a word to make you wise
when you hear the woodman’s cries;
Never heed his usual tale
That he’s splendid logs for sale
But read these lines & really learn
The proper kind of logs to burn.

Oak logs will warm you well,
If they’re old and dry.
Larch logs of pinewoods smell
But the sparks will fly.
Beech logs for Christmas time;
Yew logs heat well;
‘Scotch’ logs it is a crime
For anyone to sell.
Birch logs will burn too fast;
Chestnut scarce at all;
Hawthorn logs are good to last
If cut in the fall.
Holly logs will burn like wax,
You should burn them green;
Elm logs like smouldering flax,
No flame to be seen.
Pear logs and apple logs,
They will scent your room;
Cherry logs across the dogs
Smell like flowers in bloom,
But ash logs all smooth and grey
Burn them green or old,
Buy up all that come your way
They’re worth their weight in gold.

Honor Goodhart, 1926 is a very useful site for wood burning and also gives details of local wood suppliers.

CF: What are the essential bits of kit that I need to get going?

CW: Newspaper, dry kindling, firelighters and matches are all essential basics to get the fire going. A flue pipe thermometer is also a very useful and simple device that attaches to the flue pipe of your stove. By telling whether you are over-firing or under-firing your stove you can adjust the burning rate accordingly. If you over fire your stove you can damage the glass, bricks and internal parts over time. By under firing your stove you can cause damage to the chimney and stove body through excess condensation.

2013-11-09 14.01.41
A moisture meter is also helpful to ensure you burn properly seasoned wood on your stove. By inserting the prongs into the grain of the wood it gives a moisture content reading of the log. By burning properly seasoned wood you can achieve optimum clean burning efficiency and prevent the problems associated with burning wet wood.

In terms of tools we’d recommend a poker and tongs and a decent fire proof dustpan and brush.

CF: Talk me through a step by step fire lighting method

2013-05-17 19.32.36CW: Light the stove using dry kindling wood and newspaper or fire lighters. Put the paper, or fire lighters, and kindling in the firebox and cover with a few small dry logs. Open the air controls fully and then light the paper or fire lighters. The door may be left cracked open for a few minutes to assist the combustion and heat up the firebox more quickly. When the kindling wood is well alight add a few more small logs, close the door but leave the air control fully open. When the flames are established around these logs, load the stove with more fuel. Maintain the air control at maximum at this stage. Once the fire is up to temperature the airwash system will begin to work, so allow the fire to become hot before adjusting the air control – push the control half way in once the fire is hot and you will find it burns your logs slower but very efficiently. You can then add logs as and when necessary (every 45 mins -1.5 hours).

2013-05-21 20.44.43CF: Finally, Any clever uses for the ashes?
CW: Wood ash is rich in potash so perfect for the garden and especially for roses!

There you have it! I hope you’ve found this post useful. Thank you Cedric, your tips have certainly improved our fire-lighting techniques.

I’d love to see snaps of your fires – why not tag me over on Instagram (I’m countryfille), or tweet me @countryfille?

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