Hot Tips

Fire-lighting

Air lock in my flue.

As we approach the end of summer, you might find the first lighting up a stove that has been dormant for a few months is a bit smoky, this is because a lot of warm moist air will be hanging around effectively creating an airlock. Try just lighting a small fire with some very dry kindling or just a few firelighters to warm it through and the problem will be solved. I tend to leave the door a jar all summer to create a bit of air flow which helps. The Certainly Wood Kiln Dried Kindling is very good for this or try a few of their Flamers instead.

 

Hot flue, happy stove.

One on the simplest tricks of to make your stove light easily ( if you are having any trouble) is to pre-heat the flue by just burning some scrunched up newspaper to pre-heat the chimneys flue ways before starting the fire in full. Once the flue is warmed it will draw much better and make the fire or stove burn more efficiently. This is particularly relevant in the Autumn when the stove has perhaps not been lit during the warmer months.

Top down lighting

Turns fire lighting upside down. Lay a bed of small kiln dried logs or Wood Briquettes on the floor of the stove, add a pile of very dry kindling on top of this and place a fire lighter on the top, light up as normal and see how the fire burns downwards lighting the smaller sticks first and then the logs with the hot embers from the kindling. This is always worthy a try and can be an answer if you find adding fuel on top of the kindling smothers the smaller fire you have just created.

I’m afraid to ask … but how do I light a fire in a stove ?

For fail safe lighting I do this, Take 3/4 pieces of dry kindling wood (we use Certainly Wood kiln dried kindling) and place them in a row in the middle of the floor of your stove, like a little raft. Place a fire lighter on top of the raft and build a little column of kindling “Jenga” style up around the firelighter using 8 pieces of kindling. By this I mean place two sticks either side of the fire lighter, and then two more on top of these in the opposite direction and so on until you have a little tower of kindling. Take three pieces of fairly small kiln dried firewood logs about 1 to 2 inches in diameter and delicately place these leaning against the tower of kindling. Strike a nice long match and light the firelighter and close the door of the stove making sure all the air vents are fully open. Keep an eye on the stove and add more small logs once the kindling is alight and the little logs are burning well. It can take a surprising amount of time for the stove and chimney to be fully warm, so don’t try to shut it down too quickly or you may have problems with the air wash system.

 


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The Best Fuel for You

Firewood or Coal?

Stoves come as two types, either with a grate or a flat floor. If your stove has a grate you have a choice of burning either firewood or coal. If your stove just has a flat floor then it is a wood burning only model and you can only burn firewood logs or Heat logs. This is because to burn Coal or Smokeless fuel air is required to come into the stove and come up under and through the coal, this is called the Primary air. Wood based fuels on the other hand has a different characteristic and burns with the air coming over the top of the fire, this is called Secondary air. Most stoves that have a grate have a setting so that they can be adapted to burn firewood or Heat logs or Coal and smokeless fuels and these are called Multi- fuel stoves. Wood burning only models have a flat floor without a primary air supply and so can only burn Logs or wood briquettes. Coal will not burn very well if at all in a wood only model.

What are the three must haves for firewood

Really good fire wood that will burn hot and bright without clogging up your chimney or making the stove glass black must have three main things

  1. It should be dry
  2. It should be dry
  3. It should be dry

What’s the difference between hardwood and softwood

Hardwoods, typically ash and beech or oak for example, come from deciduous trees, these lose their leaves in Autumn. It is generally considered that if dried by Kiln or lengthy seasoning below 20% moisture content that these make the best firewood logs. Hardwood logs tend to burn for longer than softwood logs and give more heat over a longer period of time. Softwoods are typically Pine or spruce and have a reputation for causing chimney fires as they tend to have a lot of sap, however if thoroughly dry they can make good firewood albeit fast burning with a high heat. Scandinavian countries have very little in the way of true hardwoods and manage very well with both soft woods and also quite a lot of Birch, these very pretty trees are technically a hardwood and have just a bout the same heat energy as Ash only being slightly less dense burns a little faster, but it is a lovely wood to burn.

How come wood briquettes, heat logs and eco fuel logs are OK if they are softwood ?

The great thing about wood briquettes is that they are so well compressed that it does not really matter if they are made of soft or hard wood. Heat logs are made from fresh sawdust waste from the sawmilling industry, this is dried to below 12% moisture content and then compressed so much the natural juices from the wood (Lignin) a type of resin comes out to bind the wood together, essentially re-forming the wood in to a highly dense fuel log. Fuel Logs are so dense that they would sink in water, a natural traditional log would float. So it is the dryness of the feed stock, combined with the high pressure manufacturing that makes a safe clean fuel ready for use in wood burning and multi – fuel stoves. Softwood heat logs have a greater cubic density than Oak.


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Stove and Chimney Maintenance

Chimney Cleaning

We have looked at the effect of soot and creosote build up for a number of years now and in general, most of the really extreme examples where chimneys get badly restricted are simple down to not having the chimney swept at all, and it would seem that around 5/6 years is what it takes to block a 150mm flue. Of course in unlined chimneys the problem is more that the creosote sinks in to the brick work and mortar and if there is a fire the bricks themselves become volatile.

As a general rule I would say as long as a chimney is swept pre-winter for casual use,and pre-winter and January if in use daily any creosote build up will be removed. We do also sell Chimney cleaning powder and a chimney cleaning log, these have compounds that remove the moisture from the creosote and it either falls down the chimney to be re burnt, is exhausted out of the chimney carried on the flue gasses or is more easily removed by mechanical means (Sweeping)

My understanding about creosote build up is that it is mainly caused by burning damp wood, this tends to burn slowly putting a lot of energy into driving of the water vapour and it is this vapour combined with the volatiles in the flue gasses (Smoke) that then adhere to the chimney. This is also particularly prevalent in the first hour or so of lighting a fire as the warm flue gasses condense in a cold chimney creating a dew point, this can become very wet and sticky and is often seen dripping back down the flue pipe.

So to come to the Bark Logs, if used correctly I believe that they do not create any more build up than the normal and efficient burning of any other wood briquette or Kiln dry logs. The Shredded heat Bark logs are around 12 % moisture content,so very dry. The correct use is to add them to a very well established fire. Mainly because of their density, they are hard to light but also the flue is warm, burn them quite hard to take out most of the volatiles, then reduce that air supply and what I find is that they just glow from within and there is little or no visible smoke.

I am also pleased that having sold this product for 6 years that none of our regular customers have reported any adverse effects and so I do believe this is a way in which to slow burn a stove precisely without the undue effect of any build up. This overnight burn has the additional benefit of keeping the flue warm and so reduces the tendency to create a dew point.

Cleaning Stove Glass

Operated correctly with the right fuel you stove glass should stay clear of dark sooty deposits, but with even the best air wash many stoves will accumulate a grey ash deposit, this can be wiped of with clean water on a cold stove, or there are many cleaners designed for the stove glass that work really well.If you do get a black tar deposit do not use a cream cleaner as it might scour the glass and only ever use a soft cotton cloth or sponge. You can use wood ash that has been soaked in water, but be careful and wear thick rubber gloves because you are effectively creating a highly caustic cleaning solution, which is why it works so well!

Once the stove glass is clean try to work out why it got black in the first place, most of the time it will be because of wet wood and the stove not being run hot enough.


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Wood Ovens

Not just for Pizza

A Wood Fired Outdoor Oven, is probably the best full description we can give to what most of us call a Pizza Oven. Designed to cook the food directly (not just Pizza) that is placed inside the oven which is also the fire chamber. At WOOF! we have sold a specialist wood oven fuel made in Italy for many years, this is under the O’Sole Mio Brand and there are two types, Il Faggetto and Il Fiorretto.

Its about the theatre of the flames and the food you can produce

Wood Fired food from a Wood Fired oven is probably the best food you can ever taste, cooking live with wood is exciting and the dishes you create are amazing. Having a pizza cooked the Italian way in 90 seconds is amazing, Focaccia, drizzled in olive oil, drenched in crystals of rock salt and topped with sprigs of Rosemary, cooked for 90 seconds, taken from the oven, cut in strips and used to dip still warm is amazing.

How do I stop my wood fired oven from smoking

The fundamental problem with lighting a wood fired oven is that unlike a stove it has no or very little draw. Most wood ovens tend to only have a very short flue pipe and the only air supply is through the front opening. The best way is to be very patient and start a very very small fire to start with, we use Certainly Wood kiln dried kindling and light it first below the chimney opening in the mouth of the oven, this serves to first warm the flue way, which always helps with the draw whether it is a stove or an oven. Then push the burning kindling in to the centre of the oven and slowly adding more as the fire increases, always trying to keep a bright clean flame, if it starts to smoke stop adding fuel for a few minuets and let it burn. If you have not used the oven for a while it will need to dry out and will be more likely to smoke if still damp. After this I will break up some Il Fiorretto ( If I am cooking Pizza, or Il Faggetto for other foods) in to small pieces and slowly add one or two inch bits one at a time. The heat will quickly build up and you will have a hot fire and hot oven without any visible smoke in no time.

How do I tell if my Wood Fired Oven is hot enough to cook on

As a rule of thumb, when the black soot burns off the inside of the dome of your oven you are well and truly ready to cook Pizza 90 seconds at a time. As a tip I would suggest letting the oven “Soak” for fifteen minuets if you have only just moved the fire to the side or the back of the oven. This is to let the heat even out across the whole of the cooking floor and to let it cool a little, we don’t want burn offerings. Which incidentally is where the term the upper crust comes from. Bread originally cooked out of tins directly on the oven floor got a burned bottom, so it was cut off and the well to do got the “Upper Crust” and the rest of us got the black bit !

 


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