First of all, let me wish you a happy Easter! May the eggs have been big and plenty! Unless you’re not into that kind of thing…
Now, onward one last time in the fire theme. Today I’ll be rounding it up with some common tools, tips and tricks and some general wisdom. Let’s dive in!
The weather station
A stove like ours relies solely on wind passing over the chimney to draft air out of the fire chamber through the chimney. The thing is, wind isn’t the only actor in this, all atmospheric conditions can play a role. If it is getting warmer outside and there is nearly no wind at all, then you risk having a hard time getting the fire started. The problem here is the cold air still present in the chimney: as it is heavier than the warmer outside air, it will create some kind of “clot” inside your chimney. The risk here is that the fire will evacuate into your room instead of through the chimney, so you definitely want to prevent that. But how do you know if there’s a risk or not? Wind conditions you can check easily by looking outside, and for the temperature one of the very first things we got was a (rather simple) weather station (the Alecto WS–2200, if anyone is interested in a review let me know).
It shows the time, the temperature inside and out, and a simple prognosis for the weather in the next 24 hours. All we needed anyway. In our situation I found that I can safely start a fire up to 16 degrees Celsius outside without any problem at all. Your mileage may vary though, as this depends on your location, the length and draft your chimney can produce (we’ve got a lengthy one which can produce quite a hefty draft), so you’ll have to experiment a bit.
Another trick that will tell you if it’s safe to start a fire goes as follows: open the door of the stove fore a couple of cm, make sure all valves in the chimney (if present) are open and keep a little flame (a match or a lighter) just in front of the opening. If it gets sucked into the stove you know you have a draft and can now safely start your fire. It’s a trick I use most of the time once temperatures start getting around the 15 degree Celsius mark.
If all signs point to a clot of cold air in your chimney, but you still want to start a fire, don’t despair! I have another trick up my sleeve!
Most likely you can open up your chimney somewhere after it has left your stove, for cleaning purposes (unless the chimney comes out on top of your fireplace and goes straight up, then you’ll have to use the fire chamber instead). Usually this will be at the point where your chimney starts going straight up. If you build a very, very small fire at this location (some paper or very small pieces of wood), that should provide enough heat to either heat up the clot or heat up the air underneath the clot enough to push it out of the chimney. Just do the flame test once more before starting your actual fire, better be safe than sorry!
Oh so small, but oh so handy if, like us, you have wood with nails in it. I’m not talking about wood that has been painted, glued, or treated in any other way, but we did have a lot of wood from the roof that wasn’t good enough any more to re-purpose it anyway, and that’s how the nails got into the stove. The small ones fell through the grid, but the larger ones have the capability of blocking it. Instead of trying to get them out with your fingers (after they have cooled down obviously), just go over them with a magnet and they get picked up by the dozens.
Once we’re through that pile though I’ll look around for some unprocessed wood, so no more nails!
I hardly ever use it any longer, but sometimes it’s still handy to move a log. If you’re a probie then you might have to use it more, as you’re still learning the ropes, but once you’ve got some experience there should be no need for a poke, unless you’re doing it wrong!
The axe and saw
Wood that is too long to fit in the fire chamber needs to get cut down, enter the saw. I’ve used a regular Bosch circular saw so far. If I had any plans of cutting my own trees I’d have to go looking for a chainsaw most likely…
Same story goes for the axe. Now I’m using a regular, no-brand one to chop down logs that are too thick (the ideal size for a log is around a fist thick). As I plan to buy wood-that-is-sized-perfectly-to-burn I probably won’t be needing one much after the current load of wood has burned.
The vacuum cleaner
This one is very recent. Whenever I was done with burning stuff, there was some ash and other dust on the floor in front of the stove. In the past I then used the regular, big vacuum cleaner, but that was getting cumbersome. After some research we settled on the Philips MiniVac FC 6144. So far we like it, but we’ll need to use it some more to get a complete opinion.
That’s it. We’ve come to the end of the series about pretty much everything I learned about our stove and everything around it. We’ve talked about wood. We’ve talked about starting a fire. Then came maintenance, and finally this post with any little trick or tool I use once in a blue moon (or more). If there’s anything I missed, please let me know. But for now, keep the fire burning!