When is a Stove not a Stove?


When is a Stove Not a Stove? When it’s a ‘Log’ Stove, of Course!:
A dry log and a chainsaw are all you need to keep warm and cook, as Gary Marshall finds out

A dry log and a chainsaw are all you need to keep warm and cook, as Gary Marshall finds out

Having had my attention caught at the Weald Woodfair some years ago by some upright logs burning away to themselves, I’ve always fancied seeing if I could use one to cook on – initial failure.

I saved a couple of seasoned silver birch logs and further dried them out indoors, for some months. Using a chainsaw I then made the customary cross-shaped cuts these natural stoves require, about three-quarters of the way through the length and filled the cuts with flammable wood chips and dust. To encourage burning I melted some candle wax into the ‘punk’ (flammable mixture).

Initially, I found the log burned well, but disappointingly it slowly smouldered and then went out. This, despite considerable blowing on and modifying the embers. I was never going to be able to cook anything on this.

Here’s how I eventually succeeded, stage-by-stage:

1. I visited one of my log piles and selected a dry, well seasoned chestnut log to position in the ground. I cut a cross deep into the length of the log, it could have been cut deeper for a lengthier burn

2. I gathered lots of dry material (as shown) – dry stems of cow parsley, bramble and nettle, plus a few small dead dry twigs and some papery birch bark

3. I set fire to the log and kept feeding the cross-shaped cut with dry material until the flames really got a hold

4. I started cooking – a bit like boy scouts all over again…

5. Eggs-actly as planned, the frying pan was heating up nicely

6. With the pan removed you can see how effective the flame really is

7. After an hour’s burning, my make-do stove finally burnt itself out

A burning desire
Gary mentioned he saw Swedish fire logs at the Weald Woodfair – well I saw them at last year’s Surrey Hills Wood Fair and I was impressed, but as Gary has had a go I didn’t want to be outdone. I found some pine logs near the GMC workshop going begging.  I chose ones that weren’t too big in diameter and cut a long and a short piece. I don’t have or use a chainsaw, so I used our big Record bandsaw with a coarse Tuffsaws blade intended for cutting wet or deep wood to make the cross slots. 

The pine seemed very dry, I placed it on our very own ‘pebble beach’ at home and tore up some thin strips of dry birch bark, pushing it deep in the cross shaped gaps. It took one match and the birch caught alight immediately, then waiting pensively I was rewarded with the inner corners of the pine starting to blacken, then glow. Fairly quickly the flame took hold, it seemed almost unstoppable

A bit more bark and a match and the log candle took off like a rocket!

Eventually it calmed down enough to boil a kettle and make tea. The next morning the reduced embers were still gradually smouldering away to nothing. I’m so impressed I’m going to prepare more log candles for parties or sitting outdoors to add warmth to the late evening air


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