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Here is a tip and trick to help light the fire in your wood stove.

Lighting your wood stove

First Safety

Before you start to light the fire in a wood stove make sure the stove is not in high efficiency mode.  My Vermont Castings Resolute Acclaim stove has a lever on the right hand side toward the rear which opens a damper in the stove.  There is a removable handle for this lever, so the handle never gets too hot to handle, ha ha.  This damper must be open before you try to start the fire!

Also my stove has a clean out slider on the lower left that must be set to a closed condition.  For my stove this slider is pulled toward the operator.  And finally a draft damper lever at the bottom which must be all the way to the right for safe effective starting.  If you are renting or just visiting a friends home please check all these things before you start a fire in a wood stove!

A word from FEMA-USFA (US Fire Administration)

Stack up your kindling and wood.

I cheat and use Seymour Fire Blox.  They burn cleanly and don not smell; no black smoke.  They are the only clean burning starters I have seen.  Fatwood really smells and burns black I would not use it in my stove.  If your stove has a catalytic converter make sure you check whether it is safe to use any of these products.  The standard approach is a little newspaper, small kindling, then smaller to larger pieces of wood.

Do not forget a CO detector!


The Blox now seem to be sold by Rutland.  They are called Rutland Safe-Lite fire starters.  I was first exposed to these fire starters just outside of Rutland at Killington Ski Area.  These starters burn very clean and are easier to light than fatwood.

Establish the draft; more safety

For a wood stove or a fireplace you must make sure you have a draft up the flue pipe or chimney.  On cold days the air may flow down your flue pipe, so light up a piece of newspaper and hold it inside your stove near the exhaust or flue pipe until the warm air flows up the pipe.  If you do not do this, smoke may billow into the room.  Not a big problem for a wood stove, you just close the door, but then the fire may go out!  I am lucky my stove almost always has a small draft established.

Here is the secret trick!

Light wood stove tipsLeave the stove door cracked after you start your fire.  Probably for a least ten minutes until the fire is well established, then close the door!  You should supervise this to make sure nothing flies out of your stove and starts a fire in your home!  This trick made all the difference for me.  My stove owners manual does not mention this trick.  I add now, 1/19/2005, leaving the door just ajar, not closed, but with the door closed to the point the latch is in contact creates a swirl that truly helps light the fire.  As the draft increases the door will probably "suck" itself into this position.  In addition I have been putting the fire starters in the front of the stove so they are exposed to this swirling air.  This can really accelerate fire starting.

If you need a firewood rack check out my "How To" build a very low cost strong modular wooden firewood rack introduction.

My Firewood rack plans produce a better rack at a lower cost (including the plans!). Bob 
Rutland Firestarter Specs.

Another warning

With very well seasoned wood it may be possible for you to "over fire" your woodstove.  The fire is too hot.  One obvious sign, that you should never let happen, is the stove begins to glow.  Close the door and even reduce the draft, do not let your stove get to hot!

If your fire begins to die, or you let it burn down.

Again you can add some wood and just crack the door while you supervise the stove.  The induced air swirl will slowly increase as the heat increases your chimney draft.  Even a minute of this can resuscitate a fire enough that you can close the door and it will take care of itself.

Choosing your stove

Our stove is in our living room.  It can very easily overheat that area and there is very little that can be done.  Even if I use my whole house heater blower which has a 20 inch return at six feat, and it is 8 feet from  the stove, the living room is still to hot.  I even use wet, unseasoned, wood to control the fire, the stove has incredible (too much) draft.  The EPA has some suggestions about sizing your stove, perhaps avoiding these problems.  EPA Burn Wise.


When my firewood is delivered I have to stack it up.  But you know what is left over on the ground?  All sorts of good kindling.  All that left over bark and wood chips are great for starting fires, so rake them up and put them in a box of some kind.

Hope this helped,










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BHT Revised: 22 Oct 2016


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Copyright 2003-2016 Robert Matheson.  All rights reserved.  Email Bob at BobsHowTo.com - . 

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