Building a Log Cabin Fire Structure
(As featured in the March 2008 issue of Practically Seeking)
The Log Cabin Fire Lay is a very versatile structure and exhibits properties that can actually be superior to the teepee in many instances.
Because of the open and airy style of this fire lay it radiates heat readily, and can be adapted to produce a great deal of heat and an outstanding bed of coals -- great for cooking, firing pottery, and is an excellent design for a wood-burning fireplace!
As you are building your structure it is of special importance to concentrate on the core.
In most instances, if you don't get the kind of fire you were expecting it is related to not establishing a good, hot core. So next time you're out building a fire give this one a try!
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Tips & Tricks for Building a Better Fire Structure:
- Gather the material for your structure from standing dead wood rather than off the ground. It will be much dryer and burn easier with less smoke.
- To reduce the smokiness of your fire even further, remove the bark from all of your firewood.
- If it has been raining, find a few pieces of a larger diameter (about thumb thick) and remove the bark and any damp outer wood with your knife. You can then shave off dry inner pieces to use for your kindling.
- Take time and care in building your structure as this will result in a longer-burning fire that requires far less tending, freeing you to concentrate on other tasks!
Step-by-step Instructions for Building a Log Cabin Fire Structure:
- Select an area of clear ground and excavate a shallow trench just deep enough that you can slip a tinder bundle underneath. The trench should lie in the same direction that any wind may be blowing.
- Frame out your trench on three sides with larger size pieces fire wood, about wrist thick. The open end should be on the downwind side.
- Place a row of substantial sticks (about thumb diameter) on top of the large parallel pieces. These will become the base on which your tinder will sit, so keep them close together, but not touching — air must be able to flow through freely.
- Place a thicker stick on each side of your structure, perpendicular to the last layer and, alternating placement so each row rests across the previous level, continue this pattern three or four more times to create walls that are a couple of inches high. This creates a hollow, sheltered area in which to place your tinder.
- Fill the hollow with fine, dry, fluffy tinder material.
- Place a closely spaced row of smaller sticks (about pencil thick) over the tinder layer. On top of this layer place a larger piece on each side, perpendicular to the smaller sticks. This will form a support for your kindling.
- Carefully place your fine kindling pieces in a thick, loose layer between your larger frame pieces. Your kindling should all be very dry and about the thickness of a pencil lead. It is always best to gather your kindling from standing dead wood, or from the tips of dead branches. It should break with a clean snap.
- Repeat steps 6 and 7 one or two more times. This will help to ensure that your fire will light quickly and burn hot from the start.
- Begin adding "fuel" layers with smaller sticks placed in the center and thicker fuel sticks on the outsides. Each level should be perpendicular to the last, creating your log cabin effect.The upper most layers may all be thick fuel sticks.
- Ignite the structure by placing your tinder bundle, lighter, match or other flame down in the trench. This lighting method protects the initial flame from the wind and other elements, allowing the tinder layer to catch easily. Then, as the fire grows, each layer serves to ignite the one above.