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Playing with fire...

Almost quite literally. We managed to find time on Saturday to head off to the local fireplace shop and swap over £200 of our most preciously scarce moolah for some quality fireplace materials:
  • Lovely black fire grate
  • Lovely black back fire place
  • Lovely black and silver fire guard
  • Lovely black and pewter fire keeing kit (on order)
  • Lovely black ash tray to go under the grate (on order)
  • Lovely black ash tray cover (which we forgot in the shop!)
Anyway, as you can see, its lovely. But now the hard part. For those who didn't know, I had trouble around this time last year trying to light my first real log fire in a holiday cottage. So here's where the blog world comes in to help little old me. I have some questions, and if anyone has experience, answers would be most welcome.
  1. Whats the best kindling - do I need to go buy some small sticks from the garden shop?
  2. What can I do about making the flames more colourful, and festive? Can I add some salt etc. to spark it up?
  3. Has anyone used those paper-to-pulp-fire-log makers? Do they work? How well do they compare to firewood?
  4. The owners left some firewood behind, but alas I have left it out in the open and its soaked - how long should I leave it in the garage for it to dry?
All help appreciated!
--
tnn

Comments:

  1. Blogger the urban fox says @ 1:32 pm
    I don't know the answer to any of that, but can offer the following:

    1 - I am deeply jealous of you for having a real fire.

    2 - If you throw orange peel on the fire when you've eaten the contents, it smells lush and Christmassy.
  2. Blogger Lord Bargain says @ 8:48 pm
    I have an open fire. Hold on, that means I can actually talk about something with some authority!

    (bear with me, this doesnt happen much as Blogland rarely gets into a debate on the merits of Rick Astley).

    Small bags of kindling are Good. If you have a Wilkinsons near you, they do cheap decent bags (and cheap decent firelighters as well).

    Wood is better than coal (most of the bagged coal you get is rubbish) so buy or get hold of smallish logs.

    Hmm, never tried anything to change the colour of the flame, but I concur with Fox about lobbing on orange peel or vanilla pods or something. Very nice.

    And dont forget a large bag of marshmallows and a toasting fork. And a sheepskin rug for in front of it, of course (ahem).
  3. Blogger Damo says @ 10:30 pm
    I'd love to help, but I had so much fun watching your endeavours last time that I'd like to go through all that again! :-)

    Now all you need to do is fix your radiators.
  4. Blogger changeofhart says @ 11:41 am
    vanilla is a great idea. rosemary smells great when burned (I thow rosemary stalks on bbqs - they smell ace).

    rob a local school and get some magnesium... always good for a giggle in a flame.

    newpaper works fine as kindling, if you dont want to worry about buying ready made stuff.

    they key to all burning (spot the pyro), is to give the base of the fire access to enough oxygen to allow it to burn. as such, much like bbqs, make a triangle or square with your logs, mix with kindling, and once its going, put some more on top, arranged so air can still flow through.

    your wet logs will be wrecked. dry them in the garage, but you wont be using them this winter, unless you have heating in your garage, as the air will be too cold and damp to dry them out.

    I too am jealous of your real fire. make sure you arent breaking various laws by making sure your hearth is the right size etc, and you arent carpeted up to the fireplace. bad bad bad.

    I ummed and ahhed about replacing my fireplace (fake fire, no chimney), and in the end, just ripped the old one out and boarded up the small recess... ;)

    v jealous.

    oh, and invest in one of those kits - poker, bellows and shovel... if for no other reason that bellows stop your eyebrows burning when trying to oxygenate the fire (headhair isnt an issue for you is it numnum ;))
  5. Blogger B1RDIE Num Num says @ 12:51 pm
    What laws might these be then? My carpeting goes up to the fireplace surround, which is a beast of soft-stone.

    I recall your triangular stick idea, and yes, I do believe the firewood we have is history, so I've ebay'd the paper log maker and will find a place that sells big logs to burn.

    Great idea about rosemary, Icy was commenting on how great it was when she made Sheperds Pie on Sat. Will deffo try spice-burns. ;-)

    Will get some Kindling from Focus/B&Q - not sure if theres a wilkinson near us.

    We'll need to get bellow though, might try to get by with waving air at it via a Asterix book?

    Thanks for the tips so far...
  6. Blogger Ka says @ 6:43 pm
    Oh! Oh! I have a trick to make the flames all special. We used to baffle the Girl Guides with this when I was leader - we called it "Guide Magic."

    Copper. Slip a small piece of plain copper piping into the coals and your flames will be gree, purple, blue... it's amazing.

    Just don't tell the little girls.
  7. Blogger Aravis says @ 8:34 pm
    Nifty tricks that I'll have to remember when our fireplace is usable next winter!

    I've recently been told that a lot of people around here use wood pellets. I'm not sure if that's what they're called there or not. However they're supposed to burn longer and throw off more heat. If that's an option for you, it might be one to consider as well.

    Good luck, and have fun! :0)
  8. Blogger Bee says @ 1:45 pm
    When I lived in a place that had a real fire, we used newspaper as kindling. I seem to remember it worked pretty well.

    I have to say, though - it is an ABSOLUTE BUGGER cleaning all the mucky ash out of the fireplace when the fire's gone.
  9. Blogger Lithaborn says @ 5:30 pm
    I once had a camping stove that was nothing more than a tiny frame that held one of those firelighter tablets that you find in dodgy hardware shops.

    A square inch of those tablets burns quite hotly for at least ten minutes, which is frankly enough to set any old fire alight. I cut them down into pieces that burned for about two minutes apiece, just enough to boil a pan of water.

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