The Firewood Supply: Kindling

By , October 11, 2013

Our wood heating season has returned. Now that it’s a daily focus of my life, I’m thinking about it a lot. And who am I to keep my thoughts to myself?

Kindling is essential to heating one’s home with wood. Even so, it’s often overlooked in heating strategy.

Why? Perhaps because in the wood lot, too many men are busy channeling Paul Bunyon, whacking away at the biggest rounds available. We’ve got the Big Job to do! We can’t be bothered with piddly details like kindling! “Leave that to the women and children! I’m a Lumber Jack and I’m okay!”

Even so . . . without the kindling, ol’ Paul will be freezing in the dark.

I have a three level approach to kindling:

  1. Accidental kindling
  2. Potential kindling
  3. Purposeful kindling

I manage these with two or three buckets.

Kindling (l) potential kindling (middle) chips (r). Big scraggy chunk in middle is "fat wood" from a fallen tree (Photo: Mark Zeiger).

Kindling (l) potential kindling (middle) chips (r). Big scraggy chunk in middle is “fat wood” from a fallen tree (Photo: Mark Zeiger).

Accidental kindling appears while you’re chopping rounds. It springs unexpectedly from badly aimed splits, shattering, and other unintended events. Inevitably, some splints of perfect kindling appear while we’re just trying to quarter some rounds. These go straight into the kindling bucket.

Potential kindling appear under the same conditions as accidental kindling, but instead of ready-made, these are generally thin slices of straight-grained wood, perfect for chopping into kindling at a later time. These go on the wood pile. Sometimes I’ll try to put them aside in a bucket, but generally, if they go into the wood pile, they’ll surface, ready to be processed, about the time you need some kindling.

Purposeful kindling comes through the specific job of cutting kindling. It goes into a bucket for easy storage and carrying.

The second (or third) bucket is for splinters, chips, and other small fragments of wood that come from the chopping process. We use these in our wood-fired water heater, but we will always collect these. They may not be as elegant or as easy to manage as kindling, but a bin-scoop or two of this stuff in your wood stove, sprinkled over the paper or other starter, works great for fires. If it’s fine enough, you don’t even need the paper.

I store my kindling in 5-gallon buckets for a couple of reasons. Kindling is inconvenient to stack. It’s better to contain it in a bucket, cardboard box or other container. These handily hold the kindling until it can be transferred to a kindling bin in the wood box, or it can be set inside in the firewood area to be used as needed. In some homes you’ll find a decorative crock holding kindling. I also find that, stored vertically, any dampness tends to wick away faster.

Next time, I’ll discuss cutting kindling.

4 Responses to “The Firewood Supply: Kindling”

  1. Charity says:

    Just cut myself purposeful kindling for my cabin here in Oregon. I arrived here mid-day, but it was a beautiful enough day I have decided I don’t need an evening fire. I have a feeling though I should be prepared and have everything right at hand for when I do want one (possibly tomorrow morning early, depending on how things feel.) I think my caretakers tend to largely rely on ‘found’ kindling – branches which they collect and gets dry enough to use or is limbed from downed trees. Maybe they also have some accidental kindling around – but I’ve never seen any purposeful kindling, similar to what you have in the photo and what I’m used to and rely on.

  2. Mark Zeiger says:

    Charity, I think your keepers have the right idea. There’s really no reason not to gather small branches for kindling. I just like a neater pile in the house, less snagging when I pull a piece out of our box, and–I can’t stop chopping kindling! It’s just too fun.

  3. We gather kindling all year round, but really go at it at this time of the year. Most of our kindling is from downed wood or trees we cut down for firewood. I love kindling gathering though. It is peaceful out there in the woods, picking up wood.

  4. Mark Zeiger says:

    I agree wholeheartedly, Kathleen. It’s a great job to have!

Leave a Reply

Panorama Theme by Themocracy