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:
- Accidental kindling
- Potential kindling
- Purposeful kindling
I manage these with two or three buckets.
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.