The art of making fire

Starting a fire is a skill that needs to be learned

It was February and I had the luxury to take the weekend off. To get away from everything. Just me, in total solitude.

I drove to our summer house in the middle of the winter. The house was cold. It was almost as cold inside as it was outside. I had to quickly get warm to stop the shivering.

I decided to make a fire.

Fire has always fascinated people. Without fire we would still eat raw meat. Without fire we would not have iron and technological advances. After water, fire is the most essential necessity to human existence.

It took me a good while to get the fire going. House was cold. Fireplace was cold. Wood was cold and wet. It's been covered in snow.

After a few failed attempts and lots of wasted old newspapers the warmth finally start spreading around the room. The steam from my breath finally disappeared and I could finally see from the windows as they started to defrost. I started to defrost.

I sat on the floor next to the fireplace mesmerized by the flames and sparking wood and thoughts carried me away.

I thought about the skill of starting a fire. It's a skill that you have to learn. Just like with everything, the more fires you make the better you get.

Heck, it's not even a skill. It's an art. It's more art than science even though some scientific principles still apply.

Then I started to think on what it takes to make a fire and fire in general. Below are my notes.

Dry wood vs wet wood. Wet wood requires a lot of energy to start burning. Dry wood ignites easily. Even without paper.

Starters. You often need something highly flammable to start the fire. Paper or candle wax. Tree bark burns really well. You can even use gasoline but that can be dangerous.

Arrangement. For the fire to start you need to arrange the wood carefully. It cannot be too dense. You need to leave plenty of space for the air to enter. You also have to place paper strategically in the right places. At the bottom.

First failure. I often fail to light the fire on the first try. Maybe the wood is cold or a little wet. Second time is usually easier as the wood might have dried a little or got a little warmer.

Material. You can use many things for your fire but there is a reason most people use wood. It's cheap and it's been tested by time.

Professionals. Some people are pros when it comes to fires. Scouts, hunters, lumberjacks, hikers. They make it looks so easy. They know exactly what to do. But they also had to start somewhere. There are many fires ahead of me and you.

Campfire. When it comes to wood arrangement there are a few different ways to do it. Everyone has their own preference and it's usually they way they were taught. Some wood arrangements have advantages of lasting longer. For example, there is a special camp file arrangement where you put the biggest logs at the bottom and then build you way up by size with the smallest pieces on top. Then you light the fire at the top and it works itself down.

Learning. If you want to know how to make fire, you have to find someone who can teach you. This is the way it works. You don't learn this stuff in school. Someone shows you once and then is mostly trial and error until you get the hang of it.

Small adjustment. Sometimes a slight adjustment of on piece of wood will kick off a dying fire or kill it. It's especially true in the beginning.

Spark. Every fire needs some initial energy, a spark of some kind. You have to start it yourself (action). Sure, you can wait for the lightning to strike, but I wouldn't take that chance.

Size. Only a fool would use large blocks of wood to try to start a fire. First, you have to find dry wood and they you have to chop it into thinner and smaller pieces. Smaller pieces require less energy to start burning. Only after you see that the wood is burning, and has burned for a while, it's safe to add larger pieces.

Density. Wood density matters. Heavier wood makes fire last longer as there is more energy in it.

Illusion. If you use a lot of paper you can create an illusion that the wood is burning. But it's can be deceiving. The fire dies as soon as the paper has burned down. I can't count the times I've been burned by this. There are no guarantees.

Purpose. What is the purpose of your fire? To keep you warm? Because it's cozy? Maybe you want to cook something? Just for fun? Or maybe you need to get the sauna warm?

Intensity. Fire burns most intensely in the beginning.

Keep it burning. You have to add more wood if you want to keep the fire alive.

Energy storage. You can store fire's energy to heat up the space. There are tiled stoves that radiate heat even after the fire stops burning.

Cheats. If you only have wet wood you can cheat and use gasoline as a starter. But it's dangerous. Gasoline is highly flammable and explosive.

Time. It takes time to learn how to make good fire on the first try. You can still fail even if you have done it 1000 times before. Conditions are different each time.

Modern fire. It's never been easier to start a fire. Today you have matches, lighters and other help. It's easy to take them for granted but they are actually not that old. A match was invented in 1826.

Practice. Don't be so hard on yourself when you fail. Practice makes perfect. Even if I think I am pretty good at starting a fire I've met people that are much better. And they all do it differently.

Now. "What does that have to do with anything?" you might ask.

Go back and re-read everything but this time replace fire with your business, company or product.