Despite being brought up with open fires and wood-burners, it was only recently that a colleague shared a completely ‘game-changing’ way of lighting my wood-burner. 

Julian discovered the ‘Canadian’ method online (as you do). It’s called ‘lighting from the top down’ and is absolutely brilliant. 

There are plenty of YouTube videos demonstrating it online but basically … lay a couple of the thicker dried logs at the bottom of the wood-burner on a thin layer of ash underneath (don’t clean your stove out fully each time). Add some thinner (my brother calls them ‘intermediate’) dried logs, making a ‘log cabin’ shape with 1-2 layers of these thinner logs – on top of the thick logs. 

Stack the kindling in another ‘log cabin’ shape on top of the intermediate logs, and pop a natural firelighter on top. Build another layer of kindling and add another natural firelighter on top. 

Light both of the natural firelighters, making sure the vents are open accordingly to your make of wood-burner. After 7-10 minutes, you should have a roaring fire, so then just ‘feed’ as you would normally.

It sounds a bit of a faff but trust me, it is staggeringly effective – and you can adapt the basic theory to suit the size of your woodburner. 

I only put the logs on a thin bed of ash, then the firelighters, and then the kindling and intermediate blocks, which works perfectly.

And as well as lighting my wood-burner ‘from the top down’, I am now chopping kindling from the bottom up. 

I’ll explain in a minute. But it does go to show that you are never too old to learn – or discover–a better way of doing something.

Top marks went to my brother for a fabulous Christmas present – the Kindling Cracker. Aptly named for a Christmas present too.

As well as spending a lot of time cutting, hauling, and stacking wood to feed a hungry wood-burner through these winter months, a lot of time is also invested in chopping kindling – the ‘appetiser’ for the wood-burner. They are both jobs that I love, although ‘kindling material’ is getting harder to come by. 

The Kindling Cracker solves that problem by turning logs into kindling.

As the name suggests, it ‘cracks’ or splits the larger pieces of wood into kindling – and/or those all-important ‘intermediate logs’. The simplest description is an upside-down-fixed-axe, although I’m not sure the creator – a woman, incidentally – would be that enamoured with that.

So, instead of swinging an axe, and then a hatchet, to split and create the kindling and intermediate blocks, you just place a block of wood within the metal circle and tap it down onto the blade with a small lump hammer to secure it. A few more taps will split the wood. I wasn’t convinced–until I tried it. It is just brilliant. Meditative, effective and practical – and safe–I wish I had invented it and I highly recommend it.

And of course, a (kindling) Cracker isn’t just for Christmas. Webbs in Crickhowell are ‘stocking’ (pun intended) them and will also give you a very impressive demonstration.