We’ve had this fireplace for two years now. Last year I struggled every time I tried to light a fire. I crumpled newspaper, split kindling to a hair’s-width, wasted countless matches, and sometimes even resorted to lighter fluid when I was really chilly. More often than not, I would layer on all my sweaters and sit under a blanket and wait for Matt to make a fire because I had neither the patience nor the knack.
Now that I’m home all day I sure am glad that Matt came up with a fool-proof firestarting method. Everyone has their own patent process they swear by, but this one works for the both of us (and our particular stove) and almost never fails.
Choose two large and one small piece of wood from the pile. All three should be V-shaped in profile and short enough to fit in the stove perpendicular to the window. (You can use longer pieces and arrange them parallel to the window, but you won’t be able to monitor the progress as well.) Open the vent all the way.
Place the two large pieces points together, almost touching, perpendicular to the stove’s door. Place a fire lighter on the grate, ashes, or coals between the two large pieces and light it with a match. We have the best luck with the cheap and plentiful recycled cardboard-type lighters that come in large boxes at the feed store. You can use whatever type you prefer (as long as they are safe for your stove).
When the firelighter has caught, carefully place the smaller piece of wood in between the two larger ones like a keystone. If you have arranged everything correctly and chose your firewood well, the smaller piece should not touch the firelighter, but it should reach into the flames that the firelighter is throwing off, and both fire and oxygen should be able to get around it. If the smaller piece fits the space between the larger ones too well it will smother the firelighter. If there is still airflow, the fire will be drawn up around the smaller piece of wood and ensure that it will catch.
It sometimes helps to leave the door cracked a little for the first few minutes to keep the draft moving nicely. You can close the door and close down the damper as much as you like after about ten minutes, at which time the firelighter will be spent and all three pieces of wood should be burning nicely on their own.