Watch the video of How to build an upside down fire from Dylan Parker on Vimeo.
Years ago when you learned to start a fireplace or wood stove fire, chances are you learned to place the tinder and kindling at the bottom and put the logs on top. And that method has worked reasonably well over the years, but there is another, better method that turns the conventional way on its head.
The upside down fire calls for kindling and tinder to be placed on top of the larger logs. Rather than burning upwards, the upside down fire burns from the top, burning the wood it needs as it goes down. For this reason the upside down fire is sometimes called the self-feeding fire.
Advantages of an Upside Down Fire
The advantages of the upside down fire are significant. The biggest advantage is the extremely long burn time with no need to add more firewood. Because the upside down fire is built with several large logs on the bottom, there’s plenty of wood to burn, but the logs burn in succession rather than all at once. This makes the upside down fire especially good for wood stoves.
Other advantages include emitting an enormous amount of heat since the hot coals on top of the fire rather than being buried underneath. The upside down fire also helps reduce smoky fireplace problems by warming the flue. Because you light the fire at the top of the firebox, the kindling warms the flue and gets the chimney pulling air upwards.
To Build an Upside Down Fire:
- Place a layer of your largest logs at the bottom, tight against each other with no space between.
- Place a second layer of slightly smaller logs perpendicular to the bottom layer, again with no space between the logs.
- Continue adding layers until you reach the top.
- On top of the logs, add kindling and natural fatwood.
- Use crumpled newspaper at the top.
- Simply light the newspaper and wait.
- The fire will slowly burn down to the fuel and get larger as it burns.
- You may need to blow on the fire with bellows or a blowpoke while the kindling gets going, but after that you shouldn’t need to touch the fire for hours.
- For the easiest lighting, try using fatwood as the kindling.