How to Build a Fire in a Wood Stove

Written by Jesse

Topics: Skills

Building a fire in a wood heater or wood stove is not the same as building a fire in a fireplace or a camp fire. If you know how to do those things, great, that will help you. But, the layout is different for the wood heater or stove. In a wood heater or stove you start by creating a casita or “little house” with two logs. The casita forms a triangle with the tip at the top and looks like a rooftop. Then crumple and place newspaper in the opening twin the two pieces of wood. Make sure the air vent is full open and the chimney is full open (if there is a way to restrict it). Then light the paper, close the door and hope the logs ignite. Here is what it looks like:

Wood Stove with fire wood

Wood Stove Casita

And here is what it looks like ignited:

Fire Burning in Wood Stove (heater)

Fire in Wood Stove



  1. Obviously you want your wood as dry as possible. If your wood is damp, once you get a fire going you can dry more wood by placing it next to the stove.
  2. Don’t over pack the newspaper area. I use two full sheets that I tear in half and then crumple.
  3. Once the fire is going, close the air intake down to half or lower. Full open and a lot of your heat is getting sucked outside. I close the intake down to about 1-2 finger width and its fine.


  1. In a wood heater, leave about 1/4 inch of ash in the bottom to act like sand and stabilize the wood in place.
  2. I like to crack the door about 1/8th inch when I am trying to get the
    fire going. This creates a violent cross draft in the firebox that acts
    like a bellows.
  3. Cut 1/2 inch sticks and place one or two on top of the casita to capture the fire. They will ignite and fall down into the paper area after the paper is going and continue to work to ignite the wood.
  4. Mix a small amount of kerosene with old fire ash and sprinkle two tablespoons on top of the paper. This will burn longer and help with the fire. You really should not need this.
  5. Just before bed, put a huge log in the fire, then shut the air intake
    all the way down. In the morning, uncover the coals, open the air intake
    all the way and place a log on the glowing coals. You will soon have
    fire again.
  6. The wood heater is a good place for a kettle for always hot water or to slow cook food in a pot.

Most houses here are not insulated and the weather can get down to below freezing. Without a fire, whatever the temperature is outside, it is inside. I survived most of last winter in a cabin where my only heat and cooking source was a wood fired stove. I even baked cookies and cornbread in the thing. After you have burned yourself about 50 times, you will be a pro and whipping out a fire will be old hat. Enjoy letting your in arsonist play a little. Chao.

2 Comments For This Post I'd Love to Hear Yours!

  1. Megan says:

    This totally sparked the inner pyro in me. :) Excellent tips though. Not too many wood stoves in my past as I’m an apartment dweller in natural-gas land… but I do recall some struggles I had when living in Montana. Would have been very handy to have these tips back then!

    • Jesse says:

      HA, I almost title this something like “How to feed your inner Pyro” – And yes, it is no fun to fight with trying to get your only heat source going when it is 27 F — IN THE HOUSE.

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