Guide: Building the perfect fire for a cold autumn day

The weather is cooling, the days drawing shorter and shorter and the crisp breeze is beginning to send teeth chattering all over the country. Autumn is here, and we are suitably excited about what this glorious season has to offer. Ok, so the blustering wind, the prevailing rain and the numbing cold isn’t always ideal, but what it does offer is the opportunity to light those fireplaces and warm up by a blazing hearth – truly dreamy indeed. As a gentleman, you must know how to build a fire, and here’s how…

Prime the chimney

Fire 1 The Gentleman's Journal

After a long few months of warmer weather, the chance that your fireplace has seen much action is reasonably small and therefore it’s important to prepare your chimney. This means opening the damper (smoke shut off valve). If you forget to do this, you’re going to have a whole lot of smoke filling up your room. Once this is open, you need to prime the flue. Most chimneys run on the exterior of the house, so get trapped with colder air. If you tried to light a fire, the cold air would force the warmer air downwards and again into your room. Make sure you light a rolled-up newspaper very close to the damper opening to force hot air up the flue. Once the flames start to get sucked up, your flue is primed.

Prepare the fireplace

Fire 2 The Gentleman's Journal

Now comes the important part, and the part that requires the most skill – building the fire itself. There are many different ways to do this, and all ones that work well. However, the two best styles are the traditional and the reverse. Here’s how to make them:

Traditional: Loosely scrunch newspaper into long rolls and place side by side, then place kindling on top in a crosshatch layout and finally add smaller logs to the top of this – and you’re good to go. Larger logs should be added after fire is going.

Reverse: Quite literally the reverse of the Traditional, larger logs should be placed at the bottom, followed by kindling and finally newspaper. The advantage of this is that the fire will burn cleaner, and you will be able to leave it to do its own thing from the beginning.

Light the fire

Fire 3 The Gentleman's Journal

Finally light the fire with a long match. From the bottom for the Traditional and the top for the Reverse. Sit back in your armchair with a large glass of single malt and get lost in the mesmerising flames that flicker before your eyes.

Hugh Francis Anderson

Hugh Francis Anderson

Features Editor. Follow him on Twitter: @hugh_f_anderson

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