The Longest-Burning Log
How to Make Your Own Swedish Torch
Nothing is more impressive than someone who knows how to build a proper fire. If you really want to impress your friends, then I would suggest pulling out a trick that kept Swedish armies warm in the 17th Century during the Thirty Years’ War.
The Swedish torch (also known as a Swedish fire log) makes campfires better for many reasons:
- Makes building a fire easy
- Requires less wood to keep it going
- Requires little to no maintenance
- Provides a flat cooking surface for fry pans and kettles
All it requires is a large-diameter log cut with your handy log splitter, a little bit of kindling, a chainsaw or hand saw, and matches or a lighter (or a flint if you're looking to really show off).
1. Cut an Asterisk
Set a tall, wide, hearty log end-up like a short pillar on the ground. Placing it on sand, dirt, or gravel is ideal to provide a firm foundation and prevent the spread of fire. Also, make sure there are no low-hanging bits of brush or tree branches near it.
Using a chainsaw or handsaw, cut three large slots, evenly spaced apart, about three-quarters of the way through the log to create an asterisk.
Gather together any strings of wood that result from cutting. You can use these with your kindling.
2. Bundle Your Kindling
On top of the log, where you began your cuts, place some soft, dry kindling. You can use several types of debris for kindling:
- Dead grass
- Crumbled leaves
- Shredded paper
However, dryer lint works best if you've got any.
On top of your kindling, evenly crisscross small, dry twigs, cardboard, bark, or other similar materials you can break apart with your fingertips. You want these to catch fire easily but burn longer than the kindling.
Consider also placing a few thicker twigs atop the kindling that may burn a bit longer than the rest.
3. Light the Fire
It's the moment of truth. Remember when your mother told you not to play with matches? Forget all of that! (But still be careful!)
Get the bottom layer of your kindling pile lit on all sides. Then, sit back and watch it burn.
As the pile of kindling burns, it will begin to fall down into the cracks of your asterisk that you cut. This is supposed to happen. The log will protect the flame, and the smoke will vent out the top, allowing the fire to grow upward from the inside.
4. Keep It Cooking
You can add a few more small sticks to the top to help further fuel the fire until the log begins burning more evenly. Once it does, you're set.
The log should burn for approximately two to four hours, which is just perfect to do some cooking and stay warm while you feast. Rest a frying pan or a kettle on the top of the log, like a stove-top burner. It'll hold it flat, right over the flame. The slots down the sides will continue to allow ventilation while you cook over the fire, so there's no concern of snuffing out the flames with your pan.
5. Extinguish the Heat
When you're finished with your Swedish torch, you should always extinguish any remaining coals. Chances are that the flames are out by now, but the hot red coals that remain still can spread into a forest fire if you're not around to manage them.
Pour sufficient amounts of water and dirt over the coals until you no longer see smoke. Once the smoke is gone, you should be good to go. To be extra safe, consider pouring another equal amount of water and dirt over the ashes before you leave.