How to make a good bonfire

Already, the pungent odour of burning wood, dense clouds of smoke and sound of crackling fire fills the air. Yes, many people have already jumped the gunpowder, but tonight is the night for real bonfire action.

But whilst a fire may create a comforting glow in your garden, for many the task of lighting a fire leaves them hot headed.

Fear not though, because with this guide you’ll soon be the boss of the bonfire. Let’s just hope it doesn’t rain.

Safety

Fire fighter
Don’t let this be your garden
Source: Wikipedia

There aren’t any laws against having a fire, there are some rules to follow.

Whilst there may be a temptation to get rid of household waste, doing so creates pollution, so it is best avoided.

You should also watch the wind direction and location of your bonfire, as smoke can be a serious obstruction to road users. If you live next to a busy road it might be best to skip the bonfire making.

Failure to follow these rules, could not only make you an annoying, unsafe neighbour but also result in a £5000 fine!

Not annoying neighbours and authorities is one thing, but staying safe is another. As a safety precaution ensure you have water to hand, either a bucket or hose will work. You should also keep the fire away from flammable structures, such as fences.

It is also a good idea to surround your fire with a circle of stones, which creates a clear boundary for children and helps stop the fire from spreading.

Preparation

Tinder pieces
Pick n mix tinder
Source: Outdoor Life

The foundation of any decent bonfire starts with tinder. Small amounts of bark, whittled bamboo or dried leaves make great natural tinder. Newspaper is the best synthetic tinder, but should be used sparingly. Too much newspaper and you will cut off the oxygen needed for a fire.

Small sticks and twigs, known as kindling should also be added. As long as the kindling is dry and no larger than 30cm, it will help kick start the fire and keep it burning

If you want your bonfire to last, you’ll also need bigger pieces of wood to keep the fire burning. Whilst kindling is good for getting the fire started, it soon turns to ash, so you need something more substantial to keep the fire alight.

With a hydraulic log splitter you can get the larger pieces prepared without breaking your back, and produce the odd bit of kindling too.

Construction

Teepee fire burning
Burn baby burn!
Source:Wiki How

There are several different structures of bonfire, such as the lean-to, the log cabin, the pyramid and the aptly named random pile (you may want to avoid that one).

But it is the teepee that creates the best looking fire. Make a tripod with three larger pieces of wood and put tinder and kindling underneath. Once lit, either place wood on the side, or in the middle on top of the kindling.

Note that a teepee fire can be structurally unstable as the logs in the “tripod” can burn at different rates. With a log splitter though, you can easily gauge the size of the wood you’re using.

Ignition

Lit match
A match made in fire
Source: Flickr

If your tinder, kindling and construction is correct, you can light a fire with just one match. To get started light the tinder and then gently blow at the base of the flame. Don’t blow too hard as this will extinguish the fire before it’s started.

Slowly add more wood, but not too much as this can stop oxygen fueling the fire. Dampness, green wood or poor tinder may hinder the “one match” theory. So if this is the case, place firelighters around the base of the fire. Do not use aerosol, petrol or other highly flammable liquids as this can be extremely dangerous.

For many homeowners a back garden bonfire is a yearly event. The crackle, aroma and dense smokey fog combine to create a warm glow in our cheeks and the air. And with a log splitter, some wood and a bit of know how, the crackle and spark of warming bonfire can be had with great success.

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