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Woodstove people, what's your technique for a cold start?

last month

My woodstove, a large Jotul that we bought decades ago, has always been a "hard start." It wasn't a problem when we used to keep the stove going all night, but I stopped doing that when I started living alone, and then every start became a cold start. Over the years I worked out a method that was successful most of the time, starting with crumpled newspaper and split fatwood and ending with a few medium logs, with a couple of other layers in between.

Recently my son was giving me a hard time about using newspaper. I was not about to give it up, but I know there are other ways to handle it besides crumpling. So I poked around online and found this:

As you can see, he uses a lot of wood to start with, and ends up with a big fire--bigger than I'd be comfortable with. Still, I was intrigued with his "top down" method of building a fire, and gave it a try using less wood. In an earlier post he described "Nantucket Knots" made from newspaper by rolling large sheets diagonally and then tying the roll into a knot. My knotted newspaper proved to be rather useless, but when I added a couple of crumpled pieces things got going. It was interesting watching it burn, and I liked how the logs on the bottom provided air flow as opposed to having everything flat on the bottom surface of the stove.

Right now I have a larger number than usual of round logs. They vary in thickness, but their tendency to roll makes stacking tricky. I settled on a very much modified "top down" method: three medium logs on the bottom with newspaper stuffed between them, then three pieces of split fatwood, a handful of twigs from the yard, three skinny pieces of ash wood that my son splits for me (I'm a lucky mom), and then a couple of small-to-medium logs. More are added when the fire gets going--which happens quickly. I feel as though the "hard start" has finally met its match. :-)

So what's your method?

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