Making a Swedish Fire Torch
Recently I took part in a friendly game of poker at a farm house in rural Petersfield. As it was a nice evening, we played outside. The host set up five Swedish Fire Torches around the table, adding a little warmth, light and atmosphere to game. Sadly, I didn’t win, but the setting was brilliant.
Ever since, I’ve wanted to write a post on how to make a Swedish fire torch. Not only are they aesthetically pleasing, they burn for an incredibly long time with little maintenance and provide a flat surface to cook on too.
Quite simply, the Swedish log candle is a large upright log with three downward cuts that run almost the entire length of the log. The things you have to consider are: wood selection, its purpose, and how big you want to make it.
Right: A well-used Swedish fire torch nearing the end of its use
The Swedish Fire Torch is easy to build, takes up a small amount of space and is also a good fire to make in snow, as the main part of the construction is kept off the wet ground. It’s an ingenious, yet simple natural contraption.
The reason it is so unique lies in its simplicity. It is a self-feeding, one-piece fire unit, perhaps a little impractical for the trail, but excellent for a base camp. The way in which it burns gives rise to four practical uses: to begin with you have an excellent light source. After half an hour of burning (or even before), the flat, circular top is ideally suited for a kettle or frying pan. After an hour, the log candle starts churning out a fair bit of heat; then, when you get into the third hour of burning, you are ready to drop down a kebab of your favourite meat for a 360° F slow roasting.
How to make a Swedish fire torch
Creating a Swedish long candle couldn’t be simpler: all you need is a good length of seasoned wood, a chainsaw (although you can use a normal saw if you feel your arms are up to it), and some sort of lighter fluid, such as kerosene, to get it going.
Depending on what you intend to use it for will determine the type of wood to choose, but the wood must be well seasoned. For decorative or lighting purposes, a softwood is preferable as it will burn quick and kick out plenty of light. Pine, fir, and birch are perfect choices.
For cooking purposes, stay well away from softwoods as they will taint the meat and cover any pots and pans in soot. Hardwoods such as beech, oak, apple, hornbeam, and cherry are best. Ash often has a lower moisture content (therefore takes less time to season) and burns better than the other hardwoods.
This is completely up to you. You can make small ones to line pathways or for a table centrepiece and you can make huge beasts of log candles as long as the diameter is no bigger than the length of your chainsaw.
1. Select your seasoned log. For a rough guide on dimensions – 32 inches long by 10 inches in diameter would be quite suitable.
2. Ensure that both ends have level surfaces; the thickest end will be the base.
3. Set your log upright on the ground and mark out with a pencil and measuring stick the lines you are going to cut; what you are aiming to create will look like the top of a pie that has been cut into six pieces.
4. Using a chainsaw, make the first cut. The first cut goes straight across the middle of the log. Rip the chainsaw downwards at a steady pace until you get to 5 inches from the bottom; on reaching the 5 inch mark, tip the chainsaw down and inwards to make the cut lower on the outside, this will help draw more air up the log once it is lit, ensuring a better burn.
5. Repeat the cuts on the other marked lines down to the 5-inch mark and remember to tip the chainsaw inwards when you get to the base for airflow.
Although you can fill the gaps with tinder, such as strips of birch bark, it is far easier to use a liquid fuel such as kerosene or lighter fluid to get it going. Shy away from gasoline as it is a touch too volatile.
When first lit there will be a small flame shooting out of the top, which will gradually die down and the log will smoke for a short period before the flames start belting out again as the log candle burns from the inside out. In general a log candle of this size will burn for 2-3 hours.
I can thoroughly recommend log candles as the ultimate natural stove. Their versatility is quite astounding and not only are they practical, but they look great too. It’s not often you can light a fire that you don’t have to feed.