How To…. Build a Dovetail Log Rocket Stove

In my continuing research into Log Rocket Stoves I came across a Wikipedia page called the Schwedenfeuer and in it details of a type of log rocket stove I had not come across before, with a built-in fire tray and a chimney formed by simply cutting away the inner corner of one section.

Clever though it was, though, this stove still relied on string or wire to tie the sections together. As these stoves have been around for a long time I figured there must be other ways of holding them all together. I thought perhaps that green wood dovetail wedges might do the job, so I set out to test this.

Photo 13-03-2016, 07 35 28
The Dovetail Log Rocket Stove

Tools and Material

As usual I limited myself to the tools I would usually carry in my backpack, including a knife, saw and axe. A pen or pencil is handy for this project as well.

I’ve had a piece of birch stored in my garage for over a year however it had absorbed moisture over the winter and was fairly damp in its core.

Photo 13-03-2016, 07 35 28 (1)

Splitting Out

This style of log rocket requires you to put a stop cut into the bottom of the log to about two thirds of its width. You can see in the top left picture below the cut is about 10 to 15 cms from what will be the bottom of the stove.

The top right picture below shoes you how far I put my stop cut into the log. The bottom two pictures show me marking out with my saw the approximate area I would be battoning out.

Photo 13-03-2016, 07 35 30
Bottom cut and marking out

I used my axe and a large piece of wood to batton out the the wood. You can see the shape of the stove at this stage with one segment in an inverted ‘L’ shape (Segment 1) and a smaller piece (Segment 2).

The bottom two photos show me marking out the smaller piece for further splitting. This piece is not split exactly in two as this configuration allows you to form the chimney very quickly.

Photo 13-03-2016, 07 35 30 (1)

The Chimney

Below you can see the shape of all the pieces when they are put back together . I then battoned off the tip of the larger piece from Segment 2  so that a chimney would be formed. This piece of battoned-out wood I further split into fine pieces to act as kindling for the stove.

Photo 13-03-2016, 07 35 31
The One Cut Chimney

Once I had the chimney battoned out I trimmed off some excess wood from Segment 1 and then used a pencil to mark out the chimney area.

I did this so I could put some Raappanan tuli cuts into the chimney area. It is important to keep the sections of the log rocket that join together as smooth as possible for a good fit so marking out the chimney area ensures I do not cut into the wrong area.

Photo 13-03-2016, 07 35 42
Trimming & Marking out the chimney

The Raappanan tuli cuts are fairly simple to make with my axe. I just ensured I cut only into the wood in the chimney area and that the cuts were made upwards, towards the top of the chimney.

These cuts are particularly helpful when using damp wood as it offers far more surface area to the initial flame, allowing it to catch more quickly, and also it helps to dry the damp wood out.

Photo 13-03-2016, 07 35 33
Raappanan tuli cuts

The Firebox

The next stage I worked on was the firebox opening. This can be done in a number of different way however I elected to go for a triangular opening.

I formed the opening by cutting a small triangle at the base of both pieces from Segment 2. I also tapered the inside of the cuts to open the firebox up a bit. I made this firebox slightly larger than normal as the wood was very damp. My thought was that the extra air intake would help to keep the fire going at the start before the insides of the stove became fully lit.

Photo 13-03-2016, 07 35 33 (1)
The firebox opening

The Dovetail Joints

These joints were a total experiment. I put all the pieces together again and, holding them tightly, sawed a line to the depth of a centimetre across two of the joints. (I recommend you use some string or maybe a belt to hold everything together as you make the cuts – I didn’t and I wished I had.)

I then did the same cut but flared my saw out slightly (about 45 degrees) to the same depth. I then repeated the cut with the saw flared out 45 degrees in the opposite direction to the original cut to the same depth (there will be a picture of the cut further down the post).

Once that was done I used my saw like a rasp to carve out all the excess wood to form what is called the dovetail ‘Tail’.

Photo 13-03-2016, 07 35 34
Cutting out the ‘Tails’

Below you can see this ‘Tail’ part of the dovetail joint. It forms what I think of as a bow tie shape when done properly. The important point is to start each cut from the same place, saw to the same depth each time and ensure that the middle of the tail is centred over the split in the segments.

I found that as I had not strapped the segments together I had to really hold them firmly together – this is where you will appreciate your belt or piece of string. Also while sawing these ‘Tails’ in be aware at all times where the saw is in relation to your thumb and forefinger on the hand holding the stove.

I made three of these tails (one over each split) to hold all the segments together.

Photo 13-03-2016, 07 35 35
The Tails

To hold the segments together you need to carve some ‘Pins’ to insert into the ‘Tails’. I used green hazel wood to make the pins and made sure that they were carved into a triangular shape but initially too big for the tail.

Carving in this manner allowed me to insert the pin into the tail and then progressively carve off smaller pieces from the pin until it started to slide in. I also used my large piece of wood to hammer the pins in to ensure a very tight fit.

If you find that your pin is too small just get a fresh piece of green wood and try again. They only take seconds to make. To finish the pins off I trimmed the ends with my saw.

Photo 13-03-2016, 07 35 36
Cutting and inserting the ‘Pins’

As the bark of the birch tree is very flammable I stripped it all off and kept it to the side to use later as kindling to get the fire started. The dovetail joints if fitted snugly will keep all the segments locked together tightly.

Photo 13-03-2016, 07 35 37

Firing Up

I lit the stove with some Vaseline-soaked cotton wool balls (which I always carry with me) because everything was so damp. The wind was non existent that day so it took me a while to get the stove going well.

Normally these stoves fire up really easily when there’s a little bit of wind to create the rocket effect up through the chimney

Photo 13-03-2016, 07 35 37 (1)
Firing up and drying out

Eventually the rocket effect started and I placed three pieces of green wood onto the top for my pot to sit on. These were fairly thin pieces but would last long enough to boil some water. Have a few pieces spare on standby though if needed.

Photo 13-03-2016, 07 35 38
Green wood pot stand

Once the pot was on (about 10 minutes after initial burn) I needed to keep popping small pieces of wood into the fire box to keep the fire going. If your wood is really dry or resinous (like spruce or pine) you may not need to keep tending the fire as the internal walls of the chimney will probably be well lit.

Photo 13-03-2016, 07 35 39
Now it is a stove

It took me just under 15 minutes to boil this pot of water (enough for approx 3 cups of coffee) and the dovetail joints remained strong throughout.

Photo 13-03-2016, 07 35 40

After 45 minutes the first of the joints burnt through however the stove remained standing until it burnt out. Due to the lack of wind the majority of the wood did not burn through.

I made this short video of another Dovetail Log Rocket Stove to show it in action.

I like to experiment with log rocket stoves and this reliance on using string or wire to hold them together (although you can dig the segments of some types directly into soft ground) has always bugged me.

This  Schwedenfeuer type of stove lends itself well to the dovetail joints I think,  and once you have practised making a couple you will be able to knock together a stove very quickly with just natural materials.

As usual I am open to ideas and suggestions on creating more log rocket stoves and Scandinavian candles. If you have not seen my other posts on this subject have a look at my summary post on this subject titled – Candles, Rockets and Long Fires.



Candles, Rockets and Long Fires

It has been a dream of mine to one day head on over to Scandinavia to practise my bushcraft skills, particularly in winter time. Time and money have so far not allowed me to do that however that has not stopped me from researching some of the ways of lighting fires in the snow or wet conditions.

I have seen many a Scandinavian (sometimes referred to as Swedish candles though Finnish seems the origin for many ) candle at bushcraft meets that have been carved using a chainsaw however I do not own one. My research showed me that chainsaws were not required and there are many other ways to light a fire in the snow or on wet ground other than candles, such as long fires and log rocket stoves.

This post brings together all my posts over the last couple of years on this subject. You will find if you click on the title for each section it will bring you to a more detailed post on making these fires.

Finnish/Swedish Candle – No Chainsaw

Trawling You Tube one evening a few years ago I came across a video titled the Log Stove from Hobbexp. Up until that point I thought to make a candle you needed a chainsaw. Hobbexp showed me that you could make a perfectly good candle with just an axe and some kindling.

The one below was made using a birch log and stuffed with birch bark and spruce resin (and a couple of battoned-down pieces of green wood to keep the splits open). These candles can burn for a good couple of hours, are easy to set up and look great. I have no idea how many I have made over the last couple of years.

Finnish/Swedish Candle – No Chainsaw

Multi Rod Finnish/Swedish Candle

I got another idea for a candle during my research once again from You Tube from ‘bushcraftmyway’ titled the swedish torch/stove – my way.  I liked this stove as it could be made from damp wood (ideal in the UK).

I tied some seasoned but damp birch rods together with bramble strips and willow bark then stuffed in tiny pieces of kindling and Vaseline-coated cotton wool. I decided to use the Vaseline and cotton wool so as to give the damp wood a chance to dry out.

After a bit of tender care the wood started to dry out and I easily managed to boil a kettle on it. This is an excellent way to get a fire going in damp/wet conditions. The remains of the candle after it had burnt down provided me with a great bed of coals to maintain a more traditional firelay.

Photo 01-12-2013 11 19 00
Multi Rod Finnish/Swedish Candle

Finnish/Swedish Candles – A Comparison

All this research led me to compare this rod style of candle with the more commonly split log candle. I set up the rod candle this time with very dry rods and split a spruce log with my axe into a number of wedges.

I tied them all together with natural cordage and lit them. The rod candle took off very quickly as it was stuffed full of very fine kindling however the split log candle lasted longer as it took longer to fully get going.

Again I managed to easily boil a kettle on both of these candles. Both are simple and easy to make.

Photo 03-12-2013 13 26 39
Finnish/Swedish Candles – A comparison

Rappanan Tuli Candle

The idea for this one came from Perkele’s Blog Spot but the post is no longer available. I think this candle is regarded by many as the original Finnish Candle.

A log is split from top to bottom and pieces from the central core are then axed out to act as kindling. Lots of cuts are made into the inner faces of the candle to give the flames plenty of surface area to catch onto.

It took me a while to get the flames self sustaining, but once they’d caught the candle worked well. It looked precarious as the two pieces of wood are not lashed together but they stayed upright till the end.

Photo 22-12-2013 13 05 48
Raappanan tuli candle

Rakovalkea Gap Fire

The Rakovalkea Gap fire hails from Finland and I was taught a similar method by my friend Kevin Warrington (Laplanders Natural Lore) back in 2007. I came across the term Rakovalkea around about 2011 after seeing pictures of this fire being made by the Finnish army on the internet.

This is a scaled-down model I made however it was fully functioning and its set up makes for a long burn time with easy adjustment to increase or decrease the flames. This has proved to be the most most popular post on my website.

Photo 10-03-2014 15 09 47
Rakovalkea Gap Fire

Wood Gas Stove

I decided to include this little fella as it is excellent for cooking in damp or wintry conditions. It is a wood gas stove and burns very efficiently. I was shown this by my friend Ian Woodham back in 2011 at the Bushcraft UK Bushmoot. As soon as I got home I made one up and documented it on my blog.

I made this out of a metal paint pot, a large dog food tin, a Fray Bentos pie tin and a few bits and bobs. It works a treat and needs very little fuel to keep it going. I like to use dry seasoned pine/spruce/larch cones in the stove as they burn for a good length of time.

Wood Gas Stove

Drilled Log Rocket Stoves

The next type of candle I came across was what has been termed the log rocket stove. I spotted a video by James Hookway and soon set to work in my workshop creating 3 stoves from different woods.

Log rocket stoves really intrigued me as they require very little kindling to keep them going (the damper the log the more kindling you require).

Have a look at the original post here to see how they compared.

Drilled Log Rocket Stoves

Log Rocket Fire Faces

Now the kids love this stove – whenever you are having a barbie in the garden or if you are having a family camp make one or two of these up.

The principles are the same as the log rocket in the previous post except for the faces you can carve on them. Once they get going the faces really light up. They are perfectly able to be used as a normal log rocket stove for cooking or boiling but have the extra appeal factor of the face. A good video on this is the one made by Marcels Workshop.

Photo 10-12-2013 10 49 22
Log Rocket Fire Faces

Damp Log Rocket using an Axe

Log rocket stoves have always appealed to me as a woodsman however when I am lightweight camping I do not fancy carrying around pre-prepared ones. Recently on Facebook Paul Hasling posted an article on making one with an axe and saw with no need for a drill. One of the other Scout leaders posted up a step by step guide on making one but it is in Spanish – the pictures though speak for themselves – Rocket Stove de Madeira.

I was instantly attracted to this method however when I was next out in the woods I could only find damp logs. To overcome this I split the log into six pieces and added Raappanan tuli cuts inside the chimney. This damp log rocket stove took slightly longer to get going as the internal wood slowly dried but once it was going there was no stopping it.

Photo 11-12-2015, 13 14 13
Damp Log Rocket Stove using an Axe

Log Rocket using a Knife

The final post in this series came to me one evening when I was wondering how I could operate in the woods without an axe. I figured it was worth a go trying to make a log rocket stove with just my Mora knife (I did use a small saw to trim the log).

With some battoning and the use of a wooden wedge I was able to split a decent sized log and fashion a perfectly good log rocket stove.

This exercise really is an excellent way to test out your knife skills.

Photo 26-01-2016, 22 25 21 (1)
Log Rocket using a Knife

Is the story over on candles, long fires and log rocket stoves? – I think not. I will continue to research this intriguing subject and if you have any ideas that I could try out to add to this library of knowledge I would really appreciate hearing from you.



How To…. Build a Finnish/Swedish Candle – Log Rocket Stoves – Part 5

Welcome to Part 5 of this series on bushcraft candles.

Take one log, drill a couple of holes, add some combustibles and strike a match – you have yourself one Log Rocket Stove.

Three Log Rocket Stoves in action

After building the Fire Face Candles I was intrigued by Marcels Workshop video on You Tube (link at the end of the post) where he mentioned that his candles would make good stoves. I was sure that they would but after seeing another You Tube video by James Hookway using a slightly different method I was unsure which one to use. So this post is not just a How To…. on building a Log Rocket Stove but it is also a report on comparing the two types.

I wanted to investigate these stoves as I felt that they fitted in well with the Finnish/Swedish Candle theme of this series. I also added a third stove to test out using a damp log just to see if it would work.

I have numbered the stoves 1), 2) and 3)

1) A dry western red cedar log to be fed with dry kindling
2) A damp birch log to be fed with damp twigs picked off the ground
3) A dry western red cedar log fitted with a wick and filled with wax

I should have tested each log separately but for ease of photography I decided to test all of them at the same time.

Take three logs

I drilled a small pilot hole into the centre of each log with 12mm drill piece. Then after marking my 24mm drill piece to the required depth I drilled out the main chimney.
While drilling I secured the log between my feet but if you do not feel comfortable with this method I advise securing the log to a workbench.

Drill a pilot, measure and drill a chimney

Next you need to measure where the burn chamber will be. I normally mark the log somehow (with tape this time) above the base of the chimney. This will create a small chamber in the burn area you can fill with combustibles for your fire and still allow plenty of airflow into the stove.

Measure for the burn area

Again after securing the log, drill into the side at your marked spot until your drill piece enters the chimney. For stoves 1 & 2 I drilled two holes (side by side) to create a wider burn hole to feed kindling into the burn area. For Stove 3 I only drilled one burn area hole as I would be using a wick in the stove.

Drill the burn area out

I used a knife to trim the excess wood in the burn areas of stoves 1 & 2.

For the wood-fed stoves drill two holes for the burn area and finish with a knife

The finished burn area holes.

Burn areas for all 3 stoves

Here you can just see the holes at the top of the logs where the chimneys are and the holes for the burn areas.

Stoves ready to be filled

Stove 3 – I melted some candle wax and dipped a wick into it, ensuring the wick got fully soaked in wax, and then inserted it into the stove. I used a pair of pliers and a stick to push the wick into the burn area hole and then from the top pushed all the excess wick into the well at the bottom of the chimney.

Insert a wick if you want to make stove 3

I decided to try combustibles I would normally find in my bushcraft bag.
I stuffed Vaseline coated cotton wool into stove 1, crumbled fire lighters into stove 2 and pored melted wax into the well of stove 3.

Fill with your choice of flammable material. 1) Cotton wool & Vaseline 2) Crumbled firelighter 3) Wax to cover the wick

I cut and trimmed some green hazel to act as pot stands and placed them all side by side in the garden.
There was very little wind again that day so I made sure I had a chopping board handy to use as a wafter.

Set up to fire up and with green wood pot stands

I decided to feed dry split kindling into stove 1, damp twigs into stove 2 (stove 2 was also a damp log itself) and stove 3 would have only the wick and wax.
My daughter lit each candle with one match each.

All the additions 1) Dry kindling 2) Damp twig kindling 3) Wax wick

I needed to keep an eye on each stove (this is why I should have tested each one separately) as each one went out in turn as I was dealing with another. After relighting they all managed to stay alight. Stove 3, which had the wick, needed no further tending whatsoever.
Stoves 1 & 2 required constant attention to maintain the flame in the burn area. Too much kindling choked the air off, too little and the flame died out.
At this stage the burn area of the log started to burn but not much of the chimney, so I relied on feeding twigs into the burn area to keep the stove going.

5 minutes burn time

After 10 minutes I put the pots on. Each had half a litre of cold water in them. Stove 3 was going well and needing no tending as the wick was well alight now. Stoves 1 & 2 were still struggling and requiring constant attention. At this stage stove 2 was still giving off a lot of smoke as the wood around the burn area dried out.

10 minutes burn time

After 15 minutes stoves 1 & 2 started going well with the burn area in stove 1 getting bigger.

15 minutes burn time

Stove 3 was getting stronger and stronger with no help required.

15 minutes burn time

The flames were steady now under the pots.

2 & 3 going strong

After 20 minutes even stove 2 (the damp log) was going well.

20 minutes burn time

25 minutes after ignition (20 minutes of heating) the first pot was boiling.

25 minutes burn time

Stove 3 was the winner as it had held a steady flame throughout. With a little bit more wind I think we could have knocked a few minutes off this time.

Stove 3 is the winner

Stove 1 was fully lit now (the chimney wall was burning well) and did not need any more kindling. The burn area had widened to a point that you could not easily add any more fuel (it just fell out) but all it needed was a bit of wafting to keep the flames going. Again if the wind had been there I think this stove would have performed much better.
I had given up on the damp twigs in stove 2 by now and added some of the dry split kindling I had been using in stove 1. This made a vast difference and the stove suddenly burst into life.

30 minutes burn time

Five minutes after coming to life stove 2 had boiling water with stove 1 shortly after. These two stoves I feel would have performed much better if I had been giving them individual attention rather than trying to keep all three going, photograph them and analyse what was going on (I find the multi-tasking thing difficult!).

Stove 2 comes in second

An hour after ignition, winning stove 3 had burnt right through to the back.

Stove 3 (the winner) at 45 minutes and 60 minutes burn time

I started to add dry kindling into the top of stove 2 and we had a proper candle now.

Stove 2 dried out and now with dry kindling after one hour burn time

After one hour I would have said that stoves 1 & 3 were a bit too delicate now to use as stoves. Stove 2 was still going well but I had to waft the other two to get the flames you see in this picture as there was still no wind.

Experiment over after an hour

Two hours after ignition all the stoves had burnt out. I put all the fallen pieces of wood into stove 2, gave it a quick waft, and away it went again.

Two hours after burn time a little waft and number 2 stove is flaming again

I thoroughly enjoyed doing this experiment with the three stoves but in retrospect I should have either tested each stove separately or had some helpers to tend individual stoves.

Given time (and some more logs) I will be redoing these stoves and seeing how they operate on their own and with a bit of wind. I also want to get myself a drill piece about 35mm wide as I feel that will help when it comes to larger log stoves.

Definitely not a stove for the ultra-light bushcrafter but one to be chucked into your wagon before going on a trip.

I will make a few more up for the New Year and bring them to some of my courses to see what people think of them.

My thoughts on each stove

Stove 1) Did not perform well without wind and the burn area became unusable quickly. When given steady wind by wafting this stove worked well and soon the chimney area was alight. It took longest to boil the water but that was because the flame kept dying out as there was no wind and I was too busy with stove 2 to keep it fed with kindling. I wonder if a large dry log (possibly of a harder wood) would be better for this type of stove rather than the small one I used.

Stove 2) As I expected, this stove took longest to get going. Everything was damp (log and twigs) so I used a number of broken pieces of fire lighter to keep it going. When I started to use the dry kindling the stove really took off. This stove was also bigger than stove 1 so the burn area was bigger and I think that helped it to perform better.

Stove 3) Apart from needing to be re-lit at the beginning, this stove was a dream to use as it required no maintenance. The wick that is encased in wax in the well of the stove ensures ample burn time for the log itself to light up.


There’s a lot of detail here but actually the principle is very simple:

Take one log, drill a couple of holes, add some combustibles and strike a match – you have yourself one Log Rocket Stove.




Marcels Workshop – ‘How to make a Fire Log 2013′

Wooden rocket stove or alternative swedish fire stick

How To…. Build a Finnish/Swedish Candle – Fire Face Candles – Part 4

Welcome to Part 4 of this series on bushcraft candles.

This type of candle is slightly different to the others I have been building in this series. The main difference is that these Fire Face Candles require the use of power tools for speed of build. (I suppose they could be built with carpenters’ hand tools but that will be for another post.)

In my research on this series I came across a You Tube video on this type of candle from Marcels Workshop called ‘How to make a Fire Log 2013’. I have put a link to the video at the end of the post.

These candles were made for decoration only in my garden (for a party) but they could be used as stoves if you want. My last post in this series I think will be on testing slightly different variations on this method as rocket stoves.

As you can see you can get excellent Fire Faces out of these candles. Here is how you make one.

Photo 08-12-2013 19 22 19
Read on to see how to make yourself a Fire Face Candle

I used a long western red cedar log for the candles. After sawing it into 3 smaller logs I marked a hole on the top and drilled a small pilot hole down into the log. I did not place the mark dead centre so as to ensure the faces when they were completed lit up well.

I found it helpful to drill a pilot hole before switching to a larger drill piece (24mm): I did test going directly to the larger piece without a pilot hole and found for this type of wood drilling in through the top with a pilot first worked better.

The drill piece for the pilot I used here was 12mm. As it was shorter than the log I did not need to mark it with tape in case it came out the bottom. I secured the log between my feet as my vice was not big enough. If you are concerned about this drilling method I would advise that you secure the log to a work surface somehow before drilling.

Photo 10-12-2013 10 46 50
Drill a Pilot hole

Then with the 24mm drill I used tape to mark out how deep I needed to go and drilled the chimney out.

Photo 10-12-2013 10 47 19
Mark your depth and drill out the chimney through the pilot hole

I laid the drill piece beside the log again and using the tape marked off the area where I would drill the mouth. The trick is to make sure that the mouth is above the bottom of the chimney. This will create a ‘well’ that you can fill with the wick and wax.

Photo 10-12-2013 10 47 08
Mark the height where the mouth will go

I used an 18mm drill piece to create the mouth. The 24mm drill would have worked just as well I imagine (I will use that for the Rocket Stoves). Here you can see on the right that the mouth connected with the chimney nicely.

Photo 10-12-2013 10 47 35
Drill the Mouth until it reaches the chimney

I drilled out some eyes (connecting to the chimney) and using the drill decorated the logs with facial features. I did secure the logs for this but if you have the time and skill a good knife will do the same job.

Photo 10-12-2013 10 47 47
Decorate with eyes and facial features

In all it took me about half an hour to get to this stage.

Photo 10-12-2013 10 48 02
Three candles decorated with the drill

I filled a pot up with wax and three wicks and heated it til the wax melted.

Photo 10-12-2013 10 48 14
Melt candle wax and soak the wick

Using pliers and a stick I pushed the wick into the mouth down towards the base of the chimney. Leave a good 2 or 3cms protruding from the mouth at this stage.

Photo 10-12-2013 10 48 27
Insert the wick in through the mouth

I used a stick pushed down the chimney to tamp the wick down into the well. If you do not leave some wick protruding through the mouth it may all get pushed into the well. Then I filled the well with melted wax by pouring it in from the top of the chimney. The wax goes everywhere: I did all this outside.

Photo 10-12-2013 10 48 40
Tamp the wick down into the chamber and fill with wax

So after about 45 minutes I had three Fire Face Candles ready to fire up.

Photo 07-12-2013 16 06 35
Three Fire Face Candles ready to fire up

I set them out in the garden ready to be lit later.

Photo 10-12-2013 11 43 10
Set up as background lighting for the marshmallow fire in the evening

To fire them up just take a match and light the end of the wax-coated wick protruding from the mouth. In no time I had one going well.

Photo 10-12-2013 11 42 52
Firing up with the first one going well

This picture was taken through the mouth and you can see the wick is burning well at the base of the chimney.

Photo 10-12-2013 11 43 28
Wick burning in the base of the chimney

The other two candles did not fire up initially. That was because I hadn’t trusted the wick alone and had inserted some pig fat impregnated paper into the chimney of each of these two. I thought this would help them along but all it did was cut the airflow and so the wick kept going out. After a bit of faffing about and decision making I stripped everything out apart from the wick and re-lit them.

Photo 10-12-2013 10 49 22
First one going well but the other two failed initially

They did not take long to fire up properly. Lesson learnt I think.

Photo 10-12-2013 10 49 38
Blockage removed and now going well

I was quite surprised how long they lasted for. This picture was taken 45 minutes into the burn and you can see the face on the first one is starting to burn out. Next time I may place the chimney more centrally in the log.

Photo 10-12-2013 10 49 52
45 minutes into the burn and the first one (on the left) is burning through

The kids loved the candles and would come right up to them to peer into the faces. I think that the next time I set them up I will put them in a cordoned off area as I was a little bit concerned that some of the more boistrous kids could knock them over.

Photo 10-12-2013 10 50 10
The kids loved them

I brought them all together to get a better picture and also so that they were in one area where I could keep an eye on them. This picture was taken about an hour after I had lit the first one.

Photo 10-12-2013 10 50 23
One hour into burn time (from the first one) and all three are working well

One hour 15 minutes later and the first one had lost its face but was still going strong. There was a bit of wind on the night I tested them and this really helped maintain the flames. When I tested my first candles there was no wind and I had to continually waft them to keep them going.

Photo 10-12-2013 10 50 38
One hour 15 minutes

My favourite picture of the evening. It looks like the front face of a Saxon warriors metal helmet to me.

Photo 08-12-2013 19 22 19
Now that is what you call a Fire Face

A view from above .

Photo 08-12-2013 19 20 57
View from above

In the end the candles lasted just under 2 hours so I was very pleased with the results.

Photo 10-12-2013 10 51 20
One hour 30 minutes (left) and two hours (right)

As there was plenty of wood left on the candles I popped them on the fire and finally sat beside it relaxing with my wife Alison after everyone had gone, the kids were in bed and we’d finished clearing up.
The candles had one last spurt of life and I got a few more Fire Faces to add to my collection.

Photo 10-12-2013 10 51 40
Onto the fire for some more Fire Faces – Can you spot them?

A wonderful end to a wonderful day.

Photo 10-12-2013 10 51 54
Final Faces

In summary I would say that these were a pretty easy candle to make if you have the tools and they do last for a decent amount of time.

If I do get hold of some bigger logs I will try this again to see if I get the same results.

My last post in this Finnish/Swedish Candle series will be to look at using power tools to create rocket stoves from logs.




Marcels Workshop – ‘How to make a Fire Log 2013’

How To…. Build a Finnish/Swedish Candle – Damp/Wet Wood – Part 2

This is Part 2 of my bushcraft candles experiment, if you have not read Part 1 yet have a look here How To….Build a Finnish/Swedish Candle – No chainsaw – Part 1.

Part 2 – Damp/Wet Wood

Never, ever give up on your fire: your life may depend on it

I went for a wander with my children in the woods last weekend to collect some wood and tinder for one of my candles. We had a chat about dead standing wood and how to identify it. Thankfully there are still enough leaves on the trees to make that job easy for them. They selected a birch that had lost the race for light and had no leaves on it. All the small side branches snapped easily off it and, much to my children’s delight, when I pushed the tree it tipped over easily exposing the root.

I trimmed and sawed the tree on site but quickly realised that even though the wood was not rotten in any way it was wet to its centre. Not an ideal situation for a making a quick and easy candle, just a situation that required a bit more preparation.

As you can see from the picture below, even though the wood was wet I still got my coffee.

Read on to see how to put one of these candles together.

Photo 01-12-2013 11 19 00
Brew time

This type of candle is ideal for ground conditions where it is very hard (it is self supporting and easy to reposition) or where the ground is waterlogged (the burn area is raised up off the ground). I have used this method on a number of occasions but until now I have always hammered the individual logs into the ground to form a circle. It was on one of my occasional trawls of You Tube that I came across a video from Bushcraftmyway showing this adaptation that is free standing. I have put a link to the video at the bottom of the post.

To begin with I trimmed the small logs to a length of about 50cms and collected a mixture of flexible bramble (scraping the hooks off), willow and birch shoots to use as cordage.

Photo 01-12-2013 10 10 59
What you need

I gathered all the logs between my thighs and lashed them together with the bramble at first. I used bramble to begin with as the willow and birch I had gathered was quite thin and I thought might snap too easily. I also wanted to test the bramble out to see how useful it was in its ‘raw’ state, without actually stripping it down and turning it into cordage.

Photo 01-12-2013 10 15 25
Form a tube with the logs

It was easy to wrap the birch and willow around the candle for extra support after the bramble was on. I also kept the cordage near the bottom to keep it all away from the flames of the candle.

Photo 01-12-2013 10 28 18
Secured with natural cordage

If you are smart you will have cut all the poles to the same size, as you can see I had not (picture 1). However with the bundle tied up you can turn the whole thing on its side and trim them to size (picture 2). It will never be a perfectly flat surface but it’s good enough for a kettle ( picture 3).

Photo 01-12-2013 22 15 17
Making a flat surface

I pulled the tops of the logs apart and put a smaller, pointed log in the centre to keep the top slightly open (picture 4). Then I stuffed very fine kindling (broken branch tips) into the centre and placed on top some Vaseline-smeared cotton wool and some resin (picture 5). (When you are lighting up wet wood you need to use the best fire-lighting method to hand). One match and the candle was away (picture 6).

Photo 01-12-2013 22 17 41
Lighting up

I had some charcoal ends left from a previous fire so added them on top. These are great for adding that extra heart to the fire.

Photo 01-12-2013 10 52 59
Charcoal as an extender

Next I added small twigs in a criss cross pattern on top of the charcoal. This is a good fire lay for the candle as it is stable and you can make a number of layers (picture 7). Once the fire is going properly pop the kettle on (picture 8). I half filled this group kettle which would have made brews for at least six people.

Photo 01-12-2013 22 18 58 (1)
Ready to boil

I had prepared a mixture of twigs for maintaining the fire. Some had been hung up and some had been found on the ground. As you can see here they did contain a lot of moisture but thankfully the fire was hot enough to boil that moisture off easily.

There were enough gaps at the top of the candle to keep popping twigs in to feed the fire.

NB if you think there is any possibility of the candle falling over, do not let small children feed twigs into the fire: if they push too enthusiastically they could topple it.

Photo 01-12-2013 11 07 01
Adding twigs

In about 15 minutes I had a boiling kettle and a nice cup of coffee made.

Photo 01-12-2013 11 19 00
Coffee ready

By the time I had my coffee the fire had died down as the support logs were so wet (picture 9). I added some more twigs and had to ‘waft’ it for a while (using the white board you can see in picture 10). I happened to build this candle on a day with no wind in a sheltered spot so wafting was a must. If you have a gentle breeze flowing through the logs all you’ll need do is keep adding twigs.

Photo 01-12-2013 22 19 55
Back to life

Here you can see how wet the logs were, the moisture is being boiled out of the top.

Photo 01-12-2013 11 19 24
Boiling logs

At this stage I fed the candle with some bigger pieces of wood and left it to burn for half an hour.

Photo 01-12-2013 11 38 57
Stocking up

This picture was taken after about one hour of burn time. When I came back to it the flames had died down to just dark embers, but after about 30 seconds of gentle wafting the flames were back again. Never, ever give up on your fire: your life may well depend on it.

Photo 01-12-2013 11 55 53
Half hour later

I was thinking at this stage about what my friend Rich59 from BCUK had taught me about tinders many years ago. He broke all the rules when he showed me how to get a flame from damp tinders so I thought what the heck and grabbed a load of damp (some quite wet) leaves and pressed them into the candle (picture 11). After a bit of wafting I got the leaves really glowing with a small amount of flame (picture 12).

Photo 01-12-2013 22 21 15
Wet tinder

Using the criss cross fire lay method again I built up quite a few layers of twigs for a second time. This method really helps to draw the air up through the twigs and so boost the flames.

Photo 01-12-2013 12 52 37
Flames again

Now my candle was quite dry and it produced a great flame for a good two hours. Granted it did need to be maintained but for a pile of unpromising wet logs I was very happy with this candle.

Photo 01-12-2013 12 54 02
Dried out

The cordage wrap lasted right until the end so I would be happy to use some old rope if I had to.

This is a good project to try because many bushcraft skills are covered, from knife and saw use, natural cordage-making, fire-lighting and fire lays, and most importantly it’s a reminder to always persevere when it comes to maintaining your fire when the going gets tough.

Part 3 – How To…. Build a Finnish/Swedish Candle – A Comparison – Part 3



Bushcraft skills: the Swedish torch/stove – my way

How To…. Build a Finnish/Swedish Candle – No chainsaw – Part 1

Spend time on preparing your candle and the payback will be a beautiful column of flame that will captivate any audience.

Read on to see how…………

A favourite evening activity of mine while in the woods is to build a large torch to light up the area around my campsite, and this version has a dual purpose as a handy self-contained stove too.

This type of log stove is commonly referred to as a Swedish Candle in the bushcraft world, but there’s some debate over its origins. Some history I have come across it is that it was used by Finnish soldiers during the winter war of 1939/40 between Finland and the then Soviet Union as a quick way of cooking in deep snow. Soldiers would just ski up to a dead standing piece of wood, cut it to size, split it and put a wedge in the split. After setting a fire in the split they would place their billy can on top to heat up the contents.

In dry arctic environments, dead standing wood does not contain much moisture so catches light easily. In our more maritime environment in the UK we have more moisture in our dead wood so it takes a bit more work to get a fire going. I use a lot of fluffy stuff (eg cotton-grass heads, thistledown or common reed heads), birch bark, spruce or pine resin and anything else I can find to get it going. When you finally succeed though it makes an excellent alternative woodland TV.

On a number of courses I have attended the instructors used chainsaws to make the vertical cuts. This makes the job very easy and you can set up a number of them around the camp quickly.

Chainsawed Candle (with Halloween pumpkin!)

I do not have the luxury of owning a chainsaw so I had a trawl around You Tube and came across a good video from Hobbexp on making one of these candles without the use of a chainsaw. A link to that video is at the bottom of this post. I took a number of attempts to get a system that works for me but as you can see from the results it is worth it.

Axed candle

Some of the pictures you can get are quite stunning. This is from my Fire Face collection and I call it the Seahorse.

Excellent Fire Faces

I typically use a length of well-seasoned birch as my candle but any wood that’s not too hard would work. As I never seem to find the ideal piece of dead standing wood when I need it I always keep a little stock in my store to bring along to camps.
First, split the wood with an axe and a batton. Be very gentle with the first few taps of the batton to make sure the axe does not slip.

Axe Battoning

Create the first split to a depth of about 50 or 60cms then create another split at 90 degrees to the first. To make the candle stand up, rest it against something that is not flammable (I sometimes use a cooking tripod) or dig it into the ground.

Batton a cross

Once the candle is in position, add a green wood wedge down each split to keep the four parts of wood separated, then you’re ready to light your candle.

One of the best aids to lighting a fire is resin. I collect it when out and about in conifer plantations, using a flattened stick to prise it off the tree. It makes it much easier and also you do not need to clean your hands or knife so much. Adding lots of resin to the split keeps the initial flame going for longer, giving the wood time to catch.

Resin is an ideal fire starter for a candle

Here you can see the green wood wedge keeping the split open and the start of the build-up of tinders. Tapping the green wedge in can make the log split a bit more – as you can see here – so be careful that you don’t allow the split to run all the way to the bottom.

Green wood wedge and some tinder

Here you can see I have placed some resin in the split along with some paper impregnated with pig fat. Keep building up different layers of tinders.

Build up layers

I started the fire in this candle with only a small amount of tinder at the bottom of the split to demonstrate how poor the flame would be.

Poor fire from the bottom

The flame was very slow in building up and when I placed small twigs on the top it dampened the flames down. (Instead of small twigs it is better to use dry pine needles as they are very flammable.) Starting the fire at the bottom will work, but you will need to spend far more time tending it; better to start the flame higher up as shown below.

Just remember the saying about the 7 P’s – Prior Preparation and Planning Prevents Pretty Poor Performance. Spend time on preparing your candle and the payback will be a beautiful column of flame that will captivate any audience.

Slow to build up flame

Here I have built up lots of layers of resin and birch bark and lit the flame from the top. I don’t know the physics of it but if you start your fire at the top and let it burn down through the layers it works much better.

Lots of layers and start from the top

A well-lit candle now and an ideal place to boil water for a brew.

Time for a brew

I have gotten some fantastic pictures from these candles.

Evening flames

Even the embers are beautiful.

Glowing embers

The beauty of this set up is that if you keep adding tinder, resin and small twigs this candle will last a good couple of hours.

I have been experimenting with a couple of alternative candles today and will post the results of my thoughts on them in Part 2 of this How To…. soon.



How To…. Build a Finnish/Swedish Candle – Damp/Wet Wood – Part 2

Log Stove video by Fredde (Hobbexp)