seasoned logs

Come on Baby Light My Fire – the essential guide to Christmas gifts for the open-fire lover!

Are you looking for a ‘different’ Christmas present for someone this year? That one person who seems to have everything and needs nothing?  Well, the elves at Wilkins Towers have had a hunt around the internet for some fun, quirky and unusual chimney, wood and fire related gifts that might just help you out of a tricky gift giving conundrum this Christmas.

If the person like fires, wood, trees or gardens, they are probably going to LOVE one of these (we’d like the chainsaw course please.)

On a serious note, whilst our list may save your Christmas present giving reputation, the first gift on the lift may actually save someone’s life so could we recommend one in each stocking? This year we adopted the Katie Haines Memorial Trust as our charity of the year; Katie died of carbon monoxide poisoning shortly after she got married and we’re working with the Trust to spread the word about the dangers of Carbon Monoxide poisoning.

Wherever you are this Christmas – please stay safe, have fun and enjoy the holidays!

Peter, Louise and Gerry the Cat x

The Wilkins Chimney Sweep Guide to the ‘hottest’ chimney-related Christmas presents around!

Click on the item if you want to find them online – other suppliers may be available!

Carbon Monoxide Alarm

 

At Wilkins we sell a ‘standard’ look, but top quality, carbon monoxide alarm (Honeywell XC90). But for something a bit different we think this NEST smoke and CO alarm combo is pretty attractive. An essential piece of equipment for all fireplace users. LINK TO NEST STORE

Companion Set

 

Whilst we love old-fashioned designs this wall hung companion set attracted us because it is so unusual. Pretty sure Austin Powers would describe it as ‘Groovy Baby.’ LINK TO FIREPLACE PRODUCTS

Stove Fan

 

Did you know that this handy device, when placed on top of your wood-burning or multi-fuel stove, pushes the heat around your home? They are brilliant and can really make a difference in a big room, we highly recommend them. They are mostly utilitarian in appearance (there’s a market there surely?) but we found this lovely fan that reminded us of reindeer antlers! FIND ME ON GEARBEST

Wood Storage – Indoors

 

We hope by now, if you have read any of our other blog posts, you’ll know it is REALLY important you only burn DRY wood (wet wood releases tar which sticks to the inside of the chimney which can, in turn ignite, causing a chimney fire.)  Achieve safety and beauty with this ingenious indoor log store that will let your logs dry out beautifully in just a few days. We saw this one at a local show – and thought it was particularly appropriate as it looks like a Christmas candle. SEE THE RANGE HERE AT ARDOUR LIVING

Wood Storage – Outdoors

 

If you have longer to dry out your logs how about this beauty? We thought ‘5 Gold Rings’ when we saw this one! Wood that is stored to dry out still benefits from air circulating through it, so this design is great. Pop a tarp over it in the wet weather. SEARCH WORM.CO.UK!

 

Make your own logs – paper log maker

Are you forever at the local garage buying bags of logs? Why not make your own from old newspapers? This brilliant little contraption will help you save £££’s on your yearly log bill. Simply soak the paper in water until it is mushy, load into the log maker and press down to expel all the water. Leave to try and voila, free logs! LOOK FOR ME ON PAPERLOGMAKER

 Grow your own logs – plant your own willow wood

 

If you use your fire a lot, own a small bit of land and don’t mind getting your hands dirty, why not grow your own wood? A Somerset company runs day courses to teach you all you need to know to plant, maintain and harvest your very own willow wood. The course is £60, next one in early Feb and the ‘grow your own’ kit starts at £65! CONTACT THE WILLOWBANK

Cut down your own wood – with a professional chain saw course

If you already have the wood but need to know how to cut it down properly, this course might be more suitable. At a cost of £195 per person, the two-day course combines training and assessment and candidates who achieve an acceptable standard will be awarded a Lantra Awards Certificate of Training (valid for 5 years). This course is suitable for someone who intends to use the chainsaw for business, domestic or leisure activities, but does not intend to work in forestry, arboricultural activities or work on Forestry Commission land, or fell trees over 200mm in diameter. (HSE). BOOK YOUR CHAINSAW TRAINING!

And finally…something silly! Behold the Beacon!

Be the envy of everyone in the street, with your very our own beacon! Imagine directing people to your house, ‘past the post box on the right, 200 yards down, we’re the house with a Mondeo in the drive and a 20ft flaming beacon in the front garden. You can’t miss us.’
We’re not entirely sure of the legality of this (so do check with the suppliers) but we know we’d give anything to see it! Bullfinch Gas have supplied hand held torches and beacons to events such as the 2012 London Olympics Relay Torch and the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee so they really know their stuff. To see the full range: BULLFINCH 

That brings us to the end of our lift of chimney-related gifts for Christmas 2017. If you buy any of them we’d love to see a photo (especially if it is the beacon!)

Wishing you a very happy Christmas from the Wilkins Team.

 

Day 5: Safe Use of your fires/woodburners/AGA etc…

We know that you most likely know all of this…but…here’s a prompt. It might just be worth a read to keep you safe.

BEFORE LIGHTING

If you have just moved into a home, whether you have an open fire or an open or ‘closed’ wood burning or multi-fuel stove, unless you have proof that the chimney (or flue) has been swept recently obtain the services of a trained professional chimney sweep and have it swept.

The following applies to all the above appliances:

Ensure there is sufficient air available to the appliance to enable it to burn efficiently.  If there are air bricks or vents ensure they are open and not blocked or covered.  Ensure the fuel is dry and as in the case of wood, is of the correct type and has been allowed to ‘season’ properly (this will be explained later).  Damp or wet fuel will lose a large amount of it’s heat ‘energy’ if it has to dry out fully before burning.

FUEL

Some appliances, such as open fires, can burn a variety of fuels, some are more limited.  Please check with a ‘qualified’ person or the instruction book of your particular appliance if in doubt.

See our blog on Fuel!

LIGHTING THE FIRE

The following are general guidelines for lighting open fires and woodburners /multi fuel stoves.  Ask anyone and they’ll tell you that, until you’re experienced with your type of appliance it’s all a bit ‘hit and miss’ or ‘trial and error’.

OPEN FIRES

Before the first fire of the year or after a period of time when the fire hasn’t been lit in cold weather it might be best to warm the flue before lighting.

Lightly crumple 6 to 10 pieces of newspaper in the grate or woodburner – light it, this will warm the flue and assist the convection.  If a small amount of newspaper smoke enters the room initially this usually doesn’t cause too much inconvenience.

  • Begin with a bed of newspapers either lightly crumpled or long pieces rolled up and knotted in the middle.
  • Arrange small pieces of kindling wood either laid in a lattice across the newspaper or stood up in a ‘tepee’ shape.
  • If required fire lighters can also be used. These are often wax blocks impregnated with paraffin or similar.  Natural versions are also available.
  • If using coal arrange some around the paper and kindling leaving air gaps around the fuel to assist the burn then, using a long stem match or a purpose made gas fire lighter, for safety, light the newspaper.
  • Add coal or small logs slowly as the kindling burns to encourage a ‘bed’ of embers. Top up with coal or wood as required.

With thanks to Wikipedia – logs!

WOODBURNERS/MULTI FUEL STOVES

If the fire has not been lit for a while, especially in cold weather, warm the flue as per ‘open fires’. Laying the initial fire is the same as for open fires except that you must not use coal or smokeless fuel unless the appliance and flue are specifically designed to burn this type of fuel.

Check with the manufacturer’s instructions as to which vents to open whilst lighting the appliance; in the event these are not available best to start with all vents open and close the top ones first and then the bottom as the fire gets established.

If you’ve not been left any instructions you might find guides online.

ONCE LIT

Fairly straightforward really, add the appropriate fuel as necessary remembering not to allow the appliance to get too hot. A stove thermometer is ideal to guide you – especially one colour coded for ideal burning temperatures.

Don’t slumber a stove  if you are burning wood (whether ‘seasoned’ or not) as this could form creosote (tar) in the chimney/flue which is highly flammable and could catch fire or block the flue causing the danger of Carbon Monoxide poisoning.

WHEN FINISHED

When you no longer need the fire, usually at bedtime, try to remember not to put any more fuel on for a half to one hour before the actual time you wish to finish the fire.  This is especially important if you have an open fire or open woodburning stove.  Place a fireguard in front of the fire or close the doors on a woodburner just in case any embers ‘spit’…this is not very likely but is a good precaution none the less.

Please take a look at our article on the dangers of slumbering your woodburner.

Honeywell Carbon Monoxide Alarm

CARBON MONOXIDE ALARMS

Two rules: HAVE ONE and TEST IT regularly! Look out for #TestitTuesday when you can test that and your smoke alarm…

CHECK YOUR TERMINALS

See Day 4!

ANNUAL SWEEPING

As a minimum you should have your chimney swept annually unless you know you have used it significantly more, in which case, also have a sweep half way through the burning season.

The best time to have a sweep is when you stop using the fireplace. A good sweep will be able to advise you if you need to change the frequency of sweeping –and on the quality of the soot or debris removed.

Your insurer may impose conditions on frequency of sweeping – do check so you don’t get caught out…

Safety first…

Louise

Franchise Director

Slumbering your way to danger…

 

A very tarred up pot and cowl

Don’t panic – this isn’t another fitness blog reminding you that you need to get moving for your health! But it is pretty serious I’m afraid. It’s all about ‘slumbering’ your wood burner…

Wood burners (and multi-fuel stoves) are a wonderful addition to any home and can offer a great alternative to using the central heating all the time. In general, people who have had them installed recently and had contact with the installer are advised about the use. Unfortunately many of us have moved into a home where there is a wood burner – indeed this may have been a key selling point – and maybe there are no instructions for best, and or safe, use.

Here’s the technical bit: Burning incorrect wood or burning wood incorrectly can produce creosote (commonly referred to as tar).  If you burn poorly seasoned wood (with a high moisture content) or ‘soft’ wood – pine/leylandii, etc. which is very ‘sappy’, this will result in the production of ‘tar’.

If you ‘slumber’ your woodburner  – burn it very slowly during the day or try to leave it in overnight this will also result in the production of ‘tar’.

You might be asking yourself what the problem is with a tarred up flue – there are two main issues: the tar is very difficult to remove and is flammable. It builds up over time, increasing the risk of a chimney fire. In addition, the flue itself will decrease in size as more tar builds…this in turn will slow the draw of the flue and will result in more tar being deposited. This may also mean that carbon monoxide will be less able to escape and it is possible that carbon monoxide poisoning might occur.

To avoid this, in general terms, burn well-seasoned hardwood logs at the correct temperature (between 300 to 600 F – or 150 to 300 C).  A stove thermometer will help and ‘tarring’ should be avoided.

Three friends for woodburner users!

Of course – it is also really important to have your chimney swept. And we recommend that you have this done as you stop using it – not as the winter begins. Your sweep will have more time to sort any problems and you’ll be ready for any cold nights. The fire service recommend sweep EVERY 3 MONTHS when in use…and we recommend three items that will help you: a stove thermometer, carbon monoxide alarm and HotSpot – a product designed to help.

We’ve written before about the best wood to burn so you can check here: BEST WOOD TO BURN?

Here’s to safety that makes sense.

We look forward to your call to book in a sweep…

Louise Harris

A Christmas Greeting (with a seasonal note of caution)

We’re sorry to advise that Good King Wenceslas may not have been quite the ‘good’ King we sing about. You might recall the words of the song indicate that the ‘poor man’ was gathering winter fuel. As a result, the King ordered that he be brought pine logs to deliver to the ‘poor man’.

Our Autumn blog, as a result of many questions (http://www.wilkinschimneysweep.co.uk/which-wood-to-burn/) advised Ash for the King to ‘warm his slippers by’ – and pine doesn’t feature at all on the list of woods to burn!

Everyone is discouraged from burning pine wood as it has an exceptionally high resin content; this resin becomes creosote (tar) when burnt and is very likely to ‘tar up’ the flue.

Tar is a problem for a number of reasons:

  • It is frequently cited as the cause of chimney fires
  • A chimney fire can damage the chimney (including woodburner flues)

There is a similar problem with our lovely Christmas trees – and the needles and small branches may ‘flare’ when burnt and could ignite any residual soot or tar in the chimney! So, however tempting it is to throw that tree on the fire at twelfth night, this wood cannot be seasoned and may result in serious problems, so please resist the urge!

From all at WILKINS CHIMNEY SWEEP, we wish our current (and future!) customers a very Merry Christmas, a Happy New Year and a safe burning season.

Fire

 

Which wood to burn?

With thanks to Wikipedia - logs!

With thanks to Wikipedia – logs!

We’ve been asked a few times over the last year about the best wood to buy for use in your open fire or woodburner. Burning the right wood could save you money and prevent the build up of tar (creosote) on your chimney lining. Ultimately it could prevent a chimney fire…

Always buy the best you can, or ensure that you ‘season (the drying process) the wood. HAPPY (and safe) BURNING SEASON!

There’s a great little poem to guide you:

WOODBURNER’S GUIDE:

Beech wood fires are bright and clear

If the logs are kept a year.

Chestnut’s only good, they say,

If for long it’s laid away.

Birch and fir logs burn too fast,

Blaze up bright and do not last.

It is by the Irish said,

Hawthorn bakes the sweetest bread.

Elm wood burns like a churchyard mould,

E’en the very flames are cold.

Poplar gives a bitter smoke,

Fills your eyes and makes you choke.

Apple wood will scent your room

With an incense like perfume.

Oak and maple, if dry and old,

Keep away the winter cold.

But Ash wood wet or Ash wood dry,

A king shall warm his slippers by.

Note: birch bark is extremely flammable even when wet;  it makes an excellent fire starter if you have lots lying around.

 

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