seasoned wood

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.

 

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

Chimney Fire’s on the increase…we can help!

It is frustrating for any chimney sweep to read that chimney fires are on the increase – but sadly we possibly could have predicted that there would be a similar headline sometime soon. And now it has happened. We can only report our direct experience but there are a number of customers who we have swept for a number of times in the past when they had an open fire. After having a woodburner fitted they have advised that they won’t need the chimney swept now because they have had a liner installed. Of course, there may be times when an installer fails to make things clear, but the truth of the matter is that some people appear to believe that this is a way to save money. Nothing could be further from the truth. The fire service recommend more frequent sweeping due to the narrowness of lined flues – and woodburners do need a little more attention in respect of the burning temperature. ‘Idling’ a woodburner can result in tar/creosote build up that is difficult to remove and can also damage the liner if it catches fire – prevention is best as there may be no cure.

We know, too, that a number of people believe that chimney sweeping must be on the wane – a dying craft – when nothing could be further from the truth. The need for our services is more relevant than ever (and from a business established in 1895 we think we might know a think or too about that…) and we pride ourselves on helping new and experienced users of fires, multifuel and woodburning stoves, as well as AGA, Rayburn and the more recent biomass boilers, to follow best practice.

We believe that having your woodburner chimney swept mid-burning season will help you to check that what you’re burning and the temperature you’re burning at is not causing problems. A good chimney sweep will advise you on the use of your stove, guide you on what to burn and the quality of your wood supply plus tell you if the mid-season sweep is critical or you seem to be handling things well…this will give you peace of mind!

It’s been a mild winter so far and many people have used their fires to take the chill off and not use their heating. The annual sweep (minimum advised by the fire service and many home insurance companies) is still important and can help to keep you safe by preventing or limiting the chances of a chimney fire.

So give your chimney sweep a call – we can help!

(P.S. Chimney fire statistics are poorly reported and it’s difficult to gain an accurate picture – the most current figures available are 2013/14 when 7,700 chimney fires were reported. To add to the problem of these statistic, if a house is burned down as a result of a chimney fire, the figure is not recorded as a chimney fire but as a house fire – it is possible that there is more data missing.)

 

Happy New year 2016

Happy New year!

The warm weather has made for an interesting season for us. People have still prepared themselves for winter as usual and the Wilkins Chimney Sweep team have been hard at work. The weather, though, has meant that customers aren’t using their chimneys much yet – indeed many have barely worn a winter coat so far this winter.

Like everyone, including the weather forecasters it appears, we have no idea what the weather will bring – not so long ago the forecast was for the worst winter on record (indeed we blogged in September following ‘severe weather warnings’ that never materialised)– and before that the hottest summer! It’s good to be prepared for when the cold truly sets in for sure – but only time will tell when that is. Our thoughts are with the victims of the floods and the teams working to help keep them safe, recover their property and help them move back to their homes quickly.

Recycle Your Christmas Tree

Recycle Your Christmas Tree

We’ve been working with landlords to help them keep on the right side of the law with new regulations on carbon monoxide alarms in tenanted properties (it’s not just a smoke alarm that’s required now) and have been able to ensure that all our customers have a suitable CO Alarm in place to keep them safe when using their woodburners, open fires etc.

As a final seasonal reminder – don’t burn that Christmas tree – and here’s why…Christmas Tree – it was great to see the East Cambridgeshire folk taking a resonsible approach to recycling their trees and hope that there are similar warnings (and facilities) nationally. Recycle your tree

We’d like to take this opportunity to wish all of the Wilkins Chimney Sweep customers and suppliers a warm, safe and Happy New Year 2016. We hope that we will be your choice again in 2016 and beyond and look forward to seeing you.

 

 

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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