Sunday, January 6, 2013

A Damper on the Fireplace

Everyone makes mistakes, but have you ever made one over and over again for years? Is it considered a mistake, if you don't know it was a mistake? Is it called an epiphany or a revelation when you finally clue in?

On a beautiful, sunny, crisp winter morning over the past holidays, I took a walk with Sonney down the lane. I had a couple of goals besides the exercise; one was delivering some cat toys to my neighbour who is a LAWS volunteer, and the other was to return a book on 'freezing vegetables' that I had borrowed from another neighbour. When she opened the door, she was in the middle of putting a sweater on because she said "it was so hot in here", we had a nice neighbourly conversation, and then I left and continued with my walk.

A few days went by, and I realized that something about that day was itching me in the back of my brain, but I couldn't put a finger on it, until I was cleaning my fireplace windows. This is a chore I cannot stand. I clean them and for about an hour they are clean, then right back to black. Rarely do I get to enjoy the view of my fire. What was bugging me was that my neighbours glass was perfectly clear. While I was there, I had been mesmerized by it. No wait, that doesn't explain it well enough...I was in a trance, gazing at the wisps of fire lick at the pristine windows in HD, I can barely remember what we were talking about.

Now I had a mission, search for better ways to clean my windows - I mean, if she has found a solution, then surely I could. And if I couldn't, then I was going to get out of my pyjamas, and trudge right on over there. I searched and searched, and read posts and comments, but they were all the same various methods I had already been using. Wet ashes. Razor blade. Glass products. Green wood vs. seasoned wood. Hardwood vs. Softwoods. No direct solution. But, I did register a theme in a number of threads. I can build a fire, I can maintain a fire, but never had the concept of an 'efficient' fire crossed my mind. A fire was a fire, right? Apparently not.

Now, don't be afraid, I have been cleaning and maintaining my fireplace and chimney at the beginning and end of every season, so there hasn't been any built up danger over the years. However, my new found knowledge had me revisiting how I was using the damper. Yes, this long into a story, and I'm finally using a word from the title! Are you still with me? The only thing I used the damper for was to slow burn, prolonging the wood - in other words, practically closed all the time. What does this do? Make black smoke in the cinder box and then to the windows and walls. What are you supposed to do for an efficient fire, you ask? Well, you probably aren't asking because you know already and didn't tell ME!!! The damper should be fully open while making a small, hot fire, for about 20-30 minutes, and then closed to about half. This is a guesstimate depending on how each person's firebox processes the burn, but it certainly isn't supposed to be practically closed unless you want a slow burn, overnight, for instance. The light bulb went on in my itchy brain. I grabbed the razor blade and cleaned the windows and started my first efficient fire. I'm three days in now, and I haven't had to clean the glass, and the view is amazing.

Learning from my mistakes, one day at a time.

Insight :: Rustic Benches Studio

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