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How to Make a Long-Burning Bonfire Log

In the August 2013 issue, Gary Bartholomew shared his tip on creating fun photo collages to capture a year of cabin memories. Here, he offers his insight on the art of using one log to fuel a long-lasting bonfire.

Any season is a great time for a bonfire. A bonfire serves as the perfect place to gather and talk about the day’s catch or other events. I’ve had so much fun creating fire logs for gatherings, and I have received many compliments on them. A friend of mine even told me that he once saw a similar precut fire log for sale in a hardware store. But why buy one when it’s so easy to make one yourself?

How does it work?
This fire is different because it burns from the inside out. A log that is at least 12 inches in diameter and 15 inches long will burn for 2–3 hours. Fires are easier to start, and the log gives off lots of light and heat and very little smoke.

Prepping the log
To make a fire log, all you need is a log, a chain saw and proper hearing and eye protection. You should also be familiar with operating a chain saw. I used a log from a poplar tree, but almost any type of wood will work as long as it’s dry. Birch and oak burn longer than poplar, but they are a little harder to start.

When cutting the log, think of a pizza. With the log standing upright, make four straight, intersecting cuts down the length of the log, stopping around 1½ inches from the bottom.

Enjoying the bonfire
Pour a little charcoal lighter fluid down the center of the log and carefully light it. (EDITOR’S NOTE: Exercise caution when working with highly flammable substances like lighter fluid. Do not use gasoline.)

You can use the fire log for heating water or cooking. Just be sure that the base is on a stable surface. The outside pillars will stay solid and support a frying pan for most of the first 2 hours. The log produces a lot of radiant heat. It will cook a marshmallow or hot dog very fast, so keep them rotating.

Once the center of the log has been mostly burned away, carefully push the standing wood sections in toward each other, creating a more traditional fire configuration while extending the life of the bonfire.

We have had nothing but great reviews every time we light one of these. In fact, our neighbors had an outdoor wedding last year and I asked if I could bring a fire log. The bride and groom loved the surprise, and all of their guests asked me about the design.

Remember, safety is most important with any bonfire. Check your overhead clearance for branches, use a fire ring or other barrier, clear the area around your fire pit, and never start a fire when there are strong winds.
Gary Bartholomew
Gary Bartholomew