Making a Swedish Log Candle

by Barry Smith

Log candle with flames emanating from top

Log candle burning brightly. Photo: Barry Smith.

This is a great thing to make with Scouts, young people or as a group of friends.

Also referred to as a Finnish Log Stove or jatkankyntiila, the Swedish Log Candle provides heat, light and somewhere to cook or boil the kettle.

It is also a great way to remind people about the fire triangle and sourcing good tinder.

Both are important factors in making it work.

What You’ll Need:

  • A well seasoned log;
  • Lots of good tinder;
  • A chainsaw or access to someone who has one;

Preparing Your Log

To do this you will need access to a chainsaw or if you don’t have one/know how to use one safely, then you’ll need to find a volunteer that can help you. Maybe try talking to a friendly tree surgeon or farmer. You’ll be surprised how helpful people can be

Take your seasoned log and cut it to about a metre long. It will need to stand on its end so make sure the cuts are square to the logs sides.

Then you’ll need to place the log on its end and make four cuts from the top of the log, down its length, stopping about 20cm from the bottom. Make the first cut down the centre of the log, the second at 90 degrees to the first effectively making a cross and then the final two cuts cut the quarters into equal eighths.

Log cut into eighths for log stove

The log divided into eighths. Photo: Barry Smith.

Preparing and Igniting Your Log

This is a simple operation and a nice thing to do as a group. The tinder needs to be packed loosely into the cuts, try to get plenty in but leave sufficient space for air to get in (this is a good time to remind people about the importance of oxygen in the fire triangle).

A variety of tinders will work; birch bark, sweet chestnut inner bark, dried honeysuckle to name a few and you could experiment with others to see what works best.

Log candle stuffed with birch bark.

Log candle stuffed with birch bark and other tinders. Photo: Barry Smith.

Once all of the cuts are loosely filled the candle is ready for lighting. This is best done from the top (if you try and light it from the bottom it just seems to go out) so light the tinder at the top of the log as you would light the wick on a candle.

Log candle just lit

Light the log candle from the top. Photo: Barry Smith.

First of all the tinder will catch and burn with a good flame, after a while the flames will die back and the log will produce a lot of smoke, this will go on for a while.

Log candle with tinder catching well

The birch bark first needs catch and burn with a good flame. Photo: Barry Smith.

Smoking Finnish log stove

The smoky stage, as the whole log catches light. Photo: Barry Smith.

If you look down inside the log at this point you’ll see it smoldering away until it builds up enough heat to combust and consume itself.

Log stove with burning center

The centre has caught. Photo: Barry Smith.

During this process you can place a Kirtley Kettle or billy can on top of the log and use it to heat water or cook on.

Kirtley Kettle on a Scandinavia Log Candle

Log stove heating a Kirtley Kettle. Photo: Barry Smith.

Expect the log to burn for several hours from this point, its a great way to illuminate and warm the camp.

Have fun in trying this out and remember to be safe with chainsaws!

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Barry Smith is a Scout Leader and a member of the Frontier Bushcraft instructional team.

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

C. F. May 3, 2016 at 7:41 pm

Barry, This is great! I’ve never seen anything like this before. It would be really easy to pre-cut a bunch of logs at the start of summer to have them for camping for the entire season. Thanks for sharing!

Reply

Chris May 10, 2016 at 5:57 am

I just tried this, with mixed results.

It burned with a good flame, but never got to the smoldering stage. The flames just got bigger and bigger until the whole sliced-up length of the log was ablaze. This continued for half an hour and then the log started falling apart, dropping hot coals everywhere. I was worried the dogs would burn their feet, so at that point I picked the whole thing up and carried it to the fire pit.

I’m thinking maybe the log wasn’t big enough. What kind of diameter are you using? Or maybe I need to be using a different type of wood. I think I used pine.

I’m also curious to know how you are holding the log still while chainsawing down its length. I found that a bit tricky.

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