Home » 3 Ingenious Ways To Make A Swedish Fire Log

3 Ingenious Ways To Make A Swedish Fire Log

We all love a blazing fire to warm our hands over or roast a few marshmallows.  Yet, it’s likely we don’t all enjoy the struggle of coaxing a fire to life or the never ending chore of tending to it throughout the day.  

For those that wish there was an easy way to build a trouble free fire, this article is for you.  Such a fire does exist.  It goes by many names including: Swedish fire log, Swedish torch, Canadian candle or simply, a one log fire.

Regardless of what you call it, the idea is the same.  Making a super convenient, hassle free fire out of one log.  You can do it yourself and it is incredibly easy.  In fact, I’m going to show you 3 ingenious ways to easily make a Swedish fire log for any occasion.  

What is a Swedish fire log

I must admit, Swedish fire logs are something I only recently learned about so I can understand why others may not know about them as well.  

In a nutshell, a Swedish torch is a compact and efficient way to build a cooking fire.  Credit for its creation goes to the Swedish army which used the Swedish fire log as a quick way to deploy cooking fires in harsh, wet conditions during the Thirty Years’ War.  It only requires one log with minimal tinder to light and burn.

The allure of a one log fire lies in its simplicity and functional form.  Unlike traditional fires that need a progressively larger supply of wood to burn efficiently, Swedish fire logs are self-contained.  They are also great for cooking.  A Swedish fire log is set on end which creates a natural cooking surface for a pot or pan to sit on.  

In addition, one log fires tend to burn longer than traditional fires.  Mainly because it’s a compact bundle of wood that better regulates the influx of air to moderate combustion.  By its very design, Swedish torches burn from the inside out which extends the life of the fire and pumps out a fair bit of heat.

Selecting the ideal wood for a DIY Swedish torch

Not all types of firewood produce the results you’re looking for in a DIY Swedish torch.  Softwoods like pine, spruce and fir are the best since they burn more easily.  Hardwoods, on the other hand, are harder to light and smolder when used for one log fires.  

That’s not to say you can’t use hardwood though.  Maple and alder logs are a great option if they are dry and you rough up the interior so it lights up better.  Once lit, hardwood Swedish torches also tend to burn longer than softwood.  Feel free to experiment with whatever wood you have but softwoods should be your first pick.

Aside from the type of wood, log size is an important consideration.  For your Swedish torch, select logs that are 12 to 18 inches in length and 8 to 12 inches in diameter.  The larger the log, the longer it will burn.  

You also need to ensure the wood is well seasoned but not overly dry.  Firewood that is 20% moisture is the golden ticket for getting the most efficient burn out of a one log fire.  Take a quick look at my other article on how to tell if your wood is dry enough.  

3 Clever ways to make your own Swedish fire log

DIY fire logs aren’t complicated and there are several ingenious ways to make your own.  Whether you prefer using power tools or opt for a more manual approach, one of these three methods is sure to work for you.  

1:  The chainsaw method

A chainsaw makes the creation of your very own Swedish fire log a cinch and is by far the fastest method.  That is of course, if you have a chainsaw.  For those of you who do, it only takes a couple simple steps to get it done.

First, select your log.  Ideally, you want a log 12-18 inches long and at least 8 inches in diameter.  Before making your cuts, place it vertically in a steady position on the ground or secure it to a larger log.  

Next, start cutting vertically from the top, down the center length of the log.  Cut towards the bottom end of the log stopping 4 inches or so from the bottom.  Now, turn the log 90 degrees and make another cut perpendicular to the last.  

Finally, make two more cuts evenly bisecting the first two as shown above.  You’ll be left with a log that has six equally sized chunks joined at the bottom.  This is the perfect design for a one log fire.

2:  The bundle method

Not everyone cares to break out the chainsaw but I have good news.  An axe will do the trick just as well.  First, find a suitable log with the same dimensions as a describe with the chainsaw method.  Now, just split it into 6 equal pieces with a maul or splitting axe.

After you have nicely split pieces, bundle the pieces back into the original log shape.  Don’t worry about getting each piece in exactly the right spot.  Some irregularity is actually preferred since any gaps will act as draft vents and keep the log burning clean.  You can also get this style log to light better by roughing up the interval edges of each piece with a hatchet.  

With baling wire, wrap the bundle tightly and twist the wire to secure the pieces together.  Some people only add one wire wrap in the middle or bottom third of the log bundle.  However, I prefer using two wire wraps.  One towards the top and one close to the bottom.  This provides a more stable Swedish torch that stays upright and sturdy enough for cooking.

The bundle method also works with several round, thin diameter logs in place of split pieces from one log.  I have even seen 4 or 5 large logs lashed together with wire to make a huge Swedish torch.  Plenty hot for bonfire lovers but impractical for most anyone else.

3:  The drilling method

The drilling method is probably one of my favorite ways to make one log fires.  It usually works best on smaller logs.  Logs 8 to 12 inches long and 6 to 8 inches in diameter are the best size for this method.  

You’ll need a 1 inch spade bit with an extension and a drill of some sort.  Start by drilling a hole centered in the top of the log and drill down to the bottom third of the log.  Next, turn the log on its side and drill a hole through the side to join the bottom of the vertical chamber.  

That’s all there is to this method of creating a one log fire.  The size of your log is only limited by the length of your drill bit.  If you have an extension, try using larger logs.   

How long does a Swedish fire log burn

There are a lot of variables that determine the burn time for a Swedish fire log.  Size, type of wood and moisture content are the big three determinants.  Obviously, a small Swedish torch made with dry softwood will burn much faster than a larger hardwood torch.  

All things being equal, you can reasonably get 2-4 hours of burn time with a typical Swedish torch.  Again, the larger the log, the longer it will burn.  

How do you light a one log fire

The beauty of a one log fire is how easily you can light it.  There is no need to carefully construct a pile of tinder and kindling to ensure a roaring blaze.  You also don’t need any special kind of fire starter.

You can light a Swedish torch with just about any fire starting material you can think of.  A single piece of newspaper, a few dry twigs or a compressed fire stick like Diamond’s Strike-A-Fire.  They all work, so choose your favorite.

To get a one log fire going, place a small amount of fire starting tinder into the central chamber of the log.  Then, just light it.  If the log is dry, it will start to burn.  Alternately, light a fire starter stick and just drop it into the top of your Swedish torch.  After a few minutes, your one log fire will flame to life.

My only recommendation is that you avoid any sort of lighter fluids or gas.  I never have trouble lighting a well made Swedish fire log to justify resorting to such measures.  A good dry log combined with a little bit of tinder is always sufficient.  Just be patient and you’ll have a warm fire that is ready to cook on in less than 10 minutes.

Are Swedish fire logs warm

I am often asked if a Swedish torch puts out enough heat to be worth while.  Keep in mind, that we all have a different idea of what “enough” is.  For some, only a giant bonfire generates enough heat to warm their bones.  For others, a small cozy fire and a blanket is all that’s needed.

Personally, I sit somewhere in the middle as I am sure many of you do as well.  However, I was quite surprised by how much heat some of my DIY Swedish fire logs have actually produced.  Sure, it’s not a rip roaring fire but the internally confined fire and coals radiate more heat than you would expect.  

Once a Swedish torch burns past the initial starting phase, its heat output is similar to any other log fire.  The amount of heat also depends on the size of the log.  More fuel means more BTUs sending intense warmth to anyone enjoying the fire.  

Your average 8 inch diameter, 12-18 inch long fire log will generate enough flames to radiate pleasant heat up to 3 or 4 feet from the log.  Larger logs often are unbearably hot to anyone closer than 4 or 5 feet. 

Bottom line, you probably won’t be disappointed with the amount of heat a Swedish fire log puts off.  

Can you cook on a one log fire

You can cook on any fire but one log fires are uniquely suited to camp cooking.  Inherent in the design is a flat cooking surface that creates a level spot to set a frying pan or cooking pot on and a torch like flame that rises from the center of the log.

Bear in mind, in order to cook safely on a one log fire, you need a level cut log placed on solid ground.  Otherwise, your log and food might go sprawling.  In addition, you don’t want to place a pan directly on the wood or you’ll block the top vent and choke the fire.  

The easiest way to create a vented cooking surface is to drive 3 or 4 nails into the top of the log leaving an inch or so of nail head sticking up.  This acts as a level platform for your cooking pan while allowing the flame to rise unimpeded out the top.  Alternatively, you can use a few similarly sized stones to do the same thing.

As a final note to those that want to cook on a Swedish fire log, make sure to do so in the first 30 to 60 minutes.  This is when there is still enough structural integrity in the side of the log to support the weight.  Beyond that, there is a good chance your log will collapse leaving your delicious food laying on the ground.  Oh, and never leave your log unattended while cooking on it.

Can you buy a Swedish fire log

It’s fun making your own DIY Swedish fire log, yet many of you may not be keen on the work it entails.  Good news!  You can buy pre-made one log fires and they work just as well as the homemade versions.

You’ll find one log fires available for purchase at many big box stores.  Check out Lowes, Home Depot, Walmart, sporting good stores and grocery chains.  You can also find them online.  Ace Hardware sells my favorite one log fire, TimberTote.  TimberTote fire logs always burn clean and hot with a 2 hour burn time.  

Honestly though, they are a little pricey.  Usually about $12 per log.  However, there is good reason to spend that money.  While making your own Swedish torch for home use or nearby camping trips is fine, transporting local firewood more than 50 miles is actually illegal.  Don’t believe me?  Check out my article on the laws regarding firewood transport.  

A TimberTote one log fire (or other comparable brand) is actually USDA certified as pest free and safe to transport.  This means you can have a legal and safe fire on your next long distance camping trip.  For that reason alone, I usually buy one log fires as opposed to making my own.

Parting words

Whatever you call them, Swedish fire logs, Canadian candles or one log fires, they are an awesome alternative to traditional fires.  Whether you’re just enjoying a camp fire or needing a good way to cook by flame, one log fires are sure to please.  They are portable, convenient, easy to light and provide hours of mesmerizing fire.  It’s actually surprising that it took so long to gain popularity.  Now that it has, it’s your turn to try it out.  Make your own or buy one already made.  Either way, I’m sure you’ll love a one log fire!