How To Build A Fireplace Fire With Orvis Fatwood

A wooden crate of fatwood sits open on a rugged barn floor.

There seem to be as many preferred ways to build a fire as there are logs in a cord of wood. Everyone has a favorite method or variation on the classics. And while there is real science behind the most common and reliable fire designs, the best fireplace fire for you often boils down to your own preference and the design you can count on and remember.

Orvis fatwood guarantees a great fire every time. These kindling-sized split logs are cut from the resin-saturated heartwood found in the stumps of old growth longleaf pines. Unlike younger pines which burn at a low heat, fatwood’s aged fibers burn consistently hot with an aromatic pine flame. And best of all, Orvis fatwood is harvested only from dead trees and helps to boost local economies in Central America – so you can count on it being socially conscious and earth-friendly.

Fatwood And Matches Are All You Need To Build A Fire

The resin in Orvis Fatwood makes it easy to ignite with a lighter or long match, eliminating the need for paper or cardboard (which at worst can contain harmful chemicals and at a minimum cause excess smoke). So grab your matches or lighter and let’s get started.

How to Build a Fireplace Fire with Orvis Fatwood

What Does A Fire Need?

A fire requires three ingredients to ignite and continue burning.

  • Fuel
  • Oxygen
  • Heat

The optimal fireplace fire will provide each of these as efficiently as possible.


Always make sure your chimney and flue are clear of debris. It’s good practice to have both cleaned once a year in late summer (before you begin actively using your fireplace for the season). This will help ensure a clean burning fire and prevent a chimney fire.

Step 1: Open The Damper

The damper helps prevent your home’s heated air (i.e. oil, gas or electric heat) from escaping up the chimney, and wind from blowing ashes out of the fireplace. The damper should be fully open whenever you’re starting or burning a fire. Some people believe partially closing the damper allows more warmth to enter the room, but this just prevents smoke from escaping and enough oxygen reaching the fire, resulting in a dangerously smoky home and a slow burning, extra-smoky fire.

Step 2: Make Sure The Flue Is Primed

The flue allows the smoke to escape out the chimney once your fire is lit. When your chimney is built on the outside of your house (and it’s true even of an indoor flue), it will get cold when not in use. If you start a fire with a cold flue, the cold air will sink down into the fireplace and push smoke out into the room. To prevent this, you need to prime the flue. To do so, simply roll some newspaper into a makeshift torch, hold it inside the fireplace by one end, light the other end, lift it and briefly hold it inside the base of the damper. This will warm the air inside enough to allow smoke to escape properly. Even though fatwood burns hot, it’s good practice to do this to prevent a smoky house once you throw on more wood.

Step 3: Arrange Your Orvis Fatwood

Take two to three pieces of fatwood and arrange them crossing each other (so two pieces are slightly elevated) in the firebox. If you have a fireplace grate, you can place them flat on the grate (since grates are designed to allow air to get to the fire from below).

Step 4: Build Your Fire

When building your fire it’s important to decide how long you’d like it to burn. Are you building a fireplace fire for ambience during dinner, or for overnight heating? For smaller fires (shorter burn times), a single medium sized log placed on top of your fatwood should be sufficient. As it burns, add small to medium sized logs to keep it going until it’s no longer needed.

For overnight heating, you’ll want to build a fire that will get hot and burn for a while. Everybody has a preferred fire building method. Our two favorites are the log cabin and the teepee. While some prefer the “upside down” fire method (which produces less smoke at the beginning), we find the more traditional log cabin and teepee fires burn hotter (which is our goal in this case). For both of these designs, build them over top of your fatwood, leaving space to reach the fatwood to light it in the final step.

Step 5: Light The Orvis Fatwood And Enjoy A Cozy Fire

Using a fireplace match, light the fatwood at the bottom of your logs. Thanks to the resin in the fatwood, it should light almost instantly, and burn quickly and hot, spreading its flames to the other logs in the fireplace.

Once your fire is burning, place a decorative fireplace screen at the edge of the firebox and hearth to prevent sparks and coals from escaping, and enjoy the warmth and ambience of your fire.

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