This almost forgotten woodcraft is a reliable way of enjoying a campfire in areas where firewood is scarce or woodcutting isn’t allowed.
Seasoned hardwood or softwood can be used for the log. Hardwood will burn longer, but might be a little more difficult to light. Typically, blocks are between 18 to 24 inches long, with at least a 20-inch diameter. The fatter the cooking log, the longer it’ll burn. It needs to have even surfaces on both ends for sitting level and for cooking on.
Set the log upright and envision or mark an X on top for a smaller log, or 6 pie-shaped wedges for a larger log.
Using a chainsaw (a short blade works best), make the first cut straight across the middle of the log, ripping downward to about 4 inches from the bottom. Repeat the remaining cut or cuts in the same manner, being sure to wear proper safety gear when operating a chainsaw.
If you don’t have a chainsaw you could make a fire log by splitting the log completely through with an axe and then packing the sections with kindling before planting them firmly in the ground or snow. This will not be as sturdy, but it will work in a pinch. I’ve also seen the log secured with a wire or rope.
Once cut, pack the sections full of tinder. You can use dry twigs, cattail fluff, birch bark, wood shavings, cotton balls saturated in Vaseline (one of my favourites), dryer lint, shredded paper, or any another dependable starter.
The cooking log is now ready to light. After the tinder takes off, the fire will slowly grow from the inside of the log, starting out slender then broadening as it burns. Once the fire takes hold, you can set a cast iron frying pan on the top (the stove) and fry some bacon and eggs or boil a kettle of tea.
After several hours, the walls will give way, one by one. When they lose ground, pile them back into the middle of the stove to finish burning out.
A fire log, depending on the size and type of wood, will burn 4 to 6 hours, supplying a cooking fire, heat, and light. The fire log is much easier to control than a traditional tepee-style campfire, a consideration in dry seasons.