How to Build an Upside Down Fire

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A Tried and True Pattern

When I was a Boy Scout in 1970-something, I earned a merit badge for building a campfire according to the laws of physics. I was taught to crumple some newspaper, cover it with kindling, then make a teepee out of logs over the kindling. That's how I made campfires all my life.

When I bought a house with a fireplace, I modified that technique slightly. I put the newspaper under the grate, put a pile of kindling on top of the grate between two logs, then crisscrossed more logs on top.

Heat rises so I always put the most flammable material at the bottom and lit it there. The newspaper burned easiest and that lit the kindling. The kindling burned longer, hopefully long enough for the logs to catch fire.

The Issue

This method worked fine as long as the logs caught fire before the kindling burned out. Otherwise, I'd frantically crumple more paper and stuff it under the grate in the fireplace. If you have a fireplace, you are laughing right now because you've been there too. Admit it.

But that didn't work with the teepee method. It wasn't easy to squeeze newspaper between the logs. Sometimes I'd disassemble the thing and rebuild it with more paper and kindling then start over.

Defying Gravity

No lie. A friend at work told me how to build an upside down fire in 2015. When he explained that I would put logs on the bottom and kindling on the top, I couldn't believe it would work. It broke all the laws of physics… and Boy Scouts. Could this really have been an improvement on the traditional fire-building technique that was probably invented by cavemen?

Watch and be amazed.

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