How to make a Swedish fire log

Swedish fire logs create atmosphere and turn an evening in the garden into a real event – and they are a surprisingly simple DIY project.

Three burning DIY Swedish fire logs set up on a gravel path

Swedish fire logs: many names, always magical

A Swedish fire log – also known as a Swedish candle, or a Swedish fire torch, or a Finnish log stove – will make your garden party memorable, whether it’s a summer barbecue or a bonfire night get together.

These simple fire logs are appealing yet practical, providing both light and warmth. If your DIY version is a larger size, it can even make a handy outdoor cooking facility, as the flat surface means you can easily use pots and pans on it. Or to evoke a more outdoorsy feel, you could treat it as a miniature campfire for toasting marshmallows while your guests share stories. 

A roaring fire thanks to the chimney effect

Once lit, a Swedish fire log becomes a torch that lasts a long time and doesn’t burn right to the ground. This is facilitated by vertical slits in the top of the log which supply oxygen to feed the fire by means of the chimney effect: as heated air rises away from the torch, cool, oxygen-rich air is sucked in at the bottom. It’s an efficient design, apparently devised by the Swedish army, and it means the wood burns slowly and generates considerable heat along with an attractive glow.

The right wood for your DIY Swedish fire torch

Softwood burns more easily than hardwood, making it a better choice for this: pine, fir or spruce are ideal. We recommend a log between 30 and 60 cm wide and 50 to 100 cm tall, and the wood must not be too dry, nor too damp. While damp wood will make your Swedish fire log difficult to light and generate a lot of unpleasant smoke, wood that is too dry will burn very quickly. We recommend using a wood moisture meter to identify logs that have a maximum residual moisture of 20%.

Lighting your Swedish fire log

You can use firelighters or barbecue lighters to get your DIY Swedish torch started, and we recommend adding some tinder such as wood shavings on the top. If you don’t have any firelighters to hand, you can simply use loosely scrunched newspaper in the slots of your DIY torch.

DIY Swedish fire log: materials and tools

Making a Swedish fire log is a DIY project that requires very little effort and just a few materials. Here is what you will need:

  • A chainsaw, such as a STIHL MS 181 petrol chainsaw
  • Protective equipment, including cut protection trousers, cut protection boots, gloves, ear and face protection
  • Suitable wood
  • Barbecue lighters or firelighters
  • Chalk or crayon for marking
Illustration: Wood, STIHL chainsaw, folding rule, pencil, barbecue lighter

DIY Swedish fire log: step-by-step

Have you chosen the right wood and got the necessary materials? Then we can get on with the DIY!

DIY Swedish fire log: prepare the wood

Before you start sawing, make sure the trunk you are using stands securely on a solid base, and fix it so it can’t fall over. As with all chainsaw work, you must wear appropriate protective equipment to minimise the risk of injury. Then it’s safe to start sawing.

A close-up of the burning top of a Swedish fire log on a gravel path

Beware while burning

As your DIY Swedish fire log burns, make sure it's on solid, fireproof ground. There should be no combustible objects in the immediate vicinity due to the risk of sparks from the fire, and don't forget - never leave a naked flame unattended. 

DIY Swedish fire logs: a note about sizes

The burn time of your DIY Swedish fire log is directly related to its size: a larger Swedish torch will burn for longer, potentially giving you a warm, crackling fire for several hours. Of course you should never leave a Swedish fire log, or any other type of fire, unattended. Because it’s your own DIY project, it’s easy to make a smaller torch for a shorter party, or you could even set up several Swedish log burners. In any case, we’re sure that once you’ve experienced the romantic glow of a Swedish fire log, you’ll be doing this DIY again and again.

Summary: DIY Swedish fire log

  • A Swedish fire log sets the mood for your outdoor party and is really easy to make.
  • You need to use wood with 20% residual moisture or less; we recommend softwood for better burning.
  • Barbecue lighters or firelighters make your Swedish fire log easy to light. Alternatively, scrunched up newspaper will do the job.
  • Cut slots into a log using a chainsaw.
  • The burn time of your Swedish fire log depends on how big it is.