How to make a DIY Swedish fire log

Swedish fire log DIY

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

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 Swedish fire torch is simply a captivating accessory, not to mention an easy DIY project.

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 readily 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 your DIY Swedish fire log: 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 for your DIY project 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 placed 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:

  • Chainsaw, e.g. 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
Two upright logs, with a STIHL MS 181 C petrol chainsaw on one and barbecue firelighters on the other

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!

A STIHL MS 181 petrol chainsaw being used to make a vertical cut in an upright log

DIY Swedish fire log: prepare the wood

Before you start sawing, ensure 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.

DIY Swedish fire log step 1: marking out

On the face of your log, mark cutting lines for your chainsaw. You can make four or six cuts, depending on the size of your Swedish torch.

A STIHL MS 181 C petrol chainsaw being used to make two cuts into the end of an upright log, in a cross shape

DIY Swedish fire log step 2: sawing

Use your chainsaw to cut into the log along the marked lines. Cut straight down, but stop around 10-15 cm before you reach the ground; leaving this base ensures the Swedish fire log remains stable after you light it.

A STIHL MS 181 C petrol chainsaw being used to make eight cuts into the end of an upright log, in a star shape

DIY Swedish fire log step 3: lighting your Swedish torch

Barbecue lighters or scrunched-up newspaper are ideal for lighting the Swedish fire log. Just push the lighter material into the hole in the middle and add some wood shavings or other tinder on top. Your Swedish fire log is now ready to light; depending on its size, your torch should stay alight for 2-5 hours.

The top, cut face of a Swedish fire log with wood shavings in the middle for tinder
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, ensure that it is on solid, fireproof ground. There should be no combustible objects in the immediate vicinity of the Swedish fire log, due to the risk of sparks from the fire.

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 fire logs. 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

What is a Swedish fire log?

A Swedish fire log is a kind of burning torch that provides heat and light. Simply made from a single log, it can even be used for cooking due to its stable design and flat top. To make one, the top of an upright log is cut into, harnessing the “chimney effect” to successfully maintain a slow-burning fire.

How to make Swedish fire log?

To make a Swedish fire log, select a sufficiently dry log, preferably of softwood. It should be between 30 and 60 cm in diameter, and 50 to 100 cm long. Ensure the log is stable when stood upright, then cut slits in one end in a star pattern. The cuts should stop 15 cm before the end of the log.

How long does a Swedish fire log burn for?

How long a Swedish fire log burns for depends on how big it is, but you can generally expect 2-5 hours burn time.