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How to Cut Your Own Swedish Torch

April 05, 2018   //  Posted in: Backyard, DIY, Supporting Sponsors   //  By: Emily   //  one response
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This post was sponsored by STIHL because they supplied the chainsaw and safety equipment. However, the project is my own and Swedish cut fire logs really are things we make and use at home. I figured it was about time you learned how to make your own too, and am happy STIHL partnered with me on the project!

We’ve been making our own Swedish torches for a few years after having noticed them for sale–in exchange for real money–at local stores. “I have a chainsaw, I can totally make those,” I thought, and that’s how it started. Due to having an inordinate amount of firewood and a family with a healthy appetite for backyard campfires, this firepit accessory is one of the most in-demand products we’ve “manufactured”; can’t stop, won’t stop… starting a campfire has never been so easy.

Honestly, if I have one important tip for you–and it’s not related to product choice or how to make the cuts–is that if you have a tree taken down, ask the crew to leave pieces of the trunk in 2-3′ lengths and recycle those to create your own collection of Swedish logs. If you ask nicely, they might even knock a bit off your bill, since there’s less for them to muscle away. Follow the below tutorial and cut the Swedish torches while the wood is still green, and then let them dry in a sheltered spot until it’s campfire o’clock. One-time burn logs like this are ideal for small fires. They ignite easily and burn from the inside with great air circulation and very little maintenance.

Start by familiarizing yourself with the world of chainsaws. I’ve been a long-time supporter of battery-operated power tools because they’re lightweight, easy-to-use, considerably less intimidating, and you don’t have to futz around with the oil/gas mixtures. The STIHL battery-powered chainsaws perfectly meet those expectations. The product I’m using in this tutorial is the MSA 120 C-BQ which is part of the Lightning Battery System® line of products. With a ¼” STIHL PICCO™ saw chain, it’s marketed as a product that can make 100 cuts on a single charge, depending on the size of the branches and logs you’re powering through. I’m also sporting appropriate protective workwear for my hands, eyes, ears, and legs, and wearing long layers because any amount of chainsawing usually means I’m probably going to be showered in splintery wood chips.

This project is best for those occasions when you have big, unsplit logs, and when the logs have a diameter greater than ~10″.

Turn the log on its end. If there’s any doubt that it won’t be balanced (be wary of very tall logs, or narrower logs) put cinderblocks around the base to help it remain upright and stable.

Turn log on end to cut Swedish torch.

The cuts you make need only to be 3-6″ deep across the diameter of the log. If you put the chainsaw right up against the log, the sharp chain will eat through while you balance the saw – no “sawing” motions necessary with chainsaws, as the blade does all of the work. If the blade doesn’t reach all of the way through the log, switch sides and repeat the cut from the other end so that it’s an even depth.

Rotate your position and cut additional “pizza slices” into the top of the log.

Cut a "pizza pie" into the top of a log to create a Swedish fire log.

There’ll likely be a bit of sawdust in the crevices you cut; don’t make extra efforts to clear the tracks you made because the dust will act as kindling when you’re trying to light the log.

Cut a "pizza pie" into the top of a log to create a Swedish fire log.

Topple the log so that it’s on its side, and cut it down to a 7-10″ log. The few inches of solid wood beneath the “pizza” cuts will increase the length of time your log burns.

Cut your own Swedish Fire Log, called a Swedish Torch.

Once cut, you can tip the log upright again and cut another Swedish log from the wood that remains.

Learn how to cut your own one burn fire log (a.k.a. Swedish torch).

When you’re ready to ignite one of your cut logs and start a campfire, rest the log with cut edges upright. If there’s a lot of sawdust in the cracks, they will catch quickly and the log will immediately begin to burn from within. If you have trouble igniting due to lack of sawdust, form a small pile of kindling on top of the cut log. As the kindling catches and the embers fall down into the cuts of the Swedish log, it will quickly ignite itself, and burn quite evenly from the inside to the outer edges of the log. So cozy, so easy! Stockpile them when the opportunity strikes, and you’ll always be ready to get the fire started.

Learn how to cut your own one burn fire log (a.k.a. Swedish torch).

How to Cut Your Own DIY Swedish Torch a.k.a. Fire Log on Merrypad.com

Crafting A Springtime Headband

March 23, 2018   //  Posted in: DIY, For the Kids   //  By: Emily   //  Leave a comment
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Spring! That refreshing but awkward period of time between when the ski season ends and the gardening season begins, and there’s really not a lot we can do to speed things along. Seedlings are already started indoors, the garden’s still covered with snow, so what better is there to do than craft? All day. Every day. Yay.

Watercolored and cut flowers to decorate an Easter or Passover or springtime-themed headband.

Searching for the perfect accessory for my daughter’s a new twirly dress, we accessorized a simple headband with handmade watercolor florals and made something that’s surprisingly adorable. Maybe you need something for Passover or Easter–or just need to satisfy a little girl who loves anything rainbow and floral–so try this instead of buying something new, and I think your kid will be really proud to sport their artwork around town.

Start by going all-out with the watercolor paints on a single sheet of paper. Any paper would do, but the watercolor stock has a nice weight to it and makes the headband a little more durable in the long run. Patterns, no patterns, it doesn’t really matter so much as you try to cover all of the white paper with some combination of pretty colors.

Watercolor patterns that will be used to make a rainbow flower paper headband for springtime.

Trim flowers from this painted paper, as well as from solid colored sheets of paper. If your child wants to make their own flowers but maybe you’re being controlling about the shapes and sizes of the blooms, you can offer to sketch the shape of each flower in pencil on the backside of the paper. They can cut along those lines and everyone is happy. Cut out some leaves, too!

Watercolored and cut flowers to decorate an Easter or Passover or springtime-themed headband.

Use hot glue at this point to attach the flowers individually to the headband. Layer the paper a bit for extra volume. If your headband base is a fabric or coated material, the glue will adhere easily and be durable. It dries almost instantly and is set to wear!

Watercolored and cut flowers to decorate an Easter or Passover or springtime-themed headband.

How to make an alternative Easter bonnet: Make this cute, flowery headband.

Building the Perfect Garden Archway Trellis

March 05, 2018   //  Posted in: DIY, Gardening   //  By: Emily   //  5 responses
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Our garden’s archway trellis was a new addition in 2017, and one that we’re going to use again this spring. Aside from being a great way to raise climbers in an enclosed garden space, it was the perfect little tunnel for those kids of ours. We have lots of family photos that prove that, but today, think about making one your own before it’s time to plant seeds.

Build raised garden beds with a connecting archway trellis for climbers in the garden.

I use scrap wood for projects whenever possible, so when it came time to build two rectangular boxes for raised garden beds, I turned to some weathered barn wood boards that had already stood up to wind and rain and were still plenty sturdy for a new project. You can see in the below picture that the assembly wasn’t anything complex; cut 8 pieces and lap the corners (4 boards measured 4-feet long, which was determined by the width of my fencing, and 4 measured 1-foot, decided by how much space I had available in the garden). A few screws are all it takes to hold them together. If you’re using 1x boards like I did, be sure that the wood screws are at least 2″ with a 1″ shank, and always predrill the holes to prevent splitting – whether the wood is new or old. Throw it back, Codeman! We miss you, bud.

Building raised garden planter boxes from barn wood for an archway trellis.

Transfer those raised beds into your garden. Position them parallel with a preschooler-sized pathway between them… ~18-24″.

Four pieces of 4′ rebar come in handy for the next part – adding the archway. Put one rebar post in each inner corner so that it’s sturdy and upright, with about 2.5′-3′ of rebar extending above the soil and into the air. The arch itself is a 12′ length of galvanized rolled fencing, and a little feisty to wrangle. Start by weaving one end of the fencing through two pieces of rebar so that it fits down into one of your planter boxes. Create the arch by weaving the other end of fencing through the other two pieces of rebar. Make adjustments until the shape of the arch is perfect. Depending on how tightly the coil of fencing was bound, it might need a little bending and finesse, but it’ll come together, promise!

Building raised garden planter boxes from barn wood for an archway trellis.

Fill the planters to the brim with soil. I used ordinary garden soil and mixed in some nutrients, too. Use it as an opportunity to teach your kids about gardening and seed starting. We used our trellis for cucumbers, and it worked wonderfully even when the plant was loaded and heavy with fruit/veggies. Nasturtiums would be wonderful; climbing beans would be fun too.

Teaching kids to plant and harvest vegetables in their own trellis archway garden.

The height of the archway isn’t quite tall enough for me, a 5’8″ adult, but still big enough for me to easily duck into.

As the plants sprout and grow established leaves and tendrils, train them to grow up the fencing. It’s likely that they’ll catch on themselves, but it doesn’t hurt to guide the end of the plant back and forth upward through the fencing throughout the growing process to assure a neat, passable archway.

Build raised garden beds with a connecting archway trellis for cucumbers in the garden.

You’ll be able to access your harvest from the inside of the trellis as well as out. The wire fencing held strong for us in its first-year trial, even when there were dozens of cucumbers weighing on the archway and putting it to the test. On to year #2!

This DIY trellis is fun for kids to play in, and an easy way to grow lots of climbing vines in your garden – perfect for beans, nasturtiums, and cucumbers!