We made a Nying or Rakovalkea fire recently at one of our Modern Survival courses. Sometimes known as a Swedish Fire Log both the Finns and the Swedes claim credit for its design. Either way, this particular fire lay is designed to burn all night and radiate heat without needing to be fed or stoked.
Everyone is familiar with the Swedish Candle which has gained much popularity in recent years even if its name credits the wrong country as well. The Nying/Rakovalkea is its close cousin. Both fire lays rely on wood being burned efficiently but serve two distinct purposes.
Unlike the four pieces of wood in a Swedish Candle (above) the Nying/Rakovalkea (below) uses just two logs. As you probably know, one partially burning log will go out if it is pulled from the fire, but if you put two burning logs together they will feed off of each others heat and continue to burn. This is the principle behind the Nying/Rakovalkea fire lay.
To create the Nying/Rakovalkea fire you need two logs. Some people say an axe handle length for each person. Axe handles vary in size but I always imagined about 3’ each. However, often when I build this fire for warmth I make it as long as I am tall to warm the length of me laying beside it, or about 5’-6’ long. You can generally allow about an hour for each inch in diameter of the log for burn time. A 10” log should burn about ten hours. Hard woods will increase this slightly.
Once your logs are cut to length use your axe make chops into one side of each log for the entire length. I didn’t get a picture of this but you just want some cuts and chunks along the side of the log to help the fire catch. You’re not trying to remove wood, just making cuts into it. Imagine a really large feather stick.
Lay the two logs one on top the other with the chopped sides together with one end or the other pointed into the wind. Put small rocks on the sides of the bottom log to keep it from rolling. The top log should have two small branches nailed to it, (you do carry some nails in your pack right?) to keep it from rolling off the bottom log. You can bore a hole and peg them in place with a small stick if you have no nails although nails are handy for many things and I carry a few with me in my pack. Some people will pound stakes on both sides of the logs but they can burn through and let your flaming log fall or the ground may be frozen keeping you from driving stakes. Secure the back side of the branches to the ground behind the logs with stakes or rocks to keep them from moving.
Now you want to separate the two logs enough to put tinder and kindling between them. I like to use a stick 1 ½ -2” in diameter. In the space between the logs pack in your kindling. Be sure to put it on both sides of your spacer sticks so the ends of the logs burn too.
Then light that joker up. Here we’re using around 10” cedar logs, fatwood tinder and red oak sticks for kindling.
Here you can see a better view of the support branches on the back side.
Here it is starting to really take off with just the ends needing to be lit up.
And a couple hours later it had burned down to here. Looks less than impressive in the flash of the camera but lots of wood left.
But with no camera flash you can see the coals lining both logs radiating a great amount of heat out and down on both sides of the fire.
The Nying/Rakovalkea fire burned from about 9pm until 7:30am the next morning when this picture was taken. Still decent heat and of course plenty of coals to stoke up your breakfast fire.
The Nying/Rakovalkea fire tends to radiate heat out and even down making them prefect for sleeping beside in cold weather. If you intend to sleep beside one make sure it is secured in place as mentioned above and also put a smaller log about 3’ away from the fire between the fire and you. This is to prevent a falling log from rolling onto you as you sleep. Also keep in mind that some kinds of wood will pop and throw sparks more than others. This is important particularly if you are wrapped in a synthetic sleeping bag. No-one wants to wake up on fire.
Some people flatten one side of their logs and build a fire on top of the bottom one until it coals before putting the top log in place. I find that to be entirely unnecessary for success. Nor do the spacer logs need to be green as some people suggest. You will either remove them or they will burn out as the larger logs burn anyway.
The Nying/Rakovalkea fire is a great all night fire and definitely worth knowing about.
The Nying/Rakovalkea Fire - A full nights burn
Discussion and demonstration of wilderness skills.
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Re: The Nying/Rakovalkea Fire - A full nights burn
I was surprised how well that actually worked! That thing really kicked out some heat all night.
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