They called it a Traveler’s Candle, or Swedish Candle, and it is something of a tradition from the old country. Essentially, it is a small piece of log with slits cut through the center about 3/4 of the length. When lit, it burns from the inside producing a long lasting radiating heat, with a sturdy base, and even a convenient cook top.
According to www.wolfandiron.com, it has its origins in Lapland, Finland. In that remote country, those who had houses with rooms for rent, or just wanted to provide weary travelers a place to stay, would light a traveler’s candle outside their home. As long as the log burned, the travelers knew they could stop in and rest. Once the log went out, the owners were no longer taking guests. As they lit the log, with several other men around, it seems they were all drawn to it like moths to a flame.
How to Make a Traveler’s Candle
- A well seasoned log, 1 1/2′-2′ long and 8″ or more in diameter
- A chainsaw
- Lighter fluid (optional)
- A match, or two
Selecting the wood
Make sure the wood is well seasoned if you want to burn the candle soon. Unseasoned wood can be cut and left in a dry place for a few months for future gifts or burning.
Hickory, oak and other hardwoods
Hardwoods are so called because they have a denser cellular structure than the softwoods. They grow more slowly and their rings are much closer together. They also take longer to cure and can be tough to manage (heavier and harder to split) if you are just trying to have wood to burn. However, they burn very clean and last much longer. So, if you like to cook over a Traveler’s Candle and want a more solid cook top with longer cooking time, these are the woods you want to use.
Pine and other evergreens
The large amount of sap in pine and other evergreens works well because of the large amount of sap in these woods. That and when cured, lights extremely easily and burns very well. However, it also burns very quickly so the life of the candle will be shorter.
Cedar is the wood of choice. It isn’t considered a hardwood so it burns a little more quickly. However, it looks great and smells even better. It’s also rot resistant so you can leave a couple of cedar logs laying around the house and get to them when you are ready.
Determine the number of cuts you need to make based on the diameter of the log. Two cuts (4 segments) will typically work but if you have a larger piece of wood you may want to add another.
Make your cuts about 3/4 the length of the log. This is easier if you set it on a higher surface than the ground. Definitely recommended if you are making a couple of these.
Place your log in a place outdoors where it won’t heat up or burn anything near it. If you need, place a fuel infused paper towel in the to ignite it. Then, pull up a chair and enjoy!