Fire is used for heating, cooking, lighting, and more. It is important you know the basic terminology. However, characters who have never dealt with fire before might not know the terms or what they mean. Here are five more terms.
6) Splintering wood
Splintering wood is exactly what you would expect it to be, wood that is splintering off into smaller pieces. These can be small pieces or larger pieces. Sometimes the splintered-off pieces will even curl at the ends. This can put a lot of splinters into someone’s hand. These can go very deep and can splinter into a lot of pieces as you try to take them out, which can make getting them out a painful headache. There usually is at least one or two like this in every rick of wood. Sometimes there are a lot, sometimes not. Try not to let the wood stab your characters too often.
7) Cork or corkwood
No, not the stuff on a wine bottle! When it comes to firewood, cork means any wood you can crumble between your fingers. This usually happens because of the rotting process of decaying wood. Corkwood is not a good firewood because it burns quickly. However, it is very useful for starting a fire. If an ember is placed on cork, it should easily light on fire. It’s also fun for kids to crumble them. It makes a great distraction for kids as long as they are old enough,they won’t eat it. Splinters in the throat are never wanted!
Ash is the whitest gray powdery stuff left over after a fire. It has a distinct smell to it. It will have to be removed from fireplaces and woodstoves from time to time. There are all kinds of uses for wood ash, everything from the garden, lye, pest repellant, jewelry cleaner, wood ash soap, tick repellant, natural ice melt, and much more. Most people don’t keep wood ash for these things today, but they have throughout history, an important thing to remember if you are writing about the past.
Another thing to remember is that ash can deceptively look like it is no longer a danger but hides embers inside it. I have burned my hand badly by touching it without checking to see if it was hot first. Yes, I was young, and I did NOT do that again! The other thing to remember is that when ash is thrown outside, the ember can come in contact with other things. We once accidentally set our yard on fire like that. Yelling at someone that the yard is on fire when it wasn’t two minutes ago will come with some very strange looks. I know the hard way.
Speaking of embers, that is our next term. Embers are little pieces of wood or coal found in a dying fire. Dying fire just means the fire is going out. Embers usually glow and can be between 900°F and 1,650° F. Remember, you can’t see the glow in the daytime, so always place your hand close to the ash to see if there are embers. I learned that after giving myself second-degree burns at around three years old. You better bet I was mad at my dad for not stopping me after he just told me it was hot. How was I supposed to know what “burn the baby” meant? Thanks, Dad!
10) Splitting wood also called chopping wood.
Splitting wood means chopping a round log into pieces with an ax, splitting maul, hammer and wedge, or something along these lines. How many pieces you make it into depends on how big the log is and the size of your wood stove or fireplace. In our modern time, there is a mechanical splitter. It works and saves time and effort. However, chopping wood is a great exercise, and many people do not use these as they want to stay healthy as long as possible. It is also a great way to get your anger out. Just pretend it is the thing that frustrates your character. This is a skill that is learned. It can be done by beginners, but it takes time to learn the technique, meaning that learners are likely to use more energy than needed because they do not know what they are doing. There is also always a risk of the character missing and hitting their leg with the ax. Beginners are more likely than others to do this, but it could happen to even the most skilled person.
Fun fact: Wooden toothpicks are basically large splinters. Thousands of people choke on toothpicks every year, sending them to the hospital for professional help.
What could possibly go wrong?
Likely to go wrong:
Your character will likely pick up small splinters when dealing with wood. Splintering wood is the most likely to do this, but all wood can do it if they are not wearing gloves. Keep in mind most people that are not doing this professionally will not be wearing gloves unless they are wearing gloves because it is cold.
Likely to go wrong:
Your character will accidentally inhale the ash as they take it out of a fireplace or wood stove. When it is moved into an ash bucket, the fine particles will likely get into the character’s face. This can cause coughing and make breathing hard for people with asthma.
Possible to go wrong:
When splitting wood, one of the pieces falls onto the leg or, more likely, the foot, hurting them. It is rarely more than a bruise but can also easily break the skin. This is more likely if they are wearing shorts.
Possible to go wrong:
Your character can pull or strain muscles in their back, shoulders, neck, or arms while chopping wood. I have known people who have done all of these at one time or another. It usually is when learning, or they just mess up while swinging the ax.
Unlikely to go wrong:
The splintered wood hits just right, and your character now has a huge splinter in them. It can be hard to get out, and even after that, they risk infection. This is always dangerous, but more so in a historical setting or post-apocalyptic where they do not have access to antibiotics.
Improbable but technically still in the realm of possibilities:
The corkwood holds some deadly fungus or mold in it. While I have never encountered this, cork wood is good for growing mold and fungus, making this possible.
Helpful Links to Learn More:
Wood Stove Ash Removal:
70+ uses for Ash:
Stop Popping Embers:
Split and Stack Firewood Video:
Splitting Wood Tips Video: