How to Build a Bonfire

Some of our fondest summer memories happen while hanging around a bonfire, but we usually leave the building of the actual fire to someone else. Now, we're finally stepping up to the plate and learning how to do it ourselves—with the the help of a renowned adventurer, no less.

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When Peter Buchanan-Smith first felt the need to reconnect with nature and launch an outdoors company in 2009, the only tools of the trade in his possession were a very rough draft of a business plan and 12 solid, handcrafted axes. Nonetheless, he managed to get Best Made Company off the ground, and now the New York-based designer—whose previous work includes creative direction for The New York Times, and Paper, and a few under-the-radar musicians like David Byrne, Brian Eno, Philip Glass, and Wilco—outfits an entire generation of adventure-seekers with everything from brass flashlights to waxed canvas blankets.

Peter Buchanan-Smith pictured where he likes to spend most of his time.
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We decided to come clean to Peter about not knowing how to build a bonfire, so he helped us out with everything from scouting a location, to finding the right tools, and he even outlined a detailed, step-by-step plan of action. Screenshot away.

Before Getting Started

This first step might seem obvious, but it's often overlooked: "Make sure you have a location picked out where it's legal to build a fire," says Buchanan-Smith. "If you're building the bonfire on a public beach, make sure there aren't any permits required or local fire restrictions." You'll also want to make sure to have some essentials handy: a water bucket (for controlling the fire and extinguishing it), a few backup logs in case there isn't enough wood on the beach, matches, and a shovel. "Of course, a first-aid kit is always a good idea, especially if you're hanging out on an out-of-the-way beach," says Buchanan-Smith. "Not to be morbid or alarmist, but remember the opening scene from Jaws?"

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