Couple thoughts on technique:

1) candle stubs work great for firestarters, if you thought to bring them. So do the newspaper rolls tied in kite string, cut into 2" lengths, and then soaked in wax. Using these cheater methods undermines firebuilding skill development, but they are really useful when conditions are bad.

2) I prefer a small log cabin/ lean to for my initial tinder, graduating to a tepee/star type fire after I get initial ignition and burning of the tinder (going from the 1-2mm sized stuff off the underside of the pine tree to kid finger sized wood to adult finger sized wood and then on up - this is an incrimental process).

The "build a big log cabin and watch it burn" technique is too finicky and prone to failure for my taste (or at, least, I don't have the right skill set to make it work). Keeping tinder/burning small stuff close together and gradually expanding the fire by adding wood of the right size (at the right time) seems to be a more fool-proof way to proceed, in my humble experience.

However, Bill I REALLY like your idea of a wood base to the fire. I've usually tried to just keep the tinder off the ground in the lean to/log cabin starter, and count on the fire to dry out the ground.

3) For breaking wrist-calf sized wood, two trees set closely together works well to set up a windlass type system for breaking wood. Insert the downed tree into the two trees, and walk forward to break off pieces. Much safer than bashing, and effective on wood that won't break after being stomped. This is not LNT, but neither are effective fires for warmth and cooking.

The inherrent difficulties in building fires with natural tinder is one reason to have Scouts PRACTICE this skill on a regular and routine basis, particularly when new. I suspect that this is a reason for the timed contests in making a fire to burn a string suspended off the ground at camporees and such. Having them cook over the open fire is a way to increase the incentives to learn their craft well, and to remember how to do it when it counts for more than just a meal.