Homemade fire starter can save you money and help the environment in several ways. Re-using things destined for the landfill is always a good idea. Making your own fire starter also means you won’t have to spend money on commercial fire starters which are costly and contain chemicals.
GREEN TIP: Fireplace Starter
Start saving your empty paper towel tubes and old newspapers. Most of us already recycle newspaper and catalogs so we already have a supply on hand.
1. Take a thick section of newspaper, or the whole paper, and roll it up so it fits inside the paper towel tube. (you may have to fold the newspaper so its about the same length of the tube or about 12″)
2. Slide the rolled up newspaper into the paper towel tube and release it. The newspaper should unroll a bit which is what you want. The paper shouldn’t be rolled too tightly or it won’t burn as well.
3. Place your homemade fire starter tube in your fireplace underneath your small pieces of kindling wood and light the edge of the newspaper with a match or fireplace lighter. You may have to adjust how tightly you roll the paper but once you get the hang of it, it’s easy!
Also, if you have a smaller fire to build you may want to try using toilet paper tubes. These work well for campfires, small wood stoves or even your grill if you run out of lighter fluid.
Living in the Mid-west with woods all around us there is never a shortage of pine cones to find. We gather them while hiking and by summer’s end usually have a garbage can full to use in winter.
We store the pine cones in a warm dry place with plenty of air circulation so that they are completely dry by the time we need to use them for fire starter. (a warm shed, attic or greenhouse work well) It is important that they are dry and opened up or they won’t burn well.
If you have a smaller amount of pine cones to dry the oven works well too. Spread them on foil lined cookie sheets and bake at about 200F for about an hour. As an added benefit you will have the wonderful scent of pine throughout your home! (this is also the conditioning process you should do before making the fancier pine cone fire starter recipe which follows)
Tools & Supplies:
2 pounds paraffin (can find at a craft or hardware store or wherever home canning supplies are sold)
3 red or green crayons or candle tint (which you can find at craft supply stores)
1 teaspoon scented oil (cinnamon or your favorite essential oil)
Pine cones (large size is best)
Metal coffee can
1. Cover your work area completely with newspaper, then with some waxed paper.
2. Break the paraffin into chunks and melt it over hot water in a coffee can or double boiler.
CAUTION: Paraffin is extremely flammable. Never heat it over an open flame or directly over any heat source. It may catch fire if you do. Never leave heating paraffin unattended.
3. Add crayons or candle tint (peel the label off the crayon first) until you’re pleased with the color. Add your choice of scented oil.
4. Remove the paraffin from the heat. Using tongs, dip a pinecone into the paraffin for a few seconds. Gently lift it out without shaking off any excess wax. Allow the cone to cool for a few seconds, then set it on the waxed paper. Repeat with remaining cones.
5. After the cones are completely cool, dip them again. If the wax is too hot it will melt off the wax from previous dippings so keep it warm enough to be liquid but not hot.
For the type of Pine Cone Fire starter shown in the photo above follow these instructions:
Additional supplies you will need: muffin tins, wicking for candles & sawdust (optional)
1. Melt wax in top of double boiler over boiling water or melt the wax in a coffee can in a pot of boiling water on the stove.
2. After wax has melted, stir in the candle coloring and essential oil. Turn off the heat.
3. Place a wick at the base of the pine cone, letting about one inch hang over the edge of the muffin pan.
4. Put about a tablespoon of sawdust in the muffin pan and set the pine cone in the middle, pressing down.
5. Spoon or ladle your scented wax into the pan to about a level of 1 1/2 inches.
6. Set aside until cool and then remove from pan and place on wax paper to harden. Store in a basket or decorative metal container until use. (place away from open fire until needed!)
7. To light a fire, put a pine cone fire starter under your smaller logs and light the wick.
TIP: Our family also gathers twigs and small branches which we tie in bundles with twine and use as additional kindling. These bundles work well in combination with the pine cone fire starters.