There's nothing like a fire to make you feel warm and toasty, whether it's at camp in the middle of the wilderness or on the grill in your backyard. The tricky part can be getting that fire started. You can buy commercial fire starters, but it's more fun, efficient and environmentally friendly to make your own from leftover items around the house. In this case, an egg carton and a few leftover candle stubs will do the trick.
Things You'll Need
- 1½ cups paraffin or candle stubs
- 1 empty pint can, cleaned and thorougly dried
- 1 saucepan or skillet
- 1 paper egg carton (not foam or plastic)
- Skewer or disposable fork
- Cotton thread or fine twine
- Knife or scissors
- Additional fillers such as dryer lint, dried grass, sawdust or wood shavings (optional)
- Aluminum foil (optional)
- Break or cut the paraffin into smaller pieces so it will melt faster. If you're using candle stubs, chop any large pieces but leave smaller ones intact. Transfer the wax to a clean, well-dried can.
- Run an inch of water into a skillet or saucepan and bring it to a gentle simmer. Place the can of wax carefully in the hot water, creating a sort of double boiler. Heat the wax for approximately 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until it's all melted. Remove the pan from the heat.
- Remove the lid from the egg carton while the wax heats and tear it into thin strips. Divide these strips between the cups, partially filling them. This provides extra fuel for the fire starter. You can supplement the strips of paper with additional filler materials if you wish, such as dryer lint or dried grass.
- Divide the melted wax between the cups of the egg carton, pouring an equal amount into each one. Use a skewer or disposable fork to press down the filler materials so they're completely covered by the wax. Set in a cool place to dry and harden.
- Cut between the cups with a knife or a pair of scissors to separate the individual fire starters. Fold the edges of each cup to cover its open top. For a neater, more compact package, wrap each starter in a small piece of foil, or wrap it and tie it with cotton thread or fine twine. This is optional, but it saves space in a drawer or backpack.
- Nestle one or more fire starters among the kindling to start a campfire, or into the charcoal to start the coals in your kettle or barbecue pit. They'll burn for several minutes after they're ignited, and will encourage even damp or green wood to catch. If you've wrapped your starters in foil, remove the foil before attempting to light them.
You can choose other fillers for your fire starters depending on how you intend to use them. Most DIY sites suggest using dryer lint as a filler. This is fine for an outdoor campfire, but the smoke from synthetic fabrics would be unwelcome in a barbecue. Sawdust is another excellent filler, but the dust from particle board, plywood or pressure-treated lumber can contain potentially toxic materials.
Choose materials such as hardwood sawdust or tufts of dried grass for the greatest versatility, or even the wood shavings sold as bedding for small animals. These burn cleanly and won't impart unwelcome flavors to the foods cooked over them.
If you plan to use your starters with a charcoal grill, take things a step further by incorporating small chunks of charcoal into the starters, or pieces of hardwood to generate flavorful smoke.
Wax is highly flammable when heated, and paraffin is especially volatile. If you're heating your wax on a gas stove or outdoors on a camp stove or campfire, use a wide skillet as the base of your "double boiler" and keep it at the lowest heat possible. Otherwise, you run the risk of having it burst into flame and creating a significant safety hazard.