Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Turotial: Firestarters: Useful reuse for backpackers to homeowners


Our neighborhood has an email system in place that serves as everything from announcement board to freecycle notices to debate central. Some good, some bad, like everything. Last year a neighbor asked if anyone wanted partially used candles - which I ended up taking. At first I used the candles to melt down and re-form into new candles in custom etched glass holders. Eventually though, I ran out of uses for red and yellow candles. Always red and yellow. Bags and bags of red and yellow candles. Why? Church? Anyone have ideas?

Around the same time as I was making candles we finally got the fireplace in our house working - and it was quite the wonderful winter treat. We spent many winter nights, lights off, fireside, sitting and talking - disengaged from technology and distractions. This coming winter we'll be ordering wood by the cord in preparation for more cozy nights.

Then, just recently, our local farm informed us we would no longer be able to bring back our egg cartons for reuse. New regulations prohibit the reuse of the containers, and though they are recyclable, it seemed like such a waste after all that wonderful reuse we had done.

Thus, the recycled egg carton firestarters entered our lives. Made easily and quickly with supplies we all have they are an easy way to start a fire. They ignite quickly, are light as a feather, and cost nothing - perfect for camping and backpackers to home fires and easy for kids to help assemble.

What you'll need

Cardboard/recycled paper egg cartons
Dryer lint
Shredded paper/newspaper/scrap
Bits of twigs/tinder/kindling or dried leaves
Old/scrap candles
Sharp knife or scissors
Matches or a small pot to melt the wax


You can build these one of two ways - the egg carton still in tact or already cut apart into individual cups. The easiest way, by far, is to cut the carton apart first. If you assemble while the carton is still in place two things will happen - first, you'll need a very sharp knife to cut the pieces apart and you may run into a twig you'll also need to cut through; second - you'll need more wax to hold everything in place because the process of cutting things apart acts much like ice cubes in an tray - it can pop the filling out.

So, if you like the easy way, cut the egg carton apart into individual cups before you begin.


Layer your scrap paper, lint, twigs/leaves in the cups. Lint ignites very quickly, scrap less so, and the twigs the slowest. You can layer any way you like - it all works together quite nicely. If you don't have twigs or lint, just use what you have.


Melt the scrap candles in a pot on medium low and pour a bit over each cup to hold everything together. You can also use a candle that you light and melt over each cup but the fully melted preparation is easier and more effective. You don't need a ton of wax - play around with how much you need and use the least possible - though the wax will burn off you don't want a ton of wax in your fireplace at the end of the season.


If you need to, go ahead and cut the egg carton apart. That's it! Your fire starters are done. Pop in your fire pit, light the corner and await the lovely warm marshmallow toasting glow!


Magpie Mimi said...

This is such a good idea! Thank you!

Lisa McB said...

I love these, and I love the fact that you even make fire starters pretty!

The Cilantropist said...

What a brilliant idea! I will definitely be doing this for my next camping trip! :)

Smalltowngirl said...

So awesome I found this on Pinterest!
I recall someone doing this when I was younger and just thought about it last night as I was trying to light our fire pit (without the help of the "volatile flammable liquid", I despise)!


Rebecca Scott (aka Otter) said...

Hi! I saw this on pinterest. What a fun idea! I camp occasionally and this would be a great addition to the backpack. I was thinking I could even grab a little tissue paper, wrap them individually (just to keep them from dumping out in my pack) and then tie the tissue with a little bit of string. The tufts of tissue at the top would make a great place to start the fire so it could light all the way down. :)

Nancy said...

As a liftime Girl Scout, I give these as Christmas presents to campers and people with fireplaces. I collect all my candle stubs and put them in a garage sale pot and put that pot into a larger pot on the stove to melt the wax. I don't use twigs -- only the egg carton, lint & wax. I package them in a waterproof Zip-loc bag and tear off one whenever needed. They work like a charm. Thanks for sharing on your wonderful site!

FlorIda said...

I also learned about the carton firestarters in Girl Scouts. You can also use the foam cartons, however, you pop the firestarter out of the foam before burning it. My other favorite option is using the cardboard roll from toilet paper. I use dryer lint, dryer sheets, wax, old potpourri, sawdust, pistachio shells, little wood chips and shavings, corks from wine bottles. With the toilet paper (or paper towel) rolls, you can also put them together without wax, if you stuff the ends with either the dryer lint or dryer sheets. Once completed, I store them in plastic zip bags until needed.

Unknown said...

Great Post! It's very nice to read this info from someone that actually knows what they are talking about.
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