Don’t get me wrong, I’m a huge fan of those military trioxane bars that can be found in just about every military surplus catalog on the planet. I generally tuck a couple away in my backpack even when I don’t intend to start a campfire, just in case, but they are hardly enviromentally friendly and probably best reserved for special needs. Luckily, there is a very easy and low-impact alternative you can make in your own home with materials found, scrounged or bought cheaply, without resorting to exotic or dangerous chemicals.

Collecting Fire Starters Ingredients

Your firestarters are composed of three elements; the starter element, the fuel element and the stabilizing element.

Your starter element is also your container. The best sources in my experience are cardboard (NOT styrofoam) egg cartons or the small paper (NOT plastic) cups found with water coolers. Egg cartons can be saved up from grocery runs. Ask your friends to save theirs for you too. Paper cups can be purchased in large amounts fairly cheaply from office supply stores, or if you office has a water cooler, collect the empties for your project.

Your fuel elements is wax. Get in the habit of keeping those last bits of candles that you can’t burn, crayon nubs and so on. You can also sometimes find assorted candles in thrift stores. If you must buy wax, consider large, cheap blocks sold in craft stores.

Finally, you will need a stabilizing element. I prefer sawdust, but some folks use dryer lint. Sawdust can often be gotten for free from construction sites or from big box construction stores, both of which cut wood on site and may give you all you want for the asking. Dryer lint can come from your own home or if you want to score large amounts quickly, try local apartment complexes with laundry centers or a laundry mat. Neither is probably going to object to your “harvesting” their lint.

Casting Your Fire Starters

eggcarton_firestarterHot wax is dangerous stuff and flammable too (which is kind of the point). Melt is SLOWLY in a double boiler. If you have a portable burner, you may want to do this outside for ventilation and additional safety. Do NOT leave the melting wax unattended for any amount of time.

Line up your molds, either egg cartons or paper cups on a stable, wax resistant surface (small spills and leakage are inevitable). If you’re doing this outdoors on a sunny day, make sure they are in a shaded, cool spot. Fill each container half-way with either sawdust or dryer lint. Carefully fill the remainder of the space with your hot wax. Some people like to stir the contents slightly to get a better consistency of wax and lint/sawdust, but its not entirely necessary.

Allow your molds to completely cool and harden. Do NOT remove the fire starters from their molds! The molds are part of their function.

Using Your Fire Starters

Tear or cut off one of your egg carton sections and light the edge, allowing it to catch the wax portion. Once it reaches this part of the fire starter it should burn hot for a long time, creating more than ample heat to starter a well-constructed fire whether its in your fireplace or your campsite.

Additional Research: