Monday, October 10, 2011

Homemade Firestarters

If you were ever a Boy Scout this post is probably old hat to you. ;)

I did some testing tonight with one of the egg carton, dryer lint, and canning wax fire starters I made a couple weeks ago. To light it I put some unwaxed dryer lint on the top and lit it with sparks from a firesteel (ferrocerium rod).  These will of course light readily with matches or a lighter.

Unlit fire starter:

After about a minute:

At six minutes it's going strong and giving off quite a bit of light:

At 14 minutes. As you can see the flame is getting lower.

Finally, about a minute and a half after the previous picture, it finally went out. There were still embers of cardboard glowing now that all the wax was burned off. This pic was taken after 16 minutes:

It burned pretty hot and since the flame lasts long it would be very good at lighting wet sticks. I haven't tried it myself but I have read of guys using one of these with an Esbit stove to boil water for tea or soup.

The cost for one of these is minimal, really all you need to buy is the canning wax, and you could substitute wax from candles that you can often buy for pennies at yard sales. I recommend using dryer lint from loads with mostly cotton clothing or towels.

Be very careful when melting wax. Use a double boiler and it's safest to do it outside, just in case it ignites.


Anonymous said...

Good advice about melting wax outdoors! Most people don't realize how flammable wax/paraffin is until they've almost burned down their house.

In the Boy Scouts, we used to melt wax in old coffee cans over an open fire. Then we would remove the cans full of melted wax from the fire and dip bundles of matches into the wax to waterproof them. The matches were tied into bundles with a long string, to make it easier to dip them and then to retrieve them from the wax.


Dave Markowitz said...

We did something similar with books of matches when I was in the Civil Air Patrol. we first wrapped them in aluminum foil, then secured the foil with a length of electrical tape. Enough tape was left loose to provide a handle, which we then used to dip the matchbooks in the melted wax.

The waterproof matchbooks went into our survival kits.

PreppingToSurvive said...

Nice article, Dave. As a quickie version, I've rolled up dryer lint inside the dryer sheets, tied them in a simple overhand knot, and used those to start fire. Doesn't require the wax, but doesn't burn nearly as long either.

Dave Markowitz said...

Thanks, PTS.

I've used dryer lint and used dryer sheets as well. Without the wax they have the advantage of igniting extremely easily with a spark, but you need a good supply of something like small twigs or dry grass to keep the fire going. What i like about these fire starters with wax, though, is that the wax is itself a fuel and burns for a long time so less prep is needed at the time you need a fire.

You could also cut the lint/wax firestarters into smaller chunks to extend your supply.

McFlood said...

I keep a small, waterproof tin (like a beefed up altoids can) in my bug out bag. I've filled it with twigs of heart pine (or lighter knot as I grew up calling it). I have a ziplock bag of drier lint and a ferro rod, all in one compartment for easy access. I can get a fire going in less than two minutes that will burn long enough to dry out damp sticks and small limbs.