Friday, January 13, 2012


    Do you have a wood-burning fireplace or wood stove? For several years I have been making fire starters, and have found them invaluable! What does a fire starter look like? Well, it's not pretty - a cardboard toilet paper tube stuffed with dryer lint which has been soaked in melted wax.
    Jesse told me the other day that we were getting low on fire starters, so as I began my bread making this morning - four loaves to sell, four for the family, plus 2 pans of rolls -I put a pot of wax on the stove to melt in order to make fire starters. I keep an old coffee can in a closet, and add bits of wax to it:

  • ends of candles
  • broken crayons
  • bits of birthday candles
  • old, yucky candles that friends would never burn so they give them to me
Here's a handy tip: to easily get the wax out of a candle holder, put the holder in the freezer for several hours. This works for all type of candles and holders - jar candles, taper candles, votives, tea light. After several hours (I usually forget about them so they may stay there for days), take it out and tap it on the counter. The wax will usually just pop out in one piece. You may need to poke a knife around the edges. And if the opening is smaller than the bottom of the container, you will have to poke the candle in the middle with a sharp knife and it will usually split in two or three pieces. 

When the can is full, I put the can full of wax in a pot of water on the burner. It can take several hours for the wax to melt completely, especially if there are big pieces of wax. 

Another tip: Never throw away your dryer lint! Even if you don't make firestarters, lint is very flammable (which is why you should regularly clean out your dryer vent tube). It can be used to start fires, is great in your compost pile, and in the Springtime, birds will use it in their nests. 

When the wax is melted, add the dryer lint, gently pushing it down into the wax (I use a plastic fork for this) until the lint is stuffed in there. Then, holding a toilet paper tube over the can, pick up globs of soaked lint (using the fork) and put them into the tube. This can be tricky, because the lint can just fall through back into the can. I hold the tube sideways to do this. Then, using the fork, I push down on the lint (against the side of the tube) so the excess wax will run back into the can. All of that wax would harden in the tube, but, well, let's face it - I am CHEAP! And I want to make it stretch as far as I can!
I keep some paper towels on the counter next to the stove, and when I finish with a tube, I lay it on the paper towels. I let them sit on the counter for a few hours, until they are completely dry, then put them in a bag or bucket and they'll last forever.

To use it, place it under the fireplace grate, or on the bottom of the fireplace or woodstove, add your kindling and wood, and light the edges of the tube. It will burn for 15 minutes or so, enough time for the wood to catch completely.

Now, let me make something clear, this is a messy business. By the time I'm finished, I have wax on my hands, my stove, and in the pot of water - which is why I should be looking for an old pot at yard sales to use just for this! 

And if I can figure out how to add pictures to this, I'll post some!