I learned how to make these simple recycled fire starters from my mother. For decades now I have brought these on every camping trip and used them to start every single camp fire. They are made of only three everyday things and this combination allows the starter to burn for a long period of time, helping keep the kindling burning and the fire hot. If you have ever been frustrated trying to start a camp or wood stove fire with just newspaper or store bought starters you absolutely must try making these.
In my option the best part of these starters is that you will use materials that are otherwise typically discarded!
Gather these three things:
Cardboard Egg Carton with the top and closure flap removed leaving only the half with the cavities for the egg. Do not use plastic or Styrofoam egg cartons.
Dryer Lint gathered from your clothes dryer. Save more than you think you may need!
Wax. This can be soy, paraffin or any old wax. I suggest remnants of old candles (you know that little bit that is always left in the bottom of a candle jar.)
Lay down a thick layer of newspaper on a work surface. Some wax may get on the table so feel free to layer with cardboard or other table coverings.
Remove every part of the egg carton except for the half where the eggs sit.
Stuff each egg cavity with dryer lint. Pack it in good and tight and fill until each cavity is full but not overflowing with lint.
I suggest making a bunch at once to save time and effort. You will normally use 1-2 starters per fire so if you are doing a lot of camping, sitting in front of the fireplace or using a wood stove then why not stock up.
In this step were are melting the wax. In my studio I have an enameled wax melter that looks like a tea kettle. Understanding that most people don't have one of those handy dandy pots I suggest using a tin can to melt your wax.
On your stove make a double boiler by pouring a little bit of water into a pot and bring water to a boil. Place your tin can filled with wax (can mix different kinds of wax together) in the pot so the bottom of the can is resting on the bottom of the pot. I suggest using a pot that is only slightly larger than the tin can so if the can tips a little side to side it doesn't have room to fall over.
Using a disposable utensil like a wooden stick or plastic spoon stir every so often to ensure all the wax is melted. Remove from the heat with oven mitts and set aside to let the wax cool.
Once your wax is cooled enough* it is time to pour into the egg carton. If you have a wax melting kettle like me then yay! If you are using a tin can and have a steady hand you can pour from the can into the egg carton OR you can pour the wax into a paper cup and pinch one side of the cup to make it easier to pour precisely.
Slowly pour the wax over the dryer lint into each cavity of the egg carton. Some wax will seep out the bottom and that is fine. If too much is pouring out the bottom that means your wax is too hot and you need to let it cool down more.
Fill the cavity to the brim. I usually go over each cavity a couple of times.
*Note: There is no exact time to cool your wax off to the side. I typically let it cool for about 15-20 minutes. I discovered if you pour your wax when it is too hot into the egg carton it is too liquid and just seeps out the bottom.
As you can see in the photo you only want your wax to fill the top of each carton. Allow to sit overnight to cool and harden. The next day take the carton and simply break off each egg cavity and that is one fire starer. No need for knives or scissors to break these up. The wax softens the cardboard so they are easy to tear apart.
Store in a sealed ziplock bag.
use your new fire starters!
Your starters should look a little something like this (I never said they would be pretty!)
I have always made my fires tepee style. Not familiar with some best practices for fire starting? I won't shame you but you should really read this!
When you have your kindling/tinder down be sure your fire starter is right in the middle of your "tepee" or "log cabin" and light the tinder. It will quickly catch your starter in the middle on fire. The fire starter will put off a large flame and thanks to the wax will burn hot enough for the rest of the kindling in your fire pit to catch.