Fire Starters

Thanks very much to Theresa Rose, who shared all these ideas with the Guiding Mailing List.


Many home-made fire starters include the use of melted paraffin wax, which is done in a double boiler.


Use a double boiler to heat the paraffin.
Wear gloves and use pliers to lift the can of hot paraffin.
Keep a damp towel close to smother flames if the paraffin should ignite.
Only melt paraffin and make fire starters outside because of the fire hazard.


Construct a double boiler from one 1-pound and one 2-pound coffee can.
Use a coat hanger to make a platform for the 1-pound can to balance on in the bottom of the 2-pound can.
Partially fill the 2-pound can with water and rest the 1-pound can on the platform in the 2-pound can.
Place the double boiler on a heat source and add paraffin to the 1-pound can to melt it.

Fire Starter Ideas

BRIQUETTES: Tie a briquette with string and dip in paraffin wax.

BUDDY BURNERS: I take a few buddy burners with me to camp in case it rains. I have used it once to start a campfire in wet weather. They will burn for a few hours, at least, until the wax runs out.

COTTON BALL: A great "emergency" fire starter is Vaseline-based lip balm on a cotton ball (or really any small crumpled-up piece of non-plastic cloth). You might have to squirt the whole thing onto the cloth, but in an emergency situation, that's what you'd do.

EGG CARTON AND SAWDUST: Fill the compartments of a non-plastic egg carton with sawdust and pour paraffin over the sawdust. Break compartments apart for single fire starters.

FUZZ STICK: Cut into the sides of a dry stick to make curls attached to the stick. Use this stick as a central fire stick. Build a tent of twigs around it.

KISS: Wrap small candle stubs in waxed paper and twist the ends.

NEWSPAPER ROLLS: Roll sheets of newspaper into a tight-packed tube about 1 inch in diameter. Tie the roll with string about every inch. Dip the roll into paraffin. Cut to convenient lengths. Cut newspaper into 4 inch strips, roll up tight, tie with twine leaving about 2 inches of twine for dipping into paraffin wax. Dip the whole thing into the wax. Use the twine as a wick to light .

MATCHES IN CARDBOARD: Cut strips of corrugated cardboard. Push matches into the holes of the corrugation and dip into paraffin.

PAPER CUPS AND SAWDUST: Fill paper bathroom cups or condiment cups with sawdust and pour in the paraffin.

PAPER TUBE AND LINT: Loosely stuff dryer lint into an empty toilet paper roll. Place this in a cereal liner, roll up, twist ends to close. These take seconds to make, cost nothing, and any age level can make them.

PAPER TUBE AND SAWDUST: Using a paper tube from a roll of paper towels or bathroom tissue, partially fill the tube with sawdust and pour paraffin into the tube. Keep repeating until the tube is filled. Cut the tube into convenient pieces, about 1-inch long each. Wood chips/shavings/sawdust work great too! Stuff the toilet tissue rolls with dryer lint and wrap in waxed paper.

PENCIL SHAVINGS: Pencil shavings from pencil sharpeners work great. You could have your girls collect the sawdust from the pencil sharpeners at their schools for an almost endless supply!

PITCH: Use a small piece of wood to scrape pitch from a conifer tree. Place under tinder.

PURELL HAND CLEANER: Purell (hand cleaner) is alcohol in a gel and starts like a charm in the rain.

TAMPON: Do I need to say more? Highly flammable and should be in all first aid kits anyway!

TOWELS: Tear up old towels or rags that are no longer usable, about 1 inch wide, by 10-12 inch long. Using tongs, dunk them in melted wax or candles and lay them straight on wax paper to cool. This makes an excellent fire starter for a charcoal chimney, as the flame can travel up the entire length of the chimney.

VASELINE: Put on cotton balls.

WATERPROOF MATCHES (Homemade): Dip kitchen matches into shellac and let dry, or dip kitchen matches into hot paraffin and let cool. Make sure to dip or cover both ends of the match. Dip matches in paraffin. Store in metal container. Wrap each match ( or a few together) with string up to the head. Secure with a half hitch. Dip in paraffin wax.

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