by Tammy Taylor
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Y’all know RancherMan & I like to use resources found right here at our ranch whenever possible. I use grass clippings for moisture-saving mulch in our veggie garden & collect rainwater for all outside irrigation. And we use wood cut from downed limbs in our fireplace to warm our home. There’s nothing quite like staying toasty-warm in the blustery winter months with the help of a roaring fire. (remember: Fire Safety First – read my recent post about the importance of regular chimney cleaning)
When we lived in the city we had a built-in fireplace that had a handy-dandy gas log lighter. It sure made starting a fire an easy endeavor. But now that we live on the ranch we have a beautiful freestanding antique Franklin-style cast iron fireplace. I absolutely love it but back in the day they didn’t include gas-fed log lighters on many of their showroom models. How oh how to get that fire started without utilizing those wilderness tactics of using flint sparks & dead leaves that RancherMan learned in the Boy Scouts… Yes there’s an easier way. And man oh man are you gonna love this!
I’ve seen these homemade fire starters before, it’s not a new concept. But we’ve never really needed them so I’ve never made them before. Then at a recent family outing my SIL brought out a couple of these she had made for starting their campfire. It made me wonder if I should try to make these for use in our fireplace.
Raw Materials Already Here
Because I had intended this year to sell some of the excess eggs from our freerange chickens I had family members saving their egg cartons for me throughout the year. Although I never got to use them for selling eggs, my attention is now turned to those cartons in my stash that are made of cardboard. Let’s just see how easy this is to do…
Drier Lint – Only Cotton Fabrics
Now one problem in making these is that one of the main materials is dryer lint, and although we have a higher-end clothes dryer we don’t use it often. But as much as I love hanging our clothes outside, during ragweed season I’m forced to dry clothes inside. Typically I’ll use my * folding clothes-drying racks when drying our clothes inside. But recently RancherMan was catching up on the laundry and decided to throw the wet clothes into the dryer because, well, that’s what it’s FOR. I’m certainly not going to complain because hey, he’s doing the laundry, amiright??
So whatever way is most comfortable for him to complete the task was just fine with me! But when cleaning out the dryer’s lint trap I was reminded why I hate to use the dryer. All this lint that you pull from your lint trap is actually your clothing being beat up and broken down by the dryer. But wait a minute, at least maybe I can use this material for my fire starters. I’ve read that when making fire starters from dryer lint you need to make sure the content is natural fiber since some synthetic fabric fibers don’t burn well. This lint is from 100% cotton denim jeans – let’s DO THIS!
I took the dryer lint and tore it into little squares, tucking a square inside each of the egg cups on the carton. I put my egg carton on a piece of newspaper in case the hot melted wax oozed out of the cardboard. Finally I placed the whole shebangie on an old cookie sheet that I use for various tasks other than cooking, then I got busy with the nitty gritty part.
Melting The Wax
I took the largest tin can I could find and with a pair of pliers fashioned a small pour spout to make pouring the hot melted wax a little easier. Now for the wax. Hummm… several years ago I acquired a bulk amount of wax & I always wondered what in the world I was going to do with it. But now I have my answer. (some people just use old used candle wax)
I chipped up some of that wax and placed it inside the can, placed the can in a pan of water and turned on the stove burner. As the water slowly heated up, the wax melted beautifully.
Careful – Melted Wax!
Now comes the scary part – dealing with a hot can filled with hot melted wax and trying to transfer said wax from tin can to little egg cups. I wanted to make sure I had a steady hand and was as protected as I could be from the hot metal.
I used my *canning jar gripper which was just about the right size to hold this hot can. And I also used a pair of pliers firmly held to the can to help me pour slowly and steadily. This was a pretty nerve-wracking step for me, hot wax can burn badly. But by going slowly and staying careful and focused I was able to easily pour this hot melted wax into each of the egg cups. (please, please please be careful if you try this – no kids, pets or distractions in the kitchen until after the hot stuff is done!)
Anyway, the wax did indeed melt through the cardboard and onto the newspaper beneath it so it was a good thing I took that preemptive step. And although in my case the wax didn’t run off the paper, it could have. So it’s also a good thing I had everything confined in that old baking sheet. You might keep those issues in mind if you decide to give it a try.
Homemade FireStarters. DONE!
Now only the easy part remained. I simply allowed it to all cool and harden overnight and in the morning I broke apart each of the cups. The cooled wax that was pooled beneath each of the cups was chipped away and placed in a storage tote for the next batch. I placed all these completed fire starters in a chunky metal pitcher we keep near the fireplace and waited for the opportunity for a test run.
Using The Firestarters
Well of course it got cold soon thereafter. So RancherMan thought we’d give ‘er a try. He placed one of the cups directly onto one of the logs in the fireplace to fully utilize the ignition power of these little gems and then he lit the firestarter. It started easily and the flames reached up through the logs and started our fire without any other assistance from us. RancherMan’s words to me were “Wow, that was easy. Can you make me a bunch of these??” I’d say that was successful!
So…. now that RancherMan wants me to make more of these beauties I’ll need to ponder raw materials. Since we won’t be using our dryer again any time soon, I think for the next batch I’ll use the scraps cut from RancherMan’s torn jeans to line those egg cups. I’m forever making things out of his old worn jeans like my favorite no-sew pocket coasters or rustic denim gift bags. I also cut circles out of them for a cute denim decorative touch when giving gifts of home-canned goods. So I’ve always got small scraps of denim left. I’ll be sure to let ya know how that works. Remember what I always say: “Use whatcha GOT!”
Again please remember that I’m sharing a procedure that we’ve tried that works well at our home. This project worked beautifully for us but there are lots of variables. Remember you’re handling hot melted wax when you’re making these fire starters. And of course starting a fire in your fireplace should always be done with the utmost fire safety in mind.
So if you decide to give it a try you’ll be doing so at your own risk. Please do your research & make sure it’s the best thing for your house too. But I’ll for sure be making another batch of these fire starters soon!
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