by Texas Homesteader~
I wanted to make a pretty basket of natural wax-dipped pinecone fire starters. These are for our own use, but they make wonderful, inexpensive and very functional gifts too.
My garden basket isn’t used in the winter months. And I had a supply of pinecones I’d gathered for decorative purposes and a couple of half-burned pillar candles that I couldn’t even give away.
Let’s DO THIS!
I like to repurpose old candles for my firestarters. #UseWhatchaGot! But you can use any wax, purchased or repurposed.
You say before you commit to a project you wanna see how easy it’s going to be?
The Simple Steps:
- Melt down old candles
- Repeatedly dip, cool & re-dip pinecones in the melted wax
- Cool & arrange in a pretty basket
Easy, Inexpensive & Functional Gift Idea
I saw my first pinecone fire starter about 30 years ago. Money was tight for all of us that Christmas.
So my SIL took large pine cones she’d picked up and dipped them in brightly-colored wax. Then she piled the wax-dipped pinecones in a pretty basket and gave them as Christmas gifts.
It didn’t cost her much, but her gift was so special. Beautiful, functional, personal and homemade. It was a wonderful gift and I’ve thought about & loved those pinecone fire starters all these years later.
It seems I’m fascinated by pine cones when we’re out & about. I’m not sure what my fascination with them is, but I think they’re gorgeous! And now I have a good excuse to go collecting – making these pretty decorative pinecone fire starters.
You’ll want to make sure there are no bugs present inside the pinecones before you wax them.
Some people bake their pinecones for 30 minutes in a low-heat oven set to 220 degrees. Caution though – pinecones are flammable. Being from the fire protection industry, this method makes me a little nervous
Other people soak their pinecones in a solution of water/vinegar. If you clean them by this method be sure to allow them to dry completely before making your fire starters.
Some people don’t worry about cleaning them as long as they’ve shaken loose any visible debris or critters. Since mine were harvested months ago I’m good using this method for our fire starters.
Preparing The Wax
I used to burn candles quite often. I no longer burn typical candles, although I do on occasion burn beeswax candles.
Anyway, years ago I gathered up all my old candles and offered them first to family members who still enjoyed this type of candle. Several candles were given away at that time.
But these were left. No one wants an old, partially burned candle…
So I’ve been repurposing candles from this box for a long time. Sometimes I melt them down and pour the melted wax into cardboard egg cartons for fire starters.
RancherMan loves ’em.
We have an antique Franklin wood-burning fireplace so getting the fire started is so much easier with a little assistance.
Used Candles Melted For Pinecones
But today I’ll be taking some of these old used candles, melting and dipping pine cones in them for prettier fire starters. Who knew a box of old candles could be so handy!
If you’re just making these for your own fireplace, the color of wax you use doesn’t really matter. But if you’re making them for gifts you might want brighter colors.
When I tried to use dark red wax you could hardly tell they were dipped.
So today I’ll be using plain white candle wax.
Once you get wax on your kitchen items it’s neigh impossible to clean it off. So it’s best to designate your wax-melting pan and utensils for only wax.
I use a pot and a repurposed metal pan as a double-boiler system to melt wax.
(Caution: Obviously wax is flammable, y’all! A double-boiler system is the safest way to melt wax. Never melt wax over direct heat. Proceed with caution!)
To make my double boiler I added water to a pan slightly larger than my wax-melting pot, chunked my old candles into my wax-melting pan and lowered it into the pot of water. As the water heats, the temps inside my wax-melting pot rise and the candles melt.
While I’m waiting for my candles to be completely melted I prepare my working surface. I need a little waxed paper to set my wax-dipped pinecones upon.
Oh, and learn from my mistake, y’all. I overlooked that I’d be transferring dripping pinecones from a pot to the waxed paper.
So either cover any areas in between with aluminum foil or set a hot pad close to your waxed paper and move your wax-melting pot closer to your work area.
Different Ways To Dip Pinecones
Shallow Pan – I have an aluminum pie pan that I often use to melt wax. Not those flimsy disposable ones that come with pre-made piecrusts, but actual metal pie pan.
I just roll pinecones carefully and allow the tips to be coated. This is usually a pretty way to make them if the pinecone fire starters will be gifts, as there will be more wax built up on the tips. It also uses much less wax overall.
Full-Dip Method – Some people tie a string to the top of their pinecones and dip them into the melted wax. This will require a much deeper wax-melting pot since the entire pinecone will be dipped. It will also use much more wax.
On the downside, the tips won’t be built up with heavier wax. That’s a look I usually prefer if I’m making gifts.
On the plus side, when you’re done you can wax the string you’ve used to lower the pinecone, trim it to about 1/2″ and use it as a lighting wick.
So decide which way you plan on making your pinecone fire starters and use the appropriate wax-melting pan.
For my pinecone fire starters I’ll kinda be using both methods. I’m using a small metal pot that I use when melting and purifying beeswax.
I start off by dropping the entire pinecone in the melted wax and rolling it around to make sure all surfaces are coated. There are a couple of reasons for this:
Firstly this will make sure no unseen critters remain in the recesses of my pinecones. I’ve cleaned them to the best of my ability but…
And secondly, this gives the entire pinecone a coating of wax. This makes them very effective as fire starters. These fully-dipped bad boys will burn longer!
Pinecones are flammable on their own, but the heavier wax coating gives them longer to catch the kindling on fire.
Some people might use an old pair of kitchen tongs for this step, but I didn’t have an old pair of tongs. So I simply very carefully used my fingers to roll the pinecone around in the wax. I was able to do this because although the wax was melted it wasn’t hot enough to burn me.
Now I suppose it’s important to say here – use your own judgment on the best way to dip your pinecones. Be safe!
That first coating of wax wasn’t even visible on my pinecones. It just made them semi-shiny. So after that first coating of wax I set the pinecone aside to cool and harden the wax.
Then I’ll carefully roll just the tips in the melted wax and allow it to cool. It took about 3-4 coatings to get wax to build up on the tips of my pinecones to my liking. Dip/cool/repeat.
This step goes much faster if your wax isn’t super hot. It allows the wax to adhere to the pinecone without immediately melting off. Nicely warm melted wax works best for me.
Different Colors – Some like to roll just the tips of their wax-dipped pinecones in a different colored melted wax to offer a tipped look. Sounds like it would certainly be pretty if you have different colors and different wax-melting pots available. Perhaps the main colors can be red or green and the final ‘just-the-tips‘ color could be white to look like snow?
Epsom Salt – Other people sprinkle the still-melted tips of wax-dipped pinecones with Epsom salt immediately after the final wax coating. Although I’ve never done this it’s said this gives a sparkle to the fire starters as they’re lighted. It also gives a little snow-coating sparkle look to the pinecones themselves I suppose.
Adding A Wick – If you’ve not used string to dip the pinecones in wax, some tie an actual candle wick to the top of the pinecone to make them easier to light. Pinecones light pretty darn easily on their own but if these fire starters are to be a gift, that’s a nice touch too.
Gifting Your Homemade Fire Starters
You want to give these fire starters as an inexpensive, functional, pretty & heart-felt homemade gift? They’ll be loved for sure!
Because I have a crunchy-green streak here’s what I do:
Find a pretty basket at your local thrift store. You’ll be able to buy a beautiful basket for pennies on the dollar and probably support a worthy cause at the same time.
Make sure the basket’s not too big. You want one big enough to hold several fire starters but not so large that it’s cumbersome or hard to fill.
Then add your pretty wax-coated pinecone fire starters and maybe a box of extra-long fireplace matches.
You can embellish your basket with a big floofy bow. Or if you’re on your way to deliver your gift now you can tuck in natural embellishments. I’ve used evergreen leaves and red berries from the bushes right outside our home. It makes for a pretty presentation.
I speak from experience when I say these are awesome gifts for someone who has a wood-burning fireplace. And they make great campfire starters too for your camping enthusiast friends.
Beautiful and functional – that’s my jam, y’all.
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