One of my favorite things on this planet is building a big, beautiful fire in the woods. I take great pride in my #fireboss skills and often challenge myself by trying new methods and approaches to assembling traditional campfires. Recently, I also started to experiment with concocting DIY fire starter bundles at home. They are super easy to make, and depending on what kind of ingredients you use, they can create a festive mood (pine needles and cinnamon sticks) or even evoke a calming effect (lavender or eucalyptus). Scent, after all, sets the tone.
I happened to have a bunch of white sage and dried flower bundles leftover from my wedding last spring — my sister and I meticulously wrapped each bundle by hand as favors for my guests — so it was pretty much a no-brainer. Sage not only cleanses the general vibes of a space, but it also burns really, really hot, which in turn creates lots of smoke, which in turn keeps pesky bugs away. I am a magnet for mosquitos when I am camping, so if there’s any way to avoid getting eaten alive, sign me up.
Things You’ll Need
- Paraffin wax, beeswax or remnants of old candles
- Paper egg carton
- Dried leaves, wood chips, branches, sage or pine cones
- Old pot, dedicated Pyrex measuring cup or aluminum can
Prep your ingredients first. Because the wax will need to be poured pretty quickly after it melts, you don’t want to waste any time messing around. Cut your dry botanical item of choice into little pieces over the flat part of your egg carton. The drier the better when it comes to this kind of project.
I started with my white sage and then moved on to an innocent pine cone to give my bundle some body. Hey, curves are in.
After the ingredients are chopped, spread them evenly throughout the paper egg carton, as they create the base you need for your fire starters.
Now onto the wax. I would like to make a note that I would typically be using beeswax for this kind of thing. The whole point is to go as natural as possible and avoid petrochemicals, but I had to work with what I had, and it happened to be a Paraffin-based wax. This is a judge-free zone, by the way.
Place the wax in an old pot, a dedicated Pyrex measuring cup or an aluminum can if you don’t want to ruin a perfectly good pot. Then place your pot or can in a double boiler, which is a fancy way of saying a pot inside of larger pot with about 2 to 3 inches of water all around. If you try to melt the wax with direct heat, it will be a total nightmare. You don’t want even want to go there. When the water starts to boil, the wax will start to melt. For faster melting, break up the wax into small pieces.
At this point, which I forgot to do, I would suggest that you cut the flat side of the egg carton off and place it underneath the carton you are about to pour the wax in. This will reinforce the carton just enough to keep it from leaking hot wax everywhere. Or place old newspapers underneath, and keep the carton top attached for stackable storage of many cartons. (After you make one dozen and see how well they work, you’ll not want to stop — trust me.)
With a towel or potholder, carefully pour your wax into the paper egg carton.
Let the wax sit for about an hour, or stick it in the freezer if you are impatient like I am. When totally cooled, cut out each little cubby from the carton and voila, you have a pack of flammable fire starters. You can store these little beauties in a plastic bag or a container of your choice and pull them out when you are in need a little helping hand. Or store as a whole and pull one cell off at a time as needed.
My procedure is just one idea. You can also get creative and use cedar chips, pine cat litter (I know!), dryer lint, wood shavings, sawdust, dry spent coffee grounds or even star anise. Raid the herb cabinet and scour the yard. If you can’t get your hands on a paper egg carton, you can also use those cute little paper cupcake cups, paper cups from fast-food joints or even a toilet paper roll with both ends open for ventilation. Just sayin’.
Photo Credit: Jeanine Pesce