The Backwoods

Where we teeter between our love of modern convenience and the yearning for something long past; a world where neighbors knew your name and a “Friend Request” was eye contact and a smile.

Fire Starter

Posted · 16 Comments

With snow piling up by the foot, not the inch, on these long…dark…January…Alaska days, the number one thing on our minds is “Heat”.  Well, actually, Netflix is the number one thing on our minds…but heat is a close second.

About fifteen years ago my mother-in-law, the most self-sufficient, independent, 70-something woman I know, taught me how to make my own fire starters and I’ve been making them ever since. I know, I know…you could just go down to Walmart and pick up a box of fire starters…but what fun would that be, and isn’t self sufficiency the answer?  I think so.

At the risk of sounding like one of those “As Seen On T.V.” infomercials….

If you’ve ever frozen half to death while wadding newspaper after newspaper into balls and shoving them into the fireplace, only to have the resulting spark dwindle down to nothing but a pile of ash before the wood catches fire…and then discovered that the only newspaper left was those waxy ads that burn about as well as a bucket of water….then you need these fire starters.

It’s super simple.

I pick up cheap candles at thrift stores whenever I see them.  Recently I found some big, fatty candles leftover from Christmas sales at the local bulk discount store and tossed as many as I could haul into my cart.  Then I zipped down the pet supplies isle and grabbed one of those big bags of hamster bedding.  A stop in the baking section for cupcake papers and I was done. Here’s how it’s done.

Fire Starters

Old candles to melt down

Wood chips, from your woodshed or a bag of pet bedding

Cupcake papers

An old pot (I use an old metal pail)

Another old pot


Turn the burner on the stove to medium and place a large pot with some water in the bottom on the burner.  Use a smaller pot, or in my case, a giant metal bucket, and place it inside the other pot…down into the water.  Make sure the water doesn’t overflow when you press the pot to the bottom.  If it does, take out some of the water.

Put some candles into inner pot and wait for it to melt.

Meanwhile, get out your cupcake tin and fill it with papers.  Plop a handful of woodchips into each paper, careful not to overfill. I just fill them loosely to the top of the paper.

Once your wax is melted, use a ladle to spoon the hot wax over each cupcake paper of woodchips, pressing down gently with the bottom of your ladle after each scoop.

Let the wooden cakes sit and cool until the wax re-hardens, then remove your papers from the cupcake tin and do it all over again.

I make about sixty fire starters in about a half hour.  When they are cool I stack them one on top of another in a small box and keep them far enough from the woodstove that they will not melt.

To build a fire, place one fire starter in the bottom of the fireplace.  You do not need ANY newspaper.  Stack a few pieces of kindling on top of the fire starter and light the cupcake paper.

The woodchips burn beautifully and the wax prevents it from burning quickly.  By the time your fire starter is melted, the kindling is burning beautifully…every time.

Well, there it is…my backwoods tip of the week!




16 Responses to "Fire Starter"
  1. Hanni says:

    Love this…thanks!!!

  2. ruth williamson says:


     and especially timely since we just bought our first “fire pit” from Home Depot for 19.99.  my girls have become obsessed with gathering small sticks at the park to start fires for our “banfire”–as my 2 year old calls it.  we will make some of these from your recipe, and incorporate them into our family “banfires.” 

    love your blog.  I wanna be you when i grow up–but currently only have 2 adoptees and 2 bios….this week was presented with an opportunity for 1 more.  praying for wisdom.  going it on my own as a single mamma.

  3. Laurel :o) says:

    Girl!  You totally rock at this!  Best firestarter I have ever seen!  I have not made many fires, due to where I live, but I know what I am giving my east coast relatives for Christmas next year!

  4. As a few others have noted, I also make a firestarter out of a CARDBOARD egg carton, dryer lint from cotton laundry {if you use polyester clothing dryer lint it will melt – not burn} and melted wax from used candle remains – directions very similar to what you have here.  Use a double boiler set up to melt the wax, pour it over the egg carton cups filled w/ dryer lint.  Works wonderful!!  
    Another tip is to not let the fire go ALL the way out – then you don’t have to use a fire starter!!  Just kindling on coals from last nights fire and you are on your way for the new day.

  5. J T says:

    great idea.  your blog is interesting.  i live in kentucky,usa and this a great look into alaska.  thank you

  6. Lisah says:

    We make ours out of recycled egg cartons and dryer lint.  Whoosh!

  7. Absolutelyaries says:

    yes, i agree with julie. dosent the wax make a mess in the bottom ofthe fireplace??? how to you clean it out??

  8. don’t you get a build up of  wax in your woodstove/fireplace though

  9. LSF says:

    the old girl scout way….similar … but we just use the candles wrap in wax paper.  works every time.  birthday candles or those votives w/o tin.  can get a bag of them for a buck and wrap each in wax paper like a tootsie roll.   

  10. April Collins says:

    I also use the recycled paper egg cartons, and if you live in a town of churches like I do, they will give you their “too burned to look nice anymore” altar candles for free. I add some oils if I am feeling up for it, but I also use saw dust or DRYER LINT 🙂 instead of cedar so mine doesn’t smell without help. 

    Dryer lint, btw, burns like crazy, and if you use liquid fabric softener, or dryer sheets it goes up that much faster. The only time I don’t use it is if I wash an old synthetic blanket and the lint is plastic-y.  

  11. My daughter learned how to make those for Girl Scout camping.  They used crepe-y/cardboard egg cartons (reduce/reuse/recycle, lol) in place of the wood shavings.

  12. Shari says:

    I saw instructions for making them with dryer lint in egg cartons. Haven’t tried it yet, but I’ve sure got a good supply of dryer lint! I like the wood chip idea, too!

  13. Thebettsfour says:

    My poppop makes them in egg cartons and you just break off one or two as needed. Thanks for the great instructions

  14. Stew1113 says:

    awesome thing to know- and great way to recycle candle stubs! 

  15. HC says:

    Reyna made and entered these into the Ninilchik Fair. She used old crayons and sawdust, with chunks of bark on the top. 

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