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.
Old candles to melt down
Wood chips, from your woodshed or a bag of pet bedding
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!