Having some waterproof firestarters sure makes lighting a fire easy. Whether you are out camping, or just need a helping hand starting your fireplace at home firelighters are the way to go.
I used to buy the prepacked cube starters but the cost was starting to add up as we were using one every day for our log fire during winter. So I started to look into ways to make my own cheaply or for free.
In the army, we used to make our own firelighters out of vaseline and cotton balls which worked quite well they but struggled to light up when they got wet. My dad told me of the time when he was a young boy during the second world war, that they used to make their own firestarters out of sawdust and wax from old candles.
It was time to check out if I could make a slow-burning firestarter out of my old household candles and some sawdust I had been saving from some old pine floorboards that I had sanded back.
Sawdust often comes in handy so I tend to bag the different grades from time to time after doing some woodwork. Three of the uses I like to use sawdust are:
- Soak up oil spills in the garage after a car oil change.
- Use as a filler mixed with wood glue to fill holes and gaps in woodwork projects.
- Making homemade firestarters.
How to make firestarters with sawdust and wax.
This is a really fun and quick project that you can do with your whole family. Start by gathering up the following products.
- Old candles and wax. Any color will be fine it will all get mixed together.
- Sawdust or sanding dust.
- Plastic ice cube trays or larger metal cupcake trays depending on the firestarter size you would like to make.
- Pot or saucepan to melt the wax candles.
- Access to a stove top or portable camping stove.
- Safety glasses and leather gloves – Safety first.
Most people have a stash of old tea light candles that are 1/2 burned out. Pop the wax out of the aluminum base and add into the saucepan along with any other old candle wax. It doesn’t matter if the candle string is also in the pot it will just add to the fuel.
Begin to melt all of the wax on a medium heat but quickly turn it down to low once the old candles start to melt. We don’t want to boil and burn the candle wax, as it could catch fire.
There is no problem leaving the candle string in the pot, its good extra fuel.
Once all of the wax is dissolved we can now prepare the sawdust. We have two options here. We can either add the sawdust directly to the ice cube trays or add the sawdust directly to the saucepan. There are pros and cons to each.
Adding sawdust into the icecube trays
Finding sawdust can be a challenge if you don’t work with wood. You can always go to a cabinet maker or floor sanding shop and ask for their waste, they will be happy to give you some.
I find that if my sawdust is quite rough it will mold nicely into the trays. This way we can just pour the melted wax solution over all of the sawdust. It will blend in well with the rougher sawdust and it will keep your hands free from touching the hot wax.
The side effect is that often I run out of wax before all of the sawdust trays are covered. I often make the sawdust firestarters in large batches. Cupcake trays work well for this process.
Mixing the sawdust into the melted wax saucepan pot.
This is my favorite method for mixing very fine sawdust that is made from sanding dust. Sanding dust is collected in floor sanding bags, this is often 120 grit or finer dust. I find that it just goes everywhere when I try to add it into the cupcake baking trays directly.
Mixing it in slowly to the cooking pot with the melted wax means I can get a perfect consistency. We want it to be like a dough-like mixture. Not to wet not too dry. This way we can spoon pack them into the ice-cube or cupcake trays.
Just keep on adding in small amounts to the melted wax until the mixture becomes thick. Much like playdough. You can now spoon the mixture into your trays.
Cooling and Storage
Make sure to fully cool your DIY firestarters before removing them from the molds. For a quick cool down you can place them into the freezer or fridge for 15 minutes. Once they are fully set you can remove the firelighters from molds by gently tapping them on the kitchen table.
Now you can either store them in a ziplock bag or into a lunch box container. Remember to label the container appropriately and store them away from young children as the last thing we need is for kids to eat a sawdust wax biscuit. They actually look yummy.
A quick note that if you use the disposable cupcake wrappers you can make and pack a whole heap fast. They also come out easier than the molded trays. Your homemade firestarters are now ready for use.
How to light and use a sawdust firestarter.
Like any cube firelighter, you must prepare you fireplace ahead of time with kindling, sticks, and logs. A few pine cones work wonders as a natural kick to ignite your fire.
Light one edge of your sawdust firestarter, it should ignite once the wax has melted and the flame touches same sawdust. From now on the starter will burn hot and fast depending on the ratio of sawdust and wax.
- More sawdust less wax provides a quick hot burning flame.
- Less sawdust and more wax will give you a slower lazy flame.
The video shown below is our ice cube firestarter and how it resists wind as well as the strength of the flame. It is burning inside our home wall firepit.
Full flame is achieved after around 3 minutes of lighting it. It will burn at this intensity for around 20 minutes which I thought was fantastic. There were very minimal wax drips due to the sanding dust being such a good absorbing material which bound the wax tightly.
The larger stronger flame firestarter can be used by itself as a portable fire source to heat up a cup of hot water.
Hopefully, this procedure has shown you how easy it is to make some homemade firestarters with sawdust and wax. Just remember almost any flammable object can be used in place of the sawdust. You can experiment with paper shavings, cotton, cardboard, twine, laundry lint, and rope.
Remember safety equipment like glasses and heatproof gloves. Hot wax can burn so be careful. Let me know in the comments below what other ways you know of how to make hot firestarters.