Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Homemade Fire Starters - Update

In my last post, I mentioned that I was looking for a homemade firestarter to make and use in our wood stove. Lacy, a reader of the blog, was kind enough to send a comment with a weblink to a page that shows how to make firestarters using petroleum jelly. I got very curious with this as we always have that stuff on hand. I tested it on several things that I had here around the house.

I tried it and made a couple of observations. The first being that it is messy. The lint sticks to your fingers and the jelly leaves a coating which I am not comfortable with as you have to wash your hands right away before feeling safe to light a match. If you are making these ahead of time, that wouldn't be as much of an issue though. Here is how I solved that problem.

Some weeks ago, I found a website that teaches how to make your own seed starter pots from recycled newspaper. I made one of these pots using a sheet of notebook paper to make a smaller size container. I left the 2 flaps out so that you can use them to light you starter. After mixing some petroleum jelly into the dryer lint, I packed the lint into the paper container. I lit it and placed it into my wood cookstove. The little cup burned for about 20 minutes! This is much longer than the lint would have stayed lit before. I am sure that the amount of petroleum jelly used will affect the burn time. So you will need to play around with it to see how well you need to coat the lint to get the burn time you want.

On the same website that had this firestarter, they had a link to another of their instructions. This one is for making firestarter sticks. In the instructions, they have you roll up a length of corrugated cardboard and tying it together with a length of a natural fiber such as jute or a cotton cord. You then dip the starter into melted paraffin wax to coat it. The idea is a good one, but having seen the mess that melted wax can make in the bottom of a wood stove, I have wanted to avoid using wax. So here was my thought. Why not spread a bit of petroleum jelly onto the corrugated board before rolling it up? I decided to give it a try. I didn't have any corrugated cardboard scraps so I used the cardboard from a fabric softener sheet box instead. I peeled off the colored print layer of paper just in case that ould interfere with how the starter worked. Next, I spread a very thin layer of the petroleum jelly onto the cardboard and loosely rolled it up to allow enough airflow. I tied it closed with some yarn that I had on hand. The starter lit beautifully. The one downside is that it burned faster than the dryer lint. It took just until 5 minutes for it to burn out. I am sure that the wax would increase the burn time.

After trying out the two, the dryer lint in the paper cup will be the route that I go. Who knows? I will keep experimenting. Maybe mixing the petroleum jelly into other things to see if there are other items that would have a good burn time for use as a starter. Maybe sawdust or wood chips.