I wouldn’t call myself a pyromaniac exactly, but I’ve never turned down an opportunity to sit around a campfire. In an effort to avoid dousing perfectly seasoned logs with petrochemicals, we’ve made a set of eco-friendly fire starters to use all winter—or to give as gifts during the snowy season. The concept is simple: fill an egg carton with good-smelling and flammable botanicals, and cover them with beeswax.
Photography by Erin Boyle.
Above: An old egg carton makes the perfect combustible base for DIY fire starters.
- An empty egg carton
- Wood shavings
- Beeswax candle nubs or beeswax cakes for melting
- A tin can
- A small saucepan
- Cotton wicking
- Pine cones, cinnamon sticks, or any other dried herbs
Above: Other things to gather include wood shavings of any kind you can get your hands on (5 Cups of Organic Red Cedar Shavings is $4.99 from Stress Tamer Spa, and the shavings smell delicious).
You also need beeswax: I used a combination of old candle nubs and beeswax cakes from my local health store; a 3-Pack of Beeswax Cakes is $8 from Make A Basket.
From your spice cabinet, you’ll need several cinnamon sticks, cut into 3/4-inch pieces. From your yard (or florist): pine cones, preferably with a few sweet-smelling needles still attached.
From the craft store: Cotton Square Braid Wicking, sold for $.85 per yard at Brushy Mountain Bee Farm. (For one-stop shopping, you can also get 1 pound of Raw Settled Beeswax for $7.50 from Brushy Mountain).
Above: I’m not 100 percent sure of the variety of these tiny cones, but I found branches of them at the Flower Market and lugged them home.
Above: After gathering materials, fill the base of each empty egg slot with a bed of wood shavings. Because we’re using beeswax rather than more flammable paraffin wax, I included a short length of wick to make sure the fire starters light without trouble.
Above: Clean out a 28-ounce aluminum can to use to melt your candle nubs or beeswax cakes. Add hardened beeswax to the tin can and place it inside a larger saucepan filled with an inch or two of water (the idea is to create a makeshift double boiler, without having to sacrifice a kitchen pan). Bring the water to a boil and keep an eye on your wax as it begins to melt. I ended up melting more wax than I needed: to make a dozen fire starters you’ll need just enough melted wax to fill the 28-ounce can about one-third of the way.
Above: After the wax is melted, pour it into each egg cup. I recommend pouring each cup one by one and pressing a pine cone and a piece or two of cinnamon stick into each as you pour. The wax hardens fairly quickly, so make sure that you stick the botanicals in fast so they’ll stick. Make sure your wick stays above the surface of the wax so you can light it when the time comes.
Above: After the wax has hardened, use a pair of garden scissors to cut apart each cup.
Above: I’m planning to give away my dozen, so I packed them into the egg carton lid and tied them with ribbon and a bit of cedar.
Looking to have more fun with beeswax? See Justine’s The Romance of the Homemade Candle.