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Instructions for how to make homemade firestarters using wood wool, beeswax, and liquid cooking oil. They look and act just like purchased firelighters but are much less expensive to make. This DIY project takes about thirty minutes, start to finish, and the firestarters light up in a flash.
Starting fires can be a pain without firestarters. They go out, don’t catch, and basically drive you mad. If you build your fire with something safe and very flammable though, it’s simple and you can be on your way to a roaring fire in no time. We couldn’t live without them for our wood stove in winter! However, many firestarters that are sold in shops contain ingredients that you may not want in your home or BBQ. Instead, follow these instructions for how to make homemade fire starters at home. It’s a simple craft project that doesn’t take long, is extremely satisfying, and costs practically nothing.
This project shows you how to make twenty lightweight homemade firelighters using wood wool, beeswax, and cooking oil. You’ll also need a few pans and other common kitchen items. Once made they can last indefinitely and you only need a couple at a time to start a fire, though you can use 1-4 at a time. More on how to use them in your BBQ, pizza oven, wood stoves, open fire, campfires, or to start a fire in your beekeeping smoker below.
Make Homemade Firelighters with Beeswax
We’ve been using purchased natural fire lighters for some time now and though the product is very good, it can get expensive over time. They’re the type made with wood shavings, called wood wool, and readily available to buy. Then I had a look at them one day and thought, I could make these! I first looked for clues on their ingredients on the packaging — all that’s listed is ‘natural wax’ and ‘wood’. I had an idea of how they could be made though and succeeded in my first attempt. They’re effective firelighters and work as well, if not better than the ones we’ve been buying, and cost much less.
One thing that I know as a beekeeper though is that beeswax is highly flammable. That’s why it’s the most essential ingredient in my homemade firestarters. However, it can also catch fire on the stove. I know of another beekeeper who burned down part of his house after leaving a pot of melting beeswax unattended and on direct heat.
Make DIY Fire Lighters Safely
That’s why my instructions include two safety precautions. The first is that the beeswax is mixed with liquid cooking oil. This helps the beeswax penetrate the wood wool, but it also increases the flashpoint of the beeswax. The other is that we melt the beeswax over a double boiler. A pan floating in a pan filled with simmering water.
I imagine that some people will want to know if you can make DIY firestarters a vegan substitute for beeswax. Definitely! You could replace the beeswax in this recipe with food grade wax such as soy wax, rapeseed wax, or coconut wax (not oil). You could use almost any wax you’d use in candle making. Even leftover candle wax from old candles, if you’d like. But please be aware that most candles are made from paraffin wax and it’s not natural. Paraffin is probably fine in wood stoves but I’m unsure about if it’s appropriate for fires meant to cook food.
Recycled Wood Wool from Gift Baskets
It’s a bit difficult to measure wood wool in volume, which is why I weighed it for this recipe. If you’re trying to make homemade firestarters without a kitchen scale use the images to guess how much you need. The amount you use doesn’t need to be exact. The material I used all came from a single gift hamper that my mom sent me at Christmas. The kind filled with cheese, summer sausage, etc.
Wood wool is an all-natural material made out of 100% wood. It’s made by literally shaving logs into those fine strands of packaging and you’ll definitely come across it over the holidays. It’s a rustic packaging material that you could reuse in gifts but also use to make natural fire starters. If you don’t have recycled wood wool to use for this project, you can also purchase it in bags online.
A Practical and Good Fire Starter Project
You’ll notice something different about this project compared to other DIY fire starter ideas. I’m not using pine cones, old coffee, wine corks, tea bags, dryer lint, paper cups, sawdust, egg cartons, or any dollar store stuff. I also am not keen on using things like crayons to make homemade firestarters. Instead, this is a practical and straightforward idea for people who want to make no-nonsense homemade firestarters that actually work. It uses recycled wood wool and ingredients that make it safe for lighting fires in the home and to make food.
Although very pretty, many of the DIY firestarters you’ll find instructions for are meant to be gifted. This project shows you how to make great fire starters that you can use every day and for starting any fire you need. Imagine using firestarters filled with fragrance and spices like aniseed and cinnamon to light a pizza oven. It’s probably a waste and might even affect the flavor.
I mentioned beekeeping earlier too. Firestarters are helpful in getting that all-essential smoker going too, and any kind of synthetic materials and fragrance, natural or no, is not healthy for them. Also, for any backpackers out there, essential oils are simply not going to keep mosquitos away from your campfire. Especially ones that burn up in a matter of minutes.
How to Use Homemade Firestarters
You can use your all-natural DIY firelighters to start a roaring fire in your woodstove, open fireplace, or start a BBQ. It’s also great at reviving a fire that’s just a few smoldering embers. I also use them in my beekeeping smoker since they don’t contain anything that could harm my bees, such as fragrance or synthetics.
There’s no trick to using them. Simply place one to four wood wool firelighters within the fuel or kindling and make a little teepee of fuel around them. Then light them and watch them quickly take flame and burn. The twisting of the wood wool into a coil in the instructions below gives you fairly solid firestarters with a prolonged burn time. If you did have some dried pine cones or pine needles on hand, you can use them as kindling.
When making, storing, and using homemade firestarters always practice caution. Keep out of reach of kids and store away from places that it could catch fire. Never use fire lighters with petrol, alcohol, hand sanitizer, or other spirits to start a fire.
How to make Natural Homemade Firestarters
- Two medium stainless steel pots I used ones 8.5" in diameter
- One large stainless steel pot A larger pan that one of the above can sit inside
- Wooden skewer for stirring
- The first step is twisting the wood wool into a coil. Imagine how a spinner uses a wad of wool to spin yarn – the wool is connected to the yarn and not pulled away from it. You'll do the same by twisting the wood wool a handful at a time while not disconnecting the cord from the pile.
- Have the pile in front of you and one of the pots at the ready. Take a handful of wood wool like this and twist it into a cord about an inch thick. Twist it as tightly as you can.
- As you work, twist the coil into a spiral like this. Twist it into a spiral large enough to fit inside the pot.
- You place the coil of wood wool in this first pan just to hold it in shape temporarily so that you can move on to the next step.
- Measure the beeswax and oil into the second pan that's the same size as the pan that the coil is currently resting in. Melt the beeswax by floating this pan inside a larger one filled with simmering water.* Heat on medium-high until the wax is melted.
- Stir the beeswax as it melts into the oil with a wooden skewer or chopstick. The melting won't take long — a few minutes.
- Turn the heat off once the wax has fully melted and take the coil of wood wool and place it inside the wax. Keep it held in the twisted spiral as best as you can.
- Leave the wood wool sitting the melted wax for a few seconds then turn it over using the skewer and your hand and leave the coil in the pot. Be careful since the wax will be very hot. The goal here is to coat both sides of the coil with wax.
- Once you've flipped the coil over in the previous step, leave it to cool to just warm, or even room temperature, inside the pan. The cooling time will take about half an hour to an hour since you leave the pan sitting in the pot of hot water. This slower cooling allows the waxy oil to better soak into the wood wool fibers.
- When cooled, take the coil out of the pan and set it on wax paper. The pan you can wash out later using boiling water, or you can reserve it for use in beeswax crafts.
- Tease the spiral out and cut the coil into segments about 1.5 long using a pair of scissors.
- Each segment is a single natural fire lighter and will hold together well.
- You'll get around twenty natural fire lighters using this recipe and instructions. If you do choose to double or triple it, please see the notes on that below*.
- You can store natural firestarters in whatever container you'd like as long as it's kept well away from flames. However, firestarters feel waxy and can leave a residue on surfaces so that's something to consider when storing them. A wax paper-lined bag, mason jar, or a large ziplock bag might be a good idea. A biscuit tin like my vintage piece is even better since it's flame-proof. Whatever you choose, you can pack them in as tightly as you wish.
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