Egg carton fire starters
Fire starters are convenient aids in Austria’s cold winters. Wood shavings lighted wood- and coal-burning stoves one generation ago. These shavings lighted spruce kindling, which in turn started burning bigger pieces of wood. Nowadays, it’s easier. Either commercially available or DIY fire starters directly light even thick pieces of hardwood.
For many years now, we have produced our fire starters ourselves. These are pieces of egg cartons, which are filled with either lint, wood shavings, or pieces of cotton textiles and impregnated with candle wax or paraffin. One piece of such a fire starter will securely light big chunks of hardwood for our tiled stove without any kindling.
Egg cartons as fire starter holders
Ordinary egg cartons made from thick paper board for 10 eggs each are the best choice. We collect about 20 of them to produce 200 fire starters each year.
Paraffin, or other kinds of candle materials, as fuel
Candles can be made from various types of paraffin or wax. We use all kinds. Even the paraffin surrounding material of LED candles. Wicks, metal clips, and/or stickers on the candle bottoms can be left where they are. These materials will be left over in the heating pot after melting anyway.
Lint or substitute materials, as wicks
We collect lint from the sieve of a tumble dryer. For lint, the least amount of paraffin is needed to produce a good fire starter which is clean to work with.
If using wood shaving instead of lint, a handful is needed for each 10-egg carton. Some shavings always find their way off the working area, which is a bit messy. Additionally, when covering the wood shavings in the egg depression, more paraffin is needed than lint. But fire starters with wood shavings, which serve as a wick, burn impressively long and hot.
We also tested about 1’’ x 1’’ (25 x 25 mm) patches of cotton textiles as wicks. About 3 – 4 patches were necessary for one egg cup. And I like them least of these 3 materials, as they don’t fold uniformly and need lots of paraffin to cover them.
Another possibility is sawdust, which a fellow fire starter maker uses and described by him here.
Producing the fire starters
Producing these fire starters is easy.
- Place paper on the work surface so the wax does not penetrate the underlying surface.
- Fill the cartons with lint or wood shavings according to the attached pictures.
- Melt paraffin in a pot dedicated to this task and pour it onto the wick material until the fuel fully penetrates it.
After pouring, cool the filled carton until the paraffin is fully hardened.
When fully hard, break the 10 egg cups into single pieces, which are now the newly produced 10 fire starters.
How to use them
One such fire starter should be placed directly underneath bigger pieces of dry firewood. Additionally, enough oxygen flow to the flame has to be ensured. The flame of the fire starter will flow underneath the wood and turn up vertically wherever there is space. The firewood will start burning at such edges, where the flame turns from horizontal to vertical. As I said initially, at our place, big chunks of dry beechwood are securely lit all the time with only one piece of such a fire starter.
Lessons learned from egg carton fire starters:
- Buying fire starters from stores is unnecessary, as the raw materials for such fire starters are readily available in most households.
- Necessary raw materials are egg cartons, candle pieces, and lint.
- Instead of candle pieces, paraffin or wax can be used.
- Wood shavings or cotton patches are also suitable replacements for lint.
- One such fire starter will securely light big chunks of dry hardwood.