As the weather slowly starts to warm up, or at least it will soon, I find myself looking forward to the rest of the year. This last year was weird and, while that hasn’t changed, this spring and summer will undoubtedly look different than last. One thing we are determined to do this year is spend more time outside. One of the best things about spending extended time outside, fires! The good kind that cooks your meat, warms your toes and roasts your marshmallows.
It’s also Imbolc, the perfect time to put together some fire starters. The flames of the fires of Imbolc are cleansing and life giving, so here is one way to carry that energy into the year. I have been wanting to make my own fire starters for a while but I haven’t gotten around to it, so this year as a part of Imbolc I finally set to making them.
What to look for in a firestarter
Realistically making fire starters is super easy and there are countless ways to do it, all you need is something flammable (non-toxic preferably) and some wax. Whatever you use needs to burn well while maintaining a flame and not just an ember, the wax is there to slow down the rate of burn so it stays lit long enough for the rest of your fire to catch.
When deciding how I would make mine, I kept a few things in mind. First I wanted to use the materials I already had, second I wanted it to be fairly uniform in shape for easy storage and packing. So many fire starters you see online are an awkward shape and while easy and functional they would potentially take up precious space that just can’t be spared.
Paper, I used a brown paper grocery bag, newspaper or anything else bound for the recycle bin would work, just watch for plastic coatings.
Wood shavings or chips, I save a good amount of shavings from any whittling I do inside, it leaves me with a bag of very dry mixed wood shavings.
Wax, I save the drippings and stumps of all my candles which these days is almost entirely beeswax, although any wax and even crayons would work.
Wick/string, I used a cotton twine that I use for everything, you need something to use as a wick and something to tie the ends of the bundles with, I used the same cotton twine for both.
Anything else, I added in some bits of dry reeds left over from my Brigid’s cross, as well as some dried lavender.
How to make a firestarter
The first step as always is to gather the materials and melt the wax. I always use the same method to melt wax candle scraps, place them all in a jar I save for this purpose then place the jar inside a pot filled partially up with water. Boil the water and it’ll slowly melt the wax, I find a mixture of big and small pieces melts nice, smaller pieces melt faster and once they melt they help the larger pieces melt faster. Stir occasionally if needed. You may need to reheat the wax if it starts to cool while you are working.
Assembling the fire starters
- First cut the paper to size making a rectangle that is longer than it is wide.
- Placing it vertically pour wax down the center of the paper in a line.
- Lay on wood horizontally so it’s easy to roll up.
- Then add anything else you’d like, I put in my reeds and lavender here.
- Then pour in another line of wax to help hold everything together and place your wick or twine down the center starting at least half way and leaving a small amount hanging over the bottom edge.
- Fold over the upper edge and roll towards the bottom.
- Tie the ends together to hold everything together.
- To make sure the wick lights and doesn’t just burn out before the rest catches I cut a small slit in the paper and pulled the wick through so it is standing up and trimmed it to about a cm.
The finished product
I love the way they turned out the standing wick makes me really happy for some reason. The kids get a kick out of them too.
Overall they are compact and easy to pack, tuck into the corners of your bags and never be without this very helpful tool. The total burn time is about 7 to 10 minutes. To test how well they work, I tried one in the barbeque and was pleasantly surprised when it worked better than I had hoped. They burn nicely, catching well and providing a good sized flame and burning for about 7-10 minutes without any added fuel, plenty of time to get even stubborn wood to catch. Since then they have been used to light small (and safe) beach fires and stubborn coal BBQs.