My husband, dear one that he is, comes down most decidedly on the side of practicality in almost every situation. For example, for years he has been using lighter fluid to start our woodstove fires. It's cheap and readily available. In our drafty, old, mobile home when we lived on the ranch, I didn't mind so much when the house reeked of jet fuel in the mornings. It burned away quickly, and then we were about our business. He didn't like using newspaper to get the fire started because, well, first you have to have newspaper and there's no way I'm subscribing just to get stuff to start a fire. Besides, paper tends to make a LOT of ash, and who wants to clean more than you have to? So there. We were subjected to jet fuel in the morning.
Here in our new home, with its brand-new windows and no leaks as far as I can discern, the jet-fuel smell lingers just a tad longer than I care for. So, what to do? I decided I would make my own "fatwood" or fire starters. Looking at the expensive fatwood package in the store, I saw that it is nothing more than resinous wood. To have fatwood, we would have to make a trip up to the mountains. Someday we will. Fire starters are easy to make right now instead. The fire starters are only paraffin and wood particles. Luckily, I have paraffin leftover from candle-making. Paraffin is not exactly cheap, but I won't be using that much. A little goes a long way.
I proceeded full steam ahead.
The next question was what to mix in with the paraffin to make what is essentially a hot candle. I looked around. First, we went to the lumber yard. No luck there. All their sawdust was mixed up; I needed straight wood-saw dust, not sawdust with OSB or treated wood mixed in. Remember, I was trying to be pristine and healthful here and not go back to noxious, poisonous fumes.
When we got home, I remembered that we had cedar shavings for the dog kennel. Voila! Let's try 'er and see what happens. After a little experimentation, I found a recipe that works like a charm.
Homemade Fire Starters
For 12 small fire starters, enough for 6 fires, you will need:
• 5 ounces paraffin
• no-stick pot with spouts
• small muffin tin with 12 slots
• a couple cups of cedar shavings
• double boiler (or 2 pots, one slightly larger than the other so they nest)
1. Take your paraffin and put it in the smaller pot, or in the top of your double boiler. I got my small pot from a secondhand store, and it is dedicated to making candles and cosmetics. The best kind of pot is one that you can pour from either side.
2. With water in your large pot or the bottom of your double boiler, put your small pot in the slightly larger pot so that it's resting on the sides just above the water. Bring it to the boil. Boil until all the paraffin is melted. Keep an eye on the paraffin and the water level. Two things: don't let the pot boil dry, and remember that the paraffin is flammable. That's why we use a double boiler rather than direct flame; we don't want it to get too hot and burst into flame!
(Important safety tip: if you ever have a fire like this, do NOT throw water on it. I repeat, DO NOT throw water on it. The way to put it out is to smother it with a pot lid. Throwing water on it will cause an explosion!)
3. While the paraffin is melting, line your muffin tins with foil. Try to make it so there is no way that the paraffin can leak out. It's not a big disaster if it does, but you will have a much easier time peeling away the foil if the paraffin stays inside of it. A single piece of foil is good. I cut rounds and then carefully lined the muffin trays.
4. Stuff as many cedar shavings into the trays as you can. Push them down. Cram them in.
5. When your paraffin is melted, pour a little bit of paraffin in each pile of cedar shavings. Just enough to get the shavings wet. You don't want a big old cake of paraffin; little bit of paraffin goes a long way.
6. Then, just let them set on the counter. If you want to speed things up, put the whole she-bang in the freezer.
When you go to use them, just put a little platform made from a couple of sticks of kindling in your hearth or stove. Then, put a couple of the "pucks" on top of the little platform. Pile a few more sticks of kindling on the pucks. Light the puck with a match or lighter wand and pile up more kindling. The kindling will light because the pucks will burn for a while. Long enough to catch the kindling on fire. Then you're on your way!