January 15, 2020

Fire starter

My grandfather was born in 1910. He lived through the Great Depression and hard times. While he never pontificated the "waste not, want not" principle, he taught it by example. 

Never purchase anything you can make yourself.
Never pay someone else to do what you can do yourself. 
Never throw away good lumber, even if used. 
Never buy a new car if the old one can be repaired.
The land will provide if you work it right. 

Pop practiced re-purposing before it became fashionable. He constantly came home from his day job with items his co-workers thought were useless. Old tires protected young trees or served as planters for flowers my grandmother called invasive, like catnip. Old window frames became cold frames for early planting. Sawdust mixed with old oil worked like a charm for starting a fire. 

Times have changed. Using old oil and sawdust to start a fire in my woodstove - um, just say no. Melting down old, used candles and mixing with sawdust or wood chips to start a fire in the woodstove? Heck, yeah. That works. 

It's simple. Have your friends and family save old candles for you. Color and scent don't matter. Once you have a bag of them, go to the pet section at the department store of your choice and get a bag of cedar shavings (bedding for hamsters and such). 

You'll need a sturdy frame/box. Mine is approximately 12x24 inches with a removal middle insert. Line the sections with heavy-duty aluminum foil. Fill the sections with the cedar shavings. 

Toss a few of the old, used candles in a pitcher (or pan) and heat until melted. Once melted, carefully pour the HOT WAX very sparingly over the cedar shavings. Using an old wooden spoon you'll never cook with again, stir the shavings until coated with wax. Add more HOT WAX if necessary and then use the spoon to pat down firmly. You want to compress the shaving in the wax. 

Allow to set up until completely cool on the bottom. Lift the sections from the tray and store in a dry location. 

The starter block should have a layer of paraffin on the bottom which holds it together and a looser layer of cedar shavings on top. If you can't easily break off a section with just your hands, use less wax next time. You want to hold the shavings together and yet leave them loose enough to catch fire quickly. 

To use the starter, break off a SMALL section, place on a dry log in the woodstove, and light. Do not put the starter down on bare metal. The starter will burn cleanly. Think about it. When you burn a candle, what happens to the paraffin? It burns cleanly. The starter should peel right off the foil, leaving the foil for re-use or recycling. 

If you've ever struggled to get the fire in your woodstove or outdoor fireplace burning, the homemade starter might be the answer. And you'll use up all those old candles. Bag up a few pieces of starter and give back to your friends with fireplaces. Tell them they can have their candles back. Sort of.

The Lady of Holly Tree Manor

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