Monday, December 10, 2012

Learning to build fires


I have been saving cardboard egg cartons to make dryer lint and paraffin fire starters. You stuff the egg sections with lint, pour paraffin over it and cut it apart after it hardens. I plan to use ruined decorative candles that I let melt out of shape when I stored them in the garage (an expensive lesson learned about summer heat build-up). I am waiting for a little time with the 10 year old grandson to work on a couple of projects.
We plan to saturate cotton balls in petroleum jelly and stuff a bunch in sandwich bags. We are also going to make fuel for our Buddy Burners. I have been saving tuna cans. Cardboard boxes are cut down to just below the height of the can and rolled to fit inside. Then you pour paraffin into the can just below the top of the cardboard. I made these 60 years ago in Girl Scouts and they worked well enough to cook our dinners on the top of a #10 can with punched air holes.

By the way, a Buddy Burner should work inside also. I have a foot square piece of tile that I use as a counter protector when I'm dealing with pressure canners, soup pots, or roasting pans. I put a thick towel under it to keep the counter top from getting scratched. I coul set the entire thing on the tile, and cook away. The flame from the tuna can shouldn't produce any more heat than my gas stove on high. We'll have to see about that because dear hubby manages to set the alarm off every time he cooks a pound of bacon in the oven. At least we know the batteries are good! If figure if I crack the window any smoke produced by the burning cardboard would be pulled outside. Since I live in Georgia, it rarely gets so cold I couldn't cook outside. However, If I had a couple feet of snow outside, I'd probably opt for an indoor "kitchen."

If you are just going to boil water, use the can lid to snuff the flame. Once the wax hardens again, you can slip a pocket knife blade under it and pry it up so you can use it again. You have to be careful not to cut yourself on the sharp edge, but it does work. I have many scouting stories that helped contribute to the idea I am a bit clumsy and a tad accident prone. I would like to believe that half a century later I have developed grace and agility. However I will confess that I always carry bandaids.

To get back to the fire starter article.....I have some slightly rancid Crisco that we are melting to pour over pine cones. I’ll add some candle fragrance (if I can find it in the basement) and they will be placed in baskets for starters for a fire in a fireplace. This is a particularly nice thank you gift for all those who brighten your life throughout the year. Of course they have to have a fireplace in the house for them to appreciate it. Otherwise fudge is a good substitute. Or maybe both.

Rather than mess up a good boiler, just rinse out a tin can and set it in a couple of inches of simmering water to melt your wax or paraffin. I am going use a coffee can for the pine cones. I’ll wrap some twine around the cone so I’ll have something to hold on to as I dip and the string will work as a wick once the wax hardens. Several layers of newspaper on the counter should make a good drying rack. I will put down a couple of garbage bags first to keep the wax from saturating the ink and staining my WHITE counters. I am learning to be prudent!
Today I found a really great idea using make-up remover pads. They can be soaked just a few seconds in melted wax. Fish them out with tongs or tweezers and lay them flat on aluminum foil to harden. To use, just tear enough to expose the cotton fibers and light. One burns about 4  minutes which will get a fire going nicely. They can also be torn in half if your wood is dry and the day isn’t windy. Bunches will pack flat in a baggie making them ideal to carry in a backpack. Of course you might not want to store said backpack in the trunk of your car in the summer.

Other suggestions have been to cut squares out of waxed milk or orange juice cartons to make fire starters. Another prepper wraps a 4 inch strip of newspaper around cotton twine and soaks it in wax. Some people mix sawdust with the wax to pour into egg cartons. I think I am going to try to make a Buddy Burner out of sawdust and wax since my husband is a woodturner and generates a lot of “product.”
If you have little ones at home, consider having an “experiment” day and make up a variety of fire starters and test the burn time and efficiency of your creation. My grandson gets points for science experiments at school. He has to make predictions and chart the results, then give a report. If we are going to be prepared for possible changes in our lifestyles, we will have to help teach our children and grandchildren how to be contingency thinkers. What kid doesn’t like to play with fire?

Do you have other ideas about creating a stash of starters if we find ourselves cooking over open fires in the back yard? I heard that hand sanitizer squeezed on some dry tinder would act like lighter fluid (for a brief moment – who wants to waste precious sanitizer if you have no water and can’t run to the store).

1 comment:

  1. Mom, you should use a top-mounted manual can opener that removes the lid at its seam rather than one that leaves sharp edges (side-mounted). The can and the lid can be safely handled with no fear of cuts. Mine is from Pampered Chef but I think WalMart also carries them.