Firestarters and WaxLast update: March 22 2000
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This page has been accessed times since August 28, 1995.
There are live links at the end of this file in the Net
Resources Section, and here is a file of
questions people have asked me.
This is my FAQ about firestarters and wax as a hobby. If you have any
additions, suggestions, comments, questions or the like, please direct
them to Don Buchan at malak&pobox.com (&=@).
Copyright (c) 1995-2000 by Don Buchan, all rights reserved. This FAQ may
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by any other means (such as, but not limited to, printouts and floppy
diskettes) as long as:
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This FAQ may not be distributed for financial gain. This FAQ may not
be included in commercial collections or compilations without express
permission from Don Buchan (malak&pobox.com (&=@))
G01. What is my hobby?
G02. Where do I get my wax?
G03. Why not just buy candles and wax blocks?
G04. How did I start my hobby?
G05. How do I classify my wax?
G06. How do I melt the wax?
G07. How do I get rid of sediments and wicks?
G08. Why not just buy candles or wax blocks?
G09. How do I make my firestarters?
G10. What, pray tell, is a firestarter?
G11. Are there other kinds of firestarters?
T01. All the wax is seeping through the cartons. Why?
T02. These things don't light a fire. Why?
G01. WHAT IS MY HOBBY?
I scrounge wax from all sorts of sources, mostly friends, but also from
just about anywhere effectively expired, candles can be found, candle
drippings, and other sources of wax such as crayons can be found. Then,
every once in a while, I melt it all down, dip paper egg cartons in it,
and make firestarters.
G02. WHERE DO I GET MY WAX?
Mainly from friends and acquaintances whom I ask if they'll save me
their candle stubs and broken candles, old crayons, wax seals from their
homemade jams, candle drippings, and cheese sealing wax. I have
carefully (and discreetly) "kept the tallow clean" by removing such
drippings from various candles I've come across, and collected stubs
that were about to be thrown out.
I could buy new candles or blocks of wax, but, why bother? Which leads to:
G03. WHY NOT JUST BUY CANDLES AND WAX BLOCKS?
- I think that scrounging the wax is fun.
- buying means I have pay for something I can get for free
- I sell my firestarters; the higher the profit margin, the better.
- I can use a catchy name for my firestarters along an environmental theme
as I'm recycling both wax and egg cartons.
- you'd be surprised how much wax is out there for the asking.
I collect several kilograms (yes, several kilograms!) per year.
G04. HOW DID I START MY HOBBY?
I was on a pleasure trip before I started as a Scout leader, and found wax
drippings from where a bunch of teenagers were playing with candles on the
beach. Making the connection between the wax, remembering the usefulness
of wax as a fuel for things like pocket stoves and makeshift lanterns from
when I was a Scout myself, and my soon becoming a Scout leader, I quickly
collected the wax and brought it home.
G05. HOW DO I CLASSIFY MY WAX?
I melt it all down into coffee cans in three colours: White (either
clear (when melted) or coloured white), Green, and all the rest which,
when melted together, form colours ranging from various shades of Red
to various shades of Brown. I sort out the blue and yellow wax since I
make moulded candles as well.
I keep these three colours for the following reasons: Red, green and white
are Christmas colours. I sell my firestarters at craft fairs in bags of 6
and 12. The white is also used to dilute the colours a bit.
The kind of wax doesn't matter; it all goes in with the rest of the wax
of the same colour. Therefore my wax can include beeswax, wax seals from
jam making, candles, birthday candles, crayons, cheese sealing wax, dyes,
and occasionally scents.
G07. HOW DO I MELT THE WAX?
I put the old bits of wax in a large tin can that holds about 2.5L
(about 2/3 USG). If your can held coffee like mine do, it held about
1kg (2.2lbs; 40oz) of coffee. Then I pull out my gas camping stove and
carefully heat the can and melt the wax. I then let it cool for
storage until I use it to make my firestarters. This last allows for
A) more wax to be stored per can as I'm eliminating the airspace
between wax pieces B) avoids an accidental mess all over if the can is
Because I use gas and melt the wax directly over the burner, two safety
concerns arise: A) the possibility of flareup because of the direct
heat, particularly near the smoke point and B) the possibility of flareup
because I'm using gas. The safer (and slower) way of melting wax is by
putting the can into boiling water to avoid overheating the wax.
Another good way to melt the wax is in a crockpot; it holds the
temperature of the wax longer. (bibben&aol.com (&=@))
G08. HOW DO I GET RID OF SEDIMENTS AND WICKS?
Many candles have solid decorations (sprinkles and the like) on them,
some have metal wick holders on the bottom, and all have wicks. When
the wax is melted, these usually fall to the bottom.
I carefully pour off almost all of the wax and put the rest in another
can and let it harden or use it. When the can is fullm I melt it down and
pour off the liquid wax (to use again) and get rid of the bit of sediment
on the bottom.
I also use rags as a filter. When melted, I pour the wax over the rag into
another can; most particles and all the wicks are filtered out.
G09. HOW DO I MAKE MY FIRESTARTERS?
First I collect paper egg cartons in yellow, pink and white. The yellow
cartons work well with the green wax.
The cans I use easily allow four egg wells to fit in and be dipped in
the wax, so I cut the cartons into three parts of four wells each.
I then drown the cartons in melted wax, take them out leaving the wells
about half full, and let the wax cool on a cookie sheet. I cut these
into individuals and I have a firestarter. I also trim off the wax
that has seeped through the carton and solidified on the outside and
throw this back into the can.
G10. WHAT, PRAY TELL, IS A FIRESTARTER?
An item used to light a fire. Lay some wood over one in a manner suitable
for a fire and light its corners. Depending on the amount of wax in the
well it will last anywhere from five to ten minutes and will light just
about any fire. It leaves next to no residue and the creosote it produces
that potentially could deposit in your chimney and be a fire hazard is
virtually nil and, compared to the amount that can be produced by the
firewood you're burning, is non-existant.
G11. ARE THERE ANY OTHER KINDS OF FIRESTARTERS?
- Roll newspaper and tie it off at one inch lengths, then cut
between the strings, and dip in wax. Harder to make and light in my
- Dip pinecones in wax.
- Pour wax into cupcake papers and add a wick and/or a pinecone.
- Experiment with sawdust and wax, or pinecone crumbs and wax in your
- When candle making, use a piece of paper towel to pick up spilled hot
wax, and use these as firestarters.
- Wrap a light-anywhere match with cotton string, and soak in wax.
- Soak dryer lint in wax and light.
TO1. ALL THE WAX IS SEEPING THROUGH THE CARTONS. WHY?
The wax is too hot, as in it's been sitting on the burner too long. As
wax is heated (and its temperature rises), its ability to seep through
paper increases. The lower the temperature, the slower it seeps through
the paper, and, the faster it cools (further allowing less wax to seep
To correct the situation, either let the wax cool by taking it off the
burner (as long as the wax is still liquid you can still make your
firestarters) or dip the egg cartons in wax, let cool, then fill the
If you have a wax thermometer, the temperature should be around 155F for
quick cooling and minimal seepage.
TO2. THESE THINGS DON'T LIGHT A FIRE. WHY?
Because there wasn't anything to light over them. They need wood OVER
them to light a fire, as well as a draught. Make sure that there's enough,
not just a couple of twigs.
Sure ... why not?
The following are a collection of net resources related to wax, my
firestarters, me, and other resources connected thereto. While at least
some are are directly related to my firestarters, many are not
necessarily directly related or even at all, but are there on the
presumption that at least some people may be interested in them. Most
Web sites, email links and usenet groups have been field tested at
least once by me. Please direct any errors, corrections, inactive sites,
and of course NEW sites to Don Buchan at malak&pobox.com (&=@)
Wax, firestarters and candles:
Give me a call at malak&pobox.com (&=@)
http://www.pobox.com/~malak/waxfaq.html (the most recent copy of this FAQ)
Candles and Candle Making, the Candles You Can Burn Ltd. Homepage
A few crafts involving wax
A joke about earwax candles
InfoSeek search for "candle"
Various kinds of firestarters
A file that appears to discuss how to cut blocks of wax. The site also has
a whole lot of other crafts stuff
A page devoted to boiled leather armour for anachronistic activities;
it has some good tips on handling wax
A page mainly talking about using wax for seals on parchments, and tips on
how to go about handling wax
Country Scents Candle Company
Another way to make firestarters.
Historical database on Scottish candle pricing and so on
Anachronistic uses of wax
Another hobby of mine, winemaking:
Give me a call at malak&pobox.com, and I'll send you the most recent copy of
http://www.pobox.com/~malak/rcw.faq (the most recent copy of
http://www.pobox.com/~malak/guide.html (my Wine & Stuff page)
http://www.pobox.com/~malak/kits (my kit winemaking primer)
My Favourite Drinks:
Iced Tea and other drinks
Choosing a camp for your child
The Super Scout(er) Page
My Star Trek Link page
My Star Trek FTP Site
Me, Don Buchan:
FAQ's in general:
news.answers contains the most FAQ's
*.answers contain FAQ's. Many hierarchies have such a group; explore by
changing the "*" variable to the hierarchy name.
gopher.physics.utoronto.ca (FAQ's via rtfm.mit.edu)
Click here to go to the top.