I have been trying to come up with a homemade fire starter off and on for several months now. Everybody who is interested in camping and bushcraft has probably heard the suggestion of cotton balls soaked in Vaseline, but I have always found them messier than I like. They work. They are pretty much waterproof. But they are sooooo…. …. …. well, messy. You end up with Vaseline all over your fingertips and your fire making gear. At least that’s what happens to me.
The ability of cotton fibers to catch your spark is one of the big advantages of this system though, and I didn’t want to stray too far from it. Here is what I have settled on for now.
My wife has always used “makeup squares” as opposed to cotton balls, so I started with those. I suspect I would find them down with the dollar store if I looked.
In previous attempts at making fire starters I had unearthed one of these old DuraFlame FireStart blocks… I have no idea if these are still made, mine had been in a bin in my RV for years, but you should get the same results from a chunk off of any kind of crayon-log. It’s only disadvantage is that it does have that waxy burning smell, but for the purpose of a firestarter you only have to put up with that for a couple of minutes.
And, finally, I already knew that dollar store lip balm was a good substitute for Vaseline without the greasiness. [2 for a buck at mine]
- I took a gumball sized piece of the FireStart, warmed it in the microwave, and pressed it out flat to the size of one of the makeup squares… It’s probably about an eighth of an inch thick.
- One of the makeup squares was smeared on both sides with enough lip balm to cover it well. [on one side it serves as glue, and on the other as the medium to catch a spark]
- The two pieces were simply sandwiched together between squares of waxed paper and then trimmed to size.
Each sandwich yields four postage stamp sized “Flaming Dragon Turds”. I actually set mine to dry on a sunny window ledge for several days before I cut them into usable sized pieces. As they “cured” the waxed paper started to come off of its own accord, however you want to leave it in place to keep the chips from sticking together while stored. When you are ready to use one, you simply rub a finger nail across the surface to roughen up the fibers, strike a spark to the edge, or just touch it off with a match.
Here you can see one burning… just moments after lighting with a ferro-rod, and again a minute later at full flame. The total burning time outdoors at 28°F in a light breeze was between four and five minutes. It provided a good strong flame that resisted attempts to blow it out… if anything, it caused it to burn brighter and harder.