How to Make Stormproof Firestarters

by Erich

I’ve posted a number of homemade fire starters since the start of this blog, and if there’s one that I find the most effective it’s got to be sawdust fire starters.

I used to make these sawdust fire starters as a kid after learning how to do it from of one of my dads Special Forces Manuals he had.

They are so effective they’ll stay lit in rain (not torrential downpours), on top of snow, and in high winds so they’re perfect if you need to start a fire in moist conditions with less-optimal wood…

…and they’re super easy to make:

How to Make Sawdust Fire Starters

You can check out how to make sawdust fire starters with my latest YouTube video or read the step-by-steps below:

What You’ll Need

  • sawdust
  • wax (old candles, paraffin, etc)
  • ice-cube tray

Making Sawdust Fire Starters Step-by-Step

Step 1: Melt some paraffin or other wax over the heat. If you’d feel more comfortable you can make a make-shift double boiler by placing a glass Pyrex bowl in simmering water.
Step 2: While melting, stuff sawdust into ice-cube trays. Make sure to that the sawdust doesn’t overflow into the adjacent cubes
Step 3: Pour melted wax over the sawdust. The sawdust will expand a bit as it absorbs the sawdust. Again, ensure that the wax is contained to the individual cubes and doesn’t overflow into adjacent cubes.

Pour off any excess wax…
Step 4: Place tray in freezer until cold and firm. These will pop out much like ice when cold.
Step 5: Light. These burn for a really long time and are great in high winds and moist conditions.

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47 Comments»

Comment by eric
2014-01-11 16:15:05

nice and easy

 
Comment by Janice
2014-01-11 16:32:07

Can you use something besides sawdust? Like dryer lint or shredded paper?

Comment by Tactical Intelligence
2014-01-11 16:54:53

I think any absorbent material that will take up the wax will work well. I would try a few materials in different cubes and test them to see what works best. We’d love to hear what you find out!

 
 
Comment by Da Niu
2014-01-11 16:36:42

I have found the wax-impregnated cardboard used for shipping cucumbers and various tropical plants (source them at your local grocer or garden center for free) to be an effective fire starter. I use it often to start up my wood stove. I use a retractable blade to cut an approximate 4 x 6 inch piece and then cut slits (going with the grain of the corrugation) to make what looks like an over sized book of matches. Crumple or bend the resultant tabs of waxed cardboard to separate them from each other to give increased surface area and air access for the flames. Works great, and the price is right!

I keep a few precut pieces in individually sealed baggies in the car. They will melt and or fuse together on a warm day.

BTW, I clean my chimney regularly and find that in my instance there is negligible (no more than normal) buildup of creosote when I use these for starting the stove.

Comment by Tactical Intelligence
2014-01-11 16:55:49

Fantastic idea. Thanks!

 
 
Comment by Dan
2014-01-11 17:01:14

Instead of an ice cube tray us cardboard egg cartons. You don’t have to remove the wax/sawdust, just store as is. When needed just tear/cut off a hunk to include the section of egg carton it’s in. You can then light the egg carton to get the fire started much easier.

 
Comment by opnorty
2014-01-11 17:04:17

You can also make these in old egg cartons. You just tear them apart when you want to start a fire. We’ve been doing this for years.

 
Comment by Fluffy
2014-01-11 17:27:18

Another multi use version that I have used for years, it worked particularly well in Norway during the winter for everything, is to use toilet paper tubes. Seal one end add your absorbent material, or if you want a candle a thick cotton rope 1/8 to 1/4 inch, fill with paraffin/wax or a mix (controls smoking), stearic acid might be a good addition too. Do not over stuff the tube with the material or it will not burn as well or as long. If you pre-char the ends they will catch sparks and light easier.

 
Comment by Tactical Intelligence
2014-01-11 17:44:24

@dan, @opnorty, @fluffy,

Awesome tips guys, keep ’em coming!

 
Comment by lapak
2014-01-11 17:50:49

Trying to recycle/reuse stuff, I came up w/ the idea of saving toilet paper and paper towel tubes, then mixed a bunch of the shreds from the paper shredder w/ some water in a big bowl (the water helped the paper ‘glue’ together a bit when dried) and stuffed/packed the tubes well. Then I dried them completely (I used a windowsill in the sun a few days/week). They worked great as kindling type material in the wood stove and used up some otherwise wasted and free materials. Next I might try adding some dryer lint to the mix as well. They wouldn’t work when wet like the wax ones, but may be a great secondary material to add.

 
Comment by Dan Rock
2014-01-11 17:51:53

I can tell you from personal experience just how dangerous direct melting of wax is via the 2nd degree burns I experience on two fingers of my left hand as I began to move the melted wax. The contents exploded upward coating my hand with melted wax. I made things worse by immediately grabbing the “waxed” hand with my other… stretching the skin on the tops of my fingers and resulting in one inch high blisters (about 45 years ago in my young stupid days…vs my current stupid days).

PLEASE be safe and use a double boiler method and don’t repeat my painful mistake!!!
Dan in Dallas

 
Comment by Jim
2014-01-11 19:32:06

dryer lint direct from your dryer screen……..no muss no fuss no wasted time…….no cost to you and best of all NO EXTRA WEIGHT. NO WASTED TIME TO MAKE.

 
Comment by Sergeant Major
2014-01-11 19:58:51

I am a cardboard egg carton and sawdust guy. I go to Home Depot to the cut off saw and grab a bag of sawdust when I need it. You can get Gulf Wax paraffin at hardware stores but I often find boxes at thrift stores or ask your friends for their deceased candles. I melt the wax in a metal container over a hot plate which allows me to adjust the heat and have never had a problem. Currently I am using an 8 cup metal measuring cup which I found at a thrift store as my melting and pouring vessel. You cut the the wax and sawdust filled sections of the egg cartons apart and use the wax impregnated cardboard as a wick. My problem is my partner keeps stealing them to light her outdoor fire pit.

Don’t buy it if you can make it, don’t make it if you can find it or convert something.

One is none, two is one and three is me.

 
Comment by Pat
2014-01-11 20:46:39

Just did a couple of day treks to quell the cabin fever. I took a hike to a local river in hopes of catching a trout. It was about ten degrees and eight inches of snow on the ground. I gathered dried grasses and weed heads standing above the snow along the way. When I got to the river I used my metal striker and my hunting knife to get a fire started. There was a hemlock grove and some white pine with many dead lower branches that are great to get a fire going. I gathered my firewood from dead wood snagged in branches off the ground. They seemed to be the most dry to burn. The dead wood on or near the ground sputtered and steamed. I found lots of small animal tracks and runs so I think I will practice my snare and bow skills the next time I go out. Will wear my camo to let the squirrels come close. No luck snagging a trout. Maybe next time. I did find lots of barberries. Sour/bitter but loaded with vitamin C.
Three years ago I would not have even thought about going out in this kind of weather let alone tracking or hunting.I cannot believe this older widow has become this self reliant. Thank you Erich for your motivation. You have made me aware of my surroundings, aware of my own responsibility to take care of myself and others at a time when I had lost the man and love of my life. He would be so proud of what you have motivated me to do. Again, thanks so much.

 
Comment by Joe
2014-01-11 20:56:22

I do something simular but use a shallow baking pan then cut the sawdust & wax mixture into strips after it has hardned. Melt the wax in a pan on top of my propane single burner stove in my workshop to in case I spill some wax. I use them to start a wood fire. Got the idea fro TI’s fire cloth and the fire starting sticks that they sell in sporting goods dept. I put my leftover saw dust &/or wood planner shavings (wood working is a hobby so sawdust & shaving are plentiful. About 1 inch of sawdust in the pan then add the melted wax, let set until wax is hard. Cut into 1 to 1-1/2′ wide strips with a utility knife. Store them in zip lock bags. I will try adding a little beeswax to see if it burns better. I am also going to look into soy wax. Use tuna cans and corrugated boxes, cut into strips, to make large candles. Pack the can from outside to inside with the cardboard box strips then add melted wax. These also work as a simple fuel source in a folding stove or simular setup to heat water in my canteen cup.

If anyone has a good source for soy wax or any info on it please let me know at gthomas5@hotmail.com.

 
Comment by Olivia
2014-01-11 22:13:57

Just had to say, “GO GIRL.” I would have never had the nerve to take off alone. And, yea, your man is proud of you.

 
Comment by Maxi
2014-01-11 22:47:30

The tuna can/corrugated cardboard/wax heat source is one I learned in Girl Scouts nearly 60 years ago. We made our simple camp stove by using an old-fashioned church key to punch air holes around the open end of a #10 can. Invert the big can over the tuna can and you have enough heat to cook your food. Obviously, use care in handling the cans lest you burn yourself.

 
Comment by Karen
2014-01-11 22:48:17

I tried this with tightly packed dryer lint-it exploded into a 6 foot flame, lol. Thank goodness I was outside! Think I’ll stick with the sawdust from now on.

 
Comment by LBJ
2014-01-12 00:09:37

I haven’t tried the sawdust/wax starters yet, but after trying the cotton ball/vaseline thing with a struck spark, I’m sold on it. I suppose including some of the sawdust/lint cubes could be an extra boon to my BOB, and a few wouldn’t cost much space or weight. I found some large diameter straws at DollarTree and filled some with cotton ball/vaseline tufts. Each 2.5-inch long tube, sealed at the ends with a BIC, contains over two dozen tufts, each good enough to start dry-to-middlin’ wood. They’re hard to beat. I’ll have to try the sawdust/lint/wax/egg carton style next. Walmart has pounds of Gulf Wax for $3.12, the best price I’ve found. BigLots has boxes of 144 tealight candles for $6 and Amazon has Coleman mini-candle lanterns for $7.33, back to yesterday’s topic.

 
Comment by Pete M
2014-01-12 00:23:21

These fire starters work great! Wrap them in heavy duty aluminum foil and they will burn longer as the foil catches the melting wax and allows the saw dust to act a wick.

 
Comment by laurey
2014-01-12 08:02:48

Funny you should mention these!! Just last week I bought mini cupcake papers to make something similar!! In answer to the above question,, yes you can use dryer lint as well. That is what I bought the cupcake liners for. I put the lint in the liners, put a “wick” of some kind in the bottom, hanging out just a bit to light. Put the lint on top of the wick, and pour wax over the lint. I bought a pack of 180 liners for a dollar at the dollar store. Since they are paper and absorb the wax, they become wax paper and add to the burning ability. In addition, the wax melts and spreads on the kindling, helping the kindling burn.

 
Comment by laurey
2014-01-12 08:07:00

Egg cartons work great too. I found my wax at a second hand store for $1 a box, and found a packing box full of wax at our recycling center for free. Just a few other places to look!

 
Comment by laurey
2014-01-12 08:11:17

In addition to tuna cans, I use wet cat food cans. They are the same size and the cat food costs less. (and my cats appreciate it!!). You can get #10 cans at many restaurants if you don’t want to buy that big of a can for yourself. Or I found some at my local discount food store and made freezer meals with the contents. I also got 8 of them from where I work when we were having a big cookout!

 
Comment by Ed
2014-01-12 09:21:11

Nice !! love how it will be ok to use the stove and pan “as long as you don’t tell your wife” ,

 
Comment by Mike Hamp
2014-01-12 13:12:22

I have saved egg cartons (cardboard !) and other cardboard materials like listed in earlier post and add the sawdust and wax. The dryer lint is a main ingredient inside paper towel and bath tissue tubes. I went to a thrift store and bought an old electric coffee pot. Remove the inner basket parts and throw in any left over candle parts, wicks and all. When the melted wax gets low they can be poured out and used as part of a starter. I get the leftover candles from church events, i.e. candle ceremonies, weddings, etc. as well as home candle leftovers. I plug in the pot and melt the wax. It makes it easy and safe to pour through the spout onto the cartons with sawdust, stirring with a small wood stick while pouring. The scented candles make nice aromas when used to start the fireplace kindling also.

 
Comment by nola
2014-01-12 14:26:57

My family has used those heavy paper egg cartons to form the material. Then we just cut them apart & put them in zip-lock bags in our BOBs, car get-home kits, camping gear, & in my EDC kit. We don’t put the matches, lighters, etc. in the same bag but I do keep both in a second bag so it is always together.

 
Comment by Diane Leavit
2014-01-12 17:34:24

Washer dryer lint and dog hair ( if you trim your dog at home) can also be added to the sawdust mix,,, they seem to make it burn a little hotter especially if you are using hardwood or mixed sawdust. Don’t use these substances STRAIGHT as their smaller particle size makes them very flammable…. especially the lint. I use a 20% lint/hair mix and rest sawdust…. best wishes,

 
Comment by Jan
2014-01-13 03:36:19

Make sure the lint is from natural materials and not synthetic. Synthetics do not burn very well as firestarters and the fumes are toxic.

 
Comment by Bill Johnson
2014-01-13 19:07:21

I have had my wife saving the dryer lent for about 4 months now – we have quite a bit saved as well. This now provides me something to make with it and I like the straws sealed on the ends for the vaseline soaked cotton balls. Like the tolet roll holders for making candles as well.

Regarding starting fires – are you familiar with fat lighter wood – The heart of a dead pine tree root system where the sap all drains to when the tree dies? This stuff is the absolute best for starting a fire in the fireplace, woods, rain, cold or sloppy wet. It simply works in all conditions and is most easy to find in the south east anyways. Just need Pine Trees.

 
Comment by PrepNow
2014-01-13 22:12:11

Great idea, thanks. My wife uses those 2″ diameter cotton discs for make-up. I dip them (partially) into melted wax. After dried I seal them in plastic bags and toss them into tackle box, gear bag, etc. Light the exposed cotton and the wax fuels the fire and keeps it burning for a good amount of time.

 
Comment by Rickard
2014-01-13 22:31:07

We used to make these with either broken or cut pieces of beaverboard. this is the material that lay-in ceiling tile is made with.

 
Comment by Kelly Keith
2014-01-14 01:09:22

When I was in boy scouts we melted wax and tour news paper to dip into the wax and laying them on wax paper rolled them up into rolls of the size of a dime in roundness and the length of two or three inches let dry and when needed tair a corner and light. The process of rolling the paper doesn’t burn you if you have laytex gloves on and wait until the wax cools a bit and you also dip the paper into the wax leaving high enough to hold the paper.

 
Comment by Alana
2014-01-14 07:59:51

I use the cardboard toilet paper/paper towel holders and stuff them with dryer lint with wax.

 
Comment by Ed
2014-01-15 02:59:49

I have done similar with egg cartons (they can be broken apart or cut and will help hold the wax in for reusing). I put sawdust or small wood chips in and a wick ( use like a candle) and I also place two strike anywhere match tips in so that if you have no means to start a fire it can still be utilized. Wrap them in foil and they are easily transported, stored or given as gifts ( they have always been a big hit).

 
Comment by Joe
2014-01-17 09:40:58

I did not know that the Girl Scouts came up with the “tuna” can, cardboard and parrafin to make large surface area candles. Great minds think alike(joke).
One bit of warning on the dryer lint, if you harvest the charcoal from the fire like I do you will not want a lot of synethic material in your dryer lint. Too many fumes and residual chemicals. I sometimes use the lint below the “fire sticks” to help get them started but only if I am not going to harvest the charcoal.
I like the idea if using al foil under the fire sticks to keep the paraffin from leaking away.

A word of warning if you are using shavings/sawdust from treated lumber, the chemicals used to treat the wood although safe after drying are not necessarly safe when burning. I do not use treated wood fire sticks when I am going to cook over the fire.

 
Comment by Ronwixziv Barreiro
2014-01-17 16:28:06

Simple and compact. Thank you so much!

 
Comment by Ronwixziv Barreiro
2014-01-17 16:29:13

Thank you for the warning about treated wood.

 
Comment by Kurt Adam
2014-01-28 12:17:35

Cool ideas. It would be more easier if you get this fire starter tool that I have found.

 
Comment by David
2014-01-28 23:48:17

dryer lint works really well, our boy scout troop uses it. Use the same method, just replace the sawdust with dryer lint. One added thing that we do is instead of the ice cube trays, we use cardboard egg cartons. after they are made, just pull one off and use it.
Another great thing that I don’t go without on backpacking trips is petroleum jelly. Just coat a cotton ball with it or already have some prepared in a pill bottle and light it. It’s water proof and burns great. Or, you can coat a small stick with the petroleum jelly and light it off; wet or dry.

 
Comment by 21Bravo
2014-03-15 21:33:00

Look on Ebay for the Soy wax flakes. They sell 15lbs shipped for $26.95

 
Comment by Pat
2014-03-16 17:49:21

Best fire starter I have found in nature is dried cat tail heads. One spark and instant flames. I keep them in zip lock bags in my car and BOB. I can never pass by them without grabbing a few.

 
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Comment by Rikki
2017-03-16 23:11:53

Use plumber candles from Home Depot. Cheap. I mix a bit of magnesium in with it to create a little bit hotter flame in wind.

 
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