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Types of Fire Starters

Page history last edited by Jason 5 years, 9 months ago

There are a number of items you can use to help start a fire.  They fall into two categories:


  1. Items to actually "start" the fire and
  2. Items that are placed with the tinder and assist the fire with getting started. 


Items that Help Ignite a Fire


For starting a fire, there's matches, lighters, magnesium strikers, and steel wool (finely spun) and a nine volt battery.  Magnesium strikers have a long of stick or section of magnesium affixed to a piece of metal of support.  To start a fire with one, hold the striker close to your tinder, then firmly scrape away from you with a knife or edged implement (some strikers include a scraping device) along the edge with the magnesium.  It takes a little practice, but the scraping should create a spark which should land long enough to land in the tinder and hopefully ignite it. 






The 9-volt battery and small spun steel wool works by using the power of the battery to heat the steel threads.  The steel wool is placed in the in the tinder and the battery terminals are then touched to the wool.  The threads ignite, which in turn, ignites the tinder then hopefully the fire.   Finely spun steel wool can be found in a hardware store.




Items that Assist a Fire with Getting Started


Items that assist a fire with getting started can be small commercially sold starter sticks that can be broken up, or pet hair, or dryer lint.   You can also make your own fire starters using items such as toilet paper rolls, cotton balls, paraffin wax, sawdust, waxed paper cups, and shredded wood.   Avoid using newspaper.  While it can be good to help start a fire with shredded paper, or newspaper, paper can easily waft away taking ash and burning embers outside the fire circle.  The other items listed here are superior to paper for this reason.


Commercial Fire Starters are typically small shredded pieces of wood pressed into a stick shape and treated with wax and/or some long burning chemical and/or and accelerant.   Some are large enough to act as their own tinder, while others are placed with the tinder and ignited using one of the above items.

Dryer lint is free and is a great way to help start a fire.  Take golf ball sized amount of dryer lint and tease it apart with your tinder.  Ignite it with one of the above items and it will burn hot - assisting the fire get started.



Make Your Own


One of the best homemade fire starters is a simple cotton ball rubbed in petroleum jelly, because it's small, extremely lightweight, very simple to make, and can burn for a long time. Petroleum jelly is oil based so it burns, but it's also solid - so it says on the cotton ball.  The cotton ball burns much like the dryer lint - together, they work like a candle.   A single, petroleum jelly coated cotton ball can burn for about 4 minutes!



To make a batch, take a healthy finger or two sized scoop of the jelly and place it in a small ziploc bag.  Next, add about 5-6 cotton balls, zip the ziploc and then mash the cotton balls with the jelly in the bag for a minute or so until the jelly is well worked into all of them.  Don't add too much jelly.  If there are no dry fibers on the ball, the cotton won't help catch the ball on fire when lit.  That's it!  When it's time to start a fire, place a cotton ball or two in your tinder and light using one of the items described above.


Another method uses toilet paper rolls and dryer lint.   Take a left over toilet paper roll and stuff it full of dryer lint.  To make them more portable and prevent the lint from falling out, you can fold the ends in after adding the lint, or drizzle a small amount of melted paraffin wax.  Keep them dry in a ziploc baggy, and when it's time to start the fire, place one in the tinder and light the tube or exposed lint using one of the items described above.






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