Tuesday, November 3, 2015

A Gift a Day Gift One: Fire Starters

The first gift I decided to start out with is actually for some of my older nephews.  They love camping and survival shows, so I tried to think of something interesting to give them.

And then I ran into a box of Parowax at the used store with just a little block of it missing for 1.00 and knew what I could do with it (no associate link or anything involved there as I am SURE you can get wax cheaper than that.  I just wanted to show what the box looked like.  Local people can find this at Fred Meyer in the canning section or at Wal-Mart I'm sure).

I had saved a bunch of pine cones off of live wreaths for years, so I grabbed some of the bigger ones, a nice solid (but shallow) cardboard box, an empty green beans can, an empty can from some canned chicken and some cardboard I cut into strips the same height as the can.

The results, after I was done was five pine cone fire starters and a small camp stove (we called them Bunsen burners in Girl Scouts for some reason when I was a kid).  Gifts like these are inexpensive if you have candles or other wax around (don't use scented wax, though...I'm not sure how that would impact any food you cooked on a camp stove).

To Make a Mini Camp Stove:

You will need:
  • 1 Can (a lot of people use an empty tuna can for this), cleaned well and dry.
  • Cardboard cut to the same height as the can and rolled up tightly in the can
  • Wax
  • An empty can/tin that you don't mind sacrificing...wax doesn't clean.
  • A shallow cardboard box (as a work area)

1.  Take the can with the rolled up cardboard and put it on top of a cardboard box (to catch any splattering wax).  Pull a bit of cardboard so it sticks up further than the rest of the cardboard (this will act as your wick when lighting the camp stove).

2.  Put wax in empty can.  Heat about 1" of water in a small saucepan and place can in simmering water to melt wax (I held my can with some spring loaded tongs to hold it off the bottom of the pot.  This will help you not burn the wax).  This might take a while, so be patient.  It'll melt, trust me.

3.  Once wax is melted remove can from water with tongs and then grab can carefully with a pot holder (it's hot remember!).  Be sure the pot holder is well out of the way of any flowing wax and carefully pour the wax onto the cardboard in the can.  Pour in the spaces in between the spiraled cardboard and on the cardboard itself, try to keep the amount of wax even around the "burner" you are building as much as you can.  Continue to pour wax over cardboard until wax is nearly to the top of the burner.

4. Let sit until cold.  Be sure to put instructions to only use the burner on cleared ground.  You can use these by propping a grate up on some stones and using this underneath as a burner or you can invert a number ten can over the top of it (be sure to cut a whole on either side of the inverted can at the bottom to vent the makeshift "stove") and heat your food that way.

To Make Pine Cone Fire Starters

You will need:
  • Cupcake liners (I used the self standing type, but you could probably use regular ones if you doubled or tripled them.  You just need them to stand on their own).
  • Pine cones (I used ones that were about 2 inches in diameter and about an inch and a half high).
  • Wax (see recommends above).
  • A Shallow Carboard Box, lined with aluminum foil
1.  Place cupcake liners in the cardboard box to catch any wax that should spill or splatter.

2.  Place a pine cone inside each cupcake liner, aiming as close to the middle as you can.

3.  Melt wax by the procedure outlined above and handle via instructions above.

4.  Pour melted wax carefully around each pine cone in the cupcake liners.  Fill each cupcake liner about 1/2 full (play it conservative.  You don't want the cupcake liners collapsing and hot wax going everywhere).

5. Let sit until cool enough to handle and the wax is definitely set but still pliable and carefully peel the cupcake liners away (I just found it easier to do when they were still warm instead of cold).  Let set until cold.
So, cost and time breakdowns for this?

Total Cost:  1.00 for the wax (I used the entire box for this).  The rest I already had.

Total time to make:  About two hours between melting the wax, finding the pine cones (that took a while), cutting and winding the cardboard, etc.  They did set overnight before I put them away, though.

These will be split between three boys, so for what .33 per person, I thought that worked out rather well.

You might want to include a sheet with a warning to only use these following proper safety procedures and to use these with the kindling to help keep the fire going long enough to catch the bigger wood pieces, etc.  Just a thought.


  1. I love how unique this gift suggestion is...definitely not the typical gift ideas you see floating around on Pinterest! I have 4 nephews (2 in last year of high school and 2 in college/university) and they are THE hardest to come up with ideas for homemade gifts for. I really appreciate that you started with something for men or boys. Thank you for this suggestion.

  2. I totally understand. I have a really hard time with men and boys. They are hard to shop for let alone make things for. Stay tuned, I have some more suggestions coming up :).