Do you have a wood burning fireplace or outdoor fire pit? Do you like to have campfires or bonfires? If so, these DIY egg carton fire starters are great to have on hand for starting a fire with little fuss or mess.
These little things are brilliant. They get a fire going quickly, even without newspaper or kindling. They are easy and fun to make. Best of all, they are made entirely from stuff you otherwise would throw out: candle stubs, cardboard egg cartons, sawdust, and even dryer lint!
My dad introduced me to egg carton fire starters after I found a stack of old egg cartons in his garage. I thought maybe he was saving them for me – people are always giving me egg cartons to use for my eggs – but he said he was saving them to make fire starters. I was intrigued, so he told me to collect some old candle stubs and save my dryer lint and he would show me how to make them. We made a date for a Thursday afternoon.
Dad had all the equipment ready to go when I arrived: a big pot of water, a large coffee can with the rim bent into a spout, and a small vice grip to use for pouring the hot wax out of the can. I added the dryer lint I fished out of the laundry room waste basket and some old holiday candles I found in the basement storage room. Dad supplied the sawdust from his work shop, but I could have just as easily grabbed some fine wood shavings from the bag I keep on hand for the chickens’ dust bath.
As we worked, Dad told me the story of the egg carton fire starters. It turns out my Uncle Vern and Aunt Carol, my mom’s brother and sister-in-law, used to make egg carton fire starters when they owned the Big H Campground in Cassville, WI. They gave one to each camper at check-in and sold extras for a quarter each at the campground store. My aunt and uncle taught Mom and Dad to make them, and my parents started making their own to use in their fireplace at home and on their frequent camping trips.
Dad and I spent I fun afternoon working on our father-daughter craft project. I took photos as he demonstrated the process. (I told him I am going to hire him to be my blog assistant.) We ended up with seven dozen egg carton fire starters. I took three dozen home and used one that night for a no-fuss fire in the kitchen fireplace.
Here is a step-by-step guide to making your own egg carton fire starters the way my dad taught me.
How to make egg carton fire starters: A step-by-step guide
Step 1: Gather the equipment and materials
To make egg carton fire starters, you will need:
- The bottom halves, or egg cups, of several cardboard egg cartons
- Wax candle stubs
- Dryer lint
- Large coffee can
- Large pot
- Small vice grip
- Oven mitt
- Wooden skewer
A few notes about the materials and equipment:
Do NOT use Styrofoam or plastic egg cartons, only cardboard.
If you don’t have sawdust, you can get by with dryer lint, and vice versa. But Dad says in his experience, a ratio of half sawdust and half dryer lint gets best results.
Wax should never be melted directly over a heat source. Instead, use a double-boiler method with a large pot of water and an old coffee can. Use a pliers to bend a spout into the coffee can and clamp the small vice grip to the opposite side of the can from the spout (see the picture below). The vice grip becomes a handle to use when pouring the melted wax.
It’s also a good idea to have a sheet of particle board or large piece of cardboard to put down over your countertop to protect it from any wax that might get spilled.
Step 2: Melt the wax
Fill the pot about halfway with water and bring the water to a gentle boil over the stove. Place the candle stubs in the coffee can and set the can into the water. (You may want to use a band saw to cut larger candles into chunks so the wax melts more quickly.)
As the wax melts, use the wood skewer to fish out the wicks.
Add more water to the pot as needed. Make sure you don’t get any water in the coffee can with the melting wax.
Step 3: Fill the egg cups
Fill each cup of the egg carton about halfway with sawdust, then add a good size wad of dryer lint to fill the cup the rest of the way. Press the contents into the cup.
Step 4: Pour melted wax into the egg cups
When the wax is completely melted, carefully pour it into the egg cups, filling each cup to the top. Work slowly to allow the sawdust, dryer lint, and cardboard to become saturated with the melted wax.
Note: Use an oven mitt when handling the vice grips to avoid burns.
After all of the cups are filled, allow the tray to set for at least two hours until the wax cools and solidifies. Avoid handling the trays while they are still soft and warm.
Step 5: Separate the egg cups
After the wax is cool and solid, break the individual cups apart. Don’t worry about being neat; the ragged edges at the top of the cup will serve as a wick for lighting the fire starter.
Step 6: Start a fire and enjoy!
Egg carton fire starters will light instantly with a match or lighter. One fire starter placed in a fire pit or under a fireplace grate will provide a steady flame for about 10 minutes, long enough to ignite dry firewood placed above or around it. You can start a fire fast with no need for newspaper or kindling!
Meet my dad
My dad has a lot more tricks to teach me and all of you. I think you’ll be seeing much more of him in future Counting My Chickens blog posts!