Egg Carton Fire Starters
I came across a great idea from Tom Watson while on the web the other day. Not only does it sound like a fun winter project but also it re-uses materials that would normally be thrown away. Tom does a great job of explaining how to make fire starters by placing a mixture of sawdust and candle wax into a cardboard egg carton. You can see the entire article and more photos at this website.
Here’s how it works. A small portion of sawdust is placed into each well of a molded paper egg tray. The well is filled to the top with molten wax from bits and pieces of used candles. The sawdust is saturated with melted wax until the cup is full. It helps to "mix" the wax into the sawdust chips with a stick. It’ll start to congeal as it cools but you have plenty of time to compress the wax-sawdust mix down into the cups. Gradual pouring and mixing with a stick takes about 30 seconds for each "egg".
Once the eggs are all poured, the tray is allow to set until all the eggs are firmed up – usually a few hours to become solid and cool. Once they reach that level, they can be handled without losing their shape.
You can cut or tear the individual wells from the tray. Don’t worry about being too neat because any excess carton "flaps" around the upper edges of the cup can actually be used to your advantage. When it’s time to ignite the egg, some other tinder can be placed on top of the well and the excess paper can be folded over to hold it in place. Otherwise the flap becomes a wick to help ignite the cups.
Basically you have created a candle with wood filler. These work just like a candle to produce a solid flame that can take the place of the first round of tinder when it comes to building a fire. Try to keep them dry, since moisture can affect the paper cup.<%image(20070104-art_261egg1.jpg|240|300|Tom Watson Article)%>
You want to make sure that the egg carton you use is made out of paper/cardboard and not the plastic/styrofoam trays that some stores sell. The plastic cartons will not hold up well (if at all) to the heat of the molten wax, and will not serve as a good wick or kindling for the starter flame.
Candle wax scraps are easy to collect if you begin a wax can in your basement or workshop. Caution must be taken to melt the wax – I create a double boiler effect by putting the wax in a smaller can that fits inside a larger coffee can. The wax can sits on a half dozen larger steel nuts so there is an air space between the two cans. You can then use your camp stove or small propane torch to melt the wax slowly. The sawdust comes from my modest workshop and occasionally from a woodworking friend. It takes about a tablespoon of melted wax and a teaspoon of sawdust for each "egg".