A warm cozy fire in the fireplace is a great idea, but sometimes that fire is a challenge to start. To meet this need, a variety of firewood starters have been developed and marketed. Some are geared more to the campfire and survival techniques, while others are designed to be used in home fireplaces. People have also developed a variety of home recipes for firewood starter materials.
The traditional way to start a fire is to use kindling, but even small pieces of kindling sometimes need a little help to get started. A special type of firewood starter material is called fatwood. This is a commercially produced type of kindling made from aged pine. Pine tends to ignite easily and burn hotter than other types of wood, which makes it a great wood for kindling. You can even find attractive wrought iron baskets designed to keep fatwood fire starters near the fireplace or woodstove.
Pine cones are another firewood starter material that is widely available. These are often scented and sold as specialty gifts around Christmas. They tend to be a bit expensive for everyday fire starting, but are nice to use for special occasions. You can make your own by melting scented wax (like old candle stubs) and dipping dried-out pine cones in it. Roll the pine cone in sawdust and let harden.
Paper burns easily, so many homeowners use old newspapers, paper sacks, or even junk mail as firewood starter material. This is a way to recycle these materials, but they don’t always work. The fire can flare up and go out before the kindling gets burning well. To make newspapers burn slower, you can tie them in knots. For around $50, you can get a device that rolls 5 sheets of newspaper into a starter log. That is an investment that could pay for itself in savings on firestarters. (You might find one second hand for a lot less.)
Pressed sawdust is formed into squares, sometimes combined with wax or other flammable materials, and sold as firewood starter material. Brands include Rutland, Duraflame, and Super Cedar. Rutland also makes a gel-type liquid used to start fires. EZ-Fire makes a firewood starter material that is reported to be made of all natural materials, clean burning and very reliable.
Homemade firewood starter material comes in all sorts of crafty recipes. Dryer lint is very flammable, so some people fill paper egg cartons with it, douse with melted wax, and cut the egg cups apart for individual fire starters. Cotton saturated with vasoline is another idea.
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