We primarily heat our house with our woodstove, which means we start a lot of fires. This is a task that can be quite an art form for seasoned professionals and pretty daunting to those who just want to get warm, fast.
We used to fight with the stove and the wood, babying the flame until it took hold, trying more paper or more kindling or different wood or different techniques, all of which tried our patience in some form. Until we learned how to make firestarters.
(Can you hear the trumpets and angels in the distance?)
These little nuggets of fabulousness have saved our sanity and our freezing hands regularly. They are so simple to make and you probably don't even have to buy anything.
Start off with old egg cartons, specifically the paper-cardboardy type. Put them on newspaper, cardboard or whatever you have laying around that you don't mind wax getting on since some melted wax will seep through the cartons before it cools. We just used scrap cardboard from a box that was in our recycle bin.
You'll need to fill the cavities with a filler of sorts. Here we are using cedar shavings left over from filling a dog bed pillow but we have also used dry leaves, gum balls from the trees, broken up pine cones, shredded paper, drier lint, etc. Look around and see what you have and try it.
Next you will need wax to melt. This is the perfect use for all those end bits of candles (or cheap candles you don't like) that have been collecting in a drawer somewhere. Just throw them in a pot (I use a cheap wax melting pitcher from a craft store) and carefully melt them down on medium heat on your stove top. Don't worry about the wicks that are in them, they won't hurt anything. But you'll probably want to remove any paper or labels or plastic or other random junk on the candles if needed.
I use an old chopstick to stir and break up bits as they melt. Just don't leave the melting wax unattended. It doesn't take long for it to melt down.
Once the wax is melted down, you'll want to carefully pour it over the filler you have put in the egg cartons. Using a wax melting pitcher makes this easy. Just use common sense and be careful. Hot wax, people.
You're not wanting to fill up the cavities, you're just kind of dousing the filler to "wet" it with melted wax through to the bottom, which will then hold it together when it cools.
Once the wax has cooled and hardened, the firestarters are ready to use. We store the tray intact beside our firewood indoors and just tear off a cup as needed.
Put the cup in a cubby hole area you've created with your wood in the stove (basically you want it sitting on a piece of wood and under another piece of wood, if that makes sense. Trial and error and you'll see what I am trying to put into words here). Light the corner of the carton cup and let it do it's magical work.
The cup with the wax and filler basically acts as a candle in your stove, providing a long lasting flame and giving the surrounding wood plenty of time to heat up and catch fire while you sit back and relax.
And the trumpets and the angels serenade you for your fine work. You can hear them now, can't you?