DIY

instructional article

DIY Fire starter smack down

I've seen a few different kinds of DIY fire starters ideas floating around. I wanted to try a couple out and see which performed better. I'm also doing this with my 8 year old son to each him about the elements that make a good fire starter. I chose to do a wax & cotton version and a wax & saw dust version. I'm evaluating these based on a few factors: 

1: Ease of creation (with kids)
2: Ease of lighting with a ferro rod.
3: How long do the burn.
4: Simplicity of ingredients

I'll include a step by step of how to make each below, but first... How do they stack up!?

colter co fire starter smackdown-01.jpg

After trying both of these I like them both for different reasons. The wax & cotton fire starters are super easy to make. They are compact, water resistant and easy to light with a ferro rod. Either of these fire starters would be super easy to light with matches or a lighters.

The advantage of the wax & saw dust fire starters is the burn time. They burn a very long time. Living in the Pacific Northwest one of the major concerns for getting a fire started is working with damp wood. Having a full 13 minutes of burn time to work with gives you a much stronger chance of burning some of the moisture out of damp wood and getting a good blaze going. 

Now for the How To:

WAX & COTTON FIRE STARTERS

Using a double boiler melt wax or paraffin in an empty tin can. I opted for the tin can option because I didn't feel like getting murdered by my wife for ruining another pan :) It makes clean up easy... just toss the can into the recycling bin. I used 6 votive candles to make 22 fire starts.

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Cover a cookie sheet with a layer of parchment paper. Once the wax is melted dip 100% cotton rounds into the wax briefly. Let the excess wax drip off back into the can before placing them on the parchment paper to cool. I recommend holding the can over the parchment paper to avoid creating a trail of dripped wax. 

colter co fire starter
colter co fire starter

That's really about it! Once they cool they're ready to put into your fire starting kit for your next outing. When you use them, you can tear them in half to stretch them farther if you need to. Rough up the cotton fibers as fluffy as you can get them if you're using a ferro rod to start these.

colter co fire starter
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WAX & SAW DUST FIRE STARTERS

Find a couple empty paper towel tubes or toilet paper tubes. Mark 1" increments along the tube. Cut along those lines to create 1" cardboard discs. These serve as molds for the saw dust. 

colter co fire starter
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Fill the molds with dry saw dust on parchment or wax paper. Pack it in as well as you can. Next melt the wax in a doubler boiler as described in the wax & cotton directions. Carefully pour the wax over the saw dust. Remember that sometimes when you pour liquids slowly then can drip down the front of the can and off the bottom. Just make sure that you have both potential drip points over the parchment paper before you start pouring. 

colter co fire starter
colter co fire starter

Let them cool down and then peel the cardboard tube off and they're ready to go! I used a little bit of shaved magnesium with the ferro rod to get these going. Again, with a match or a lighter these things would light up like a Christmas tree. 

colter co fire starter
colter co fire starter

This image does a good job of showing the difference in flame between these two. The wax & cotton burned really well, but the wax & saw dust burned really high and long. If you feel up to taking the extra steps and mess, the saw dust is pretty great! I feel like the combination of the two is pretty solid as well. If you put even a quarter of the cotton fire starter on top for a quick easy light and a big chunk of the saw dust and wax on the bottom you'd be set. 

Let me know if you have a favorite DIY fire starter! 

instructional video

DIY Wilderness Fire Starter

The stage between getting that initial timid flame and a fully established fire can be one of the most challenging. It's where a lot of fires go out. Especially in wet conditions. This video will help you get past that danger zone consistently with just materials you can find in nature. Never worry about getting a fire going again! 

instructional article

DIY Wood Gasifier Backpacking Stove

----------   UPDATE 3/20/17   -----------

I've discovered an on the market option for wood burning backpacking stoves! The Firebox Nano 3" is amazing. It folds flat to be only 1/4" thick and weighs only 6 oz for the steel version or 4 oz for the titanium version. It can boil a cup of water in under 4 minutes and it runs on twigs! And in keeping with our brand ethos, it's made in the U.S.A. I like it so much that I've decided to over it in our shop. Click here to check it out. 

Now back to the previous journal entry:
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wood-gasifier-backpacking-stove

As promised, I am reporting on my wood gasifier backpacking stove build. I took a few designs and morphed them together. I have tried a couple other versions in the past that failed because I tried to scale them down too small. This time I used a standard 14.5 oz can for the inside can and a 28 oz can for the outside can. The first step is to cut a hole in the base of the larger can so the smaller can will fit inside of it snuggly. Trace the diameter of the small can on the bottom of the large can and drill small holes about 0.5" in from there all the way around the lid. Then use wire cutters to cut the space in between those holes until the center falls out. Then trim up to the line drawn about every quart of an inch to make flanges that will fold down. AFTER you get the small can drilled, it will slide through that hole and fit nice and snug. Make sure to drill it first! I'll get to that part now. 

The key to getting this thing to work is airflow. I started by drilling 8 - 0.5" holes around the base of the outside can and the base of the inside can. Then drill 16 - 0.25" hole about 0.5" down from the top of the inside can. This design creates a vortex between the can and the hot gases/smoke jet back out of the smaller holes and into the flame. It ends up reburning the smoke and gases so it's very efficient and mostly smoke free. And it looks pretty cool as it burns. 

wood-gasifier-backpacking-stove
wood-gasifier-backpacking-stove

I did a couple test burns and found that it's best to load this thing backwards. Put the larger pieces in the bottom, then the smaller items, shavings and last the tinder. I used a bundle of twine fiber and a knot of twin soaked in wax. The fine fibers ignited quickly from the fire steel (This fire steel is part of a new product R&D. Don't tell anyone, it's a secret...) and the wax soaked knot burns long enough to catch the shavings under it. It ends up burning down until the larger items are all burning well. It makes for a lot less effort feeding the fire. I was using cedar and it burned pretty quickly. If you have access to it, I'd recommend hardwood chips. 

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wood-gasifier-backpacking-stove
wood-gasifier-backpacking-stove
Fire-starter-wax-twine
colter-co-fire-starter-fire-steel

I also built a little pot stand out of a tuna can. The pot stand fits inside the bottom of the stove for storage.  In my test run I could get 2 cups of water to boil in about 12 minutes. It was pretty chilly and windy that day, so I think under better conditions (and with hardwood) I could get a boil going in less time. Still not bad for what it is. 

wood-gasifier-backpacking-stove
wood-gasifier-backpacking-stove
wood-gasifier-backpacking-stove
wood-gasifier-backpacking-stove

Overall I am very happy with the design. I will be taking it on my next outing and really put it through it's paces.  When not in use, the stove packs up nicely and fits inside the pot I use for backpacking. Very compact and light weight. 

Let me know if you've had success with a similar design.