Fire is a light in the dark, the hearth of the home, a place to congregate and enjoy one another’s company. Nothing ruins the vibe of a bonfire under the stars or a warm crackling fire in the home like squirting lighter fluid from a plastic container onto some logs and cautiously reaching your lighter in until it explodes into a ball of flame. Sure, you end up where you were going, but there’s got to be a better way! *shrugs helplessly at camera* What if I told you there was a simple solution to this fire starting predicament that doesn’t involve merit badges, flint, or volatile organic compounds? All you need are some pine cones and wax to get started. Pinecones have long been used in arts and crafts in regions where these spiky cones are plentiful, they are also excellent as tinder AKA small dry organic bits that are easy to light to get the bigger logs on your fire going. And why not kick these cones up a notch with some oils for scent and a bit of wick for ease of lighting? Well go on, take a hike and round up your supplies, then follow along with this simple DIY, so you can get on your way to toasty marshmallows and campfire stories. Sometimes, the old ways are better. 🔥
Pine Cones \ the bigger and dryer the better. If they aren’t dry, you can throw them in the oven as low as it will go for an hour or so.
Beeswax \ a great wax that burns nice and clean. Alternatively, you can thrift some ugly candles or grab some cheap ones at the dollar store.
Cotton String \ any color, any thickness. The key is a natural cotton material.
Double Boiler \ put simply, is a heat safe bowl sat on top of a pot of water. You can use any pot and bowl you have, but I’d recommend thrifting a bowl for your double boiler for use in your wax projects so you don’t have to worry about cleanup and contaminating your regular cooking gear. A metal soup can also works as a disposable bowl. And, of course, there are specific double boilers that fit together perfectly and can be found thrifting if you’re lucky!
Essential Oils \ just a fun bonus to spice things up, the fragrant component is especially nice if you’re giving them as a gift.
I know where all of the good cone spots are in my neck of the woods ‘cause I collect them each year. But for the beginner, just keep an eye out for large pine trees on your outdoor adventures. Seek out larger parks and nature preserves where more mature forests can be found. Usually you will find cones scattered on the ground around pokey trees. We’re looking for cones that are a good size, have popped open, and are dry. If you’re only finding small cones, no problem, we can work with that. 🌲
2 Prepare the Cones
You’ve got your dry cones and they’re itchin’ to be turned into firestarters. Last thing we need to do is add a wick. Adding a wick is both a handy thing to hold when you dip and makes it easy to light when you’re building your fire. Wrap the string in the spikes of the cone at its base and tie a simple double knot. Then wrap up through the spikes of the cone till the string is at the top of the cone. If you foraged smaller cones, bundle them into a lovely bouquet of three using your string. 🧶
3 Prepare the Double Boiler and Drying Rack
Add water to the bottom pot of your double boiler. Enough so that when you set the upper pot on top, its bottom touches the water. Bring to a boil and add your solid wax to the dry upper pot and let it slowly melt till fully liquid. In the meantime, lay some sheets of wax paper on a counter space next to your double boiler. The closer, the better. Let’s try and have zero wax drips on the stove or the counter, please. 💧
4 Fragrance and Dip
The cones are prepped, the wax is melted, and the drying location is set. Don’t forget to add a few drops of your fave essential oil, if you’re feeling up to it. I’m partial to cinnamon, peppermint, and anise. Why not? Now is the fun and simple part. Working in batches, dip and gently shake the exes wax off the cone and let solidify on the wax paper. Dip all of the cones in each batch twice to get a nice coat. ✌🏼
The cones will dry quick enough on the wax paper. By the time you have everything else cleaned up, your new fire starters will be ready to store. Leave in a basket with your bonfire and s’more supplies or by your fireplace for ease of use. A bowl of pine cone fire starters is a cozy decorative element perfect for any space. 👀
6 Building the Bonfire
I’ll share a few of my fire starting tips for those out there who are new. Everything will be a breeze, if you are starting with properly cut and dried firewood. Don’t expect to pick up damp wood or to cut live branches from trees and easily start a fire. If you have good firewood, you can build the fire right on top of one of your newly created fire starters. I recommend building a log cabin (pictured) or tipi to make sure there is good air flow through the fire and give the end of the string on your fire starting cone a light. It will start slow in comparison to lighter fluid, but it’s worth the wait. Enjoy the good vibes! 🔥