More fire starter ideas

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Dennis Clay

This is the last of a two-part series about making fire starters. We backtrack a bit and then continue.

A few cotton balls were placed in a bag filled with the petroleum jelly. He kneaded or massaged the bag, causing the cotton balls to become saturated.

Next, he retrieved one cotton ball and began to stretch it in all directions, explaining the more area exposed, the easier it will be to start a fire. The flattened and saturated cotton ball was placed on the ground. It easily began to burn when a burning match touched it.

This demonstration has changed my way of preparing fire starters. My first approach to making them was to acquire a bunch of wax. Then two buckets of sawdust were filled from the woodworking shop at the high school.

The plan was to melt the wax and add the sawdust. A few egg cartons were saved as a place to pour the mixed wax and sawdust. This plan was discarded after learning about the cotton and petroleum jelly trick.

A resealable bag filled with saturated cotton balls was carried in my backpack and another was placed in the Death Ram. These would be available whenever needed. This worked for a couple of years.

Another idea appeared one day when the extra egg cartons were re-discovered in the shed. A cotton ball, with petroleum on top, was placed in each egg compartment. Just tear off an egg section from the carton and start the fire. This worked OK, but the experiments continued.

The next experiment involved adding the sawdust to the jelly in each egg section. This also worked.

Was a cotton ball really needed? The answer was no. Was the sawdust needed? No. Was the egg carton needed? The answer is yes.

Both a large and a small amount of jelly was placed on a larger piece of wood in my fire pit. Neither wouldn’t ignite. However, spreading a small amount of jelly between two pieces of paper served well to start a fire. A mixture of sawdust and jelly was placed on the wood without the egg carton. It ignited and burned well.

My analysis of the experiments is the jelly needs some form of easily flammable material, such as the paper, the sawdust or the egg carton section, to allow it to burn.

There is a downside to using an egg carton or a piece of paper. The jelly leaks or percolates or oozes through both. The use of the resealable bag will still be needed. This can be accomplished by tearing the egg sections from the carton after the addition of the jelly. Then placing them in a bag.

There is an even easier way to carry the jelly fire starters. Simply carry the jelly alone. Trouble is, the jar the jelly comes in is not completely sealable. The jar used in the experiments was left in the back of the Ram. It fell over and leaked.

The experimenting with fire starters will continue. My next move is to place a sizeable amount of jelly in a sealable plastic container. Some sort of tinder, paper or sawdust perhaps, will be placed in a resealable plastic bag.

The tinder and jelly can be mixed as needed. Or the sealable plastic container will be filled with a mixture of sawdust and jelly. Matches and the jelly mixture could also be sealed in a FoodSaver bag.

My buddy had a moose tag, a few years ago, and downed one north of Colville. There were four us along for the hunt in one of the other guy’s pickup.

One of them asked me to start a fire, to warm hands, as the other three began to gut the moose. There was snow on the ground and everything was wet.

My fire starter and other fire-making tools were in my Ram in Colville. The fire was eventually started, after much effort. Lesson learned: Not only should a hunter have some sort of fire starter in his backpack, especially in cold and snowy conditions, but the hunter should always make sure the backpack is with him when he might need it.

OK, so a final way to carry a fire starter has been realized. A smallish plastic container, such as a mustard squirt bottle, was filled with a mixture of jelly and sawdust. The idea was to be able to simply squirt some of the mixture to start the fire.

The mixture is too thick to squirt on a warm day, plus in a cold setting, such as when hunting in snow, the jelly will be thicker yet. But the lid can be removed and the mixture retrieved with a stick or pocket knife.

Remember, being able to start a fire may save a life, maybe yours.

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