The Great Outdoors



Do’s and Don’ts of

makin’ ‘em

Everyone laughs when I tell them I teach Boy Scouts the secret to making a campfire using two sticks of wood, is to make sure one of them is a match. It gets a lot of laughs at most parties and frowns from the wife. I tell her it’s a guy thing. Anyway, I don’t like to build a fire under any kind of handicap like rain, wind, snow, sleet, hail, wet wood, etc., without first preparing to build that fire in my mind at home and having the makin’s of a campfire start-up with me in my fire-bag. I suggest you never leave home without one.

My fire bag is made from a woman’s leather purse but of course it doesn’t look like a woman’s purse, more like a frontiersman’s possible bag, which I will cover later on. Inside I have matches in a waterproof container (pill bottles are great for this), a Ziploc bag that contains several wads of aspirin bottle cotton, flint and steel, some charred cotton cloth, a magnesium bar with an old knife, a large magnifying glass (the flexible kind that you can use to read a whole printed page), a few cheap cigarette lighters in a Ziploc bag, and a big handful of homemade ‘fire starters’. All of this is in a large Ziploc bag to keep it dry in case it gets dunked in a lake or stream.

When I was growing up, our Boy Scout troop would make fire starters and we never thought of having problems or how dangerous it was; we just made them and somehow we never had an accident, started an accidental fire, or had a hot wax explosion. We were lucky. Now I would say don’t do this guys without adult supervision and use double boilers to melt the wax instead of melting it in a tin can over open flames like we did. I’ll tell you how we made them but I think you’ll go along with making the ones like I make now.

The first kind we made by cutting up strips of newspapers, rolling them up, and tying them with string. We left a long piece of string on each one so that we could dunk them into melted wax and then hang them up to dry (cool).

The next kind was made by typing a piece of string to a pine cone and soaking it in the hot wax and then hanging it up to cool.

The next kind was made by putting a muffin paper in each section of a muffin pan and placing a pinecone in each one. We’d then pour the melted wax into each muffin paper containing a pinecone. We’d let them cool and pop them out and put them in a special canvas bag to take camping with us. We could light the wettest wood with these.

The next kind we made using the muffin paper and muffin pan method but we put sawdust in the cups instead of pinecones. We’d saturate the sawdust with melted wax and let them cool like the pinecone method.

Now I recommend Scouts use the safe method I’ve developed for making fire starters. I buy one of the compressed sawdust and paraffin logs that you can find at most grocery stores, drug stores, and hardware stores for about a buck or two depending on the size and brand you buy. Next break up the log and stuff pieces of the log into small wax impregnated three-ounce paper drinking cups until they are half full. Fold the sides of the paper cup inward which will seal the pieces of log inside. When you go to light the ‘safe’ fire starters, all you have to do is to fold the sides out and light the sides which will act like a wick to get the wax log pieces started which will in turn light the wood in your campfire. This is the method I recommend. It’s cheap, easy, and most of all SAFE to do. Happy camping.

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Ray McCune

He has lived in Waynedale for over 45 years. He has taken to his lifelong dream of being a full time Outdoor Freelance Writer and author. Ray has authored one book and has written Kampfire Kookin' as well as other outdoors articles for the newspaper. > Read Full Biography > More Articles Written By This Writer