Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Craft: Firestarters for the depth of winter

November was so busy (wasn't it?) I'm only finally getting a chance to catch up now ... so today I want to shed a little light on a simple craft that I contributed to a craft sale/open house that the Herb Society participates in every fall at our local historical tourist attraction, Crossroads Village.

Marketed to deer widows, Ladies' Night Out is a lot of fun - the weather is a factor, but by early November the lovely Christmas lights are up at the Village, and women who attend get a preview showing, as well as all the other goodies the Village marketers and supporting organizations brew up. The Herb Society last year ran out of our complementary make-it-and-take-it heat sealed tea bags filled with lavender, and this year, we ran out of bags for our fill-your-own potpourri bags. The event gets bigger every year! and selling our crafts and baked goods helps fill our 'ways and means' coffer to spend on our programs and projects.

That said, my friend Ulrike gave me a bag of pine cones when she was clearing out her excess craft stores last summer, so I Googled around and found some recipes for good old fashioned waxed pine cone fire-starters, like the ones we made in Girl Scouts when I was a kid. This is what I came up with:

Craft Recipe: Waxed Pine Cone Fire Starters

In a double boiler, or better yet, in a Pyrex measuring cup placed in hot water in a controlled heating pot such as my dedicated former Fry Daddy, melt old candle stubs and/or canning paraffin until just liquified. Fish out the old candle wicks and discard them.
(Let me mention, melted wax is dangerous, flammable. Watch it carefully and keep the temp low - just enough to melt your wax.)

Place candy or mini-muffin sized paper cupcake liners in a mini-muffin pan. Smoosh a wad of cotton dryer lint in each cup. Carefully fill each lint/liner with some melted paraffin and set aside to dry.
Meanwhile, wrap a length of candle wicking around the bottom of each pine cone, leaving a bit to light sticking out. Dip these pine cones in the melted wax, using a tongs. While still soft, place each dipped pine cone in turn on it's own wax and lint-filled cupcake liner to dry. The melted wax dripping from the pine cones will stick the cones to the lint.

When thoroughly dry, take the whole waxed cone/lint/paper with the tongs, and dip the whole thing again in colored, scented wax. For the second, colored, dipping, I used old red, then green, candle stubs from Christmases Past. (To add depth of color, add some peeled Crayola crayons.) For a Christmas-y scent, I added a swig of cinnamon oil (find it in the candy/frosting making aisle) to the red wax, and peppermint oil to the green wax.
Allow to dry thoroughly in the mini-muffin cups. Voila!

Package for gift giving by filling the bottom of clean recycled baskets (re-gifted, thrifted, or garage sale rejects) with holiday tissue paper. Arrange the fire starters in a single layer. Add a bow or some greenery - they can be dressed quite prettily. They cost practically nothing to make, except your time.

Finally, I printed "Use and Safety" inserts to package in each basket, (you always hope that people act like adults around fire. But You Never Know!) Here is the text:

Caution: These are fire starters, NOT candles! They burn hot -with a flame- for about 20 minutes.
Use ONLY for starting fires in fireplaces and fire pits.
Expect about 2 Tablespoons (1/8th cup) of wax to melt from them, so plan accordingly. If using in a fireplace, place on a small fireproof pan to protect your firebrick from melted wax.

To use: Lay one starter on its side with the wick underneath. Light wick and edges of paper liner.
Add tinder or fatwood, larger sticks, then larger wood and logs in sequence.
Always use safety precautions around fires.
Never leave fire unattended.
Douse ashes completely when finished.

Note: Anxiety ridden mother that I am, I did a test run on the patio, so I could write with authority on the safety and use concerns ...

1 comment:

I'm So Pretty said...

Wonderful - thank you so much for the step-by-step; I've wanted to try these for years!!!