Dead Simple Camp Fire Starter




This all may be very common knowledge, but I thought I would share anyway. I've seen lots of camp fire starting products online and in stores. Some look promising, some don't. So in true Instructables fashion I figured I would just make my own. This idea works off of the old trick of starting a fire with fine steel wool and an 9 volt battery. Read on.

Step 1: Gather Your Materials

Three simple and common items are needed:

Steel Wool
Cotton Balls
9 Volt battery

Steel wool comes in several grades. You will need a fine (thin) grade for this to work. I have chosen grade 000. Other grades may work as well. I found my steel wool in the painting section of my local Miejer store for three dollars. I'm sure you could also find this at places like Wal-Mart, K-Mart or any hardware store.

The cotton balls can be found almost every where, I paid one dollar for a giant bag at my local dollar store.

The 9 volt battery can be found most anywhere as well. I paid three dollars for mine. 

Step 2: Getting Ready

Simply pull off a length of steel wool and wrap it around  a single cotton ball. To keep this dry in your camping bag you could store it in an old film canister or any zip lock bag.

Step 3: Light It Up

When you are ready to use your fire starter unroll it. I also fluff up the cotton ball to increase the surface area. Take your 9 volt battery and rub the two leads gently across the steel wool. The steel wool will become hot and ignite the cotton. At this point start pilling on dry leaves or small twigs and build from there.

Step 4: Conculsion

This is a very simple way to get a fire going, and most of you may already know about it. It is also very cheap and reliable though. The 9 volt battery should be able to ignite many bundles of cotton and steel wool before it dies out. I hope this info has proven useful to someone. Feel free to leave comments, but remember this is my first Instructable so take it easy on me.



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    9 Discussions


    5 years ago on Introduction

    why don't you just put it in a plastic bag to keep the water out, why use steel wool? I get splinters with the wool. It just seems like an awful lot of trouble. I make mine with wax and lint or shavings, water proof.


    5 years ago on Introduction

    Very well done Instructable.

    It might be possible to coat petroleum jelly onto the steel wool to water-proof it, or wrapping it inside the coated cotton wads, to prevent rusting from damp or humidity. From my "pyrotechnical and/or pyromaniacal -inclined" experiences in Scouting (thankfully, the Statute of Limitations has now expired on MOST of them), very little of the steel wool needs to ignite to create a conflagration, so maintaining a complete circuit throughout is not critical. Also, this is an excellent mix of materials for use with flint & steel.

    I would offer one caution though; ALWAYS store steel wool SAFELY separate and insulated from any ignition source; electrical current, spark or otherwise. Steel wool burns at temperatures northwards of 2400° F, making it one of those burning materials you most definitely would NOT enjoy trying to extinguish by slapping at it with your hands (gloved or not).


    5 years ago on Introduction

    Thank you for the GREAT instructable! I came upon this serendipitously, and am so pleased to have done so. Your (well-)written instructions are clear and easy to understand (that goes double for your photos). This is one set of instructions I feel confident I'll remember - no small feat!

    [ps - Pfarmkid, I had the same thought, but thought mole instead of rat!]


    7 years ago on Step 4

    This sounds great and I will certainly try it. I have my own totally waterproof fire starters that float so they are very handy on the trail. You take abour 4 sheets of newspaper and keeping them together cut into 11/2 inch strips. Take 4 strips at a time and roll them into a tight roll. Tie a twist tie around them leaving some sticking out which will serve as a handle. In a double boiler melt any kind of wax and then soak the rolls for 10 or 14 minutes. Take them out, and allow them to harden. I generally leave the twist ties on to hold for easy lighting but you don't have to. Put them in your car, your pocket, your backpack. When you wan't to light it start to unfray the end and it will catch on fire on the windiest, wettest days.

    1 reply

    7 years ago on Introduction

    Anyone try this with lower voltage? (like cell phone battery?)

    Sorry, I should have started with "thanks, and very cool," since it is.

    if you soak the cotton in petrolium jelly (vasoline) it'll burn for longer with a more sustained flame. i use these kind of fire starters all of the time!


    7 years ago on Introduction

    Very nice! I'd never heard of this one.