A while ago I started using these as an alternative to commercial firelighters, and found that they work really well. The advantages over commercial firelighters (such as "Redheads" brand) that are made from parafin wax and kerosine are:
- They make use of rubbish that would otherwise go into landfil
- They work just as well as the ones you buy from the shop
- They don't have that nasty kerosine smell when you light them
- They're really really cheap.
So, now that I've convinced you, let's begin!
Step 1: You Will Need ...
You won't need very much at all, in fact, just some:
- Dry used paper towels (you can use clean ones, but the idea here is to reuse as much as possible)
- Fat. Any fat will do, used vegetable oil from frying, skimmed-off fat from bolegnaise sauce, any animal or vegetable fat that you would otherwise throw in the bin.
It isn't vital that the paper towels are completely dry, but they won't work if they are dripping wet. They have to be able to absorb the fat.
Step 2: Dollop It Out
Put some fat in the middle of a paper towel sheet. About a teaspoon is probably enough. You can add a little more if you want a longer burn time, but the towel shouldn't be dripping with oil when you are finished
Step 3: Fold It Up
That's pretty much it. Fold the towel sheet up, alternating the folds so that the fat winds up right in the middle of the package that you are making. Give it a bit of a squeeze to distribute the fat more evenly
Step 4: Burn Baby Burn
Now the firelighters are ready to use. You can store them in a plastic bag or some other container, although animal fat will start to smell a bit musty after a few weeks.
They work a bit like a candle, in fact I got the idea from the ancient oil lamps used thousands of years ago (think of Alladdin's lamp). The paper acts as a wick that allows the fat to burn without running all over the place. Because the fat is contained, it takes longer to burn, giving the wood in the fireplace time to catch fire.
A good teaspoon of oil or fat will burn about the same length of time as a commercial firelighter, and it doesn't have that nasty kerosine smell!
I've also tried making them with other paper such as cardboard. They do work, but not quite as well. Reconstituted cardboard such as egg containers works better because it is porous, but paper towel works best.