Introduction: Firestarter

About: I'm a maker going to school for mechanical engineering at South Dakota State University.

This firestarter design is a project that I have been working on for almost a year. This is not an especially easy to make firestarter, but it is very effective. It is rock solid, self lighting, burns for 10+ minutes, has a large flame, it is wind and rain resistant, it is almost smokeless, and finally, it has been designed for a high release of Btu's.

The ingredients that I use along with the reasons why are as follows:

Egg carton because it is effective at binding together the firestarter and is good at wicking the fluid.

Coffee grounds because they contain more Btu's than sawdust.

A mixture of isopropyl alcohol and paraffin wax because the alcohol gives it an intense burn, and the paraffin wax adds burn time and many more Btu's. This mixture also burns almost without smoke which is nice for indoor fireplaces.

Strike anywhere matches because they allow me to start a fire without having to bring matches.

And finally, I use a cloth wick because it helps me to light the firestarter easier.

I have settled on this design thorough the process of many experiments and trials, but please feel free to put your own twist on this basic design. You might try adding magnesium or powdered aluminum, or some other liquid to the base. Let's get down to business.

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Step 1: Assemble Your Supplies


- Can

- Blender

- Measuring cup

- Scissors

- Wire rack

- Teaspoon

- Small dish

- Pot

- Cloth

- Small jar


- Egg carton

- Used coffee grounds

- Water

- Cloth

- UCO strike anywhere matches

- 91% Isopropyl Alchohol

- Paraffin Wax

Step 2: Carton Base

Start by tearing up an egg carton and putting the pieces into a can. Then fill the can with water and put something in it to keep the pieces submerged. Leave it overnight to soak.

Step 3: Blending the Base

The next day, add the soaked egg carton pieces to the blender along with just enough water for your blender to blend them. Blend well, and pour this mixture into a dish. Measure out 1/3 cup blended egg carton and 2/3 cup used coffee grounds and put these components into the blender along with just enough water to get it to blend. Thanks to Dunn Brothers coffee, I was able to get a whole tub of used coffee grounds for free.

Step 4: Form the Firestarters

Measure out 1/3 cup of this mixture and squeeze it into a circular shape. It should release a lot of water and be roughly the size of a golf ball. Then cut a triangular piece of cloth and trim three UCO strike anywhere matches to the length of slightly less than the height of your firestarter. I highly recommend using UCO strike anywhere matches because they work much better than other brands of strike anywhere matches that I have tried. Then roll these three into the triangular cloth and split apart your firestarter, putting the rolled up cloth with matches in the middle of it. Then squeeze the firestarter back together. You will need to run the firestarter beneath some water to make it soft so you can work it back togeather.

Step 5: Drying

Set your firestarters on a drying rack and put the drying rack somewhere warm and dry. I put mine over a heating vent. After approximately 48 hours on the heater, the firestarters should feel dry and raspy and be noticeably lighter. It is then time to add the flammable mixture.

Step 6: Finishing

Measure out 3 1/2 teaspoons of 91% Isopropyl alcohol (you can find this at many stores in the pharmacy section, it is simply the highest concentration of isopropyl alcohol that I have found readily available), and pour this onto each of the firestarters. Put paraffin wax in a jar and put a cloth on the bottom of your pot. Fill the pot with water and bring it to a boil. Put the jar in the pot and when all of the wax in the jar has melted, drop a firestarter into the wax and leave it there until it sinks, then pull it out and let it cool. Finally, drop the firestarter into the wax, pull it out and let it cool twice more to completely waterproof it.

You are finished! To light your firestarter, just pull out one of the matches and strike it on a rough surface, then light the cloth wick. You might make up a whole bunch of these and use them on campouts, grilling events, or to boil a pot of water.

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2 Discussions


4 years ago

Need I ask the purpose of the alcohol? I understand it is flammable but boiling in hot wax would vaporize it out of the fire starter. Also, have you had any issues striking a wax coated match? Perhaps clogging of the striking strip to where it no longer functions?

Austin Noble
Austin Noble

Reply 4 years ago

The alcohol gives my firestarter design a more intense burn with a higher flame than it would have with wax alone. Also, adding the alcohol to my firestarter before soaking it in wax allows for little to no alcohol evaporation while in the wax. I use strike anywhere matches, and so I have had no issues with wax+matches mixture. The wax waterproofs and still allows for easy striking on rough surfaces. Thanks for your questions!