Intro: The Best Fire Starter I've Ever Found, Cheap & Easy to Make Yourself
I got tired of paying 7-10$ for a box of fire starters that only worked so-so, and were not a multiple use item. It costs about $3.50 in consumables and the one time purchase of tools is less than $10.00 at the Dollar Store/Dollar General/Dollar Tree. So when comparing with commercial fire starters you are ahead in roughly 2 batches (48) fire starters. It is likely you may have the tools on hand and can be used for this purpose and your cost starting off is just consumables (wax). Well lets get started.
Step 1: The Only Consumeable You Have to Purchase
This is the wax that is available in my area. The box runs about $3.50 for 4 blocks, with my muffin tins I get 24 fire starters per box. For my muffin tins 2 blocks will fill 1 muffin tin. You can find this at you local mega mart, I get mine at Wal-mart, in the Jello/pudding isle. I'm sure there are more brands and sources but this is the easiest for me. I would imagine you could even use candle ends and melt them for a source of wax. I'm all about reusing/recycling materials.
Step 2: Sawdust Collected From Seasoned Firewood
I found this cheap aluminum cooker in my garage doing absolutely nothing. The idea here is to have any vessel that you can put under the sawdust exit of a chainsaw and collect the sawdust. Any pot/pan/bucket that suits the purpose will work, you just want to catch sawdust from your chainsaw. I get a piece of seasoned firewood and just cut slices off of it and catch the sawdust with the vessel. I would imagine you could use a trash bag/shopping bag, mop bucket or anything that will catch sawdust. The important thing here is that your sawdust be dry and from seasoned wood.
Step 3: Dryer Lint Makes This Really Easy to Light
We keep an empty Kleenex box on the top of the dryer and put our lint in it every time we clean out the lint trap. Remember we're all about reusing/recycling things around our house. The dryer lint helps get the fire starter lit well. This is not mandatory as the wax on the edge of the fire starter will light by itself but the lint seems to ensure the whole top lights evenly.
Step 4: A Pan to Melt the Wax In
We found this old pan in our camping stuff. Any old pot/pan/cooker will do. After you melt a few batches of wax in it I would not suggest using it for food preparation. Although I guess you could clean it out and reuse it but I dedicated a pan just for this purpose. Again reuse/recycle whatever you can find to meet the purpose at hand. A lot of times you can find this item at the Dollar Store/Dollar General/Dollar Tree. If you haven't figured it out yet I'm a big fan of the stores, especially in the frugal times we live in.
Step 5: Old Mini-muffin Tin Fire Starter Molds
Again I found these around the house and we were not using them for anything. There are probably a hundred different things one could use for the molds. I've seen a similar project using paper egg cartons for this, but I found that if you mold them so they will pop out whole they are wax and therefore waterproof and very hard, durable and easy size to handle. Again hit the cheap stores can probably get these for under $5.00.
Step 6: Fill Molds With Sawdust
Fill molds almost to the top, leave a bit of room for you to put dryer lint on top of the sawdust. Also you want a bit of room so when you fill molds with wax they will not overflow and will make removing the fire starters much easier.
Step 7: Adding Dryer Lint to Top of Starter
Add a healthy gob of dryer lint to act as a "fuse" to light the entire top of the fire starter, and ensure an even burn.
Step 8: Melting Wax and Spooning Into Molds
Here is where you need to be a bit careful. You just need the pan to be hot enough to melt the wax. The burner should only be 1/4 to 1/2 on if your wax starts to smoke then it's too hot. Wax doesn't need high heat to melt. Then carefully spoon melted wax into the molds until the dryer lint is saturated and you can just see the wax even with the top of the sawdust.
Step 9: Finished Molds
See how the dryer lint spreads out across the fire starters and kind of makes a cap to light the starter with. Although you can light the edge of the starter and it will work fine but it takes a bit longer for the whole top of the fire starter to start to burn.
Step 10: And Your Done
Your fire starters are done. I suggest placing the starter on a small piece of bark so as the wax melts it doesn't fall thru the grate and you don't get quite as much burn time. Here are the things I like about this type of fire starter. With seasoned sawdust as the primary fuel they are quite durable, they burn quite hot, they are water proof and you don't need a bunch of kindling to get a fire started. They will ignite a surprisingly large piece of fire wood. My next addition to this is maybe making a reloadable case out of copper plumbing pipe so one could extinguish it and not use the whole starter and maybe start a few fires with one starter. I'll keep you posted.