How to Make Pine Cone Fire Starters
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Pine cone fire starters can offer a safe and reliable option when it comes to getting a good fire started in your fireplace, outdoor oven, or wood stove.
Pine cones themselves burn well when dry, and can serve as helpful kindling. By adding a wick and dipping the pine cone in beeswax, you amplify that effect, allowing you to light just one spot and create a full roaring fire in minutes.
Making pine cone fire starters is a quick and easy project. You can make a big basket full to keep you going throughout the winter, or you can make smaller baskets to give to family and friends as gifts!
If you can source the pine cones from your own yard or that of a friend or neighbor, this can be an incredibly inexpensive project too.
Before you Start
- Your pine cones should be dry; otherwise they can cause popping in the fire. If you aren’t sure they are completely dry, you can place them on a sheet pan in your oven (lined with parchment paper in case of any sap leakage) at the lowest temperature setting (150-200 degrees) for about an hour.
- Be sure to use pine cone fire starters carefully and responsibly. Too much wax in your fireplace is not a great outcome, so be sure to use them sparingly and make sure that the fire gets nice and hot for a while to use up that wax when you first get it started.
- We specifically use beeswax for our fire starters because beeswax burns much more cleanly than other types of wax. This is especially important if you are lighting a fire in a fireplace that is not completely closed. We don’t advise burning paraffin wax, for example, and allowing it’s toxic fumes to permeate your living room.
- Melting any kind of wax can make a mess of your pots and pans and utensils. If you plan to do multiple projects it can help to have dedicated tools. If not, be sure to clean the pots and pans out while the wax is still in liquid form – use paper towels to absorb as much as possible and throw them in the trash – do not put a bunch of wax down your sink drain!
- As always, advice provided on Homestead How-To is based on what we have found works for ourselves. You may want to do your own research to make sure pine cone fire starters are a good option for your particular stove, fireplace, or other venue.
- A double boiler to melt the wax (or a pot with a ceramic or metal bowl that fits on top of it);
- 1 lb beeswax (for this project, you can use any variety of beeswax from locally sourced to what you can find online or at a craft store)
- 10-12 pine cones (you can really use any size, but we like to make medium to large ones that will burn a little bit longer to get things going). See note above – make sure your pine cones are dry.
- One small package braided candle wick (you’ll want about 6 inches per cone).
- A sheet pan and parchment paper to lay your pine cones on to dry.
Step 1: Melt the Wax
Put 1-2 inches of water in the bottom of your double boiler, then put the wax in the top section. Cover, and place over medium heat on the stove top until the beeswax is completely melted. If you are using a block of beeswax, it can help to cut it into smaller pieces first.
Step 2: Tie Wicks to Cones
While the wax is melting, cut 6 inch pieces of braided candle wick and tie them onto your pine cones, weaving them in about 1/3 of the way from the end of the cone, and tying with one end left long and the other left short. This will serve as your wick when lighting but also makes a handy string for the dipping process.
Step 3: Dip the Cones into the Wax
Your goal when dipping the cones is to create a light layer of wax and to cover the cone as well as the wick (up to where your fingers are holding it). If your cones are too big to be dipped into the wax all at once, simply dip one side at a time. I find counting to about 10 seconds for each dip results in plenty of wax.
Step 4: Allow the Cones to Dry
Let the hot wax drip off of your cone over the double boiler before transferring your dipped cone onto parchment paper covering a sheet pan. Allow to dry for a few hours until the wax is no longer soft.
Voila – your pine cone fire starters are ready!
If you’re gifting the pine cones, or even if you’re keeping them yourself, it can be fun to place them in a rustic basket with a ribbon so that they can be an attractive addition to your living room or wood storage area.
How to use Pine Cone Fire Starters
The basic premise of the pine cone fire starter is easy – you place the pine cone among your kindling when starting a new fire and then all you have to do is light the wick and watch your fire come to life.
However, we have found that building a fire “top down” – i.e. with the larger logs on the bottom and the kindling on top – creates a cleaner and more effective burn.
When using this method, you can place the larger logs on the bottom, add a few pieces of kindling, insert your pine cone fire starter, then add more kindling on top.
This way your fire starter is nestled right in the middle of your other materials. It will help to start the kindling, and won’t immediately melt onto the bottom of your fireplace or wood stove.
We have found that a pine cone fire starter can help to get a fire roaring within 5 minutes in our wood stove, much more reliably than newspaper!
Remember to keep a strong burn going, especially at the beginning, to ensure that the wax is used up and your fire is burning cleanly and efficiently.