Dry pine cones have always made good tinder for starting fires. Dipping them in wax makes them even better by allowing them to burn longer to give your fire a faster start. Waxed pine cone fire starters are easy to make, useful, and they do double-duty as attractive room décor and gifts for family and friends. Here’s everything you need to know to make your own:
- Dry pine cones – Collect them outdoors or bags of pine cones can be purchased at many craft stores.
- Candle wax – Can use paraffin, crayons, beeswax, old candle scraps, or soy wax. 1 pound of wax should cover about a dozen pine cones.
- String or candle wick
- Candle fragrance oil or scented wax cubes (only if scent is desired)
- Aluminum foil or wax paper
- Wooden spoon for stirring wax
- A heat-proof container such as Pyrex glass, old metal pot, or a large metal coffee or food can, that can be set in a skillet or saucepan of water.
1. Start by shaking off any loose debris from the pine cones. Any type of pine cone can be used, but larger ones with more open space will hold more wax and are more attractive if you’re making them as gifts.
2. Take string and wrap it 3-4 times around the pine cone from the bottom to the top. Try to weave it between the layers of the pine cone to help keep it secure. Tie a knot around the top and leave a few extra inches of string to create a wick. You can light the pine cone from the wick when you’re ready to use it.
3. Fill your skillet or saucepan about a quarter of the way with water. It’s best to use pots and utensils that won’t be used for food. You can look for inexpensive cookware at discount or thrift stores to use just for your crafting projects.
4. Place the wax in your heat-safe container and set the container in the skillet/ saucepan. Also add wax coloring or crayon chips at this time. This is a great way to repurpose broken crayon bits.
5. Fragrance can also be added when melting the wax to give your finished pine cones a pleasant scent. It’s best to use fragrance oil or wax chips that are intended for use in candles since they are designed to blend properly with wax and provide a long-lasting scent. Another option is to put in a few of the scented wax cubes that are made for wax warmers. For a naturally light scent, you can sprinkle the freshly-dipped pine cone with fragrant herbs and spices such as sage, cinnamon, thyme, lavender, nutmeg, or rosemary.
6. Warm the pan on low just until the wax thoroughly melts. To keep yourself safe it’s best to turn off the heat once the wax is melted. You can rewarm the wax again as needed if it becomes too cool.
Pro tip: Slightly cooler wax will stick to the pine cone more easily, however, if a “skin” starts to form on the surface of the wax it’s getting too cool, and will need to be warmed up again. Cool wax starts to create lumps on the pine cone when you dip it, instead of a nice, smooth coating.
7. Use tongs to pick up a pine cone and dip it into the wax, thoroughly coating the pine cone. Remove and set aside on a sheet of aluminum foil or wax paper.
Pro tip: If your pine cones won’t stand on their own, stand them in small plastic or glass cups. This allows the wax to coat the pine cones more evenly. A great way to repurpose plastic applesauce or fruit cup containers!
8. Allow the dipped pine cones to cool until the wax hardens, probably around 15 minutes. You may then dip them again for a thicker coating or to get more intense color if you are using colored wax.
9. Let the finished pine cones thoroughly cool for about an hour, then they can be stored in a bag, box or basket.
10. To clean up wax residue left in the pan, re-warm the pan just until the wax starts to melt. Pour off any fluid wax and then carefully wipe out the remaining residue with paper towels. You may have to gently warm the pan a couple of times to remove the residue. Be careful not to touch the sides of the hot pan with your bare hand.
11. Finally, wash the pan in the dishwasher or in hot, soapy water.
12. The completed cones will burn for about 10 minutes. Depending on the size fire you’re trying to ignite, you may want to light multiple pine cones to get the flames roaring faster.
How to Make Your Pine Cone Fire Starters Burn in Different Colors
Before you decide to make pine cones that burn in different colors, you should know that these aren’t recommended for tossing into fires that are being used for cooking food. If grilling hot dogs on a stick and s’mores are on the menu, you’ll want to make sure any treated pine cones are thoroughly burned away before cooking.
With that said, getting your pine cones to burn in different colors is a simple process, but it requires a little planning. The pine cones need to be submerged and soaked in a solution containing certain compounds that will affect the color. Here are the different chemicals you can use and the resulting flame color. Most are easy to find at retail stores:
|Borax||Yellow to green|
|Baking soda||Yellow to Orange|
|Strontium chloride (products for saltwater aquariums)||Red|
|Calcium chloride (found in some ice melt products)||Orange|
|Potassium chloride (found in some sodium-free salt alternatives)||Purple|
1. Dump a cup of the colorant into a large bucket of warm water. Use one cup of colorant for each half-gallon of water.
2. Place the pine cones in the water and soak them overnight.
3. Let the pine cones dry thoroughly for a few days, then they’ll be ready to dip in wax to make fire starters.
A basket or bucket of pine cone fire starters looks beautiful placed near the hearth waiting for your next cozy fire. They’re so easy and inexpensive, you’ll want to make a pile to keep on hand for yourself, along with a few extras to give as gifts.
Do you enjoy making crafts with natural objects? Click here for more great DIY ideas.