How to make firestarters from cardboard boxes

How to make firestarters from cardboard boxes

Making firestarters from recycled cardboard containers

Next to newspapers, cardboard food container boxes are likely to take up the most space in the recycle bin. If you have a fire place or a wood stove, you can easily convert these into easy to use fire starters. They are also great to carry along on camping trips or for starting up the grill.

What makes these firestarters so easy to make and so efficient to use is that food quality storage boxes, like those that frozen dinners and milk come in, are coated with wax. By shredding the containers and packing the debris into hallow paper tubes, you can quickly and easily make great firestarters.

So, gather up all those carboard cereral boxes, frozen dinner boxes, ice cream boxes and all other food grade storage boxes and let’s get started making firestarters from recycled cardboard containers.

Tip: Shred any unwanted newspapers and mail to mix in with the debris. You can also use empty cardboard egg cartons and even mix in some well-dried fruit pits, wood chips, and even saw dust to make your firestarters more interesting.


Step 1

Step 1: Materials

This is a fun project and a great allowance earner for the kids. This project will work with a lot of materials, but clean and dry materials is a necessity.

First, collect all the cardboard food containers, newspapers, unwanted mail (NO magazine glossy colored paper), egg cartons. If you want to add sawdust and, or the dried pits of stone fruit, such as cherries, peaches, or plums, be sure that it they are well-dried and mold free.

There is no need to add melted wax, such as crayons or parafin using this method. It only requires a little elbow grease and a few common office tools.

Step 2

Step 2: Cutting and shredding

Use your paper cutter to cut apart the food container boxes, cereral boxes or whatever you’re going to use, into stips that will fit nicely into your paper shredder. A paper shredder that will handle at least 10 sheets of paper does a really nice job. If your paper shredder also includes a CD shredder, so much the better, as this will handle any thick cardboard. Just remember not to overload the shredder’s cutting assembly and be sure to empty the collection basket often.

Step 3

Packing the cuttings

Once you have collected a good quantity of cuttings, say a bushel or so, it’s time to begin mixing and packing. If you are going to mix waxed cardboard cuttings with paper cuttings, now is the time. A good point to start is a 40-60 blend, but you can experiment with it and see what works best for you.

If you are going to add sawdust or fruit pits, you should try a lower mixture, say 20-80 to begin with. You must be sure that the sawdust and fruit pits are completely dry, or else they won’t burn as well as you would like. Now that your mixture is decide upon and blended together accordingly it’s time to begin packing.

Tip: You can fold in one end of the cardboard tube to act as a barrier at the bottom. The trick here is to take an egg carton, cardboard, of course, and cut out one egg cup and then inserting it into the cardboard tube. Use the stick to push it all the way to the bottom of the tube. Next pack the cutting mixture inside the tube.

Packing refers to the process of scooping up handfuls of the mixture of cardboard and paper cuttings (and sawdust and fruit pits, of course) and working it into the empty cardboard tubes left from paper towel roll, bathroom tissue rolls, wax paper rolls or any other similar cardboard rolls. Use a stiff rod or stick to pack the mixture into the container. If you have a paint roller handle extension, you will find that it works great for this. However, you can use just about anything to compress the cuttings as firmly as you can.

Once the tube is filled and packed nearly to the top, fold the top of the tube to the inside to hold the mixture in place. If you like you could cut a cardboard circle about the size of a quarter and fit it inside, or use another egg cup for this.

One suggestion for finding a suitable quantity of cardboard tubes is to locate a carpet installer or commercial carpet outlet as a source for heavy duty cardboard rolls. These are used in the center of rolls of linoleum and carpet. These might be too large for use as a fire starter, but if you later decide to move up to making your own firelogs, they will prove quite useful.

Step 4

Ready to burn

Short or long, the firestarters will burn hot when ignited due to the wax coating on the cardboard. The finer the cardboard is cut, the better, but the cuttings produced from a paper shredder work just fine.

So, there you have it. You have used your previously discarded or recycled cardboard for making firestarters that work wonder in the wood stove, fireplace, while camping or even for firing up the Bar-B. Enjoy — and of course improve as you will.

Things Needed
• A paper shredder, heavy duty.
• Clean and dry food container cardboard boxes.
• Cardboard paper towel and bathroom tissue rolls.
• A paper cutter.
• Clean egg cartons.
• A rod of some sort to press the cuttings into the paper rolls (try using a paint roller handle extension).

Tips & Warnings
• It’s imperative that all materials be clean and dry
• Children must be supervised when using a paper cutter.
• Be careful not to overload your paper shredder.
• Never add any chemical or liquid ignition fuel to the mixture.
• Store your finished fire starters and materials in a dry location, preferably one where mice and other household pests won’t be able to reach them.


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