Saturday, December 5, 2009

Frugal Wood Stove Fire Starters

The wood stove I purchased through an ad on Craigslist last winter is heating my home this year.  First of all, I have to comment on this picture.  I was sitting in my chair to the side of the stove and decided to take a picture to see if the fire showed through the glass.  To my surprise when I looked at the picture there was a beautiful bluish violet Orb with a dash of light eminating from it's right side in front of the pedistal.  I quickly took another picture and the second picture shows the same Orb but it has moved up in front of the glass.  If you look closely you can see four round circles towards the upper left and in the second picture the four circles appeared again.

There are many websites on the web discussing Orbs both pro and con.  I happen to believe in them and am delighted when they appear in my photos to let me know they are visiting.  These captured me because I could see the same markings in two shots.  I know the photos are not precise in the blog but you will just have to accept that I cropped the pictures, enlarged them 200x and saved them.

If you are interested in Orbs please visit The Hamburger Universe by Dr. Miceal Ledwidth.  I know Dr. Ledwidth and can vouch for his credibility.  I do not believe Orbs are simply an anomoly of a digital camera or a dust spot.  These two photos were taken seconds apart and while there is certainly dust in my home around the woodstove (ok so I have dust all over the house I admit it) you will have to admit the first picture is remarkable.

Back to what I originally was going to write about.  I have been experimenting with methods of starting the woodstove.  Most often I take black and white newspaper (Mom saves her newspapers for me and I often pick some up at the recycle box) crumple it up into a wad and place it as a base for the kindling.  Here are some other methods I am trying:
  • Take newspaper and hold it the long way. Fold the paper into a strip and fashion the strip in a  knot.  The result is a more compact product that seems to burn less quickly as a crumpled wad of newspaper.
  • Save empty cardboard food boxes like cereal boxes.  Fill them with crumpled newspaper.
  • Roll strips of newspaper around a dowl and tie with a burnable string.  Melt some wax or candle stubs in a coffee can placed in a large pot of boiling water (wax is flamable so don't put the coffee can or pan directly on the heat or you might have a flash fire).  Dip the tubes in the wax by holding the end of the strings.  These little bundles seem to burn awhile but the kindling needs to be small to get a fire going.
  • In Girl Scouts we used to make fire starters by putting sawdust, wood shavings, crushed leaves, dry pine needles, dryer lint or pinecones into paper muffin cups placed in muffin tins.  Next we would add a piece of string or a piece of candle wick material into the middle of the muffin cup. Then we would carefully pour some melted wax over them and let them dry.
  • Another version of this theme is to use cardboard/pressed paper egg cartons and make the same fire starters.  Sometimes we did not add wicks because we did not fill them all the way and the edges of the egg carton were easy to light with a match.
  • Pine cones can be dipped in wax to make fire starters.
  • Toilet paper tubes filled with lint or sawdust or wood chipps that have a bit of wax poured into them. So now I am saving lint, egg cartons, toilet paper tubes, newspaper...hope that show Hoarders does not find out about me and come knocking at the door!!
I use some cedar shingles for kindling.  They came from a re-roofing job and are dry.  It is easy to split them with my hands to make strips.  The cedar catches on fire easily and quickly.  I also save the bark from the wood I split.  Most of the bark is doug fir and again works well as kindling.  Sometimes when I go for a walk I bring along my old stained faded yet well loved canvas tote bag (coming from New England everyone had an LL Bean boat bag) and pick up sticks that have fallen during wind storms.  There are always branches around in my area to glean if one takes the time to pick them up.  Then there is always the ax to split wood into smaller pieces.

Here in the Pacific Northwest, keeping the cord and cut wood dry is a challange.  I do have it stacked for ventilation and have it covered with plastic tarps.  At this time I do not have a wood shed but that is a consideration.  Using wood that is damp obviously takes a hotter better fire to begin with.  I do open the vents and make sure the fire box is cleaned regularly by taking the ashes out to the garden beds.  When a fire first begins with damp wood most of the energy is going to dry the wood and evaporate the water.  Not very efficient but then I don't have an oil, propane or high electricity bill.  I am planning on using the electric heat only in an emergency this year to cut costs.  I have mentioned before in postings that I have lived with wood stoves in the past as well as pellet stoves.  I prefer the wood stove.

Here are a couple of sites to visit regarding starting the woodstove Missouri Extension Education , Wood Heat  that you might find helpful.  Also here is a funny posting on what not to do.  This gal did not use enough kindling to get a fire going.  Just stuffing more newspaper only makes a flash and does not catch logs. Chickens In The Road

I mentioned dryer lint as a fire starter.  This fluffy stuff should not be thrown away!  For goodness sakes it has just been through the wash and been heated in the dryer. It is great for starting fires whether inside or out.  I keep a plastic bag on the laundry shelf and save every little bit.  I have even given a bag of dryer lint to a friend as a gift who was preparing her emergency bag. 

I read a post today that had a list of things to do with dryer lint.  It is great for the compost,  great to leave outside in a container hanging from a tree so the birds can make nests, it can be added to the bottom of a pot before adding soil, can be used to fill cold air stoppers used in front of doorways and one person said it can be saved, spun and turned into yarn to knit with.  Now that is stretching it a bit.  Then there was a conversation about lint not being good for the compost or the birds because there could be artificial fibers and not just cotton.  I have to agree with the answer that said laundry loads from cottons have much more lint residue than loads of artificial materials like polar fleece and polyester.  The artificial clothing does not give off the same amount of fibers. Upon close examination of my lint, I can plainly see my grey hairs and black short hairs from Mr. T.  Anyhow, we are not talking about dumping truck loads of industrial lint into the garden.  Personally, I save mine for fire starting.

I am interested if you know of any other materials (free of course - remember whom you are speaking with) for getting the woodstove going on a cold morning when I have not gotten up out of my nice warm bed with Mister T, my Dachshund, snuggled up against me to stoke the fire at night.  Leave me a comment below and share your experiences. Ha, I would accept any dry lint you are not using!  I have not tapped the local laundry mat as a source but possibly I should consider it.  I think that would constitute extreme frugality!


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