The Art of Darkness

Homemade Orange Peel Firelighters

February 23rd, 2016 by Cobwebs

Rose FirelighterIt’s technically almost spring in the northern hemisphere, but here in the DC area we’ve had a very Godfather-esque relationship with winter this year: Just when we thought we were out…it pulls us back in. Our fireplace has seen a lot of use recently, and these firelighters are a handy way to get a blaze started. They’re easy to make–kids can help–and they’re pretty enough to give as a gift.

Dried citrus peels contain enough residual oil to make firelighters all by themselves, and unlike the popular DIY pinecone firelighters they don’t contain much creosote (which can build up and cause chimney fires). Dipping them in wax is optional, but it lets you choose the color and also gives you the opportunity for a little fun with chemistry.

Orange Peel Rose Start by cutting the peel off an orange in a spiral, and wrapping it into a rose shape. A picture is worth a thousand words here, so take a look at this photo tutorial from Good Home Design (click to enlarge).
Fresh Peel Place the wrapped peel in a cupcake tin (using a paper liner is optional, but will be handy later on). Put the tin in a warm, dry place and let the peel dry thoroughly. The peel will last indefinitely once dry, so you can continue adding peels to the tin as you use up oranges.

Note: It’s okay if you can’t get the peel off in one long piece; just wrap it all back up together. The cupcake tin will hold it in place as it dries and the wax will stick it back together for good. (Also be careful not to cut too deeply into the flesh of the orange as you’re cutting; if you wind up with a lot of pulp on the peel, scrape it off. Otherwise it tends to mold before it can dry all the way.)

Dried Peel When you have enough dried peels, melt some wax. Something Turquoise has instructions for making pinecone lighters which includes details on melting (and coloring/scenting if desired) wax. Their method uses soy wax flakes, but you can also use paraffin (often found in the home-canning section of grocery stores) or candle stubs. I had some half-burnt black candles, so I used those. Note: It is really easy for melting wax to catch fire (that’s what it does), so be sure to melt it over a double boiler instead of direct heat, and have a fire extinguisher to hand.

If desired, at this point you can mix one of several Common Household Chemicals(tm) with the wax so that it burns different colors when lit. Chemicals and their corresponding burn color:

Borax Powder [Yellow-Green]
Sea Salt or Table Salt [Yellow]
Epsom Salt [White]
No-Salt (Potassium Chloride) [Violet]
Strontium Chloride (found at pet stores in the aquarium supplies) [Red]

Use ONLY ONE chemical. Mix in about 1 Tbsp per C of wax.

Dipped Roses Remove the melted wax from the heat and dip each peel, rolling it around to thoroughly cover. You can use tongs, but the temperature of the wax is fairly low; I just dipped them in with my fingers. Let the excess wax drip off and set them on waxed paper to dry. You may want to re-dip them two or three times, letting them firm up in between, to get a nice all-over coat.

Once dry they’re ready to use, but I like to give the bottoms one final dip and then place them back in their paper cupcake liners so they’ll stick to the bottom. Then you can light them just by putting a match to the edge of the paper liner.

If giving these as a gift, pile a bunch in a glass jar or wire basket.

Posted in Doom It Yourself | 1 Comment »

One Response

  1. Pixel Pixie Says:

    I make mine (for camping) out of dryer lint, paraffin, twine, and cupcake wrappers. Because I’m me, the wrappers are skills, pumpkins, etc, and because I share my domicile with two feline overlords, the dryer lint has a large quantity of cat hair in it. So we call them Cat Hair Firestarters, and they work like gangbusters. And they don’t smell as bad as you would think.

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