The inspiration for this date actually came from a church bulletin–in a roundabout sort of way. When we went to our diocese’ Corpus Christi procession I found an article in the local bulletin saying that a group was collecting old candles for the Opportunity Development Center. Curious what other materials this place might be able to use, I looked them up online & got a pretty good idea of what they were doing with the candles. They’re making firestarters. Supposedly they burn for quite a while & are good for getting fires going even when everything’s wet. I’ll be happy to donate some of our old wax, but thought it would be fun to try making firestarters ourselves in the meantime.
We don’t have much sawdust, so my first thought was to try spruce cones. They jam up the reel mower & my prince would be happy to be rid of a bunch. Thank God I thought to try lighting one first, just to make sure they’d burn as well as expected. They light alright–but they don’t stay lit. Back to the drawing board…a quick internet search brought up a bunch of options, including one using dryer lint. That we have! My prince brought up a bucketful while I dug out candle stubs & got a pan ready to melt wax (double-boiler style). He broke the wax in pieces & got it melting
while I lined empty tuna cans with scrap paper
& filled them with dryer lint.
While we waited (and waited…and waited–wax takes a long time to melt!) I asked my prince for his favorite memory of a fire. His was the bonfire on the Appalachian trail that had been part of his initiation experience at college (it was the best way they had of warming up & drying off!). Mine’s the Easter Vigil fire & the way the fire spreads to all the candles in the darkened church. When I asked for other memories of fire, he related the story of a brush fire on the farm when he was growing up. It was big enough that they had to call in the fire department & he was hiding in the ditch alone, terrified. I hadn’t heard that story before–we’ll try not to repeat it!
Finally my prince just started pouring the wax that was melted.
It had a tendency to overflow rather than sink into the dryer lint, so he ended up peeling cooled wax off of the newspaper I’d put down & remelting it.
I tried coaxing the wax in with limited success.
The next step was to let the wax harden. The freezer worked nicely–except that the wax glued everything into the cans! My prince had quite a time of it prying them out with a piece of scrap metal from his workbench.
For the next round of melted candles I tore pieces of shredded paper to make a central wick.
We didn’t fill these as thoroughly with wax & we were able to take them out of the cans while they were still soft. That was nice!
Our last batch of wax carried a lesson of its own. These candles were highly scented (we’d found these somewhere with the idea of melting them to make our own candles many years ago), and the odor seems to have wrecked havoc on my prince. He’s sensitive to fragrances to begin with, but by the time we were done with this last batch, he was inexplicably tense & achy all over & his throat swelled. His voice had been “off” all day, but it got worse. When I realized what was going on, I wrapped up the stinky firestarters (and the remains of that batch of candles) and put them in the basement, doing my best to rid the kitchen of the smell. I think we’ll be giving those away (hopefully to someone without a fragrance sensitivity)!
All in all, we ended up with about 14 firestarters. Now we need a bonfire of our own to try them out!
In the aftermath, my prince took me up on my offer of a back rub (he almost never does) and on my offer to let him just listen while I prayed Evening Prayer (his voice just wasn’t up to it) & we called it a night.
All in all we did work well together & accomplished something constructive–and learned a lesson on the hazards of scented candles!