Awesome Wax Cotton balls.

Items to keep you alive in the event you must evacuate: discussions of basic Survival Kits commonly called "Bug Out Bags" or "Go Bags"

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111t
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Awesome Wax Cotton balls.

Post by 111t » Thu Jan 28, 2010 10:06 pm

This recent thread comparing commercially available firestarters inspired me to make up a batch of these great little homemade ones!

http://zombiehunters.org/forum/viewtopi ... 14&t=58290" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

First off... I didn't think this up... It's one of the little jewels in my bug out/camp out arsenal that I can trace directly to wisdom someone shared here on ZS. I'm just re-sharing. The amazing wax impregnated cotton balls!

If you are the awesome person who enlightened me about this... take a bow!

These are more labor intensive than petroleum jelly cotton balls, but they are better in a couple of ways. After a time, petroleum jelly balls can become over saturated, making them hard to light. Also they are messy, requiring a dedicated case. Using wax you can get around all of these shortcomings. The raw materials you need are:

Cotton balls... $2 for a 200 count bag at wally world. Be sure to get all cotton balls. not those with any poly-fill content. (they're cheaper too)

Wax. I like to use gulf wax. $5 per pound at my local ace hardware store in the canning section.

These are the basic ingredients. I use a pair of nitrile gloves to make it a little less messy. You need some sort of double boiler. I recommend simply a tin can set inside a kitchen pot full of water. (Don't use the actual double boiler you may have down in the kitchen... SWMBO will slay you.)

I use a sheet of aluminum flashing or a disposable aluminum cookie sheet to set my cotton balls on as they cool. At the end you can just chuck the whole thing... easy cleanup. Don't use the actual cookie sheets you may have down in the kitchen... see above.

Let's see what we can make for less than $10.

Here are some pics...
Here's the Gulf wax. Sold in a 1 pound box. Pure, and unscented. IMHO this is the ideal buddy burner fuel as well.
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Inside there are (4) individual bars.
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Take a knife and hack up the bar. Use SWMBO's least favorite knife... or better yet... for maximum jedi self reliance points, a $10 cheapo mora.
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Put the chunks and the crumbs in the tin can.

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Tin can in the boiling water...

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Use a leatherman to pick up the can... This fuel is ultra pure so it's clear like water when melted.

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Here's our workspace... a tv dinner stand. The aluminum sheet is on top. The gloves are there, and some sort of metal spatula is a good thing to have.

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Dip cotton balls into the molten wax. It doesn't burn much. Quit being a wus.
Gently squeeze the balls when they're submerged to squeeze out the air bubbles. Lift them out of the wax and let the excess drain back into the can. Set them on the sheet to cool for a few minutes.

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After the balls have partially hardened, but are still warm and soft, squeeze each one over the can again. This will squirt out a few drops of wax. Now is a good time to roll them like a meatball into the final form. I find an inital compacting/pinching phase followed by the rolling action works best. Try not to have any gaping seams. Pinch and roll until smooth.

You can have a set of balls cooling, while rolling another set. With experience you can get so you know how many you can have in process at one time. (if they cool to much they become hard to work)

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Solution: Careful microwave re-softening.

Here is the finished product. 46 Fire starters from 1 pound of wax ($5) and roughly 1/4 of a bag of cotton balls ($.50)
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Throw them in a recycled peanut butter jar for bulk storage. I package them in ziplock snack bags (the really narrow ones for kid's lunches) The balls are pretty stable, but in theory they are subject to melting in hot conditions. That's why i recommend storing them in something plastic. If you had cellophane, there's no reason why you couldn't individually wrap them like big candies.

They're a little big for a BOAT, but they're great for just about any other type of kit.

To use them, just take your knife and cut one 1/2 way through. Then pry the ball open like a clam. If you look closely at the middle you will see many very fine, very dry cotton fibers. Aim your lighter or more importantly, your firesteel at these fibers. They light readily, and burn for at least 10 minutes. Pile on the tinder! You're in business.
Last edited by 111t on Wed Aug 03, 2011 5:14 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Awesome Wax Cotton balls.

Post by Towanda » Thu Jan 28, 2010 10:14 pm

Nice work! I'm going to have to give that a try soon.
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Re: Awesome Wax Cotton balls.

Post by zippoxiii » Thu Jan 28, 2010 10:30 pm

They look like giant moth balls :lol: Paraffin oil soaked cotton balls work extremely well also, and throw off a huge flame. Good post.

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Re: Awesome Wax Cotton balls.

Post by Woods Walker » Thu Jan 28, 2010 10:35 pm

Looks good. I wonder if it’s possible to pull them apart to catch a spark like is done with the cottonball/Vaseline combo?

Edit..
your firesteel at these fibers
Seems to answer my question.
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Re: Awesome Wax Cotton balls.

Post by 111t » Thu Jan 28, 2010 10:38 pm

Yeah WW, that's what you do. You cut them 1/2 way then pry them open. Lots of fine dry fibers are revealed in the center. The main reason i love these is that i can easily, reliably, light them with only a knife and a firesteel.

EDIT: You edited too fast for me ;)

You could probably light trioxane easily with a firesteel, but it has the notorious 'evaporating through a pinhole' problem. Hexamine... forget lighting hexamine with a firesteel.
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Re: Awesome Wax Cotton balls.

Post by Luthifer » Fri Jan 29, 2010 7:32 am

111t wrote:

After the balls have partially hardened, but are still warm and soft, squeeze each one again. This will squirt out a few drops. Now is a good time to roll them into the final form. I find the compacting/pinching phase followed by the rolling action works best. Pinch and roll until smooth. You can have a set of balls cooling, while rolling another set.
sigged.

Had to edit down to 355 char.

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Re: Awesome Wax Cotton balls.

Post by aa1pr » Fri Jan 29, 2010 9:21 am

This would have been a good post for the bushcraft section.

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Re: Awesome Wax Cotton balls.

Post by 111t » Fri Jan 29, 2010 8:58 pm

Luthifer wrote:
111t wrote:

After the balls have partially hardened, but are still warm and soft, squeeze each one again. This will squirt out a few drops. Now is a good time to roll them into the final form. I find the compacting/pinching phase followed by the rolling action works best. Pinch and roll until smooth. You can have a set of balls cooling, while rolling another set.
sigged.

Had to edit down to 355 char.

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Guess I set myself up for that.

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Ferrocerium...You know how to spell it... This is how you pronounce it...[fer-oh-seer-ee-uhm]
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Re: Awesome Wax Cotton balls.

Post by zippoxiii » Fri Jan 29, 2010 9:44 pm

Are you gonna light one up for us? :D Demonstration?

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Re: Awesome Wax Cotton balls.

Post by 111t » Fri Jan 29, 2010 10:36 pm

zippoxiii wrote:Are you gonna light one up for us? :D Demonstration?
Yes. I plan on doing that tomorrow. I plan to take a couple of photos with a real camera. Then see if i can demo the firesteel light within the time limit of the video recording on my phone. (+/- 15 sec)

Stay tuned.
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Ferrocerium...You know how to spell it... This is how you pronounce it...[fer-oh-seer-ee-uhm]
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Re: Awesome Wax Cotton balls.

Post by xxxDarksidexxx » Fri Jan 29, 2010 10:56 pm

zippoxiii wrote:They look like giant moth balls :lol: Paraffin oil soaked cotton balls work extremely well also, and throw off a huge flame. Good post.
i was wondering about that. i have 1lb of paraffin in the garage. these waxy balls might be fun to play with! :oops:

the vas and cotton balls works so well its hard to see me making the change, but it sounds like you get some good burn time, so i may make some myself and see how i like them.

great post! thanks for sharing. :)

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Re: Awesome Wax Cotton balls.

Post by 111t » Sat Jan 30, 2010 8:39 pm

Ok. Sorry i couldn't get video of the light, but i didn't have any way to set my phone and light the cotton at the same time. I cut the ball 1/2 way through and then bent it back like pac-man dying. It took about 10 strikes with my LMF army model. The flame starts small then grows to engulf the entire ball. The conditions were 20 degrees F and breezy. The flames averaged about 6 inches. The ball burned the way you see it for about 10 minutes. I swept off the cinderblock first.

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"No, but any blade of grass"

Ferrocerium...You know how to spell it... This is how you pronounce it...[fer-oh-seer-ee-uhm]
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Re: Awesome Wax Cotton balls.

Post by zippoxiii » Sat Jan 30, 2010 10:41 pm

excellent!
The paraffin oil doesn't seem to last nearly as long as the wax, but still works great nonetheless. I burnt one with the lamp oil here a few minutes ago, it lasted around maybe 3 minutes, I wasn't really keeping exact time. But what it lacks in duration, it makes up for with a big flame. Still more than adequate time to get a fire going.

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Re: Awesome Wax Cotton balls.

Post by 111t » Sat Jan 30, 2010 11:19 pm

zippoxiii wrote:excellent!
The paraffin oil doesn't seem to last nearly as long as the wax, but still works great nonetheless. I burnt one with the lamp oil here a few minutes ago, it lasted around maybe 3 minutes, I wasn't really keeping exact time. But what it lacks in duration, it makes up for with a big flame. Still more than adequate time to get a fire going.
That would be a great trick especially if you had a kerosene burning campstove.
All the best!
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"No, but any blade of grass"

Ferrocerium...You know how to spell it... This is how you pronounce it...[fer-oh-seer-ee-uhm]
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Re: Awesome Wax Cotton balls.

Post by madwolf » Sun Jan 31, 2010 4:13 am

Very nice, these seem to the handier than the parafin soaked cardboard rolls that I use as fire starters because I can't light those with a firesteel ;)

I'm going to have to whip up some of these before my next camping trip.

BTW, since stocking up on tea lights was mentioned a while back in another thread, that's what I use instead of buying blocks of parafin. Tea lights are made of parafin and are just as pure, but, the are much cheaper to buy in bulk at the right time of year ;)
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Re: Awesome Wax Cotton balls.

Post by cssims » Sun Jan 31, 2010 3:42 pm

I tried this myself a couple of years back. When they are just done it works great, but over time they are hard as a rock and not easy to open so you can pull enough fluff to light. This means that some of the wax flakes off and it won't be have quite as long of a burn time. (Probably seconds are shaved off.) When I did try them I was getting around a 5 minute burn time.

I think I still prefer the toilet paper roll with wax soaked cotton balls more. It has a heck of a long burn time. I have a thread around here some where about it I think. If I can't find it I'll just link the original at Hoods Woods.

Edit: well after searching here I couldn't find the post. Could have sworn I had linked it once at least.

Here is the thread over at Hoods Woods: http://www.hoodswoods.net/IVB/index.php ... =30942&hl=

Edit 2: Just found the thread at ETS where I tried just the cotton balls. http://forums.equipped.org/ubbthreads.p ... #Post62342 Dang it's been almost 4 years. :(

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Re: Awesome Wax Cotton balls.

Post by seabee22 » Fri Apr 01, 2011 7:11 am

This works great with a canteen stove.

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Re: Awesome Wax Cotton balls.

Post by Blacksheep » Thu May 19, 2011 3:04 am

am I the only one who uses kerosene cotton balls?... I shoved like 8-9 cotton balls soaking wet with kerosene into a match tube, has a gasket... I remember squeezing a few more in later just to get as many in there as possible, even slightly damp with kerosene they burn for a good 3 minutes at least, while this isnt as long, I get more in a smaller size, its cheap, quick and dirty, but hell it works
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Re: Awesome Wax Cotton balls.

Post by junkhacker » Sat Oct 22, 2011 9:18 pm

I found this information on another site before joining, and have made a few myself. i thought i would share some additional info on it. If you're using tea-light candles, it takes about 1 candles worth of wax per cotton ball. After breaking open, fluff up the cotton with the tip of a knife, it helps it take a spark better. I made my batch using tea light candles, and jumbo size cotton balls. I used bamboo skewers as chopsticks to dip them in the wax, allowing me to hold them under until the bubbles stopped coming out. In my testing, each provided at least 12 min of burn time, and burned hot enough to boil 2 cups of water in under 5 minutes. Since 12 minutes of burn time seemed excessive for a firestarter, i tried to cut the cotton balls in half to double my count and minimize bulk, but at that size they proved impossible to break apart with a knife and multi-tool. The forum i go the info from (i wish i could remember where) had people who were adding coleman camp fuel or white gas to the mix to make the wax softer with good results, but i haven't had a chance to try it myself.
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Re: Awesome Wax Cotton balls.

Post by Sledgecrowbar » Tue Oct 25, 2011 7:38 pm

junkhacker wrote:people who were adding coleman camp fuel or white gas to the mix to make the wax softer with good results, but i haven't had a chance to try it myself.
Sounds like a good solution to the shell-shedding problem of homemade wax firestarters after a long time in storage, the lighter fraction evaporates out, even when sealed up tight. I'm interested in trying this out, one word of wisdom: do not add naphtha to wax that is STILL BEING HEATED. Not that anyone here would, but you have to admit that we frolicking nut-jobs can be absent-minded in our DIY quests.

I pondered injecting some oil into the middle of a wax cotton ball, a la syrup centers in candies, but the first time you fell on one would be the last time you thought that was a good idea.
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Re: Awesome Wax Cotton balls.

Post by Blacksheep » Wed Oct 26, 2011 10:13 pm

Sledgecrowbar wrote: but the first time you fell on one would be the last time you thought that was a good idea

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Sledgecrowbar wrote:do not add naphtha to wax that is STILL BEING HEATED.
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Re: Awesome Wax Cotton balls.

Post by Chirpy » Sun Aug 05, 2012 11:15 pm

Substitute dryer lint for the cotton balls and that's the way scouts around here make fire starters.
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Re: Awesome Wax Cotton balls.

Post by Blacksheep » Sun Aug 05, 2012 11:46 pm

I found an excellent example on the webz will post in a few days when back from bugout...

its a larger fire starter, more for use in fire places but will burn for 30+ mins aparently
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Re: Awesome Wax Cotton balls.

Post by moab » Mon Aug 06, 2012 4:15 pm

What if you smashed them flat for better storage? I mean not to the point that all the wax presses out. But even if they were wafer size like an extra large anti acid tab or a tiny hockey puck. They might store in a smaller container.

Great tutorial!

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