How to Make Firestarters with Sawdust

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Anybody interested in camping and survival needs to know how to start a fire.

It’s best to know as many firestarting techniques as possible so you can light that life-saving campfire even when you lost your fancy magnesium firestarter to the blizzard.

However, to start a fire, you need something to light on fire!

This can be a surprisingly difficult problem to solve when the wind is blowing and rain is falling.

So, it’s a good idea to bring some firestarters with you in your survival kit.

Have you considered making your own firestarters?

If you’re like me and dabble in woodworking then you’ll have plenty of sawdust.

This waste product makes for an excellent DIY firestarter!

How to make firestarters with sawdust and wax

What You Need to Make a Sawdust Firestarter

These homemade pieces of tinder require only two ingredients:

  1. Sawdust
  2. Wax

Wax is easy to get.

You can easily buy paraffin wax online. You can also sneak off with some unused candles and use them.

Or find cheap candles at a thrift shop.

If you saw wood then you’ll naturally have plenty of sawdust choking you in your woodshop. Sanding dust also works great.

You don’t have to be limited to wood dust, either.

You can make these firestarters from bark, dryer lint, wood chips, torn-up toilet paper rolls, shredded egg cartons, and anything similar[1].

You’ll also need to have a container for melting the wax, a larger pot for hot water, and another container for cooling the wax-and-dust mixture.

Wax loves to leave a mess, so don’t use your good pots for this. An old tin can makes for an excellent melter.

Or just melt the wax in the water pot if you don’t care about heavy cleaning or using that pot for food anymore.

Muffin tins make for a great cooling container. They also separate the mixture into individual pieces, which you’d otherwise have to do by hand.

A second tin can also works if you don’t have a muffin tray available. Some people have even used paper cups, which double as a burnable container!

You’ll also need a heat source, such as a stove.

Campfires work as well if you want to make these while enjoying nature, but you may have a more difficult time of it.

How to Make Sawdust Fire Starters

Basically, what you’re going to do is to melt the wax and pour it over the sawdust.

  1. The first step is to prep everything. Get your sawdust, wax, pots/cans, and cooling container ready
  2. Make sure to add a liner to the muffin tin or cooling can because we don’t want the wax to affix itself to the container. Cupcake wrappers work well
  3. Then, pack the lined cooling container with sawdust
  4. Next, fill a pot partially with water, and put it over low heat
  5. Set the wax-melting can inside the pot to form a double boiler
  6. Add the wax
  7. Keep the double boiler on the heat source until the wax is completely liquid
  8. Make sure to keep an eye on the melting wax and not let it get hot enough to boil! We don’t want the wax to catch fire because, if burning wax touches water, it can explode[2]
  9. Once the wax is completely liquid, pour it over the sawdust. It’ll flow through the dust and encase it in wax
  10. Let the wax harden and return to room temperature

Congratulations! You just made some high-quality homemade firestarters.

Sawdust Firestarter Making Tips

Safety is the greatest goal here. What good is a firestarter in the future when you’ve lit your kitchen on fire?

So, wear leather gloves and eye protection when you’re dealing with melted wax.

You don’t want a hot liquid splashing in your eye!

Here are some more tips:

  • Ice cube trays also work well as a cooling container. Plastic and silicone trays may not require a liner, either
  • If you’re using fine dust, such as from sanding, then you can add the dust directly to the melting wax. Add enough to reach a texture similar to dough. Then, spoon it into the muffin tray
  • You can also play around with the proportions of wax and sawdust. A higher proportion of wax will increase the burn time but decrease the flame’s temperature. Similarly, less wax but more sawdust will cause the flame to burn hotter but for less time
  • If you’re using candles as your wax source then don’t worry about the wicks. They’ll burn, too
  • Finally, if you don’t have access to sawdust, you can find a local shop that works with wood. Chances are high they’ll be happy to let you take some of their waste!
Take advantage of your new waterproof firestarters and learn how to make a fire with wet wood!


Sawdust firestarters burn well, last a surprisingly long time, are waterproof, and are made with noxious waste.

What’s not to love?

Plus, you may have to make a few batches to dial in the wax and sawdust proportions that will work best for you.

This will give you an excellent excuse to practice your firestarting skills.

If you have any firestarting making tips or stories then be sure to share them with us!


How Do You Make a Waterproof Fire Starter?

The sawdust firestarters we just made are waterproof because of the wax.

Wax is both waterproof and fuel, so any burnable material encased in wax will be a homemade waterproof firestarter.

What Can You Use to Make a Firestarter?

Any small, fibrous material that burns makes for a great firestarter when added to wax.

This includes sawdust, rope, clothes lint, cotton balls, small wood chips, shredded paper or cardboard, and anything similar.



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