Saturday, October 11, 2014

Survival - Fire Starters - Waxed Discs


I have a personal rule . . . always have three ways to start a fire on your body at all times. My personal choice . . . a small BIC lighter, a striker and ferrous rod and a Fresnel lens in the credit card pocket of my wallet. These are with me every day . . . always . . . without fail.

While “survival” training can have tremendous value as well as being a lot of fun . . . the reality is that in a real survival situation you want to give yourself every chance you can to get home at the end of the day/week or whenever you dig yourself out of the “hole” you’re in. Being prepared with both knowledge and gear does a great deal to allow you to focus at the problem at hand rather than trying to tamp down the panic that naturally occurs when a person’s whole world suddenly goes sideways.

Fire is one of those tools that provide you a tremendous advantage in surviving. It can provide the raw comfort most of us find just sitting and staring at a burning fire. It can purify water, cook food, provide warmth, signal our location for rescue . . . it’s a very versatile tool.

As befits such a tool, there is a great deal of energy spent teaching folks how to generate the spark that heats the tinder that sparks that first glimmer of fire that starts the kindling that ignites the fuel . . . and I have absolutely no issue with learning those skills . . . none at all. But . . .

What if you took a couple precautions, integrated them into your lifestyle and worked with them to give you a much better chance at starting your fire in the first few minutes rather than the soul-draining amount of time we have all taken while working on our bow drill methods? Hence, the three ways to start a fire that lives on my body each and every day. (Yep, even those days you can find me in my best suit as well!)

Still, given the leg up those three tools give me in starting a fire – there may well be times that they’re not enough. It’s wet . . . it’s profoundly windy . . . wood is available, but most of it is truly damp . . . we’ve all been there . . . done that. So what I want to share in this post is one of my additional fire starter tools that makes life much easier, let’s me focus on more significant issues than generating a glowing coal or finding bone dry wood, and takes next to no space in my gear . . .

Waxed Discs . . .

I start with simple materials . . . make-up removal pads (the dry, thick cotton, textured kind), a block of paraffin and a medium sized can to act as a double boiler. Remember, paraffin vapors are flammable . . . DO NOT melt the block over direct heat, use a double boiler setup.


The preparation is profoundly simple:

Melt the paraffin in the double boiler


Remove the double boiler – the boiling/hot water will keep the paraffin melted while you soak the pads in the material one at a time.


Remove each soaked pad and lay it out to cool and harden


·Place the waxed discs in a ZipLoc for inclusion in your gear.


It’s that simple. I’ve use this process for almost 20 years. One of these discs will burn for well over 15 minutes – enough to start pretty much any type of tinder/kindling you want. And, they weigh virtually nothing, take little space and last forever.

And, when you need a little extra boost building your next fire – use one of the waxed disc – or even a partial disc, to get your fire up and running in a much shorter amount of time!


So, if you’re looking for something to throw in your kit to better your odds when things go sideways . . . or just plain make the fire building process a heck of a lot easier – give these a try – I think you’ll like ‘em!


  1. Hey, I like those wax disc's. That is a great idea. I will add these to my kit. BZ!!

  2. I did this once and I made a minor, correctable mistake. My discs were saturated and took longer to light because the flame of my lighter had to melt out too much wax.

    Much better, in my mind, to place the saturated discs on an inclined surface to cool. The runny, melted wax will still saturate most of the disc (or square) but one corner or edge will be "drier" and easier to light.

    Great idea. Thanks for sharing!

  3. That's great information Bill. In addition to the usual matches and lighter in my winter travel kit in the truck, I keep a couple of large pure beeswax candles. They burn really clean with no soot or smoke. Hopefully won't have to use them, but threw them in there, just as back up.

  4. Senior - thanks, I find they come in handy when the critters are hungry and things need to get going NOW!!! :)

    Joe - roger that . . . I usually press one section out as thin as I can get it . . . that becomes the "top". I like your idea though, will have to try that on the next batch!

    Brigid - never thought of a beeswax candle, will have to add one to the car kit!