If you live in a part of the country with a lot of coniferous trees, then you’re likely to have an ample supply of pine cones laying about. If not, you can buy dried pine cones at arts and crafts supply stores. Pine cones are great kindling for starting fires in the backcountry. The natural resin found in pine cones catches a flame and burns hot to ignite the woody pine cone for starting a fire. Rain and snow can make fire starting a challenge. However, a pine cone that is treated to burn longer will allow damp tinder to dry and catch fire even in adverse conditions.
There’s a easy way to treat pine cones with wax to make them burn longer and give you more time to get your kindling going. You can make a simple double boiler with a pot of water and a small coffee can. Put some wax in the can (some people recommend paraffin wax, but candle wax will do) and place it in the pot of hot water until the wax melts.
Then dip the pine cones in the wax and lay them out to cool on a sheet of wax paper. After they’ve cooled, repeat the process for a double coating of wax.
Dry pine cones will catch a spark from your fire steel or magnesium rod. Simply clear a space on the ground and place the pine cone fire starter in the center of the cleared area so it sits upright.
Strike the magnesium or ferro rod sparker with your scraper or knife blade held at an angle. Position the scraper or blade so a large shower of sparks is produced. Direct the sparks so they fall on and into the pine cone.
Watch for whisps of smoke rising from the pine cone indicating that it has been ignited by the sparks, and gently blow on it to provide oxygen to get the pine cone burning.
Once it gets going, carefully place progressively larger pieces of tinder and kindling on the pine cone (taking care not to smother the ember) until you have a sustainable flame going.
For making pine cone fire starters with a wick and a stable base, use a muffin baking tray.
Spread a layer of oil on the inside of the cups in the muffin tray, and lay a length of wick inside each cup with one end hanging over the edge of the tray. Then, fill each cup half-way with the melted wax and stick the upright pine cone into the wax before it cools. After the wax solidifies, you’ll have an easy to light fire starter that will stand upright, making it easier to arrange your tinder around.