Fire in a can

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Last trip to the Carolinas we paddled into Bear Island at Hammocks Beach, which allows no fires, even below the Atlantic high tide line. Joel brought an experimental “Fire in a can”; a shallow cookie tin with a tight spiral of cardboard, saturated to the full line with wax.

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It made for a cheery fire, but the cookie tin began to rust in just a few days, and the spiral may have been too much cardboard and not enough wax.

As it oddly happens I have a good ten pounds or more of old candle wax, chunks enough to fill a 5 gallon pail. And plenty of cardboard. I search I vain for a cookie tin shape in stainless steel, and settled for a Dollar Store GraniteWare roaster pan, 3 ½” deep x 9” diameter.

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My cardboard spiral may have been too loose; as it unwound a bit a stuck a couple of stubby candles in the middle to help take up space, but dang it took a lot of wax. I should have weighed the empty pan before I began. The finished candle weighs in at just over 6 Lbs, and 5+ pounds of that must be wax.

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It was a time-intensive wax fill, as I underestimated the amount of wax needed by a factor of 3, and as it set wax sucking craters were continually forming, needing some additional hot wax to fill.

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If it works at least as well as the first one I’ll be happy. And I have enough wax left to make another, or possibly refill the cardboard wick on that one to some extent.

Hammocks Beach here I come.
 
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Looks good for a portable entertainment fire Mike.

I've made smaller scale versions of this by using empty tuna cans. Great way to reuse old candle wax. I've also added a bit of citronella oil before the wax sets and then used these backyard torches. They throw off a lot of light. Apparently some folks use them as cooking stoves, do an internet search for "Buddy Burners". Little too sooty for my liking but could work in a pinch, I suppose.

Enjoy yours on the beach!
 
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do an internet search for "Buddy Burners"

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dRJiVvdfLLU

I won’t be throwing away old candle stubs or wax drips again. I’ll try the tuna can & citronella idea for evenings in bug season.

One note on re-using old wax and candle stubs. When I had the used wax remains melted on the stove I ran a cheap kitchen strainer through the pot and scooped up a fair quantity of debris from old wicks and the like. I found I could empty the debris on a piece of paper and, surprisingly, the metal grid in the strainer stayed open for repeated trash retrieval dips.

Does anyone have a source for blocks of candle wax that isn’t stupidly expensive?
 
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Go to the Christians

Go to the Christians

Many Christians celebrate the birth of their savior with a candle light service. Sanctuaries are decorated Narthex to Altar, Nave and Transept with burning paraffin sticks. For uniformity in appearance and burn duration, used, stubby candles are typically discarded. Talk to your Padre or Pastor to see if they might be salvaged. There may be questions of sacrilegious recycling in using Christian wax for Duckhead vigils but I would think that a progressive church would see the value of fellowship from a fire in a can.
 
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I don’t know squat about wax. I’m not sure that what is usually available as paraffin is the same as candle wax, and in looking for a source for 5 or 10 pound blocks of “candle wax” found it available in various melting points. And quite pricey.

I shall seek out my Pastor directly. Let’s see, I was about 8 the last time I attended Sunday services. I think we were Presbyterian. I married in Friends Meeting, and they don’t have Priests or Pastors.

I believe I feel a hint of budding Catholicism coming on.
 
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Conk! good to see you here! welcome!

When i was a scout, we made these out of cardboard, paraffin, and a tuna fish can. Called it poor man's sterno. you could heat a can of something (stew, spaghetti) over it during a power outage. Also made a great fire starter when the weather wasn't cooperating.

Never thought about making a bigger one for a simulated campfire. Oh, on Conk's note, I used to get my wax from the ladies at the Alter-Rosary Society at Church... when they cleaned up the alter, they kept all the stubs in a box. Eventually, they needed to get rid of the box, and my pastor gave them to me (i was alter-boying one day, and happened to see them in the Sacristy... don't remember if i asked, or he offered. either way, i had candles enough for a couple years!)
 
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Fire in a can update

Fire in a can update

I used the fire in a can repeatedly over the course of a 4 day trip on a North Carolina barrier island where “campfires” are not permitted, lighting it as often during the day as a briefly burning personal heater when I returned from windswept hikes as I did in the evenings for longer warmth and ambiance.

From this

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To this, in minutes.

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I quickly realized that it would work better if I had additional wax to feed the flame, and sacrificed the one 3-hour candle from the ditch kit.

After repeated burns the wax is down about an inch in the center. I need to refill it, and make some chunks of feeder wax to help augment longer burns.

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With this volume of wax the pour needs to be incremental; voids will appear slowly as the wax settles. During both the initial fill and the refill I eventually over-covered the spiral cardboard trying to fill all of the voids and craters, so once the wax had hardened I melted off a bit with a torch to expose some of the wick for easy lighting.

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There was a lot of crud from old wicks and other debris in the used wax I remelted. Once it was all liquefied I used a kitchen strainer to remove the junk. A surprising amount of junk; this is from a pot of about 5 lbs of old wax.

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While I was melting and pouring wax (sloppily, I need to scrap the shop floor) I filled some small plastic tubs. With a little gentle heat once those had hardened the wax bricks slid out with a little persuasion.

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8 oz plus/minus of feeder wax in each bar. I’ll take one of those bars next time I use the fire in a can and see how long it lasts in feeding the flame and keeping the wax levels high.

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With the feeder wax, and the addition of some kind of half circle wind screen/heat reflector, I may have found a new campsite friend for off-season trips. Even where fires are allowed and downed wood available if all I am seeking a 5 minutes of warmth to take the chill off I’d rather flick a Bic on a wick (and put it safely out with the lid) than get a campfire started.

At 6 lbs I won’t be carrying it on a long portage, but those days are behind me.
 
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Fire in a can update #2

Fire in a can update #2

I brought the fire in a can on a long solo trip for some further experimentation and learned several new lessons.

Lesson #1 – It is important to make sure that the fire in a can is level when it is burning. Since the wax fill is nearly even with the top of the can, and the wax becomes liquid when melted and aflame, even a little off level is a problem.

Lesson #2 – Do not attempt to move a burning fire in a can filled with liquid max to a move level position by nudging it with your shoe. I was peeling wax off my shoe and pant leg for several days.

Lesson #3 – Extinguishing the fire in a can is as simple as putting on the cover. And then waiting a significant length of time for the wax to solidify. Attempting to move the can too soon results in relearning lesson #2. The wax remains liquid for a long time.
 
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Thanks Mike, the fire in a can looks like a great idea. I’m thankful you’re working through the oops list, it’ll save me a few accidents. So as I understand it, the cardboard acts like one large candle wick? I think I’ll try a smaller and shallower cookie tin, the kind my wife saves for whatever. Maybe cookies. Anyway, the citronella would be a nice touch too. Is it necessary to fill the can to the brim? I wonder if I could leave space between rim and the top of the cardboard/wax level?
BTW, I love your NC trips. I love the OBX, and will be there this summer. Not sure if the family will let me sneak off for a paddle though. You’ve given me much food for thought. Thanks again.
 
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As happens I am in the middle of making a new fire in a can.

It isn’t necessary to fill the can to the brim, but I want to start off with as much wax in the can as possible, even if I am going to augment it with small bricks of feeder wax as needed.

One nice thing about the roaster pan - if the wax level is anywhere near full when you extinguish it via the lid, the top seals in place with melted wax, so the lid doesn’t rattle around. It is still easy to pop off with a pull of the lid handle or if need be a pry at the lip.

Yes, the cardboard is the wick. Probably not the ideal wick material but it’s free and holds a good vertical spiral.

FIAC #1 was the inaugural experiment using a shallow cookie tin. The wax spiral was wrapped too tightly and it burned to a waxless crisp in a few hours. And the cookie tin rusted too quickly for the effort involved.

FICA #2 was the round GraniteWare roaster pan, with more wax and less tightly wrapped cardboard wick. 6 lbs total weight; excellent except that my 40 year old wax was stinky.

FICA #3 holds promise of improvement. I have some unstanky virgin wax for the top fills. I could not find a round roaster pan and so am using a 10 x 14 oval roaster pan the same 3” depth. Cheap roaster pans may be a post-Thanksgiving special.

That’s gonna be a heavy pan of wax, but it’s a gift for a friend who appreciates warmth.

And, since it is a gift I won’t have to carry it, but fully expect to enjoy the warmth nonetheless.
 
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Canoeing OBX

Canoeing OBX

BTW, I love your NC trips. I love the OBX, and will be there this summer. Not sure if the family will let me sneak off for a paddle though.

If you are thinking of paddling an open canoe at OBX I can suggest a few at least partially sheltered places. (If you are paddling a sea kayak the world is your oyster thereabouts)

There is a 3.5 mile (7 if you go up and back no shuttle) protected maritime forest route between US 158 and a boat ramp on the edge of Albemarle Sound. That one is close to the Wright Bros memorial in Kitty Hawk.

The Pine Island Audubon Sanctuary is less protected but offers a (bewildering – bring a map or GPS) choice of routes. That one is a no-shuttle as far as you want to explore amidst the marsh maze north of Sanderling and back. The put in is 3 miles north of Duck along Currituck Sound.

Lastly there is Whalehead Bay on Currituck Sound, putting in at the Corrola Light on Rte 12. That is the most exposed route of the three, and most manageable in a north or east wind.

There is a kayak or outdoor shop of some sort in nearly every town along the length of OBX; try Kitty Hawk Kayaks or Kitty Hawk Sports (if either are still around). If one of those trips jibes with your location they would have directions to the put-ins and possibly maps & other advice about tides, winds and routes.

There is also some interesting stuff to the east on the mainland side. The Alligator River, Milltail Creek and even some protected stuff on the Manteo Sound side on Roakoke Island.

Lots of water there. I want to get back to OBX this winter.
 
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FIAC
The rusting problem concerns me. Maybe I won’t try the cookie can thing. It’s a shame though. Since this diet started, all the damn tins around here remain empty anyway. What I really like about the roasting pan design are the handles! And yes, the lid with handle is very civilized. My only problem is we only have one of those. With a wedding anniversary coming up, number 30 something or other, I wonder if a new roasting pan (for her) would make a nice gift? I never gave the consumed wax any thought. That’s a good point. Having extra wax would be handy. We live within the city limits, so open fires are forbidden. I’m hopeful to find a safe way to make this work for me, not just for base camping type trips, but for a suburban yard as well. This seems a great open fire alternative. Thanks.
 
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I found the version #2 circular roasting pan at the Dollar Store last year. I think it was post-Thanksgiving excess stock. When I looked for a similar pan for version #3 I could not find a round one anywhere, even big box retail.

I wanted to make one as a gift badly enough to pop for $11 for the oval one at WallyWorld.

Finding a source for 5+ lbs of wax is the challenge. I’ll be curious to weight this one after I’ve done the last pour and it has set.
 
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OBX
I remember there being kayaking available around the Pea Island Reserve? Until your posts I had no idea of the extent of NC paddling possibilities. Awesome! I’ve never paddled in tidal zones, much less a sea kayak. Big water scares me. I’ll look into a sound side day trip. The remote barrier islands look spectacular, but might be beyond me in every way. Access in the Manteo, or up in Duck area would suit us. We’ll be down in Avon for a week. Most of us have flat water paddled on small northern lakes, so a day trip would be a cool idea, even though this holiday started out as a beach vacation. I’m sure a family kayak cruise would be unforgettable. I’ll start my google search, and be sure to drop by any outfitters for maps, advice etc. Your trip logs and help have been inspiring and indispensible. All of this won’t be until July, but already I’ve got Carolina on my mind.
 
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Brad, I posted a link to an OBX paddling blog on the canoe destinations board.

The blog is well worth a look, and perhaps the thread will spawn further information.
 
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Thanks Mike. I"m gonna go through that. I hope to find out more, but your experience in that region sure is helpful. I'll check with my NC brother to see if any yak friends of his know of more routes etc. Anything I find out, I'll be sure to post it/pass it on to you.
 
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