Friday, January 25, 2013

Can You Make A Fire Without Wood?

Of course you can! Think of all the places where wood is scarce: the desert, the great plains,  the arctic (antarctic), maybe even your house. 

Even if you don't have a fireplace at your house, there may come a time when you need to build a fire. If you should ever have to go without electricity, what will you use to heat and cook your food?  If it is winter, how do you plan to stay warm? Do you have enough propane to cook with while you wait for the electricity to come back on? Let me give you an alternative solution to keeping an emergency stack of wood. This item is usually available anywhere people are located and can be easily used as a substitute fuel in place of wood.

It's newspapers! In addition to burning, newspapers have a lot of useful purposes and I will show you some of my favorite uses in another post. This post is centered around how I use the majority of my newspapers. Newspapers can easily be burned as an alternative to wood. However, to do that you must make them into logs. It is really quite easy to do. 

Start with a stack of newspapers. Take a small section and lay it out flat. To me, a small section is no more than five or six pages. If you have a section that is bigger than five or six pages, break it apart into smaller sections. Now, take another section and lay it on top of the first. But, this time place the fold on the opposite side from the first section. You want to alternate the folds in your stack of papers so one side of the log will not be bigger then the other. As an alternative, you can cut the paper at the fold and then neatly stack all the individual pieces.

In the picture below, I hope you can see that the section on top is showing its fold, while the section below has the page edge showing.

Continue stacking the newspaper this way until you have a two to three inch stack. If I have newspapers of different sizes, I usually separate them into different stacks but this really isn't necessary.

Now, take a section at a time and tightly roll it up. If you cut your newspaper and now have individual pages, roll five or six of them at a time. For the newspaper to burn like a log of wood, the paper must be rolled very tightly. Once the first section is rolled, start again with the next section and continue rolling it on the outside of the first section. Don't worry too much if the first few logs you create are not tight. You will get better as you make more.

If you have some other paper items, you can add them to the roll as well. In the photo below, I have some cereal boxes left over from a family member's visit. While you can put these boxes in the recycle bin, this is an alternative way to use the cardboard. You can also do this with junk mail (I try not to use colored, waxy or photographic paper) as well as old bills that you have paid. We file our bills for six months to one year. When we run out of room, the oldest bills go into the shredder or into a newspaper log.

Continue to roll the newspaper until the log is about four inches wide. Then tie it off with some string. Cotton string is best so it will burn with the log.

Here you can see that I have made four newspaper logs. These logs will burn for about one hour. They didn't take more than 15 minutes to make.

We have a bin in our garage that we use to store the newspaper logs. That way they are handy when we need them. 

There is one thing to remember when burning newspaper logs. They don't burn like paper. Tightly rolled logs burn just like wood. This also means that they can be difficult to 'start' on fire when you are trying to light them. You can't just put a match to one end and expect a roaring fire. You will need to use fire starters and kindling, just like real wood.

And I am sure I don't need to say it, but I will anyway. Be sure to use all necessary safely procedures around fire. Use the logs in a fireplace or if burning outside, use a fire pit. If you don't know how to make a fire pit, do an Internet search. There are lots of instructions on how to make one on the Internet.

Now, if wood is scarce where you live, what do you use for kindling? Paper! This is a perfect use for junk mail. I only use plain basic paper, no glossy stuff. Roll individual sheets of paper (and envelopes) and then give them a twist to keep them that way. Any size paper will do. Standard size paper or standard size postcards both work well. I can use between four and ten pieces of paper kindling on a five log fire at my house. I keep it next to the fire place so it is always handy when needed.

The other empty basket is for small wayward branches that fall off the trees in my neighborhood on a windy day. I collect them from my yard and store them here to use as kindling. And yes, that is a usable washboard in the background! It lives by my fireplace.

Here are the leftover pieces of glossy junk mail that will go into the shredder. They are next to my 'helper' who insisted I have her input on this project.

Whether you want a fire to keep warm or need to cook food when there isn't any electricity, consider a no cost (or low cost) alternative to wood! Newspapers!


  1. Great idea! I will be doing this!

  2. I was instructed to use a pvc pipe to leave an open center for air to travel and it'd burn better.

  3. That is a great Idea!

    Thank you very much for this good Homepage!!!



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