ImageThe holidays tend to generate many items we throw away. We hang fresh wreaths on our doors, or have a cut Christmas tree. Even if you do not decorate for Christmas, chances are there are candles used at this time of year, or some sort of greenery or natural decorations that grace our homes. This penny-pinching project uses candle stubs, pinecones, magnolia pods and a dried Christmas wreath. My niece, Cassidy was here for her college Holiday break and so we used this opportunity to make some nifty fire starters for the fireplace. These pricey little items are offered in trendy shops for as much as $4 apiece, but we’re using items we would normally throw away and a few garden windfalls. Instructions for pinecone fire starters are plentiful, but the materials aren’t frugal. Purchased candle wicking, fragrance and paraffin blocks raise the cost considerably, so this is our version of the project and it didn’t cost us anything.

You will need: Candle stubs and unwanted decorative candles

Pinecones, magnolia pods, pieces of Christmas tree or Christmas wreath

Plain, garden-grade jute twine

A double boiler or heat-proof containers and some tongs and scissors


The first thing Cassidy does is remove the metal wick holders and any paper labels from her candles.You can collect candle ends in a box or bag through the year to have a supply of 'free' parrifin.


She chops them into smaller pieces so they will melt faster. Our candle stubs are already scented, but a sprinkle of cinnamon or apple pie spice on the soft wax will work too.


We're using an oven-proof glass bowl to melt the wax over a pan of gently boiling water. This may take a little while.


Instead of candle wicking, we're using jute garden twine. We found that it burns well and achieves the desired effect.


Cassidy wraps the jute around the pine cones and magnolia pods.

This helps the pod or cone burn longer and so it is effective kindling.


She makes sure that the jute is wrapped close to the core. You can use the end of your scissors to help push the twine down. The magnolia pods were a little harder to wrap in this method, but we poked the jute into cracks and crannies.


The poor, dried Christmas wreath was ready for a new life. It was on my south-facing door and was pretty crispy by the time I removed it.


Cassidy snips a few juniper twigs and pine needles from the wreath.


The garden jute ties the clippings into a neat bundle.


We decided to add a little sprig of rosemary to the wreath clippings. You can add fresh herbs as long as you don't over-do it. The fresh items will not burn as quickly, so you need to incorporate them with drier materials.


Once the wax is melted, Cassidy carefully dips the pinecones and magnolia pods in it.


We dipped everything and let it cool. Once the first layer was hardened, we quickly added another layer.

dipping greenery

Cassidy uses the kitchen tongs to dip the wreath sprigs. They're handy when the twine gets dropped in the hot wax too!

covering with wax

She carefully turns the greenery through the wax. It was extremely brittle and little pieces kept breaking. We saved this for last to keep our wax clean.

clipping wicks

After everything has cooled, Cassidy clips the 'wicks' to a more manageable length.

finished fire starters

Cassidy now has a nice collection of fire starters to take home to her parents. I do not have a fireplace, but they do.

lighting the pinecone

We just had to try one to see what happend. These are NOT candles and shouldn't be used as such. They are designed to burn, so the pinecones and magnolia pods will go up in us.


The garden jute makes a great wick for this project and we had plenty on hand. Pinecones and magnolia pods were gathered from the yard. The wreath was destined for the dumpster, as were the candle stubs. This Frugal Gardener project was frugal indeed!

Check out previous Frugal Gardener installments here, here and here