A Very Special, Mostly Fabulous Handmade Holiday Tutorial from the Crack Team at Old Recipe for a New World

Now what, you might be wondering, is a gal that won’t even buy knitting needles to make Christmas presents planning to give her most favorite loved ones this holiday season?

Well, pinecones, of course.

Pinecone firestarters, that is. All credit for this idea, good or bad, goes to the otherwise great book Earthways by Carol Petrash. I’m still not sure whether or not I’ve been led astray and the following tutorial borders on the absurd. But I had fun. Plus, I can always say the Little One made them.


Take a walk somewhere lovely. Somewhere with pine trees.

The little stream in the big bend of the road up there in the mountains is a fine place, but almost anywhere will do

as the goal is simply to fill your hat with pinecones.

(This is a good task to enlist the help of the little ones you intend to blame this gift on.)

Beeswax. Mmm. I should say that part of the appeal of this project is that it is sort of like pseudo candle making for impatient people like me.

In our town beeswax is found at the farmer’s market, herb store, and candle shop.

Carefully hack off lumps of wax while your child naps. She can still get the credit.

Melt in a double boiler. Remember–just a little water, and a tall-ish bowl to keep splashes out of the wax. (If your child is four or older, and very careful and meticulous, they could help with your constant supervision.)

I used about a half pound of wax for this pilot project.

The smell of warm beeswax and pinecones is heavenly.

The  book says to tie a string around the cone and dip it, but these micro fir cones did fine just getting stirred around with tongs.

I usually dipped them just once, careful to fill the petals of the cone with wax. Every third cone or so got double dipped.

Then onto the parchment paper to dry.

I was surprised at how quickly the beeswax disappeared–half a pound of wax for a couple dozen cones.

Now of course I tested these little guys out, of course! But my methods were very poor.

You can see I didn’t actually try to start a proper fire, thereby testing their actual function. I just wanted to see if they’d burn.

And the answer is, kind of. Sigh. I’m sorry friends, but I can’t guarantee this fine project. But look, this one did blaze on its own for a couple minutes. Or was it seconds? Maybe with some paper, some kindling, it would have been a roaring fire in an isntant.

Yes, I’m sure of it.

Anyways, it’s the thought that counts. And it’s a gift from a two year old to her papa or uncle or grandpa, or any outdoorsy, woodburning fireplace kind of person.

A little gift promising warmth and light for this winter’s cold, dark nights.

(Imagine photo of cute paper bag with red ribbon sticking out of stocking hanging by fireplace)

What, what, I ask you, could be better?*

Well perhaps a few things. Head on over to Renee’s and Tonya’s blogs for more glimpses of handmade holiday tutorials that don’t belong on Regresty. And thanks to both fine ladies for inspiring this latest adventure here at Old Recipe. And for the record, I will be making other nice things for Christmas, too. Hopefully they’ll all be as popular as pinecones.

No beeswax pinecones were harmed in the making of this picture, but it's one from this summer's road tripping I've been looking for an excuse to share here.

*My husband the firestarter (see otherwise unrelated photo above) was just consulted on this project’s viability and he said that my cute little cones were a) too small, b) too green, and c) not open enough. Plus, they are from fir trees. He says PINE would have worked better. Who would of guessed? I guess the diligent herbalist was caught up in the romance of the moment…plus, the little fir cones seemed like more bang for my buck in terms of stretching beeswax. Fortunately, this was only a test.

So don’t go to that bend in the road, go to that dip where the Ponderosa’s grow, and get the old dried out cones from last year, not the freshies from this one. And then drench the suckers in beeswax like you mean it.



8 Replies to “A Very Special, Mostly Fabulous Handmade Holiday Tutorial from the Crack Team at Old Recipe for a New World”

  1. Yeah! I ordered some beeswax from etsy a week or so ago and have wondered what I’ll actually use it for. This is it. Now, to collect pine cones before the snow arrives.

  2. I tested just pinecones first- we have the long, thin ones that are covered in sap! They worked a little, to get things going, but didn’t last long, and I had to use several. I just made some covered in beeswax I had leftover from making a wax tablet for a Medieval Midwinter Feast I did when I worked in a school library (that was a difficult project!). First cones look lovely, coated in light layers of wax from shaking the wax pouring pot, but the later ones just got all covered in thick wax, as I was doing it outside, in the cold, to keep the mess down (I made no mess, but Dahdee was worried I would). We’ll see how they work tonight when we relight the woodstove (again, Dahdee doesn’t want to use too many, thinks it will build-up creosote in the chimney). I managed to find the nice short, wide cones on a walk a few towns over this weekend (filled my coat pockets to overflowing!), so I’ll try those next & report the results!

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