The snap, crackle, pop, and dancing flames in a wood-burning fireplace warm the heart as well as the home. When pine cones are plentiful, you can treat and use them as fire starters or add several to the wood to encourage a quick, hot fire. Different types of wood burn better, hotter, and cleaner than others, but the wood should always be seasoned for six months to a year to ensure that it's completely dry.
Pine Cone Kindling
You can burn pine cones in your fireplace or wood stove, and they're especially good for kindling when you're trying to start a fire. You may notice that pine cones smoke a little bit more than twigs or other small kindling, but then they will flare up and help ignite the larger pieces of wood in the fireplace.
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Be sure to close the fireplace screen after using a long match or fireplace lighter to light the fire starter or kindling. Keep the screen closed when the fire is burning to prevent sparks from flying out of the fireplace.
Pine Cone Fire Starters
Make your own homemade fire starters out of pine cones. This is a good way to use up pine cones if you have plenty of them around your yard. Gather up the pine cones as they fall and set them aside until you're ready to prepare the fire starters.
Place the harvested pine cones on a cookie sheet covered with aluminum foil and bake at 150 to 200 degrees Fahrenheit for one hour. Melt the wax — beeswax, candle-making wax, or bits of candles — in a double boiler on top of the stove. Tie a wick tightly around each pine cone; then dip it in the melted wax and set it aside to dry.
If you burn a lot of scented candles and use that leftover wax to coat your pine cones, this will give your fire a pleasant smell. Alternatively, stir scented oils or ground cinnamon, cloves, and other spices into the melted wax to scent the pine cone fire starters.
Colorful Pine Cone Flames
To make colorful flames, dry the pine cones first. Mix 1 cup of salt, borax, boric acid, or Epsom salts with 1/2 gallon of hot water and submerge the pine cones to soak overnight. Use salt for yellow flames, borax for yellow-green, boric acid for green, and Epsom salts for white. Allow the pine cones to dry for a minimum of three days before using them in the fireplace.
Pine Cones and Creosote
Creosote is a buildup of residue formed from burning softer woods such as pine. However, pine cones do not give off as much creosote as pine wood does. In addition, well-seasoned dry pine burns quickly and doesn't leave a creosote residue in the chimney.
To help prevent creosote, never burn green wood. Dry your firewood, whether pine, oak, or other softwood or hardwood, for six to 12 months before using it in the fireplace. Just to be on the safe side, have a professional chimney sweep inspect and clean your fireplace every year before cold weather arrives.
Starting a Fire
To start a fire using pine cones as tinder, place several small pieces of wood kindling on the grate; then top them with crumpled paper and one or two pine cones. Build a stack of firewood around the pine cones, with kindling and smaller pieces of wood positioned closest to the fire starters to burn first and the larger pieces around the perimeter. Use a long match to light the paper and pine cones.
Monitor the fire carefully and add more kindling around the pine cones, if necessary, to encourage the larger pieces to catch fire. Use firewood tongs, roll up your sleeves, and keep your clothing, hands, face, and hair, as well as children and pets, away from the firewood and flames.