DIY Fuel Tablets from Pine Mountain FirelogsMarch 11, 2013 by Melanie Swick | Be the first to comment »
Fuel tablets can range from handy to life-saving in a survival situation. You can use them to provide warmth, signal, start a larger fire, or even cook, and while commercial options, like the Esbit fuel cubes are convenient, they are pricy and don’t last as long as a DIY fuel tablet.
I’ve experimented with a few different ways to make your own effective yet inexpensive fuel tablets, but stumbled across a shockingly simple solution while grocery shopping. My wife, ever the bargain hunter, was perusing the clearance rack and while standing there, I noticed a few Pine Mountain® fire logs on the bottom shelf priced at just under $3 each. You can buy these artificial logs in most grocery, convenience, and home improvement stores.
I cut the log into 10–1″ thick chunks with a simple hand saw for the core of the fuel tablets.
Next I laid out a roughly 24″ long piece of wax paper, and set one chunk of the cut log, flat side down, on the paper and covered it with a thick layer of petroleum jelly. Then I flipped the chunk over and applied a thick layer to the other side as well. This is critical because it makes the fuel tablet much easier to light.
I rolled the wax paper over tightly and neatly like a burrito, squeezing some of the petroleum jelly down around the sides of the log chunk in the process. A small piece of masking tape held the roll closed.
The last step was to fold the excess wax paper over to opposing sides and tape them down. Now you have a neatly packaged fuel tablet.
I tested a few of these out and they performed quite well. I used a two–hour log, however, the completed tablets burned for roughly one hour. That’s still significantly longer than the 12 minutes that the Esbit cubes advertise. I don’t know what temperature these DIY fuel tablets burned at, but I can tell you they exceeded the 600° max of my IR thermometer—plenty of heat for cooking. They were easy to ignite and burned cleanly with little visible smoke, however, do not use them for open-flame cooking like roasting over a spit, because the flame will add chemicals to your food that you definitely do not want to ingest. Using them with a pot, skillet, or something similar is fine though, as it will protect your food from the chemicals. Also, I recommend propping them off the ground a bit with small sticks or rocks so that air can circulate freely, making them easier to ignite and producing a fuller flame.
Just a few dollars in materials (log, wax paper, masking tape, and petroleum jelly) and a small investment of time produced inexpensive yet effective fuel tablets. Each log will produce ten tablets, giving you a total of ten hours of burn time.