28 April 2009

DIY: Candlefire ™

Camping often evokes thoughts of campfires.
It just seems that an evening at camp must have one. It’s like the moon and the tides; you can’t change that...
So when the administrators of National Parks around the world started to realize that too many of us having campfires in the wilderness were causing great degradation to the environment they decided to ban campfires.
Initially I took the news with disdain, followed by refusal and eventually I had a good look at the issue.
Fires cause tremendous impact in pristine wilderness. They scar the land.
Even if not escaping out of control with irreversible consequences (bush fires that kill lives and destroy property) even the mere little camp fires cause damage.
I love to travel in areas where there is little or no sign of human impact.
Unfortunately fires leave a scar that takes years to heal.
But I still want my fire; it just adds so much atmosphere.

Years ago, while in USA, somebody (Edgar Peralta) showed me the solution to this dilemma: make a fire in a can.
He produced this can that once lit looked like a small fire.
I couldn’t believe that simple thing would be a great surrogate to a real fire.
He explained to me the basic principles of fabricating one and I have since made hundreds of these.

You will need:
-candle wax (recycle your old unburned candles)
-medium sized empty can (tuna cans seems to work best)
- some cardboard
- pliers

Your can should be clean and dry.
You can place the can directly on the stove or have a much larger can to melt wax for the fabrication of multiple candlefires ™.
A word of caution: if you are generally a klutz and tend to spill and tip things probably you should not be handling hot wax, however if you can handle a bit of heat (so to speak), be careful and all will be good.

Wax is like oil. Do not spill any water into the liquid wax or an explosion of hot wax will spray everywhere.

Do not overheat wax: if it’s smoking there is great risk of imminent fire. Therefore stay at the stove while melting wax… don’t wonder off to the TV and watch the riveting Australian Idiot reruns…

Once the wax has melted, remove it from the stove with pliers.

Alternatively, if you have a large container of hot wax, carefully pour some into the empty cans, just below the brim.
You will need to insert a spiral of corrugated cardboard into the hot wax.
Add some “spikes” of cardboard that will act as starting wicks.

Let the can cool down before handling it with bare hands.

Candlefires ™ will give you a decent flame (small fire effect) for a couple of hours depending on the quality of the wax.
The great advantage of the candlefire ™ over the fire: people can sit all around without getting smoked out.

candlefires ™ at the table (timber has been protected)
Above pic is a time exposure. The flame is obviously much smaller...
The candlefire ™ is not more than a stove powered by wax therefore totally legal in all National Parks where open fires are not allowed but stoves are.
Light your candlefire ™ on a durable non flammable surface since once the candlefire ™ is lit the wax melts and can’t be repositioned.


  1. Thanks for posting this. I'd searched a bit for "candlefire" after your recent pictures post, but I couldn't find anything definitive.

  2. Just sent this link to a Queensland Parks and Wildlife Officer friend of mine, he said as it's an "open flame", it's a $5000 fine in Queensland National Parks. Not sure how that's any differnt to the "open flame" on my MSR fuel stove but there ya go.

  3. T-rev, thank you for your enquiry with Nat Parks.
    Is your friend in a position to certify his satement? (email will do).
    I have my doubts that his blank statement is correct though.
    Fires ARE allowed in some National Parks in Qld.
    Moreton for example allows fires if the firewood is brought in and not collected locally.
    But as you pointed out: how is the Candle Fire different than a liquid fuel stove?
    The flame that an MSR makes is equal if not greater than the Candle Fire.
    Surely candles are not illegal in Nat Parks.
    To clear this issue I am currently awaiting an official reply from EPA and have the Candle Fire "approved".
    Stay tuned...

  4. and I received a reply from
    Greg Smyth | Principal Project Officer
    Queensland Parks & Wildlife Division
    Department of Environment and Resource Management

    In his email to me he says:

    -Visitors are able to light fires in National Parks where a Fireplace or a BBQ is provided – some Parks provide firewood, while at others locations, visitors are expected to bring there own firewood.
    -In all cases it is an offence for a visitor to take wood from the Park to burn in a fire place.
    -All fires may be prohibited by permit condition, a permanently place regulatory notice (sign) or as you suggested a sign temporarily prohibiting fire during total fire ban.
    -At some Parks, visitors may use fuel stoves or campfires while in some cases only specific types of fuel stove will be permitted.
    -When using a fire in an appliance or a fireplace, the visitor should ensure the fire is more than 2 metres from flammable material.
    -If not specifically prohibited a visitor may use a lighting appliance (such as a candle) as long as its use does not result in damage to cultural or natural resources or property. A the person who lights the appliance or fire, assumes control of the fire and is responsible for putting it out and must take combustible waste with them.
    -Additionally if a Ranger reasonably believes that a fire may become a hazard, the Ranger can direct the person to either extinguish or lower the intensity of the fire. It is an offence not to comply with the direction.

    So, it appears that the above statement from EPA clears the legality of the Candlefire.

  5. Gnary Dog

    He was specifically talking about Parks Iin Qld) that allow fuel stoves only, as your inference was the cadle fire was a fuel stove of sorts. He said if he caught someone using a candle fire in a "fuel stove only park" he would issue them a fine.

    I guess I don't see any clarity in the statemnet from your QPWS contact above. i.e can teh cadle fire be considered as a fuel stove in fuel stove only national parks ?

  6. T-rev, I don't totally follow when your friend says "he will issue them a fine" if the Candlefire is used in a "fuel stove only".
    What exactly does prevent the Candlefire for being considered a "fuel stove"?
    I thought that Greg Smyth was very specific in his statements and cleared the "candle" issue.
    Further discussion would be appreciated.
    Email me at stixdog@gmail.com

  7. I can't clarify the Candlefire debate in Queensland, but I do think it's a nifty idea, and a cheap alternative to a bonafide camp fire. It reminds me of my misspent youth when we used to make candlewax & plastic baggie "zilches", hang them from the ceiling, light them, and watch liquid fire drip down into a baking pan on the floor. It was cheap and fun, but I wouldn't say it was safe.

  8. Probably safest to suggest heating the wax/paraffin with a double boiler setup (a big soup can in a pot of water will suffice) rather than directly on the heat. That way, you're less likely to catch the wax on fire - especially on a gas stove.

  9. Amohkali, thank you for the warning.
    You are right: there would be a risk of the melting pot catching fire over a gas stove if the wax was heated above melting temperature since there is an open flame.

  10. How much heat do you get from one of these..?? I.e can you cook over one..??

  11. Steen, I have never done a comparison with the typical water boil test against a gas stove but I have cooked on the candlefire when I ran out of gas for my stove.
    I have to say it was a slow process and I did end up with blackened pots but my meal got hot, eventually.

  12. Thanks. That was my expectations.

  13. We've been trying to teach our kids to make their own emergency candles, and I think this is a great post! Our kids have had a lot of fun learning about emergency preparedness. There has only been one incident, but no one was injured, and we have a fire damage crew coming out next week!

    Sara Welsh | http://www.rockefellerscleaning.com/fire_smoke.html


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