Surefire Fire Starters

Discussion in 'Fire' started by Derk, Dec 2, 2018.

  1. Derk

    Derk Tracker

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    Hey guys! Years ago I had an old friend of mine (long past on now) tell me how to build a surefire way to make a fire when I'm in bad shape. We used to trap the rivers and every once in a blue moon one of us would take an unplanned dunking in ten degree weather. And I tell you, that's a bad deal when you take a swim in water that feels more like fire and when you get out you instantly start seizing up with cold. You need a really quick way to get that moist junk on the riverbank to burn NOW. His way was to always have a fire starter. His was built in a tuna can, but any container would work. You'd then fill that can with thick corrugated cardboard round and round in the inside. Then you'd put one bit of cardboard into a U shape coming out of the can and crossing the can so you have a place to put the match. Fill the can with lard and thoroughly soak the cardboard. These things would light easily in the cold with one match and burn for thirty or forty minutes at least. By that time any wood over the top has dried out and started. I never actually burned one in the driveway to time it.

    I've been working on making a better version of this. As you can imagine, the lard filled can was kind of clumsy and messy to use. So I just took a small plastic bottle (an old pill bottle) and filled it most the way with cedar sawdust and lard, then I put two lard soaked cotton balls on top. I'll try to light this with a ferro rod in a little while and see how long it burns. I have found in my own testing that the lard burns longer than Vaseline and starts just as easy. I'll update this when I burn it.

    Please, let me know what great little fire starters you use. I'm always itching for new knowledge, and you guys are loaded with great ideas!!
     
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  2. Derk

    Derk Tracker

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    Ok, I pulled this fire starter out of the freezer. It was frozen solid. I took it out to the driveway and set it on fire with the ferro rod and timed it with a stop watch. It burnt just over 30 minutes.

    More details: It was a 2 fluid ounce bottle I used; cedar chips; 2 cotton balls; all soaked full with lard. We have high winds right now so the fire was blowing sideways and the coals were glowing hot the whole time. It's also drizzling. I mostly pulled out one of the cotton balls and spread it out and the ferro rod DID have a hard time starting it. I'm going to try this again with Vaseline and see how long it burns and how easy it is to start. Especially how easy it is to start. The frozen lard DID NOT like the ferro rod like it does in warmer weather. I also wonder how a higher BTU wood would do. Hickory or hedge might give out a lot more heat to start the kindling.
     
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  3. Derk

    Derk Tracker

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    Ok, I made up a fire starter just like the first one but with Vaseline instead of lard. I froze it the same amount of time and then set it on fire in the driveway. It seemed to start easier with the ferro rod but the wind put it out twice. I didn't have that with the lard. The lard was harder to start, but when it did, it stayed lit. The Vaseline fire starter burnt for a bit over 24 minutes.

    My conclusion thus far is that I like the lard much better (it stayed lit in the wind and burned longer), but I would like to try some different fuels in the cotton balls for the initial light. I know bee's wax and boiled linseed oil does not work worth a flip. Any suggestions??? I've also thought of trying one using toothpicks instead of sawdust. It probably won't do any better but it's worth a little time to make sure.
     
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  4. Staleym

    Staleym Scout

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    Hey there. Thanks or the trials and reports!
     
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  5. IAOutdoors

    IAOutdoors Supporter Supporter

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    @Derk you might want to give this method a go also to compare ease of use and compactness. I took a class of @IA Woodsman were he demonstrated this method and we made our own kits and we had to make fire in really crappy wet snowy weather. Worked like a champ with damp outer layered twigs.
    Sorry not to derail your thread but give it a go. I carry this kit in all my hunting, hiking and get home bags.
     
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  6. DavidJAFO

    DavidJAFO Supporter Supporter

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    hello,
    @Derk reading your thread reminded me of BCUSA forum members deer hunting. I can recall a while back harvesting the meat from a deer, & that the deer had a whole bunch of fat on it. My thinking, instead of tossing it in the trash, it has another use. It's no good for eating, being extremely gamey in flavour, but it does make excellent candles from the tallow. I've noticed that deer tallow is more saturated when it comes to fat. It hardens better than beef tallow, which makes me think it is overall better for your cardboard fire starter. Just my 2 cents worth. :)
    Regards
    David
     
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  7. Sloany

    Sloany Supporter Supporter

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    JMO, Perhaps this would be fine to try incase you find yourself in the bush far away from modern components to make a fire starter, but messy. I myself would prefer to use materials that would not go bad and create a mess in my packs, instead of using animal renderings. Hell, bacon grease works well, and you can fry your eggs in it while your waiting for your clothes to dry, and it smells better, LOL . There are so many other materials that are far better for this purpose, imo. For example, adding mineral oil to wax along with some PJ creates an excellent compound for making your tuna can fire starter. Lamp oil and tiki torch oils added to wax make it super easy to ignite.
     
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  8. crewhead05

    crewhead05 caffeine, nicotine, knives and nature. Lifetime Supporter Supporter

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  9. bigfoots

    bigfoots Scout

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    Those are good for cooking over in a pinch also.
     
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  10. Derk

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    I just finished putting together two more fire starters. One is cedar sawdust and lard with a paraffin soaked cotton ball for a wick. The other is paraffin and sawdust with a cotton ball wick. I'm going to burn them side by side after they're frozen good. I tried a frozen paraffin soaked cotton ball earlier and it lit better and burnt longer than lard or Vaseline. Thanks, Bigfoots!!
     
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  11. Derk

    Derk Tracker

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    Ok, I've test burned the two fire starters. One was cedar sawdust mixed with paraffin wax poked tight into a 2 fluid ounce bottle. The other was the same but used lard rather than paraffin. Both had cotton balls soaked in paraffin for wicks. The paraffin starter burned for just over 26 minutes and the lard one burnt for just over 30 minutes. The lard burnt with a steady large fire once it was established. The paraffin ramped up to it's highest burn quicker and burnt with more flame for few minutes. Maybe twice as much flame during that short period. So maybe the paraffin put out more BTU's but over a shorter period. I'm not sure. Again, I froze both these in the freezer for several hours before testing to mimic winter conditions better.

    Something I note from the earlier test: The first time I burnt one of these lard starters there were very high winds and we had a cold drizzle coming down. During this test the wind was low to moderate, temps good, and no rain at all. Yet the lard starter burnt for exactly the same amount of minutes both times. The first time I tested the wind was stoking the fire and making it glow like a forge. I figured that the wind was making it burn down quicker, but this test shows that it burnt it's set time regardless of the wind.

    Once again I goofed up. I had far too much wax on my cotton ball wicks. The ferro rod sparks would fall on the wax and go out. I had to mostly pull out the wicks and spread them out to get more cotton exposed. Only a small amount of wax is needed for the wick and too much is detrimental. Lesson learned. That's why I'm doing this.

    My wife has come up with some of the small spice bottles. These look about the perfect size and I like the wider mouth on them. It'll give me more room to drop in sparks from my rod.

    Well I hope this was helpful for some of you guys as well as me. Thanks for your suggestions. I'm going to try them all out.
     
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  12. Portage_Monster

    Portage_Monster Scout

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    Has anyone thought about making one of these in a block of wood that's been hollowed out with a forstner bit? Same principle - wax soaked cardboard to light, but no can to clean up.
     
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  13. MrFixIt

    MrFixIt Old Jarhead Supporter Bushcraft Friend

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    That is a great idea. Sounds like you just cooked up your next project.
    I'll expect a 10 page report complete with build and in use photos by 1600 hrs tomorrow.

    :eek:

    ;)
     
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  14. Portage_Monster

    Portage_Monster Scout

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    I'll see what I can do! Well... Maybe not tonight...

    In all reality though it could be great. I'd want to find some hardwood so it would resist splitting, not catch on fire immediately, and leave you with a good dense coal in the base of your fire. Let's see some of the forum woodworkers turn one on a lathe! ha
     
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  15. MrFixIt

    MrFixIt Old Jarhead Supporter Bushcraft Friend

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    I really think it is a god idea. A hardwood dowel with a hole drilled, then filled with *add mixture*...
     
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  16. Portage_Monster

    Portage_Monster Scout

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    So it begins! I was thinking hockey puck sized to increase the burn area and generate more heat but it would burn out faster. So is it tall and skinny or short and fat?
     
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  17. MrFixIt

    MrFixIt Old Jarhead Supporter Bushcraft Friend

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    I would go for short. Would be more compact...
     
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  18. Kona9

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    A big chunk of fatwood drilled out and filled would certainly provide an abundance of heat. It might not burn as long though.
     
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  19. MrFixIt

    MrFixIt Old Jarhead Supporter Bushcraft Friend

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    :4:
    I was thinking the same thing. Talk about a sho-nuff fireball!
     
  20. I dream in green

    I dream in green Scout

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    Instead of Vaseline or lard soaked cotton balls how about a wick made from jute twine dipped in beeswax/parafin wax?

    You could insert the wick down into the firestarter puck when you make it.

    Just fluff up the end of the wick to spread the fibers to catch your spark then light...

    I've had much better consistency and performance with waxed jute twine over Vaseline soaked cottonballs... There is a sweet spot for the amount of Vaseline used in the cotton balls, and if they become too permeated they become hard to fluff and expose the fibers.

    ETA just read your post from Monday, seems you already learned the Vaseline oversaturation lesson lol
     
    Last edited: Dec 6, 2018 at 3:29 PM
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  21. holygoat

    holygoat Supporter Supporter

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    Melted down beeswax and pine resin, and mixed with lamp oil in a 1-1-1 ratio. Soaked cotton makeup removing pads. Folded in half, put quickly inside a cheap sliding-lid tin.

    Scraped to lift some fuzz these light easily, burn for a long time (I estimate 15+ minutes, but never timed), and fit through the little fuel ports on small twig stoves like the Firebox Nano. You can slide the lid closed to snuff. Small and light enough to always keep in a pocket, and should get just about anything lit.
     

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  22. Derk

    Derk Tracker

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    Great idea. Take a branch the right diameter and drill it out. I like the jute wick idea and the cotton pad idea. I'll give both a try this weekend if I have time. It's supposed to be snowy and wet here which would be perfect conditions to try one in. I'm thinking a hickory limb should work great. One short and fat. The other tall and skinny. I have the drill bits. Forster bits and big hand augers.
     
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  23. Derk

    Derk Tracker

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    You know I seen a thread where they're using the cotton pads and paraffin. I picked up some pads today and was gonna try that. Does the beeswax burn better when mixed? I couldn't get it to start in a cotton ball even when putting it in a fire. The paraffin burns great. Maybe my bees are pyrophobics.o_O I know they run and hide when I smoke them.
     
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  24. Coryphene

    Coryphene Guide

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    I like the long burning fierce can-o-tinder!

    ...But how exactly does it start a fire? Does it have an exposed match head or a nifty self igniting thingamabob?
     
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  25. Derk

    Derk Tracker

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    The tuna can had corrugated cardboard wrapped tight in the inside. Then we'd take another piece of cardboard and poke each end into the stuffed cardboard. It would make an upside down U. Then we'd just pour if full of bacon grease. The upside down U was the wick. You just hold a match under it until you get a good grease fire going. They would certainly turn into a fire bomb. But, like I said, they're a bit on the heavy side for backpacking and they're messy. Also the can-o-grease probably wouldn't start easily with a ferro rod. It'd need a better wick.
     
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  26. Derk

    Derk Tracker

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    Hey IAOutdoors, how are these made? I'm on satellite internet and can't watch videos. They simply won't play. Thanks!!
     
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  27. IAOutdoors

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    Grab some aluminum foil, petroleum jelly and cottonballs. Lay a piece of aluminum foil about 4”x4”
    down first. Then take four cottonballs and work petroleum jelly into them until they are very saturated with it but you can still see the cotton fibers. Roll the saturated cottonballs up in the foil making like a two inch by two inch square. Take a black sharpie and put an x across the back of the square as this is where you are going to open up the starter. You can vacuum pack a paper book of matches with this package as @IA Woodsman does or use a fero rod to ignite which just takes a little fluffy up of the fibers. With the foil you have a base up off the wet ground and just use a brace wood to keep your found dry twigs from smothering it. I have also used a ziplock bag instead of the vacuum seal.
     
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  28. MrFixIt

    MrFixIt Old Jarhead Supporter Bushcraft Friend

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    Kapok and fatwood shavings mixed together make a great fire starter. It will take a spark and burn even when wet. ;)
     
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  29. CSM-101

    CSM-101 Scout

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    I like wax coated cotton pads for compact kits, I've also made a version of a firestarter i was told about by a guy who used to be in the BSA:

    A pressed paper egg carton tray filled with wood shavings (he said they used sawdust) topped with jute twine for a lighting surface, and filled with paraffin wax

    oJmos7I.jpg

    These burn with a pretty serious flame for around 12 minutes or so.

    IxXDAy3.jpg
     
  30. Todd1hd

    Todd1hd Supporter Supporter

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    If you are in a cold weather, wet, hypothemia situation you are not going to be trying to use a fero rod. You will be using a lighter or match. We not only canoe year around we practice cold water survival and when you are that cold you do not have the dexterity to use a fero rod. A lighter is tough but manageable. The best thing we have found to use with really cold fingers is a charcoal grill lighter. And we also make a Palmer furnace using Sterno and a garbage bag.
     
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  31. Derk

    Derk Tracker

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    I think I'd rather stick with strike anywhere matches. Those lighters are terribly unreliable. They work until you really need one. I have a zippo that runs out of fuel every other day. It's next to worthless. I gave up using lighters on my pipe. The cheap ones would only last a few days and the good ones are VERY expensive. I balk at spending a $150 on a lighter. And I've pulled brand new charcoal lighters out of the package that won't strike. I've come to hate them. Regular old-fashioned kitchen matches seem to always work for me. Problem is keeping them dry. Intent of the ferro rod is that it doesn't matter if it's wet. You're right, and I agree with what you're saying... it just kind of stinks though.

    Well, beyond the striking problem, making a fire block that'll burn for a long time with intensity isn't too hard. I've been working with some wicks to find something that'll take the ferro rod sparks easily and light the was/grease bomb. I just got some jute twine tonight to try out. Last night I took some of the cotton cleaning pads and dipped them in wax. They work good when they're ripped and leave the fibers sticking up. I seem to have the same problem of getting too much wax into the pad and it all smears together when I'm trying to rip it. Then it won't light without a match.
     
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  32. Todd1hd

    Todd1hd Supporter Supporter

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    Your ideas are good, I am just speaking from what we have found works when we intentionally get in 36 degree water, get out and light a fire. We just light a can of sterno. It always lights easily. And I don't disagree about the charcol lighters, but we have yet to have one fail. But actually I carry matches for that possibility and practice with those as well. As a little more background the water is usually around 36 degrees in the winter months and we have been in when the ambient temps are in the upper teens and lower 20's but usually we get wet when the temp is in the upper 30's and lower 40's. It is shocking to jump in water in the 30's and the temp in the 20's. I promise you a fire is a priority when you come out. In winter I wear mid weight long underwear top and bottom, a fleece jacket, wading pants, and a spalsh top. I wear a toboggan on my head and no gloves, I double blead my canoes and obviously double blade my kayaks so I use poggies to keep my hands warm. My hands stay warmer and I have much greater dexterity.
     
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  33. perdidochas

    perdidochas Guide

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    When I was a Boy Scout leader, we made what we called buddy burners. Take a tuna can (or pineapple can, in my case), and cut corrugated cardboard to the height of the can, and then put it in a spiral into the can. Then melt some paraffin, and pour it over the cardboard. Basically, a candle with a monster wick. We've used one can to cook two or three burgers one after the other (on a homebuilt can "stove").
     
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  34. Derk

    Derk Tracker

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    Yep, that's what we were making, just with grease instead of wax. My buddy, Charlie, was big on bacon so it was a natural thing for him to use bacon grease. He used bacon grease for everything. I bet he would have topped ice cream with it if people weren't watching.:rolleyes:
     
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  35. perdidochas

    perdidochas Guide

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    We're in north Florida. It would be hard enough to keep the paraffin from melting from the environment. I can't imagine the bugs that bacon grease would attract here.
     
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  36. Derk

    Derk Tracker

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    I tried making waxed rope last night. In one case I took 15 foot of jute string and corded it up into a fat little rope. I then dropped into my liquid paraffin for awhile. It is really waxed now. But I'm back to the same problem. There's so much wax it won't light. I cut off a section and split it all up and ruffle it up but it won't light. I did the same thing with some sisal rope. Once they're lit they burn good but there's so much wax they don't hardly light.

    I also lit some without being waxed. I did ruffle them up into bird's nests. They'd flare up and die. Both the jute and the sisal. I really stink at this.

    The best little short term tinder lighter I've gotten so far was taking a cotton ball, and holding it barely on the end with the tips of my fingers, dipping it quickly into the paraffin. I'd leave the area where my fingers were without any wax. After they hardened I'd smear a tiny bit of Vaseline or lard into the clean tip of cotton. Those would light really easy with the ferro rod and burn over 7 minutes.
     
  37. MrFixIt

    MrFixIt Old Jarhead Supporter Bushcraft Friend

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    Sounds like the jute got over saturated.
     
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  38. Midwest.Bushlore

    Midwest.Bushlore Supporter Supporter Bushcraft Friend

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    @oldpinecricker makes some pretty cool firestarters, not sure if he's done a thread on 'em or not.
     
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  39. UAHiker

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    i've run into this same problem. the only solution i've found for it so far it put your rope, cotton ball ect.. in some oil, PJ, or lamp oil0 1st then dunk in wax. the oil keeps the wax from completely saturating the entire thing leaving the center still be able to fluff up and take a spark easily.
     
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  40. Derk

    Derk Tracker

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    That's sounds like a good solution. That way my cotton ball would be water proof but I could still break it up and strike it.

    Thanks!!
     
    UAHiker likes this.
  41. Luzster

    Luzster Of course your opinion matters, just not to me... Supporter

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    Those pads fit into dip cans nicely too. I can put 3 waxed pads in one can.
     

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