I used to start the fire with good old BBQ fluid. Depending on the brand you buy, some goes up like gasoline and some is really slow to light. Generally, the cheap off brand stuff catches to fast to be safe. I found Kingsford brand to be rather hard to ignite and that's good. Once it lights we were off to the races. When I didnt have the $$ for firewater, I have phone books. a thick phone book will supply fire starting for a long time. (one page at a time). I once bought a case of cool wax/sawdust firestarters that actually had a match head at the end and you struck them on the side of the box. havent seen those in a long time. Now my GF one xmas bought me a little cast iron kettle with a long rod with a stone on the end. you half fill the little kettle with paraffin oil (good 99% smokeless/odorless stuff, it costs $$$ but its worth it) and you take the rock (ok its a ceramic ball) on a stick that's soaked with the oil and set it in the firebox and then drop some kindling and splints on top, then you light the stone. It burns for about 10 minutes, long enough to warm the pipe and get the fire going. It's a very cool gadget, and thats what I use now. The rock ball wont really light, in fact its nearly impossible to get lit, unless you dip the thing in the ash bucket to get some ash on it (it sticks to the wet stone) and for some reason, then it'll light up easy. The fire and wood catches fire fast, so I usually set the stone in the grate for the first 5 min of its burn while I'm gathering the wood up, and it does a nice job of warming up the pipes, and getting a nice draft going. http://www.gardeners.com/Cape-Cod-Fire-Starter/35-438,default,pd.html A link, in case ya want one too. I tend to knock stuff over, so I have mine sitting in a coffee can back in a corner. This yr I might braze its little legs to a small steel plate to make it tip-over-proof. I think you can braze cast Iron.... Maybe I'll just JB weld it.