How It All Began
My name is Robert Crider, owner and general manager of The Original Fire Pie Company located in Mansfield, Ohio. The business was named for it's flagship product, the Fire Pie, which started off as a brilliant idea that seemed to have potential to become a million dollar product, but failed miserably before it ever took off. That failure, however, was not in vain as it opened the door for other opportunities such as Kindle Magic, and also helped me launch an e-commerce website that helps keep the bills paid. Since 2001, I've been operating a website called the Fire Pie Trail Store, selling open fire cooking tools and outdoor adventure gear. The site was originally built to market Kindle Magic, but as it developed visitors began asking for other open fire cooking products such as pie irons, hot dog forks, grills, etc. I found suppliers and added those products and the business began to grow. As time went by, more products were added, and the website currently represents over 200 products.
While I am quite pleased with the overall success of the Trail Store website, the original intention of marketing Kindle Magic somehow got pushed out of the way. Although I've been using it for starting my own fires for years and have many regular customers who buy it, use it and love it, I've never got around to taking things to the next level. Besides not having the time and money to invest in it, I wasn't satisfied with the retail packaging, and couldn't decide on the best way to market it. I've worked all those issues out now, and am finally ready to move Kindle Magic into mass production and into the retail marketplace.
There are currently five different Kindle Magic products to help with all phases of fire kindling, tending, and maintenance.
Like many other inventions, Kindle Magic was created mostly by accident. The final product as it is used today was not my original intention, which was to create a simple firestarter for my own personal use. I had no thoughts or desire to create a retail product. I just wanted something I could use to light a campfire, fireplace, backyard fire pit or whatever. I am considered "pyrotechnically challenged", a term that means I suck at starting a fire without some sort of help. It seemed that I could never find firestarters at the store when I needed them, and without something to help get things going, I often times just gave up and had no fire at all.
Birth Of The "Fire Pie"
I was a single parent for 16 years, so in the fall of 2000 when my kids grew up and moved out, I took advantage of my new found freedom and headed for Texas to help my brother with his construction business. Some days I would work in the office and other days I helped out on job sites. One day I went with him to Galveston Island where he was doing restoration work on an old, historic house. While we were planing down a large board for the project, I noticed a huge pile of fine wood shavings developing on the finishing end of the planer. For some reason when I saw them, I couldn't stop thinking about how I might be able to use those shavings to try making a firestarter. At the end of the day, I bagged some up and took them home to do some experimenting with.
That evening I successfully created my own firestarter by pressing handfuls of the shavings into an aluminum pie pan filled halfway with melted wax from an old candle. I kept pressing the shavings in until all of the molten wax was absorbed. After letting it cool and harden, I broke off a piece and put a flame to it to see if it would light. It worked great and I was satisfied. Then, at my brother's request, I decided to light the entire "pie" to see what it would do. I had plenty of wood shavings left and it would be very easy to make another one, so I figured, "why not?". We took it to his backyard fire ring and lit it. The fire started off slow and easy, but within a couple of minutes the flame covered the entire surface, and then started growing and rising upwards. Surprisingly, it burned for nearly two hours and produced a bright flame three feet high and warmth that could be felt a few feet away.
As I watched it burn it occurred to me that this concept could be marketed as a portable campfire. It was compact, durable, waterproof, and best of all, inexpensive to make. I dubbed it with the name "Fire Pie" because it looked very much like a flaming pecan pie (without the crust, of course). I set up a website to begin marketing this fantastic new product idea, and the research and development phase soon began. For the next couple of weeks I spent all of my free time making and testing these "fire pies" and thinking of ways to market them. Everyone I showed them too agreed that it was a wonderful idea and even joked with me about not forgetting them after I got rich from selling them. I was so excited to have a product that was so easy and inexpensive to make, and that had the potential to be a very good seller. I started buying up old candles from second hand stores and looking for a place where I could set up shop to make enough fire pies to satisfy whatever demand that might be created.
It was a dream come true!
Death Of A Dream
One day my brother asked me to make him a small fire pie that he could use as a test in his free-standing fireplace at his house. It was mid-January in Houston and the weather was cool and damp, and he wanted to build a small fire to knock the chill out of the air. The mini-pie worked great for getting the logs burning, but apparently ended up burning too well. The firebox got extremely hot, causing the temperature in his living room soar to over 100 degrees! He said it was so hot that even with the windows and doors open, he was afraid his walls were going to burst into flames. Fortunately the fire eventually died and didn't burn his house down.
The following morning, his wife asked me how to extinguish a fire pie, or at least control the heat if it did get too hot. So I went to work to find an answer and looked for effective ways to quench a burning fire pie. That's when things went terribly wrong. I made up a small test pie and lit it. I waited about ten minutes before attempting to put it out, and when it was burning really hot and all the wax had melted, I poured a large cup of water into the flaming pie to see if it would go out, and what happened next was unbelievable. As soon as the water made contact, that tiny little fire pie erupted violently into a volcanic storm of flaming goo balls that went everywhere, some shooting as high as 20 feet into the air. Within a matter of two seconds, I managed to set my house, my van, my yard, and even myself on fire. It was very scary to say the least, but somehow I was able to put out all of the little fires that started. Luckily, I was okay and there was no serious damage to anything except my pride.
Once I realized how violently the fire pie reacted to the water being poured into the pan, it was clear that it was too dangerous to risk selling them. Even a few drops of water might be enough to cause severe burns or even start a wildfire if used in a wooded area, which happened to be the very place they were intended to be used. The Fire Pie was immediately taken off of the website, and the dream of becoming wealthy from creating a succesful product suddenly died. I felt devastated. Fortunately, however the product, the website, and the internet were all still new enough that no orders were placed and nobody got hurt.
It was a crushing blow, but I was glad to have discovered this major flaw myself rather than being responsible for someone else's horrific experience. I kept asking myself, "What if someone was using one of these while camping and it started raining?". I'm glad my brother and his wife weren't injured and that they didn't lose their home. I am also very grateful to both of them for believing in me, testing the product, and asking the right questions that helped me come to realize before it was too late that this was not the useful product I thought it was in the beginning. I'd much rather have a dream die than to think of what else could have happened!
Rising From The Ashes
Every sad story deserves to have a happy ending, and many inventions have an odd beginning. The story of how Kindle Magic came into existence is no different. Believe it or not, the secret to making this amazing product was discovered while I was cleaning house!. On a cold, misty day in February, 2001, just a couple of weeks after I had created the impromptu firestorm that nearly burned down my neighborhood, my unspeakable sorrow was suddenly turned to joy, and my dream was restored.
The day after the fire pie exploded, my brother knew something was wrong when I showed up at the office. Up until that time I was in a very euphoric, upbeat mood and talking pretty much non-stop about the fire pie and fullilling my dream of being a successful businessman. Now all of the sudden, I couldn't hide my extreme disappointment, grief, and sadness, so naturally he wanted to know what was wrong. As difficult as it was to admit my failure, I shared all the details about the horrible incident from the night before. Since he was my younger brother, I fully expected him to bust out laughing, but he didn't. Instead, he seemed to share my sadness , and even tried to console me with words of encouragement. "Don't let it destroy you like this," he said. "Just because that didn't work doesn't mean it won't work if you try something different." He suggested I try using wood chips instead of wood shavings and sawdust. I immediately rejected his idea as being stupid, saying that the wood chips wouldn't work because they couldn't soak up the wax the way the shavings did. I told him I wasn't really in the mood to talk about it any more, so we didn't.
After a few days went by, I was feeling a little better about things, but still disappointed that I no longer had a salable product. At least I had succeeded in creating something I could use for my own personal use when I wanted to start a fire which, asfter all, was all I intended to do in the beginning. So when it came down to it, I was no worse off than I was before the project fell apart.
While grocery shopping a week or so later, I happened to notice a bag of wood chips on the shelf that are commonly used in a wood smoker. I thought about what my brother had suggested, so I grabbed a bag and threw it into my cart. When I got home, I found a large, square candle jar that still had about 1/3 of the wax still in it, so I set inside of a pan of boiling water on the kitchen stove. When the wax was melted, I added a few handfuls of the chips into it, and stirred them around real good with a large silverware style serving spoon. I let them set for a few minutes and pulled one of the chips out to see what would happen. As I predicted, it had not absorbed any of the wax, but instead there was a thick coating of wax all over the outside of the chip. I decided to try lighting it anyhow just to see if it might possibly ignite. I struck a match and held it to the wood chip, and all that happened was the wax melted and dripped onto the floor. Being disappointed yet again, I just walked away and left everything as it was and forgot about it. I was ready to accept my defeat an move on. Ironically, that's when things turned around for the better.
It's All About The Spoon
They say timing is everything, and so is location. It just so happened that for once in my life I was in the right place time. The weather in east Texas is nice for the most part, but the period between mid-January and mid-February can become cold, rainy, and dreary. When its like that, there isn't much enjoyment to be had outdoors, nor work that can be done, so I was pretty much housebound when I wasn't working with my brother. On one such day in early February, the air in my house was feeling damp, chilly, and uncomfortable. Since my little house didn't have a furnace and I didn't own any space heaters, I set on the oven in the kitchen stove on the "low" setting and left the door ajar to warm things up. That was usually sufficient to keep the place comfy.
For the next several days it was drizzly and yucky out, and about the only thing there was to do was to eat, sleep, and watch TV. I was still lingering in the depression of my failed fire pie experiences and really didn't feel like doing much anyhow. After a couple of days the weather hadn't improved and I was bored with watching television, so I decided to do a major house cleaning just for something to do. When I got to the kitchen to start cleaning, I saw the candle jar sitting on the counter, still full of wax, wood chips, and the spoon I used to stir it together with. I wanted my spoon, but it was firmly set since the wax and wood had pretty much encased it inside of the jar. The only logical way to get it out of there would be to melt the wax.
The jar, the wood, and the wax didn't really matter at that point, and I would have been okay with just throwing the whole mess away as it was. But, like I said, I wanted my spoon. It was a nice, big spoon, and it was also part of my silverware set. Rather than look for a pan to boil water in to do the melting, I decided to stick the jar in the oven since it was already warm. I figured the temperature would be hot enough to melt the wax or at least soften it enough to allow me to retrieve the spoon. I know candle jars are supposed to withstand a fair amount of heat, but just in case the oven was too hot and the jar should break, I grabbed a baking sheet pan to put it on to contain any melted wax that might spill out. I stuck the tray into the oven and pushed it to the rear so it would get the most heat. Little did I know at the time that each of these unplanned steps and the ones that were to follow, along with my desire to get my spoon out of the jar instead of just throwing the everything out, would all be critical to the miracle that was about to occur.
Burn, Baby, Burn!
Out of sight, out of mind. And that's how it was with Operation: Spoon Retrieval. A couple of days had passed since I put the jar into the oven, which I discovered while trying to put something else into the oven to heat up for dinner. The food I was cooking was also on a baking sheet which collided with the baking sheet that the jar was on. Apparently I had gotten busy with other cleaning tasks and had completely forgotten about it. So I took the jar out and set it on the counter. I removed the spoon and set it aside (YAY! Missioon accomplished!). I decided to save the wax since it was already melted, so I poured it through a strainer and set it aside. I was about to dump the chips into the trash but they were still pretty hot and I was afraid they would melt the plastic can liner and create a big mess later. So I poured them into one of the many aluminum pie pans I had accumulated from when I was making the original fire pies, and set them on the dining table to let them cool before pitching them.
A little while later when my food was finished heating, I went to the table to eat and saw the pan of chips setting there. For some reason, they looked much different than the chip I had pulled from the melted wax a few days earlier. There was no wax coating on them. They looked like normal wood chips except for a reddish tint from the dye in the wax, and they smelled really good like the cinnamon-apple fragrance of the candle. I thought to myself, "I wonder if they would light?" So I picked one up out of the pan, put a lit match to it, and it PRESTO! It DID light! The chip didn't light very fast or burn real good, but it burned well enough and long enough to let me know I was on to something. I got so excited that I forgot that I was hungry and ended up not eating until later.
Needless to say, my enthusiasm level returned to at least what it was before the big fire pie disaster. I went to work right away trying to figuring out a way to make the chips light easier and burn longer. Before getting too excited and too far into things, however, the first thing I did was put a small pile of them into a pan and took them outdoors. After a few tries, I got them to light okay, and after a few minutes they produced a flame that started to burn pretty good. Once the pile became somewhat engulfed with flames, I performed the most crucial test of all...the water test. I moved the pan of burning chips away from the house, my van, and everything else that I did not wish to catch on fire. Then, with a fire extinguisher close at hand, I nervously approached the fire as if it were a venemous snake, and cautiously poured water into the flames. I expected the worst but was pleasantly surprised.
Much to my joy, satisfaction, and relief, the fire went out like any other wood fire...with a loud hiss and a plume of smoke!
The rest is history, and a closely guarded secret. I spent the next several months developing a recipe, mixing the right blend of cooking woods for maximum performance, and developing a process to "cook" and dry the chips to make them light faster, and burn hotter and longer. While wax is still part of what makes Kindle Magic work, only clean food-grade parrafin is used. The other ingredients used in today's Kindle Magic recipe are also food-grade and can be commonly found in most kitchen cupboards.
Be Part Of The Story...Help Write The Next Chapter!
After 12 years of planning, development, product testing, and online test marketing, Kindle Magic is now ready to advancce into the retail marketplace. At this time, Kindle Magic is only available on the internet, and is what is considered to be a "cottage industry" product. That means it is still being produced in a "home" environment and product sales are below a certain threshold. I want to move it into mass production and get it onto the store shelves of campground commissaries, marinas, fireplace shops, firewood dealers, and any other place it would make a good fit.
In order to do that, a factory must be created, equipment must be put into it, and raw materials must be purchased. But it's going to take some money to make that happen, and that's where you can help!
Thanks to the wonderful world of the internet, and a new concept called crowdfunding, it is now possible for me to realize the dream of seeing Kindle Magic available in those locations. I have designed a fund-raising campaign on a website called Indiegogo that allows folks just like yourself to make a contribution toward my goal of being able to open up a factory and start producing Kindle Magic on a large scale basis.
Contributions are accepted in amounts of $25, $100, and $500. Those who make contributions will be rewarded with free product and lifetime discounts on future online purchases available at all levels. Your participation will greatly be appreciated, and when you see Kindle Magic sitting on a store shelf someday in the future, you can proudly (and honestly) say that you helped put it there!
For more information about the campaign and how you can help take Kindle Magic to the next level, please visit my campaign page by clicking here. Thank you!