Anyone use burlap? I have just started using it and it seems to work really well. It smolders for a while so you have to give it some pumps to get it smoking again, but seems to stay lit for a long time. Also when I am done i plug the smoker with a cork. I can then re-use all the unburnt burlap, so you get a lot of mileage out of it.
Haven't seen anyone mention cedar bark off cedar posts. It lights easily with a common long nosed fire starter, gives off a good smoke, has a decent aroma, and leaves little ash. Can be found on the ground around the cedar post pile at most any farm and ranch store selling cedar posts. It and pine needles are my two favorite fuels followed by anything else that is free. Really don't like the smell of cotton seeds left after cotton has been ginned - good smoke, but really pungent and gnarly.
Previously used plumbers putty over the intake hole along with the snout plug to shut down the burn quickly until it dried out and fell apart. Then I decided I didn't really need to stop the burn that fast.
Lighting is easy with the alcohol gel stove starter- put in a handful of pellets, dropping them against the wall opposite the bellows, squirt in a bit of gel then drop in a match. Then I go do something else like gather up tools and equipment, get the tractor going and hook up the trailer, then put my jacket on. By the time I get done with that the pellets are well on their way. Dump in a little more, depending on how long I need it to burn and it's good. I've sometimes put way more than I needed in and had the thing still going the next day.
Word of caution- pellets can burn REALLY hot if you get them going too good. I set the smoker down on a pallet one day, and when I picked it back up again it had burned a hole clear through the pallet, the hole was as big around as the bottom of the smoker, the bellows kept it from falling through. Good thing too (and a good thing I hadn't set it down on the grass), if a brush fire gets started here it's big trouble. We have a volunteer FD that does a great job of saving foundations.
I've also burned out the bottom of a fuel basket, and warped the snot out of the bottom disk of a different smoker. Eventually I figured out that it was getting way too much air, I stuffed some steel wool into the air inlet to cut it back and now it's good.
If you want to be successful, study successful people and do what they do.
Dry tree needles. Get a 5 gallon bucket with a lid and collect them from the floor around the trees. Some suggestions. Always start with an emptied smoker. Put in a hand full of needles, not too packed. Get it going then add more needles and a handfull of green tree leaves or whatever else is green. This will cool down the smoke. Easy peasy.
I use anything that is handy that will burn readily.
I prefer hay and living on a farm makes it easy to come by. Usually have a couple wads on my truck that are slightly damp, they get put in on some that was dry and started first. Pack it tight and add a little green grass up in the top of the smoker to hold in sparks.
Pine kitty litter works. My wife got a 40 lb bag for our foster kittens and then didn't like it, so that'll last me a year easily. It's a little harder to light than paper or pine needles but burns cooler for longer, so I start with a little paper or cardboard then dump the litter on top. A slight disadvantage is that if you don't use your smoker for 10 or 15 minutes you'll need to give it 20 or 30 pumps before it's really usable, but the plus side of that is you don't get as much smoke in your face when the smoker's just sitting around.
I've been toying with the idea of getting an imker pfeife just for fun. Might even be a practical way to work nucs since you keep your hands free and don't need much smoke anyway.
WE have a planer and we use the sawdust in the smokers.
A few years ago I saw a Butane torch at HD. It's much smaller than a propane torch and refillable. I now use pine needles but I used burlap or old jeans before that. All of these work well but I have some neighbors that have pine trees in their yards. They are happy to have me rake and bag them in exchange for the pine straw.
we use sawdust from our planer it works great for us.
I use wood chips when making a garden. Call a tree company and have them dump the chips on your garden (for free).
David Smolinski USDA hardiness zone 6b
For those of you using pine needles you don’t need to open your smoker to light it. Just pack it full before you head to your hives. When you’re ready to light the smoker use your propane torch to heat the smoker near the bottom. In seconds the steel smoker will be glowing red hot and ignight the fuel inside. I’ve been keeping a second smoker loaded and ready to go if I need more smoke.
I like the burlap sandwich idea. Burlap is available in bulk rolls at most garden supply stores (I also get mine free from a coffee roaster that uses my honey in their coffee shop). I cut the burlap into strips about 6" wide, and half the burlap sack long. Roll this into a loose doobie then light the fuzzy end on fire. Let it catch fire thoroughly before putting the roll into the smoker, fire side down. I pump the smoker until the flames are shooting up through the center of the burlap roll, then fold it over and put in your wood pellets. Not too many though. Packing your smoker too tight puts out the fire. Finally, I fold another burlap strip into a square and tuck it over the top of the pellets. This keeps flaming wood pellets from falling into your hive when you tip the smoker up to smoke the top of the hive. This setup will provide over an hour of smoke before you have to refresh the pellets. Pull the top plug and add more pellets. I use Doug Fir pinecones, since half my beeyards have piles of them just lying around. Incidentally, if you have just a few hives to check don't bother with the pellets. The burlap will do the job as long as you need smoke. I prefer not to use wood shavings or pine needles solo because they tend to burn too hot and here in the west having a flame shooter smoker is a terrible idea. Finally, to preserve your smoker fuel get a cork or a wad of grass to plug your smoker when you're done.