You've probably seen a homemade fire starter or two in your day, but the Holy Grail of portable starters may originate with the Boy Scouts themselves.
Scouts are not actually allowed to carry things like butane cylinders or lighter fluid. Any fire starting aid in their possession needs to be dry, such as a flint striker or a magnesium rod. Back in 1982, instructions were published for a "Solid-Fuel Fire Starter" in The Official Boy Scout Handbook. The starter is simply a combination of melted paraffin mixed with sawdust in the compartments of a paper egg carton. Genius.
Click on the illustration (from the original handbook) and follow the instructions. When your paraffin is cool, store the carton in a relatively dry place and break off one section at a time. Place it beneath some dry wood (twigs, kindling or whatever you get your fire going with) and light the carton section. In a few minutes you'll have roaring fire, with no messy paper and no blowing incessantly at barely lit twigs.
Source: The Official Boy Scout Handbook, BSA, 1982. Tracked down based on the tales of its discovery and many years of handy presents from brother Bjorn.