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I make my own fire starters by melting wax, dipping a cotton ball half way in, let it dry and then using a plastic knife, smear petroleum jelly on the top half of the cotton ball. They light quickly, burn for up to 18 minutes which gives your kindling and wood time to burn well. I use leftover scented candles for the wax which smells nice too.
I would think, that you would light the string, but you could do either. . .
With "fire starters" you light the 'starter' then add more wood to the top of it, so the flame underneath gets the top stuff going.
I make small fire starters blocks from sawdust & wax. Works great!