Fatwood is one of nature’s best all-natural waterproof fire starters and comes from the heartwood of various species of pine trees from around the world.
Fatwood, also known as pitch pine, pine knot, lighter wood, heart pine, or lighter knot, is harvested from old pine stumps and tap roots that were leftover during the logging process. Fatwood is also harvested from trees that have fallen over, been damaged, or have died from other natural causes.
After the pine tree has been cut or damaged, the tree sends a terpene-rich sap into the damaged area and it becomes fatwood soaked in resin.
As the tree dies, the resin-soaked wood at the base of the stump gets hard and remains. The resin includes an all-natural hydrocarbon called terpene, which is also used in the production of turpentine. That is what makes fatwood fire starter so flammable.
Terpene is an organic but highly volatile chemical, which is why terpene is the “secret sauce” that helps turn dead pine stumps into Fatwood fire starter… one of nature’s best water repellent (some would say waterproof) firestarters.
What Kind Of Tree Does Fatwood Come From?
Fatwood can be made from most resinous trees but historically the most common tree used for is pine. Historically, in the United States, fatwood was most commonly associated with the longleaf pine (Pinus palustris).
However, longleaf pine was over harvested in the U.S. and takes up to 100 – 150 years to grow to maturity, so other faster growing species of pines have replaced it for commercial replanting… and the commercial harvesting of Fatwood.
What Is Fatwood Used For?
The most common use of fatwood today is as a firestarter. True Fatwood is all-natural, with no chemical additives and is 100% organic. It’s wind resistant, lights quickly and easily, burns even in the dampest conditions, and burns hot enough to ignite significantly larger fuel logs.
Which is why it’s a favorite for outdoor use and should be strongly considered as a must-have survival tool for any emergency situation.
You can shave Fatwood into tinder and mix it with magnesium shavings, or chop it up small enough to be used for tinder (a popular size for tinder is approximately 5 or 6 inches long by about ¾ inches in diameter).
The pine resin (which makes Fatwood such a great fire starting tool) also produces pitch and tar. Pitch and tar have been used as preservatives and sealants for rope and wood. Tree resin is also used in nail polish and household cleaners such as pine oil or turpentine.
Is Fatwood Toxic?
The best Fatwood (IMHO) is 100% naturally harvested from the sap-rich heartwood of the pine stump. It should never be treated or chemically enhanced in any way.
Technically speaking, any chemical produced during combustion could possibly be toxic, as well as the “toxicity” of inhaling smoke in general.
However, 100% all-natural fatwood is generally considered safe for indoor use in your fireplace, your woodstoves, coal stoves, pellet stoves and chimneys. You will also find it very useful for outdoor use in campfires, barbeques, and firepits.
What Is Fatwood Soaked In?
All-natural Fatwood is a 100% organic, chemical-free fire starter that lets you start a fire with a single match (you can even use it to start a fire without a match, if that’s your thing).
However, some companies choose to soak their “fatwood” in very toxic and extremely volatile chemicals to help it ignite. Chances are this is because they are using inferior pine (less sap, lower levels of terpene, etc.) for harvesting.
The fumes that are emitted from chemically treated wood can cause those that are exposed to it to have headaches and nausea, which is why I strongly recommend against using any type of chemically treated wood indoors or other areas with bad ventilation.
How To Find Fatwood
The best way to find Fatwood in the wild is to look for areas where pine trees have been logged or killed by a fire. Look for ones that have old, dry stumps. These will have the most fatwood.
The stumps should be grey and rotting as this will have allowed time for the resin to collect. The stumps are where you will find the resin more concentrated and well kept. You will find the highest concentration of fatwood between the trunk and the roots.
How will you know if you have found it or not? The first clue will be the strong scent of pine in the air. Look on the surface of the stump for any noticeable pools, streaks, or beads of dried sap. You will also notice that the wood has a yellow or golden tone in contrast to the grey wood that is surrounding it.
The best place to look is in a pine tree that has been dead for quite a while. This will have allowed the resin to rise to the stump from the roots.
You will be able to easily pull the stump up from the ground. You will want to use a hatchet to chop away all the rotten wood to uncover the fatwood. You may want to put some lubricant on the blade because fatwood is very sticky. If you need to clean your blade, it is best to use a degreaser or gum remover.
What are the benefits of using Fatwood?
- Fatwood is easy to light – 2 small sticks of Fatwood and a single match is it all it takes to start a roaring fire, that’s it. Tip: Use a permanent match or a ferro rod to ignite your Fatwood.
- Fatwood is water resistant – It’s water-repellent (some even call it waterproof), making it extremely easy to light, even when wet (which is why it’s a must-have product when going on your next camping, hiking or canoeing trip).
- Fatwood has a very long shelf-life and is easy to store.
- Fatwood is environmentally friendly – All-natural Fatwood comes from renewable and sustainable forests. Plus, it’s collected from surplus stumps and roots that have been left behind after the tree has been harvested for other purposes (lumber, paper, etc.).
- Fatwood is non-toxic – Naturally sourced Fatwood is generally considered safe and non-toxic because it doesn’t contain added chemicals or toxins, which is why it produces a very pleasant “burning pine” odor when burned (unlike kerosene and other chemical soaked fire starter products, which smell like toxic chemicals when used for starting a fire).
- Fatwood is great for cooking outdoors – It doesn’t leave a chemical taste in your food (unlike charcoal lighter fluid), which makes Fatwood the perfect fire starter for your next cookout or backyard BBQ.
- Fatwood just makes starting a fire (and your life) so much easier!
Check out our Fatwood For Sale article for some great deals on our highest-rated Fatwood suppliers.