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Author Topic: Finding Fatwood in the wilderness  (Read 17642 times)

Offline mistwalker

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Finding Fatwood in the wilderness
« on: February 12, 2008, 08:40:57 PM »
Fatwood is a natural accelerant that can be used to start fires under virtually any conditions anyone might wish to build a fire. It is formed when a Pine tree dies while standing and the pitch settles and collects in heavy concentrations in the lower sections of the tree. In the largest trees it can form in the heart and limbs several feet about the stump and root section and in the smaller trees it will be closer to the ground. It will also form in areas of the tree that have been injured where a heavy concentration of pitch built up while the tree was still living. In any case the fatwood in the lower stump and root sections will usually be much more rich than the sections higher up. From my research Fatwood can be found in any area where Pine trees grow, I have personally found it through out the South East U.S., and have friends who have found it in the Northern regions, in the U.K., in the Philippines, and in places like Honduras (whose lumber industry appears to be the leading supplier of commercial fatwood). From what I have seen it will form in vurtually any pine tree white or yellow. However it does not appear to form in all conifer trees. I have never found it in what I knew to be a Cedar or Hemlock tree.



Fatwood can be found in the woods in different states of being. Some times you will find it in rotten looking stumps like this. At first glance this just looks like rotten wood unfit even for a camp fire.












But if it is fatwood, when you break into it you'll see a much more solid interior than you expect and you'll smell a strong scent of turpentine.











Other times you can find whole trees that are mostly fatwood.






In this particular case the outer layer is very "punky" to a depth of approximately three inches but very solid past that. Eventually the outer layer will weather away leaving a large Fatwood skeleton.









It can be found as what appears to be a weathered, rotten looking piece of wood protruding from or just laying on the ground. In this state of being the wear pattern in the grain will be your best clue


















At times you will find it in what appears to be just a rotten pile of wood where a tree used to be.













It can also be found in what a lot of folks refer to as Pine Knots. These are concentrations of pitch that have formed at the bases of limbs.













How the tree dies, and what time of year likely have a good bit to do with how it forms. Regardless of what state you find it in, whether you find it on top of the ground or under it, whether it has been dry in the area for weeks or raining for days it will still exhibit the same characteristics. It is a pitch heavy wood that will not absorb water that will take a spark easily, and flame even more easily, and a fire made up of only split pieces of fatwood will even burn in the lighter rains once it is going good.





It is a hard dense material that is best processed from stump form with an axe or a heavy knife.







 






It will ignite with either flames or by spark when whittled into the traditional "fuzzsticks"














but one of my favorite ways to work with it to get a fire quickly when using a firesteel is to use the spine of my knife to scrape the surface of the fatwood into a thick, gooey type of fuzz. This fuzz takes a spark very well and burns very hot to ignite other heavier slivers of fatwood quickly to get a fire going fast even under very damp conditions.










the following pictures more completely illustrates this process from start to finish.


Place the spine of the knife against the fatwood like this and repeatedly scrape until you have the desired amount of fuzz.






This is what will be going on on the other side of the knife.






When working with smaller pieces as above I usually just leave the fuzz attached to the piece and ignite it. When working with larger pieces of fatwood you can whittle off the fuzzed up part and place it where ever you intend to start the fire.









Just place the end of the firesteel directly into the fuzz pile and scrape.








add your fuel and soon you have fire. This was done after two days of rains and flooding.





« Last Edit: December 15, 2009, 01:23:32 PM by mistwalker »
 
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Offline outofdoors

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Re: Finding Fatwood in the wilderness
« Reply #1 on: February 12, 2008, 08:44:05 PM »
great start mist, i am really thrilled that you are willing to share all of this with us.

Offline mistwalker

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Re: Finding Fatwood in the wilderness
« Reply #2 on: February 12, 2008, 08:48:39 PM »
great start mist, i am really thrilled that you are willing to share all of this with us.
Thanks........, probably not as happy as I am to find people interested in learning this stuff.
 
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Offline Swede

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Re: Finding Fatwood in the wilderness
« Reply #3 on: February 12, 2008, 09:05:21 PM »
Say we got a few white pine trees left at the farm we planted when I was in high school. The white pine beetle killed most of them but Ill bet the stumps are still there. Ill try to mush out there tomorrow. Thanks Mist for all your trouble. Your a great addition to our forums.
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Offline mistwalker

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Re: Finding Fatwood in the wilderness
« Reply #4 on: February 12, 2008, 09:18:53 PM »
Say we got a few white pine trees left at the farm we planted when I was in high school. The white pine beetle killed most of them but Ill bet the stumps are still there. Ill try to mush out there tomorrow. Thanks Mist for all your trouble. Your a great addition to our forums.
Trouble???? what trouble?
 
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Offline mistwalker

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Re: Finding Fatwood in the wilderness
« Reply #5 on: February 13, 2008, 06:17:28 AM »
Say we got a few white pine trees left at the farm we planted when I was in high school. The white pine beetle killed most of them but Ill bet the stumps are still there. Ill try to mush out there tomorrow. Thanks Mist for all your trouble. Your a great addition to our forums.
If you find it in what you know is white pine then let me know, I never know what some of the stumps I find are and often wonder if it is only yellow pine that does this.
 
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Offline Askdamice

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Re: Finding Fatwood in the wilderness
« Reply #6 on: February 13, 2008, 08:17:39 AM »
Wonderful thread, Mist... This is really good stuff. I think there are many pine trees that do this. I have found fatwood in Scot's Pine and White Pine (both common around here.) and in Jack pine and Red Pine further North. I wonder if the cedar family does this too? hmmmmmm
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Offline mistwalker

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Re: Finding Fatwood in the wilderness
« Reply #7 on: February 13, 2008, 01:26:15 PM »
Wonderful thread, Mist... This is really good stuff. I think there are many pine trees that do this. I have found fatwood in Scot's Pine and White Pine (both common around here.) and in Jack pine and Red Pine further North. I wonder if the cedar family does this too? hmmmmmm
Thanks, I don't know for sure, and it would be great to learn for sure that it did but, so far I have seen no sure indications of it being in cedar....., they break down and deteriorate in completely different ways. Not saying it can't happen but the cedar around here has much different properties and a different grain type than pine.
 
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Offline mistwalker

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Re: Finding Fatwood in the wilderness
« Reply #8 on: February 15, 2008, 03:40:36 PM »
 Today I processed part of the fatwood I collected last weekend, I think I did pretty good.

In these shots you see the rot and debris that is on it when you pull it out of the ground and my method for removing it because all it will do if you don't get rid of it is fly up and hit you in the face and also dull your hatchet.






Then you take a hatchet or axe and start splitting it like kindling.




and you will see the rich glossy colors inside and smell that terpintine smell


You can easily light it with a flame, and it will put off a lot of black smoke you do not want to inhale.




And actually the one piece I expected to have the least fatwood had a lot and it was the richest of all, perhaps a much larger tree than I originally thought. The hint is this deep almost ruby red section peeking out at me after beating the rotten part off of it.


there is even a good bit of it in the upper section, not as dark but smells just as strong.




So now, between what I got from the largest stump which is an awesome specimen.


and what came from that tall skinny one....I now have enough fatwood to stock a hundred fire pouches even if I give some to my brother for his fireplace, all in all, between the fatwood, and the gained knowledge on using fungus as tender, not a bad haul from a hike that I enjoyed very much.
« Last Edit: February 09, 2009, 06:59:59 PM by mistwalker »
 
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Offline Swede

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Re: Finding Fatwood in the wilderness
« Reply #9 on: February 15, 2008, 03:50:40 PM »
Im thinking the sap in the pine tree must be like an oil and as the tree dies and dries the oil must concentrate by the capillary structure of the wood into the lower parts of the tree. So any pine tree will work.

Thanks again Mist.  :thumbup:
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Offline mistwalker

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Re: Finding Fatwood in the wilderness
« Reply #10 on: February 15, 2008, 03:54:04 PM »
Im thinking the sap in the pine tree must be like an oil and as the tree dies and dries the oil must concentrate by the capillary structure of the wood into the lower parts of the tree. So any pine tree will work.

Thanks again Mist.  :thumbup:
Thanks, I'm thinking of splitting up some stumps into smaller strips and sticks and lighting it all at once to show it's usefullness as a signal fire......., only problem is I am affraid I will signal someone in the process  :woot: then I'd have to run away when they started showing up with trucks and hoses  :whistle:
 
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Offline Holly

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Re: Finding Fatwood in the wilderness
« Reply #11 on: February 15, 2008, 04:21:02 PM »
Thanks, I'm thinking of splitting up some stumps into smaller strips and sticks and lighting it all at once to show it's usefullness as a signal fire......., only problem is I am affraid I will signal someone in the process  :woot: then I'd have to run away when they started showing up with trucks and hoses  :whistle:

LOL!  And then we'll read about you on Yahoo News! :rofl:
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Offline survivordan

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Re: Finding Fatwood in the wilderness
« Reply #12 on: February 15, 2008, 05:12:46 PM »
I'm going out to camp tonight for a long weekend with the troop. Everywhere I've looked I've found a couple stumps of fatwood, and I'll look this time and report back.
See you on the trail!
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Offline mistwalker

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Re: Finding Fatwood in the wilderness
« Reply #13 on: February 15, 2008, 06:21:29 PM »
LOL!  And then we'll read about you on Yahoo News! :rofl:
No....., you see that's where the run away part comes in :D
 
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Offline Holly

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Re: Finding Fatwood in the wilderness
« Reply #14 on: February 16, 2008, 04:44:40 AM »
mistwalker, I want to thank you again for taking the time to post your pictures with your tutorial about harvesting fatwood.  I'm always a bit nervous doing stuff for the first time by myself and I have been too scared to go out and look for fatwood because I know I'd come back with rotted pieces of wood instead of fatwood!  But you have helped me to feel more confident that I can do this correctly.  That means a lot to me, my friend! :hug:
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Offline wareagle

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Re: Finding Fatwood in the wilderness
« Reply #15 on: February 16, 2008, 07:02:26 AM »
i'll second that holly, i am a visual person(hmm man visual go figure) so i can read about things, but i am not creativly gifted(taurus trait) i have to see something and then i basically copy it until i understand. its like with math if you give me the answer i'll figure out how you got there then apply the same theory to others, so ya thanks mistwalker for helping me stay warm. supposed to be a storm this long weekend so i think me and the little brown dog are gonna build a lean to  and watch the storm sunday night and hopefully have a way to stay warm other than the lbd

Offline LOST

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Re: Finding Fatwood in the wilderness
« Reply #16 on: February 16, 2008, 07:54:55 AM »
Yup, doing a great job for the team.

Offline mistwalker

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Re: Finding Fatwood in the wilderness
« Reply #17 on: February 16, 2008, 12:12:11 PM »
mistwalker, I want to thank you again for taking the time to post your pictures with your tutorial about harvesting fatwood.  I'm always a bit nervous doing stuff for the first time by myself and I have been too scared to go out and look for fatwood because I know I'd come back with rotted pieces of wood instead of fatwood!  But you have helped me to feel more confident that I can do this correctly.  That means a lot to me, my friend! :hug:
i'll second that holly, i am a visual person(hmm man visual go figure) so i can read about things, but i am not creativly gifted(taurus trait) i have to see something and then i basically copy it until i understand. its like with math if you give me the answer i'll figure out how you got there then apply the same theory to others, so ya thanks mistwalker for helping me stay warm. supposed to be a storm this long weekend so i think me and the little brown dog are gonna build a lean to  and watch the storm sunday night and hopefully have a way to stay warm other than the lbd
I am glad I am able to be of help to you, I am a visual person also so I try to to do them in such a way as I would understand it if I were trying to learn it myself. I'm sorry that my close-ups don't do so well, I think I need to reset the camera for closeups, I need to get the manual out and see, seems like I remember the focus being adjusted for better landscape scenery shots.
Yup, doing a great job for the team.
Glad to be a part of this team :)
 
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Offline mistwalker

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Re: Finding Fatwood in the wilderness
« Reply #18 on: August 23, 2008, 11:37:08 PM »
Well..., when I set off on a hike today the I actually hoped to locate some more fungus that looks like horse hoof fungus like this I found last winter growing on a dead pine tree. 





 I walked for miles looking everywhere with a focus on tall dead pine trees with some bark missing ,but I had no luck at all, I found a very dry area with lots of dust, and a good number of drooping leaves, and quite a bit of fatwood.









and because this one was right beside the road..


I couldn't resist, I'm sure my brother will be needing some more for his fire place this winter.




« Last Edit: February 09, 2009, 06:59:06 PM by mistwalker »
 
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Offline gr8outdrsmn

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Re: Finding Fatwood in the wilderness
« Reply #19 on: October 22, 2008, 05:51:12 PM »
Awesome post. Thanks for sharing!
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