How to Find, Harvest and Use Fatwood

You’ve probably heard of fatwood under its many names such as kindling, fat ligher or heart pine. It’s simply the best natural firestarter you can find. You can use sticks of it to start a fire in your fireplace, grill or campfire as well as shave off slivers of it to spark alite. Let’s look at what exactly it is and how to use it.

What exactly is Fatwood?

Fatwood is simply dried wood that is full of resin or pitch. Typically taken from the wood of old pine stumps left for waste after logging, it is made from splitting the stumps of pine trees that contain a high concentration of natural resin. As the stumpwood hardens over time, the resin or sap concentrates to create an all-natural, 100% organic, chemical-free fire starter.

When a pine tree dies, the resin in the roots gets drawn into the stump. The stump becomes saturated with resin and as it rots away, the resin-soaked wood at core of the stump hardens. This is why you can see dark veins t hroughout the fatwood, that is the resin.

The resin itself contains terpene, the main component of turpentine which of course is highly flammable. This is also why fatwood shavings can be lit with just a spark, even when wet. So if you don’t have a lighter with you, don’t worry! Fatwood shavings make excellent tinder for any purpose of fire you may need.

How to Find, Harvest and Use Fatwood 1
Cut fatwood sticks rich with resin

Where to Find Fatwood

If you don’t want to go wandering through the woods, fatwood is available online, for example at our Amazon store in everything from 1.5lbs up to 50lb boxes, burlap sacks or bundles. Buying it directly is the easiest way to start enjoying it fast

machete on stump with fatwood

But hey, sometimes finding it yourself is half the fun and makes your fires just that much more enjoyable.

Luckily, fatwood is often easier to find than you’d imagine. Start by looking for pine trees. Chances are there’s some nearby. Once you’ve found some, start looking for stumps. Ideally, you want stumps that are old and rotting. Rotting stumps have had plenty of time for the resin to collect in the stump. Fresh stumps are usually poor in fatwood. But the best part is, the resin is no longer sticky like sap so don’t worry about having sticky fingers the next few weeks.

The highest concentration of fatwood will be right at the top of the so-called tap root which is where roots and trunk meet. Sometimes you may need to cut down through through the stump until you hit it. If there’s fatwood, it will feel like a rock compared to the rotting stump and the color will be immediately obvious.

How Do I Get the Fatwood Out?

If you can get the stump out of the ground, you’ll have an easy time getting the fatwood to harvest, otherwise you’ll need to cut into the stump directly. If you’re close to home you can just use a chainsaw. Otherwise, I hope you brought a trust axe.

You can use an axe to split up the stump, but a hatchet or a large, sturdy knife (8″ blade or longer), for easier and more precise work. A full size axe is overkill.

Grab a sturdy stick and pound the hatchet or knife down through the wood like a wedge, blade first similar to chopping firewood. You’ll want to have some wedges handy in case the blade gets stuck.

Split the fatwood into whatever size you prefer and head on home. You can create further small sticks there or shavings as well. We recommend both.

fatwood in wooden box  by fireplace

How To Use Fatwood to Start Fires

Fatwood is step 1 of any fire. It will take the spark or flame and then stay lit long enough to light your larger kindling or charcoal.

How to Find, Harvest and Use Fatwood 2

Fatwood shavings are ideal for hiking and camping. Take a strong camp knife and a few sticks of fatwood. Next, keep slicing off shavings until you have what you need. Alternatively you can make a so-called “feather stick” where you shave the wood but leave the shavings attached at the bottom of the fatwood stick.

Once the fatwood shavings take the flame, they’ll burn very hot. You won’t have any problem getting your dry kindling burning.

Fatwood makes excellent emergency fire starter to carry in your backpack or car trunk. Best of all, the resin waterproofs the wood, so even if it’s wet the stick or shavings still light.

Final Thoughts

There are no special handling instructions or storage requirements. While it is flammable, it’s not dangerous and can easily be shipped in the mail and even brought on airplanes.

Fatwood keeps indefinitely, and a little bit of fatwood goes a long way. One good stump of fatwood can keep you supplied for quite a long time and when you run out, give us a call!