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Thread: Make your own fatwood

  1. #1
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    Make your own fatwood


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    First time posting in the W&SS, sorry if this topic has been discussed before, but I didn't really find an answer to my question through searching.

    I live in Sweden with ~40-50% of our forests being pine forests, so finding natural fatwood shouldn't be that difficult... but I've only been able to come across small bits and pieces of it here and there. My theory is that there is a fatwood ninja out there getting to it before me. So, onto my question: have any of you tried making your own? I had some spare pine 2x4's in the garage that I just split into ~3" sticks about finger size and have been soaking them in melted candles(mix of paraffin and stearin) for the passed hour. Does anyone have an idea of how this experiment will turn out? I figured I'd let them really soak in the stuff for a long time and then leave them to try for a few days before I try anything with 'em.

    I've seen this type of thing done with egg cartons, cotton balls etc etc. but I haven't really seen anyone using wood kindling for it.

    I remember reading something about the natural resin in pines being able to penetrate the wood because it's still alive, have I wasted my time trying to do this on dead wood?

    Also, does fatwood from different regions take on different colors? The stuff I've found around here takes on more of a grayish brown than the lovely dark red that I've seen so many pictures of from you folks in the states.

    Here's some that I managed to gather today. It's very sticky to touch and smells incredibly piney.

  2. #2
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    I may be way off base here, but I associate fatwood with long leaf pines. As for the make your own, I'm sure it would work. If I were doing it, I'd drill some small holes in the piece (1mm or less) to open the surface area, then bake the pine in an oven to get it really dry and hot, then I'd submerge it while hot in a mixture of hot wax cut with some mineral spirits or kerosene-- the thinking here is that as the air inside the wood structure cooled, it would have to draw some liquid into the structure.

    a lot of work when you really get to it, but you are trying to make fatwood not just a fire starter. For that, I'd fill a small paper cup with dryer lint and pour enough wax in to wet the lint and then press out the excess by stacking up another cup. The edges of the cups light quickly and the lint/wax puck burns for about 5 minutes.

  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by swonut View Post
    I may be way off base here, but I associate fatwood with long leaf pines. As for the make your own, I'm sure it would work. If I were doing it, I'd drill some small holes in the piece (1mm or less) to open the surface area, then bake the pine in an oven to get it really dry and hot, then I'd submerge it while hot in a mixture of hot wax cut with some mineral spirits or kerosene-- the thinking here is that as the air inside the wood structure cooled, it would have to draw some liquid into the structure.

    a lot of work when you really get to it, but you are trying to make fatwood not just a fire starter. For that, I'd fill a small paper cup with dryer lint and pour enough wax in to wet the lint and then press out the excess by stacking up another cup. The edges of the cups light quickly and the lint/wax puck burns for about 5 minutes.
    I don't think it matters what kind of pine it is, as far as I know all pines produce the resin that is meant to protect them against decomposers(fungi etc etc.)

    Thanks for the suggestion regarding surface area, when it comes to some kind of flammable liquid like kerosene - doesn't it evaporate pretty quickly leaving you with just the wax? At least that is the experience I had when I last tried it with cotton pads.

    I think I'm going to have to venture out and try to find some real fatwood this weekend. The reason I'm wanting to use wood is because I had some leftovers and the last batch I tried with cotton pads wasn't real effective and got to be really messy.

  4. #4
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    I'm pretty sure it's impossible to make fatwood like you are doing. You would be better off using sawdust with your method, let it mix up well with the paraffin wax and then put them in some sort of moulds such as egg cartons to set.

  5. #5
    I think you've set yourself a task there. If I were going down that route I think the best I could come up with would be to set up a bain-marie outside and leave it pecking away. Not sure it would amount to much though. Essentially what you are trying to do is to make something akin to a crude version of Dymondwood they use to make those gaudy knife handles. I think the missing factor is “pressure”............Look more at old stumps for what you are after. Graceful degradation - The resin wells up there when that part of the tree still has some functionality but the top part is damaged or missing.

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by baldtaco-II View Post
    I think you've set yourself a task there. If I were going down that route I think the best I could come up with would be to set up a bain-marie outside and leave it pecking away. Not sure it would amount to much though. Essentially what you are trying to do is to make something akin to a crude version of Dymondwood they use to make those gaudy knife handles. I think the missing factor is “pressure”............Look more at old stumps for what you are after. Graceful degradation - The resin wells up there when that part of the tree still has some functionality but the top part is damaged or missing.
    Got it. The dogs won't mind the additional strolls through the forest!

  7. #7
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    Did some testing with my homemade not-fatwood. I had the wood slivers in melted paraffin/stearin over a hot stove for about 30 minutes give or take, then let it set for a day on a paper towel. The slivers range in size from 10-20cm and about 1-2cm thick.

    The size of the piece in the test was about that of a BIC lighter with an added inch or two. It burned for just shy of 4 minutes, pretty fiercly. I'm pretty surprised at how well it did, but I didn't manage to capture much on my cell phone as it's pitch black outside and it didn't really handle the bright fire in darkness type setting. Sorry.







    I guess the conclusion is that it does in fact improve the kindling's volatility(?) But I'm still going hunting for some fatwood tomorrow for comparison!

  8. #8
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    If you really wanna "make" fatwood, wait til winter when the sap's down in the roots & cut a living pine down above ground. However many feet you leave above ground will be your fatwood in spring when the stump tries to push the sap back up in the tree, it'll run out the top of the stump. Then harvest the stump. voila.

  9. #9
    I don't think it is fatwood ninjas,it might be pine tar ninjas harvesting.

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by flnder View Post
    I don't think it is fatwood ninjas,it might be pine tar ninjas harvesting.
    You may very well be right

    I did have some luck today, however. I found probably 10lbs lbs of easily accessable fatwood. Probably 50-70lbs more of it in huge stumps. All I brought was my GB Wildlife Hatchet and I came to the conclusion that I need a bigger axe or saw.

    Do you guys have any ideas of the most efficient way to get it from big stump attached to ground to not so big stump attached to ground? I don't have an open fireplace or anything, so haven't really had a reason to get a good wedge/splitting maul etc.

  11. #11
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    That Killa Zilla in your avatar should do just fine!

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bowman1911 View Post
    That Killa Zilla in your avatar should do just fine!
    Well, I'd have to hack away at the stump in a similar fashion to what I've been doing with my hatchet, and a lot of the wood splinters and flies off. I want nice clean chunks! It's not called the Clean Zilla

  13. #13
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    What about Cedar? Does what we call red Cedar in Ky produce fat wood? It is very common as an invasive volunteer re-growth tree and will get big quick.

  14. #14

    Thanks, Suggestion, and Possibly Crazy Questions

    Quote Originally Posted by pialia View Post
    You may very well be right ;)

    I did have some luck today, however. I found probably 10lbs lbs of easily accessible fatwood. Probably 50-70lbs more of it in huge stumps. All I brought was my GB Wildlife Hatchet and I came to the conclusion that I need a bigger axe or saw.

    Do you guys have any ideas of the most efficient way to get it from big stump attached to ground to not so big stump attached to ground? I don't have an open fireplace or anything, so haven't really had a reason to get a good wedge/splitting maul etc.
    Thank you all for your knowledgeable and creative posts on this thread. I am so happy to have found this site. I always have queries and perhaps-wacky ideas. Until now, I have not had the right venue.

    Pialia, I'm sure you've thought of this before, but how about borrowing a friend's chainsaw, and then returning it with a good bundle of fatwood? Also, would spreading a tarp or two around the stump help catch the flying chunks of wood? Wonder if the "chainsaw in a can" (which is really just the chain with 2 handles and works far better than I imagined) could work for you here?

    My questions:

    Where I live, in the Ponderosa-pine covered mountains of NM, I'm sure that I can find stumps with fatwood in the Spring... but for right now, I'd like to make some fatwood or firestarters with the refrigerated bacon, chicken & beef fat I've kept for ages which I suspect may not be safe to eat anyway.

    Clearly this would be OK to use in an open outdoor fire, but could it be used in a wood stove or fireplace? Would it create a heavy creosote chimney build-up, or clog the interior of the stove? Explode?

    I have lots of dryer lint, and can get lots of sawdust easily, so really appreciate the the tips for creating pucks of fire-starter using dryer lint or sawdust. And I do have lots of candle-stumps around, so that would be a good use for them.

    Has anyone tried using soap slivers? Once upon a time, soap was made from fat, right?

    Thanks again for your knowledge and generosity.

  15. #15
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    Wouldn't it just be simpler to use old tree resin ? I tossed some chunks in my little stove today. It was a bit too much and it melted then lit with a horrendous flame. But it also seeped a bit out of the air vents in the stove and the stump was burning also. It melts then gives off a huge flame. That was the point of an earlier post that I made. If you don't have fatwood around you, use pine resin. Same effect.




  16. #16
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    is it only pine that works or do other conifers like fir or spruce trees work if you find good saturated pieces/knots?

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