Fire is one of the most important parts of survival. It can keep you warm, cook your food, purify water to make it safe for drinking, signal for help, and also keep bugs away. Getting a fire started is easier said than done though, this article will explain how to find the best tinder (fatwood) and make use of it to get your fire blazing!
Finding tinder to get a fire going in wet or damp conditions can be very hard, especially if you are cold and tired. One of the best tinders to get a fire started, in all conditions is fatwood. Fatwood, also known as lighter wood, pine knot, heart pine and lighter knot is the resinous remains of a pine tree that has died, or in the stages of dyeing. When a pine tree dies, either standing upright, or fallen, the sap settles into the inner wood, aka heartwood. As the tree rots, the sap hardens into resin soaked wood. This wood is known as fatwood.
Where to Find Fatwood
The best places to find fatwood is where the brances attach to the trunk of the tree, or near the base of the main trunk.
First, find yourself a pine tree that is dead, or dyeing (dead standing is usually the best, as it is dry). I have had some luck with living trees, just try and find dead branches on them, and use those.
Next, find a branch that is at least an inch thick. Cut it off the main trunk as close to the base of said branch as possible. Now that you have the branch removed, you should inspect your find. It should be a redish orange colour inside, and have a strong pine smell.
Note that only the base portion of the branch usually contains the fatwood, I normally only keep the bottom 8-10 inches of said branch.
A good tell tail sign that your have hit the jackpot before even fully cutting the branch off is your saw teeth will fill up with sticky saw dust. This is the pine resin causing that.
Another tell tail sign is resin oozing from the branch.
Processing and Using Fatwood
After you have cut your fatwood, you are going to need to process it.
You can do this a few ways.
Method 1. Using your knife, or axe, remove any material from the branch that is not fatwood, and keep doing this until you are down to the fatwood core.
Method 2. Split the branch using your axe or knife as a baton. This is usually the way I process my fatwood. I spilt the branch into quarters, depending on the size. This will expose the usable fatwood core.
Using Fatwood to Start a Fire
Now that your have your fatwood chunk, to make use of it, you can use the back of your knife (knife spine) and scrape off a pile of shavings (very centre of the above pic) and hit it with a spark from your ferro rod, or lighter. Then add other tinder such as dried sticks and twigs, or fatwood feather sticks to get a fire going strong.
The other way you can use your fatwood is to make feather sticks. This is the process of using your knife blade, and making fine feathers in order to light them. Once you have enough feathers, hit them with some sparks, and boom, you have fire!
Hopefully this article was useful, and now you will know how to find fatwood in the wild!
Some Important Notes on Fatwood
Fatwood will cause a huge buildup on sticky suit if you only burn it, so be sure to just use it for lighting a fire, then find other suitable dry wood, such as oak, or ash for burning.
The solution I have found to remove this sticky buildup is fairy liquid, CIF cream and a steel wool pad. It takes time to scrub it off, but it works.