Fatwood – Part 1: Collecting

Fatwood, also known as “lightwood,” “lighter wood” or “maya wood,” is derived from the heartwood of pine trees. This resin-impregnated heartwood is hard and rot-resistant; the stumps or heartwood centers of fallen pines that last for decades after the rest of the tree has rotted away. Although most resinous pines can produce fatwood, in the southeastern United States the wood is commonly associated with Longleaf pine, which historically was highly valued for its high pitch production.

Because of the flammability of the pine resin, fatwood is prized for use as kindling in starting fires. It lights quickly, even when wet, and burns hot enough to light larger pieces of wood. The pitch-soaked wood produces an oily, sooty smoke, and it is recommended that one should not cook on a fire until all the fatwood has completely burned out.

Taken from Wikipedia – slightly modified.

I have collected fatwood many, many times over the years to be used as kindling for fire starting: mostly in fireplaces. My grandfather preferred it over all other materials for starting domestic fires. A bit of nostalgia struck me recently, so off to the plot of woods behind the house I went with a few select tools. I scouted about until I found a pine stump that seemed the perfect candidate to yield some wealth. This was not a difficult task since the woods had been selectively logged a number of years back.

I decided that I wanted to do minimal visual damage so as not to detract from the beauty of the area. I set to work while carefully preserving the sides and surroundings of the stump. The series of photos below shows the progression of the harvesting process.

The pillar that is sticking up in the center is the Fatwood. I will harvest a portion of this section.

Using a Kukri as both a shovel, chopping, and prying tool I exposed the fatwood pillar and started to split off sections.

I removed portions from both sides. Here you can see how resin-laden the wood is.

Once I had collected all the fatwood I wanted, I restored the stump to as close to its original condition as I could.

This is the wealth I collected. It’s not much, but you will be surprised at just how long it will last and the amount of uses it has.

There are quite a few things that fatwood can be used for beyond my Grandfather’s preference. This post is just the beginning of a series of posts on using it to its greatest potential. Stay tuned…

3 thoughts on “Fatwood – Part 1: Collecting

  1. Chris-
    Great first video–nice opening, clean editing, and concise explanation. This is a very interesting fire-starting technique and I will give it a try for sure!

  2. Thanks for the great post. Love the matches. I own the same machete. It surprisingly works very well on solid wood. I have chopped clean through logs with mine. subscribing now.

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