It is amazing how sometimes even the best man made products are no better than what nature gives us. Fatwood has been a fire starter throughout history. It catches fire fast, even from a spark. It is water resistant, and burns long. It is not messy and is easy to store and carry. You could argue that it is the perfect tinder.
Fatwood is the resin impregnated heartwood of pine trees. It is often harvested from the stumps of cut trees. Fatwood can also be found in limb joints. If you know what to look for fatwood can be found in almost any pine forest. It can be used to make turpentine. In fact, some people find fatwood with their nose. They smell old stumps. The ones that smell like turpentine contain fatwood.
I purchased a small bundle of fatwood from Amazon.com. If you make a lot of fires you would be better off buying it by the 50 pound box on eBay. The small batch I got on Amazon will make dozens of fires, so it is perfect for occasional fire builders like myself.
There are two ways you can use fatwood. You can make shavings that will start with a spark, or you can just light the stick. It is amazingly easy to light. Once it lights it is hard to put out. A light rain or strong wind is no match for this stuff!
In the very worst of situations you could use a few entire fatwood sticks as kindling. I am confident this would get any wood lit. Even green wood.
Check out this video of me lighting fatwood shavings with a firesteel:
It took 15 seconds to light. Also, notice how big the flame is. That would start a fire quick! I had to turn on the exhaust fan in my shop for all of the smoke it created. I was not expecting such a large fire.
It did fair in the wet burn test:
The fatwood would not light unless I wiped it off first. The woody parts sucked up the moisture. If it was saturated I doubt you could get it to light. However, if it was just damp and you had an open flame, it will light. If you did get it completely wet you could just shave off the top layer of wood with your knife. This would expose dry sections that will readily light.
It is hard to find something wrong with this tinder. It has all of the advantages of the other tinders we have looked at and none of the drawbacks. Could it be the ultimate tinder?
In the next post on tinder I will show you the very best (in my opinion) tinder you can carry.