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Fatwood

Discussion in 'Wilderness Forum' started by Atlas, Jun 4, 2018.

  1. Atlas

    Atlas Administrator Staff Member Survival Class Instructor

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    Fatwood was something that I only learned of recently, but since I learned about it I have definitely felt a need to have some nearby at all times while I am in the woods.

    My question for the group is do you know what it is, where to find it, and how to use it?
     
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  2. NWPrimate

    NWPrimate Member

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    I had never heard of fatwood as a kid, and when I first learned about it on the internet, everything I found said that it was made exclusively by pine trees which don't grow in my part of the world. I eventually found someone mentioning Douglas fir fatwood, so I went out thumping stumps and realized that it was really plentiful in my area.

    The easiest way to find it in the Pacific Northwest is to check rotten stumps for hard material. Chances are, that if most of the stump has rotted away but left solid pieces standing, those pieces will be resinous fatwood. Here's a classic example of a PNW fatwood stump....

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    Here are a few examples of the treasures that can be found within...

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    Easy to light and burns great...

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    One minute video of harvesting, lighting, and burning; in case anyone is interested...

     
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  3. jimLE

    jimLE Well-Known Member

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    I've heard of fatwood for years.mainly pine.which i only knew as rich lighter pine for many many years.then i started hearing fatwood,and other names for it.i didn't know what they talking about. Untill i did a web search on it.i didn't know that about douglas fir.in which.i probably could of gotton some last year.on a camping trip

    Fatwood, also known as "fat lighter," "lighter wood," "rich lighter," "pine knot," ... Other locations, such as the joints where limbs intersect the trunk, can also be harvested ...
     
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  4. Atlas

    Atlas Administrator Staff Member Survival Class Instructor

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    The pine trees around here have it in the joint between the limb and the trunk as well. I have not found any Douglas Fir fatwood here, but that doesn't mean there isn't any. I'm still looking.

    I don't know if it's the weather or the lack of humidity for over half the year that causes it to not be stumps here, but I haven't found any that way yet either.

    @jimLE if you ever want to try some california pine fatwood out let me know and I'll stuff a box full for you and put it in the mail.
     
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  5. Atlas

    Atlas Administrator Staff Member Survival Class Instructor

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    I have seen stumps that look like this, but haven't ever investigated them. Now I will keep it in mind next time.

    Thanks for the good pictures and video!
     
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  6. Atlas

    Atlas Administrator Staff Member Survival Class Instructor

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    The last couple of days I have been out and about in the woods quite a bit. Every Doug Fir stump (pretty much all stumps actually) that I come across is very dry, has ants and other miscellaneous bugs living there and is definitely not fatwood. The bears here use stumps as a feeding trough, by pulling them apart to get to the bugs inside. This is a pretty good way to know if there are any nearby, actually. Do bears do this up there @NWPrimate ?
     
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  7. NWPrimate

    NWPrimate Member

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    @Atlas ...they sure do. I'm kind of surprised to hear that despite having Doug fir stumps, you're not tripping over the stuff. It seems like the drier environment would give the dying tree more time to make fatwood before it rots. I don't know if this applies to your area, but I seem to find more fatwood stumps on top of hills than I do in lower areas. I've heard other guys give the opposite advice, but up here it seems like even going up 30 feet can make a huge difference in its prevalence.
     
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  8. NWPrimate

    NWPrimate Member

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    It is also pretty common for me to find it in driftwood piles or hung up in the rocks in riverbeds that are prone to flooding. Keep in mind that fatwood is relatively dense and a lot of it doesn't even float, so it is likely to be toward the bottom of a debris pile. It might be worth poking around some river and creek beds and seeing if you find any pieces of wood that seem heavier than they look or have that distinctive weathered fatwood exterior.

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  9. Atlas

    Atlas Administrator Staff Member Survival Class Instructor

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    I spent quite a bit of time looking at stumps the last few days, and have not found a one. Up on the ridge, down in the canyon, 3000 feet to 5000 feet. They all pretty much look like this so I'm guessing that Doug Fir is a no go here.
    20180609_102646.jpg

    Now the lower elevations might have pine tree stumps that have fatwood, but all of the trees around me only really have it in the tree where the limb meets the trunk.

    It has been pretty fun looking for it.
     
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  10. Atlas

    Atlas Administrator Staff Member Survival Class Instructor

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    Now this is some awesome fatwood.
     
  11. twp

    twp Moderator Staff Member Survival Class Instructor

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    I regularly found fatwood in the hills around the mining claim. This is at 4000ft +/- in California, about 60 miles from Reno, NV. Downed trees were plentiful as well as old stumps. It was dry terrain, mostly, with pine, cedar, oak and Douglas fir.

    Also found plenty of pine sap balls, both soft and hard. These work well with wet wood. I crushed the hard pine balls into powder and carried a pill bottle full of the powder. I feathered a couple of wet sticks and sprinkled a small amount of the powdered sap on the feathers. These burned long enough and hot enough to ignite wet sticks in a TeePee above them. I usually cheated and lit this with a butane lighter, but any method to get a small flame going will then ignite the pine sap.

    I was always on the look out for pine sap on trees and built up a stockpile, just in case.
     
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  12. Atlas

    Atlas Administrator Staff Member Survival Class Instructor

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    That's a really good idea. I'll have to give it a try next time I'm out.
     
  13. twp

    twp Moderator Staff Member Survival Class Instructor

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    Just a waning, if you throw a handful of powdered pine sap on a fire, it is much like gun powder and flares impressively... Of course I know that none of you will try this (snicker ;)) because of the fire hazard...
     
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