Fatwood: A Natural Firestarter for Every Situation

what is fatwood used for

You don’t have to be deep in bushcraft to appreciate fatwood. Fatwood knowledge goes a long way to ensuring warmth and light in a worst-case scenario.

We will take a look at what fatwood is used for and why it’s worth having some around.

What is fatwood?

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Fatwood is a valuable resource that has helped humankind survive for ages. Most commonly, it refers to the resin-imbued heartwood that is in pine trees. You may hear it referred to as heart pine.

Fatwood comes from pine stumps which makes felled and fallen trees a go-to source.

What is fatwood used for?

Fatwood is a valued source of fire-making materials if you’ve got some on hand. The natural firestarter is beneficial even in a non-emergency because of specific qualities.

You can use fatwood sticks and heartwood for a variety of reasons.

  • Fire in the woods
  • Fireplace
  • Firepit
  • Grill
  • Torch

Can you eat fatwood?

It’s 100% natural, so sure, if you want to snack on wood, it won’t kill you.

If you’re looking for a fast and easy way to start a cooking fire, then absolutely you can cook your food safely when you use fatwood as a firestarter. It releases zero toxins and chemicals, which also makes your grilled food taste better.

3 Reasons Why Fatwood Is Worth It

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Natural Water Repellent

Fatwood, or heartwood, is valuable because it has strong interior tissue making it wind and water-resistant. It means that it will still catch fire even in the rain or snow.

The last thing any hiker or camper wants to do is try to find dry firewood to get a flame going. A few pieces of fatwood go a long way to keeping you warm.

How long does fatwood last?

We have no idea, but we think indefinitely. And a little bit of heartwood can go a long way.

The tree itself can live up to 500 years and takes 100 to 150 years to mature. And the stump never rots because the hardened sap essentially preserves it.

100% Natural

Of course, it’s environmentally safe because it’s natural wood. But you don’t have to be a traditionalist or conservationist to appreciate burning a clean fire source.

Some fire starter materials come with the dangers of chemicals, propellants, and toxins. Burning fatwood not only smells better but also better for your lungs.

What are fat lighter stumps used for?

Not only are fat light stumps used to spark a flame, but they also make great fence posts for the same reason. Waterproof and rugged, it stands up to weather and pesky livestock.

Easy to Catch On Fire

You want an easy solution to survival, whether for fun or for serious. Fatwood provides high resin content, making it a reliably available and highly combustible material.

Oh, and it’s wind and water-resistant, so you aren’t fighting with Mother Nature to light your fire.

What is fatwood soaked in?

When sap hardens on a pine stump, it turns into resin-soaked wood. This process makes fatwood extremely flammable and valuable when building a fire.

Battle of the Firestarters

Fatwood vs. Traditional Kindling

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Conventional fire starters are pretty susceptible to moisture. Fatwood has the benefit of hardened sap, which makes it water resistant.

And, if you don’t have a lighter or match on hand, making a fire the hard way is less hard with fatwood.

Fatwood vs Chemical Fire Starters

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The temptation of instant fire is just too much for us to handle sometimes. But fires built with solid-fuel compositions will release toxic chemicals that you, your family, and your pets may have to breathe in.

Fatwood has a natural fragrance and is entirely non-toxic (though not scented like candles).

Can I buy fatwood?

If processing fatwood isn’t your thing, you can find all sorts of fire starter kits out there. It’s split for you and ready to burn when you receive it.

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You may have a few pine stumps on your property. There are stump log processing companies that will take care of the harvesting for you for a price.

Fatwood vs Newspaper

100% there is a joke in this, but honestly, lighting fires with an old newspaper is not practical or safe. Burning a newspaper produces a dumb amount of ash, dust particles, and poofs out of existence awfully quickly.

Fatwood burns hotter, better, and far far slower than newspaper. And, the newspaper debris isn’t coating your furniture or lungs.

Fatwood vs Birch 

Birch is 100% natural and safe, and easy to burn. However, a lot of birch bark out there has been illegally harvested from live trees. 

Fatwood comes from stumps of trees that’s already been cut down or fallen. 

Fatwood vs Magnesium vs Traditional Flint

We watch survivalists, and competition contestants use flint or magnesium blocks to get quick access to a fire. But, in a real emergency, it takes time and much-needed energy sometimes to get it to strike just right.

Striking magnesium takes some level of skill, too. It burns hot because it is a metal and is almost impossible to douse with water.

FAQs about Fatwood

What kind of tree does fatwood come from?

Heartwood comes from primarily pine stumps. You most commonly can find fatwood in places that have been heavily logged. Felled and fallen pine trees are a good source, too.

What makes fatwood burn so well?

The sap hardens on pine stumps which produce resin. Resin is highly flammable and water and windproof.

Is fatwood toxic?

Fatwood is a non-toxic firestarter that you can use in your home fireplace or on your next camping trip.

How long does it take fatwood to form?

Fatwood is valuable because of how long it takes to form. It takes upward of 10 years for a pine tree stump to develop resin from the hardening sap. 

Pine stumps don’t rot, which means the fatwood is available for use whenever someone can harvest it.

Is fatwood fireplace safe?

Using fatwood in your fireplace is safe, clean, and has an endless shelf life. And, tucking a little extra into your emergency go bag is never a bad idea.

What is fatwood soaked in?

Fatwood is not soaked in any substances; no chemicals are added. The reason why pine fatwood burns exceptionally well is due to its abundant natural resin content.

Does fatwood expire?

Fatwood does not expire. It has an indefinite shelf life and is not impacted by moisture. Even if fatwood sticks get wet, they can still be easily ignited with a match.

What is the best tree to find fatwood?

The best tree to find fatwood is the pine tree, specifically dead and mostly rotten ones. While cedar trees may produce some fatwood, I have not personally found any from them. Fallen pine trees have yielded the best results in my experience.

Does fatwood burn black smoke?

Fatwood does not burn black smoke.

What trees have the best fatwood?

Pine trees, especially the southern pine variety, are known to have the highest quality fatwood due to their abundant resin content. The base of the tree is the prime location for finding the best fatwood, as it is where the tree stores the highest concentration of resin.

Is fatwood only in pine trees?

Fatwood is not only found in pine trees, but it is most commonly obtained from them. However, it is also possible to extract fatwood from resinous spruce or conifer trees, as well as certain types of cedar.

Does fatwood rot?

Fatwood does not rot and is a resin-rich wood that can be found in pine trees. It is highly flammable, waterproof, and has an indefinite shelf-life, making it the best natural fire starter available.

Why is fatwood so flammable?

Fatwood is highly flammable due to the presence of terpene, the primary component of turpentine. This flammable resin allows fatwood shavings to easily ignite with just a spark, even when they are wet. Therefore, if you find yourself without a lighter, there is no need to worry as fatwood shavings serve as excellent tinder for any fire-starting purpose.

Does fatwood create creosote?

Fatwood can cause excessive creosote deposits if burned in bulk, although it is known to be a great firestarter. It is important to keep your flue gases up to temperature to ensure clean burning, even though softwood generally has a lower BTU content compared to hardwood.

Do all evergreens have fatwood?

All evergreens do not have fatwood, but fatwood is a type of wood saturated with sap or resin that is highly effective for starting fires. While it is primarily found in pine trees, it can also be found in certain other types of evergreens.

Is fatwood safe for indoor fireplaces?

Fatwood is safe for indoor fireplaces as it is both clean and has an indefinite shelf-life. It can be used to easily and safely start your indoor fireplace or backyard grill, even in wet conditions. So, there is no need to rely on kerosene-soaked products, smelly fluids, or sawdust composites like the other guys do.

How much fatwood does it take to start a fire?

It takes 2-3 sticks of fatwood to start a fire. We hand chop pine stumps from downed or damaged trees into fire starter sticks. These sticks are highly effective in quickly and easily igniting your fires. To start a fire, simply place 2-3 sticks of fatwood in the center of your kindling, light one of the sticks, and witness the fire ignite right before your eyes.

Can you burn fresh wood in a wood stove?

Burning fresh wood in a wood stove can pose significant dangers. When unseasoned wood is burned, the water vapor mixes with other gases and particles and rises up the chimney. If the chimney is not kept warm, this combination of elements can lead to the formation of a creosote substance, which eventually hardens and turns into tar in the chimney.

How long does it take for fatwood to form?

Fatwood takes approximately 2-3 years to form as the tree’s sap transforms from a viscous liquid, containing terpene, into a sticky resin. This transformation occurs as the sap travels through the heartwood, knots, and root system of a dying, cut, or fallen tree. Once this process is complete, fatwood is the resulting product.

What is fatwood made out of?

Fatwood is made from the wood of old pine stumps that were left as waste after logging. These stumps are split to extract the resin-rich pine trees, which naturally concentrate the resin or sap over time. This process results in an all-natural, 100% organic, and chemical-free fire starter.

How long does it take to make fatwood?

It takes about 2-3 years for fatwood to be made as the tree’s sap transforms from a viscous liquid, containing terpene, into a sticky resin as it moves through the heartwood, knots, and root system of the dying, cut, or fallen tree. Once this process is finished, fatwood is produced.

What is the most flammable firewood?

The most flammable firewood is typically softwoods like cedar, Douglas fir, and pine trees. However, it is important to note that this is not always the case, as the flammability can vary. Softwoods are named as such due to their lower density, making them more prone to catching fire.

By Anita Brown

Anita Brown is our go-to contributor to our emergency preparedness website. Anita brings a wealth of personal experience and professional expertise to the table, having weathered several awful natural disasters. Anita is currently working towards obtaining her Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) certification.