Resin-Rich Fat Lighter’d: Nature’s Most Prized Fire-starter

by Todd Walker

Uncle Otha would tell us boys to gather some ‘fat lighter’d’ while out hunting squirrels. He was a retired Army cook and our personal camp chef. Squirrel stew at its finest!

What is fat lighter’d?

You may know it by another name – fatwood, lighter wood, fat lighter, pine knot, or some other alias. Fat lighter’d, as Uncle Otha called it, is a 100% nature-made fire starter. The resin in conifers concentrates in the base of the tree. If a pine is cut down or dies by disease or storm, the pine resin will harden and preserve the wood.

While hunting yesterday, I ran across what you’d look for when searching for fat lighter’d.

This pine tree was snapped in half by a storm

This pine tree was snapped in half by a storm

The base of the tree’s trunk had been damaged. Pitch (resin) had moved to the area to seal the wound. Though it had not been dead for too many years, fatwood had already formed around the existing injury.

 

Resin-Rich Fat Lighter'd: Nature's Most Prized Firestarter

Resin-rich fatwood!

Resin-Rich Fat Lighter'd: Nature's Most Prized Firestarter

Fat lighter’d has a unique smell and amber color

You can also find fat lighter’d stumps and heart pine core preserved on the ground. Old homestead fence posts turn into fatwood as well.

How to use fat lighter’d

Cut the fatwood into 6 to 8 inch long sections. I like to split these sections into finger size pieces. If you’re in the field, you’ll need a baton and knife for splitting kindling.

My plumber daddy taught me the plumber's vise to cut pipe and kindling in the field.

Cutting a baton in my plumber’s vise

DSCN0159Fat lighter’d splits easily and can be done without a baton. With short pieces, it’s better to be safe than sorry.

DSCN0160

 

With your cutting tool, make a feather stick from one piece of fatwood. The curled strips will catch a flame and ignite the remaining stock of lighter’d. Even if wet, it catches fire quickly.

 

Resin-Rich Fat Lighter'd: Nature's Most Prized Firestarter

A butane lighter sets the feathered stick on fire

The above photo shows me using a butane lighter. You can also start fatwood with a ferro rod.

DSCN0162

Use the back of your knife to shave fine slivers off the stock. Gather them into a pile and ignite with the sparks from a ferro rod.
DSCN0163

DSCN0164

Before I could get back to my camera tripod to photo the flaming pile of fine fat slivers, the flame was all but extinguished. The resin is very flammable. Place the resin slivers in your kindling bundle before showering sparks!

Fat Lighter’d Facts from the Professor of Useless Knowledge

  • No chemicals or petroleums added
  • Smoke from fat lighter’d makes a great mosquito repellant
  • The longleaf pine, which was clear cut to almost extinction, is the best pitch producing pine tree
  • The term ‘fatwood’ came about from the wood in pine stumps being “fat” with resin that was highly flammable
  • There are between 105 and 125 species classified as resinous pine trees around the world. ~ Wikipedia

If your area doesn’t produce fatwood, what natural fire starter do you prefer?

Keep Doing the Stuff,

Todd

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Thanks for sharing the stuff!

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Categories: Bushcrafting, Camping | Tags: , , | 20 Comments

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20 thoughts on “Resin-Rich Fat Lighter’d: Nature’s Most Prized Fire-starter

  1. Another great article … thanks for sharing this useful information. I have shared it on my facebook page https://www.facebook.com/PalmettoPrepper?ref=hl

  2. Chewylouie

    I live on a pine plantation so, when I first got into bush crafting and what not I did not get the hoopla about lighter (which is what we call it). Then I realized, not everybody has huge stumps of the stuff laying around everywhere. I new it was a great fire starting material, but i just didn’t realize how difficult it is for most people to get this kind of resource. I do use it for pretty much every fire I start though. First thing I start to look for when I am going to make a fire is lighter.

    • Chewylouie

      By the way, what shirt are you wearing. It looks like it is wool, and I have been looking to getting me some clothing. Just wondering if you could tell me where you got it.

      • Chewy, it’s a 100% wool army blanket I made into a hunting shirt. :) I hand stitched it. I’ll have to put a DiY post on about how to make one yourself. Very warm!

      • Chewylouie

        I kinda guess that was what it was. It is getting very hard to find anything “woods worthy” that was 100% wool. A post on it would be nice. Thank you!

  3. FloridaN8tive

    Growing up and living in Florida my whole life, lighter knot, has been a staple.Not only using it for kindling , but we also use it for fence posts as it never rots.In the 1800s, almost every structure was built of heart of pine. This led to some terrible fire disasters,including one that completely destroyed my home town in 1896, but the structures that didn’t succumb to fire are still around, as the wood is rot-resistant and bug resistant.

  4. barry

    dead mimosa tree, split thin makes excellent kindling. I have started them to burning with just the smallest embers still left from the previous fire. I hear they burn so hot you wouldn’t want to use a whole log.

  5. Is that a wool blanket shirt? If so, are you going to do a post about it?

  6. Patrick Mccaulley

    Not from pine trees, but fatwood can be found in most any coniferous tree. Here in the pacific northwest we have alot of douglas fir, noble fir, etc. find and old stump and with an axe, cut into it until the slivers and chunks of wood take on a turpentine smell. Most times you can ”feel” the resins in it.

  7. Up here it is birch bark. Wet, dry, it doesn’t matter, it will burn and burn long and hot. It also makes great water containers or baskets.

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