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, lighter knot, or something else. 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.
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.
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.
Fat lighter’d splits easily and can be done without a baton. With short pieces, it’s better to be safe than sorry.
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.
The above photo shows me using a butane lighter. You can also start fatwood with a ferro rod.
Use the back of your knife to scrape fine shavings off. Gather them into a pile and ignite with the sparks from a ferro rod.
Before I could get back to my camera tripod to photo the flaming pile of fine fat shavings, the flame was all but extinguished. The resin is very flammable. Place the shavings in your tinder material before showering sparks!
Fat Lighter’d Facts
- No chemicals or petroleum added
- Smoke from fat lighter’d makes a great mosquito repellant
- The long leaf 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?
- Attention Men: Pinterest is a Prepping Goldmine (survivalsherpa.wordpress.com)
- 6 Trees Every Survivalist Should Know (artofmanliness.com)
- 4 Monolithic Myths About Bug Out Bags (survivalsherpa.wordpress.com)
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Another great article … thanks for sharing this useful information. I have shared it on my facebook page https://www.facebook.com/PalmettoPrepper?ref=hl
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.