Uncle Otha’s DiY Fat Lighter’d Torch

by Todd Walker

Uncle Otha was fond of fat lighter’d. He grew up in the first Great Depression, served in WWII, and told campfire stories around his pot of squirrel stew simmering over an open fire. He was a frugal Doer of the Stuff!

One of his trademark skills, besides being the best camp cook ever, was improvisation. He made use of stuff that we (his nephews) often overlooked. Here’s one of his fixin’ ideas. It wasn’t original to him. Pioneers used these years before we arrived on the scene. So, to preserve a lost skill, he passed it down to us.

Fat Lighter’d Torch

Our camp was often illuminated by rustic lighter’d knot torches. A Coleman fuel saver. And way cooler than modern white light. Very Daniel Boone-ish!

You obviously need fat wood to make a lighter’d torch. Don’t have fat lighter’d in your woods? Here’s suggested substitutes from commenters on this post from: Alaska – birch bark; Pacific NW – all coniferous trees; Parts Unknown – dead mimosa tree. The key ingredient for fat lighter’d is the flammable resin. Since it’s in abundance in my neck of the woods, that’s what I use.

Tools and Supplies

  • Cutting tool (axe, knife, saw, hatchet)
  • Fat wood
  • Dead pine branch
  • Fire

Step 1: Find a dead pine tree with a 3 to 4 inch diameter base where it attached to the tree trunk. I found a tree downed by a storm two years ago behind my school. You can use a dead limb on a live tree as well.


My hatchet from my Junk in the Trunk emergency vehicle kit came in handy.

Cut the torch pole about 6 to 7 feet long. This length allows you to anchor it in the ground and provide an elevated light.

Step 2: Remove about a foot of bark off the knot end of the pole (where it met the tree trunk).


I’m using a baton on my axe… not swinging toward my leg!

Once the bark is removed, split the end into four quarters with your cutting tool. Make the splits about a foot into the pole.

Step 3: Collect strips of fat wood in various sizes – from shavings to pencil sized.




Step 4: Spread the splits on the end of your torch pole (step #2) and begin insert a piece of lighter’d at the base of each split to create four distinct quarters of wood. These gaps provide air flow as the torch burns. Sprinkle shavings of fat wood down in the cracks as you insert the larger pieces. Don’t pack the splits too full of kindling pieces. Fire needs air.

I also crush and sprinkle dried pine resin in with the kindling. Not necessary, but adds to the heat.   

Step 5: Make a feathered stick of fat lighter’d and insert it in the top of your torch. Feathering makes more surface area and easy lighting.

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

Feathering fat lighter’d


Notice the dried chucks of pine resin to the right.

Step 6: Light your torch. Apply proper safety procedures with any fire. I burned mine at home over our backyard fire pit.

Uncle-Otha's-DiY-Fat-Lighter'd-TorchThis torch didn’t burn very well. It needed wider gaps in the four splits. Tweak yours as needed.

Here’s a peek at my next “Doing the Stuff” project… Replacing axe handles. I’ll have it up by Friday!


This is the small camp axe I used in the this fat lighter’d torch tutorial. The latex gloves have a purpose. 🙂

Enjoy your fat lighter’d torch responsibly and pass on your skills to the next generation.

Keep Doing the Stuff!


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Thanks for sharing the stuff!

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Categories: Bushcraft, Camping, DIY Preparedness Projects, Doing the Stuff | Tags: , , , | 16 Comments

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16 thoughts on “Uncle Otha’s DiY Fat Lighter’d Torch

  1. Thanks for another great practical post. I love the look on your face in the bottom photo! Our spirits never really age..Great collection on your Pinterest board. Keep up the great work!


    • Thank you, Dan! Age is a state of mine, my friend. BTW, I’ve gotta check out your SOLID MUSTACHE WAX RECIPE. Thinking about handlebars. 🙂

      Can’t remember what exactly I was thinking in that shot.


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  9. Liz Halr

    We have no pine around here but, there is an overabundance of the hated cedar. could this work as well?


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