Posts Tagged With: fat lighter’d

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

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, 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.

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.

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.



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.


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?

Keep Doing the Stuff of Self-Reliance,


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Copyright © by Survival Sherpa: In light of the recent theft of all my content by a pirate site, my sharing policy has changed. I do not permit the re-posting of entire articles from my site without express written consent by me. My content on this site may be shared in digital form (200 words or less) for non-commercial use with a link back (without no-follow attribute) to the original article crediting the author. All photos, drawings, and articles are copyrighted by and the property of Survival Sherpa. You are more than welcome to share our photos and articles on social media for educational purposes as long as you link back to the original article/photo with credit to the author.

Categories: Bushcraft, Bushcrafting, Camping, Self-reliance | Tags: , , | 28 Comments

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