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What is Fatwood and How Does it Work?

There’s a new kind of kindle in town. And it’s gaining in popularity. To some, it’s known as fatwood. While others call it pitch pine. But it can make the average joe look like a fire-wielding outdoorsman. Here’s the Grid Down Tools guide to the pine stick resin magic and how to use it.

What is Fatwood

Fatwood, dried wood packed full of resin, is a fantastic all-natural firestarter. This wood is incredibly hard and is so full of resin that it may even seem petrified.

But it is the resin that makes it such a great firestarter.

The process starts when pine trees die. From the roots, the resin gets drawn up into the stump of the tree. The resin then saturates the stump and causes this wood to harden.

Because the resin is highly flammable, it is easy to use to start a fire. You can use small shavings of fatwood to start a roaring fire, even when they are wet.

History of Fatwood

Fatwood was initially discovered in pine stumps all across the Southeastern US. But it is available in other locations, as well.

As long as there is:

  • Terpene in the resin
    • Found in turpentine
  • The resin has collected in the stump

Then there is fatwood.

While the longleaf pine in the US was once growing across the country, harvesting has made it difficult to obtain enough fatwood from these trees. Companies are now harvesting fatwood in Central America, instead.

How to Find Fatwood

You have two options when you are on the hunt for fatwood.

  1. The first is to buy it from a reputable supplier, which makes it easy to ensure that you have quality fatwood that will work for your purposes.
  2. The second option, and the one that I find more fun is to look for it yourself.

It’s relatively easy to find fatwood as long as you can find an old stump of pine trees. Logging areas are a great place to look. Rotting and gray stumps are more likely to have higher amounts of fatwood, as they will have been around long enough for the resin to collect in the stump slowly.

It’s important to remember that the most fatwood will be right above the tree’s taproot. It’s fairly easy to tell when you have located fatwood because it will feel like a hard rock instead of like rotting wood.

How to Make Fatwood

The easiest way to access the fatwood once you have located it is to remove the entire stump from the ground. If this isn’t possible then cutting into the stump will work. But I find it to be a lot harder.

Also, remember that fatwood is ridiculously sticky and will get all over your knife and your hands. A great degreaser will work wonders in helping you clean off.

Opt for a hatchet or a knife instead of an ax to split up the stump. Wedging the stump apart will allow you to reach the fatwood easily and then to split off pieces of it.

I know that it can be tempting to try to pull out the entire chunk of fatwood, but you don’t want to do this. It’s much better to split your fatwood planks into pieces that are about ½” thick.

How to Use Fatwood

Your fatwood is going to be the tinder when you are lighting your fire, and it is great for helping create enough heat so that your kindling will burn. Some people prefer to use fatwood as they would a match. I find that it’s easier to control it when shaving it into shavings or making a feathered stick that is a cross between a match and a pile of shavings.

Light the fatwood with either a spark or a lighter. Then place it underneath your kindling to help it get as hot as possible and start to burn.

Even kindling that is a little damp will catch fire when you use fatwood.

If you find yourself trying to start a fire when the weather is nasty, then it’s a good idea to use a few thin sticks of fatwood as the actual kindling in your fire. I’ve noticed that this will ensure that you get a good flame.

Fatwood vs. Other Firestarters

Fatwood offers a few tremendous benefits over other firestarters. One advantage is that it will still light, even when it gets wet.

Some people think that chemical fire starters are a great idea for ensuring that they have the fire they need. These can be very toxic and harmful to pets or children, which makes using them around your family dangerous.

Fatwood, on the other hand, is entirely natural and won’t harm anyone in your family. It also lights better and burns hotter than different types of kindling that may be used to start a fire.


Hopefully, now you can see how useful fatwood can be to keep. Especially in emergency situations. Getting a good blaze going shouldn’t be an issue. I’d love to hear about your experience with fatwood. Let me know down in the comments if you like this natural firestarter, or if there’s something else you prefer.

Stay Safe,