Fatwood: a never-fail fire starter




One of my Scoutmasters showed us how to make firestarters out of paraffin, sawdust, and twine. Fatwood seems like a much better alternative, especially if you’re in an area where you can harvest your own.

The reason’s for fatwood’s flammability would probably also explain why my Scout troop, which camped in areas with a lot of cedar wood around, never had to use that Scoutmaster’s firestarters.


Punkin’ instigator!


Best source: pines hit by lightning. Shards everywhere, from splinters for firestarting all the way to bat-sized which are perfect for movie-style torches that will burn for hours, with or without pitchfork and mob.


Tech tip - if you run a wood-burning stove, this stuff will likely burn too hot for you. Don’t want to damage that stove. Just saying…


2/6/14: BoingBoing Hipsters Discover Kindling.


When I was twelve, we moved from a mid-sized Southern California city to a tiny town in the Sierra Nevadas. We rented a house with a wood stove (my first ever), and I was using a box of cedar shakes as kindling. Suddenly I heard a roaring sound from the stovepipe; I ran outside and saw flames shooting out of the chimney (of course, it had a metal rain cap, so it took me a moment to figure out what I was seeing.) Apparently the chimney hadn’t been swept in years; I was a city kid and had no idea. The cedar (burning a LOT hotter than usual for that stove) had ignited the creosote deposits on the inside of the stack; it scared the crap out of me but fortunately didn’t burn down the house.

We moved a few months later, and the next stove we used had a catalytic converter - which re-burns the flue gas so (under normal circumstances) there shouldn’t ever be a creosote deposit to begin with. Much more efficient heat extraction, too.


My fireplace has a catalytic converter as well and reburns the gas, however until it heats up you are putting smoke through the chimney and creosote will build up. Be sure to have it cleaned occasionally.


Poor man’s fatwood: cut paraffin coated cardboard boxes into inch wide strips. Check your local grocery for the boxes that vegetables arrive in. These waxy boxes typically end up in the landfill. The strips burn cleanly with lots of heat.


Particulate matter from wood burning accounts for the largest portion of air pollution in the Bay Area during the winter.


We melt candle stumps and dip rolls of cut up paper bags in it, they end up being about the size of a roll of pennies. I have never had the need, but i bet they will light even after being submerged.


Good point on the preheating… however, I long ago moved back to the city, so the advice sadly does me no good. (The woodstove is just about the only aspect of rural life I miss, actually.)


I grew up using rolled-up newspapers as fire-starters, back when news came on dead trees, delivered every morning. Also, this time of year, dried-up leftover Christmas trees are available, and the branches will catch pretty fast even if you don’t get fancy about cutting it into smaller chunks.

Unfortunately, the California Bay Area has had a month or more of Spare-the-Air days due to the high-pressure ridge that’s causing our drought, so I haven’t been able to use the fireplace this winter, even when we had the cold snap.



Dryer lint and Vaseline!


Fooom! Wont that take off your eyebrows?


Apparently cheap fatwood used to come from aged clear-cut tree stumps. Harder to acquire now.


steel wool and a 9V battery. and you don’t burn the battery.


fat with pitch

Coincidentally, my favourite sandwich filling.

Best kindling I’ve collected has been from wood that’s been underwater for a long time. No idea why, but it works really well (after drying out, obviously).


My gran was from Yorkshire. Her view on the situation was: “have a good chimney fire every year and you won’t need to pay to get it cleaned”. Thanks gran.

For kindling my dad was a woodwork teacher and would bring home sacks of all the offcuts and leftover bits of wood. Quite often I’d be getting the fire going using someone’s poorly made and abandoned woodworking project. (I did end up with a nice bedside table that used to be someone’s A-level project)