Wednesday, January 27, 2010

How to Make Fatwood Matches

OK, so you may have noticed I've been on a bit of a fire-starting binge lately (not arson mind you) and this video really got me excited. Chris from the Dad of All Trades Blog shows us a really interesting technique for making your own matches out of cotton and fatwood. I haven't seen this technique described anywhere else and definitely want to give it a try. Thanks for sharing Chris! Has anyone else tried this?

How to Make Fatwood MatchesSocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

16 comments:

Wandering Photographer said...

Now *that* was really neat!

Wandering Photographer said...

Now *that* was really neat!

BearLeader said...

WOW! That is pretty cool. I am going camping with my Boy Scout Troop this weekend and we are going over requirements for the Firm'n Chit and practicing starting fires. I am definitely going to bring the materials to show them how to do this.

Jacob said...

This would be really useful for lighting camp stoves, I'd think. I always bring matches for that because I don't want to try and light that thing with my firestarter.

How does he go about getting the thin fatlighter sticks? I've only seen those in much thicker cuts. Does he make them himself or can you find those already cut that way?

Chris said...

Jacob, I make them myself. I basically cut a short section of fatwood from larger piece using a saw. Cut across the grain of the wood so that the finished sticks have saw finished ends. I use a bandsaw but a handsaw will work just fine. I then start splitting. First into slabs about 1/8" thick using only an old Mora and wooden mallet. I then split each slab into matchsticks with the same knife.

I'm in the process of getting a shop setup on my site (dadofalltrades.com). I will be selling complete matchstick tinder box kits (not in altoid tins, unless requested) and just the fatwood matchsticks if you aren't up to doing it yourself. Give me a couple of weeks.

If you ever have a question just pop by my blog and drop me a note.

The Velo Hobo said...

Nice, I can't wait to try it. I thing I'll opt for dryer lint instead of cotton. Great tip! Thanks, Jack

Pritch said...

Jason,

When I saw the title of your entry I was hoping somebody had actually started marketing commercially made, real matches where the matchsticks were made out of fatwood. Been hoping for them for years. I've used Q-tips this way in the past and always have both fatwood and cotton in my firekit, so this is a no brainer. (Good job, Chris!)

Jason Klass said...

Chris,
How did you "modify" the handle of the striker?

Chris said...

Jason, Belt Sander to change the shape then a blow torch to smooth it out. I was too impatient to smooth it with sand paper.

J said...

I had to go out and give it a try this morning, works GREAT and so easy. So, I split up match size pieces of fat wood to add to my fire kit. Chris, thanks for the video.

Jason- thanks for all the fire starting techniques, I recently bought a Bushbuddy stove, so fire starting has been a priority for me and new techniques are always fun and welcome.

Jason Klass said...

J,
That's cool. how hard was it to split the fatwood into small, match-sized pieces and how did you do it?

J said...

Jason- I already had a few small pieces of fatwood that I picked up last fall while on a hike. The piece that I cut was about 6"x2"x1/4", I cut it on the bandsaw cross grain giving me two pieces 3"x2"x1/4", then with a fixed blade knife and mallet split it with the grain to size. I ended up with pieces fairly regular in size approx. 3"x 1/4"x 1/8". There was a lot of resin left on the knife blade, so you might want to use an old knife and not one that comes in contact with your food.

J said...

One more thing, you can see the resin in the wood, wrap the cotton around the end with the most resin for a faster start.

Robert said...

Chris,

Does the age of the tree have anything to do with the amount of resin in the wood, i.e., its flammability (if that's a word)?

Chris said...

Robert, Sort of. What matters is the way the tree dies and the time of year. The tree must die in a traumatic, sudden way. Typically by storm, lightning or chainsaw while the sap is moving in the spring, summer and early fall. You can still get fatwood out of trees that died during the late fall or winter but it's not normally as good. The root system will continue to push sap up to the rest of the tree, but the rest of the tree will be missing, so it builds up in the heartwood that remains. The sap can build up for several years.

After the tree dies it can take 3-5 years before there is fatwood to harvest. In commercial operations the trees are usually cut 3-4 feet from the ground and allowed to age for 7-10 years before harvesting. Hence the cost of buying fatwood. The good news is that fatwood will last in the stump for many years, up to 30 in some cases. I have harvested fatwood from stumps that were greater than 20 years old.

Romilda Gareth said...

nice