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Making my own "fat wood"

Post in 'The Hearth Room - Wood Stoves and Fireplaces' started by Kenster, Dec 18, 2010.

  1. Kenster

    Kenster Minister of Fire

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    Instead of paying big bucks for "Fatwood" or Super Cedars, or whatever, I make my own hot burning kindling using a three rail cedar fence post. I like to use end posts because the rail holes do not go all the way through. Plus, end posts seem to be a lot fatter. The one I just bought measured 77 inches. It cost just under $10.00 so it's up a little over the past couple of years. I cut the post into seven 11 inch pieces. Then split it up using a hammer and a wedge. The wood is so dry (about five percent MC) that splitting right along the grains is a snap. I got a little over a hundred 3/8 to 1/2 inch thick sticks out of each 11 inch long section of post. That means close to 700 'fatwood' sticks for less than ten dollars. Five or six sticks mixed with four or five newspaper knots are perfect for my top down fire start. Three or four sticks stuck into hot coals will quickly get a load going in the morning after an overnight burn. I'll get at least two years out of one fence post. It takes just a few minutes to split up one section of post. A double handful wrapped in a festive ribbon makes a nice Host/hostess gift for you to take to a winter party. Cheaper than a bottle of wine, too!

    First two Pics: The cedar post section easily splits along the grain into thin slabs.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    Below: I split the slabs into the cedar sticks by just jabbing the wedge into the slab. No hammer needed here. Gloves highly suggested. (don't ask how I know this)
    [​IMG]

    Two eleven inch post sections give me enough cedar sticks to fill a basket I keep near our stove.
    [​IMG]

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  2. Pagey

    Pagey Minister of Fire

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    Nice! And very creative. Me rikey.
  3. shawneyboy

    shawneyboy New Member

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    Nice, resourcefull, WTG.
  4. spencer186

    spencer186 New Member

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    I scaveng 2x4, 2x6 or whatever 2x scraps I can get my hands on from homes under construction, cut them to about a foot in lencgth and split them with a hatchet then let them season a year. Works great and free!! I do like the basket. Looks a lot better than my black plastic tote. I'll have to get one. I'm sure the wifey will appreciate not seeing that black plastic box laying next to my beautiful hearth. Thanks for the pics!!
  5. BrotherBart

    BrotherBart Hearth.com LLC Mid-Atlantic Division Staff Member

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    I have a thirty foot cedar tree that fell over this year down in the woods. When I cut it up I will split up some small and give it a go. But the Super Cedars are going to be hard for it to beat. Well, at least the last piece of one I needed to use. On the second of December. The stove hasn't stopped burning since then.
  6. daleeper

    daleeper Minister of Fire

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    Nice looking kindling, but I don't see the cost savings. If you put any value to your time, those are real expensive.
  7. Intheswamp

    Intheswamp New Member

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    This would be some good kindling, but I don't think it would be considered "fatwood", would it? Fatwood, lighter'd, lighter wood, whatever...it is a highly resinous wood from the longleaf pine that has been cut and "cured" by nature. When lit lighter'd wood will burn vigorously, almost violently...a very good cold fire starter. Freshly split lighter'd wood has a wonderful, fresh aroma. Looking into the grain you can see the veins of resin easily and in a thin split light can pass through these resin veins. I can still find stumps around here and the occasional heart log, even on old fence lines there are still a few lighter'd fence posts standing from 75-? years ago. Old houses and barns sometimes have literally tons of lighter'd wood in the timbers and even dimensional lumber...I hate to see these old, collapsing structures simply bull-dozed and burned...and they burn hot!

    I've seen where lighter'd is not recommended for use in catalytic stoves due to the smoke from the resin that it emits. I'm not knowledgeable about catalytic stoves but I think you have to "engage" the cat once a certain temperature is reached, by that time it seems *to me* that the lighter'd would have been burned up being as only a few small splits are used. I've got it in my feeble mind that the heat/smoke bypasses the catalytic converter to begin with and then is directed to it...of course I'm probably completely wrong....???? Anybody want to comment and straighten me out of these last thoughts? :)

    Ed

    edit to add: With lighter'd there is no need for the newspaper.
  8. midwestcoast

    midwestcoast Minister of Fire

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    That's some nice looking kindling at a pretty good price. I also don't think it's accurate to call it Fatwood though. I've used cedar kindling plenty. Growing up we used to make a special trip down to "the Swamp" each year to grab a downed Cedar or two just to split-up for kindling. After splitting-up a box full we'd leave it much too close to the stove for a week or so to dry out completely.
    Now being a scrounger I'm often hard-up for kindling, so last year I bought 3 X 3# bags of Fatwood for $9 at Menards. Here's how they compair IMO:
    Cedar kindling is easier to light with a match. You can light Fatwood with a match, but it takes longer as the resin needs to warm before it'll light. If using paper there's essentially no difference.
    Fatwood burns much longer than Cedar kindling. All that resin really does make a big difference. That means I can light larger splits in a cold stove with 2 or 3 Fatwood sticks. If using the kindling I'd need to use a couple small pieces to light with a match and a few larger pieces (at least double the size of the Fatwood) to get the longer burn-time that'll ignite the splits. So it would take me 2-4 times the volume of kindling compared to Fatwood.
    I'm using lots of kiln dried pine this year (scrap 2X lumber from a dem/reno project) and find it similar to cedar, though not as easy to light with a match.

    FWIW, some farms will have old fencing piled up somewhere to rot away. In areas with little or no Hedge & Locust, the posts are ussually Cedar. Either livestock operations that replace old fences or farms that went to large scale field-cropping & tore out most of their fencing will either burn it or just roll it up into a pile & leave it. The posts in there are ussually many decades old & a good source of free kindling. Following my tangent: the weathered wood can also be made into beautifull furniture & do-dads. I have a carved fencepost box on my dresser from my wife that I really like.
  9. Milton Findley

    Milton Findley Feeling the Heat

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    I would love to straighten you out Ed, but you got it right. A cedar fence post ain't no lightered knot, as my father would have said. Probably makes good kindling none the less, but I like the heart pine. When I was a boy, we had two very large yellow pines in the yard that were killed by lightning. My father cut them down, cut them to lengths with a cross cut saw, and split them by hand. We got two winters of heat out of them in Allendale, South Carolina in my Grandmother's old Victorian. The heart wood was all lightered, and burned with a roar that was frightening.

    Good memories.
  10. smokinokie

    smokinokie New Member

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    Thanks so much for posting this.

    I pick up scrap cedar pieces at new construction job sites and make planters and benches and bluebird nestboxes, etc. out of them.

    At the really big, fancy new homes they sometimes use a LOT of cedar on various exterior details and I can find a lot of scrap.

    I never really thought about the value of these scraps as fire starter, but now that I am getting a wood stove I will definitely try it.

    I read the thread about making your own "super cedar" fire starter out of cedar sawdust and paraffin wax...would it make any sense at all to dip one end of your simple split pieces into a melted wax? Would that make the lighting of your sticks easier?
  11. 48rob

    48rob Feeling the Heat

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    I use thin pieces of Cedar too, split into pencil size and thinner.
    It takes 1 match to light the little kindling pile.
    A few larger scraps of other kindling placed on top makes for a fast and easy fire.
    Dipping the ends in wax would not make them any easier to light I think, but would make them burn longer.
    So far, a longer burn hasn't been needed, they get very hot very fast and catch the larger kindling in a hurry.

    I suppose you could use another posters argument that it isn't worth it because of all the labor you'd have wrapped up in preparing the Cedar kindling, but then you could use the same argument for splitting your own firewood.

    Sometimes the joy of preparation is more valuable that the money you might save by letting someone else do your work for you.
    [​IMG]



    Rob
  12. Remmy122

    Remmy122 New Member

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    I just saw this thread, from following the link on another thread. I picked up 4 rounds of cedar from a tree service on accident and didnt really know what I was going to do with it. I just cut it in 10in pieces and started going to town on them. Very quickly I have a large pile of kindling. Its not as pretty as your kiln dried post, and I can see those being much easier. I think I may end up giving it a try. Something to do this summer when I would rather sit in the shade instead of swinging a maul. Thanks!
  13. Kenster

    Kenster Minister of Fire

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    Yes, Remmy, that kiln dried fence pole splits so easily but give your cedar rounds a shot. Let me know how it works out for you.
  14. woodchip

    woodchip Minister of Fire

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    Folks can make a good living on wood scraps, they are everywhere and most people just pass them by as they are not worth the effort.

    Believe me, if the difference between success and failure is effort, it has to be worth the effort ;-)

    And Kenster, nice pictures :)
  15. Jim.od3@gmail.com

    Jim.od3@gmail.com Member

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    Pine cones! My kids gather them up for me a couple times a year. Three or four pine cones and a couple of kindling pieces works very well for me. Pine cones have such a large surface area for their size, they make good starters.
    -Jim
  16. Marsh Rat

    Marsh Rat New Member

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    I save all the green white pines that break from snow load or are a casuality of dropping trees. They need to be green so the pitch is in them, split and throw in a pile. By winter they are dry and burn like heck. My copper bucket is all I need for the year since the stove never goes out sept-april.
  17. Bub381

    Bub381 Minister of Fire

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    Darned good posts guys, thanks!
  18. Loco Gringo

    Loco Gringo Feeling the Heat

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    I have a friend thats a carpenter building local homes and he brought me 2 loads of pine and cedar trim scraps alond with D log scraps that Ill use as a starter wood. The trim I just snap over my leg into small pieces and fill large boxes by stacking them while Im sittin around outside sippin on beer. I used to just gather fallen branches around the property and do the same but this stuff is awesome for starting a top down burn. I also have a new box of 100 super cedars so I should have no trouble starting fires (mainly the wife) for a few years. Ill keep taking his scraps though. Ive learned the hard way that kindling is really important, esp on a cold morning when I need a few pieces to fire back up. It makes things so much easier at 5 am.
  19. SteveKG

    SteveKG Minister of Fire

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    My grandmother used a wood-burning kitchen range and a "morning stove" for heat and cooking. I remember her keeping a can of kindling pieces next to the firewood bin in the kitchen, the can had a little kerosene in it which the kindling would absorb. She'd use one or two of those pieces as fire starter. I don't do that myself, newspaper and dry kindling are my deal. But it worked for her.
  20. Woody Stover

    Woody Stover Minister of Fire

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    He left out the step where you soak it in bacon grease. :)

    I've seen a pool of resin drip out of the end of a Fatwood stick; I guess that could burn later, after the bypass has been closed...
  21. mesuno

    mesuno Member

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    I had some success collecting fatwood recently. We took a walk through some woodland that had obviously been clearfelled and replanted around 25 years earlier. The pine stumps were barely visible under piles of moss and leaf litter but when you gave them a kick there was plenty of rock solid wood in there. I looked like most of the wood had rotted away leaving fist sized chunks that were high in resin. I was able to lift out most of these after they had been loosened with a few careful kicks.

    I also found one huge stump which hadn't rotted at all - I was able to manhandle it out of its hole and just about carry it out along the path. The root system was very resinous, very tough on the handsaw I was using and difficult to split. I dried out the slivers in a basket for a few days and they worked a treat.

    I'd agree with what someone else posted earlier about the difference between fatwood and pine kindling. It seems to me that dry pine actually lights more easily with a match, but once your piece of fatwood is going it burns a lot hotter.

    Having been through the process of collecting and splitting it I'm not entirely sure it is worth the bother. I could have split 20 pine rounds down to kindling size in the time it took to split down that one stump, enough for a season at least. I do love fatwood for outdoor situations though as a block can get a fire going in pretty much any conditions.

    Mike
  22. woodchip

    woodchip Minister of Fire

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    We cooked some bread on a driftwood fire down the beach over Easter, wish I had a couple of bits of fatwood at the time.

    Something about wood, you just want to do everything with wood whether indoors or outdoors :)
  23. Loco Gringo

    Loco Gringo Feeling the Heat

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    Funny story. I have a friend that used liquid nails his dad picked up at the dump. He would squeeze a bit on the end of a log and put it in his Fisher with a few more logs and light it up.
  24. Wood Duck

    Wood Duck Minister of Fire

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    Most of my kindling is Eastern Red Cedar trees that I have cut down. It is knotty, but there are a few sections that split nicely, and those sections I split small and season. In the winter I keep a wood rack near the stove well stocked with the cedar. A handful or two of cedar I use to start a new fire. A few extra days by the stove makes a big difference, taking the wood from 'dry' to 'very dry.' It lights fast but I nevertheless use a small piece of Super Cedar to get the fire going for certain every time. With kindling alone I sometimes start the pile and it fizzles. i hate that.
  25. Intheswamp

    Intheswamp New Member

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    I'm a newbie to wood stoves, but have lit many fires in fireplaces and in the woods through the years. Just to give a more clear idea of my thinking on "fat wood", "lighter'd", etc.,...

    Lightered wood that I'm accustomed to is what has been stated, old, dense, resinous heartwood of a coniferous tree that is found in stumps, old logs, fence posts, old wooden buildings, etc.,. What is different that I'm seeing is that I've always used it as a "fire starter", not kindling. Lightered is the first material that we light, we don't use paper or any other "accelerant". We use lightered to ignite the kindling.

    In regards to affecting catalytic converters, the amount of the lightered that we use is minimal...all of the pieces amounting to a piece not even fist sized. It burns very hot and fairly fast and should ignite the kindling with no problem...after using a fist sized amount of lightered and your kindling isn't lit I would strongly be questioning the dryness of said kindling! As I stated earlier, I think that the resinous smoke (and there's not much of it out of that amount of lightered) would be long gone before the cat is kicked in.

    Mesuno/Mike, I agree that if you spent that much time on processing your lightered that you wasted some time. For the amount we use to build fires it doesn't take long to process enough for several fires. Most of the time we leave the lightered in stump/log form and split off as needed. Keeping it in original form *seems* to preserve the freshness of the lightered....a freshly split piece of lightered will light a slight bit faster than a piece that has been split for a while and has lost it's "shine" and grown dull looking....it's also nice to smell that fresh piney scent each time you're working with it. :) I find that lightered wood lights faster than regular dried pine (or any other wood)...it kinda starts off like I'm lighting a fuse!

    Woody, if you're seeing a pool of resin form under a piece of lightered wood then I would think that you're possibly using to much of it. Bacon grease, eh?...a whole new concept! :)

    Anyhoo, that's some of my thoughts on ligther'd.

    FWIW.

    Best wishes,
    Ed

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