Fatwood is one of the best materials out there when it comes to starting fires. It is easy to ignite, easy to break up, and it burns long enough to ignite kindling. It is also one of the best materials to use for making your own survival matches. We’ve talked before about how to modify wooden matches in order to get them to burn longer and slower. However, using fatwood can provide an alternative that is not as messy or hazardous as soaking matches in a solvent or coating them with petroleum jelly.
The first step is to take a box of wooden matches and scrape off the material on their heads. Place the fragments into a mortar and pestle and grind it down until the material becomes a coarse and consistent powder. Set aside as you prepare the matchsticks.
Most fatwood products are sold in bundles of strips that can be added to kindling. You will generally need to take the pieces and break them apart in order to turn them into matchsticks. Unfortunately, much of the material will be uneven, break in the wrong spot or produce a lot of fragments. While you can use these pieces as part of your kindling, you can get more matchsticks by cutting the fatwood down to size first.
Try cutting each piece in half, thirds or quarters, depending on its length. You want to end up with matchsticks that are at least 3-4 inches long in order to get maximum benefits. Cutting them will make the wood easier to pull apart, and while it won’t necessarily produce even pieces, you should end up with more usable material when finished. Once you’ve broken the wood into matchsticks, trim one of the ends on each of the pieces so they are flat instead of pointy or jagged. This will help the material to adhere better to the wood and make the new match heads less-prone to crumbling as you strike them.
Modifying the Matches
Transfer the powder from the mortar and pestle and place it in a glass dish or paper cup. This will prevent harmful chemicals from being deposited into the mortar and pestle once you add water. Add a little bit of water and start stirring. You want to create a paste that’s not too thick and not too runny. Aim for a consistency that will hold the material in place and not drip off once applied.
Dunk the end of the fatwood into the paste, and then work some more of it around the top inch or so, trying to make the end as bulbous or bulky as possible. This will help to create enough padding to ignite when it is struck. The excess material will also help the ignite the fatwood beneath so it can burn on its own.
The only real drawback to this trick is that you will need to destroy a bunch of good matches to get enough ignition paste for the fatwood ones. However, the trade off is that you will end up with a slower-burning match that can be lit in adverse weather conditions out in the field. Do some experimentation and tinkering in order to create best matches, and you can start stocking up on them right away. Just make sure that the paste is completely dry before use, and don’t forget to put the matches in a box that has a good strike pad.