Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Finding Fatwood Pt. 2

The search continues...

Hello everyone. In follow up to Finding Fatwood Part 1, here is my second effort after I regrouped and did some extra research.

So during my first attempt, I focused on finding a Pine stump hoping that I might get lucky and find some concentrated fatwood. I was plagued by two issues:
1) Almost every stump whether young or old was completely rotted out.
2) When I did find the rare stump that had a solid inner core, it appeared as a false positive in the woods because the dampness of the ground made the wood take on a darker hue. By the time the wood sat to dry at home for a bit, it was obvious that I had not found fatwood.

Both of these issues are really the result of one cause; the ground (at least where I am searching) is too damp. The wood dies from rotting before any significant amount of turpene can be produced by the roots to settle in the stump.

Now it is possible that my location has a lot to do with it. Living farther north than the southern states that are infamous for having fatwood stumps every other step (like Florida), we have a different climate. My theory is that the ground is too damp here between all the rain and snow we get throughout the year that the tree doesn't have a chance (at least from natural death) to concentrate to the point to be considered fatwood. As there are no logging plots in my immediate area I have yet to test logged Pine stumps. All the stumps I have checked were either knocked over by other falling trees/wind, struck by lightning, or just actually died from a natural cause.

So after the first trip's failure and reflecting on the above conclusions, I regrouped and did some more research. I learned that the closest few inches of a dead pine branch can sometimes hold fatwood. From what I gather the tree "seals off" the dead branch from the living part of the tree. Same principle anytime a pine is injured externally, it will produce resin to seal the inner parts (this can also be collected and used for multiple purposes). So this time, my goal is going to be to cut off some dead branches and see what I can find...

One other theory that seems to make sense, is that the larger and older the tree is the more resin the tree should be able to pump. Saw this interesting Table Mountain Pine (Pinus pungens) on the way in and actually made a great find.

Table Mountain Pine

Dead Immature Cone

Mid Trunk that must of have severe damage done to it. It was covered in pure hardened resin.

It also had a dead branch protruding from it... Bingo!

Not only did I successfully find a good piece of fatwood before I even got to the area I was going, but I also harvested some pure hardened chunks of resin!

Just when I thought I had harvested everything this great tree had to offer...

Got a bag of hardened resin, and this one of pliable stuff.

Continuing on, I finally reached the woodline of the area I know pines are dispersed. I walked a little deeper in this time since I knew stumps were not a priority this time.

Look how quickly the woods change from deciduous to coniferous in the next three pictures. Use the tree in the far right of the first picture as an anchor point for comparison in all three:

And then I was in it. Large area of all pines, with plenty of dead branches to harvest. The reason for this area of pine is because this land had mining about 40-60 years ago or so, and the geography looks like they basically cut the top off of this hill to mine, and when they were done, they planted these pines. Their height seems to coincide with that timeline.

Every tree had multiple usable branches. It got to a point where I was no longer looking for fatwood, I was looking for pines with the best dead branches haha.

Here is the end product of the haul:

The hardened resin. Will make some pitch sticks or maybe pitch glue out of this.

The unprocessed lot of it.

The most concentrated piece. Check out that color!

Each of the pieces has a good 2-4 inches of concentrated fatwood. I kept another 2-3 inches of wood on each stick. Not the same as a stump, but this is was a great haul for me and a real learning experience. Hopefully this will help others who live farther north and have been having trouble finding good stumps.

1 comment:

  1. Your video and article have been a GREAT help, I found my first fatwood last weekend using your advice,albeit not much but still happy I even found some.