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Fatwood, also known as “fat lighter,” “lighter wood” or “lighter’d,” is derived from the heartwood of pine trees. This resin-impregnated heartwood is hard and rot-resistant; the stumps or heartwood centers of fallen pines that last for decades after the rest of the tree has rotted away. Although most resinous pines can produce fatwood, in the southeastern United States the wood is commonly associated with Longleaf pine, which historically was highly valued for its high pitch production.

Because of the flammability of the pine resin, fatwood is prized for use as kindling in starting fires. It lights quickly, even when wet, and burns hot enough to light larger pieces of wood. The pitch-soaked wood produces an oily, sooty smoke, and it is recommended that one should not cook on a fire until all the fatwood has completely burned out.

Industrial uses for fatwood include production of turpentine; when fatwood is cooked down in a fire kiln, the heavier resin product that results is tar. The steam that vaporizes from this process is turned into a liquid that becomes turpentine.

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