Mini Project #11: DIY Fatwood Pencil





Introduction: Mini Project #11: DIY Fatwood Pencil

About: Hi I'm Alex and I love to make stuff! I mainly work with different metals but I also love to explore new (to me) materials and dabble in woodworking, jewelry, knife making, design and many more.

Hi Instructables Community,

this week we will learn how to make a very simple fire starter from freebie pencils, wax & Vaseline.

First of all lets clarify that we are not working with real fatwood (i.e. heartwood of pine trees or other conifers) but instead impregnate a wooden pencil with a fuel (wax) for a similar effect. I have in the past experimented with various types of fatwood to create small EDC items such as key fobs etc. but found that the wood is very difficult to work with due to its physical properties.

Instead I looked for ways to make processed wood usable and decided to use those freebie pencils you get from IKEA or some other large shops. After some experimenting I found that a mix of 1:4 - 1:5 (PJ:Wax) was suitable to create tinder that could be ignited with a ferrocerium rod. The fire starter seems to be decently waterproof although I couldn't perform any long term trials with it.

Although I have not tested it yet I would think that one could also use bees wax instead of the paraffin wax I used.

Time:20 - 30 Minutes
Safety Concerns:Hot liquids, open flames & fumes - Use appropriate safety equipment
Primary Use:Easy to use fire starter & inconspicuous EDC item

If you like this Instructable please vote, fav, share, subscribe & comment. I have just started my own Blog which you can visit here. You can also check my YouTube, Facebook and Twitter sites for current and upcoming projects.

I would also love to see pictures of the fire starters you made and hear about your experiences with them.

Take care & stay safe

Cheers Alex

Step 1: Materials and Tools Needed

  1. Candle wax (Paraffin wax, stearin or bees wax) - You can reuse old wax for this - You should use enough wax to allow the pencil to be completely submerged.

  2. 1 IKEA pencil - IKEA and other shops offer these as freebies for their customers

  3. Petroleum Jelly (a.k.a. Vaseline)
  1. Melting pot
  2. Adjustable Heat source
  3. Tweezers
  4. Wooden stirring stick
  5. Small spatula

Step 2: Melting & Mixing

  1. Start by adding your wax to your melting pot and putting it to low heat on your stove.
  2. Add somewhere between 1/5 to 1/4 of Vaseline to the wax ((compared to the total mass of wax)
  3. Allow the mixture to melt & heat up slowly. If you see smoke or fumes rising take the melting pot from the heat source and reduce the temperature.

Step 3: ‚ÄčImpregnating

  1. Once all wax is molten slowly drop the pencil into the mixture.
  2. You should see bubbles rising to the surface.
  3. You can speed up the process by pushing the pencil below the surface with your tweezers.
  4. Turning up the heat slightly can also help to speed up the process.
  5. Once you notice that fewer or no bubbles are rising from the pencil you can remove it from the melting pot.
  6. Let the pencil dry and cool down for at least 15 - 20 minutes.

Step 4: How to Use

Using this fire starter is fairly simple:

  1. Use a sharp blade to shave off very fine shavings - these will be your initial tinder. This is very easy to ignite with a ferro rod other spark creating tool but will burn very quickly.
  2. I suggest you create more larger shaving with a pencil sharpener or a blade. These will be ignited by the fine shavings and burn longer.

Please let me know what you think in the comments and remember to join the weekly give away by subscribing to my YouTube channel and commenting on the video for this Instructable.

Happy making

Cheers Alex



    • Stick It! Contest

      Stick It! Contest
    • Water Contest

      Water Contest
    • Oil Contest

      Oil Contest

    11 Discussions

    How much of the wax actually gets adsorbed by the wood? Does it make a big difference verses a regular pencil (extend burn time/temp)?

    On a related note, if you have a battery you can use the pencil as is to start a fire. Expose the lead on each end and run a current across it (i.e. jumper cables and a car battery). The lead will get hot and start the wood on fire.

    1 reply

    Hi vanmankline,

    thanks for reading and commenting. With regards to the amount of wax being absorbed into the wood I can't really give an answer. I would have to guess that its only a few grams depending on the type of wax and its temperature (paraffin wax has a different viscosity as beeswax at the same temperature) as well as the type of wood that the pencil is made of. The main differences to a regular pencil are that the impregnated shavings are finer and easier to ignite by spark (Ferro rod) similar to actual fatwood.

    Thanks for the note wrt the car battery & pencil. First time I have heard that one but I guess its worth a try :)

    Cheers Alex

    I make it a game. When ever I go to the store I try to think of at least three different ways to use each item I see.

    2 replies

    Hi jmwells, that's an interesting approach to the subject. I will try that too.

    Cheers Alex

    The game expands your perspective on what you see. It will give you a skill set in survival situations. The more ideas you have, the greater your chances.

    Hi PilotOfTheFuture, yes I do especially so when theycome at little to no cost and only take me a few minutes to make. I usually look at things twice before throwing them away and try to think of ways to give them a new purpose.

    Cheers Alex

    2 replies

    A new purpose by setting them on fire lol

    Well the new purpose is more to potentially safe your life by providing you warmth, cooking your food & boiling your water ;)

    Cheers Alex

    If you used a couple of smaller golf pencils they would make for an excellent accessory for your Altoids tin-derizer project.

    1 reply

    Hi Chad, thats a great idea. They would be a great addition for that kit.

    Cheers Alex

    Hi PilotOfTheFuture, thanks for reading & commenting. You are absolutely right with regards to the usefulness of pencil sharpeners which is why I have covered them in previous projects.

    Cheers Alex