Monday, December 5, 2011


Amadou is the soft, spongy, and flammable fibers prepared from the horses hoof fungus.  It has been used for hundreds and even thousands of years as tinder for fire starting.  Amadou was found in Otzi the Ice Man's tool kit (5000 years old).  It has even been used as a felted material for hat making. 

Looking for distractions to occupy myself with rather than studying I decided to try making some.  

While walking along the river bank with Taiga I harvested a few fungi.  Horses hoof fungus can be found on dead paper birch trees.  The amadou is a layer of spongy material just below the skin and just above the fibrous pores of the horses hoof fungus, so the first step is to shave the skin off.  The amadou shows as an orange spongy layer so I took care not to slice any of it off.  I next Sliced the amadou off in large thin slices.  The next step is to soak and boil the pieces in an ash slurry, use equal parts water and ash.  I used an old pot that I found along the river bank while on another walk with Taiga.  After boiling spruce roots for her birch bark basket in Zoe's good pot I was instructed NOT to boil anything else in her pots.  After soaking the pieces in the ash slurry over night I boiled them for 45 minutes.  The pieces are then left to dry.  I left them over night which may have been a bit too long because they turned stiff.  Any way the next step is to pound each piece to break the fibers apart which softens the material, I used the back of my hatchet and an old 2x4.  The final step is to role the pieces between your hands, to again soften the material and, to slightly fluff it up.  Using a fire steel to produce a spark and a small piece of the prepared amadou a fire can easily be lit.  The amadou doesn't flame up but instead smolders and produces a hot ember which can be used to ignite dry tinder like dry grass.  

Horses hoof fungus can be found growing on dead paper birch trees

Here I'm shaving off the outer skin or bark of the fungus.  The amadou is the brighter orange colors stuff near the end of the blade.

Amadou is very spongy and flexible and comes off in thin slices.

This image shows how much amadou I was able to get from one medium sized fungus.

Here the pieces are soaking in the ash slurry.  I noticed that the ash wanted to settle out of solution unless it was boiled then the ash particles tended to stay suspended.

Boiling the amadou on a camp stove in the shop.  Too stinky for in the house.

This photo shows the boiled and dried piece on the right compared to the finished piece on the left.  The fluffy texture of the finish material catches the spark really well.

A spark from a fire steel is all that is needed to ignite it.  I was actually quite surprised at how easily this stuff actually ignites.

This little piece smoldered for almost 5 minutes.


Norseman said...

How does it do catching a spark from traditional flint & steel?

Wildpaddler said...

I don't have a flint and steel set up but from the videos I've watched it is just as easy. Catches on the first strike.

Momtosweeties said...

I found this really interesting to read... just stumbled apon your blog. I haven't ever noticed this on any birch trees around here, but I will certainly keep my eyes open now for it.

Shapath Das said...

nice post