What is Punk Wood? (Find, Collect, Make Fire)

Punk Wood is rotten and fibrous wood, often decayed by fungus. It is an excellent tinder for the outdoors.

from Martin Gebhardt | Bushcraft | reading time 5 Min
Updated on 17 February 2024 20.295 views 100% found this guide helpful
What is Punk Wood? (Find, Collect, Make Fire)

Martin Gebhardt

From Martin Gebhardt. Check out my “About me” page.


👉 The key facts from this guide

  • Punk Wood is extremely rotten and fibrous wood that has been decomposed by a fungus. It is soft, can be squeezed or broken easily.
  • It is often used as tinder, as it glows well and does not burn directly with an open flame.
  • Punk Wood can also be charred to make it even more flammable.
  • It can be used for ember transportation as it slowly smolders.
  • Punk Wood typically houses insects, which can be used as emergency food or bait for fishing.
  • It can also serve as insect repellent by being ignited and placed in the wind to keep insects away.

Have you ever heard the term Punk Wood in relation to fire and kindling?

But do you struggle to grasp exactly what the term means?

Then read on, and you will learn what Punk Wood is, where to find it, and how to use it in the outdoors.

One thing I can tell you right now: Punk Wood is a great kindling.

What is Punk Wood?

Punk Wood is extremely rotten and fibrous wood that has been decomposed by a fungus. As a result, Punk Wood is soft, can be compressed, or easily broken. The rotted wood makes for great kindling to start a fire.

You often find Punk Wood on fallen and dead trees. When cut with a saw, it tends to tear apart rather than cut. This is due to a white rot caused by lignin decomposition.

Punk Wood is brittle, soft and dry
Punk Wood is brittle, soft and dry

Punk Wood is also known as:

  • Junk Wood
  • Punky Wood
  • Spunkwood
  • Touchwood
  • Spunge
  • Punk

"Punk" is not just an attitude, music genre, and culture, but also kindling. Translated even more generally, it means "worthless" and "decaying, rotting".

Significance in the Bushcraft and Survival Scene

Many people have been using Punk Wood as kindling for years. The method of starting a fire with it has been practiced for centuries. The word was already being used for wood that was used for kindling in the 17th century.

How do you make a fire? You essentially just need a knife with a sharp-edged spine (such as the Mora Eldris) and a fire steel. Or a magnifying glass. You can find Punk Wood in any forest.

The Video about Punk Wood

In the video, I show what Punk Wood is and how to find it. I also test the Punk Wood as a kindling. I also test the charred version of Punk Wood with a fire strike and a magnifying glass.

Finding Punk Wood

You can find the rotting wood in dead trees or trees that have been on the ground for a long time.

If you suspect it's Punk Wood, then check the following:

  • Is the wood soft? Can it be compressed?
  • Is the wood brittle? Does it break easily?
  • Is the wood dry?
  • Is the wood light to white in color?

If most of these apply, then you have probably found Punk Wood.

If you can easily break off the wood and it's soft, then you have found Punk Wood
If you can easily break off the wood and it's soft, then you have found Punk Wood

Using Punk Wood as Tinder

To use Punk Wood as tinder, it must be completely dry. This should always be the case with tinder in general.

Ignite the dry and decayed wood with a magnifying glass, a Firesteel, or a striker.

You'll notice that Punk Wood doesn't burn with an open flame. It smolders and glows. When you blow on it, you can see the embers glow hotter.

Also read: Starting a Fire with the Sun: 8 Tips You Need to Know

Punk Wood glows slowly - perfect for igniting a fire with the tinder nest
Punk Wood glows slowly - perfect for igniting a fire with the tinder nest

Therefore, you can't directly ignite a fire with it. You must place it in your tinder nest, blow on it, and create a flame.

Punk Wood can be easily ignited with a magnifying glass, it smolders when lit
Punk Wood can be easily ignited with a magnifying glass, it smolders when lit

Charring Punk Wood

Charred Punk Wood is even more flammable. What remains is carbon, which glows brilliantly.

If you have the time, char the decayed wood (just like making char cloth). I'll show you how it's done:

  • Grab an airtight container and bore a small hole into it
  • Place the Punk Wood inside and close the container tightly
  • Place the container in an open fire
  • Wait for about 15 to 30 minutes until no more white smoke escapes from the hole in the container
  • Remove the container from the fire and wait for about 15 minutes until everything has cooled down

Do not open the container too soon. If oxygen reaches the hot and charred Punk Wood, it may ignite.

Charred Punk Wood is much more flammable than the un-charred variety
Charred Punk Wood is much more flammable than the un-charred variety

Pro Tip 1: Don't drill the hole in the lid, but in the side of the container. This only makes sense if the metal of the lid and the container overlap when screwed on. Now you can have two settings for the container: one with a hole for charring (both holes are in the same position). And one without a hole for transportation. To close the hole, rotate the lid until the outer hole no longer overlaps with the inner hole.

Pro-tip 2: Seal the hole with candle wax. This way, your can is airtight and watertight, making it suitable for transport. Once you put the can back into the fire to char Punk Wood or cotton, the candle wax will melt.

Other uses for Punk Wood

Punk Wood is not only used as tinder. Check out what else you can use dead wood for.

Transporting embers

Since Punk Wood smolders, you can use it to transport your embers. Ignite it once and keep the embers alive by regularly blowing on them.

Just like with the Tinder fungus, you naturally need a large piece of wood. The charred version of Punk Wood is not suitable for transport because it burns through too quickly and is usually too small to use.

was ist punkwood punkywood zunder

Punk Wood for finding food and bait

You can probably already guess: insects live in the decaying wood. Beetle larvae and ants, in particular, love to take up residence there. Insects feed on the cellulose in the wood. Ants build their nests there and lay their eggs.

Dig a little in the Punk Wood and you will surely find something. Beetle larvae and larger insects are your emergency food (more about eating insects here) or the next bait, for example, to catch fish.

In Punk Wood you can find fat beetle larvae, as they feed on the protein in the wood
In Punk Wood you can find fat beetle larvae, as they feed on the protein in the wood

Punk Wood to support fire starting with a bow drill

Increase your chances of starting a fire with Punk Wood when using a bow drill.

Take a dry piece of Punk Wood that touches the coal from the bow drill. Your Punk Wood will then be "infected" and start to smolder.

Use the bow drill's coal, then, for your tinder nest and try to start your fire. If that doesn't work, grab the glowing piece of Punk Wood, and you'll be guaranteed to succeed. That way you'll be on the safe side.

Read: What is a bow drill, and how does it work?

Punk Wood supports you with bow drilling
Punk Wood supports you with bow drilling

Punk Wood as insect repellent

In the wild, you are always fighting nasty mosquitoes or other insects. Punk Wood can help you with that.

A smoking campfire can help keep insects at bay. But it's not always possible to start a complete fire.

So grab a big piece of Punk Wood and skewer it on a stick. Ignite it and place it in the wind. It will smoke and prevent a few insects from stinging or bothering you.

What you can't do with Punk Wood

  • You can't eat Punk Wood, even though some people claim you can. Wood is not nutritious for humans in any way. Additionally, there is poisonous wood, such as the Yew wood.
  • Some people also believe that Punk Wood is good for insulation during Bushcrafting. That could be true, but it's very time-consuming. In the time it takes to cut enough Punk Wood to build a base, you could collect three times as much foliage, leaves, and pine branches.

Summary

Punk Wood is a fantastic kindling and can be found quickly in the woods.

It's light, flammable, and smolders quietly. You can ignite your tinder nest calmly with it and don't get stressed out.

Nothing stands in the way of a successful fire starting.

If you are keen to learn more about kindling and fire starting, then check out the blog article "18 breathtaking ways to start a fire without a lighter or matches"


What experiences have you had with Punk Wood?

Tell me in the comments.

Take care, Martin
Martin Gebhardt

Author of the guide


Martin Gebhardt

Hey, I'm Martin. On my blog, you will learn the basics and numerous details about living in the wild. I think survival, bushcraft and the good life in nature are the keys to happiness. Find me here on Instagram or on YouTube. You can find more about my mission on the About Me page.

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