Wednesday 13 October 2010

Making Amadou , Fomes fomentarius or the Horses Hoof Fungus

As the autumn leaves start to fall and been out in the woods with the dog reminded me that once again it is Fungi season. As I am trapped indoors and havent been anywhere interesting fishing for a few weeks I thought would post on my blog a piece I did a year or so ago for a Fly fishing forum on Amadou. A fungus that is of interest to the angler is Fomes fomentarius or the Horses hoof fungus. Anglers know it better as the plant that gives us Amadou.

This is the bracket fungus that is the source of Amadou that wonderful material for drying your dries....
every year I take a few brackets and make some amadou for me and a few buddies.  This the same fungus that makes firelighting tinder.
The time of year is right for the brackets to be at their best. On Sunday morning myself and number one dog visited a stand of silver birch trees that have always provided a few brackets for the production of amadou.

Fomes fomentarius or the Horses hoof fungus

The fungus fruiting body  is usually found on dead or dying Silver birch trees ( The fungus actually infects and kills healthy trees then lives on the dead tree).  So you need to find yourself a nice mature wood that isnt kept to tidy I have been taking mine for about 10 years from the same stand of trees. But the only advice I can offer is that it seems to be most common on the edges of woodland and in areas that arent to wet. Northern hillsides seem good, Once you have found an area that produces it keep the area to yourself and dont take to many brackets of the same tree let it mature to spread for future years. This stuff lasts for years and I tend to give bits away as its free so usually end up with none for myself and have mates that have had bits ive given them for years.

The selection is shown below, the largest and darkest was collected as an example of what not to get, the ones you want are the lighter grey ones around 4 or 5 inches across or even smaller but these are all good examples for you to recognise .

Fomes fomentarius or the Horses hoof fungus

I have taken a saw cut across three of the brackets to show which is the layer you want. Its the fawn layer that looks like chammy leather that is underneath the outer grey shell this area varies in thickness . The area that looks like rays needs to be cut away
This the oldest bracket and the layer under the outer skin is very thin and not really useable

This one is a cracking example and shows a nice thick layer of fairly soft material
Amadou layer

The first stage of preparing it is to trim up the amadou section. After trying various methods I have decided that the best way is to first trim of the hard grey layer and the best way for me is with a sharp serated carving knife. It isnt to hard to do but if you try and use to old a bracket you need a hammer and chisel. I think that is where many people struggle. Doing it this way allows you to have a good firm grip on the rest whilst yu are removing the hard outer layer and you end up with just having to cut of the rays under the amadou layers, A good tip when you are out looking for this stuff is if you cant get into the grey outer layer with a sharp penknife you are going to struggle with the rest of itYou can see the layer of amadou now is at the top of the brackets and is already looking like the finished product. Next all the soft tube like gills underneath the top layer  should be cut away leaving the layer of Amadou.

The Trimmed up amadou layers need to be soaked in a washing soda solution,  This cleans up the pieces and removes all the black spores and also allows you make the pieces flexible . Once the pieces have been soaking for a week in washing soda solution they need to be softened up.. I have found that hammering while they are wet rather than dry gives best result I use a fairly heavy hammer and just let the weight of the hammer do the work if you arent careful you can just mash the stuff and when it dries it just breaks up...

After initial hammering the pieces spread and become softer.

Amadou nearly finished

Different pieces need different times I have found that old really hard pieces are better soaked for a week than gentle hammering to just soften then soak for a week, and so on...The older and harder the longer it will take After just a week soaking a bit of a beating and a thorough rinse out this piece is already nice and soft and very absorbant and is very close to being finished


Once this is dried I will trim to shape and glue two seperate squares on to a leather or fabric backing , A ringlet and zinger completes the job,


Anonymous said...

may i ask what strength solution of washing soda you used? as in how much soda to how much water and do you think boiling in this solution for a few hours would do the trick, or do you think it would ruin the material?

Becks and Brown Trout said...

In my opinion the washing soda is just to degrease it and was out all the black spores, the key to it is breaking up the fibres to soften the felt without breaking it apart,,,


Hippo said...

Now I know what Amadou is.

Unknown said...

If you gently boil the amadou it speeds up the soaking process, about 3-4 hours at a gentle boil equates to about a day of soaking, also you can use a hardwood ash solution instead of washing soda, it gives it a darker look aswell. If your on a couple day trip you can whip up some amadou on a campfire while you fish.

Constable Wallop Brook

 I picked this rod up at the Grayling Society Auction at the last Symposium. What a cracking little rod !!! . I am getting increasingly fond...