Horse shoe fungus is a member of the Polyporus family, more commonly known as false tinder fungus or conk ( not true tinder fungus as this is Chaga ) and is generally found on dead silver birch trees. At this point I want to add that I have made Amadou from two types of conk and have seen trauma in at least two more types which I believe could be made into Amadou. Although the last stage of the prep varied slightly the overall method was the same.
The fungus is made up of three layers
The layer we want is the trauma Layer; this is the central layer of material so it’s the cork like material under the hard crusty shell and above the layer of the tube like layer.
Step one is to remove the hard shell, this isn’t easy and is undoubtedly the most unpleasant part of the process . In the past I have had people tell me I should soak the fungus for a couple of days to soften it up, but in reality you need to allow at least four days for it to make any difference.
Once this is removed you can remove the pore like part which is a far easier process and is somewhat like taking the inner from a coconut. I used to discard this on the fire until recently after I watched a good friend of mine use this in the same as you would use char-cloth and it works a treat so a bonus in the tinder box.
The next part can vary and is down to choice; you can either soak it for another week, or boil for at least 12 hours. This can be done by adding salt petre. In days of old this was done by adding the rotting straw from a animal pen which was saturated by excrement ,or a lye solution or the traditional way was to use urine;- yep urine! This is only appropriate if you use the boiling method .
I’m happy to say I use a lye solution which I make by boiling ash from a fire and it works best from a softwood fire which I then repeatedly boil until I’m left with a thick sludge. After removing any large particles which float when boiling I make a good jam jar full as this will do two or three lots of amadou ( it’s important to boil the ash first as if you add too much or the ash is too course, this will clog the pores of the Amadou and it won’t take a spark well.
The next step is to slice the Amadou into strips of your required thickness. I try for 5-6mm then either allow to soak in your lye solution or boil in your chosen mix. Boiling needs to be for at least 12 hours whereas soaking needs to be for between 3-5 days checking regularly for a consistency of being able to squeeze it between your fingers to half of the original size.
There are several ways to achieve the suede like leather you will recognise as Amadou; some people say to beat the material to soften. This needs to be done with something with no sharp edges such as a pebble. I personally don’t favour this method because if you go too far then it falls to bits.
My preferred method is to simply knead it between your fingers with damp hands until it’s soft. It also tends to get larger in size by about 30% (this is laterally not in thickness).
Then you need to dry but under no circumstances force dry it. You can dry it by leaving it to dry in a warm place but it will go hard and will need to be manipulated again. I prefer to manipulate it with dry hands as I find it works best for me, then it’s good to go.