Last updated on December 12th, 2018
Some knives are better than others for batoning wood.
Batoning wood is the action of splitting wood while using a baton and a knife. In the bush, a baton is typically a makeshift heavy ‘stick’ serving as a hammer of sorts.
There’s a technique to batoning wood, but it’s essentially the process of holding the knife blade to the end of a relatively small diameter piece of wood while using the baton to strike the knife’s spine – forcing the knife edge to split /cut the wood.
You might ask, “Why would I use a knife for batoning wood?”
Because you might not have an axe or a saw with you while you’re out in the woods, wilderness, a hike or journey when you wish to build a fire.
Batoning wood is useful to split wood into smaller pieces. It also enables access to the drier center portion of wood for fire building and kindling.
Batoning wood may also be useful for cutting a sapling (young, small diameter tree) for building a shelter.
Dave Canterbury likes the Morakniv for batoning wood:
Morakniv Bushcraft Carbon Fixed Blade Knife
‘The Baton’ For Batoning Wood
The baton is simply a piece of wood heavy enough to get the job done.
Ideally a hard wood (heavier, more dense, less effort to ‘baton’), and several inches in diameter. It’s essentially your ‘hammer’ used to strike the back of the knife blade.
Not Every Knife Is Good For Batoning Wood
Knives will have weaknesses inherent to their design. For example the steel of a non full-tang knife (partial tang) does not extend all the way through the handle. It may be a fixed blade knife, but if the blade itself attaches to the handle as a separate piece, there will be a weak point. Same with a folder knife. So if using such a knife for batoning, know it’s limits (it might break).
A full tang or 2/3 tang knife is stronger because the steel blade and the handle are all one solid piece and extends into the handle.
Note: If you’re batoning (splitting or cutting) hard wood, there will be more stress put on the knife than soft wood. Similarly there’s more stress on the blade while batoning green wood versus dead wood.
Note: When batoning wood, strike the back of the knife (it’s spine) further out and away from the handle of the knife.
Note: When batoning (cutting) a sapling, do not cut directly against the grain (it’s the hardest part). Instead place the knife at an angle (about 45-degrees). Make a cut on all four sides, then pull the sapling over.
Caution: Batoning wood is risky (cutting yourself) so be especially carefully during this process (as you should with any process while using a knife)
What’s The Best Knife For Batoning Wood?
As Dave Canterbury says,
“The best knife or tool you can have is the one that you have when you need it…”
With that said, he is a strong proponent (comparative for the price) of the Morakniv (Sweden) Bushcraft Black high carbon steel knife.
It has a 1/8-inch blade and is extremely sharp, durable, and is hardened to ‘HRC 56-58’ to better withstand stress on the blade when batoning.
The black coating helps protect against corrosion. And being carbon steel, the spine of the knife can be used to slowly and forcefully push down against a fire starter to emit sparks.
Related article: Survival Knife with Fire Starter & Sharpener on Sheath
The following video from Dave Canterbury is very informative how to baton wood…