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Using Knife to Baton Wood
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Dennis Hiorns

Locale: Michigan
Using Knife to Baton Wood on 04/03/2010 08:02:02 MDT Print View

I have seen many videos of this technique and it looks like a great way to get to the inner part of the wood. But everytime I see someone doing it, they are using clean, chainsaw cut pieces from a woodpile.

How many of you actually find wood in the forest (long branches) and baton it open with a knife? I would imagine that if you start with a branch small enough to break down to length, it would not be worth "batoning" at that point. I'm trying to decide if this is a practical, viable technique, and if so, I'll trade in my small pocket knife for one that can baton wood.

Thanks for any input!

Stephen Barber
(grampa) - MLife

Locale: SoCal
Very old technique on 04/03/2010 09:38:23 MDT Print View

I'd been doing it for decades before I been knew it had a name; I just thought of it as splitting or cutting wood with my knife.

No, you do not need a saw-cut stick to baton, either as the baton or the stick. But it does look better if you're doing a video, I guess. But you can split via batoning any old stick, etc, you need to. Also by using your knife to carve some wedges, you can split quite large logs, etc. Batoning is just a forced wedge technique.

Note that you can also baton cross-grain, as if you were slowly chopping through the stick with an axe or hatchet. V-angles and all. that's how you make a long stick into a short stick!

Finally, only use a piece of wood to baton your knife; NEVER use a metal baton. You'll destroy your knife if you do!

Edited by grampa on 04/03/2010 09:39:10 MDT.

Andy F
(AndyF) - M

Locale: Midwest/Midatlantic
Re: Using Knife to Baton Wood on 04/04/2010 01:24:18 MDT Print View

It depends on why you're splitting the wood. I split wood with my knife when I need dry, smaller pieces for building a fire, and these aren't already available in the environment. I also split it for a small woodburning stove. Neither of these uses require me to baton wood which I can't break into 1-2 foot sections.

Brett Rasmussen
(ascientist) - MLife

Locale: Grants Pass, Oregon
Re: Using Knife to Baton Wood on 04/04/2010 09:26:01 MDT Print View

Ah, the batoning wood survival videos. After watching a few of them I went out and practiced batoning wood to make a fire several times during the the snow covered winter. It can be fun, but whenever I was in a hurry I found it much faster to just use what was on hand rather than getting to the supposed magical center of a 5 inch log. Maybe there are situations where the center of a log is the only place you could find good tender, but even in the wettest time of winter I have not found that to be the case. Some of those videos would almost lead you to believe that all the wood you burn in a fire must be split first. It's much easier to just find the right size wood than it is to cut and split large logs.

Stephen Barber
(grampa) - MLife

Locale: SoCal
Yes and no on 04/04/2010 15:45:12 MDT Print View

In the Midwest, the Sierras and the Rockies, I think there are seldom situations where you would need to baton to get dry wood.

However, when I lived in Oregon, during the winter, I had to pull every trick in the book sometimes to get a fire going in soggy-land! :-)

Never lived/hiked on the East Coast, so no clue there as the the need for batoning!

Acronym Esq
( - F

Locale: TX
Re: Using Knife to Baton Wood on 04/04/2010 15:59:44 MDT Print View

I too received great enjoyment from youtube baton videos. I picked up a 5-6" fixed blade at Academy for $20, and took it on several trips. I learned 3 things:
1) Chopping wood is a lot of work - I need a really good reason to want to do it.
2) I couldn't find a really good reason to chop wood.
3) 270 g (10 oz) of knife is a horrible weight to carry if I don't use it.

acronym 4/4/2010 4:59 PM

Beau Beveridge
(Roadtorque) - F
Batoning wood keeps you warm! on 04/04/2010 16:58:22 MDT Print View

I've done it a handful of times. Most of the time I use it as an activity to warm my body up if I start getting cold around camp. In some of the areas I camp the land has been pretty well picked through for wood. My large knife is more multi-function than a trail saw and can help me get to wood others cant. One can quite easily baton their way through a fist size branch. Dont get the picture in your mind that your wood pile will be a bunch of branches cut to equal length. Batoning is to much work for that. I usually cut through a long branch that I slowly feed into the fire.

Brian UL

Locale: New England
Re: Re: Using Knife to Baton Wood on 04/04/2010 20:18:25 MDT Print View

1. in some environments you may or may not have trouble finding dry wood.
2. splitting wood creates more surface area. more surface area = more fire, more heat.
3. Even if you don't need to split wood to find dry wood, a knife can carve thin wood chips to use as kindling: saving you the trouble of finding it or saving the ones your carrying for tougher times.
4.A knife is just a tool that makes an important skill easier, you don't need it, it just makes life much easier for 2-3 oz. An ax is the proper woodsmans tool. As backpackers we are using light weight knives as a compromise or a "better than nothing" alternative. As backpackers we are using small cook fires with or without stoves and so we can predict that we will only need it for small bits of wood for which a basic fixed bladed is usually adequate. Thats not counting that it can still do all the tasks that one usually uses a knife for.
5. the more one knows about fire building and how to use a knife the more they will tend to see it as a useful tool. Those kinds of skills are rare today and there is a mountain of bad info you have to dig through if you don't have a trustworthy source to explain it. obviously some one who doesn't know these skills will see a knife or any tool as pointless. Thats not to say that everyone who has solid fire building skills will carry one, but like I said it makes life easier and for a few ounces and 10-20 bucks.

Dennis Hiorns

Locale: Michigan
Using a knife on 04/04/2010 20:30:18 MDT Print View

I agree - I always take a knife with me, but it has usually been a multitool with pliers. But that's not something I would use to baton wood. If I decided to do that, I would buy an appropriate fixed blade knife. Right now I'm trying to determine if it is necessary and practical to baton wood, or if it is simply a "neat trick". At this point, it seems that there may be a couple people who do it out of necessity (lack of dry wood), but most people, including those who know how to do it, don't actually use the technique.

I appreciate everyone's input - thanks! (and keep it coming if you have other points)

Brett Rasmussen
(ascientist) - MLife

Locale: Grants Pass, Oregon
Re: Using Knife to Baton Wood on 04/04/2010 20:38:15 MDT Print View

I think this topic demonstrates the difference between lighweight backpacking and bushcraft. They certainly overlap and can reinforce each other. Both are great activities, but there are some aspects that differ most of the time.

Ankar Sheng
(Whiskyjack) - MLife

Locale: The Canadian Shield
UL & bushcraft on 05/03/2010 18:00:00 MDT Print View

I think bushcraft and UL backpacking go hand in hand in a lot of ways, as bushcraft encompasses the skills and techniques to use your surroundings, but improvements in gear and low impact hiking really reduce what you can or need to do.

As for batoning, in the woods I frequent (Canadian Shield) I've found it to be unnecessary, even in wet conditions, there's so much resin impregnated fuel that just bursts into flames (birch bark, fat wood, pine needles) in such abundance that my time is better spent gathering more twigs and branches, even if they are a bit damp, than dividing up the larger firewood I've gathered.

Jack H.
(Found) - F

Locale: Sacramento, CA
Re: Using Knife to Baton Wood on 05/05/2010 01:22:17 MDT Print View

I baton wood nearly every week. It's always to create spoon blanks or other blanks for wood carvings in the field however. I don't find the technique very useful for making fires. And I definitely don't carry a knife big enough to baton wood when i'm traveling UL.

Rog Tallbloke
(tallbloke) - F

Re: Re: Using Knife to Baton Wood on 05/05/2010 01:30:55 MDT Print View

I carry an 'Imperial Ireland' knife which has a great 3" saw and a blade/pivot strong enough to baton with. It doesn't weigh much, and I find it a very useful took for all sort of tasks from cutting food to repairing gear and making emergency shelter poles.

Well worth it's weight.

Donald Kevilus
(fourdogstove) - F

Locale: Woodlands
UL , fireskills, bushcraft and baton on 06/25/2010 09:50:34 MDT Print View

I'm with Brain, with a small 3-4oz fixed blade knife and
good skills I can do more after clothing to injoy the woods then any other item.
Basic outdoor skills or "bushcraft" was the orginal
backbacking light.
I live in the northern forset and go out all year round.
With out good fire skills I in danger myself as well as other if the have to come get me. So I owe that to my loves ones as well as others.I'm responsiple for my own safty.
Once you have the basic skills and can do more with less then I think a person can decide if he needs the high tech gear and can make a better choice in what he buys.
But as all tools or skills it takes doing, doing and more doing and think alot a folks look for short cuts
for developing good basic skills.

F. R.
(fugitiveride) - F

Locale: Syldavia
Re: Re: Using Knife to Baton Wood on 08/27/2013 22:04:22 MDT Print View

Very good point. In Southern California I have never had to baton anything. What's more, I have never had to split the wood either. I can usually find dead wood on the ground ready to use in all sizes for fire prep (pencil lead width, pencil width, and thumb width). I can usually break it just fine without using any kind of tool.

I enjoy learning skills like wood splitting and batoning, but have yet to need them.

Justin Baker
(justin_baker) - F

Locale: Santa Rosa, CA
Re: Using Knife to Baton Wood on 08/27/2013 22:34:47 MDT Print View

These techniques are only useful when dealing with wet/frozen wood. The best way is to find a very small vertical tree that you can rip out of the ground. Find two tree trunks right next to each other and break the wood to size between them. Branches only work if there is sufficient tree cover to keep them dry. Vertical wood is the best because rain sheds off of it. Always use wood that isn't touching the ground.

Sometimes while winter camping I will use a 28 inch axe to cross cut and split quarters from large logs.

Don Morris
(hikermor) - F
Batoning Wood on 08/29/2013 18:28:05 MDT Print View

Never had to baton anything, and I have lit fires in some fairly trying circumstances. I think the technique is primarily justification for wearing a big a$$ knife on your hip, just like all real men. If a fire is really critical, I will carry a stove.

jerry adams
(retiredjerry) - MLife

Locale: Oregon and Washington
Re: Batoning Wood on 08/29/2013 18:34:32 MDT Print View

" If a fire is really critical, I will carry a stove."

If a fire is really critical, I will carry a tent and sleeping bag : )

Luke Schmidt
(Cameron) - MLife

Locale: The WOODS
Re Re Batoning Wood on 08/29/2013 18:42:08 MDT Print View

First I'm with Jerry, I try to pack so that I can survive without a fire even if conditions are bad. I know there are special situations but I try to avoid those.

Batoning is a nice option but even that doesn't always work. I've been places where all the wood had a twisted gnarly grain and splitting it just wasn't going to happen. Soaking some extra toilet paper in alcohol hand sanitizer worked once. I've also made a nest of wood shavings I carved off wood that was too twisted to split.

Mark S
(gixer) - F
Re: Using Knife to Baton Wood on 09/04/2013 11:39:25 MDT Print View

If i know i'm going to be working with wood then i take my folding saw



I just don't see the point wacking on the spine of a knife, takes too much time and energy.

With a saw you find the branch you want.
Start to saw through it about 1/4 of the way down it's length
Saw around 1/2 way through it
Find a sturdy tree or rock and hit the branch over it aiming for the point of impact to be around half way down the log.

Result is a split log using a LOT less time and effort.

Obviously it takes a few times to know where to saw and how deep depending on the wood, but it's fast, efficient, safe and effective.