FAQ: Can I use my knife for batoning?

13th Apr 2015

Batoning is a technique used for processing wood for fire, shelter and other bushcraft purposes. Generally speaking, it involves splitting relatively small-diameter pieces of wood (no larger than your wrist) by resting the edge of a fixed-blade knife on the end-grain and tapping the spine of the knife with a solid stick (the baton). The blade acts as a wedge, splitting the wood.

There are other applications of the technique, but that's what most people think of.

Knife Batoning

We get a surprising number of questions about batoning. That's surprising because in real life it's such a small part of the bushcrafting skillset.

Still, it seems batoning has become something of a fad. Here are our thoughts:

  1. Batoning (with a knife) is a skill, not something that a knife comes equipped to do.
  2. Batoning is a useful skill that everyone who travels in the outdoors should learn.
  3. Skills matter more than tools.
  4. Batoning -- or saying that you do, or posting a YouTube video of yourself doing it -- is "a thing."
  5. Batoning is rarely an ideal method for splitting wood.
  6. Anyone who says that they've batoned and hasn't had their knife get hopelessly bound-up probably isn't being completely honest.
  7. When batoning, it's wise to make (carve, that is) a few small wooden wedges and use them to keep #6 from happening.
  8. Anyone who's tried to free a stuck blade by abusively wrenching the handle side-to-side probably owns a bent or broken knife.
  9. Every tool has limits. That's not the tool's fault.
  10. The user is responsible for knowing a tool's limits and working within them.

In theory, of course, almost any knife can be batoned. Some will prove more capable (and more durable) than others.