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.

If you're looking for our suggestions, one of the best knives for batoning would be the beefy  Bark River Knives Bravo Survivor. The best tool we know of for processing firewood (among other tasks) is the Bark River Knives Golok.