Apr 3, 2010 at 7:02 am #1257262
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!Apr 3, 2010 at 8:38 am #1593817
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!Apr 4, 2010 at 12:24 am #1594042
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.Apr 4, 2010 at 8:26 am #1594074
@ascientistLocale: Grants Pass, Oregon
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.Apr 4, 2010 at 2:45 pm #1594144
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!Apr 4, 2010 at 2:59 pm #1594146
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 PMApr 4, 2010 at 3:58 pm #1594155
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.Apr 4, 2010 at 7:18 pm #1594210
@maynard76Locale: New England
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.Apr 4, 2010 at 7:30 pm #1594216
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)Apr 4, 2010 at 7:38 pm #1594221
@ascientistLocale: Grants Pass, Oregon
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.May 3, 2010 at 5:00 pm #1605482
@whiskyjackLocale: The Canadian Shield
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.May 5, 2010 at 12:22 am #1606257
@foundLocale: Sacramento, CA
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.May 5, 2010 at 12:30 am #1606260
@tallblokeLocale: DON'T LOOK DOWN!!
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.Jun 25, 2010 at 8:50 am #1623306
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
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.Aug 27, 2013 at 9:04 pm #2019303
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.Aug 27, 2013 at 9:34 pm #2019315
@justin_bakerLocale: Santa Rosa, CA
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.Aug 29, 2013 at 5:28 pm #2019947
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.Aug 29, 2013 at 5:34 pm #2019950
@retiredjerryLocale: Oregon and Washington
" 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 : )Aug 29, 2013 at 5:42 pm #2019956
@cameronLocale: Idaho Falls
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.Sep 4, 2013 at 10:39 am #2021729
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.Sep 4, 2013 at 1:57 pm #2021789
@fluffinreach-comLocale: no. california
so : i got me two very sweet machete type blades. one is about 1/4" thick and sharpened to stupidity. it is almost useless for clearing trails. the other a more the hooked blade "brush cutter" sort of an affair. it's razor sharp as well, and in anything, slightly uselesser for trailwork.
i am going back to my loppers and 1/2 size bowsaw.Sep 4, 2013 at 2:14 pm #2021797
@justin_bakerLocale: Santa Rosa, CA
A 1/4 inch thick machete sounds like a kukri. Good for cutting down small trees (less work than a saw if you use it right) and limbing fallen trees. Useless for light vegetation, the thick profile will only push and not cut. For cutting through bushes and vines a thin machete like the tramontina works.Sep 4, 2013 at 2:36 pm #2021803
@davidinkenaiLocale: North Woods. Far North.
I too, like lopers for trail clearing which, in my area, is mostly alders.
Machettes are popular with dog mushers who want to widen a trail or remove an offending branch. But they do their trail clearing at 10 mph (plus the speed of their swinging arm).
With sufficient speed, it really doesn't matter which edge of the machete you use (check the edge on a lawn mower or tree chipper sometime.)
I way over-sharpened splitting mauls a few times. Just because I thought it cool to shave with a maul. It didn't help the splitting and it would get "stuck" in wood when I didn't mean it to.Sep 5, 2013 at 9:29 pm #2022322
Many good comments already, but one of the best lessons I've learned is to make a couple of wedges before you attempt to baton anything close the length of the blade your using. You can hit an unseen knot that will stop a knife dead in it's tacks. By wedge I mean a stick that you have sharpened one side to a wedge. Using these you can split wood much larger than your knife blade.
Here in the Southeast if you want or need a fire sometimes you have to get to that inner dry wood. It does not need to be wood that was first cut with a saw however. Using only my Esee Izula I have split many a pieces of wood on my hiking trips. Just get out there and practice, It's a lot of fun. Just be sure to stay safe.Oct 10, 2013 at 8:33 pm #2032980
If you're going to baton wood I'd suggest a full tang knife. A Mora will work but I'd imagine would eventually fail ("stick tang" design, buy several anyway). This is stressful for most knives, I did it most recently to make guy-out stakes on a sandy beach from pallet boards. Lightweight backpacking is something I'm just now getting into, but I've always been outdoors & just can't imagine not carrying a sturdy knife. Mine weighs under 3 oz & I'll tote the weight penalty over a razor blade till my experience suggests otherwise.
A khukuri is a versatile tool in the woods but most here would find it ridiculous to hike with, unless it's winter & you're gathering a lot of firewood (or you really just get your kicks from chopping wood). Heavy choppers that can clear a trail almost like a machete but you'd need to generate a lot of velocity with that thick blade. Wrist/forearm technique comes into play for clearing, speeding up the blade & slicing your target across it as you make contact.
As someone mentioned earlier, to break up longer logs find a double-trunked tree or two trees very close together, stick log between and lever till it snaps. If you can't snap it then it's too big/green to be messing with for fire. And yes, most of this pertains to "bushcraft" & not "backpacking"
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