Batoning Wood

Yes, No, and Maybe – Batoning, if you don’t know, is the technique of driving a blade through wood by repeatedly striking the back of the tool with a wooden baton.

Yes, Baton Away!

Made to baton – Some knives are made to baton. Froes and Japanese Natas are knives designed to be batoned. These thick, straight-spined knives are textbook baton tools. Examples include the Silky Nata and the Schrade Froe.

Big choppers – Most, if not all, knives referred to as “choppers” can be batoned. A chopper is a big beefy blade made to be swung as fast and as powerfully as possible at wood. A little tapping on the spine isn’t going to hurt it. Examples include the Survive! GSO-10, Ka-Bar Becker BK9, and ESEE Junglas.

Know your tool’s limits – If you encounter resistance while batoning, consider stopping or repositioning the blade to “taking another bite at the apple” so to speak. A tough knot or anomaly in the grain can be a recipe for damage or harm. If the wood is too large, not leaving enough batonable tip, a tip snap is more likely to occur.

Axe discomfort – If you’re not comfortable with an axe you should at least try batoning. For years, I exclusively batoned all of my wood. The two reasons I did this were my training and my lack of experience with axes/hatchets. However, if you’re in the market for a hatchet, I’ve really grown to appreciate the Husqvarna 13″ Hatchet.

Looking for a safer swing – I find batoning to be much safer than swinging an axe, especially when in close proximity to others. I feel better about batoning a knife through wood, than swinging an axe. While I don’t encourage splitting wood near others, sometimes that’s the way it is.

Mechanical disability – Do you have a disability that keeps you from safely swinging an axe? If for whatever reason you are unable to swing an axe, give batoning a shot. There are many instructional videos online to get you started.

I need wooden planks – If you need a plank for a hearth board, spoon blank, shingle, etc. It’s often easier to split with a batoned knife that can be rotated during the batoning process to control the split as it moves down the wood. But you could also try different types of wood, some split better than others.

No, Don’t Baton!

Do you only have one knife/tool? – If you’re only carrying one knife, I would not recommend batoning. While chances of breakage may be low, I wouldn’t risk it. Then again maybe I would…

Do you have a better tool for the job? – If you’re carrying an axe/maul, there’s no need to baton, for many tasks.

Is your knife a full tang fixed blade? – If not, batoning can be detrimental to your knife. Rigorous shock to a blade with questionable handle structure can be stress points where steel can snap.

Is the wood too difficult to work safely? – Some hardwoods are extremely difficult to split. Some woods are full of knots and other deformations that make batoning hazardous to yourself and your knife.

Is your knife a “safe queen”, collector’s item, or historical artefact? – If you’re carrying a valuable “showpiece”, you should probably consider selling it and buy some good tools. I have many knives and I’ve used them all. I enjoy working with my knives much more than looking at them.

Maybe Baton?

Should you baton a folding knife? – Generally speaking, no, but not all knives are created equal. Some folding knives are so strong they can be batoned. The Cold Steel Rajah 2 could handle a beating.

Is your blade long enough? – Make sure your knife is 1+ inches longer than the split you’re attempting to make. I like to have 2-3” of blade protruding for good baton striking zone. If you don’t have enough blade, it will get stuck and you’ll have difficulty removing the blade which can lead to injury.

Are you okay with the possibility of breaking your knife? – Personally, I’d like to know the limitations of a tool that one day may save my life. If I couldn’t do a reasonable amount of batoning with a large knife, it’s probably not one I would keep around too long. If you’re unsure, get something like a Kabar Becker BK9. I’ve heavily batoned my BK9 through countless logs.

But big wood won’t burn – Most wood won’t hold a flame if it’s larger than about 4” in diameter. If you only have larger logs on hand a better use of your time and energy may be to search for wood sized to the job at hand. If you cannot find smaller lumber, than batoning maybe your only resort.

In Conclusion

Do I think you should baton your knife? Most definitely maybe, 99.9% of the time it’s a personal decision.

Do I baton my own knives? Yes, with the understanding that I might break or damage a knife. I am tough on my tools, but I don’t actively abuse them. Common sense goes a long way to protect your property.

Do you baton? Let me know in the comments below.