OK, I post way too much about fire. Alas, here is another one…
Batoning is splitting wood by hitting a knife with a separate piece of wood or other “baton.” Batoning is a quick, easy, and effective way to split wood into smaller, more easily ignitable pieces. Batoning is also useful in situations where the outer portions of a branch or log are saturated with water and the dry inner wood is needed.
Batoning is most easily done with a large, thick fixed blade that has a full tang. Any knife or other sharp object can be used, but more care must be used in order not to damage the knife or hurt yourself.
Batoning will not cause a large amount of wear on a hardened steel blade (most modern knives). The initial cut into the wood might dull the blade slightly on especially hard woods, but once the blade penetrates, the edge is not actually doing the work, but instead the rest of the blade is splitting the wood. You may accumulate sap or other materials on the blade when batoning, so be sure to clean the blade once the splits are done.
1. Find suitable wood to split. You will want pieces that are 1-2″ in diameter less than the length of your blade, since the blade will be protruding out of the wood and you will be striking the portion that is protruding. You will also want a manageable length, so try to gather pieces 1-2′ in length. If you cannot find shorter pieces, break, saw, etc. the wood into shorter lengths. Remember that thicker pieces burn longer, but they are also much harder to ignite. Get out of the woods if you are trying to start a bonfire.
2. Find a suitable baton. Almost anything can be used, but a ~2″ diameter x 18″ log works well since it is easy to swing, provides suitable force upon impact, and should not damage the spine of your knife.
3. Place the wood to be split on its end and hold it with one hand.
4. Hold your knife with your other hand, and place the edge on top of the wood at a 90 degree angle. You will want enough of the spine (top) of the blade to be extending past the edge of the wood so that you will have an area to strike. You will need enough blade on the other end so that the handle does not stop the movement of the knife.
5. Using your baton, strike the spine repeatedly directly above the wood you are splitting.
6. Once the blade is down into the wood, begin striking the portion of the blade that is protruding from the log. Remember to keep the blade at a 90 degree angle to the log, otherwise you have two downward forces (your hand and the baton) acting together on the blade, which can snap or bend your knife.
7. Keep on going until you get close to the bottom. Try not to drive the knife into the ground, since THAT can damage the blade, especially in a rocky area. You should be able to pull the wood apart at this point.
8. Split each half into half again so that the log is now in quarters. These pieces will ignite easily and burn well.
9. Repeat until you have enough to warm yourself for the night.
Quick tip: If you are not using a fixed blade with a full tang, be a lot more careful! You can easily break your knife or cut yourself, so go slow and do not try to split giant oak trees with your Swiss Army Knife.
Try not to burn the forest down so the rest of us can enjoy the woods too.