What is Batoning Firewood?
Batoning firewood is the act of splitting small logs into halves, quarters, and smaller pieces in order to help them burn more efficiently. Batoned firewood is useful for a range of things, from getting a fire started properly to quickly creating a bed of coals for cooking. When you’re in the wilderness, batoning is a basic skill that can help you get your fires burning faster and hotter, start them easier, and make the most of the firewood that you have on hand.
The Right Knife
One of the keys to easily and efficiently batoning a log is having the right knife on hand. Knives used for this task should be full-tang, with a blade long enough to split the entire width of a log. Ideally, you’d want to select a rugged, durable knife that you can pound on without fear of chipping or bending the blade. Picking a knife with a relatively thick blade will not only help to protect the knife from damage, but it will act as a more effective wedge, splitting logs more quickly and cleanly. In an emergency situation, however, nearly any knife can be used for batoning, however you risk breaking a blade or ruining the handle of your knife.
The Right Wood
When selecting wood for batoning, especially if your only tool is a knife, make sure and pick logs that are dry, not too wide, and have a regular grain pattern that’s relatively free of knots. Any twists or imperfections in the log you select can lead to a much tougher time, or even injury. Hardwood typically works best for cooking, and softer woods like pine make excellent kindling because of their high flammable resin content.
Bringing It All Together
Once you have your knife and a few logs that you’d like to turn into batons, find a large log or rock that’s flat and stable enough to work on safely. Stand the log on end and look at the grain pattern. Place your knife with the blade across the grain, running through the center of the log as best you can. The handle of the knife should be closest to you, and until you get the blade started through the wood you’ll want to hold onto it.
After your knife is in place, you’ll want to use another piece of wood as a hammer to hit the spine of the knife firmly, seating it into the end of the log. Then, as you continue to work with your improvised hammer, keep driving the blade of the knife through the log. The knife blade, especially if your knife is thick enough, will act as a wedge and split the log in half. The first cut is typically the most difficult, and you may need to rock the knife and use the stick to hit the end of the blade and force it further down into the log.
If you’ve selected the right log and placed your knife properly, the log will split cleanly in two and you can repeat the process on each half. Continue batoning until you have firewood as thick as your thumb, or take it down as far as you need to if you need to use the batons as kindling. For a cooking fire, medium-sized pieces are best since they will yield the most coals in the least amount of time.
Once you’ve learned to quickly and easily baton wood, and you’ve practiced it enough to make it second nature, you’ll find yourself being able to start your fires faster and manage coals for cooking much more effectively. Batoning wood is a core skill that any prepper or outdoorsman needs to master if they plan to spend a lot of time around a campfire.