Batoning wood with a knife is a great way to make kindling at the campsite. Before I talk about how to do it, let me first talk about when you would not want to baton wood. It is not meant for splitting firewood. If you have unsplit wood on your property, you would never use a knife to split it. You would use a splitting maul. Batoning wood with a knife is for a very specific purpose: making kindling.
99% of the time at the campsite you’ll have pre-split firewood, either from the gas station or campground office. In this scenario, all you need is a solid, fixed-blade knife to make a pile of kindling. You can leave the ax at home, and it’s one less item you’ll need to pack.
Start with a smaller, straight-grained piece of wood, and begin by placing your knife about an inch from the edge. Grab another piece of wood and start tapping the end of the blade down through the wood. This second piece of wood functions as a “hammer.” With a sharp knife this goes quickly, and shouldn’t require too much force. As you near the bottom tap more lightly, so you can maintain more control.
Batoning wood with a knife is a handy skill to master. The best way to start a campfire quickly is with an abundance of kindling. At a well-used campground, it’s often difficult to find kindling laying around. In other situations, you’re not allowed to gather wood in the forest at all. Learning how to turn a piece of firewood into a pile of kindling will help to develop your knife handling skills, and in turn, everyone will be roasting marshmallows in record time.
We’ve all heard that a sharp knife is a safe knife. This is true, and that’s why it’s always a good idea to sharpen everything before you head to the campsite. I like to put a razor-sharp edge on everything the week before a camping trip. To do this I’ve been using the Work Sharp Knife And Tool Sharpener. It’s fast, and it puts a beveled edge on my blades that I’ve found to be quite durable. If my knife or ax gets a heavy workout at the campsite, I use the Work Sharp Guided Field Sharpener to touch them up. It’s small but still works well to touch up both my knife and my ax. You can read my review of it here.