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When in a self-reliance situation, batoning with a survival knife can be a useful skill to know. Yes, it would be ideal if your survival kit could fit absolutely everything you needed, but your survival knife can accomplish dozens of different tasks. One of these tasks is the all-important one of splitting wood for a fire. Building a fire provides heat, offers a cooking method, and the smoke may deter insects. And while it may seem impossible to split wood with a knife, if you have a quality survival knife and use the right techniques, you can split all of the wood you will ever need for a fire. This is usually accomplished by a process called batoning.


Batoning is when you split wood by using a stick, roughly the size of a baton, as a hammer and smack the spine of a sturdy knife so that the knife blade drives through the wood. Although the process is usually used for splitting wood for a fire, it can also be used to shape wood; such as a hearth for a bow drill, or to create notches in wood when making a shelter.


Using your survival knife to split wood is not something you should do in a hurry. You could injure yourself or break your knife. If you break your knife in a self-reliance situation, you may not make it out alive. While there are a few different variations on how to use your survival knife while batoning, they are all relatively the same. Here are a few things to remember.

  • Always make sure your knife is driving straight into the wood. Keeping the blade straight assures you of a clean cut and won’t damage your knife.
  • When batoning, don’t hit the very tip of your survival knife. The tip of the blade is usually thinner than the rest of the blade and can break if it is hit hard enough.
  • Be sure to find or create a good batoning stick. You can create a good batoning stick with your survival knife. An ideal shape is something that looks like a short baseball bat. Make the handle of your stick fit in your hand, and then have the striking end of the stick be thicker and heavier.
  • Don’t strike your knife too hard or swing too big. Try to keep your strikes sort and controlled. Think of each strike as a heavy tap on the back of your survival knife blade. You can hit as hard as you think you need to, but try not to damage your knife.


When you split wood with an axe, you are swinging the blade of the tool into the wood that you are splitting. This makes for a very fast way of cutting wood compared with splitting with a knife and using the batoning technique. Batoning is used for self-reliance situations and when an axe may not be available. It is also used for more precise cuts or when shaping.

Batoning has been around for a long time and is a useful technique to learn. The next time you have a chance, get out your survival knife and practice batoning.