Safely splitting wood with thin knives

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TLM

Bushcrafter (boy, I've got a lot to say!)
Nov 16, 2019
2,029
961
Vantaa, Finland
I have to agree there it can be done just as presented. Sometimes one meets dried pine branches that just do not want to split. Not very big ones but still hard, if your knife is tough enough it makes sense to split it with batoning the knife through. When they are dry there is often no need to split at all, just break them by hitting to a sharp rock..
 

Robson Valley

Full Member
Nov 24, 2014
9,482
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McBride, BC
Fresh Western Red Cedar shake blocks weigh about 40 pounds (18+ kg) each.
I keep my froe in the workshop where it belongs. Then I can split off whatever I want.

Where the wedges come into play is the blocks that have a knot in them.
The block might be 24" tall x 12" wide x 10" thick. The knot about 2" diameter.
The wood grain flows around the knot and I might wish to capture as much of that as I can (fish body, etc).
I will carefully "walk" a bunch of small cedar wedges down the block to guide the split.
I have 3 hatchets and a bunch of logger's Delrin wedges which are not for splitting.
They all dent/mark the wood. The soft cedar wedges don't.
 

John Fenna

Lifetime Member & Maker
Oct 7, 2006
22,380
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Pembrokeshire
Right one can use a froe, just for interest how often do you carry a SAK with a saw or a froe?;)
Personally - I always have a SAK with a saw in my left trouser pocket... next to the Buff.
Part of my EDC kit along with a packet of tissues, my phone, keys and wallet. :)
 

pieinthesky

Forager
Jun 29, 2014
142
42
Northants
I used to carry an axe for splitting firewood but found that batoning with a big camp knife/machete was easier and safer. The knife is also lighter, takes less space and is far more versatile, so the axe doesn't now leave the house.

So why is batoning so frowned on?

I will have a go using wedges next time I am out but I honestly cannot see the point of swapping from blade to wedges when a couple more strikes and the job is done!
 

Janne

Guest
Feb 10, 2016
12,368
2,282
Grand Cayman, Norway, Sweden
If the knife is thin, as the headline says, and you break it, you are without an important tool.

It all depends on what kind of fire you do. Big one needing big wood, or a tiny one needing small wood. And what you do with the knife.
Some tasks are difficult with thick knives. A thick knife has a larger angle on the edge, unless the blade is quite high.

It is a personal choice.
 
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out in the bush/jungle i don't do much batoning -- only some small wood to get dry kindling and if i don't have my small hatchet or long blade or saw (i figured out how to split wood with a saw long time before YouTube), my "" baton" in this case is the palm of my hand -- if it hurts my hand it likely hurts my knife, too... and to split bamboo i use my parang to start the split and then use a stick.
if splitting firewood on a farm or in base camp i'll use wedges -- after ca. 2month splitting firewood for customers on Japan's largest camping ground + growing up with stove heating i've figured out the basics of processing larger quantities without damaging my tools or my back:joyful:

can't remember where at the moment but i came across an article mentioning batoning being practised by mountain men and some YouTube clips show bamboo being split lengthwise using batons in southeast asia...

one guy here used a machete to baton a frozen fish in half using a hammer as a baton:jawdrop::jawdrop: -- you can imagine how it looked afterwards...
 

Sieddy

Full Member
Nov 12, 2016
244
53
Oxford uk
Thanks for this Dave I've often heard folk talk about splitting with wedges but didn't quite get how it was done. I'll definitely give this a go as I like lightweight nordic knives and it doesn't seem right to batter them overly!
 

Dave Budd

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Staff member
Jan 8, 2006
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You're welcome :) I don't like the idea of beating any innocent knife through a log unless there is no alternative (which is virtually 0% of the time!). I've used coins and stones to split wood in the past too; they are all wedges if you can get a crack started ;)
 
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Herman30

Settler
Aug 30, 2015
934
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Finland
found that batoning with a big camp knife/machete was easier and safer. The knife is also lighter, takes less space and is far more versatile, so the axe doesn't now leave the house.
This is why I love the Skrama sold by Varusteleka. Built to take one heck of a beating (full tang and 4mm thick blade) and much lighter that an axe.
 
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Broch

Full Member
Jan 18, 2009
5,394
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Mid Wales
Jep, been there, done that in the 70´s with Moraknife. Ray is only 2 years older than me.

Oh how I wish I was two years younger than Ray :)

Knives are designed in different styles for different purposes. I work in the woods most days (I'm on my way down now when I've finished my coffee) and as a work tool my knife today will be a 3mm full tang robust knife - it's sharp but I won't be doing any detailed carving with it and the one thing it's useless for is slicing carrots :) But, I can reduce a log to thin kindling in no time at all and in a much safer way than using an axe; it will also sned hazel rods with a single swipe and put a point on a stick in four swipes - it's the right tool for the job.

If I was doing carving or whittling I'd be using a much different knife.
 
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Toddy

Mod
Mod
Jan 21, 2005
36,907
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S. Lanarkshire
I think that's a good point.
With care any knife, or sharp edge ....after all metal working's fairly recent in human history, stone working long predates even Homo sapiens neanderthalensis.....can be used to do anything you need it to do, but, having the 'right' tool to do the job makes the whole thing much easier, simpler and the work just goes well.
That said, few of us carry a tool kit when we're out and about so it's a kind of horses for courses for most of us, and a bit of a compromise usually.
I like little knives, and I carry small pruners :)
On the whole the classic 'bushcrafter' knife, is pretty bombproof though. From Ray's promoted designs to the Spyderco, and I don't mind the name/Maker of the one that had a butt plate (great for nuts or loosening bark, etc., ) but I liked that one too :) they're all sound.
I don't live or wander around locally anywhere where a big knife won't cause comment or raise hassle; the little ones are tidily secure in a pocket or pack.
 

MartiniDave

Bushcrafter (boy, I've got a lot to say!)
Aug 29, 2003
2,354
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59
Cambridgeshire
There's an excellent video on YouTube by More Kochanski which demonstrates the use of wooden wedges very nicely.



Just to mix things up a bit, I sometimes "bludgeon" an axe.

Dave
 
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Hammock_man

Full Member
May 15, 2008
1,342
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kent
Tom, works in the wods 8 hours a day. Does 8 different jobs : has 8 different tools.
Dick, works one day a week in the woods, has 3 tools but still does the same 8 jobs with what he has.
Harry plays in the woods once a month, has a knife that has to do everything.

Bert goes out twice a year has car full of stuff and would not dream of using the wrong ( or last years ) tool for any task.

Paddy uses meths and wooden cat litter to make tea but still finds the debate of great interest.
 

Kepis

Bushcrafter through and through
Jul 17, 2005
6,376
1,313
Sussex
I use a small froe made from an old knife, works well and saves my main user blade, made this back in 2012 and its still going strong, if i take it out and about i leave the handle at home and just use a convenient stick as a handle, going to make another one soon from a Chinese F1 clone i was given, should work even better as its quite thick on the spine, just need to get a blow torch on the tang and form it round a pipe or something to make the eye.

That being said, if im splitting anything bigger than a couple of inches in diameter, i use an axe and or wedges.

unnamed (1) by Mark Emery, on Flickr
 

Toddy

Mod
Mod
Jan 21, 2005
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S. Lanarkshire
:) Tidy.

Russ took a froe to some of our meet ups, and down to the Moot too. It cheerfully splits stuff 8" in diameter with a couple of good thumps and a push forward :D
 
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