There are several TTAK readers who believe that the act of batoning is knife abuse. I disagree. I do not think that a knife is the perfect tool for splitting wood, and some knives are most certainly not up to the task. However, there are times when an axe or hatchet isn’t available, such as when I am flyfish-guiding in the Smoky Mountain backcountry. It is a matter of vital importance that the tool that I carry with clients is capable of prepping firewood or cutting travois staves to aid in transporting an injured person.
But what about a tool that is purpose designed for the task. Such a tool exists, it is called a froe. Granted, it isn’t a tool that is meant to schlep into the woods for a day-trip, but in a homestead setting it offers much greater splitting control than is possible with an axe. With practice in fact, usable planks can be split from a log, ready to go for rough construction, or with a little planing and sanding something nicer.
I came across this post from the homesteading blog Grit.com. The process that the author’s husband uses to forge the tool is documented with excellent step-by-step photography. Well worth a look.
The author praises the end result. (from Grit.com):
“Personally I love the froe and use it often. Not in table making or elegant carpentry, but on a functional level. We have a wood burning furnace and while Zach usually keeps the wood pile stacked for me, I occasionally have to spit some wood. While I can use an axe, (and I say the word “use” in the lightest of senses.) I wouldn’t say that my skill is.. exceptional. And in swinging a heavy weighted blade with all my might directed at a teetering log standing on end,…well let’s just say I probably have more to worry about than freezing to death, if you know what I mean.
So I use the froe. I simply hold it on the log in question and whack it with a smaller log until the blade slices through. It’s much easier, and safer for me because I have more control.”
The Sartell’s have a personal blog, Iron Oak Farm that covers all aspects of their farmstead life.