A Cool Knife Technique That I Learned Here on BCUSA (Stab Splitting Kindling)

Discussion in 'Edged Tools' started by NWPrimate, Jun 9, 2016.

  1. NWPrimate

    NWPrimate Supporter Supporter

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    Stab Splitting Kindling
    [​IMG]

    I'll start out by saying that many of you may have seen this technique before, but I have found it useful enough that I felt it warranted and instructional post for the guys that may not have tried it out yet.

    I am pretty sure that I had seen people using a variation of this method in the past, but it was watching cockeyedhunter's videos that really brought it to my attention and I have been testing it out a lot lately. He credits Iz Turley for teaching him everything he knows, and I did see Iz using one variation of this in his Bushcraft Knife Techniques series videos, so this isn't new info, but it works amazingly well for me.

    The method that I'm referring to is using the point of your knife to split down kindling instead of using conventional batoning. Batoning works great if you have a large piece that requires a lot of force to split, but I have found this method to be far superior when processing smaller pieces down into kindling.

    Trying to baton thin pieces like this can be tricky, especially if they are long as they tend to want to bend or break.

    [​IMG]

    The idea here is that you can force the tip of your knife into the side of a small piece that you want to split and either complete the separation by pulling back, or turning the piece to the side to force the split.

    Stab splitting works so much better for splitting down wood into little pieces like this.

    [​IMG]

    There are several ways to use this technique. Much like the the method of making feathersticks I highlighted in a previous post, you want to hold the blade in a downward stabbing grip with the edge facing away from you. With very small and easy to split pieces, all it takes is a little wiggle of the knife and some downward pressure, followed by pulling the wood backwards.

    For larger pieces, you can bring the knife and wood downward together until they strike your work surface and then rotate the rear of the piece of wood to initiate the split. If you're using this more forceful method, there is a danger of your hand sliding down onto the blade, so be sure that you have a good grip on the knife. For even tougher pieces, you can use a baton to pound the tip into the wood as well.

    I've included a short video below that does a better job illustrating these different methods with various knives, so be sure to check that out as well.

    [​IMG]

    The Benefits

    Quicker & easier.

    The biggest reason that I've come to prefer this method is speed and efficiency. With conventional batoning, each split requires a new set up, getting the wood to stand vertically, aligning the blade, holding it upright, and then hitting it from above with the stick. As you'll see in the video, it is so much easier to reset and make a new split with this technique. Because you're inserting the tip at a midpoint in the wood, it stays together so that you can make multiple splits into a piece and then pull it apart by hand when you are ready. You can make several splits on one plane, and then rotate the wood 90 degrees and make several more, creating tons of perfect kindling size pieces very quickly.

    No more bending sticks and wobbling setups.

    It also lets you cut very long pieces of kindling that would otherwise flex, so you're getting much more thin material with each split.

    More controllable splits.

    This method can also give you more control over where the split runs along the piece of wood. As many of you know, you can pick a spot at the top of a piece for conventional batoning, but sometimes the grain has other ideas and the split runs off to the side. For example, if you have a knot that you want to avoid, you can make your stab off to one side of it and precisely control the split.

    Safer with small pieces.

    Aside from the potential risk of sliding down onto the blade, it is also much safer. When trying to split thin or flexible pieces with conventional batoning, there is a danger of the knife coming loose when the piece of wood bends or splits more quickly than you were expecting. As long as you have a good grip on the knife and pay attention to where you are bringing it down, it seems much harder to have an accident using this method.

    Continued below...
     
  2. NWPrimate

    NWPrimate Supporter Supporter

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    Splitting pieces this size with conventional is tedious, but it's a breeze with this alternative method.

    [​IMG]

    The stab is made midway into the piece and then it is drawn back or rotated to split it.

    [​IMG]

    You can use this with conventionally split wood, or to split down branches.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    You can use this with small pieces and small knives or scale it up to split bigger pieces with big steel.

    [​IMG]

    This may not work with all varieties of wood, but for the primary woods I use for fire here in the PNW (cedar, maple, alder, fir, hemlock) it works beautifully.

    The first time I tried this for myself I immediately saw the value in it. Again, many of you may be using this on a regular basis, but it was new to me when I saw cockeyedhunter using it and it was one of those moments where you ask yourself how you never thought of this before. It has made my fire prep so much more efficient and I am able to get the smaller pieces of kindling I need much more quickly.

    This technique is much easier to convey via video than it is with photos and description, so I put together this collection of clips showing different variations, wood thicknesses, and knives.



    Maybe you use this method every time you make a fire, or maybe you've seen other members using it but haven't tried it for yourself. Maybe you've used it for really small stuff, but didn't realize that you can add more force to take advantage of the efficiency to split larger pieces down. Whatever your situation, I would definitely encourage you to experiment with this using your local materials and favorite blades to see what works for you.

    [​IMG]

    Edited to fix video after forum software update.
     
    Last edited: Jul 22, 2016
  3. brionic

    brionic Blissful simpleton Supporter

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    Be careful of the knife tip when you are using this method. I've gotten myself in trouble... generally nothing that can't be repaired, but once, disastrously.

    That being said, it works perfectly well more often than not. Just be aware of your knife's geometry, the thickness and toughness of the wood you are splitting, and try to use a light touch.

    Good stuff!
     
  4. GreenFrog

    GreenFrog In the Forest Supporter Hardwoodsman Bushclass III

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    Another good skill that can come in handy. Especially when you need to build up a fire in the rain. Sometimes I have a gap in my wood size between feathers and splits and this helps fix that. Usually I kinda just make some sloppy slices and its get the job done but I'll need to do this cleaner technique for the hardwoodsman 1 minute knee high splitwood fire.
     
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  5. Gumbi

    Gumbi Guide Bushclass I

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    This works very well, I use it quite frequently.

    Exercise caution if your knife handle has nothing to keep your hand from sliding onto the blade. I will often place my thumb over the pommel of my knife to help prevent slippage and cuttage of my appendages. ;)
     
  6. Woods Walker

    Woods Walker Rattlesnake Charmer. Supporter Bushclass I

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    Poor wood! Someone think of the wood!
     
  7. NWPrimate

    NWPrimate Supporter Supporter

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    I'm pretty rough on my tools and haven't had any catastrophic failures yet. I'd be interested in hearing the story of how the tip broke off, including what knife and type of wood. I don't doubt your story at all, but I pound my knives into logs a lot for shavings and feathersticks and never got the impression that I was close to breaking them.

    That's definitely a good suggestion about the thumb position. I found myself doing this sometimes, and forgetting other times as you can see in the video.
     
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  8. Gumbi

    Gumbi Guide Bushclass I

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    Some of the thinly-ground convex knives, flat grind, or hollow grind knives have thin, narrow, weak tips. If you do it carefully, you would be ok. But if you manage to stab your knife all the way through your kindling into the log under it and then twist the knife while the tip is stuck in the log - well, I can easily see how you could snap the tip off. I don't see this happening to a scandi grind knife, though. I haven't broken the tip off a knife while doing this myself.
     
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  9. CoolBreeze135

    CoolBreeze135 Scholarly Woodsman

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    Plus, you have the peace of mind that if you break one of your ESEEs, you can cash in on that no questions asked warranty.
     
  10. Jasonacraft

    Jasonacraft Scout Bushclass I

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    Another incredibly useful technique, thanks! Got home last night kids wanted to make a little fire in the pit....wish i would have remembered to watch this before hand! I Was trying to split exactly like what you were showing up at the top...what a pain.
     
  11. JC1

    JC1 Guide

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    You can also use a lanyard to prevent slippage down the blade
     
  12. rsnurkle

    rsnurkle Supporter Supporter Bushclass I Bushclass II

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    NWPrimate, this is great--thank you for putting together thoughts about the details of splitting wood to kindling size more efficiently than end-splitting. I was especially happy to be reminded that I don't have to pull apart each piece that I split right away, that you can stab multiple times into the same wood before splitting the pieces away, allowing for smaller pieces to be made in a more efficient fashion, and also helping to keep the wood from flying everywhere if you split it fully apart after every stab).

    I think this discussion (stab splitting) together with the stabilized-tool-moving-wood feathersticking method and with good wood selection practices is my key to more efficient split wood fire making. I started a thread a while back to ask the question How long does [insert bushcraft task here] take you? as an attempt to talk about becoming more efficient at some of the standard bushcraft tasks. Fire was the main are I had in mind when I wrote the post (for many of my outings, having a fire is a slight bottle neck to having time to do other enjoyable things, like cook on and sit around the fire), and splitwood fires were specifically my mental prototype of a task to become more efficient at.

    So thanks for posting this rumination on splitting kindling. If you're in need of a video task, I'll challenge you to (using your favorite more efficient techniques for the processing part and any wood choice--e.g., that driftwood cedar I would expect to split beautifully) time and video how long it takes you to make and light a standard-rules 3X prep split wood fire. No need to race the clock, just time it for knowledge's sake and record it for curiousity's sake.
     
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  13. rsnurkle

    rsnurkle Supporter Supporter Bushclass I Bushclass II

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    ETA: And if you can breeze through that challenge too quickly, make another version on noticeably wet ground/during the rain, and talk about what kinds of surfaces you're using to work on and keep things dry.
     
  14. kcardwel

    kcardwel Hardwoodsman Hobbyist Supporter Hardwoodsman Bushclass III

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    thanks for putting this up. I learned this back when I started the bush craft classes. really a good way like you show to get that then pencil lead size. an axe will do this to a certain extent too.
     
  15. downinmississippi

    downinmississippi Scout Bushclass I

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    THANKS!

    I'll have to use this on my next trip!
     
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  16. NWPrimate

    NWPrimate Supporter Supporter

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    Nice info. Sometimes I'm actually trying to get the tip to stick into the work bench to get good leverage on the twist for the bigger pieces. I don't tend to use fragile knives, so hopefully I don't run into any issues. At least a tip breaking isn't a catastrophic failure for a knife.

    That's one of the many things I love about that company and their knives. I've actually had the pleasure of experiencing their warranty process (for a QC issue in this particular case; not breakage) and have no doubt that Jeff or Mike would take care of this with a smile.

    You're welcome Jason. You've been great about trying out new techniques and posting your results, so it would be great to hear how this one works for you.
     
  17. NWPrimate

    NWPrimate Supporter Supporter

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    That's a good idea JC1.

    You're definitely on point about the efficiency. Being able to keep it all together and make splits from different sides before breaking it apart by hand really speeds up the process. I like your challenge suggestions and it's just the excuse I need to get out and play with my tools and make a fire. :D Might as well make the most of it and do it while it's raining like you mentioned in your 2nd post.

    You're welcome Ken. I really enjoyed your last axe video, so it would be great if you have time to show this technique with an axe or hatchet.

    Before you and Jason posted, I was starting to think I was the only one who didn't know about this technique. Just like I told him, it would be great to hear how it works for you with your knives and local materials.
     
  18. brionic

    brionic Blissful simpleton Supporter

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    Yes, that's right! I use a pointy corner on my Jersey-pattern axe to sub-divide splits even smaller, positioning the wood against the head and striking them, together, against the block. The pointy toe helps start the split more efficiently than do any of my more rounded-corner axe heads.
     
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  19. kcardwel

    kcardwel Hardwoodsman Hobbyist Supporter Hardwoodsman Bushclass III

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    yes, your axe needs to be more of a cutter than a chopper with a good point like you said. In one of the hardwoodsman challenges we had to do everything with an axe and that got me going on how to do it.
     
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  20. kcardwel

    kcardwel Hardwoodsman Hobbyist Supporter Hardwoodsman Bushclass III

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    here is where we had to make a complete bow drill set and fire set up with just an axe...around 9 min. in to it shows me making pencil lead size but didn't show it that well. one of the requirements was to use a full sized axe so we couldn't use too small of one. nw primate's method of making curls shows here too. will try to find the one of using the axe more specifically
    [video=youtube;zZvk2R-dLNU]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zZvk2R-dLNU[/video]
     
  21. kcardwel

    kcardwel Hardwoodsman Hobbyist Supporter Hardwoodsman Bushclass III

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    here is a good vid showing just using an axe and fire steel to get a fire going...axe is still big but shows the method
    [video=youtube;tKG6s_fPggA]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tKG6s_fPggA[/video]
     
  22. Jasonacraft

    Jasonacraft Scout Bushclass I

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    Off to the fire lab!

    I used three woods: a dried, aged hunk of oak, a birch branch from the top of the pile, and a piece of tulip that was once the cross member of a buck saw.

    The birch exploded upon impact, to old. To decaying.

    The tulip split real nice, making pencil lead sized in a matter of seconds.

    The oak I batoned into flat pieces as I would normally then tried the knife tip technique. What a pain! The wood was so old and hard I had to use my club to get through it. There was no swinging and stabbing gonna happen here. But that's ok. It still took a fraction of the time than trying to end spilt/ baton those tiny pieces. And more importantly to me, felt significantly safer.

    Out in the woods, or in an actual fire build I wouldn't have chosen this piece for this task anyway. So the fact that it was able to split and with little effort shows the technique is solid to me.

    Using my garage knife cause...well it was there. This thing has squat in the way of a point, really more of a chopper/ mauler. I wonder if using my esee wouldn't have worked better....? Anyway, pics
    [​IMG][​IMG][​IMG][​IMG][​IMG]
     
  23. Carabnr

    Carabnr Guide

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    I am bumping this post because it is so cool! I cant wait to try it out
     
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  24. anrkst6973

    anrkst6973 Supporter Supporter

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    Alternatively you can set the point of the knife and use a heel of palm strike to drive it thru the wood. This will work with most smooth or round butt knives like Mora's or Esee's. A small baton to "gently smite" those having other pommel shapes such as Varustelka or some Busse's I've owned will work too. The point being set means no mistrike or off center hits.
    This technique is also the choice if you ever need to open a metal food can with a knife. (I don't recommend cutting thru cans but hungry will convince you to do odd things.). If you "jab" the can you risk damaging your knife or missing the lip and causing yourself a grievous hand injury. Setting the point and palm driving it just results in a dull knife, fairly easy to remedy. ;)
     
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