We’re used to calling the period occurring after the Bronze Age, the Iron Age. Some peoples managed to produce iron tools well over 3000 years ago. But whilst iron was already in use and in some cases was almost indispensable, it wasn’t cheap and accessible for a very long time.
In fact, one traveler and chronicler named Werdum who visited Poland in the 17th century noted in his diary that apart from a few cutting tools such as axes, knives and adze, the average Polish peasant had almost no metal implements in his farmyard. It seemed to him like everything from houses to tools to shoes and clothes was made from plant material. Even things like a harrow were neatly put together using carefully selected branches. Nails were also made of wood. A Polish ethnographer Kazimierz Moszyński suggested that these people, as well as many peoples in the North-East Europe, weren’t living in the Iron Age at all. Until relatively recently they were living in the ‘Wood Age’.
It’s no surprise that their hammers and mallets were wooden too. But how do you make one if you don’t have a metal drill bit to put two pieces together? Well, you make it out of one solid piece of wood like the mallet no.1 in the picture.
Here is my interpretation of a 17th century one-piece wooden mallet and how to make it. The more knots you’re able to incorporate in the head the better. They’ll prevent it from splitting too easily.
To baton, or not to baton: that is the question. Why or why not? Is it really such a bad idea? How old is batoning and is it stupid?
It all depends on context I suppose. I have batoned since I knew how to use a knife and never broken a single blade while doing it. After watching several videos featuring knife fails, I think most of them have to do with either a bad heat treat or bad batoning technique. If you try and pound you mora classic through a 3″ knotty piece of seasoned oak, you’re asking for it. Same thing if you whack your knife at an awkward angle.
But if you know what you’re doing, if you’re being sensible, you can get away with unbelievable things. Like my grandmother did when she batoned a thin, stainless kitchen knife through bones pounding on it with a hammer for decades. I still have and use this knife BTW 🙂
There is one thing I don’t mention in the video. It is to do with heat treat and blade hardness. I’m no expert, but from what I understand, different knife types are made with different purpose in mind, which is reflected in steel type, and hardness. Some knives are meant to be rather softer (bainite or spring temper) and less brittle. These will be much better for batoning or prying. Other blades, such as the super hard Roselli knives from the UHC (Ultra High Carbon) line – HRC 64 to 66! and carbon content 1.5 – 2.0% – are obviously designed for different tasks, as their hardness approaches or even exceeds that of metal files. They will perform best when used for skinning and dressing game and should hold an edge much longer than softer, less brittle knives.