Over the last few weeks I’ve done a lot of work teaching our Cubs, Scouts and another Troop’s Scouts how to use knives, axes and bow saws correctly and safely (strange how it all happens at the same time!).
It is traditional that when you join the Scouts (I mean the Troop here), you get a knife of some kind. Most of our Scouts have Swiss Army Knives or cheap copies. It is our job to ensure they know how to use them properly and to realise that they are tools and not toys.
The first thing we have to consider, unfortunately, are the legalities. There have been too many occasions of young people carrying knives and using them to stab other people. The law in the UK regarding knives is –
- it is illegal for any shop to sell a knife of any kind (including cutlery and kitchen knives) to anyone under the age of 18
it is generally an offence to carry a knife in public without good reason or lawful authority (for example, a good reason is a chef on the way to work carrying their own knives)
the maximum penalty for an adult carrying a knife is four years in prison and a fine of £5000
knives where the blade folds into the handle, like a Swiss Army Knife, aren’t illegal as long as the blade is shorter than three inches (7.62 cms)
You can read the full explanation here.
We then teach the Scouts how to use the knife safely and with respect. It is common that all Scouts enjoy using their knives, especially whittling pieces of wood to produce shavings for fire lighting. It also keeps them good for hours as well!
We also go over the correct use of axes and the bow saw and ensure the message has sunk in by watching them using the exes etc.
It has been interesting to note that all the Cubs and Scouts I’ve taught recently have paid careful attention to the proper use of these tools. Sometimes when going over ‘less interesting’ subjects, attention seems to wander, but not with this subject!
By ensuring the Cubs and Scouts know how to use these tools, especially the knives, correctly, we ensure that they will be used safely and that also they won’t feel the need to carry knives around with them.
It is comforting to think that we haven’t had a serious accident with knives, axes or saws, to my knowledge, since around 1985! This was when one Scout was sawing a branch with a bow saw and wasn’t holding the saw correctly and hadn’t secured the branch he was cutting securely. The branch was bouncing, so the saw bounced and he cut himself across his knuckles. He needed to go to hospital for three stitches in his hand. He was ok and came back to camp, but never forgot to treat the saw with respect and to use it properly.
This story does act as a useful teaching tool as when I have told it, I can show the scar I have on my right hand. Yep, it was me!!! However, they all remember how to use the saw correctly (so do I!), so I guess it was kind of worth it.
The knife and axe part of camp craft is an essential one and one that has been in the programme since the start of Scouting. Indeed BP himself writes quite a bit about axes in Scouting for Boys – see Campfire Yarn Number 8.