I am not actually going to do ‘The 10 do’s and 500 don’ts of knife safety.’ I am going to talk about knife safety though. This is definitely stuff you want to include when you’re teaching your kids how to safely handle knives. My theory isn’t that kids should not handle knives. My wife taught our two year old daughter how to properly hold and use knives and now she helps mom cut veggies for dinner (she’s three now). We should be teaching our young ones how to properly handle knives. That way, when they do get their hands on one, they respect the knife and know how to safely handle it. I fear that if we don’t teach our kids how to use and handle knives until they are older(how ever old that is) they will either fear the knife and not want to use it, or be careless with it because they didn’t know what it was capable of. That is when kids ‘play’ with knives. If our kids are properly educated on how to safely use and handle a knife, we shouldn’t have the issue of them ‘playing’ with them.
Some of the first things youth are taught in boy scouts in relation to knife safety is the ‘triangle of death,’ and the ‘blood circle.’
The triangle of death.
This area includes your upper legs, groin and femoral arteries. Keep the blade away from the area at all times. Never cut or carve wood in a way that brings the blade towards that area. Always move the knife away from you when cutting our carving wood.
This is the space around you (all 360°) at arms length where someone could walk while you’re carving or cutting with your knife. To find your blood circle, stick your arm out while holding your knife, spin in a circle (do this when alone first, not in a crowd), and anything within the reach of your blade is your blood circle. A good rule of thumb is to double that space. If you have a 6 foot arm span, then have a 12 foot blood circle. Be aware of your blood circle and position your self so that you are the only person in that circle.
You should grip the handle as if making a fist. This will give you the best leverage but will also prevent you from cutting your fingers. If you have to hold it in a different way, with fingers close to or touching the blade, you should wear leather gloves. You would rather slice through leather then your own fingers.
There is also safe ways to apply leverage. The knife should always be moving away from you, never towards you. One slip can cause you to take a chunk of skin off or stab the knife somewhere unpleasant…which would be anywhere. The two leverages I want to talk about are the knee lever and the chest lever.
This is done by putting your elbows on your knees while in a kneeling position and moving the wood away from the knife instead of moving the knife. This can also be done with moving the knife instead of the wood. Typically you will place your elbow on the opposite knee. For example, if you are right handed like I am, you will place your left elbow on your right knee. This will allow your right arm to swing away from your body, keeping you safe from cuts.
This grip is done by holding both arms in chicken wing shape, with the hands on the chest. You will move both knife and wood at the same time. Again with the blade moving away from you. This is a good grip for removing large amounts of material while other people are within your blood circle.
Sharper is safer!
Yup! I know, it sounds backwards. The sharper your knife is the safer it is. The reason is because you will use less effort while cutting or carving wood. If your knife is dull, you have a higher chance of losing control of your blade which may lead to personal injury or the injury of others. This is why it is also important to know how to properly sharpen and care for your knife.
A couple points to end with.
When you are done using your knife, always put it back into its sheath. Never place it on the ground or on other equipment. I made the mistake of throwing my knife into the ground when I wasn’t using it. This is not very smart for many reasons. Here’s two:
1. I could trip on it if I’m not looking where I am walking.
2. It wrecked my blade. The blade hit dirt and rocks as it sunk into the ground. This made my knife quite dull. It took a lot of work to get rid of the burrs and get the blade sharp again, and I would say it is still not where it should be.
By always returning your knife to it’s sheath, you will always know where it is and accidents are less likely to happen.
Your knife is not a toy. It needs to be treated with respect. If we ever become lazy or disrespectful to our belt knife, it wont hesitate to disrespect us back. And it is not very forgiving.