Bushcraft Knife Safety for Children

Bushcraft Knife Safety for Children

Introducing Emma Hampton:


Emma Hampton - 'Wild and Outdoorsy'.While I was Course Director of Woodlore Ltd I hired Emma onto my team of outdoor staff and we have worked together for the past four years.  She has worked as a conventional classroom teacher and while instructing for Woodlore Ltd, Emma taught both children and adults including leading Family Bushcraft courses.  Emma would like to point out that by far the worst knife incidents she’s had to deal with were with adults. Kids are much more receptive to and likely to follow advice. Emma writes for Bushcraft and Survival Skills Magazine, TRAIL Magazine and the Outdoor Adventure Guide on “all things wild and outdoorsy”. Below is her first guest article for my blog.

Bushcraft Knife Safety for Children

How should you supervise a child using a bushcraft knife? Should they even have one at all? Bushcraft knives and children do mix but it is a relationship that must be managed and the seriousness of using a knife must be impressed upon the child. To follow are some kid-specific safety tips that will enable you to guide your child as a novice knife user. I also answer some frequently asked questions regarding children and knife usage.

Until a generation ago, most boys at least, would have had a knife as a child. I also had one and grew up knowing that a knife was a tool as opposed to a weapon – a lesson that it is actually more important than ever to get across to our young people today.

This being said, there are some specific safety tips that help kids avoid getting serious cuts. The first point is that, if you let your child use a knife, even supervised, they (as I do) will cut themselves at some point. It is my intention, however, to help you to minimise their chances of nasty cuts that require hospital treatment.

Sitting down with your child and explaining the seriousness and the responsibility of owning a knife is both important and a good lesson for them to learn. Knife mastery requires patience, dedication, practice, respect and maturity. Explain the legality of carrying a knife in your country today and where are the appropriate places to have and use one.

A first knife is special and mine became an important keepsake. It is not necessary to have a custom knife made for your child but it can be a nice thing to do.

Harry's Knife: Handmade by Will Adams
A custom knife is not necessary for a youngster but it can make a wonderful keepsake, particularly if parent and child enjoy camping and bushcraft together. Harry's Knife above was scaled-down from an adult-sized bushcraft knife with a rounded tip added for increased safety. It was made by Will Adams www.bushblade.co.uk Photo: Lousie Cain

When I am working with knife novices I like to give them a very clear set of instructions for acceptable and safe, sensible behaviour for using a knife. It is important that children recognise the dangers and know how to protect themselves and those around them from injury.

Firstly, first aid. Make sure they have their own ‘cuts kit’ and a basic understanding of how to clean and dress a wound or apply pressure should a cut occur. Set a good example for your child – always carry your own kit and don’t cut corners or take risks – at least not within their line of sight.


Knife Use Safety Brief

• Always have a first aid kit on you if you are using your knife. Always.
• Never cut towards yourself or your gripping hand. Ever.
• When holding a knife, never take a step – re-sheath first.
• Never, ever point your knife at someone, even in jest.
• If you’ve cut yourself, do not carry on and hope for the best. Stop and get it sorted.
• Don’t try to hide cuts – don’t be afraid to ‘own up.’
• Don’t give your knife to anyone else – it’s your responsibility.
• Don’t ‘go mad’ and hack away at tricky bits.
• Give it your FULL attention.
• Always use your leading hand – using your ‘other’ hand because your leading is tired/achey, will lead to accidents.
• Carve for short periods of time – if you are tired, stop.
• Children’s hands tend to be a bit softer and thus prone to blistering. This can be remedied by building up from short carving sessions with gaps in between.


Have a clear framework for knife-use:

Supervision: It is important that younger children are supervised at all times when a knife is in their possession and the knife should be taken back by you for safekeeping at the end of the session.  As they become older, you need to consider how and under which circumstances your child is allowed to progress to using the knife with less supervision.
Abuse/Misuse: There should be sanctions if the knife is abused or your child is silly with the knife.  A period of enforced abstention normally works.
Focus: If a child (or an adult for that matter) has a new knife, they want to use it.  They want to use it for something; for anything.  Give your child worthwhile and achievable carving projects to which they can apply themselves.  If they have a knife and no focus they are more likely to abuse or misuse it.


Safe Cutting Techniques and Knife Grips:

Keep it simple to start off with.  Give your child some basic techniques to get used to:

Forehand knife grip
The forehand knife grip is the fundamental grip to get used to. Make a fist - hold your knife firmly. Note the position of the thumb - it isn't on the back of the knife. Photo: Paul Kirtley.
Always cut away from yourself, including your other hand
Always cut away from yourself: Cut away from your body and cut away from the hand that is holding the workpiece. Photo: Paul Kirtley.
Take off a small amount at a time
For children it is best that they take off a small amount of material at one time, shavng material off. This way they use less force, they have more controlled technique and the knife does not become stuck in the wood. Photo: Paul Kirtley.
Kneeling with solid surface to work onto
Until children build up enough hand and arm strength to control the knife and workpiece (as in the previous photo), it is a good idea to have them work onto a solid surface such as a log or a chopping block. Just warn them not to bash their knuckles down onto the log! Kneeling is a safe and stable position to be in. Cuts are made on the outside of the body. Photo: Paul Kirtley.
Elbows on knees
When sitting and carving, if your elbows are on your knees it is impossible to slip and cut your femoral artery. Make sure your child always has their elbows on their knees when sitting and whittling! Photo: Paul Kirtley.
How to pass a bushcraft knife to another person
Teach your child how to pass a bushcraft knife to another person safely. This is safe for the person receiving the knife and the person passing it. The reciever will not grab the blade by accident and even if it is pulled out of the hand more quickly than expected, it will not cut the hand as the blade is upwards and all fingers are out of the way. Photo: Paul Kirtley.

Particularly Unsafe Techniques For Your Child To Avoid

Wrong - never cut towards your hand
WRONG!! Teach your child NEVER to cut towards their hand. Photo: Paul Kirtley

Wrong - potential for severing arteries
WRONG!! In this position there is potential for the knife to cut into the inner thigh and the femoral artery. Remember, elbows should ALWAYS be on knees. Photo: Paul Kirtley.


Start with Simple Projects

A good practical task to start off your child’s knife skills is making pegs for tarps or tents.  You could, for example, combine this with teaching them how to put up a tarp.

Bevel one end of the tent peg
Choose a straight stick of at least 30cm (12") length. Bevel one end of the stick with controlled cuts. Photo: Paul Kirtley.
Three-sided point of the tent peg
Carve the other end of the peg into a three-sided point. Encourage your child to shave material off gradually. Photo: Paul Kirtley.
Completed Tent Peg
Completed peg. For a tarp, there'll be at least three more to make so they'll get some more practice! Photo: Paul Kirtley.

Frequently Asked Questions:

Below are some frequently asked questions regarding kids using knives and my answers.

How old should my child be before I give them a knife?
As children’s maturity and development is not uniform this is a tricky one. I would suggest that from around 7 is a good guide. It is important that they are supervised and surrender their knives at the end of each session.

My child’s hands are weak. How can I help them gain strength?
Hand strength can be improved by tearing things. Cardboard, magazines etc. make good fodder for strengthening exercises. Remember until the muscles in the hands of little ones develop more strength, they have to work pretty hard when carving. Short periods of carving are best.

What sort of knife should they have?
I recommend a fixed blade over a folding one. Folding blades – even lock knives – have the potential to close on fingers.

How big should that knife be?
Something that fits the size of their hand. The blade should be no longer than the width of their palm so the knife has balance and they have good control. For the littler ones especially, it’s important that a knife is not too big or too heavy – unwieldy = unsafe.

How ‘heavy’ should I get with the knife lecture?
You don’t want to make your child fearful of the knife but you should make them respectful of it and mindful of its potential for harm. You know your child best so meter your chat as you see fit. They just need to recognise the importance and the responsibility of owning a knife. I often quote the Spiderman film to kids: “With great power comes great responsibility.”

58 thoughts on “Bushcraft Knife Safety for Children

  1. Emma and Paul,

    Great article!

    I read this bit though and it made me pause:

    ‘….there is only one muscle in the hand….’

    That would surprise me, but I’ve never thought about it before.

    Best wishes,


    1. Hey Steffan

      Good to hear from you. See Tadpole’s comment and my subsequent editing!

      All the best


  2. Great article ! Right on the spot for me, just last weekend I tought my son some basics of safe cutting with a knife.

  3. Hi,

    I always wondered if associating round tips and kid’s knife is not inducing a false impression of lessen danger. Probably if you fall on it, rounded or not you will be stabbed. And the rounded tip might tempt the user in using unsafe technique when a hole needs to be carved. Not sure, just a gut feeling.

    If one insists on a round tip, Opinel has a n°7 with rounded tip and a choice in colored handles. N°7 has a locking mechanism.

    1. Hi Pierre, good to see you here again. You’re right – if you fall hard, even on a round-tipped butter knife, you’d likely injure yourself. But there are incidents that require less force than falling on a knife that can be avoided with a round tip. Personally I have stuck my knife in the back on my left hand. It went in easily because the tip was pointed. This wouldn’t have happened if the tip had been rounded. Maybe I should get one? 🙂 Ultimately though, like all safety considerations, the responsibility relies with you/the parent to make the decisions they are comforatable with. Personally I would teach someone carving with a folding knife such as the Opinel as I have seen too many bad incidents with folding knives (even with locking mechanisms). I think the most important thing when using any cutting tool – and this applies to adults as well as kids – is to have a solid foundation of techniques that are SAFE.

      All the best


  4. Just one small detail, there are nine muscles in the hand (muscles that originate solely in the hand and not part of the muscles in the forearm)

    Abductor pollicis brevis,
    Opponens pollicis,
    Flexor pollicis brevis,
    Adductor pollicis (thenar muscles)
    Opponens digiti minimi,
    Flexor digiti minimi brevis,
    Abductor digiti minimi

    palmar interossei
    and Lumbricals

  5. Hi Emma,
    Good to see that you are still enjoying your work.
    I find the hardest thing to teach adults about using a knife, is when NOT to use it! The children, as you say, are more likely to listen to good advice.

    Well writen and with a number of good points.

    All the best

    Pete Williams

  6. This is an interesting article and one of great interest to me, as I teach the scouts in my district to use knives. I always teach the scouts to push the back of the blade with their thunb that is not holding the knife. This ensures that there are no fingers in front of the blade and only a small amount of material is removed with each cut. I may have missed it but I think a session of what is an appropreate sized blade for the job also goes down well, especially with adults who seem to think a cutlas is good for making spoons!

    1. Hi Bean

      Thanks for sharing your thumb-push method for knife safety. It’s a good idea.

      There isn’t a separate article or section on knife-size but Emma does mention size in the FAQ section of her article.

      Which knives do you use with your scouts?

      Thanks for your comment!

      All the best


      1. Hi Paul
        We use two types the first is a small knive with a grippy rubber handle, it’s about the right size for a child of 10. The Craftline TopQ Precision Knife from Mora. Its great for small cutting jobs and its size emphasises the need to change cutting tools when something big is approached. The other also from Mora is the Clipper. This is used as a progression tool, use the smaller one correctly, treat it kindly and you will move on to a full sized knife.
        The scouts are encouraged to carry a small opinal jn thier rucksacks as a kitchen knife for hikes, great in a rucksack as they lock in the closed position.

        1. Hi Bill,

          I like the progression that you apply from the Craftline to the Mora, teaching the Scouts respect for their tools and good behaviour with knives en route. I agree the Opinel is a classic design that works well. As you say great in the kitchen and simple, robust lock (as long as the rotating ring doesn’t become loose). It’s nice to see this classic marque seeing a resurgence too.

          All the best,


  7. Thank you Tadpole!
    Worryingly, I was told that by a nurse who was stitching a nasty cut on a hand up (not mine) at the time. I know to check my facts in future – and which A&E department to avoid!

  8. Excellent article, very apt !

    I have just finished another ‘ Knifecraft’ session today with some ten year olds. All ten of them managed to carve a spoon, there certainly was an interesting variety of shapes and sizes. These particular children have been using knives for 8 months or so and now really respect them as tools.

    We start off with much of what you have covered. In the earlier sessions the children make both Tent pegs and feather sticks.I find the two projects demonstrate the ‘forced’ and ‘subtle’ use of a knife.

    The article is very useful , a great check list. There is so little ‘written’ about teaching children in depth Bushcraft.

    Thank you very much.

    1. Hi Mark

      It seems like our timing is in sync! Interesting to hear how these children are progessing after 8 months or so of knife use.

      I’m glad you liked Emma’s article. Thanks very much for the feedback.

      All the best


  9. Hi Paul and Emma,

    Love the article, teaching kids respect for tools is very important. I started my son (now 8) off with a mora training knife a few years ago. I ground off the point and made the edge about as sharp as a butter knife, this was brilliant for whittleing the bark from sticks teaching him safe use of the tool, over time we have been putting a edge back on the knife which has taught him some basic sharpening techniques. He is now almost back to full sharpness and able to attempt many basic cuts and simple projects.

    Enjoying your articles, keep em coming.

    Cheers Dan.

    1. Hi Dan
      Great to hear about how you’ve been teaching your son. He’s a lucky lad!

      Thanks for sharing this with us.

      All the best


  10. Hi Paul and Emma

    This is a great article and I will share it with my colleagues and friends (currently printing it out, as I type). Sometimes I feel I’m on a one man crusade to get adults to accept that young people can safely and usefully use edged tools. There is such negative media coverage of knives, where they are only potrayed as weapons, that we can have quite a struggle sometimes! I’ve even encountered situations where some youngsters are scared of knives, because of their perceived image.

    One of the things I do, to introduce youngsters to knife use is to have them chop vegetables with them, prior to making a veg stew. I find that this is often a good starting point because they do not have to force the blade to cut. Also they relate the use of the knife to something familiar in their home environment.

    Finally, to make you smile… as my daughter approached her sixth birthday she asked, innocently, “six is very grown up, isn’t it Daddy?” To which I, of course I answered “yes”. She quickly replied “well you said I could have a knife when I’m grown up” And so, neatly tricked, she got one for her birthday present! She can now use it very proficiently and whilst it lives in my rucksac still – its very much hers!

    Keep up the good work guys – been promoting this blog a lot!

    Hope to speak to you soon Paul re. DorSAR



    1. Hi Phil

      It’s really good to hear from you and thanks for the great comment. I very much appreciate you sharing your thoughts and methods with us; I think your gentle approach to introducing knives to youngsters is a really good one.

      Thanks also for telling the story about your daughter. It really did make me smile 🙂 She sounds very sharp – I think you’ve got your work cut out there…

      Thanlks for your support Phil and I look forward to speaking to you soon.

      All the best,


  11. A good companion article for this would be “how to take care of cuts for dummies”.
    Despite knowing better, my first reaction when cutting myself is still to lick the blood, silly me!

  12. hi paul just regards the ‘thumb technique’. i used to do this but stopped after i once had the knife upside down, placed my thumb on the blade and tried to slice a stick, needless to say the knife went into my thumb not the stick. i dont like this technique at all, bit of pavlovian conditioning there.

    1. Hi Mark

      Good to hear from you. That’s a fair point you make about pressing on the back of the knife; or rather, pressing on what you think is the back of the knife. This is why an asymmetrical knife grip makes a difference; you can feel which way around the knife is in your hand without even looking at it…

      1. Mark, I think you might have taken away the wrong lesson: concentration is key. The pavlovian response should be to check each time that the knife is oriented correctly.
        The thumb push technique is useful for detail work, affording accuracy and power for small cuts.

  13. Hi Paul and Emma,

    This was a great article; informative and well written. It’s great to see some common sense written about children and knives. Education is the best way to prevent problems in the future – I hope your work goes someway to achieving this.

    The tips are great. I will be weaving them into the work I do with Scouts.

    Thanks very much,

    1. Hi Matt

      Thanks for your comment. I’ve heard from a few people involved in Scouting that this has and/or will be a useful article for them. It’s good to hear that you think so too. Education about a knife being a tool and how to use one safely is something that has stayed with me since childhood. It’s great that you are working with young people to get this message across. It’s important work.

      All the best


  14. Hello Paul
    In answer to your much earlier question about which knives I use with the scouts, well it is several so they know or start to appreciate what a knife is!

    I have a box which contains several Mora Clippers which is where we end up when we are starting to get proficient. Several Opinal No 7’s a few Mora Carving Knifes, a couple of scalpels, SAC’s, a leatherman and a few cheap and nasties to show the difference. That way I have a selection of handle types and sizes as well.

    My own knives are also there as well a fairly heavy Enzo full tang and my beloved puukko.

  15. Thank you for any other wonderful post. Where else
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  16. Just stumbled across this whilst looking at some past posts, it’s perfect as I’ve just got a couple of knives to teach my two nephews how to carve, I got some hultafors knives with blunted tips lightweight but with a bit of a finger guard.


  17. Great article as always. My boy is seven and has used a knife several times. I can’t help feeling nervous when he does, but it is certainly better to educate kids than deny them access.

    1. Hi Leo,

      Nice to hear from you. I think it’s completely natural to feel nervous watching a youngster use a knife. But you are right, that education and familiarity (without them getting blasé) is the way to go. Eventually it just becomes part of who they are. I was bought a Swiss Army Knife when I was 7 and it definitely made a difference to me 😉

      Warm regards,


  18. A great article, full of sound advice.

    You mention that each child should have his/her own cuts kit. What should this contain? just an antiseptic wipe and a plaster or something more? I envisage using a series of small, waterproof ziplock plastic bags for each member of the group to store their cuts kit in, only issuing them with a knife when they showed me that they had their kit with them

    I teach bushcraft to children at the school where I work and I would really like advice on this so as to start the pupils down the road to best practice when using a knife.

    Many thanks, in advance, for any help or advice!

    Very best wishes,

  19. just a thought:
    Don’t let the kids fall into the trap of believing that a smaller size knife will become useless as they grow bigger and can get “adult” knives.

    I have a 30+ year old wood-handled Mora with a 2.5 inch blade, and that knife gets more ‘general purpose” use, indoors and outdoors, than any other knife I own. I’m 61, so I probably qualify as an ‘adult’ 🙂

  20. Hi,
    When teaching basic knife safety to younger Scouts (in the US anyway), we start them with plastic knives and a bar of Ivory soap. The soap is tough enough not to crack or break off, it whittles like soft pine, and if the youngster slips and cuts himself, there is no blood – but there will be distinct white line on the “cut” area. We cover safety, how to hold the knife, how to sharpen, how to hold a project correctly, and how to bore a hole. We then move on to whittling regular wood, making tent stakes. The only issue I have with the entire program is that fixed knives are banned as a whole in the US Cub/Boy Scouts, so the young men never get to learn their utility.

    1. I grew up in the UK but live in USA and am involved with Boy Scouts of America having served as a leader for the last 10 years. I agree with your comment re soap, this is an effective means of teaching younger children how to begin before graduating to something sharper. However BSA has no policy regarding knife type or size. As such a scout can have a small folder or a huge Bowie knife. The rules tend to be set by camps and troops. My troop encourages that they scouts have a sensible sized knife suitable for what they wish to use it for but do not prohibit any knife. Usually the scouts are sensible and the ones that aren’t soon learn that big is not always better. Having said that we do insist that they abide by the rules of the camp that we stay at.

  21. Great article and fantastic blog.
    My kids have been using knives since age 3 and we have used all the rules you have above and one other (linked to giving it your full attention).
    While using the knife if someone comes too close to you (within the space of your outstretched arm and knife) put the knife back in the sheath and put it down. Then ask the person to not be so close.
    We started the kids off using potatoe peelers on sticks and they soon moved up to knives (mora clippers without the point).
    Was a proud moment when my youngest (now 4) came up and showed us how she had got a small cut, cleaned and dressed it all by herself and then gone back to whittling a stick.

    1. Hi Andy,

      Thanks for your comment. I like your extra rule with regards to physical proximity and how it builds both awareness and responsibility.

      Great that you are including basic first aid skills with them too. Thanks for sharing 🙂

      Warm regards,


  22. Thanks for a wonderful article Emma. Children are just people in a smaller body and I loathe the ‘dumb it down’ approach or ‘avoid it’ in education systems that are more about classroom management than learning. To have an article that is respectful but specific to children/novices is a great tool for parents. About the proximity, I think most forest schools and the like call it The Blood Bubble, which I think is the perfect description and said everytime a child handles a knife will become that all essential internal voice that plays every time they use it. Maybe even get them to come up with their own expression, but expect ‘…of doom’ to appear a lot 😉

  23. Great writeup.My son is just starting to enjoy bushcraft and respect for the environment around us.
    talked to him last weekend about knife safety, and this will back me up greatly.( not just Dad rambling on)
    Can’t wait for next time we are out to see how he does….

    Cheers Paul

    1. Hi Richard,

      Thanks for the feedback on this article. It’s great that you are facilitating your son learning about bushcraft and gaining a greater environmental appreciation.

      I hope this helps keep him safe when learning to use cutting tools.

      Warm regards,


  24. Thanks for the great article. I am a firm believer in teaching young people to respect and to use all tools.

    One point – a neighbour of mine, who teaches kitchen safety to trainee chefs says the only way to safely pass a knife is to place it on a safe surface and say “There’s your knife.” That is how I now pass sharp tools.

    Loving the blog in general


  25. One of the reasons i started making Knives was to make one for my New born Daughter to grow into so I do a 3/4 scale knife in several patterns for this (and they make a good 3 fingered necker for adults) and also added a 7/8th scale for smaller handed adults

    bout the only thing I don’t like is the use of round tip blades (or for very long to start with ) as I feel it can lead to a false sense of security and more hazardous when the switch to a sharp tipped blade
    The tip is a useful part of the working blade for many things



  26. I teach scouts basic knife safety and will point parents towards this article. I start by showing them different knifes and asking what they know about knives. The answer is always, “Knives are dangerous, they kill people.”and some are scared of holding a sharp knife. I ask them to look at the knives and tell me if they do anything dangerous. They then slowly realise that knives are not dangerous but people do dangerous things with knives. After half an hour they have all managed to whittle a tent peg and are keen to do more.
    Keep up the good work,

  27. I like that you tell people to take their thumb off the spine. Other then detail carving with BOTH thumbs, it’s bad form. Very common though.

    On the “elbows on the legs” idea, I get it but don’t get it at the same time. Do you not teach to keep the knife still and move the wood being worked on? This allows engagement of the large muscle group in the back. Not only is it safer it allows for more control and less fatigue. It also virtually eliminates repetitive stress injuries like tennis elbow. The hand holding the knife should only be used to control the angle of the knife while cutting. It shouldn’t be the hand that applies the force for the cut beyond the force needed to keep it stationary.

  28. Great article here and very informative for parents unsure about buying a knife for their child.
    I’m from Scotland originally but now live in Norway where the Scandinavian attitude towards knives is more a tool for the outdoors instead of being regarded as a weapon by many in the UK.
    In my sons first year at school (age 6) we had a parents day out for a walk and gathered by a camp fire where its common here to skewer hot dogs with sticks over the fire. I had already sharpened a couple of sticks for this and my son asked if he could take my knife as many of the other boys were off cutting ‘stuff’ I wasn’t in the position to supervise this so I said no, as it felt unsafe to me all these young lads seemingly running about with knives un supervised. Nor did I want my knife chipped or damaged if he was un attended.
    After doing my research and finding this article among other things I then bought my son a Mora scout knife of his own for Christmas. Its his knife, but I have control and it is surrendered as you say after each session were out. This was now about a year and a half ago and my son has never cut himself.
    A great companion to this is a Bahco Laplander saw for harvesting sticks in the first place.
    Thanks writing this article.

  29. You know when you think you’ve got a great idea and then you read a nugget like this one and realise you hadn’t quite got it right… Thanks Emma and thank you Paul … I hope to find more guest articles like this one!

  30. I’ve got whittling on my autumn term programme for my Cub Scouts.
    Having read through your article most of it matches what we were taught during the first 5 days of a Level 3 Forest School course. Particularly the handling of the knife when not in use. During use we had a few other methods they were also happy for us to use. Rather than working in front we could also work off to the side to allow for a change of posture. As long as we weren’t moving we were also allowed to work standing up. We also occasionally used other items to push against to make things easier. As mentioned above we were also taught the thumb push method but in our case to allow you to apply extra force when cutting notches.
    In terms of Knives I’ve purchased a set of Mora’s. They aren’t all the same though. I’ve got two different types of their child’s whittling knife. Both have a finger guard on the sharp side. One has a rounded end and the other a point. (I’ve purchased more of the rounded variety but thought there may be occasions when you want the point.) I also purchased a couple of their Scout knives which are again pointed and have a full finger guard (above and below the blade).
    Thank you for your article. It made some points clearer than they were made on my course. (Also can you see any problems with the additional methods I mentioned? I want to ensure that the young people I’m working with are as safe as possible – I need to write my risk assessments up fairly soon.) Thanks again, David

  31. I’ve been teaching children to whittle for over 30 years. They bring their own knives which are typically Swiss Army or Opinel. I have never known anyone to be injured by the blade closing on their finger. Though, as the article says: children do shut themselves. Both organisations I work for dictate adult dressing of wounds and recording of them, though I like the idea of one’s own first aid kit.
    The handles on these knives are nice and small for small hands, and opinels have the advantage of being excellent for vegetable prep as they have thin blades. Swiss army knives have the advantage of being legal carry in the UK. I’ve be got away with whittling in all sorts of places with mine, where a larger knife might have caused concern. In have reprofiled the small blade.
    I use the elbows on knees rule for safety, and also the forest school Blood Bubble, though 7 years ago a boy renamed it Blubble, which gets the message across without being so graphic.
    I teach the thumb push method as an advanced technique, which you need for detail work. Cutting grooves and spirals for example, or rounding of the end of a spoon bowl.
    My children each got their first Opinel when they were 4, and quickly became proficient whittlers and onion choppers.

  32. I’ve been teaching children to whittle for over 30 years. They bring their own knives which are typically Swiss Army or Opinel. I have never known anyone to be injured by the blade closing on their finger. Though, as the article says: children do cut themselves. Both organisations I work for dictate adult dressing of wounds and recording of them, though I like the idea of one’s own first aid kit.
    The handles on these knives are nice and small for small hands, and opinels have the advantage of being excellent for vegetable prep as they have thin blades. Swiss army knives have the advantage of being legal carry in the UK. I’ve be got away with whittling in all sorts of places with mine, where a larger knife might have caused concern. In have reprofiled the small blade.
    I use the elbows on knees rule for safety, and also the forest school Blood Bubble, though 7 years ago a boy renamed it Blubble, which gets the message across without being so graphic.
    I teach the thumb push method as an advanced technique, which you need for detail work. Cutting grooves and spirals for example, or rounding of the end of a spoon bowl.
    My children each got their first Opinel when they were 4, and quickly became proficient whittlers and onion choppers.

  33. What a great article on a little talked about subject. I have been teaching primary age children to use knives for a dozen or so years as part of Forest School. As mentioned by David above we have invested in 2 sets of Mora Knives with finger guards and non pointed ends. The youngest age that I’ve worked with is 6 year olds and we work in the log circle spaced out and use the ‘blood bubble’ mentioned earlier. I have only ever stopped one child using a knife telling her that she wasn’t quite ready yet (sometimes you need to quit whilst you’re ahead). The only accidents that have occurred have been with potato peelers.
    I would be interested to know what peoples take are on using gloves on the non tool hand (the hand gripping the wood being worked on)? I advocate this.
    I have been thoroughly enjoying the ID course and was working at stamen level yesterday to distinguish between the bittercresses. Keep up the great work.

  34. Teach outdoor skills for Cubs and Scouts. Mora Eldris knife is a perfect knife for young hands. Two and one-half inch blade, scandi grind, large rubber handle that is easy to grip in cold and wet weather. We get youth to buy in the burnt orange colour so that it is easier to find if inadvertently dropped.

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