scouts-l Mail Archive for July of 2000: Re: Knives
Anthony Mako (ajmako@NLS.NET
Fri Jul 07 2000 - 09:49:03 CDT
<Jim Peterson wrote>
Paint ball is specifically prohibited by the Guide to Safe Scouting. Sheath
knives are not! The line "Avoid large sheath knives." appears in the G2SS,
but it is in italics, _not bold_, therefore it is _Not_ a rule, but merely a
This is one of those points that need to be checked locally. In my council,
sheath knives are completely banned. That makes it a rule for us.
Personally, I don't understand why anyone would want to ban all "sheath
knives" from scouting. First of all, what is a "sheath knife"? If it is, as
the name indicates, a knife housed in a sheath, specifically a sheath worn
on the belt, then many Scouts and Scouters carry "sheath knives" in the form
of folding knives carried in a sheath and even the popular multi-tools (i.e.
Leatherman tools). Carried in a sheath, worn on the belt, these are by
definition "sheath knives".
O.K., so you say I'm being too literal ... we only want to ban fixed blade
sheath knives, not folders or multi-tools. Again I have to ask, why? IMHO, a
small, fixed blade knife is safer than a BSA folding pocket knife. The BSA
knife has no locking device, therefore the blade can close during use ...
and I have scars across two of the fingers on my right hand to prove it.
There are two reasons my local council has a ban on sheath knives. I'll get
to that later. The ban covers fixed blade knives carried on the person. That
includes the small blade knife my father used to carry, all the way up to
those huge combat/hunting knives that Scouts really have no use for at a Boy
I too have scars on both my hands from knives. My scars are from acting
stupidly with a sharp object, not from ordinary use. If you use a knife
properly, safely, and appropriate to the job your chances of injuring
yourself are greatly reduced.
I much prefer a fixed blade knife or lock blade. I've never cut myself with
a fixed blade knife. I notice that the BSA Chef's Tool Kit includes two
knives, a paring knife and a "slicing knife". But neither of them is a
folder. Uh oh! These are fixed blade knives ... I wonder why? _Because
they're safer!_ Oh, but we don't carry these around in a heavy, reenforced
leather sheath. No. we carry them around in a light weight nylon wrap, which
the knives can easily cut through. In fact, I had to deal with an angry mom
once, when her son came home from a backpacking trip with the large slicing
knife sticking through the nylon case and his new back pack. Know what I did
to keep that from happening again? I made heavy leather sheaths for the
knives in that kit! Now I did it, I turned that cooking knife into a sheath
knife! Call the knife police!
Would you use a paring knife to carve a piece of wood? How about a slicing
knife? The knives that come with a Chef's kit are specialized knives
designed for cooking - designed much better for that job than a pocket knife
or hunting knife. Properly stored, cared for and packed, those knives should
be quite safe enough. This argument, however, is really just emotional and
has nothing to do with pocket or sheath knives.
Now I know that some Councils, camps, and troops impose their own
prohibition on "sheath knives". Others set a limit on the blade size
allowed. I take a slightly different approach. I tell my scouts that knives
need to be appropriate for Scout camping. I show them a selection of knives
from my collection that I would consider appropriate. Then I show them
knives that I consider inappropriate for Scouting. Invariably, someone asks
me why I have these knives if I consider them inappropriate. I explain that
they are inappropriate for _Scouting_ All of my knives are appropriate for
the purpose for which I own them. Like the 16 inch "Crocodile Dundee" style
bowie knife. It sits in the display case and looks really cool. That's what
I bought it for, that's _all_ I've ever used it for, besides showing it to
Scouts as an example of what _not_ to bring camping.
So, if you council prohibits sheath knives or knives longer than two inches,
are such knives appropriate for Scouting? My council prohibits sheath
knives. They've had a prohibition on sheath knives since at least the
1960's. One reason is safety - you may not think safety is a concern, but
they do. The other reason is a legal reason.
Remember, knves are tools. Just like a saw, axe, or hammer, used correctly
they are safe. Used incorrectly they can cause injury. It isn't the "sheath
knife" that is unsafe, it is the user.
While most of this is true, there are certain aspects of a sheath knife that
are unsafe. Outside of the sheath, the blade is ALWAYS exposed. A good
pocket knife can be closed - protecting the users from the blade and
reducing the chance of injury if the knife is dropped. You can argue that
pocket knives are more dangerous because their blades don't lock, which is
only partially true, but the point is the blade closes. Personally, I'd
rather a Scout learn to properly use and care for a pocket knife because _I_
feel it's a safer tool. If the Scout wants a sheath knife, I'm not going to
stop him from getting one - he just won't be using it during Scouting
I've been teaching Totin' Chip for twenty years. In all of that time I've
cut myself with a knife once (excellent example of why it's important to
keep a knife sharp). Of all of the Scout's (and Scouters) I've taught, only
three ever injured themselves with a knife. And only one of those injuries
involved a pocket knife closing unexpectedly. That wasn't the cause of the
injury - the cause was unsafe handling.
A. J. Mako, firstname.lastname@example.org , Scoutmaster Troop 381
Old Portage District, Great Trail Council