A major milestone for any Cub Scout is earning their Whittling Chip! Earning the Whittling Chip means that Cub Scouts are allowed to utilize a pocketknife, and can even carry them at pack events, meetings, and camping trips. Learning how to use and care for a pocketknife safely is a key part of Scouting!
The Whittling Chip is also a requirement for earning the Webelos rank and the Arrow of Light. Even if a Cub Scout has no interest in whittling, it’s part of the journey for every Scout. That’s why, in this article, I’ll be helping explain proper knife safety so that you can understand every requirement for earning your Whittling chip!
PS. This article is a guest post collaboration with Eagle Scout and AOL recipient, Jonathan K🙂
We’ll also be covering important safety guidelines and precautions that every Cub Scout should know when using their pocketknife. That way, any Cub will be able to whittle, and even make a carving once they’ve learned these lessons! So, to kick things off, let’s begin by answering the question…
What Are the Cub Scout Whittling Chip Requirements?
- Know the safety rules for handling a knife and show, using these rules, that you know how to care for and use your pocketknife safely.
- Make a carving with a pocketknife. Work with your den leader or other adult when doing this.
- Read, understand, and promise to abide by the “Pocketknife Pledge.”
For most Cub and BSA Scouts, I’d highly recommend getting a pocketknife with a locking blade (Amazon link to a blade similar to what I used). This design prevents accidents with the blade snapping shut, and makes for much safer knife usage. The pocketknife I linked also comes with other helpful tools, such as a whistle and fire starter!
I) Know the safety rules for handling a knife and show, using these rules, that you know how to care for and use your pocketknife safely.
It may be small, but even a pocketknife can be dangerous if used incorrectly. That’s why every Cub Scout must know and follow safety rules of knife handling to earn their Whittling Chip. To start off, I’d suggest watching this helpful YouTube video (5:13) to get started on the basics of pocketknife safety!
Cub Scout Pocket Knife Safety Rules
1) A knife is a tool, not a toy
The very first rule every Cub Scout has to know is that a knife is a tool, not a toy. Scouts cannot play with knives or make “jokes” about hurting themselves or others. Failure to respect this first rule of knife safety can result in the loss of the Whittling Chip even after it has been awarded.
For a minor infraction, the den leader will cut off a corner of the Whittling Chip card. A major infraction, such as holding the blade open near someone else, will result in a 3-month Whittling Chip ban. This is done to ensure that knives are always used safely, as tools and not toys!
2) Never carry an open pocketknife
A pocketknife should only be used when remaining still, either sitting or standing, in a safe area. Otherwise, you could slip and accidentally cut yourself. So, while walking, make sure your knife is closed and stored. As an example of what not to do, don’t try to walk on a hike and whittle a stick at the same time!
3) When you are not using your knife, close it and put it away
Unless you are using a pocketknife, it should be kept closed and safely stored in a pocket or on a belt loop. Never run with an open pocketknife. Cub Scouts should only use a pocketknife while sitting or standing still within a safety circle (more on that below!).
Cub Scouts can only carry a pocketknife at approved Cub Scout functions, with a den master or pack leader present, and must never take a knife to school. The Whittling Chip certification must be with a Scout at all times when they intend to use a pocketknife.
4) When you are using the cutting blade, do not try to make big shavings or chips. Easy does it
This rule can be tough for an enthusiastic Cub Scout looking to earn the Whittling Chip. When using a pocketknife to whittle a stick or carve a piece of wood, go slow and focus on small shavings. Very small cuts, under a fraction of an inch, are the ideal size for safe, effective whittling.
The proper technique for whittling is to hold the wood at a slightly downward angle and then smoothly slide the knife down and away from your body. Remember, “slow is smooth, and smooth is fast.” Over time, the wood will take shape, but if you try to go too fast, you might hurt yourself or others!
5) Make a safety circle
- Before you pick up your knife to use it, stretch your arm out and turn in a circle.
- If you can’t touch anyone else, it is safe to use your knife.
- If anyone approaches the safety circle, stop what you are doing and safely store your knife.
- Re-establish the safety circle every time you open your knife.
This short video (2:08) is a great tutorial for creating a safety circle.
A safety circle is used whenever a Scout is using any sharp or bladed tool, from a pocketknife to an ax. Turning in a circle with your arm out establishes a safe working area and should be done every time. If anyone ever crosses the boundary of your safety circle, immediately stop what you are doing and safely secure the bladed tool!
Even campers and wood carvers with years of experience use this safety circle technique every time they are working with a bladed tool. Make sure that your safety circle includes a secure place to sit or stand without any extra movement. Within the safety circle, all Whittling Chip safety rules still apply!
Demonstrate Proper Care of Your Pocketknife.
1) Keep your knife clean and dry.
A Cub Scout demonstrating the skills required for the Whittling Chip must be able to properly clean a pocketknife. This is done with a special cleaning oil and a small piece of cloth. If sand or dirt is stuck on the knife, use warm water and an old toothbrush to gently scrub the debris away.
If you have to use water to clean your knife, make certain that it is completely dry before properly storing it. It is very important to keep your pocketknife off the ground, as even a little dirt and moisture can quickly damage the blade.
Scouting Tip: Never try to dry off your knife by holding it near a campfire! The heat from the flames can warp the blade, making it impossible to properly close.
2) Keep the blade sharpened.
A sharp knife won’t get stuck on wood, making it safer and easier for you to use. In order to demonstrate proper knife-sharpening technique, Cub Scouts must use the right tool: a sharpening stone. By wetting the stone with a special oil, you can then run the blade along as if you were trying to whittle the stone, which will sharpen the blade of your knife.
Doing this too much can damage the blade and make your pocketknife useless. Sharpening the blade once a month should be enough to keep it in tip-top shape! You’ll know your blade is properly sharpened if it cuts through a piece of paper using an easy sawing motion without you applying any pressure.
Never use your pocketknife against a stone you found on the ground. Only specially designed whetstones or handheld sharpeners such as the linked examples should be used for sharpening. Here’s the simple way to properly use a whetstone:
- Hold the stone from underneath or behind where you will be moving the knife.
- Angle the knife at 20 degrees.
- Place the knife point directly away from you, and turn it so it’s pointing halfway between away from you and directly to the side. This makes a 45-degree angle.
- Now, turn the knife about half of the remaining distance to find a 20-degree angle.
- Gently slide the blade against the stone as if carving it.
- Remember: move slowly!
- Turn the blade in a gentle circle while moving it to get all parts of the edge.
It might be hard to picture that, so check out this video (3:03) for more guidance!
II) Make a carving with a pocketknife. Work with your den leader or other adult when doing this.
When I was a Cub Scout, I can remember practicing to whittle first on bars of soap. In order to earn the Whittling Chip, all Scouts will need to carve wood in front of their den leader. What you carve might be up to you, but I suggest you don’t go directly to carving a duck!
While carving, make sure to always slide the knife away from you. Never slide the knife towards you, and don’t make any cuts with the blade facing you. Don’t rush, and don’t try to carve out a large chunk of wood. Slow, steady movements are all you need to transform a piece of wood into a work of art!
Here’s a link to a great whittling kit that comes with 3 wood blocks and cut-proof gloves, if you want to turn this into a family activity!
III) Read, understand, and promise to abide by the “Pocketknife Pledge.”
You’re almost there, Scout! You’ve learned how to use, care for, and sharpen your pocketknife safely, and demonstrated your skill with your first whittling creation. The very last step to earn your Whittling Chip is to promise to abide by the Pocketknife Pledge:
- I will treat my pocketknife with the respect due a useful tool.
- I will always close my pocketknife and put it away when not in use.
- I will not use my pocketknife when it might injure someone near me.
- I promise never to throw my pocketknife for any reason.
- I will use my pocketknife in a safe manner at all times.
Once that is done, your den leader can fill out the Cub Scout Whittling Chip Certification, and you’ll have accomplished a major Scouting milestone!
Since pocketknives are so often used in Cub Scouting and Scouts BSA, it’s important we learn how to use these useful tools safely and responsibly. Now that you understand blade safety rules, care, and carving best practices, you’re ready to use a pocketknife on all of your future Scouting adventures! 😀
Thanks so much for reading, and great work for learning everything we just covered. If you enjoyed this article, I’d highly recommend also checking out any of these other awesome posts on ScoutSmarts if they spark your interest:
- Cub Scout Ranks And Advancement: Your Ultimate Guide
- Fun Cub Scout Games: 11 Epic Indoor and Outdoor Pack Activities
- Is Cub Scouts Still Worth Joining? 6 Personal Takeaways
- How to Plan Cub Scout Meeting Activities (With 16+ Ideas)
- The Essential Camp Packing List: A Scout’s Trek Gear Checklist
That’s all for this article! Hope to see you back here again soon. Until next time, have fun and be safe whenever using your knife. I’m wishing you all the best on your Scouting journey!