Most of the time, den meetings are filled with fun and games, but there’s one meeting that all den leaders dread: the one where the knives come out.
Knives should not be introduced until the Bear level (third grade), and only after knife safety is taught. Scouts are always excited to receive their very own pocket knife, having proven to their parents and den leader that they are responsible young men who can safely handle a deadly weapon. Okay, that might be just a wee bit overdramatic, but trust me, these guys need to be watched very carefully!
Most of the scouts who are trying to earn their Whittling Chip are respectful of the fact that knives are sharp, but not all of them are so cautious. Nope, some of them will pull a knife out of their pocket and start swinging it around like a samurai. I’ve actually heard stories of knives being thrown at other scouts. You have been warned.
You might want to have the scouts practice their knife skills with something harmless like a popsicle stick before moving on to the real thing. Be sure to teach them about the “Blood Circle” where they outstretch their arms to make sure they can’t reach anyone before using their blade. This is not a den meeting for goofing around. Scouts should not be allowed to get up and walk around while the knives are in use.
The Scout Handbook suggests starting out by carving a bar of soap. I have never seen a scout do this very well, and the end result usually ends up looking like a smaller bar of soap. the problem I have with the soap carving is that the soap is slippery to hold, and the blades of the knife can slide forward rather quickly, so we save this project until later in the year and start off with sticks. Yep, who doesn’t like sharpening a stick, especially when you can use that stick to roast marshmallows when you are done!
When a scout gets his pocket knife it’s kind of a big deal. This is a rite of passage for a young man, and hopefully the Whittling Chip den meeting will go smoothly for you — but make sure you have a first aid kit on hand just in case!