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Time to talk of beads, knots and other things...

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I wear all ten knots (three with miniature devices) and my WB beads almost every time I wear the uniform. One shirt has no knots and is used on campouts or summer camp when I'm going to be getting sweaty and dirty.

On numerous occassions I've had Scouters, Scouts, and non-Scouting folks ask me what they represent. It opens opportunities to explain chances for training to Scouters, helps Scouts understand that Scouters can earn stuff too, and shows a new side of "Boy Scouts" to those unfamiliar with the program. And I agree with those who've noticed that at times it lends an air of credibility to what you say.

BTW..When I'm in the mood I also put on my service stars.

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Your beef is with the BSA who has seen fit to recognize leadership with knots to be placed on uniforms, not the people who wear them.

I tell the new leaders at training that knots serve as good ice breakers to initiate conversation between leaders, and also serves to motivate boys. Plus it give leaders witha little more experience someone to look for. For example, if you are a new Weblos Den Leader, look for someone wearing the Weblos Den Leader Award knot if you have any questions.

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Here are my thoughs on this subject. As a person goes through life they will be required to perform a task to a certain level. Are you going to do the minimal level to just get by, or are you going to go above and beyond. BSA has set a ways recagnize those who are willing to achive those goals.

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I have two knots, AOL and Tiger Cub leader and am working on finishing my WB tickets. I wear both knots on both uniform shirts. At the Arrow of Light ceremony I point out the AOL knot to the boys and tell them that it is something they will always remember and cherish. It never fails, their eyes widen and they sit up a little straighter.


Each knot is another link between myself and the cubs.



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I am lazy and I try to be thrifty. I hate sewing and I don't do it well. As Eamonn mentioned, square knots used to be discouraged for Wood Badge staff (I understand that changes this year but only 3 rows of knots are allowed.) So to have one set of WB staff uniforms and another set of other uniforms with knots would be expensive and would involve a lot of sewing.


I learned of a company that primarily makes magnetic military ribbon bars but also will make square knot sets for Scouters. So for less than the cost of a second set of square knots, I have a magnetic square knot set for my 10 square knots. I put it on any uniform when I wish, it stays clean and is easy to use, remove and store.


I rarely wear square knots just because I have felt that too much of a display of knots can be intimidating. I will wear them for Courts of Honor and for other activities where I might want to have a bit of additional credibility. Plus I probably still have a bit of the older WB staff attitude which recommends a "stripped" uniform.


As far as WB beads themselves, I was taught "When you put on your shirt, you put on your beads." I wear them whenever I am in uniform. To me, they are a direct handshake with BP and recognition of the great leaders who trained me. Plus they publicize training and encourage other leaders to be trained.


There is a custom in the military that a holder of the Medal of Honor rates a salute from any other person in military uniform regardless of their rank. There is no similar custom in Scouting, but Bobalinc or any other wearer of the all red square knot of the Honor Medal for Lifesaving can wear whatever square knots they choose and I wouldn't dream of saying a word.(This message has been edited by NeilLup)

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"I learned of a company that primarily makes magnetic military ribbon bars but also will make square knot sets for Scouters."

Hi NeilLup

Please share the information. Her Who Must Be Obeyed would love you forever!!


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Having my own version of "She who must be obeyed", I understand perfectly.


I purchased these from


UltraThin Ribbons and Medals

Box 7161

Moore OK 73153

Phone 800-758-7265 or 405-794-7892

FAX 800-962-1451 or 405-799-0499


e-mail: info@ultrathin.com


I sent them the square knots together with a photo of how I wanted them positioned. They did a great job and it has held up extremely well. I believe that if you have metal devices or pins to go onto the square knots, you can send them too and they will either pin or glue them on.

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Greying Beaver wrote, "First - Knots. What puts me into a low simmer for a short time is cub scout leaders with their two rows of tiger and cub scout leader knots. I wear my ribbons and WB beads with pride, but when the parent of a boy just entering the troop after bridging shows up with all those ribbons, yes, I see a dedicated scouter - in need of a lot more training. Guess who doesn't want to go to any boy scout-level training? Bingo. And guess who wants to know what those beads around my neck are for? Bingo."


Wow, I guess Greying Beaver put me in a slow simmer, that must be why I decided to wait and cool off before replying. First, there are five Cub Scout leader knots. It takes a minimum of seven years for a person to earn all five. I was a den leader for two years and am on my second year as a Webelos den leader. I just got through sewing my Webelos leader award knot on my uniform tonight. It's my second knot and the last I'll be eligible to earn before my son bridges over to Boy scouts. If I stick it out with the pack through May I will also have earned the Cub scouter award, but that will be three months later. It will also delay any tenure for the boy scout leader training award.


I really hope that just because a scouter has a row or two of knots he or she is not stereotyped as a person who doesn't want to learn about one program because he or she already knows about another one. That seems awfully lame to me, especially since it goes completely against my way of thinking. I have attended Intro to Outdoor Leader skills and plan on completing SM training soon. I have read the Scoutmaster's handbook and I know what those wooden beads are, heck I have a set myself.


So, instead of going into a slow simmer when you get a new volunteer that is experienced in Cub Scouts, but not Boy Scouts, be thankful, smile and welcome them. Yes the programs are different and there may be some transition and adjustment that needs to be made but it certainly will be a lot easier to accomplish if you embrace them instead of begrudging them.




(edited for spelling)(This message has been edited by SWScouter)

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SWScouter - Seven years to earn five? Not bad. And your dedication to the program is wonderful. Wait until you see the "time in grade" needed for scouter ribbons. Three years per knot is pretty much the norm.

I can understand giving out knots to DL's and CM's. The former requires leading weekly meeting of a room full of high-octane perpetual motion machines. But seeing a scouter with those five ribbons come in from a pack with his son and having no idea of how a troop is run is only part of the picture, and the lessor of the two parts. When they come into the troop, they are the hardest to make the trasition to boy scouting, so ingrained is the cub scout program in them.

The conversation goes something like this (At suppertime on the first campout after he and his son join the troop):

Me: "Hi. Whatcha doing preparing supper for the patrol?"

Him: I'm in the Parakeet Patrol with my son. It's time to start supper for them, right?"

Me: "Your son is in the Parakeet Patrol. You are in the Old Fossils, the patrol made up of the adults. C'mon, cooking meals is their job."

Him: "But they're going to be eating in the dark!"

Me: "And cleaning up in the dark, too. It's a lesson that they will learn. Their troop guide will have them back soon. C'mon."


Seen it happen once every year. I do not begrudge them their knots, not in the least. It's that if parents fresh from the pack are going to be active scouters, they need to go through training for the scouting program. All of them explain that a troop is a boy-led organization.

And guess what, SWC? My grandson is a tiger this year, and guess who the DL is? Ol'Granpa! This cub scouting is a real hoot! More fun than when I was a cub. This is what I get for showing up to the pack meeting a couple of months before granson was old enough to join to scout-out (no pun intended) the pack, . . . beads, O.A. flap, knots, and all. Always wanted an excuse to go to cub scout RoundTable; they have a lot more fun and best of all - food! Scouting is missing out on a great "modus operandi": "If you're not having fun and you don't have food, you're doing it wrong."

Hey, SWC, go to Scoutmaster Fundamentals. You'll learn about troop operations, meet a bunch of people you'll be running into for the next seven years+/-, have a good time, and eat good on the campout. Oh, yeah. . . three years later you get a knot!


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Wait until you see the "time in grade" needed for scouter ribbons. Three years per knot is pretty much the norm.


Okay, let's compare "Cub" Scouter knots to "Boy" scouter knots.


Cub Scouter Award takes two years tenure as does the Scouter's Training Award. I consider these two fairly equivalent.


Scouter's Key takes three years, however, tenure can be combined with Scouter's Training Award. So three years for a SM to get both. It's equivalent for "Cub" scouters is the Cubmaster Award, which has two years tenure that cannot be combined with the Cub Scouter Award. So, it takes a Cubmaster four years to get two knots, while it takes a SM three years. Oh, a SM can also earn the Scoutmaster Award of Merit after 18 months. So a SM can earn three knots in three years while a CM can earn two knots in four years.


A committee member of a pack or troop can only earn one knot in two years. Likewise a AS and AC.


The only real difference is that a Tiger Den leader, a Den leader, and a Webelos Den leader can earn a knot for that specific position. Tenure is one year for each. There are no equivalent positions in a troop.


So what does all this mean? I guess if you are into getting as many knots as soon as possible, be a TL, DL, and WL in three years, then be a SM for three years, then serve on a pack committee for two years, then be a CM for two more years and after 10 years you may have eight knots.



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"No more than 3 rows of knots for WB staffers??? What's the point of that? Sheesh."


I'm not aware that they are changing that rule. AFAIK, WB staffers are supposed to have 'stripped down' uniforms (only wearing the world crest, american flag, CSP, WB office patch, and that's about it). If this is changing, haven't heard it.


In Sea Scouting, adults are only supposed to wear 2 rows. No idea why, as there is no restriction on naval personally on the number of ribbons.


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Oh boy- a knock down, drag out fight over CS and BS knots! I can't wait!


I've got a bunch of both, and am proud of each one, but I DO think the CS has an easier time of it earning them than the BS guys do.


Compare: (requirements abbreviated for space)


2 years

Fast Start, Basic and YPT training

Do Pow-Wow or 4 RTs

earn 2 Quality Unit Awards

earn National Summertime Pack Award



2 years

Fast Start, Basic, YPT training

Do 5 of these 12 options...

- 5 overnights

- 2 FOS

- staff a training event

- participate in upper level training

- supervise fundraising

- MB counselor for 5 Scouts

- Woodbadge

- troop committe function

- assist Webelos for 6 months

- participate in 6 RTs

- help start a troop


CS leaders can earn up to 5 knots for positions filled in a unit.

BS leaders can earn up to 2 knots for positions served in a unit- both requiring some district or council participation.


CS 'scorecards' are submitted and filled pretty much on the honor system. BS awards are submitted on forms that are analysed by the office before being filled.


So, the CS has an unfair advantage, right?


I don't think so. The role for adults is different enough in the two programs that this is much more of an 'apples and oranges' situation than it appears at first glance. Adults in both programs put a lot into it, but CS leaders have to work with the youth on a totally different level and I think deserve the recognition on a position by position basis.


Were it up to me, I would ADD knots for SM, ASM, troop committee, etc., but I can't hold it against the CS that there knots are comparatively easy. It ain't there fault!


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Knots may or may not say anything.


Our new CM put himself in retroactively for the Tiger and Cub Leader awards. He held both positions in the past. I know he could not have completed the requirements, but I found out about it when the things were awarded in Roundtable.


His motivation is purely pride. Our CC is an Eagle and he wears 2 or 3 of his many knots on his uniform. The CM felt upstaged by the CC, so he invented his own and will wear them. The guy has no self-respect.


From my discussions with other leaders at Roundtable, it seems that many packs simply hand out the knots to anyone who serves as a DL, whether they actually earn the award or not.



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