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TEACH THEM!!! Many souts do not have the oportunity to learn "esoteric" skills. A scout in my troop recently said he judged some kids he knows on what they know outside the normal knowledge that is taught is school. He found that that many of them had no skills outside of the home and video. He felt sorry for them. Teach not only how to use the tools but how to keep them maintained and sharp. Safer that way.
































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For me, niether. With LNT becoming more and more the norm there are much much better ways to prepare firewood than with either an ax or hachet.


Overall I tend to think that it would be better for the Totem Chip to go away, but with a transfer of some of the requirements over into the either the Tenderfoot, or Second Class ranks to enhance a scout's outdoor skills.




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As you have probably read earlier, that is not an option. It is the same solution that most ecoterrorists take - do not go into the woods, let everything remain as it is.


This is worse than utopian. It assumes that no one has any effect on the forests. This is far from the truth. Even without going up into our forests, we have an effect. Until you are willing to give up all clothing, all transportation (except your own feet), all energy (you are using energy in order to use a computer), and go back 50,000 years, any thought that you have no effect is self delusional.


The acid rain has left thousands of acres (non contiguous) of dead trees. These trees either have to be used or will eventually burn. There is too much out there and not all of it can be returned to mulch and food for the forest.


This ignores winter downfall in prepared camping areas, including scout camps.


I cannot speak for the east, however here in the northern Rocky Mountains what I have mentioned is reality.


Lets not forget some other requirements for merit badges that have the boys cleaning up deadfall, trails, etc. You may be able to do it in more populated areas with your hands. That is not the case when you have a 18"+ diameter tree fall over a road.


Continue to teach both, and USE them APPROPRIATELY. Teach that they are tools, not toys. Teach multiple use of public lands, conservation not preservation. Teach respect, not blame.


LNT (Leave No Trace) was founded right here in my hometown by NOLS, National Outdoor Leadership School. LNT does NOT teach to not utilize what we have available. They use fires made of wood collected at their camp sites.


Read some of Paul Petzal's (sp?), the founder of NOLS, writings. He was a hunter and conservationist.


Paul Johnson

Lander, WY

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I agree that we should continue to teach these skills, however such tools are probably best left behind on most outings in most areas. Perhaps Paul and his folks do have more opportunities and needs for these tools, but in California taking such tools would be carrying dead weight.


Ironically, in our conservation work at Philmont, we were clearing some excess small trees. They gave us saws to work with.

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You've missed my point...here's my thinking which centers around the Totem Chip based on my 10 seasons of camp staff experience, as well as over 30 years as an outdoorsman.


- Yes I agree that there are huge acreages of diseased and damaged forest that need to be cleared, but that is the domain of the professional forester, not an 11 year old with an ax!


- Most 11 years old come from an urbanized enviroment and are weak, soft, overfed, pampered and have short attention spans. They lack the physical strength and coordination neccessary to weild an ax. The term used by the Handicraft staff at most camps for the Woodcarving Merit badge, which most 11 year olds sign up for is called Fingercarving for good reasons. The use of edged tools should be developed into an older boy's program where, besides the ax and hachet, they can learn how to use a fro, broadaxes, adzs and other edge tools. I don't want to see an end to the use of wood tools, just a small delay until the scout matures.


- There are few scouters left that really know their stuff when it comes to edged tools. Our soceity has moved out of it's rural past and left a lot of the knowledge of that world behind. Reading a few pages in the Scout Handbook on woodtools does not make an inexperienced scouter knowledgeable on the subject, nor fully prepared to teach it properly.


- Most scouts will hike established trails that are highly impacted, the very reason LNT was created. When was the last time you saw someone carrying an ax, or a hatchet on the AT, PCT, CDT, the John Muir, Bright Angel or the hundreds of other popular trails that abounds in this country? A greenhorn might do it, but only once...


- On a side note, NOLS does get the credit for inventing "LNT". However, Royal Robin started the trend in Yosemite within the climbing community nearly a decade before NOLS took up the banner. Just a little credit where credit is due...

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Learning how to handle that ax or hatchet is one of those scout skills that has some hidden benefits. Those include "self confidence" and "pride". My 11 year old, 60 pound son was so happy to show me that he could use a full size ax at summer camp. He knows something other people don't! All the boys were treated as equals when it came to learning about the ax. They were lining up to work in the ax yard in their free time. My son was very proud to show mom the proper way to hold and use an ax, also how to sharpen it.


NOW, do you think I can get firewood cut this winter? Or can I get the dead limbs in my yard cleaned up?



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As has been pointed out, the LOCATION is the key. Here, most backcountry people DO carry a saw, and often an axe.


I have never been on the trails you mentioned, however have done some cleanup on the Centennial Trail, leading south from Yellowstone. Saws and axes are common, and used correctly often.


If you are worrying about the boy who has earned his totin' chip carrying and properly using these tools, he should not have been able to earn the card. To earn it, he is supposed to demonstrate proper use. Both of my sons had to be reminded that my corrective lenses were indeed protective eyewear. My 9 year old is safe. However, he is never left unsupervised when handling edged tools.


I am concerned that perhaps the boys you deal with are not truely learning the principals of scouting. Yes, most boys are from the couch potato culture. We should be leading them in a differant direction. This will take time, and some will never learn. That is why most activities have adults around - a safety measure.


It is unfortunate that our society focuses on the idiot box and video games. I made a stand and my sons have extremely limited access to TV, about 3 hours a week. They are involved in church, US Swimming, and after-school study hall. They look forward to scouting activities, and within the next couple of months I expect my oldest to earn his 2nd and 1st class badges.


This summer my youngest earned 7 webelos activity pins, and that was with me in hospital for almost a month! He already has half the items needed for his arrow of light. He is the de-facto denner for his den, always leading the other boys.


I am not saying I have the solution for all boys, but it has worked for us. Both of them are hard workers, and value what scouting teaches.


As for maturity, I know many adults I would be afraid to give a rubber band to for fear they would hurt themselves or others. This includes my father. I did not have good examples when growing up, and have had to either teach myself everything I know, or my best friend (eagle, OA) had taken me under his wing.


As a side note, my troop and webelos son went out on a BLM cleanup this morning. They were the youngest there. My wife saw one of the BLM employees later in the grocers, and was complemented on how hard the boys worked. This naturally made me very proud of them.


Paul Johnson

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Paul, Sounds like you some good young men in your household.


I live in the suburbs of Atlanta, Georgia. Even city folks have to know how to handle an ax or chainsaw when a storm blows through, after a tornado and after an ice storm. Sometimes you can't wait for the "professionals" to come get the tree out of your driveway so you can go to work.


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I have read many of the posts in this section on "Wood Tools" ... I wanted to put my cents in ... I have been trained by everyone from the forest service to the California Conservation Corps (CCC) becuase I served on a trail repair crew off and on for about a year. Through my experience I wrote an article to help with the instruction of the Totin Chip - and much more ... the course I developed goes farther then what BSA requires and that is why I call it "Wood Tools" course rather then Totin Chip.


The biggest thing to always remember as the CCC drilled into us is ... Remember safety first, and safety always!


To take a look at the article goto... www.insanescouter.com/t276/files/wood_tools.html



http://insanescouter.com Webmaster


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I have found that scouts are safer with an ax than a hatchet. With the ax they are not temped to use it outside of the ax yard. But hatchets see to be drawn as if by magic to every bush, shrub or tree that the scout passes.

So I recomend stik with the ax ans saw



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I have a "3/4" axe for the boys to use. It is easier for them to control than either a full size axe or a hand axe (hatchet). My own sons have watched me cut through a 2" limb with one cut with this axe, from a wheelchair.


I wonder how many of our leaders know what the differant styles of axes are for? Even though I use them, I am not familiar with all of them. I wonder how many scouts are trying to use the wrong kind of axe, when they should be using a general purpose axe. Just a question that I do not have an answer for.


That brings up another point. Quality! The axes and hand axes my boys use are Estwing, made in Rockford, Illinois. They are very expensive outside the Rockford area, but are worth it. The heads and handles are a single piece of steel, so there is no possibility of the head coming off. Additionaly the design helps to split small pieces of wood easily.


I know that the BSA suppy catalog items are supposed to be of high quality, but that is not so with every item.


Thanks for some good thoughts leaders!


Paul Johnson

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"There are few scouters left that really know their stuff when it comes to edged tools. Our soceity has moved out of it's rural past and left a lot of the knowledge of that world behind. "


It's not just Scouters and it isn't limited to edged tools but it seems to be mostly college educated white collar workers that are effected.


Today, it is popular to be stupid about mechanical things, as if mechanical knowledge is beneath most people. If you like to work with tools, you are considered a bit strange. I know of many households where their tool kits consist of two screwdrivers, a pair of pliers and a hammer.


I'm considered very strange by my colleagues because I can work on my own car and I always carry a pocket knife.


With regard to pocket knives, I've found that many people that have them don't realize that they need to be sharpened on a regular basis. They treat their kitchen knives the same way. "Hey, this knife is crap, it didn't stay sharp." Why do they not know this? Maybe because Home Ec and Shop are no longer required courses, in my area they aren't even offered.


I was talking to a Scout one day and I mentioned something about "shop class." He had no idea what I meant. It turns out that his school offers "computer technology" instead of shop. Wow! How to format a harddrive, that's a good use of school time.


Ooops, I'm starting to rant. Better go now.

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My son had wood shop and loved it. Of course they had to learn on those new fangled electically powered tools not them good pedal powered tools. Auto mechanics class they worked with them gulldarned computer boxes with them hardrives in em. Seems those jalopies they make today have have somethin called eelektronik components now, and you need to know bout them computer things to work on em.


When I was a scout we only cooked on wood fires so you needed a good ax and had to know how to use it. Course then they hadn't invented them modern back pack stoves that they have today. Why they keep making stuff for back packing smaller and lighter than they used to be makes no sense to me.


I've been tellin folks for years we gotta put a stop to this here changin'. They should leave things they way they were back when things were just fine back in the 60s, course then things were better in the 50s, my grandmother on the other hand thought they were best in the 20s..her mother disapproved of her bein a flapper and wanted things to stay the way the were in the late 1800s. I have a pal who's a history buff. he wishes for life in the early 1700s. Of course then there were the Vikings.. now they knew how to swing an ax.


Yep all this changing has to stop, who wants to be in charge of making sure that happens.


;) Bob White


The goal of scouting is to prepare young people for the future through development of character, citizenship and fitness. The outdoor program and the associated skills are tools to excite a youth's sense of adventure and promote fitness they are not the learning goal of the program. You can reach the goals with modern camping tools just as you can with old ones.

(This message has been edited by Bob White)

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