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I am interested in this topic both because of my outdoor pursuits and as a lens to view Scouting policy and practices on training youth.


"I have a KA-Bar knife stamped "USMC." I dote on it for two reasons: . . . 2) It's the best and safest tool to split kindling that I know of."


A Mk II Combat Utility Knife is intended as a tool of all work. However, it has a weak tang-blade junction and is not the best choice of a fixed-blade knife for batoning wood. A knife used as a froe IS probably far safer than an axe. So is it useful for Boy Scouts -- or at least some Boy Scouts -- to know how to split kindling with a superior tool?


"But my personal knife is a Swiss Army folding knife with just a few gadgets."


I presume you mean a SAK is what you carry most often. Me too. I like the "Farmer" due to the saw added to the basic "Scout knife" tools. It fills the same niche as the "scout knife" or "utility knife" with dependable quality.


"What knife do I want to ENCOURAGE Cub Scouts to carry once they have their whitling chip? Answer: a folding pocket knife with a 3" blade or a pocket knife which will lock the blade open."


When they need to split kindling what should they use? The literature only discusses (in a pathetically cursory way) the axe in its various manifestations -- a tool that works by (hopefully) controlled violence (unless used as clumsy sort of froe -- a knife).


"If Scouts are permitted or encouraged to wear a sheath knife, some will, and others will want to get a bigger knife to display."


If Scouts are permitted to drive a motor vehicle, some will drive too fast. And so on. Discuss.


Are we going to ban things to prevent someone from merely "want[ing]" to do something?


"So unless there were a reason, I would discourage wearing a sheath knife. I would encourage Scouts to carry a practical pocket knife with a 3" blade."


It would be nice if everything went according to plan (I teach wilderness survival, and it seems thing rarely fail according to plan.) . But even if it did always go as per plan, when do they learn to use this tool? There must be some practical reason for fixed-blade knives as we have used them for millennia - even in the "city" How many of these youth DON'T have some fixed-blade knives at home?


"I would have carving and chef's knives available for use while cooking, and other specialty knives as needed. I wouldn't bring my KA-BAR knife for Scouts to use to split kindling because it would be a too attractive nuisance that might be misused."


So, although you think it's the best tool for processing kindling, they will not see it according to your plan? Or at least see it because you introduced them too it with your experience and insight? So who will show them?


"Misused": I suppose an axe might be misused - certainly a match - a rope - a stick (club) - an LED light (can blind) - a metal tent peg (a good "shank"). Have you HEARD some of the "survial whistles? So if things cause bad behavior, what other things do we need to ban?


"And there is one other issue. The KA-BAR knife has a 7" blade and is about an inch wide. The clipped upper part of the blade and its size makes it a deadly stabbing knife. I'd just rather not have that weapon available for someone to grab if they get angry."


What will they grab? An axe? A "kitchen knife" (the No. 1 knife turned into a weapon all over the world)? A rock? Would a fixed-blade knife be less likely to cause rage to turn deadly if it were painted pink? Would it be helpful to inform them that the most common "military" use of the MK II Combat-Utility Knife (AKA "K-Bar") was opening C-rat cans, and it was hardly ever used as a weapon?


"By contrast, a folding pocket knife with a 3" blade has a myriad of uses but is a lousy combat weapon."


Certainly the MK II is better in the weapon mode than a SAK. But we had a lesson in what one can do with a box-cutter with its sub-1' blade. The hand and the mind make the weapon, which is perhaps why we are supposed to be about molding minds.


"Also, if someone wants to split kindling with a knife, you can use a pocket knife like my Swiss Army knife and pound the blade through the kindling with a stick of wood. The KA-BAR is the superior knife for that task, but a regular pocket knife does OK."


A SAK certainly can do it ---- in the right hands and with some luck (Don't be tired or anxious or very cold or badly injured.). But a SAK will do it, if at all, at a sub-"OK" level. Except in an emergency, batoning any SAK is misuse of a tool by any standard, and therefore violates "Thrifty." One good whack and you have SAK pieces, and we know how inexperience substitutes force for technique. (There are many massive and expensive locking folding knives that are a better poor choice than a SAK.)


"To be candid, I'd simply prefer that boys not carry a knife that is an effective man-killing weapon when the 3" pocket knife is a better choice to carry."


Effective like an axe (See "Franks") or stick (Many war clubs were and are made of wood.) or pressurized deodorant plus match or ammonia/bleach or screwdriver or sharpened tooth brush handle? All of these have killed very effectively. Again, it's the hand and the mind behind it, not the dead thing itself.


"And when Scouts look at me to see what their Cubmaster or Scoutmaster carries routinely as a knife, they see the same folding pocket knife they are encouraged to carry. (USA Infantry Motto: "Follow Me!")


So at least for me, the BSA policy of discouraging the carrying of sheath knives makes sense and conforms with my own biases."


Ah, that urban myth again. 0____0


Leave aside the fact that the BSA does NOT discourage the carrying of sheath knives. Leave aside the fact that current official BSA literature illustrates and advocates use of extremely large knives carried in sheaths or scabbards. Setting the range of choices as MK II vs. a SAK is a "false dichotomy." While the MK II was deliberately selected as a tool of all work, including fighting, there are many, many patterns of fixed-blade sheath knives (as opposed to folding sheath knives) that have no sharpened "false edge" and are far superior for batoning wood (The sharp "false edge" tears up the baton.) and far superior for other woods tasks. If we confine ourselves for no apparent reason to military surplus, the far more common 225Q sheath knife, the most common U.S. military sheath knife of WWII, would be much better for woods use. Hundreds of "civilian" patterns of fixed-blade knives with blades of lengths from 1" to well-over a foot are out there. Some don't even have points.


We cannot keep them away from this tool. It is the best woods tool for some purposes.


"Trust should be the basis for all our moral training." BP

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'he requested that the Scouts not "walk around camp with big honking sheath knives dangling from theor belts." No problem.'


See, that's where all these problems are coming from -- you should wear your knife on your back, possibly upside down in the small of your back, not on your belt where it can get caught on branches that you walk past and where everyone can see you reach for it. :p

Not that I'm actually advocating that people take a bowie knife to Scout camp, I just think those clips are hilarious.

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I agree with Sailing, use the right tool for the right job. If a sheath knife is the knife for the job, then train the scouts to use it. If it calls for a SAK or a leatherman, teach them to use it.



As for weaponization of tools, ANYTHING can be used as a weapon. A pencil or a tent peg can be used as a weapon. As someone else mentioned, box cutters have been used as a weapon.


This entire conversation reminds me of a scene in CROCODILE DUNDEE


Teenage Mugger: [Dundee and Sue are approached by a black youth stepping out from the shadows, followed by some others] You got a light, buddy?


Michael J. "Crocodile" Dundee: Yeah, sure kid.

[reaches for lighter]


Teenage Mugger: [flicks open switchblade] And your wallet!


Sue Charlton: [guardedly] Mick, give him your wallet.


Michael J. "Crocodile" Dundee: [amused] What for?


Sue Charlton: [cautiously] He's got a knife.


Michael J. "Crocodile" Dundee: [chuckles] That's not a knife.

[he pulls out a large bowie knife] Now THAT's a knife.


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Hello tahawk,



You make some good points.


A Scout axe is kept in the axe yard. Not as convenient as a killing weapon as a sheath knife carried on your person. Same for kitchen knives.



I can't say that I've observed someone in a killing rage while on a Scout outing. Neither have I ever observed anyone who was at some substantial disadvantage because he didn't have a sheath knife on his person.


Even including a modest amount of climbing and a lot of backpacking, hiking, cross country skiing, snowshoeing and such, I can't recall a situation that a folding pocket knife with a 3" blade wouldn't serve my needs. Of course, that was supplemented with kitchen or other special purpose knives and axes when such needs were planned.


I think the attractiveness of sheath knives in the past was that pocket knives hadn't been invented and readily available yet.


For those who have a use for or just like sheath knives, help yourself. I have no objection to them. I simply find that a folding pocket knife meets my needs and has the particular advantage of being easily carried on a key chain, so I'm far more likely to have it when I have a use for it than a sheath knife.


It's just a more practical knife in my experience, and that's 95% of the reason why I encourage Scouts to choose them.


Carrying a knife with a blade longer than 3" can have legal implications as a concealed weapon in a good many places. Other than at schools and such, that's unlikely to be an issue for pocket knives with blade 3" or less.


And in general I don't carry a killing weapon myself and I'd discourage boys from carrying weapons that are efficient man killers. A hot temper or incident that causes a fight might get a boy into trouble. A hot temper or incident that causes a fight with a killing weapon in a boy's hand might land him in jail. My assessment is that most people are better off not carrying man killing weapons unless they have been carefully trained in their use, and even then a lot of people who have hot tempers, drink alcohol, have a history of being of interest to the police or have other such issues are better off without such weapons.


So for all these reasons, I carry a folding pocket knife with a 3" blade and encourage Scouts to do the same.


But you may have other needs and preferences. You are welcome to them. I have no objection to responsible people making other choices.




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I'm kind of disturbed that you would even think of the weapon aspect of a knife in terms of Scouts. If you can't trust a Scout with a knife and are afraid they will fly into a murderous rage, then you either need to prevent them from getting a Totin' chip, or think about another hobby other than scouting.


Our council (Gulf Coast Council) has a ban on sheath knives. The justification being that if a Scout falls with a sheath knife on his hip, the risk of being hurt if they fall onto their sheathed knife outweighs the utility of the knife. I think it's irrational, but I follow the rule anyway. At one time I used to keep a fairly large sheath knife in my daypack, but I've stopped that.

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With no disrespect, this is the funniest thing I've heard today


And in general I don't carry a killing weapon myself


Your hands and feet can be used to kill someone.


Your swiss army knife can be used to kill someone


The pencils and pens you use can be used to kill someone.


Your cell phone can be used to kill someone.


And I can go on and on.


It's not a matter of the tool you have, but rather the individual's intent.


For example with one job I had a boxcutter or pocket knife on me most of the time as I dealt with receiving merchandise. That was my intent: opening packages. But on 9-11-01, 19 individual had the intent of using boxcutters to take over jets and run them into the WTC and the Pentagon.


Tools do not kill people, people kill people.



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A fixed-blade knife is stronger and more useful for it's weight than a folding knife of the same weight. Cooks know that. Wood carvers know that. Those who clean fish and other game know that.


Folding knives served the Romans under the Republic - that is, BC. Obviously, and as with the fixed-blade knife, folders have their place.


A folding knife is better than no knife. Having said that, no author on wilderness survival, and certainly not the two authors of BSA's monographs on wilderness survival, suggests a folding knife as one's primary knife in the wilderness. (In car camping? Why not? You can often get a better tool when you need it.)


What do they suggest? Here is some text from The Complete Wilderness Training manual, 2d ed. rev. 2007, Boy Scouts of America:


"The basic, essential tool for camping and survival is a good, strong knife."

"Kukri. This heavy-duty knife [12" of 1/4" or thicker blade] is traditionally used by the Gurkhas in Nepal. It is made from the rear spring of a truck...."


"Back of blade is blunt and can be used for hammering."

"Middle section of blade is not as sharp as tip and is used for chopping."


Illustrations of bucking with a khukuri [spelling closer to 3-syllable sound] follow.


Not sure I'd want to try those tasks with a SAK


He also says: "A strong pocketknife is second only in importance to your teeth. It can be used for projects for which your large knife is too big (ee opposite.).


Most bans on things are formulated by folks who, while they mean well, are fairly limited in their knowledge of the subject.


Convenience is certainly a factor. That is why kitchen knives are the great killers - in the hands of killers. In the drawer they are just tools.


As for "killing weapon," I guess that's how you see the knife. Again, the reality is that is was the MK II can-opener in actual application.

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You guys carry what you like and I'll carry what I find useful. Personally I find a knife with a 12" blade overkill, but help yourself if it appeals to you.


If you don't care for my reasoning, fine.



I appreciate reading your thoughts and ideas.

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I find a two-pound knife with a 12" blade "overkill" too. The khukuri, especially, takes some getting use to. But I didn't write the books suggesting such tools, put "Boy Scouts of America" on the covers, and place them on the shelves of our Scout Shop.


Is it all that unreasonable to at least teach our youth how to safety use fixed-blade knives of more common proportions?


I hoped we were discussing something beyond personal preference, namely "BSA Knife Policy."


(This message has been edited by TAHAWK)

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Joe, the BSA still teaches woodcraft and fieldcraft, it's just more in line with LNT, and has been going that way since the mid 80's. Even when I did Paul Bunyan in the late 80's, it was already a case of "you'll do this for PB, and you'll never do it anywhere else in scouting".


So, no, a troop doesn't go find a patch of 4" sweetgums and break out the double-bit axes anymore.

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When I was a Scout, the Paul Bunyan award could be followed (at least in our Council) with the more difficult Peter McLaren Axemen award. The former focused more on trimming and bucking, the latter on felling and splitting. I earned both and still have the patches. The environment in the mountains of southern California dictated that the "felling" was of old utilities poles set in holes in the ground. They were a tough proposition to cut with an axe. While our Troop owned one and the camp several, we never used double-bitted axes as they were regarded as unnecessarily risky. Few Scouts could have swung them accurately or effectively in any case.

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The double bitted axe was useful for production quantity logging. You had two sharp blades to start with, and a double bitted axe is a cinch to sharpen in the woods. Sink one blade in a stump and sharpen the one that's up. Flip for side two.


jrush - thanks for the update regarding LNT. I know of a hunt club that needs some sight-lines cleared...

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Seattle, your comment about axes staying in the axe yard brought back a memory, and a chuckle:


Summer camp, late '70s...our troop is on the verge of folding because of a big fallout with the adult leadership. So we fold into the sister troop nearby to go to camp. Big mistake!


Their SM is a tyrant, through and through. Drives everyone nuts.


Mid way thru the week, I'm leaning on the axe yard fence, watching a buddy chop wood and shooting the breeze when he rests.


Then I see my PL, face red as a beet, walking at a high rate of speed, comes into the axe yard uninvited...he had just left a meeting with the SM, which had not gone well.....


Without saying a word, he tears his PL patch off his sleeve, throws the patch on the ground. Then grabs the axe out of my buddy's hand, and with incredible accuracy, starts chopping at the PL patch on the ground, accompanied by some words that aren't found in the scout handbook.


Eventually he runs out of steam, and the PL patch is no where to be found. He hads the axe back and walks away.


Even then, we scouts didn't view this as a totenchip problem.....


Anyhoo back to the topic.


People who have unnatural fears will make rules that don't make sense. Snakes, sheath knives, fireworks, patrols camping without adult leadership, you name it, they will err on the side of caution (to placate their fears). Thus the slow erosion of scoutcraft.


Joe Bob, I earned the Paul Bunyan back in the old days too. And I agree, that double bitted axe and giant saw have a place in scouting!


While we don't use them every day, it's the adventure of using them, a tie to our American heritage....same reason why scouts love black powder rifles and hammering a horseshoe on an anvil...scouts love that stuff!(This message has been edited by desertrat77)

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I don't know if it was used the past two years, but my scout camp does have the crosscut saws and I used one at an Ordeal 2 years ago. Had't used one in about 21 years and it was a pain to get started. But once we got our grove, it was a piece of cake cutting the rail road ties.



We also had that as an event at camporee last year. The OA chapter wanted that as an event and got it. Everyone loved it, except the OA since they couldn't play. Sometimes being the judge is not fun ;)

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