Knife skills and safety

  • Knives on a cutting board


Learn the proper ways to use and care for a knife.


Plan an activity where you learn how to use a knife safely. You could invite someone with knowledge and experience to teach you how to whittle or carve. You could also learn and practice how to throw knives if you have the knives that are specifically designed for throwing. Throughout the activity, make sure you use proper safety techniques. Care for and sharpen your knife after the activity is over. Find ways to use your knife during camp, such as preparing tinder for the campfire. Be sure to obey the following guidelines during your activity.

Knife safety:

  • Never pass a knife to someone when the blade is exposed. Close or sheath the knife beforehand. Always pass the knife handle first.
  • Cut away from yourself. If the blade slips, it will not cut you.
  • Never leave your knife on the ground.
  • Always store your knife sheathed and in a safe place, away from the reach of children.
  • Never walk with your knife in hand, and be aware of your surroundings when you are working with a knife.

Caring for your knife:

  • Keep your knife clean, dry, sharp, and free from rust.
  • Apply a few drops of light machine oil to the knife joints and blade.
  • Never try to cut materials such as metal, brick, and similar hard surfaces. These materials will ruin your blade. Make sure wood is free from nails before you start cutting or carving.
  • Do not put pressure on the broad side of the blade or use the blade to pry something open because the blade may break.
  • Keep your knife away from fire. Heat will temper the steel, making the knife soft and difficult to sharpen.

Sharpening your knife:

  • Gather your materials, such as a whetstone and machine oil.
  • Place a few drops of light machine oil on the rough side of the whetstone. The oil makes any loosened metal float and prevents it from glazing the stone surface.
  • Hold the blade flat on the stone surface (use the rough stone surface when your knife needs a lot of sharpening and the fine surface when it needs only a little sharpening). Raise the back of the blade slightly and stroke the full edge of the blade across the stone. Use a smooth and circular slicing motion, as if you were cutting a thin slice off the stone.
  • Turn the blade over, and use the same process to sharpen the other side of the blade.
  • Continue this process until the blade is sharp. Test the knife on a dry twig or small branch.

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