What are your knife use & safety protocols?

As you know, at Wild Earth, children have the opportunity to explore confidence-building activities like fire-building, walking through the woods blindfolded, and working with sharp tools such as hatchets, saws and knives.  We see such activities as essential areas of healthy exploration, and we believe that they support children’s development, ability to assess risks, and sound decision making, in both the forest and in life.   

We are able to hold such activities at Wild Earth due to our great consideration and care in regard to safety and proper practices.  While there is always some inherent risk in regards to carving activities, we do our utmost to mitigate those risks by teaching and continually reinforcing these practices.  We strongly suggest that you review the safety protocols below with your child, and practice carving with them.  By further reinforcing our safety protocols at home, you are partnering with us to increase your child’s safety.  Below you will find the key rules for safer carving and a reminder of our knife use and knife safety policy. 

Please read through this message carefully, and if you have any questions, please do not hesitate to reach out! 

Carving Protocol

Set Up:

1. Make sure you are in a good physical, mental, and emotional space to carve, and that your environment is calm, quiet and conducive to focused work. Someone who is distracted, tired, hungry, too hot or cold, dehydrated, frustrated, or otherwise unready to focus should not be carving. Likewise, if light is waning, if it’s very noisy, or if other environmental factors may lead to reduced focus, carving is not appropriate.
2. Ask permission to take out your knife and make sure an adult is there to help you.
3. Find a spot with plenty of space from other people; this is your ‘blood bubble’. Your extended arm holding your (sheathed) knife should not be able to reach any person around you.
4. Sit down cross legged, kneeling, or seated on a chair or log. These positions will help you make sure that your carving does not drift above your legs. Your legs (and all parts of your body) should always be behind your knife’s blade.

Carving Practices:

All the following practices help children carve without body parts being in front of or within reach of the knife blade.
1. Always carve away from yourself. Reposition your wood as needed to carve different areas. Make sure your legs are not beneath the knife blade. If this is challenging, carve to the side of your legs.
2. Always carve away from your holding hand.  Make sure your holding hand is clearly between your knife and your body, safely behind your knife’s blade.  It should never be beneath or in front of your knife blade.  This proper placement ensures that if your knife slips or your wood breaks, your hand will not be cut. (Note: While this rule is essentially the same as #1, we include it separately because this is where young carvers tend to need the most correcting.)
3. Use your carving hand for carving ONLY (ie: Don’t point with your knife, don’t itch your head with knife still in your hand, etc.)
4. Always keep your eyes on your work. If something calls your attention elsewhere, put your knife in it’s sheath.
5. Never stand up or walk with your knife unsheathed. If you need to stand up, sheath your knife and put it in a safe place.  When you return to carve check with the adult who was watching you to make sure it is ok to continue.
6. Do not saw back and forth with your knife.  Carving knives are not saws and should not be used with a sawing motion, as this can cause your blade to slip.  
7. Remove thin layers of wood only.  Do not use strong force to remove large pieces of wood, as this can cause your blade to slip.
8. When finished, look CAREFULLY as you return your (dry and clean) knife to its sheath, keeping your fingers behind the blade.  Return your knife to your backpack.  Knives should never be left on the ground or allowed to rust.

Knife Use and Knife Safety Policy

1. Before having or using knives, participants under 18 must have written permission in the form of a signed Knife Use Waiver or parents/guardian must have given consent via our online registration form.

2. Participants must be at least 7 years old to carve at Wild Earth programs.  This means that carving MAY begin as early as age 7, but not that it necessarily will.  At Wild Earth we make judgement calls about readiness for new tasks and challenges based on children’s developmental stage and not solely on their age.  Most children are ready to begin carving between ages 7 and 9.  Carving activities are always at the discretion of Wild Earth staff.

3. Children at programs which include 7 & 8 year olds will carve using knives provided by Wild Earth instructors ONLY (if they carve), and will not be permitted to attend the program with their own knives. This is because children often have their first experiences carving at these programs, and we support safety by limiting the availability of knives.  Carving at these programs will take place at a 1-2 instructor to participant ratio.

4. Children attending programs which begin at age 9 or older are welcomed to bring their own non-folding or locking-blade knives and store them in their backpacks, NOT on their person.  Carving activities at these programs will take place at a 1-4 instructor to participant ratio.  Program managers and seasoned program coordinators may adjust this ratio to accommodate very experienced carvers ONLY when those carvers are under their direct supervision, and they deem it safe to do so.

5. Teens attending programs which begin at age 13 or older are welcomed to bring their own non-folding or locking-blade knives and store them in their backpacks. They may be permitted to keep knives on their person for particular activities, and with instructor permission.  Carving activities at these programs will take place at a 1-6 instructor to participant ratio.  Program managers and seasoned program coordinators may adjust this ratio to accommodate very experienced carvers ONLY when those carvers are under their direct supervision, and they deem it safe to do so.

6. When instructors have determined that children are ready to carve, knife safety will be fully presented and taught to those children at each program before carving activities commence.  All participants must receive training before carving, and records will be kept in regards to who has received training.  Before each carving opportunity throughout the program, children will reiterate the most essential knife-safety bullet points.

7. If a participant is not able to follow safety instructions, or if their knife is not safe to use because of rust, dullness, knife-type or any other reason, a Wild Earth instructor may take their knife from them and return it to a parent or guardian at the end of the program day.  If the participant is unable to listen a second time, they may not be allowed to bring a knife to future program days.

Knife Type and Care

Type: We recommend non-folding knives with protective sheaths.  Folding knives that do not lock in the open position are considered unsafe and are NOT allowed at Wild Earth programs.  If a child’s hand cannot comfortably fit around the handle, the knife is too big.  We sell knives at Wild Earth in an effort to make appropriate knives readily available to our participants.  We have selected our knives because they are easy to grip, easy to sharpen and clean, are inexpensive, are a proper size for most children ages 7 and up, and come in fun colors which make them easy to spot if misplaced.

Care: Knives should be carried in the sheaths, within a backpack or other pack. Although instructors may carry a sheathed knife on their body, participants are not allowed to do this for safety reasons. Blades should be maintained as sharp and free of rust or nicks. Dull blades can be dangerous. Make sure knives are always returned to their sheath dry and clean. Clean your knife with warm soapy water and very carefully wipe off any dirt or grime with a dry rag, then add mineral oil.  If your knife has acquired some rust, gently remove with sandpaper, sharpen, and apply mineral oil. Knives should be completely dry (or oiled) before returning to the sheath.

Posted in: Programming Questions