Kids run around, kids make noise, kids do not pay attention – right? Not when it comes to using tools on one of our bushcraft courses.
I find that many of our cadets get so excited on some activities it is hard to get their attention to show them how to move on in the activity, but when using a tool (particularly knives and saws) this is almost never the case.
Many cadets like to come on a course as they know they may be given the chance to carve something. They know from the start that if they pay attention they will get to use them, but if they do not pay close attention they will not get that chance – they will get a bit of time out instead.
Before starting any classes on using tools we always talk about the law here in the UK. A good article on this can be found over on the bushcraft forum BCUK. I have put a link to this at the end of the article.
I also cover First Aid at the beginning, pointing out where on the body cuts commonly occur and what to do if someone cuts themselves. Also the importance of getting into the habit of always carrying a First Aid kit if you are using tools such as knives, saws and axes.
We will discuss the ‘Blood Bubble’: the area around you that if you stretched your arm out while holding a knife you would puncture someone.
Also we will discuss the ‘Triangle of Death’: the area from knee to crotch back to other knee when you’re sitting down. As the femoral artery runs down your thigh, any cuts in this triangle are potentially very dangerous. See the article on my Bushcraft Days site on knife safety tips for more information (link at the bottom of the page).
Before picking up any tools I like to show cadets that they do not always need a knife, saw or axe to chop up wood. A good natural vice can be found where two trees are close together. This picture shows some Junior Sea Cadets helping me to snap some wood. This piece of wood was particularly dry so even though it was large we were able to snap it fairly easily, up to a certain point. The stump area was later sawn through. The cadets are taught to use this technique and they learn that if they have to put excessive force into the snap they should leave that piece of wood in a pile to be sawn through later. Also they are told to keep an eye on the bark of the tree they are using as a vice so they do not damage it.
I like to give a demonstration of what they will be undertaking in the next few minutes. In this picture we have moved onto battoning techniques.
All my classes start with some basic and safe cuts. The link to the Knife Safety Tips post at the bottom of the page goes into more details on each type of cut.
I like to make sure we have plenty of instructors around to keep an eye on the spacing between cadets, ensuring they respect the Blood Bubble.
Once they have had a practice, I get them to try working to each side to find which suits them best.
It is good to make use of your surroundings. Sometimes you see people using their knee as a support for the back of the knife but a small tree works a treat as well.
After trying out different knife cuts (also including the chest lever, fine cuts and using the shoulder), they are taught to batton so that they can split wood without the use of an axe.
Wherever possible I will get the cadets to use a small saw like the Laplander.
Ensuring the hand holding the wood cannot be cut by the saw is a must. I have had a few saw cuts in my time and they are quite jagged and painful.
The cadets who produced these butter knives learnt all the different types of cuts and also to batton. They took them home to give to their parents.
When I have a little more time and just a few cadets we can go on to more advanced techniques such as carving spoons. I must admit this does not happen often enough for me and this activity is usually reserved for my courses teaching Sea Cadet instructors.
The aim of these classes is to get the cadets to respect the tools they use, understand what they are designed for and to manage for themselves the risks that come with using them. These skills are, I feel, lacking a great deal in the youth of today, not through any fault of their own but because they so rarely are given the chance to learn what I was taught as a young boy.
I hope you can see now why the cadets for once do not run around, make a noise and do pay attention when it comes to classes using tools.
My last post in this Bushcraftage series will be on the other activities we do, including archery, atlatls and stalking games.