There are a lot of anecdotes surrounding knives and the best way to handle them, one of the most popular being that if a person hands you a knife, whether open or closed, you hand it back in the same condition once you’re done. While this is very true, there are many more things you should be doing with your knife to stay as safe as possible. In truth, a knife is nothing more than a tool, and like any tool, it should be approached with respect, caution, and a healthy understanding of how to handle it safely.
Remember, a knife is a tool, not a toy. No matter how old you are, it is important to remember that most knife accidents and injuries are caused by improper usage. A lot of knife injuries come from someone actually playing with their knife. In order to stay safe with a knife, it’s best to follow some common safety practices. If you have been thinking of giving your son or daughter their first knife, you can sit down and read these together.
How to Handle a Knife
When someone gets hurt from using a knife, it’s usually because they’re not handling it correctly. Before you, or your child, handles a knife, keep in mind the following:
- Learn how to properly open your knife – This primarily depends on the type of pocket knife you have. If you’re opening a knife such as a spring assisted flipper, be sure to hold the knife away from your face when opening it. While an adult might do this naturally, a kid will not. If you’re teaching your son or daughter to open one of these knives, make sure to explain to them to keep their head out of the way. Most kids will tend to look down into the knife as they try to open it, this as you can imagine, could turn fatal. If, however, you’re opening a more traditional style pocket knife, think of a Swiss Army knife blade, be sure to open the knife with both hands.
- Learn how to properly close your knife – Closing a pocket knife is where a lot of accidents happen. When closing your pocket knife, make sure your fingers are completely out of the way between the blade and knife handle. This will prevent you from pinching your fingers between the blade and the handle, potentially cutting yourself.
- Cut away from your body – It’s easy to think that as long as your hand isn’t touching the blade that you won’t get cut, but that’s not the case. You need to be aware of your entire body and its position relative to the knife to ensure your safety. Make sure you’re cutting away from yourself, not toward. If the knife slips, it will fly towards the direction in which you were applying pressure.
- Make sure the cutting path is clear – In addition to cutting away from your body, make sure the general area around you is clear. For example, are there kids running around?
- Know the knife’s limits – Every knife can’t handle every job. You would use a handsaw to cut down a redwood, so make sure you match the tool to the job when using a knife. Trying to force a knife to do more than its capable can end very badly.
- Sharpen your knife – As odd as it sounds, a sharp knife is far safer than a dull one. OSHA reports that dull blades are the number one cause of workplace blade-related injuries. However, most people tend to think that a dull blade is actually safer. If you have ever had the displeasure of using a dull knife, you’ll know how much extra pressure and force you have to use to get it to do even the simplest tasks. That extra force can make the knife slip, this could result in a very bad injury for yourself or a nearby bystander; the harder that knife has to work, the more likely it becomes that you’ll be injured.
- Personal Protective Equipment – Although this is definitely not a requirement, it’s a good idea that if you’re teaching your son or daughter to use a pocket knife for the first time, that you have them wear a pair of cut resistant gloves.
- Store your knife properly and inspect before each use – Don’t be the knife owner who stores their knife with the blade open; store your knives properly. And before you use it, check it. Make sure it’s not cracked or chipped or dull. Give it some love, and it will return the favor by not opening you up.
- Keep your knife dry – Keeping your knife dry serves two main purposes. For one, if your knife is wet, it could rust. A rusted pocket knife is very dangerous as it could break more easily. The second reason is a pocket knife is more likely to slip in your hand if it’s wet than if it’s dry.
How to Properly Sharpen Your Knife
We’ve touched on the importance of making sure your knife is sharp, so it’s very important that you know how to sharpen your pocket knife. In this small tutorial, we’ll be using a sharpening stone. If you still haven’t gotten a sharpener for your pocket knife, read my post Top 13 Best Pocket Knife Sharpeners: If it isn’t sharp, it’s useless.
- Place the stone on a level surface.
- Wet the stone with a little water or oil.
- Place the blade of the knife flat on the stone, then raise the back edge about the width of the blade itself, keeping the cutting edge on the stone.
- Draw the knife straight back toward you, or move it straight back and forth putting pressure on it only when you pull it toward you. This is always better than moving it in a circular fashion.
- Turn the blade over and repeat on the other side for an equal number of times.
- Wipe clean on a thick rag or the sole of your shoe.
- It will take half an hour to sharpen a dull knife, but once sharp, a minute a day will keep it in perfect shape.
No matter the size, all knives are dangerous. Knives come in all shapes, sizes, flavors, types, and colors. Get into it a bit and you’ll start learning about blade steel and locking mechanisms.
Knives are more than just a cool pointy thing. They are a versatile hobby and lifestyle for many people. There is a mountain of information about knife brands, knife types, and which knife is better for different types of uses. There are organizations, forums, and conventions held solely for and about knives. It’s a deep rabbit hole for sure.
Cheap Knives vs Expensive Knives
There are good knives and there are not so good knives. There’s a big difference between a knife designed by an expert, made of superior materials and by trained professionals who put quality control into every step of the process, and a knife you bought for five bucks at a flea market. Low-quality knives, while pretty, are not made for cutting and should not be used as such.
Now, to completely contradict that last point, cost and quality are not necessarily related. Some expensive knives hold an edge forever, while some just look pretty. Value is borne from usage; whatever you need a knife for, the value you place on the knife will be how well it does the job that you need it to complete. Don’t value a knife based on its price tag; value is based on its performance.
Be smart when buying knives. Do your research. Research the knife laws in your state, and even locally. Know what you can carry and where you can carry it. Better safe than sorry.
Handing Down a Pocket Knife
Keeping good care of your knife means that one day you’ll be able to hand that knife down to your child. What dad doesn’t dream of the day when they can give their son his first pocketknife? Teach him how to whittle, how to carve his initials into a tree. It’s a popular vision of fatherhood and an appealing one. But before you pass down your trusty knife to your son, make sure you’re also passing down how to safely handle and use the knife.
Make Sure Your Kid Understands Pocket Knife Safety
Until you believe that your child has fully grasped and comprehended knife safety, the knife should only be used in your presence, and afterwards kept by you. Teach them that it is a tool, not a toy. Kids are all different, and nobody knows them better than their parents. There’s no right way to talk to your kid, no magic words that will make them all understand equally. Know your kid and find the best way to talk to them. Develop a reward system for catching them using the knife safely. Just make sure that they’re safe; that’s kind of your main job.
Knives are not toys. They’re cool, fun, and versatile. They cut stuff. Yes, you’ll feel like a superhero on Christmas morning. But when you boil it down to the basics, it’s a tool, meant to perform a job. Make sure you’re performing that job safely. Respect the blade, and it’ll respect you.