Knife safety 1


After previously writing about UK knife law and axe safety, I thought I should write a post on knife safety.  When I’m teaching knife safety I use 3 simple rules:

  1. Don’t stab yourself.
  2. Don’t stab anyone else.
  3. Don’t put yourself in a position where you can be stabbed.

I should point out that where I say ‘stab’, I also mean cut, gouge, slash, wound, slice, gash, puncture or otherwise cause injury to yourself or others!  So let’s take a look at these 3 rules in a little more detail.

Don’t stab yourself

  • Make sure that both the handle of the knife and your hands are dry.
  • Make sure that you have a firm grip on the knife, using a fore hand grip  I often call this a fist grip as it’s easier and quicker to say.  Most people that hold a knife will put their thumb along the back of the blade; this opens a big gap in the palm of your hand.

knife safety | knife skills | Kent | south east | London

  • By wrapping your thumb around the knife you close that gap and have a much firmer grip.

knife safety | knife skills | Kent | south east | London

  • Ensure that your knife is sharp.  This is really important because we all know that a blunt knife is more dangerous than a sharp one, but why?  This is related to what I call the ‘power/control ratio’.  Basically the more you have of one, the less you have of the other, so the more power, or force, you’re using, the less control you have over the knife.  And because we want to have control , it means we should be hesitant about using too much power or force.  In fact if you find yourself struggling with your knife and having to put a lot of effort in, it’s a warning light and means that you should stop and think about what you are doing.  Are you using the right knife cut or technique?  Are you using the right materials/  Are you using the right tool?
  • Always cut away from you.  So cutting towards your fingers is a bad idea.

knife safety | knife skills | Kent | south east | London

  • Never cut with the knife close to your femoral artery (it runs down the inside of the upper leg).  This is somewhat more than just a bad idea, it’s verging on suicidal.

knife safety | knife skills | Kent | south east | London

  • If you are sat down carving, rest your elbows on your knees or cut off to one side.  Pick a stump so that when you are sat, the tops of your legs are more or less horizontal.  This should allow you to sit comfortably for some time.

knife safety | knife skills | Kent | south east | London

knife safety | knife skills | Kent | south east | London

  • If you’re standing, cut off to the side in a downwards motion.

knife safety | knife skills | Kent | south east | London

  • Don’t wipe your knife clean across your leg or arm.

knife safety | knife skills | Kent | south east | London

  • Always put your knife back in its sheath immediately after use (also ensuring that you don’t lose your knife).
  • Closely related to the point above, don’t walk around with your knife in your hand.
  • Don’t stick a knife into a piece of wood after use; your hand might slip down the blade.  And don’t stick it into a tree!

knife safety | knife skills | Kent | south east | London

  • If you drop your knife, don’t try to catch it in mid air.  Similarly, don’t put your foot out to stop your knife landing on the floor.
  • Don’t use your knife for prying things open.
  • Don’t use your knife after dark unless absolutely essential.

Don’t stab anyone else

  • Ensure that your knife has full clearance from other people throughout its full range of motion; you might want to consider 2 arms lengths as the minimum distance, sometimes referred to as the blood bubble.  I  also add the length of the tool in my hand into this calculation.

knife safety | knife skills | Kent | south east | London

Don’t put yourself in a position where you can be stabbed

This one is straightforward and is about taking personal responsibility.  It is incumbent upon each and everyone of us to be aware of what others are doing, and if what they are doing involves using edged tools, give then a wide berth.

Passing a knife

  • If you need to pass a knife to someone, do so handle first with the blade up.

knife safety | knife skills | Kent | south east | London

You can see photos from our carving courses, and all of our other courses, on our Facebook page.


About Gary

Lead Instructor at Jack Raven Bushcraft, teaching bushcraft, wilderness and survival skills to groups and individuals.


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