Pocket knife safety

I mentioned elsewhere that I carried a pocket knife almost all the time when I was a kid. Some of my friends found this unusual when they found out—I guess their parents didn’t let them play with anything sharp (I wonder what that says about my parents?).

One time I recall walking home from school with a friend and the topic of my knife came up somehow. Of course he wanted to see it, so I pulled it out and before handing it to him I advised him that it was sharp. To demonstrate, I showed him how he could gently drag the blade of the knife over the ridges of his thumb to feel the sharpness. He imitated me and instantly cut his thumb.

I think this event made such a big impression on me because I really was not aware that other kids might not have the same level of training and experience with a pocket knife as I did. They were basic tools around my home. So, keeping this lesson in mind, perhaps it is worthwhile reviewing some of the basic safety tips for handling a pocket knife.

First point, as my friend learned, knives can be sharp. Don’t cut toward your body with the knife blade. We are all guilty of this; you are holding a stick and just need to make this one cut back toward your hand, and bingo, it cut through quicker than you thought. Or, you are holding that tough plastic package on your thigh to stabilize it as you cut through to open it—wham, yup you did it. Just make a habit of cutting away from yourself, period.

Don’t run (or walk) around with the knife open in your hand. If you are going more than a few steps just close it. It really only takes a few seconds.

If your knife has a locking mechanism for the blade, carefully practice with it so you know how it works. Even though some knives are designed to be worked with one hand, you are really better off using two. You might need to loosen the blade or even oil it a bit if it is too stiff. However, you may not want to oil a blade that does not have a locking mechanism—nothing worse than having the blade suddenly close around your fingers.

If you hand the knife to someone else, either close it or hand it over by the blade, carefully holding it so it will not cut you, but your friend can grip the handle to take control of it.

And finally, do not slide your finger ALONG the blade to test how sharp it is. Gently drag your finger PERPENDICULAR to the blade to feel how easily the edge catches on the ridges of your fingers.  A sharp blade will catch easily against your skin. If it fails to catch the ridges of your fingerprint it is not sharp. Some of the worst accidents happen with dull blades, so they are more dangerous, not less.

Happy and safe cutting.

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