Scott Robertson

Choosing A Knife for a Webelos 1
By: Posted On: 2013-06-17

A recent question appeared from a parent on Scouts-L asking what knife they should get for a Webelos 1 Scout. I know this post is a bit long but I am sure it will be helpful to many of you. What follows is the parents question.

I volunteered to be an assistant den leader for my son's Weeblos one den. He (my son) is ready for his own pocket knife and my husband and I are debating over the best kind for him. I'd like to get him a small Swiss Army knife. Husband says it should have a blade only and no extra stuff so he won't be encouraged to play with the other tools and then hurt himself. Husband also wants him to have a larger handle that he can get a firm grip on rather than a tiny Swiss army. Though larger handle equals larger blade and that makes me nervous. Any recommendations?

Mark had this to say, and it generally matches the advice I give.

IMO, he should start with a knife that has a locking blade. i.e.: it locks open and requires pushing a flange or some such to close it.

The simple utility knives are handy because they have tweezers (for splinter pulling) and useful things for a boy - unlike those with corkscrews - but as a webelos, the key is learning how to properly use, sharpen and behave with a knife.

I liked this post and the bit of humor in it, too.

If I were 11 years old and needy of a pocket knife for lets say......."any old thing"

I would like one to have a 3-4" or so carbon steel (not stainless) blade, a "spike" , a funny looking screw driver -bottle opener (ya never can be without a can opener) and maybe a smaller blade for "whittlin"

It should be inexpensive but durable and (VERY IMPORTANT) able to sharpened by anything harder than its own blade (carbon steel can be sharpened on a rock- stainless is just to hard top sharpen at this stage of knifemanship

A bright orange thong (parachute cord or universal bailer twine will work fine so as to be readily spotted when dropped on the ground.

The "spike" will provide invaluable service just when things are looking grim-trust me-

and it can be replaced for under 5.00

There are plenty of such -even Boy Scout" deluxe model on ebay dirt cheep or at your local sporting-camping store

and in a couple years your budding Boy Scout will be more inclined to "pick his own" after some "on the job" experience.

there was time when just about every boy over 10 had a "pocket sticker" of his very own and even took it to school (the horror)

Oh.........................and ....................

Only Gramma's "little munchkin" shows up with a *wiss army letter opener ;))

Here is another response from Carrie of Long Island, NY

Is there a Scout store near you? My son has a few knives from there. They can also give you advice at the store.  My son has had a multipurpose swiss army knife since Bears.  He does'nt play with the other tools (but he does think they are cool!). I have a cheap $1 pocket knife from walmart., just the knife.

Don Howard had this to add...

A small knife for small hands and defiantly a locking blade. I carry this knife and I think it would be great for a Web. and only 10 bucks.

Most Webs start with carving a block of soap so they don't need a large blade but instead something small that they can control.

The Swiss types made in China are junk, won't hold an edge and will fold up and  cut a finger in a split second.

Lots of extra tools are cool but not much use. When Web gets into Boys Scouts and is ready a knife with a couple of blades and a can opener are useful.

From a Scoutmaster with 7 years of working the Cub Scout Day Camp woodworking station. I've seen just about every kind of junk knife made. I have a few of the one linked above and lend them to the boys who have knives that won't cut butter.

BG had some valid points by adding...

I have carried a Victorinox Explorer or rough equivalent since I was in high school (back in the days when it was just fine to carry a pocket knife in school). I've liked it because of the mix of tools; honestly the screwdrivers and scissors and such have gotten as much or more use than the blades.

So that's one way to go, depending on a boy's interests and level of fine motor skill. I was a model builder starting in 5th grade, so tool use was something fairly familiar to me.

For just an introduction to basic outdoor knives, I agree with the other posters that a locking blade is far safer than a Swiss Army multi-tool for knife use, and typically you'll also get a better blade. The Gerber knives work well, but there are quite a few other manufacturers that make similar models.

Personally, I tend to stay away from BSA supply, because their quality is a really mixed bag tending toward the low-end (with an up-charge for the BSA logo), but if your son will be impressed by the "cool factor" of a genuine BSA-branded knife, then that's worth something. Also in "cool factor" there's a Gerber Bear Grylls Scout knife ( which looks like a reasonable choice.

I will end this post with my own thoughts.

For me personally I carry a Mini Buck on my key chain and have a multi-tool in my day pack. When I was a Webelos Den Leader I normally recommended a single locking blade with the lock on the back side. The type you have slide the piece of metal over from the slot the blade folds in to, I don't like for Scouts. A smaller swiss army kind of knife can also be useful. I generally do not recommend knives with all the gadgets on them, as someones first knife.

What it really comes down to is make sure the knife is made of decent metal, as some cheap knife the blade is known to snap off on. Also cheaper knives tend not to hold an edge as well. Like all rules there is an exception to this, but generally the better the metal the better it will hold an edge.

Keep in mind a sharp and clean knife is always safer then a dull knife. A Dull knife is more likely to slip and cut the person using it. Also the wound a sharp knife leaves behind is generally cleaner and easier to close up and not leave a scar. The dull knife is more likely to leave a jagged wound. If you want some ideas on what you should teach, check out my Wood Tools page, which is on the older side and is meant for Boy Scouts but still may give you some ideas.

When choosing a knife, don't forget its also a very handy tool if you find yourself in a survival situation. Many survival experts recommend a multi blade knife. This is because if one blade breaks you still have other blades to survive on. Surviorman mostly used multi-tools such as a leatherman or garber pliers. You can check out some knives at our friends Camping Survival.

What are your recommendations for a knife for a Webelos? How would that differ from say an older Boy Scout? Tell us about it on facebook.