Children and knives

It’s completely silent and concentration is total. All focus is on carving the stick, sliver by sliver, on carefully evening out the edges of the piece of wood. Is it going to be a bark boat? A barbecue stick? Or maybe even a butter knife? Working with a knife and a carving subject can give countless moments of pleasure. It gives adult and children alike an almost meditative feeling of being in the present.

As always when working with a knife, one needs to have respect for the tool, adults and children alike. When we carve wood together with children, we need to be aware of what we do with the knife, how we carve and how we behave. Here are our tips for what to keep in mind when you’re about to bring out your knife and start to get creative together with your apprentice.

Choosing the child’s knife

Choosing the right knife is the first and perhaps most important step when starting to learn wood carving. It can also be difficult. Basically, it’s about finding the best choice for each individual child. It is not possible to say exactly at what age it is appropriate to introduce a knife. Nor what model the child is able to handle. It’s up to you to assess the situation and the child and choose what you think is most suitable. Below are some of our recommendations for different models adapted for children who want to learn to carve in wood.

Things that are good to have

There are a few good things to bring with you when you go out in nature to carve wood. Always have a first aid kit at hand, with plasters, tape and smaller first aid supplies. It can be good to wear a belt so that the child can carry the knife cover around their waist. Make sure there are plenty of potential carving subjects – brushwood to carve sticks from, aspen twigs or round trunks of linden, birch or alder. Make sure you point out that cutting down branches from living trees is not allowed. Prepare a place with stable benches, pales or tree stubs of child height. It can be good to have a fire to keep warm, or a roof nearby to run for cover in case of rain.

Talk about the knife

Start by looking at and talking about the knife together. Explain the different parts of the knife: handle, blade, spine, edge, finger guard, and knife cover. Then go through how to handle a knife. Point out that they are sharp and pointy, and that one can cut or prick oneself if the knife isn’t used in the way you agreed. Never play with the knife! Never place it on the ground either, someone might fall or step on it. The knife will also get dirty and blunt. That’s why the knife should always be kept in its cover when it isn’t in use.

Find a carving subject

The Swedish “right of access” law states that it is only permitted to take smaller branches and twigs that have fallen to the ground. One good tip is to ask your local timber yard or carpenter if they have any bits of wood in a good size for what you want to carve. Remember that fir and pine are relatively hard wood types, so alder or aspen are softer and easier for children to carve with. You can also find and order carving materials online.