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I would like to thank Lorie McGraw for being a huge help this month getting information on whittling and knots for me this month. She got a lot of the info she sent me from Scouts-L, which is an electronic RT. I follow this RT either on a daily basis or if we go out of town I get it in the digest form. If you are interested in subscribing to this list you can find out by going to

I had an occasion to whittle last month and it reminded me of when we worked on the Whittlin' Chip as a den. I wanted to talk about it this month and Mike Bowman was kind enough to write the forward for me to this.

This month I have some ideas that you can use to help teach Bears how to whittle. And when your Cubs learn that they are going to get to whittle, their eyes will probably light up with excitement. This can be a lot of fun for Bears and in their excitement many of them are going to want to carry their knives with them to make sure that they can do the whittling at the den meeting.

Although you will be teaching the safe handling of knives and helping the boys to learn a skill, most schools will not find this a very satisfactory explanation for having a knife on school property. Worse, some schools have a zero-tolerance policy regarding weapons and having a Cub Scout knife at school could result in expulsion from the school. The trick is to work around this so that all of your Scouts get to have fun, but without innocently running into trouble. For example, if your meeting is after school and on school grounds, you probably should plan to hold your meeting at a home or in someone's workshop when you teach whittling. Because boys of this age tend to forget to give mom and dad important information items, you may also want to have a personal word with each parent to make sure that an adult brings the knife to the meeting for each Bear.

The following idea was submitted by Mike Bowman
One idea that I really liked when I saw it at a PowWow was for the den leader to make up a large pocket knife with folding blades out of cardboard, construction paper or what-have-you. The knife was about two feet long, which made it large enough for all the boys to see when the den leader was explaining safety and how to use the knife.

The following was written by Steve Eisenberg.
Your Cub Scout knife is an important tool. You can do many things with its blades. The cutting blade is the one you will use most of the time. With it you can make shavings and chips and carve all kinds of things.
You must be very careful and think when you whittle or carve. Take good care of your knife. Always remember that a knife is a tool, not a toy. Use it with care so that you don't hurt yourself or spoil what you are carving.
Know the safety rules for handling a knife
A knife is a tool, not a toy.
Know how to sharpen a knife. A sharp knife is safer because it is less likely to slip and cut you.
Keep the blade clean.
Never carry an open knife in your hand.
When you are not using a knife, close it and put it away.
Keep your knife dry.
When you are using the cutting blade, do not try to make big shavings or chips.
Easy does it.
Knives are not toys!
Close the blade with the palm of your hand.
A knife should never be used on something that will dull or break it
Be careful that you do not cut yourself or any person nearby.
A knife should never be used to strip the bark from a tree.
Do not carve your initials into anything that does not belong to you.
Test your knowledge

You should close the blade with the palm of your hand
A knife is just a toy.
It's okay to keep your knife wet.
A dull knife is more likely to slip and cut you.
You should carry your open knife in your pocket.

Carving your initials into a tree is okay.

The Pocketknife Pledge (fill in the blanks)

I understand the reason for ________________________________________ rules.
I will treat my pocketknife with the ______________________________ due a useful tool.
I will always ________________________________ my pocketknife and put it away when not in use.
I will not use my pocketknife when it might _______________________ someone near me.
I ______________________________ never to throw my pocketknife for any reason.

I will use my pocketknife in a safe manner at ________________________times.

Close, respect, injure, promise, all, safety,
I am all for the soap. But part of the Bear requirement is to earn their whittling chip and IMO, that requires real knives.
As far as ideas go, the fish is the one I usually use, I feel the dog suggested in the book is to hard. Depending on the time of year, an xmas tree, snowman, valentine, or even an arrow might work.
I suggest popsicle stick knives. They carve soap much better than the plastic ones, and are smooth not serrated.
This is additional information Lorie found on Scouts-L about whittling.
From: Joe Munsch jmunsch@SLVSOFT.COM
Subject: Re: Whittling Chip Card
Try basswood, balsa, or foam insulating board. Balsa can be found at any hobby shop. Basswood at a good lumber or hardwood lumber yard. Insulating board will be at most lumber yards. Get the kind that's uniform foam, not bead's like a styrofoam cup. It can be found in thicknesses of 1" to 3". Foam is good for mockup of Pinewood Derby car's too. Drawback is it's hard to carve fine detail, but it sands great.
Pack 623 Boulder Creek, CA

Robert Gerhard RAGerhard@AOL.COM
Subject: Re: Whittling Chip
Instead of using soap to whittle-it can crack easy--
Try mixing vermiculite with plaster. Mix the plaster as per the instructions, then add the about the same amount of vermiculite and let it set. You may have to experiment a bit to get a consistency you like. (A little less vermiculite works better, I think.) This gives you a lightweight medium that carves fairly easily.
Chalk also carves easily, but - because of size - is a little limiting in what you can carve! My favorite? Fruit and vegetables. Easy to carve, delicious to clean up! And no matter how bad the artwork, I can definitely appreciate it!!!
Hope this helps!!
Robert Gerhard
Pack 83, Ft. Worth, TX
"Steven G. Tyler"
Not an uncommon occurrence (cracking soap), but there's a lesson to be learned here: usually, the carver is trying to make too deep a cut, which shows up in the soap coming off the bar in chunks rather than a curl. If the Cub makes a shallower cut, with the carving coming off in a smooth curl, the bar will seldom break. This also will serve the Cub well when he graduates to pine or other wood, since a big source of accidents comes from trying to force the blade deeper than it should be.
Steve on Cattail Creek - sgtyler@erols.com
Amy aka Csmanyhats
This week at day camp, the boys took slices of apple and earned their whittling chip cards by cutting them in the shape of wagon wheels. The session leader then put the slices in a dehydrator to dry them. They turned out great.
Barb from Pack 114 in Nebraska--visit her site
Our kids liked to fashion soap Pinewood derby car shapes. Other ideas might include an ice cream cone, a whistle shape, a star, a heart, or even a spherical ball. Happy Scouting!
Another pocketknife quiz at Barb's site
Barb Stephens Academic Computing Creighton University bsteph@creighton.edu
Omaha, NE 68178
As you can see whittling a fish from soap is kind of a popular idea, but Randy has a different slant on the process
When I fail in my attempt at a fish, I turn the soap 90 degrees and make an arrowhead!
We were Bears last year and whittled small sailboats from ivory soap (it floats!). When the outline was complete and some of the inside scooped out we put in a mast made from cut-down wooden skewers and a sail cut from a paper or plastic cup. We did, however, use pocket knives with lots of supervision from parents.
Bobbie Beatson
CM & Webelos Leader
Pack 732 - Palm Bay FL

Some suggestions for whittling.......Den's in our Pack have made the following: Indian Chief, an ice cream cone, an arrowhead, and a dog. We used ivory soap and we did use regular pocketknives. Each boy brought their own knife and their parent to the meeting. I was very proud when the meeting ended and no one had gotten cut. They learned the proper way to open and close a knife and the rules of pocketknife safety. Once I was satisfied they could handle the knife in a safe and appropriate manner, we began whittling. Of course, by the end of the meeting I needed a tranquilizer.
Carla, now a Webelos Den Leader, Muscoot District
Westchester/Putnam Council, NY
Soap carving- animals great hit with boys and girls. There's much more to carve than goldfish! My Jr. Girl Scout troop also carved people (looked more like gingerbread-types, but satisfied a badge requirement. Same can be done by boys.)
-Jan Brewington

Here are some web sites about whittling

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