I need your help - Making a definitive cutting tool safety article.

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I was looking for a knife safety article to link to from my web site.

I have been rather surprised to not find anything suitable and have decided to create one.

Given the importance of this topic I would like your help.

I think such rules should be short but comprehensive. Not too much for a beginner to remember.

They should not need visual examples. This makes them capable of being read out to a group without visual aids.

Of course they should be simple to understand.

In the second post are the rules I have come up with so far, they are nowhere near perfect yet but that is where I hope you can help.

If you think there is something that needs adding or rewording please post your suggestion below.

I can then edit or add items in this second post until hopefully we can create a definitive cutting tool safety rules.

We can then, with Tony's approval make these rules a "sticky" on this site for future reference.


General Outdoor Cutting Tool Safety.

Before using any cutting tool make sure you know where your first aid kit is and how to use it.

Wear appropriate clothing for the work you are doing. Stout boots and no loose dangling clothing is a good start.

Inspect the tool for damage or loose parts. Do not use a damaged or loose tool without repairing it properly first.

Use cutting tools in a well lit area. Avoid using cutting tools after dark or after drinking alcohol, plan to do all chopping of firewood in daylight.

If you drop your cutting tool, let it fall – do not attempt to catch it.

Do not fool around, run or move through rough ground with an exposed cutting tool.

Never throw a cutting tool to anyone. When passing an open or exposed cutting tool to another person, hold it by the back of the blade with the cutting edge away from your hand. Place the handle of the tool in the other person’s hand. Make sure they have a firm hold before you release your grip.

When putting a cutting tool down, make sure the blade is in a safe position if you or any other person were to accidentally fall upon it.

If you are going to leave the tool, put it in a sheath, fit a blade cover or fold it up safely. Never assume other people know it is there.

If there are any children or non responsible people around do not leave a cutting tool where it can be easily picked up.

Do not dig cutting tools into the ground or leave them stuck into wood.

Do not throw a cutting tool into trees or the ground.

Use a cutting tool in the correct way and always use the correct tool for the job.

Keep your cutting tools clean and if they are not Stainless steel keep them oiled and free from rust.

A sharp tool is often considered to be a safer tool because less force needs to be applied to cut with. However a sharp tool can also cause a deeper injury if it slips or is misused.

Learn how to sharpen your tools correctly and safely.

Knife Safety

Only unfold your knife or remove it from its scabbard when you are going to use it. When you have completed your task, put it back in its scabbard or fold it up keeping your fingers away from the folding blade path as you do so.

Hold the handle firmly, keeping your fingers away from the cutting edge of the blade. If it is a folding knife, always be aware of the folding blade path even if the blade is supposed to lock open. Such locks have been known to fail.

Always try to cut away from your body, face and hands. Before making a cut look at the direction the blade can move in when the cut is completed or if the blade slips. Make sure your fingers, or any other parts of your body, are not in that path.

Even if you are only cutting part way into something, always consider what will happen if the blade slips all the way through what you are cutting. Do not rest the item on part of your body.

Axe Safety

When using an axe or other chopping tool, check your working area by slowly turning around with the tool in your outstretched hand to make sure there is nothing inside your work area that can be harmed or cause your swing to be deflected. Repeat this check over your head and in the follow through area as well. Your safety area should be twice this radius to allow for flying chips etc. If possible cordon off this area.

Use a wooden block at about thigh height under the item you are chopping, this makes the axe more effective and safer. If the block is smaller kneel down to adjust your height.

Make sure your body is not in the path of the axe or in any place the axe could be deflected towards.

Hold the axe firmly so that it cannot slip or bounce out of your hand while chopping.

If you are splitting or chopping something that requires holding in place, make sure your hands, feet or other body parts are well away from the cutting area. If necessary use a small stick to hold the item instead of your hand.

Pay careful attention to the position of the item being chopped and the impact point. Will hitting the item cause it to pivot like a see saw? This is a common cause of injury.

Saw Safety

Make sure the item being cut is held firmly so that it cannot move down, forward or back.

Make sure your body is not in the path of the saw blade.

Position the item being cut so that the cut will tend to open up rather than close on the blade causing it to bind. Lubricating the blade with wax or oil will help prevent this.

Work out how and where the cut item will fall. Do not cut anything that could fall on you or others. Always remember that a branch or tree under tension is like a spring ready to snap free. Think how dangerous a spring trap is.

Starting a saw cut is the most dangerous point. Make sure your hand or other body parts are not in a position to be cut if the blade skips or jumps from its position. Do not guide the saw blade with your finger. If possible keep your hands and fingers behind the saw blade.


Nov 4, 2005
Never rest a carving project on your legs when carving?

Will need to be worded better of course, not my strong point. Basically we dont wont people severing an artery in there legs

Ooops read it again, thats already covered


Bushcrafter (boy, I've got a lot to say!)
Sep 8, 2005
General rule on using axes/long bladed tools was to make sure no one was in the circle of radius twice the length of arm + length of the axe/tool your using.

From a few things I've seen people do...

Never use your thumb/hand to guide a saw blade.
Never saw a branch above your head.
Never saw a branch you have your weight on.


Bushcrafter (boy, I've got a lot to say!)
Sep 8, 2005
Never wear gloves while using billhooks (glove on offhand is ok if using single handed billhook) and axes, and other wooden handled tools.


Full Member
May 2, 2007
Good list Wayland,
My penny-worth is to consider including something on the lines of;

Prior to using a tool inspect it to make sure it's fit for use. If damaged then repair if possible, if not then replace (axe handles etc.). Make it obvious that the item requires repair/replacement and should not be considered safe to use.

If your cutting tool becomes damaged while it's being used you should immediately stop it being used and make it obvious that the item requires repair/replacement and should not be considered safe to use.

Be suitably attired - baggy/dangly items can cause accidents, as can a slipping hat and untied laces.

Oh, and the need for suitable footwear.


Full Member
Mar 31, 2004
Norfolk U.K.
Nowt left to cover Wayland.

On point one,as has been mentioned further up,have the FAK handy,know what is in it,and know how to use the contents.
Oh and if you go out on your own,know how to use the FAK with one hand.;)


Full Member
Mar 31, 2004
Norfolk U.K.
That's a really useful tip but I'm not sure if it should be on a basic safety guide.
I'm wary of adding too much or it could get so long people don't bother to read it.

Nothing there so far that would be safe to leave out.

If people can't be bothered to read and pay attention to this essential information,it may be as well to let Darwin guide them.:p

Ogri the trog

Apr 29, 2005
Mid Wales UK
I've been trying to come up with something short and witty that might be better remembered than a list of rules. Best I can do for now is like this;-

Cutting Tool Safety

Know where everything is going to end up.
Know where the piece you’re working on, as well as the piece you’re trying to cut off, will end up!

Then think about the blade.
Where will the blade will come to rest – within or outside of your work-piece.
On the chopping/cutting block,
In the dirt,
Or in your thigh/arm/hand etc.

If it’s in the work, you should be OK
But if it exits the work-piece, where will the blade stop?
On the chopping block,
In the dirt,
Or in your thigh/arm/hand etc.

If its in the chopping block, you should be OK.
But if you miss the block, where will the blade stop?
In the dirt,
Or in your thigh/arm/hand etc.

If its in the dirt, you should be OK.
But if its in your thigh, your arm or your hand,


Ogri the trog

British Red

M.A.B (Mad About Bushcraft)
Dec 30, 2005
Hmmm not sure that I'm adding stuff thats too much given your need to avoid the Ennui


On saws
When using a bow saw, put your bracing arm through the handle to hold the work piece. This avoids any chance of cutting your bracing hands

On all:
Cutting limbs or trees under tension is highly hazardous - when the item parts and the tension released, one item will fly clear.

On axes
Know the correct height for your chopping block (knee to thigh). If a suitable height block is not available, adjust your height to the block by kneeling etc.

On all
Always cover the blade if setting it aside - sheath, mask etc. Never set down a naked blade.



Jan 16, 2006
Still stuck in Nothingtown...
Never mix alcohol with cutting tools :rolleyes:
Plenty of beer/ brandy/ whisky etc gets knocked back at bushmoots, especially at night when the fire's dying down, and the thought of picking up the axe to chop a couple more sticks for the fire is often quite tempting.

It's just like drinking and driving - you may think ''I've only had one, I'll be fine'', but you won't. If you've had a drink - leave the sharps alone.

And, aside from that, plan every cut you make.



Need to contact Admin...
Aug 5, 2004
Looking good.
I would add to make sure you have firm grip on your axe, I repaired a hand at the last meet when somebody hit a knot with an axe, it bounced and bit the hand they had been holding the axe with!

What about the use of gloves while cutting, especially for a bow saw, on the hand not holding the tool, for beginners rather than for experienced users? I realise this may open a can of worms!

We generally use bowsaws or foldingsaws, designed to cut green wood rather than the fine toothed saws most beginners would have used in the woodwork room at school we need to reitterate the differences, ie using a thumb as a guide!

It may be bit long winded for this guide but I point out the main arteries, and explain briefly how long it could take to bleed to death from cutting a femoral artery for example, it focuses minds and grabs attention.


Need to contact Admin...
Aug 5, 2004
Another one I just trhought of, in siting your "cutting area" try and choose somewhere that people won't walk past, a wall or other physical barrier behind you, not everyone uses paths in the woods.

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