Whittling Chip & Bear Claws

Whittling Chip grants a Bear Scout or Webelos Scout the right to carry and use a pocketknife. Earning the Whittling Chip is part of the requirements for the Bear Claws belt loop and Bear Rank, but the parent or guardian always has the final say on when and where your scout can use a pocketknife. Please learn along with your scout and be ready to have a new knife safety enforcer in your home!

Learning and practicing to use pocketknives safely will take multiple meetings (9/13 & 9/27). You will need to bring a small pocketknife for your scout to use at the second meeting on 9/27. We will be using cardboard, wooden, and plastic knives at the first meeting. If you decide to buy your son a pocketknife, then be aware of the following:

  • Blade must be 3 inches long or less
  • A simple Cub Scout knife is recommended. It can have a locking blade or not. Locking blades are good, but depending on the knife, they may be a problem for small hands to close safely. I found both official Cub Scout knives hard to open and close until they had been broken in (i.e. opening and closing them many, many times). They’re also made in China. For me, the locking Buck 284 Bantam was easier to open and close and made in the USA.
  • Swiss army or multi-tools may be difficult for small hands to hold. If you decide to go this way, get a knife with just a couple of tools like the My First Victorinox or the Bantam (both made in Switzerland).
  • Fixed blade knives are NOT allowed.
  • Knives are NOT allowed at pack or den meetings, even after the Whittling Chip is obtained, unless prior approval is obtained from the Den Leader.
  • Knives are NOT allowed to be used at campouts without prior parent and Den Leader approval.

You should also consider getting a small sharpening stone or a ceramic sharpener like this Gerber pocket sharpener. The scouts will be learning that a sharp knife is safer than a dull knife. The stone should be carried by the scout whenever they have their knife.

A parent/guardian is required to attend Whittling Chip training with the scout to ensure rules are understood. At the completion of training your son will be given a “Whittling Chip” card – assuming you approve. This card must be carried by your scout whenever they are using their knife. Any leader, parent, or adult can ask for the Whittling Chip at any time a Cub Scout has a pocketknife in his possession. If the Cub Scout does not have the card in his possession, the knife will be collected and returned to the parent.

A corner of the Whittling Chip card will be cut off for each violation of the rules. When the 4th corner is cut off, the card will be taken from the scout and the scout must go through training again, in order to receive a new card. The cutting of corners can be done by any adult who feel safety has been violated. For very serious infractions (such as threatening another scout), the card will be taken immediately and permanently.

While I am sure some of you may be concerned with the idea of the boys carrying a pocketknife, this program is designed to teach knife safety. Even if the boys do not get the card the class is important since most boys will use kitchen and other knives in the future. The actual Whittling Chip card will be given to the boys only with the parent’s approval at the end of the class. You will have the final say at the end of class on whether your son gets a card, or even when and where your son carries a knife after the card is issued.

If you have any questions or concerns about the class, please feel free to contact me.

Whittling Chip Requirements

This certification grants a Bear Scout or Webelos Scout the right to carry and use a pocketknife. The Scout must show his Scout leader, or someone designated by his leader, that he understands his responsibility to do the following:

  1. Know the safety rules for handling a knife and show, using these rules, that you know how to care for and use your pocketknife safely.
  2. Make a carving with a pocketknife. Work with your den leader or other adult when doing this (One of the items carved for Bear Claws requirement 3 may be used to fulfill Whittling Chip requirement 2).
  3. Read, understand and promise to abide by the Pocketknife Pledge.

Information on these Whittling Chip requirements can be found in the Bear Claws adventure of the Bear Handbook. The Whittling Chip patch is considered a temporary patch and, if worn, should be centered on the right pocket of the Cub Scout or Webelos uniform shirt. It should not be sewn on a pocket flap.

Bear Claws Requirements

  1. Learn about three common designs of pocketknives.
  2. Learn knife safety and earn your Whittling Chip.
  3. Do one of the following:
    • Using a pocketknife, carve two items.
    • With a pocket knife, safely perform each of these tasks:
      1. Demonstrate how to cut a piece of rope, twine or fishing line
      2. Open a sealed box without damaging the contents
      3. Open a can with a can opener tool on a pocket knife
      4. Remove and replace the screws on an object with the screw driver
        tool on a pocket knife
      5. Open a letter

Meeting Plans

  • First Meeting
    • Rules review
    • Knife passing practice
    • Practice with wooden knife
    • Carving soap with a plastic knife
  • Second Meeting
    • Rules review
    • Knife sharpening demonstration
    • Carving balsa wood, foam, or soap with a pocketknife
    • Carving carpenters pencils
    • Written Quiz
    • Hand out cards

Meeting Materials

  • PowerPoint Slides
  • First Aid Kit
  • Fake Knives for opening/closing, and passing practice
  • Plastic Knives
  • Newspaper
  • Ivory Soap for carving
  • Patterns
  • Pencils, craft sticks or orangewood sticks to draw pattern in soap and for carving
  • Balsa carving blocks
  • Carpenters Pencils
  • Knives
  • Sharpening Stone and Oil
  • Whittling Chip cards
  • Boy Scout Wood Carving merit badge pamphlet
  • Den Leader Guide Meeting Plans