Part 1 in our Kids + Parents series for Woodcarving With Knives. Parents commonly ask us how to bring our wood-carving curriculum home from camp. With sound judgment and a thoughtful approach you can supervise your kids and safely support their new skills.  At first we recommend full adult supervision. As you and your child both grow in experience, you can better judge how much supervision they require. A structured approach to woodcarving with knives helps kids develop the responsibility to use tools safely on their own.

The 8 Blades

The 8 Blades are essential principles for working with cutting tools. A Ranger knows the 8 Blades backward and forward. Like many Rangers Guild skills the 8 Blades follow the Four Cardinal Directions (East, South, West, North) and the Four Wind Directions (Southeast, Southwest, Northwest, Northeast).


Safety The 4 Cardinal Blades

  The Cardinal Blades (East, South, West, and North) are important practices for safety and competency.


With every cut imagine any potential path your blade might take—be willing to shape and reshape your position and plans to assure complete safety. Stay alert. Injuries happen when you stop Paying Attention. Avoid carving when tired. Don’t look away or get distracted, always keep your awareness on the cut. This extends beyond what you see—use all your senses to feel and hear the knife moving through the wood.


Your Outer Blood Circle is a safety zone you guard whenever using a blade. Imagine circles as wide as you can reach with your sheathed blade—up above and all sides. Don’t let anyone step into your Outer Blood Circle in case you slip while carving. If someone steps into your Blood Circle, immediately stop using your blade and sheath it if necessary.


More force in a cut often leads to less control—especially for beginners. The less control you have, the greater the risk of injury. The value of self-control is a Ranger’s first lesson in flowing with nature. When using blades, consider how much control each technique gives you. As you get better with a blade you achieve a balance—optimizing both control and force.


Consider your Inner Blood Circle. In addition to watching out for others while you carve, take care with your own body. Your body is filled with blood—cutting into your flesh will cause you to spill red wet, sticky stuff all over the place. Remember to imagine any potential path of the blade—keeping your body, hands and fingers well out of the way of any cut.   


Care The 4 Wind Blades

The Wind Blades remind us how we care for our blades and the Village.

Southeast Blade STAY SHARP

“Sharpen your knife, sharpen your life” is a Ranger’s motto. A dull knife can be dangerous, requiring more force and potentially slipping to lose control. Maintaining a sharp edge requires less effort than fixing a dull one. A Ranger keeps her blade honed and ready–always prepared to be Truly Helpful.


Choose wood that closely resembles your finished project. Wood straight and free of knots requires less effort to carve. Don’t hack mindlessly with your blade. Think of the animals who call the trees home. When you cut a living branch or tree, it must have Great Purpose—caretaking for both  Village and Forest. RESPECT You might be able to fall a tree in a short time, but it takes years for another to grow.


Accept full responsibility for your blade and everything that happens with it. Always keep it clean, and sheath your blade when not in use. Before using any blade, make sure the handle is secure. If you must set down a live (unsheathed) blade, treat it like it could cut at any moment—maintaining both Outer and Inner Blood Circles. When storing your blade, make sure less experienced children and adults cannot get to it.


A Ranger protects, caring for the woods, plants, animals and people of his community (the Village). He does not show off his blade. Today, many people see a blade as a frightening weapon instead of a useful tool. While a Ranger knows better, she must learn and follow all local rules. Research what type of blade you can have and leave it at home when required by culture and custom.

Mission: 8 Blades – Do It Better

Help kids become responsible for your own safety and competency.

  • Have the learn the 8 Blades and describe their meaning in your own words.
  • Ask them to teach the 8 Blades to another Ranger-in-training.

As kids gain more experience with bladed tools, revisit the 8-Blades. You’ll be impressed how much their understanding changes over time.