X-acto Knives and Kids

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Tolppisouth

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I have a group of fourteen kids from fourth to eighth grade. We've cut the fins out on our Quest Novias successfully but I was taken aback by how many kids had never used an X-acto knife or equivalent.

I told them to not have their flesh in the path of the knife cut and if they were using more force than they would with a pencil, they were using too much force.

Is there a systematic way to teach safe use of such a knife?

Any tips?

Just want to be ready for next year.

BTW I still will use the knives since I think responsible tool use is a necessay skill.

John
 

Micromeister

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To be perfectly honest Knife safety really needs to be a seperate mini-class Not taught during a model building session. That said most of us who work with larger kids groups, scouts, church orgs, YMCA, 4H etc. have from time to time had to come up with ways to either limit access to the need for a hobby knife or make provisions for smaller group use ie 2 or 3 kids/ supervisor.

Our club has found the best overall solution for untrained youth groups is to completely eliminate the need for a hobby knife during the build. We select a kit that has minimal need for such and any part the needs a slot (motor tube Hook slot) is pre-cut by the staff before the session begins.

As a Scoutmaster and Eagle I also teach tot'in-chip to all my scouts, and other groups using the same method in the BSA Handbook, it's concise, practial and easy enough for your age group to learn Knife and axe use and safety.

Here are a few basic hobby knife suggestions for mod-roc building sessions:
Hobby knife use should to be demonstrated slowly and with great attention to detail as to holding angle, straight edge placement and these directions;

*Always Position the work to be cut centered on the cutting surface directly in front with knife laying on the table.
* Pay Undivided attention to the piece being cut, Never remove your eyes from the work until the knife is placed back on the table.
*When cutting out parts from flat wood, with patterns and straight edge guide Always draw the blade toward ourself, NEVER push it away, turning the work so this is always the case even on curved or round cuts. Please note this is a "SPECIAL Exception" to the general rule of always cutting away from the body with knives.
*While using a Hobby knife Never hold any work piece in your hand while cutting. It must be placed on and held firmly on a cutting board or some other sacrificial surface.
*Whenever possible while shaping or carving with a hobby knife place the work piece on the cutting board with the surface to be carved positioned way from the body and carve cutting AWAY from the body.

X-acto and Hobby knifes have another unfortunate issue in that for the most part the are round and tend to roll which can cause unexpected accidents in group use. Altering the handles with triangular or oval sleeves to make them stay put on the table is always a great idea.
Hope this steps help..
 
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troj

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I'm with John -- when I work with kids, I do my best to eliminate their need to handle X-Acto knives. If they do handle them, there are only one or two present in the group, and their use is closely supervised.

-Kevin
 

jflis

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While I agree that it may be a good idea with certain groups (age/skill can be a factor), I also agree with John that knowing how to use a razor knife is an important skill to learn if the student wants to excel as most any hobby or craft.

In my beginner and advanced classes I introduce knife work by the 2nd session of the beginner classes and it is expected that you know how to use a knife if you move up to the advanced classes.

To eliminate knives in class you can either select models that don't require a knife to assemble or kits that require a minimum of such use. Our Thing-a-ma-Jig is a good example. The only knife use is to cut the slit in the motor tube for the hook. When asked about this I tell the teacher that they can cut these slits themselves before class, while the tube is in the bag (just cut through the bag).

As for safe knife use I give the kids what has become known as my standard "knife lecture". If there are others in the room who have already heard it, they always groan, but suffer through the lecture again :)

I provide all of the standard information and demonstrations on how to use a knife. Use a cutting board, draw the knife towards you, do not use too much pressure, hold knife as you would a pencil, not a baseball bat, keep your knife hand in contact with the work surface at all times, use a straight edge when appropriate, turn the work being cut, not the knife, etc.

In addition to all the (what I call standard) how-to and safety, I go a bit further with this:
  • I SHOW them how sharp the knives are (cutting a sheet of paper held up with little/no support)
  • I describe times I have cut myself and what I was doing wrong
  • I describe times other students have cut themselves, and what they were doing wrong
  • I explain that I have zero tolerance for goofing off with a knife (see below)

Goofing off with the knife (and being distracted) are the biggest problems I have seen in knife use. If you've taught kids, you've all see them looking through the body tube like a telescope, or waving it around like a bat, etc. This is distracting, but not dangerous in itself.

However, with knives it is unacceptable. I forewarn them that if they use the knife for ANYthing other than what it is designed for (in this case, cutting fins), they will loose it for the entire session and they will be unable to build their rocket. I further explain that this is not *my* problem but their problem and they are more than invited to explain to their parents how they were goofing off with the knife if they wish (only happened once and the other kids got to see the result :) )

once they realize I am serious they pay far more attention. It has helped that several students have seen me take a knife from a student so they know I will do it if needed.

My experience is that once they take knife use seriously and realize it can be dangerous if you're not careful they tend to be very careful and conscious of what they are doing.

Hope this helps!
jim
 
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troj

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As for safe knife use I give the kids what has become known as my standard "knife lecture". If there are others in the room who have already heard it, they always groan, but suffer through the lecture again :)
Sounds like my standard "rockets are not fireworks" lecture. :)

The reality is there are some things that are necessary to go over, and make sure everyone has heard.

I agree whole-heartedly with your rule that goofing off with a knife causes it to be taken away.

Better a frustrated kid than a trip to the doc for stitches!

-Kevin
 

RoyAtl

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A fourth grader should be able to handle an x-acto, but maybe not necessarily a No. 11 knife.

www.xacto.com shows that they still make the No. 8 retractable utility knife. This is the knife that Estes included in the Deluxe Starter kit for many years. It works just as well for learning how to use a hobby knife.

It has a big orange handle that doesn't roll (If you're old enough, you may remember the older, metal-handled, non-retractable No. 3 knife, but it still didn't roll).
 

shreadvector

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How many of you folks have school districts with ZERO tolerance policies on knives? Any knife = EXPULSION immediately.
 

n5wd

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How many of you folks have school districts with ZERO tolerance policies on knives? Any knife = EXPULSION immediately.
That'd make it real hard to do what we do in my engineering class! :shock: But, take the knife outside of the classroom or lab, or horse around with it in class, and that's a different story.

Worst scare I ever had as a teacher was a couple of years ago, in my engineering class, when we were putting the scratch rockets together - kids were working with the Xacto's, cutting tubes.... hear a scream, turn around and see a kiddoh with an Xacto blade down into her flip-flops. the knife had rolled off the table and her first instinct was to use her foot to prevent it from hitting the carpet. Ummmmm... Only a minor scratch, but oh my goodness.....:eyepop:

And we don't allow flip-flops in the lab any more, either.
 

stantonjtroy

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Funny this topic came up. When I was 8, 3rd grade, My dad bought me a set of three X-acto knives. My son is now the same age and I'm thinking "My old man must have been off his cork!":y: It's odd, I only cut myself a dozen or so times over the past 35 years and never bad. My son, I just don't think I trust him.....yet.:D
 

troj

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Funny this topic came up. When I was 8, 3rd grade, My dad bought me a set of three X-acto knives. My son is now the same age and I'm thinking "My old man must have been off his cork!":y: It's odd, I only cut myself a dozen or so times over the past 35 years and never bad. My son, I just don't think I trust him.....yet.:D
Every kid is different. You know your son better than any of us do, and you have to respond accordingly.

I have an 11 yr old who, at the age of 8, would've been just fine with an X-Acto Knife. I have a 6 yr old who may well be 25 before I'd let him handle on....

-Kevin
 

shrox

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Like I said in another thread, learn to throw a knife.

Actually, learn to throw a fit when they are not safe with knives. Get them in a habit of placing the plastic cover that comes with most commonly used hobby knifes over the handle, most will fit like a Bic pen. Always cut away from yourself (I stabbed myself in the leg twice in one day), and always, always put the cap back on before you set the knife down. Don't let it get lost under paper or other items while working, you don't want a nasty surprise lurking under there. At this point throw a fake severed finger out in front of the class and squirt some ketchup around...

Safety Shrox Sez
 

plano-doug

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...kids were working with the Xacto's, cutting tubes.... hear a scream, turn around and see a kiddoh with an Xacto blade down into her flip-flops. the knife had rolled off the table and her first instinct was to use her foot to prevent it from hitting the carpet. Ummmmm... Only a minor scratch, but oh my goodness.....:eyepop:
I think that's not that uncommon. It's pretty instinctive to try and catch something dropped, and you 'bout gotta learn to NOT do it when you're working with knives...or soldering irons, etc.

Years ago, my dad had a barber working in his shop who told a story of his fast reflexes getting him into trouble when caught a dropped straight razor :OUCH: :y:

Doug

.
 

ben_ullman

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I think that's not that uncommon. It's pretty instinctive to try and catch something dropped, and you 'bout gotta learn to NOT do it when you're working with knives...or soldering irons, etc.

Years ago, my dad had a barber working in his shop who told a story of his fast reflexes getting him into trouble when caught a dropped straight razor :OUCH: :y:

Doug

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yeah I learned early on in electronics and rocketry the first thing you do when something appears to have dropped/fallen/rolled off the table is move BACK as fast as possible, not try and pin it to the table and retrieve it.

Just let it hit the ground and grab it. Even a completely hot soldering iron wont burn carpet if you see it drop, move, and pick it right up

Ben
 

Peartree

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I think that's not that uncommon. It's pretty instinctive to try and catch something dropped, and you 'bout gotta learn to NOT do it when you're working with knives...or soldering irons, etc.

Years ago, my dad had a barber working in his shop who told a story of his fast reflexes getting him into trouble when caught a dropped straight razor :OUCH: :y:

Doug

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My father-in-law did that during his first week of work at Wonder Bread. Working maintenance they were fixing one of the slicing machines (which are a long row of blades and are essentially over-sized rotary cutters) when one of the blades fell out. He instinctively reached to catch it and got a couple days off with his hand all wrapped up. Ouch.
 

The EGE

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Never ever let kids cut plastic with an exacto. I tried to when I was about 9 or 10 and totally unskilled with my new exactos... I tried to separate the nose and tail cones of my Bullpup kit... put a half-inch scar on my left thumb. Still have the scar, plus a few smaller ones from not being safe.

Teach them how to use them first, and stick to balsa and cardboard. And closed-toe shoes, always.
 

powderburner

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...the best overall solution for untrained youth groups is to completely eliminate the need for a hobby knife during the build....
For a class of first-time rocket builders, I can see no need to teach knife skills at the same time. 9 out of 10 of those kids will not be coming back for the next classes, so let the X-acto lessons go till then. A kit that is specialized and well-designed for first-timers has no cutting and just glues together.

I certainly don't need to have angry parents yelling at me while their darling child gets a half-dozen stitches in his finger. First-time build classes are hectic enough without trying to squeeze in time for knife safety on top of everything else, and with the limited classtime usually available I certainly don't have time to watch the X-acto go around the room one kid at a time.

I vote: leave the knife lessons for later classes.
 

shrox

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...I certainly don't need to have angry parents yelling at me while their darling child gets a half-dozen stitches in his finger...
What did you parents do when you hurt yourself? Most of the time it was my own doing, jumping or falling off something, scrapes, etc. Did they take you to the emergency room, act all victimized, then try to figure out who to sue, or did they maybe hose you off, tell you they'll show you what hurt is, then tell you to clean up this mess by dinner?
 

Fred22

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Theres been a ton of good advice here. There is IMO a tremendous variance in grades 4 to to 8 in terms of maturity and motor skills. I think there has been many good tips on knife use in this thread so by all means use them. With the proper teaching as Jim and others stated it's a great skill and I beleive a confidance builder for kids. As a yard stick I would say my son when he was 15 was using a C7 Assault rifle during his cadet camp. Like myself he wont reinvent gravity but with good instruction he mastered an arguably tricky piece of equipment. I've had him building models and using knives, dremels whatever since he was about 9. I applaud the fact you are teaching children this valuable skill. My oldest son is a great guy but I would not have trusted him with a potato gun till he was 20 so there needs to be allowance for individuals :)
Cheers
fred
 

Peartree

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...my son when he was 15 was using a C7 Assault rifle during his cadet camp. ... My oldest son is a great guy but I would not have trusted him with a potato gun till he was 20 so there needs to be allowance for individuals :)
Cheers
fred
My sons are like that but it gets tricky to treat them differently because they're twins.
 

shrox

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Is there really any way to teach safety to kids in such a short time as 10 minutes in such a distracted environment? While I was kidding about the fake severed finger thing, with such a short time available, maybe some sort of Belushi-esque Samurai Balsa trick to show just how sharp a fresh blade is could get notice. Nothing dangerous, just attention getting.

Safety Shrox Sez
 

Fred22

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Is there really any way to teach safety to kids in such a short time as 10 minutes in such a distracted environment? While I was kidding about the fake severed finger thing, with such a short time available, maybe some sort of Belushi-esque Samurai Balsa trick to show just how sharp a fresh blade is could get notice. Nothing dangerous, just attention getting.

Safety Shrox Sez
I would say no:) Practice and instruction take time IMO.
Cheers
fred
 

jflis

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Is there really any way to teach safety to kids in such a short time as 10 minutes in such a distracted environment? While I was kidding about the fake severed finger thing, with such a short time available, maybe some sort of Belushi-esque Samurai Balsa trick to show just how sharp a fresh blade is could get notice. Nothing dangerous, just attention getting.

Safety Shrox Sez
You need to gauge the needs of your audience with the needs of the curriculum and strike a balance.

For example, this weekend I am doing 4 sessions with STEM and middle schoolers. Due to their schedule set up I get 35 minutes per session with zero time between sessions. 35 minutes.

Heck, that's barely enough time to build an ARTF rocket! LOL

What we're doing is the Whatchamacallit kit

This kit does not require the use of a knife. In fact, I am assembling the engine mount ahead of time as there is no way the glue will dry in the time allotted.

That kit was selected because it is quick but also because no knife is needed. With the time provided there is no way I can go over knife safety to any degree, so it's out.

On the other hand, my Boys & Girls club sessions are 7 weeks long. We meet once a week for an hour and 45 minutes. We typically build a rocket over 2 weeks, then launch on week 3. Week 4 is lecture week then we repeat, building a 2nd rocket over 2 weeks then launching in week 7. This gives me MORE than enough time to explain proper knife safety and operation.

Then there is a slew of session types between those two extremes. You need to evaluate the needs, age, and skill of the kids, the curriculum along with your own skills at teaching and guiding to determine if a knife is a suitable tool for any given class.

Hope this helps!
jim
 

InFlight

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My grandfather was teaching me how to sharpen knifes at the age of 10. :roll:
And my father was teaching me how to clean shotguns and rifles at the age of 12.

My how the world has changed.
 

Micromeister

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I have to agree with most who have stated again that teaching knife skills is NOT something that should be done at a beginners building session.

It's just not a good use of the time. 10yr olds are more then capable of learning how to use the tool, it's just not a good idea to be mixing that lesson with model rocket building instructions on a group level.
 

troj

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Then there is a slew of session types between those two extremes. You need to evaluate the needs, age, and skill of the kids, the curriculum along with your own skills at teaching and guiding to determine if a knife is a suitable tool for any given class.
Very much true.

Group size and available, reliable, assistance is a factor, I would say, as well.

-Kevin
 

powderburner

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My grandfather was teaching me how to sharpen knifes at the age of 10. :roll:
And my father was teaching me how to clean shotguns and rifles at the age of 12.
Those were both probably instances of one-on-one training. By immediate family. Plenty of time for teaching. Probably in a more controlled environment (fewer distractions).

In a first-timer's build class, things are a little bit more hectic, supervision is more like one adult (who knows what they are doing, and not including the other 3 or 4 "adults" who stand around with their thumbs in their ears) on 20 or 30 kids. The room is noisy, some kids are wandering around (before I get a chance to chase them back to their chairs), the whole thing is not quite as orderly and "tidy" as you sitting down with your Dad. Big difference in teaching environment, regardless of any possible maturity of the student.

When I hold classes for the scouts at my church, half the kids are "bus" kids whose parents barely speak English, and who only understand that the class is something offered "by the church." If their kid gets injured, their friends urge them to get a lawyer and sue the big, rich church. I don't want any part of that, but that's a whole different problem in our wonderful modern society.
 

shrox

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I guess my examples would probably just cause phobias about sharp, shiny objects and guys with long blonde hair wearing a leather jacket...
 

InFlight

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Those were both probably instances of one-on-one training. By immediate family. Plenty of time for teaching. Probably in a more controlled environment (fewer distractions).
Yes, I guess that was my point. Sorry, I should have been more specific.

Honestly though, I would rather teach my own son how to handle an x-acto knife than leave it to someone else. No offense to you or anyone else of course.
 

UPscaler

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I agree with the fact that knife classes should be given before use of the knife.

My dad taught me how to use an X-acto knife before he let me do anything with the first kit I built by myself. I was probably 7 or 8.


More recently however, I was trying to make a guitar strap out of duct tape (lost my real one) and when trying to cut the slots for the strap buttons, It slipped through and went straight into my finger. Now I have a scar about a half inch long. It will probably be on my finger forvever.:rolleyes:
 
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