In an edgy decision, the BSA sets limit on knife-blade length

(Update, April 2, 2013) Please read a special message at the end of the post.

Knives. They may be the source of the most confusion within Scouting circles.

I’ve heard people tell me sheath knives are banned in Scouting (they’re not), that Scouts can only carry one knife (not true), or that blades can’t be longer than five inches (wrong again).

Today, though, BSA Health and Safety team lead Richard Bourlon announced a new knife policy that changes things a bit. For the first time in the organization’s history, the BSA is mandating a maximum blade length for knives used within Scouting.

The magic number:

60 inches. The policy is effective beginning today, April 1, 2013.

So grab your tape measures, Scouters, because bladed objects used at the unit level now must be no longer than five feet. If you forget your tape measure, consider identifying a Scout who’s five feet tall, hold the blade vertically, and ask him to stand next to it.

“The hope is that we cut down on the number of Scouts carrying blades that are longer than they are tall. That can get unwieldy,” Bourlon says. “We also heard from some Scout leaders who simply didn’t have space in their compact cars to transport a half-dozen six- or seven-foot blades to the state park every month for troop campouts.”

Bourlon says he understands some Scouts might think bringing their medieval longswords to a Scout event would be fun. “Believe me, I loved Braveheart as much as the next guy,” he says, “but we have to put safety first.”

Along those lines, Bourlon wants to remind everyone about the “blood circle” — that no-go zone any Scout with a Whittling Chip should know about. When someone’s using a knife, nobody else should come within that circle.

“But it expands the larger your blade is,” Bourlon says, “so with those seven-foot blades we were forcing Scouts to stand hundreds of feet apart.”

What’s next for the Health and Safety team? In the coming months, Bourlon hopes to officially limit the number of helmets that can be worn simultaneously to one.

April Fools!

April 2 update: As many of you guessed yesterday, the above post was an April Fools’ Day joke. Thanks to everyone for playing along and allowing me to have a little fun yesterday.

And lest anyone think there’s a Scout out there brandishing a sword, the photo above the post was doctored in Photoshop. I added the sword to an actual photo.

In truth, there still is no official blade-length restriction, but I’d encourage you to help your Scouts exercise caution when using bladed objects of any length.

The best place to start is the Whittling Chip. Consider requiring each Scout to carry one before he can use a knife while on a campout.

Photo Illustration. Original photo from Flickr: Some rights reserved by Richard Masoner / Cyclelicious

100 thoughts on “In an edgy decision, the BSA sets limit on knife-blade length

    • Zero, David. Exactly zero.

      Fortunately, I think it’s safe to give scouters the benefit of the doubt to spot an April Fool’s joke when they see one. And in the outside chance they can’t, that they’d read any number of the 70+ responses to this blog to get the idea. And if they still don’t, and common sense still doesn’t prevail, then they really shouldn’t be placed in a position of responsibility with children. I think the others who were in on the gag would agree that if we thought there was any chance a responsible adult took any of this seriously, we wouldn’t have supported the joke.

      If any of this is not the case, then you’re right. We’re in a heap of trouble. In more ways than one.

  1. I’m assuming April fools and no I really don’t find it funny due to the ambiguity of the policy this would almost make sense.

    • I don’t it funny either! As a safety issue this isn’t something to play around with. Luckily I read the comments that made me realized I forgot what day it is today… April Fool’s Day

      • There isn’t anything ambiguous about the BSA knife policy. They want common sense to prevail, and not depend on an arbitrary policy. Just go to Guide to Safe Scouting and find the policy that fits.

  2. Now I suppose Zorro’s great, great grand-child can no longer go to camp with us? That is discrimination base upon the length of one’s blade – not fair! 😉

    • JR,
      That’s ok, just add I to all the other discriminatory policies that the BSA have. What I would like to know is how a 4 ft or 5 ft scout would carry a 5 ft knife 🙂

      And yes I do know that this is an April Fools joke

      • I’m sure he’d have it in a scabbard attatched to his belt. Thusly protected, it’s of no concern it if drags along behind. Sure, the boys have to spread out more during a hike, but we don’t want them too bunched up anyway…just in case of enemy attack, y’know? 😉

  3. I strongly support this new rule and feel it was long overdue. This means all of our patrol leaders can continue to carry their mameluke swords.

  4. This is an abomination. A religious based CO must have the option to override this to one cubit.
    It is clearly stated in Judges 3:16
    But Ehud made him a dagger which had two edges, of a cubit length; and he did gird it under his raiment upon his right thigh.

    • The policy is completely within biblical criteria. 60 inches equals 3.33 cubits, well above the one cubit length described in your quote.

  5. I read this to the boys in our troop during their meeting tonight. You should’ve seen the look on their face when I read that 60 inches would be the maximum length for a knife for scouts. I think a few of them believed me until I told them to keep in mind what day today is.

  6. I think this is a joke my son hopes not. like I’d let him sheath a long sword. I guess you can say the Boy Scouts have a “Zorro” tolerance for weapons.

  7. Thanks for a great laugh!!! If you can’t poke fun at the organization occasionally then we are taking ourselves far too seriously. Reading your post yesterday was the best part of my day…kep it up ! Dan

    • Looks to me like we have enough interest to start that Medieval Culture merit badge! We already have several (potential) merit badge counselors!

  8. Hi Bryan.
    A Google search for information brought me to your blog and I’m hoping you can help me with a few questions related to the use of edged tools.
    I’ve read a lot about traditions and local troop policies on various web sites, but I’d like to get down to the core of the matter regarding official BSA policy.
    1.) Can you give me a BSA policy reference (document) that outlines the specific requirement that a scout have his Totin’ Chip in his possession any time he’s using an edged tool?
    2.) Can you give me the BSA policy reference that establishes the criteria for a scout to lose a corner of his Totin’ Chip card?
    3.) Can you provide a BSA policy reference that identifies exactly who has the authority to remove a corner from a scout’s Totin’ Chip card?
    I don’t mean to go down the path of being overly “legalistic,” but it seems that a lot of adult leaders are just making it up as they go. They present their interpretation of various rules, personal opinions, and/or the local policies they learned as scouts, as “official policy.” The result is a lot of disagreement, misunderstanding, and hurt feelings.
    I’m fully aware that we can’t have a rule for every situation, but to avoid a lot of upset and turmoil, I’d like to establish (to the extent possible) clear and consistent local policies that are based on established and easily referenced official BSA policy.
    Thanks very much for your time.

  9. Curious if sheath knifes are not banned, then why is it every camping list I have seen given out by either summer camps, camporees etc list them as an item you cannot bring. Also like to point out when my father was a scout he wore an axe on his belt.

  10. I’m so happy this is an April Fools gag and not the new policy. I was afraid that I’d have to tell my Scouts not to bring their long swords on trips anymore. They really come in handy when we bump into medieval armies.

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