Wood Tools Safety Course (Totin' chip)

Course Outline


Time Subject
  • Welcome & Introduce Self
  • What is the Totin' Chip

The Course
  • What is covered under the Totin' Chip
  • The Outdoor Code
  • Safety
  • The Blood Circle
  • What is an Ax Yard
  • How to Care for the tools
  • How to use the tools
  • Demonstrate you ability to use these tools safely
  • What happens if you do something wrong
  • How do you replace a lost card (by unit)

Group Discussion
  • Open Question and Answers about Wood Tools
  • How can you take this back to your units
  • Where can you find additional resources

Thanks Thank You for Coming - Remember Safety Must Come First


What is the Totin' Chip:

The Totin' Chip is a card issued to a Scout authorizing him to use wood tools. It is like a license or permit that can be revoked if he fails to show proper responsibility.

WOOD TOOL: Is any tool used to cut or work with wood. Additionally it could include other tools such as: shovels, hoes, rakes, picks and a variety of other hand tools.

BSA Has set the following requirements for the Totin' Chip

  1. Red and understand woods tools use and safety rules found in the BS Handbook
  2. Demonstrate proper handling, care, and use of the Ax, Saw and Pocket Knife
  3. Use the Ax, Saw, and knife as tools not playthings
  4. Respect all safety rules to protect others
  5. Respect property. Cut only dead and living trees with permission and good reason
  6. Subscribe to the Outdoor Code

I don't personally think this is tough enough when you consider many of these tools can be easily misused turning them into weapons. Thus I have created the following course. This is not to say that a Scout should do all of this to get the totin' chip but that I would advice you make it a training to encourage the Scouts to take with in your unit.

This Course Covers:

  • Axes
  • Saws
  • Knives (includes kitchen knives)

May also include:

  • Other Tools (Shovels, Rakes, Hoes, Picks, etc.)
  • Sticks
  • Rocks
  • etc.


The Outdoor Code:


The Outdoor Code is a creed an oath to remind a Scout of the importance of caring for the environment.



I will treat the outdoors as a heritage. I will take care of it for myself and others. I will keep my trash and garbage out of lakes, streams, fields, woods, and roadways.


I will prevent wildfire. I will build my fires only where they are appropriate. When I have finished using a fire, I will make sure it is cold out. I will leave a clean fire ring, or remove all evidence of my fire.


I will treat public and private property with respect. I will use low-impact methods of hiking and camping.



I will learn to practice good conservation of soil, waters, forest, minerals, grasslands, wildfires, and energy. I will urge others to do the same.

Wood Tool Safety

  The most important thing when using any tool is - Safety, Safety, Safety.


  • Blood Circle: - a method of safely moving the tool around you to determine if your work area is free of obstacle that could cause potential problems.

  • AX Yard: - an Ax Yard is a marked off area, possibly with rope, to form a safety barrier. The idea is no one except the person using the tool is inside, this keeps other from being accidently hit and or hurt.

  • "Thank You": - the magic words of working with tools. If you decide to gave a tool to someone, you will not let go of it until the other person say "Thank You" letting you know that - that person has it and will not drop on you or anyone else.

  • Carrying the Tool: - there are proper and not so hot ways to carry tools. For example a shovel should be carried at your side with your hand half way down the handle with the shove blade down but out in front of you. While a hand ax the blade is carried in the hand, and a large ax you carry with the blade facing the ground and your hand about halfway on the handle so that it is angled to the ground.

  • If you are working in an unsecured area such as a trail use "Coming Through" and "Go For It". "Coming Through" tells someone near by that you will be passing through his work space. "Go For It" tells you that person has acknowledged that you are their and has stopped working to let you safely pass through.

  • Gear: - What type of gear should you have and or wear when working with these tools. For example if you are using an Ax shouldn't you be wearing boots to protect your feet, long pants to protect your legs, long sleeve shirt to protect your chest and arms, gloves to protect your hands, goggles to keep flying wood out of your eyes, and a hard hat to keep a branch from knocking you silly. This may seem a little over kill and it might be, until one or all of these things could have save you from a lot of pain and your life.

  • Tool Wheel: - The tool wheel is a method of storing all the tools in one place safely. You do this by laying tools down one after the other to form a circle, some tools are safer if standing up, place these in the center of the circle.


"A pocket knife ... is an invaluable backcountry tool. Keep it clean. Avoid sheath knives... Since it is inception, Boy Scouting has relied heavily on an outdoor program to achieve its objectives. This program meets more of the purposes of Scouting they any other single feature. We believe we have a duty to instill in our members, the knowledge of how to use, handle, and store legally owned knives with the highest concerns for safety and responsibility."

The California Conservation Corps has a set of rules everyone should use when using any kind of hand tool.

  1. Always be safety conscious
  2. Select the right tool for the job
  3. Maintain a safe distance from others
  4. Be sure the tool is in good condition
  5. When not using the tool keep it in a safe place
  6. Use gloves and a hard hat
  7. Pass the tool to another person with the cutting edge down or away from anyone
  8. Mark tools that are damaged clearly so no one else tries to use them
  9. Never throw or run with a tool
  10. When you are carrying a tool on flat ground carry it in your primary hand and if your on a slop carry on the downhill side
  11. Be sure of your footing when using tools

Remember safety first, and safety always!

When used improperly tools can be very dangerous. We can replace tools but we cannot replace eyes, arms, legs or people...

Tool Care


This is the second most important thing when it comes to tools, safety being first. If your tool is not in good working order, it could result in great injury to those around you.

The first part to caring or repairing anything is to know its parts.

There is many things that could go wrong with a tool, the bellow chart outlines a few of them.

The Problem

How to Fix

Dull Sharpen the blade. Also remember things like shovels, hoes and McLeods need to be kept sharp, too. (FMI "Sharpen you knife")
Lose Head and Handle Check handle to make sure it is still in good shape, including its strength. If it still seems to be in good shape tighten the head by adding a wedge into the spot where the handle meets the tool. Soaking it in water works for a short time.
Lose Knife Blade If the knife is in good condition, but the blade is lose, in other words while holding the knife in one hand and the tip of the blade in the other hand you can wiggle the blade. To fix place the rivet of that blade on a hard (preferably metal) surface and lightly tap the rivet with a hammer 2 or 3 times. Be careful not to damage the knife.
Tool is Dirty and Rusty Clean the bulk of the dirt off with a wire brush and maybe some water. Use a clean rag to get the rest of the dirt off. If the tool is rusty use some oil like 3 in one or WD40 and sandpaper to get it off. Dry the tool and place a good thick layer of oil on it. Paint may help protect the tool. For small tools like a knife use Q-tips and oil to clean.
Broken Handle To replace a broken or weak handle, you must first work the old handle out of the tool - this is the hardest part. I have found using a drill to remove the center of the handle works the best. Clean inside the "eye" (where handle and tool meet). Try to insert the handle - it will probably be to big, if it is whittle it away little at a time until it fits snugly. Once the handle is in the tool, secure it with a wedge.
Weaken Tool If it is a replaceable part - the replace it, otherwise safely discard the tool and replace it.

Most of us know how to properly sharpen a knife, but here is a bit from the Official Boy Scout Handbook to help us remember.

Sharpen your knife with a whetstone (a sharpening stone). Depending on the stone, will depend if you leave it dry, use a little water, or a tad of oil. Top sharpen a knife, hold the blade against the stone at about a 30 degree angle. That means that back of the blade will be tilted of the stone one-third of the way to vertical. Push the blade along the stone as though your slicing a layer off the top of the stone. Make sure you sharpen each side of the blade the same number of times, to make the blade as sharp and durable as possible. Then whip the knife off with a clean cloth, and your done. The below graphic might help you.

Getting a feel for the common problems of a tool makes you wonder why most people don't check their tool before using it. The California Conservation Corps suggest you inspect the tool before using it. They use the 4 S's which are:


Hold the tool upright, and look down it's handle is it straight? A warped handle can be dangerous.


Carefully run your hand down the handle making sure there are no rough spots or splinters.

Set the head of the tool on the ground at a 45 degree angle and left the butt of the handle, and then press it down in the middle of the handle. If the handle doesn't crack or bend it is fine.


Check for sharpness visually. When a tool is sharp the cutting edge is shinny and smooth. NEVER RUN YOUR HAND ALONG THE BLADE.

How to use the tools


Using the tool is probably the most thought of part, but as you have seen it is not the first all though it is equally important with the other parts. We all know that when you are using a knife you always cut away from yourself, when using an ax you cut at an angle to form a "V" in the wood, and when using a saw you cut in long even strokes with the front part of the blade lower then the back.


After teaching about how to use the tool safely and care for it have everyone Demonstrate their ability to use the tools. This not only gives them hands on experience, it give you a chance to correct any problems they might have in using the tools.

What happens if you do something wrong


If someone is using the tool incorrectly there is few things you can do depending on the severity of the problem. Of course the first thing to do is stop it right there and then. What can you do to the individual:

You may remove a corner on the Totin' Chip, for normal problems

You may remove 1 to 4 corners depending on the severity of the problem

Once the individual has lost all 4 corners that individual has lost the right to use any tools, until he has re-earned the Totin' Chip. Each unit has its own way of doing this, the most common being just retaking the course (this is the BSA recommend method), or some other units make the individual teach the course.

Quick Quiz


Trick Questions:

  1. Would you ever run in camp with an open knife in your nose
  2. How about behind you ear
  3. What about in your pocket
  4. Would you ever run with an open knife in your shoe
  5. Or maybe your pocket
  6. May you run with a closed knife in your pocket

1 - 6 = NO
Even number 6, we are in camp and there is no running in camp

Serious Questions

  1. Would you pass a knife with the blade open

    (No, always pass a knife with the blade closed)

  2. Would you swing an ax like Paul Bunyan, past your shoulder
  3. (Never, swing an ax no higher then you shoulder)

  4. Is 3 in One oil good for Sharpening an Ax
  5. (No, you sharpen an ax with a file, those you don't need oil)

  6. What are the parts of a knife
  7. (The body, lock, blade, bit, joint, screwdriver, etc.)

  8. How would you sharpen a saw
  9. (By using a small file and file each side of each tooth at its angle, or be like me and just replace it)

  10. Which is safer:
    • A Dull and clean knife (a sharp knife is always better, but clean is good)
    • A sharp and dirty knife (a sharp knife is great, but a dirty one is suicide)

(The best choice isn't list that being a sharp and clean knife)

Instructing Notes

As an instructor for this course at Summer Camp, District activities like Camp-O-Ree's, and Troop activities, I have come up with tips that will help others instruct this course.

  • I prefer to teach this course in an Ax yard as I find that Scout learn better, there and that it is safer for all involved.
  • Before teaching this course I pre-plan, deciding what I am going to teach, how I am going to teach it, and who is going to help me teach it.
  • Before the course, I place all the tools and gear needed to teach this course. I.E.: Hand Ax, ¾ Ax, Saw, Knife, File, Sharping Stone, Gloves, Goggles, etc.
  • When I teach the course I keep a copy of the course outline on hand so that if I get stuck I have something to go back to and to make sure I don't forget anything. The course outline I use can be found above.
  • After the course I like to give the Scouts their Totin' Chip so that they have something to show off and let them know that they did a good job in earing the right to use these tools. At our next Court of Honor I usually have the same Scouts come forward and be recognized again. You can find example ceremonies at www.microcoms.com/bsa
References / Source:
I use the following books as references to base this document off of: The Official Boy Scout Handbook, Older versions of the Boy Scout Handbook, Boy Scouts of America Health and Safety Guide, and Camping & Wilderness Survival by Paul Tawrell

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