In my recent post on British hoplophobia I said that part of what motivates my work with TTAK is a desire to return to an America where most youngsters carry a pocketknife as a lesson in responsibility and self-reliance. That might be a lofty goal, but it starts with each and everyone of us doing our part to pass knife culture onto the next generation, and to receptive peers as well. There is no stasis in this fight, we are advancing or we are losing ground. I will do all in my power to teach my children the importance of freedom and responsible tool use. I am not alone in feeling this way, reader Jake Middleton wrote his Essay Contest entry on letting his son play with knives.
During my last visit to Smoky Mountain Knife Works, I picked up a couple of JJ’s Wooden Knife Kits ($9.95 MSRP, I bouth them for 7.99 each at SMKW) to file away as a rainy-day project with the kids. Yesterday was that rainy day. The kiddos were bouncing off the walls and it seemed like the appropriate time to reach into my bag of tricks. The kits are a simple little project (perhaps too simple?) but certainly have entertained a 6 and 4 year old.
Of course, the kits say that they are recommended for kids 7 and up. It is a lawyer thing, I know, but my son used the band saw (obviously under hands-on supervision) to make a Christmas gift when he was a month shy of his 4th birthday. I let him play with screwdrivers and hammers. My daughter already has a recurve bow (Xmas 2013) and her Red Ryder (Xmas 2014), and is in line to get a Leatherman Leap for her 7th birthday. I am pretty sure she can be trusted what is essentially a couple of laminated tongue-depressors.
I bought one each of the Canoe Knife Kit and Trapper Knife Kit. Each one contains two scales, two blades, two spring pieces, and 3 small pins. It takes about 10 minutes to put together. My daughter got a little frustrated, but while my 4 year old son had trouble with the dexterity of assembling the pieces, he was able to do a better job following the pictures in the fairly well-done instructions.
The kits function like an actual knife. The wooden springs have a closure bias and hold reasonably firm when open. The blades come completely flat, but can at this point be “ground” with sandpaper if desired. I may pick one up for myself someday and see what “performance” I can get from a wooden blade. Warning: Do not sharpen wood in England, it might get confiscated in a “weapons sweep”. (sorry, I couldn’t help it)
Performance-wise, my kids had fun slicing flower petals and pretending to use them to “cut” other things. My daughter found hers especially useful for cracking sunflower seeds that we had roasted from our garden.
While I feel that the kits are a bit chincy, the kids got a real kick out of them. They are carrying them in their pockets with pride. I was able to solemnly instruct them with a straight face that they were never to take them to school or the library. In short, they are a dry-run for when they are given their first “real” knife.