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Try to carve a spoon

Carve your own spoon and learn how to use a knife.

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You’ll need

  • A sharp knife
  • A folding saw
  • A piece of soft wood about 15 cm long, such as green hazel, ash or willow

Before you begin

  • Use the safety checklist to help you plan and risk assess your activity. Additional help to carry out your risk assessment, including examples can be found here. Don’t forget to make sure all young people and adults involved in the activity know how to take part safely.
  • Make sure you’ll have enough helpers for each team to have one. You may need some parents and carers to help out if you’re short on helpers.

Planning this activity

  • You must be aware of UK knife law before buying, using, or carrying a knife.
  • Take the time to read and understand the Scout knife safety guidance.
  • Knives are an important tool for a survival situation and can be versatile if you know how to use them safely and properly.
  • A small folding knife that has a blade fewer than three inches long is suitable for a lot of different survival uses. You may need to use a knife with a larger (or fixed) blade for some activities. You should follow the law, only use them when needed, never carry them in a public place, and always store them securely and out of view.
  • Young people must be closely supervised by adults when knives are used.

Keep safe

Gather everyone together. The person leading the activity should explain that it’s important to keep the people around you safe when you’re using a knife. Part of doing this is creating a ‘safe zone’ around the person using the knife. A safe zone is free from people and obstacles.

The person leading the activity should remind everyone of the basics of using a knife safely:

  • Learn how to safely remove a knife from its sheath without cutting yourself.
  • You should hold a knife firmly but not too tightly.
  • Your hand shouldn’t be too far back or too far forward.
  • You should grip the knife so that you can see some of the handle where it meets the blade.
  • If you’re making smaller cuts or carving, you can place your thumb on the back of the blade to give you more control.
  • It’s best to cut down towards the ground with a wooden block or base to make it more stable.
  • Make sure you are always cutting away from your body and keeping clear of your hands

Top tips

  • Don’t feel pressured to jump straight into making a spoon You could get some clear pine from a timber merchant and make shavings for fuel to get people practising for the first time.
  • If you want to make a spoon, you’ll need a soft wood like green hazel, ash, or willow.
  • It’s best to practise before you show young people to make sure you understand.
  • People should only do what they’re confident and comfortable with – some people may want to just try a few techniques, while others will be ready to take on a project.

Carve your spoon

  1. Using your folding saw, cut a piece of green wood slightly thicker than your thumb and no more than 5 or 6 inches long. Avoid branches with too many side shoots, as these’ll have formed knots in the wood.
  2. Split your wood straight down its length, using your knife and a something to strike down (a heavier branch or log is ideal). Before you do this, take a look at the piece of wood and look for any natural curvature or similar features that you might want to use as part of the design of your spoon. This may be best done by a leader to demonstrate as there are more risks involved.
  3. Take one split half of your piece of wood and draw the outline of a spoon with a pencil on the flat surface. Remember to leave a little extra wood at the bowl end, as you’ll need to remove plenty of wood at this end to form the spoon’s shape.
  4. Start to remove surplus wood by making slanted cuts across the grain. Remember to follow the angle of the bowl of the spoon.
  5. Following the grain, shave away surplus wood, either side of the handle down to your pencilled outline. Keep turning the wood around in your hand to work from either end.
  6. Leave a little additional length at the bowl end of the spoon, as this’ll give you something to hold when trying to shape the spoon where the handle joins the bowl. This’ll also enable you to always cut away from yourself.
  7. Once your handle is finished, carefully and steadily work on the depth of your spoon. Keep taking wood away from the underside of the handle and starting to round off the bowl.
  8. Use extra caution for these next steps. Hollowing out the bowl is the trickiest part, but the flatter you keep your spoon the easier you’ll find this step. Start by creating a small dimple or hollow in the centre of your bowl with the tip of your knife. Make sure you do this with a hard surface (block) under to keep stability and keep fingers well away from the cutting.
  9. Once you’ve made a small dimple or hollow begin working from both sides from the middle outwards, cutting across the grain. Continue until you’ve hollowed out the bowl to an even thickness.
  10. To finish your spoon and protect the wood, lightly coat it with a food-grade oil. Olive oil and rapeseed or vegetable oils can be used. This’ll also help to bring out the grain.


This activity helped everyone to develop your knife skills. Knowing how to use a knife can be useful on any camp. Did people learn other skills too? Perhaps they learned how to take a deep breath and keep focused, or face their fears and try something new.

This activity also needed people to be responsible. Why’s it important that people know about the law and how to use a knife safely before they pick one up?

Why’s it important to take care of tools like knives? How can people remind themselves to be responsible when they use knives in the future?


All activities must be safely managed. You must complete a thorough risk assessment and take appropriate steps to reduce risk. Use the safety checklist to help you plan and risk assess your activity. Always get approval for the activity, and have suitable supervision and an InTouch process.

Sharp objects

Teach young people how to use sharp objects safely. Supervise them appropriately throughout. Store all sharp objects securely, out of the reach of young people.

Visits away from your meeting place

Complete a thorough risk assessment and include hazards, such as roads, woodland, plants, animals, and bodies of water (for example, rivers, ponds, lakes, and seas). You’ll probably need more adult helpers than usual. Your risk assessment should include how many adults you need. The young people to adult ratios are a minimum requirement. When you do your risk assessment, you might decide that you need more adults than the ratio specifies. Think about extra equipment that you may need to take with you, such as high visibility clothing, a first aid kit, water, and waterproofs. Throughout the activity, watch out for changes in the weather and do regular headcounts. 

There are different types and designs of knives, including those with larger or easier to hold handles. Find the right tools for your group; always stay within UK knife law.

All Scout activities should be inclusive and accessible.