Swiss Army Knives are the most popular pocket knives in the world. But don’t get fooled by their shiny colorful appearance. If not handled properly, these innocent-looking tools can cause serious injuries. As such, adhering to some safety rules should be paramount.
Here are 11 safety rules that should be followed by anyone, young or old, when working with a Swiss Army Knife (SAK). These rules will not only protect you and others from getting hurt but also protect your SAK from damage and ensure that it serves you throughout your life.
1. Know the Tools in the SAK
Each tool in a Swiss Army Knife is meant to perform one (or sometimes more than one) function.
Use the tool for the function it is meant to perform. This will save the tool from damage.
This will also prevent any accidents from using the wrong tool for the wrong purpose.
What does it mean?
It means you should not use the knife blade for prying. You don’t want the blade to snap and hurt you or someone else nearby. The bottle-opener with the flathead screwdriver tip is a much better tool for prying.
Likewise, if you want to drill or punch holes in wood or plastic, don’t use the blade, use the awl.
While using the saw, make sure the wood piece is secured against a hard surface so that it does not wobble. You can put your foot on it to stabilize it, but make sure that you are wearing shoes.
2. Take Care When Opening and Closing the Tools
Make sure you use both your hands when opening or closing a Swiss Army Knife. This is applicable for all SAKs except those which have OH (one-handed) blade.
While closing, make absolutely sure that your finger is not in the way. The slip joints in Swiss Army Knives are reasonably strong and the tools close with quite a snap.
The first time you open a blade on a brand new Swiss Army Knife, it can be a little hard to pull it out. It can also be a little sticky because of the oil they use to keep the SAK lubricated and rust-free. So be careful if it is your first SAK and you are opening it for the first time.
I have seen people getting nasty cuts just because they were not careful enough while closing the blade in a SAK.
Do not open or use more than one tool at a time. The SAK is difficult to use with more tools open. Avoid doing so to avoid any unwanted accidents.
I only open several tools in a SAK only while cleaning it, or while taking pictures of the tools in the SAK. And I am extremely careful with it while doing so.
Be absolutely sure to fold all the tools before putting your Swiss Army Knife away. Never ever keep a SAK open in your drawer. Needless to say, the same rule applies while putting the SAK in your pocket.
I always carry a small SAK attached to my keychain. Once I forgot to close the SAK and put it along with the keys in my pocket. The next time I put my hands in my pocket instinctively to pull the keychain out, I got nasty cuts on two of my fingers.
3. Keep your Knife Sharp
“A sharp blade is safer than a dull blade”
This may sound odd but various reports have concluded that injuries related to knives in workplaces have been mostly due to dull blades.
It takes more effort and extra force to cut with a dull blade. It is also difficult to maneuver the blade properly. Both these factors can make the Swiss Army Knife slip from your grip, causing injury to yourselves or others.
Swiss Army Knives require low maintenance, but it is advisable to periodically sharpen the blade if you use them regularly.
I use the Victorinox Dual-Knife Sharpener that I got from Amazon on all my SAKs.
If you want something more ergonomic, check out the Vic Sharpy in this Amazon listing.
How do you know whether the blade is sharp?
A paper test is the simplest way to check whether the blade is sharp or not. A sharp blade cuts through a piece of paper like butter, without any resistance.
Even if you happen to cut yourself with the blade, a sharp blade will give a much cleaner cut which heals faster.
4. Know the Limits of the Tools in the SAK
The tools in the Swiss Army Knife are not meant to replace dedicated tools in your toolbox. They are meant for occasional light-duty tasks.
Trying to force a tool to do more than it can handle can end very badly for the tool and sometimes for your own safety.
For example, do not baton wood with the blade of a Swiss Army Knife. Batoning should be done only with a strong fixed blade, not with a folding blade.
Do not use smaller Swiss Army Knives (58mm SAKs) for whittling wood or splitting wood. Those tiny blades are meant for simpler tasks, like opening an envelope or a gift wrap or maybe trimming your fingernails.
This will not only save your SAK but will also prevent accidents as folding blades are prone to dislodge or break under strong impact.
You surely don’t want the blade or broken parts of the blade flying out in all directions like shrapnel.
Respect the tools, and the tools will respect you.
5. Cut Away From Your Body
People make the mistake of cutting or slicing something toward the body. You will often see this while whittling or carving, or even when sharpening pencils with a penknife.
Don’t do this. People have literally cut their wrists accidentally while using knives in this manner.
Make sure you are cutting away from your body, with a firm grip on the Swiss Army Knife with your dominant hand.
In case your knife slips accidentally, it will fly out in the other direction, not towards your body.
While cutting away from your body, do ensure that your fingers are not in the way of the blade movement.
If you plan to use your SAK for wood carving sessions, make sure to keep a first-aid kit handy. This is especially important during camping or other such outdoor activities.
Do not use wet or slippery hands. Make sure that you wipe off any water or anything slippery from your hands as well as the SAK before using it.
6. Work Within Your Blood Circle
The Blood Circle, or safety circle, is an imaginary circular area or space around you.
To find out your Blood Circle, extend your arm while holding the closed Swiss Army Knife in your grip. Then draw an imaginary circle by rotating your body. Also, check overhead clearance by raising your extended arm upward. This will define the Blood Circle around you.
Ensure that nobody is within your blood circle while working with a Swiss Army Knife. In short, it is your responsibility to keep your blood circle clear.
If you can touch someone or something while drawing your blood circle, politely ask the person to move away, or change your position.
While the concept of Blood Circle (or Blood Bubble, as some may call it) may sound stupid, it is very effective while explaining knife safety to children or even young adults, especially someone who hasn’t used a knife before.
This will avoid any accidental injuries to someone else (or yourself) while using the Swiss Army Knife.
Some even go a step further and extend the distance to two-arms length to be extra safe.
7. Work Outside Your Blood Triangle
The inside of your thighs, your groin, and an imaginary line between your knees form the shape of a triangle when you are in a sitting position. The Blood Triangle is this area between your knees and your crotch.
This area is also called the ‘Triangle Of Death’ by bush crafters. Why such a dramatic name, you may ask.
Well, the inner thigh has the femoral artery which is an important blood vessel. Any nasty cuts in this artery will result in the person bleeding out and dying without any immediate medical help. You don’t want to risk any accidental cuts on your thighs or your groin.
You can avoid the blood triangle by resting your elbows on your knees. This will ensure that the knife and the object you are using the knife on are in front of your knee and away from the ‘Triangle of Death’.
8. Never Try to Catch or Grab a Falling Swiss Army Knife
“A falling knife is sharp on all sides”
It is a common instinct of humans to try to catch something if it slips accidentally from their hands. Just don’t do this with a Swiss Army Knife (or any knife).
If a SAK accidentally slips and drops from your hands, let it fall to the ground. Rather than trying to catch it, focus on moving away to protect yourself from any accidental cuts.
Yes, your SAK may get scratches from the fall, and the blade if open may even get blunt or bent (or in extreme cases, the tip of the blade may break). But trust me, you don’t want to risk injuring your hands or your toes to protect your SAK.
This is another reason why you should always close all the tools in a SAK when not in use. Any accidental drops will save the blade, your feet, and also the floor.
”Don’t catch a falling knife” is a phrase often used in the investment and trading world while dealing with stocks and shares. I guess it is as much important while dealing with a Swiss Army Knife.
9. Know And Respect the Laws Governing Swiss Army Knives
Almost every country or state has knife laws, and these include pocket knives like the Swiss Army Knife. The laws define what kind of knife you can carry with you and what is prohibited.
These laws are often based on the type of knife, the blade length, the locking mechanism, etc. It is always better to be aware of the rules. I have written about the legality of Swiss Army Knives in different countries in this post.
Apart from the state knife laws, there are also many public or private places where a Swiss Army Knife may be prohibited. These include schools, theatres, courts, etc.
Do not point your Swiss Army Knife at anyone, or carry your Swiss Army Knife with the blade open in public. Doing so will make the people around you apprehensive about you, and may raise alarm bells in their minds.
Knowing about the rules beforehand will save you from unpleasant situations or arguments with the security staff. I have written a complete post about the legalities of carrying a Swiss Army Knife in this post.
Swiss Army Knives are also not allowed to be carried in hand luggage or in person while traveling by air. You may Check the full guide on carrying SAKs and other multi-tools on the plane.
Always keep in your mind that your Swiss Army Knife is not a weapon, and never use it as such, unless absolutely necessary (e.g. a life-threatening situation)
10. Teach Children the Proper Use of a Swiss Army Knife
Swiss Army Knives have often been passed over from father to son/daughter. But before you do so, make sure that you also pass on the safety rules to be followed while using it.
The brightly colored scales of the Swiss Army Knife along with the myriad of tools inside it often make it a very interesting object to a child.
Parents should ensure that the child has understood all aspects of knife safety before handing over a SAK.
If you are teaching your kids to use a SAK to whittle or carve wood for the first time, you may make them wear cut-resistant gloves.
Till then, the SAK should be used by the child only in the presence of an adult.
Victorinox has designed some Swiss Army Knives especially for kids. Do read this article if you want to get a SAK for your child.
Regarding Swiss Army Knife and children, this is what Felix Immler, a SAK instructor and wood carving expert, has to say:
They are no more dangerous than a bicycle or a skateboard. Kids just need to be taught how to use them.
11. Follow Knife Handling Etiquettes
Always carry a Swiss Army Knife with its blade folded away. When handing your SAK to another person, keep all the tools closed.
If for some reason you need to keep the blade open, do not hand it over directly. Put it on the table and let the other person pick it up.
Avoid lending your SAK to someone who you feel does not know proper knife etiquette and does not know how to use it properly.
Do not pick up or use someone else’s Swiss Army Knife without asking for permission first. If someone lends you his or her SAK, hand it back the way you received it.
Just like firearms are considered loaded, all knives are considered sharp. Use it with caution. It will cut you or someone else if you are not careful with it.
Injury from a Swiss Army Knife can happen at any moment. One should remember that a SAK is not a toy. Most knife injuries are caused by improper usage.
The above SAK handling rules should be imbibed in your memory so that following the rules comes naturally to you.
At the end of the day, a Swiss Army Knife is a tool meant to perform a job. It is up to you to make sure that you are performing the job safely.