Most young men are very excited about the opportunity to own and carry a pocketknife. In many families this may be a rite of passage. It is important that the Scout understands a pocketknife is a tool and not a toy, and how to responsibly handle and use the pocketknife when he is around others.


  • Understanding that carrying and using a pocketknife at approved Scouting activities is an honor to be given to those Scouts who demonstrate they are mature enough to live up to the responsibility that goes along with this tool.
  • Learning the different types of pocketknives and the appropriate times to use them.
  • Learning and following safety rules.
  • A Scout is trustworthy, obedient. [Bear Character Compass]

ADVENTURE REQUIREMENTS (Bear Handbook, page 30)

  1. Learn about three common designs of pocketknives.
  2. Learn knife safety and earn your Whittling Chip.*
  3. Using a pocketknife, carve two items.

*One of the items carved for Bear Claws requirement 3 may be used to fulfill Whittling Chip requirement 3.


If desired, it is an option to invite a knife collector to assist you with the presentation of the material for Meeting 1. It might also be helpful to invite a few extra parents for the hands-on knife sharpening portion.

See the Appendix for optional den meeting activities, including openings, gatherings, and closings.



  • U.S. and den flags.
  • Copies of the Knife Know-How Quiz; one for each boy, plus a pencil or pen (See Meeting 1 Resources).
  • Materials for Bag of Air Relay game (See Meeting 1 Resources).
  • One of each of the three knives from the Bear Handbook (Referencing the pictures in the handbook is an option if actual knives are not available).
  • Whittling Chip cards.
  • Sharpening stones, and old rags for wiping down knife blades.
  • Pocketknife for sharpening in Activity 1.
  • First-aid kit.
  • This meeting could easily be converted into an outing at a local museum that has a knife exhibit.


Have Scouts take the Knife Know-How Quiz (see Meeting 1 Resources). The answers are as follows: 1. True; 2. False; 3. False; 4. True; 5. False; 6. False; 7. False; 8. False; 9. True. (Doing this activity before the knife safety talk will serve as a benchmark for reflection on what was learned.) Cub Scouts are not expected to know the answers in advance.


  • Conduct a flag ceremony of your choosing that includes the Pledge of Allegiance and, as appropriate, the Scout Oath and Scout Law.
  • Then call the den roll by asking each boy to respond with one thing a pocketknife might be used for.
  • Recite the Scout Law.


  • Carry out business items for the den.
  • Introduce the Bear Claws adventure to the den. Build interest by describing the goals of the adventure and some of the activities that are planned.
  • Present the three common pocketknives that are referenced in the Bear Handbook. (Requirement 1)
  • Review the knife safety rules—be certain there is complete understanding about why each rule is in place. This is also a good time to reinforce the two Scout Law points of being trustworthy and obedient.
  • Discuss how well the Bears did on the Knife Know-How Quiz. Help them reflect on any new information that was learned after reviewing the knife safety rules.


Icon Activity 1: Knife Sharpening and Safety (Requirement 2)

  • Following the knife safety rules, demonstrate the proper way to sharpen a knife.
  • Have extra parents assist Scouts to ensure safety and comprehension.

Icon Activity 2: Bag of Air Relay

Needed: An even number of players (one boy may go twice to even up the teams), enough small paper bags for each player.

Instructions: Place a stack of small paper bags at a goal line about 25 feet from each team. Each boy in turn races to the stack, blows up a paper bag, bursts it with his hand, and races back to touch off the next player.

An alternative could be to have the boys walk backward on one of the trips either to the bag or back to the line.


  • Present Whittling Chip cards to the Scouts. (Requirement 2)
  • Have the group recite together the Pocketknife Pledge on the back of the Whittling Chip card.


  • Thank any guests who have assisted at the meeting.
  • Serve refreshments, if desired.
  • Record completion of requirements 1 and 2.
  • Work together to clean up the meeting place.



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  • U.S. and den flags.
  • Materials for Group Juggle activity during the gathering.
  • Bar of Ivory soap for each Bear’s first carving.
  • Small blocks of soft wood for the second carving.
  • Orangewood sticks and plastic knives with serrated edges for each boy.
  • Sample patterns (See Meeting 2 Resources and the Bear Handbook).
  • Boy Scout Wood Carving merit badge pamphlet.
  • Basic first-aid kit.
  • Invite a local wood-carver to attend the den meeting to assist with the carving.
  • If desired, invite a parent or grandparent to also assist.


The Group Juggle game requires a large playing area and several beanbags or small stuffed animals that can easily be thrown. (Provide at least one object for every two players.)

  • Arrange den members in a circle. Have each Bear raise one hand to indicate he has not yet caught a beanbag.
  • The game leader begins by tossing a beanbag to one boy, who then tosses to another boy in the circle. After catching the beanbag, the boy’s hand should remain down to ensure each boy gets a turn.
  • Players continue to toss the beanbag until each Bear has caught it. Then they return the beanbag to the leader who started the tossing.

Second round:

  • Try for speed, using the same order of tosses each time.

Third round:

  • Add more bags to the game. Work up to as many bags as there are Bears in the circle. Have fun!


  • Conduct a flag ceremony of your choosing that includes the Pledge of Allegiance and, as appropriate, the Scout Oath and Scout Law.


  • Carry out business items for the den.
  • Do a quick review of the knife safety rules from the previous den meeting.
  • Review the instructions for creating the soap carving. Point out that a Bear’s first carving should be a very simple pattern.
  • Introduce the den to the Wood Carving merit badge pamphlet. Tell them they will have the opportunity to earn this merit badge when they become Boy Scouts.


Icon Activity 1: Carving (Requirement 3)

Work on the soap carving using the steps in the Bear Handbook and the detailed instructions in the Meeting 2 Resources. If some of the boys finish early, they may begin their second carving using one of the small blocks of wood. Remind Scouts that they will need to finish their carving projects at home if not completed during the meeting.


  • Offer a leader’s “thought of the day.” This can be any inspirational saying you choose.
  • Have each boy hold up both hands and, as a group, count their fingers. Tell them if they always follow the knife safety rules they have learned, they will always score a perfect set of 10!

HouseGamesTigersPlayDo-at-Home Project Reminder:
If needed, Bears should finish their two carving projects at home in order to complete requirement 3.


  • Thank any guests and helpers who attended.
  • Ask the Scouts to bring their completed carvings to the pack meeting for a display.
  • Serve refreshments, if desired.
  • Record completion of requirement 3, if completed during the meeting.
  • Work together to clean up the meeting place.


Upon completion of the Bear Claws adventure, your Bears will have earned the adventure loop shown here. Make sure they are recognized for their completion by presenting the adventure loops, to be worn on their belts, as soon as possible according to your pack’s tradition.



Patterns: A few simple patterns are shown below, and more can be found in the Bear Handbook. Children’s coloring books provide another good source for patterns. It’s important to use simple line drawings that can be easily transferred to the bar of soap


Instructions for Learning to Carve Using Soap

  1. The Tools. You will need the following: a large cake of white soap (the shape and texture of Ivory® Soap are most satisfactory), a paring knife, one or two orangewood “manicure” sticks, and a pencil and tracing paper for sketching (or preprinted patterns).
  2. Preparing the Soap. If possible, unwrap the soap and allow it to dry for a day or two before you start carving. Cut away the raised edges, and scrape off the lettering. This will create a flat surface for carving. Carving on a tray will keep the area clean and make it easy to collect the chips.
  3. Your Idea. The subject is often suggested by the shape and quality of the soap. Don’t be too ambitious at first. Choose a simple design with a solid, basic shape, without too many delicate undercuts or projections.
  4. From Idea to Soap. If you have a clear mental picture of your idea, you may carve directly in the soap; or you may use the orangewood sticks to outline a rough sketch of the form you wish to carve on all surfaces. A beginner may wish to sketch the idea first on tracing paper and then transfer it to the soap.
  5. First Rough Cuts. Regardless of the way you mark the rough outline on the surface of the soap, the first carving step is to make the first rough cuts. This step removes the greater part of the soap that will not be used to carve the design. Place the soap on a table or tray and, holding it with the left hand, start cutting at the upper right-hand corner (reverse this instruction if you are left-handed). Leave about a 1/4-inch margin outside the outline or penciled sketch. You should cut clear through the cake, removing excess soap all the way around. After making these first cuts, you will probably find it more comfortable to carve along your outline, using the knife as if peeling a potato. Again, the cuts should be 1/8- to 1/4-inch away from guide lines to allow for finer work later. Caution: While making rough cuts, you should cut away in small pieces or slices. Soap often breaks apart if cut in big chunks, which could spoil the whole design. It’s best to cut too little rather than too much, because you cannot put back a piece once it is removed.
  6. Shaping the Model. Round out the design by cutting around the corners. As you work, keep turning the soap, always keeping the shape of the piece in mind. You should watch the high points (those that jut out farthest from the surface) and low points (those farthest in), carving gradually from the high points toward the deepest cuts. It may help in some spots to use the tip of the knife. Keep checking the whole form as you carve, and do not try to finish any one part in detail before you are finished shaping the soap.
  7. Polishing. Allow the soap to dry for a day or two. Then rub it with a soft paper napkin, being careful not to break off corners or projections. Finally, rub it gently with your palm or fingertips.
  8. Details. When the piece is about finished and all planes and forms are shaped, you can smooth
    rough edges with the edge of the knife. Mark in details like eyes or ears, etc., with the knife tip or with your orangewood stick.
  9. Soap Sample Designs. Here are some examples of what could be carved out of soap (a design may need to be enlarged or made smaller depending on the soap size). Please remember that shapes with feet are the ones most likely to break or crack; simple shapes like acorns are just as challenging but will not crack as easily. If you choose a plain shape, you can work to put a lot of detail into your carving.


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