A child’s first knife is a rite of passage. It’s a measure of trust that’s earned from the parent and a measure of the child’s responsibility and maturity. Knowing when your child is ready is a judgment call but there are some things that we can do to gauge when the time is right.
One of those is working with your kids with toy or blunt models to see how they handle them and how they act with them. The new Nathan’s Wooden Knife kits from CRKT are perfect for that and they also let you spend quality time with your child building the knife. That building experience is a good bonding activity and it also gives both you and your child a better mechanical understanding of how a folding knife works.
The Wooden Knife Kit is the brainchild of Glenn Klecker as inspired by his son Nathan. Glenn is a knife designer who has worked with Leatherman and Columbia River Knife and Tool. When his son came to him and asked him to help design a knife that he could use, the wooden knife project was born. Since Nathan wasn’t yet old enough for a real knife Glenn sat down with Nathan and helped him build a functional, folding wooden knife. With that wooden knife Nathan was able to not only spend some great quality time with his dad but he could use it to start to show that he was responsible enough for the real thing in time as well.
I acquired a couple of the CRKT knife kits and they had barely made it into my house before my 6 and 8 year old saw them. Both kids are very interested in crafts and were chomping at the bit to try their hand at putting them together. They had also just gotten My First Victorinox folding knives for Christmas that they were anxious to use so the idea of a training knife that would help them achieve that goal was incentive as well. I took the kits with us on a recent trip to my in- laws cabin in case we needed a rainy day project while we were there. The weather ended up cooperating with us but the kids had had enough of me stalling them so we ended up sitting down and building the knives together. The CRKT kit makes this an easy project for even someone with marginal skills. It consists of a set of precut parts and a detailed instruction sheet that make it easy to walk even a young child through the assembly process. The knife that you build is reminiscent of a Buck 110 and is very cleverly laid out. The parts are all oversized which makes assembly and use easy for a child. The knife is a fully functional folding knife complete with working lock back design, just like a real 110.
Before we started I sat down with my kids and we read through the instructions which include a set if safety guidelines from Nathan Klecker along with some follow up instructions from his dad. I explained to the kids that while these were wooden knife models, I’d be keeping an eye on how the handled them so that I could determine when and how much time we’d spend that weekend with their real Swiss Army Knives.
Actual construction time was maybe about 15 minutes. That was working with both kids and taking our time. The precut parts fit together pretty easily with some minor futzing aligning the wooden pins up correctly. An adult could probably put together the kit in 5 minutes or so. Assembling the kit really gave you a god understanding of how a folding knife works and what parts need to work together for everything to function smoothly. I have more than an average amount of time in around knives but I have to say that while I knew the theory on what was inside a folder I had never really looked at it closely. It’s both simpler than I thought but also tricky in that everything has to be lined up precisely and constructed to fit together exactly. Fixed blade knife design is easy. For the most part if you can envision it, you can make it. With a folder you have to take into account the moving parts, the fact that the blade has to be of a shape and size to fit inside the handle and around the lock mechanism. It’s much easier to grasp this when you’re working with a functional 3-D model than it is when you’re sketching out designs on paper. Many knife makers make wooden prototypes before they move on to steel and it’s easy to see why after working with Nathan’s Wooden Knife Kit.
That’s my perspective on it. The kids saw it as a fun project with some time spent with dad. They did pretty good following along with the instructions although they did want to jump ahead occasionally. My 8 year old assembled her kit with minimal assistance from me. My 6 year old needed some help getting the top handle scales lined up on its pins but, in fairness to him, had to fidget a bit with it to get it’s aligned correctly as well. The kit comes with a square of sandpaper as well which can be used to touch up any protruding pins or rough spots. Our kits finished pretty nicely although my daughter did do some sanding on hers to clean up some perceived imperfection. Once your sure everything goes together right you can go back and paint your parts and then reassemble everything and glue it together if you so choose. Make sure not to glue the pivot pin though so that you can still open and close your knife!
Once the kits were together we had a brief training session on how to operate these knives in particular and to cover safe knife handling in general, we went through the safe way to open and close a folding knife without getting your fingers bit (something their dad still needs to master sometimes) and how to operate a lock back mechanism. The kids were quite excited with their finished product proceeded to carry them about in their pockets the rest of the weekend.
After some experience with the wooden knives we broke out the Swiss Army Knives and proceeded to cut some marshmallow sticks for our campfire. The kids cut the sticks themselves with the SAK saw and then used the blades to whittle the points on. My 6 year old boy managed to nick himself with the saw a couple times but his operation the knife blade was safe and uneventful, thanks in large part to our pre training with the wooden knife.
Nathan’s “How to Make Wooden Folding Knives” Book
Now, if you’re a bit more adventurous or if you have a child up to more of a challenge you can take on the construction of a wooden knife entirely from scratch. In order to facilitate this Glenn and Nathan have come with a great book that takes you through the process from start to finish. From what tools you’ll need and what material is best suited for the project to finishing the completed knife, the book takes you through everything step by step. It includes a set of templates that can be cut out or copied from the book to make cutting the parts needed simple. A series of well documented photos guide you visually through the process along with the written instruction. Even someone with only basic tool knowledge and skill should be able to easily follow along.
The book takes the construction of the wooden knife up a notch. If the assembly of the kit gives you an idea how the mechanism works, cutting the parts out by hand and making sure everything is to spec and fits properly gives you an even greater appreciation of the craftsmanship that goes into a folding knife. It’s a great exercise for both adults and kids interested in how things work and who might have the creative spark to design and build projects of their own.
Glenn discusses at the end of the book other creative toys and projects that inspire kids. Such as erector sets and Legos and I think that Nathan’s Wooden Knife Kit and the accompanying book fit into that category nicely. And that’s pretty high praise coming from a guy raised on Legos and whose kids are also Lego addicts! The CRKT kits run for about $9.95 and the book runs $19.99. You’ll find the kits available just about anywhere that carries CRKT products and the books can be had direct from the Klecker Knives website. If you have kids and are interested in training them up for the outdoors the wooden knife kit is the perfect tool. They’d be a great project for a Scout Troop too. If you’re kids are a little more ambitious then grab a copy of Nathan’s “How to Make Wooden Folding Knives” as well!