Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Teaching JH Students Pen Knife Safety

We are starting a paper cutting project, and at this level, students have enough dexterity and responsibility to handle pen knives.  With great power comes great responsibility.  Here is how I deal with this dangerous tool in my classroom.

    First, I scare them a bit.  I tell them the only time I ever had a student go to the hospital because of something going wrong in my classroom was when a student violated the only real rule with using a pen knife:


You entered with 10 fingers and want to leave with all them?  Don't violate this rule.

Don't let this happen to you...
So how do you use it safely?   Here are my directions:

1.  Don't cut towards yourself.
2.  Always have protective cap on when traveling around the room.
3. When we are cleaning up, I have to see all 30 back in their storage rack or no one leaves.
4. Always use  a cutting board underneath.
My handmade storage rack.

Knives with caps

After we go over this, I do a demo which includes the cutting challenges I think they need to pass in order to successfully complete their designs.  I also show them how to maintain the knife, in case  the blade falls out.

Disassembled knife
The Cutting Challenge is basically all the different issues the students will have to face to get a successful paper cut design.

1. Cutting a straight line.
2. Cutting a curvy/wavy line.
3. Cutting out a free form shape.
4. Cutting out a shape near another shape, but with a sliver of paper dividing them.
5. Cutting out a shape within a shape, using "paper  bridges" to hold the shape in place.

the Cutting Challenge on a scrap of paper.
Once the students have safely finished the Cutting Challence, I feel they are ready to work with the pen knives!

I also am proud to say after 10 years of teaching art, I finally upgraded my knife from beyond the el cheapo student grade to a fancy ergonomic version.  It includes blade storage and anti roll bump!  Woo Hoo!


  1. Where did you find the ergonomic knives?

  2. The knife was in theBlick Art Materials catalog

  3. Don't risk your life, safety first. When you use any types of knife you should consider your safety. When want to go to buy any types of knife you should consider
    knife safety