Ask the Expert: Is cutting corners off the Totin’ Chip allowed?

Ask the Expert: What happened to Bugling merit badge?Play around with a knife, lose a corner on your Totin’ Chip. In my troop growing up, it was that simple.

If a Scout lost all four corners of his Totin’ Chip (essentially a Scout’s license to carry pocketknives, axes and saws), his blade-carrying privileges were revoked until he re-earned the card.

It’s all part of Boy Scouting’s well-reasoned approach to teaching boys to see pocketknives, axes and saws as tools, not toys.

But it’s the corner-cutting business that was on the mind of a Scouter who asked to remain anonymous. He sent me this email: 


I just got back from [Introduction to Outdoor Leadership Skills training], and in the ax, saw and knife section of the class, the topic of Totin’ Chip came up. Participants and staff mentioned how in their troops, they cut the corner off the card when a Scout commits an infraction.

It was my impression before attending this session that, although popular procedure before, that this is no longer allowed in the Boy Scouts of America.

What do today’s official rules say on this matter?

Yours in Cheerful Service,


Great question, Anonymous. And thanks for the email.

I checked with Bill Evans, the BSA’s subject-matter expert on all awards and recognitions. He pointed me to the last line of the BSA’s Totin’ Chip guidelines: “The Scout’s ‘Totin’ Rights’ can be taken from him if he fails in his responsibility.”

“This is all we say,” Bill said. “Period.”

In other words, the BSA doesn’t tell troops they must cut corners off for Totin’ Chip violations, but it doesn’t prohibit the practice either.

This is a decision for troop leaders, and I’d recommend including your senior patrol leader in the discussion as well. Set a standard, and enforce it.

See also

The Whittling Chip, which is for Cub Scouts

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About Bryan Wendell 3281 Articles
Bryan Wendell, an Eagle Scout, is the founder of Bryan on Scouting and a contributing writer.