Are there restrictions on ax sizes in Scouting?

expertlogo1Splitting firewood, clearing fallen trees, completing service projects — Scouts use axes in a variety of ways.

And as the responsible adult nearby (I hope!), it’s your job to make sure they use those axes safely.

It’s in that spirit that Scouter Joe contacted me recently. He wondered whether there are BSA restrictions on ax sizes.

The verdict? Find it after the jump.

The question

I have been told for years that Boy Scouts are only allowed to use three-quarters-size or boys’ size ax. Is this true? I have searched and searched but cannot find any reference to ax-size restrictions. Thank you,

Joe Propst

The answer

Richard Bourlon, the BSA’s health and safety czar, offers this response:

If we go back into the Fieldbooks of the 1940s and 1950s, we find that we recommended a hand ax and a smaller-size felling ax. Those are probable sources for the folklore that we “only allow” such things.

These days, though, choosing the right equipment for the job at hand is the best answer we could give. In a perfect world, you’d fit the tool to the job and the youth.

In most cases with youth, a hand ax and/or a smaller felling ax would most likely fit the bill.

I think we need more common sense and qualified supervision instead of going back to blanket statements like “we only allow,” in our program.

The Boy Scout Handbook (12th edition, Pages 406 to 409) addresses safe ax use. Read that to refresh yourself.

In the end, though, we don’t specify a maximum length or size.

What about knife length?

Bourlon, on April 1, 2013, specified a maximum blade length of 60 inches for knives.

Pay particular attention to the date I posted that story. All fooling aside, there is no limit on knife length just like there’s no limit on ax length. Instead, I’d direct you to Bourlon’s mention of “common sense and qualified supervision.”

Just for fun …

At Philmont recently, Bourlon was given a handmade, 72-inch sword as a gag gift. It’s pictured below. Word is he’s now considering extending the 60-inch length maximum to 72 inches.


Ax photo from Flickr: Some rights reserved by shaggyhill

About Bryan Wendell 3182 Articles
Bryan Wendell, an Eagle Scout, is the founder of Bryan on Scouting and a contributing writer.