Knife Safety Tips

Knife safety is common sense. But it must not be all that common, really, judging by the number of knife related injuries we manage to inflict on ourselves. We could avoid a lot of that by stopping to think about the correct ways to use and store knives.

How to cut

The simple advice most commonly given first is: Never cut toward yourself, or rephrased; always cut away from yourself. It is good advice, though perhaps not always possible. You certainly need to be careful when cutting any tough material that the blade will go in a safe direction if it slips.

Use a knife only for purpose it was designed for

Another good bit of advice, often ignored, is to refrain from using a knife for purpose it was not designed for. You should never use a knife in place of a bottle opener, or as a screwdriver or punch. Do not use a knife to cut things that a knife was not meant to cut, like metal or other very hard, dense materials.

Use a knife only where it is safe to use one

You should always use a knife in an area where it is safe to use one, like on a cutting board that is stable and will not slip out from under your work. You should be aware of the people around you, so that they do not get hurt or cause you to hurt yourself. A good trick with the cutting board is to place a damp towel under it to stop it from shifting. A piece of that rubbery shelf or drawer padding material works very well too.

Select the right type and size of knife for work

Having the right knife for the work at hand is very important. For a large job, you need a large knife. A full-sized chef's knife is actually safer for chopping a pile of vegetables than is a knife that is too small or not shaped properly. The knife should not only be of the right type and size, it should be properly sharpened. A sharp knife is safer to use than a dull knife, as it will cut and not slip. Good quality knives that are well mounted in their handles and made of high grade materials will not break or fail in any other way and are safer to use than low quality knives of poor construction. How you hold the knife is crucial to safe use. Keeping your fingers out of the way keeps them from harm, and a good grip means good control of the knife's motion.

Select proper storage for the knife

Proper storage, even temporary storage is not only good for the knife but is vital for safety. It is hazardous to rummage in a draw full of loose knives, and bad for the blades as well. A knife block is excellent, either the type with slots or the ones with parallel rods where you can stick the knives in just any way you please. Putting a knife down, not even necessarily putting it away, can be dangerous and can lead to a serious accident. You should not put a knife near an edge where it can fall to the floor, possibly injuring someone's feet or legs. You should not cover or obscure the position of a knife with a towel, for instance, lest you grab for the towel and find the sharp edge by mistake.

Sharpening knives

Sharpening knives is a skill that you may wish to learn, if you are not already expert, as sharp knives are both more pleasant and less dangerous to use. But you should do that carefully as well. The movements in sharpening a knife using a whet-stone are repetitive, but do not become complacent or you may slice yourself. Whether we use common sense or uncommon caution, we should do what needs to be done to protect ourselves and others when using knives.