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Carrying totin' chit and firem'n chit cards

I don’t think there’s anything required for totin’ chip or firem’n chit that isn’t also required to advance past Second Class.

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I don’t know about firem’n chit, since I honestly don’t remember it from when I was a scout, but totin’ chit, part of the idea is that they they lose a corner for each violation, and once all 4 corners are gone they have to repeat the course to get the privilege back. It doesn’t stand in perpetuity the way a rank does. For this to work they have to have the physical card, not proof of the previous course, or a rank that covers the material.

That said, I agree that I think I may have seen mine once. After that it was lost in a desk drawer or, as you said, washed and dried into oblivion. It was never a big deal to actually have it on us.

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There is no official policy that says Scouts lose a corner when they violate a safety rule. That is a tradition used by some, not all, troops.


@MatthewWalters1, while I was a Scoutmaster, I never cut corners off Totin’ Chip cards. I simply took it away, and the Scout had to re-earn Totin’ Chip. I had two reasons for doing so.

The first, far less important, reason was that cutting corners off a card could lead to hazing. I did not want any Scouts being teased that they had already lost two or three corners.

The second, far more important, reason was that safety to is be taken seriously. Cutting a corner off the card for a violation is like saying you get three free passes to be careless. I don’t think there should be any free passes. That isn’t to say I took cards away frequently. When a matter came to my attention, I gave the Scout an opportunity to explain, and then I made a judgement call. None of us are perfect, and if I felt the Scout could continue using tools safely, I ended it there. However, if that first violation showed recklessness or carelessness, I was glad that the Scouts were all aware that all it took was one violation to get your card taken away. I wasn’t stuck with cutting a corner off and waiting for the Scout to be careless again.

As a Scout, my troop did cut off corners. I still have my Totin’ Chip card from 1977, with all four corners intact.


I can’t see how taking the card is any less prone to hazing than cutting corners. I’ll say point taken though, to both of you, on the corner cutting not being official BSA policy.

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@MatthewWalters1, once you take away the card, it is over and done with. The Scouts immediately recognize the seriousness. That was my experience during my time as an SM.

If it was an older Scout who lost his card, I generally had him conduct Totin’ Chip instruction. Having a 15- or 16-year-old sit in front of a 13-year-old to be taught is unnecessarily humiliating,


I would point out that the use and administration of these tools is a unit decision. I have seen very few units make much use of the Firem’n Chip.

My unit is small enough and I know who hasn’t had training yet. Also, that is a huge emphasis when we get new scouts.

I look for teachable moments and when there has been mi or cuts, we had some discussion of where things went wrong.

Fortunately we have only had one serious case of misuse. In that case my SPL handled the situation by taking the scout’s knives. He gave them to me when I came back to camp. Mostly my scouts do a great job of self policing though we keep an eye out when an ax is being swung.


No official policy from the BSA but Troops are allowed to decide on their own if a Scout is required. A lot of Scouts sew the Tot’nChip Badge and Fire’nChit badge onto their sashes on the back. As for carrying the cards, up to the Troop - I still have both of mine from when I was `16 years old and show them to my Scouts all the time.

I know a lot of micro managing SMs will say to develop responsibility they must have the card on them even if they are a Eagle Scout. Well, if that was the case 99% of the time the SM would me doing all of the wood splitting. As a SM I dont have time to run around checking on those stupid cards.


You could build a board similar to the swimming buddy tag board and make the scout post their chip before entering the ax yard. Or we can treat them like young adults, teach them and enable them.


“Or we can treat them like young adults…” AMEN


One thing I like to add is truefully how many of the adults keep there wallets with them on camp trips. ( yes most likely we start out with them either because we are driving or have the troop checkbook or credit card for expenses, ) it if you are like me once we get to the campsight it stays in the truck.

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I’m the opposite. Unless I’m going to be in the water, my wallet, my keys, my phone, and my knives are on me at all times. I don’t like having to go look for my things when i need them.


I think it’s about: what problem are you trying to solve?

My son’s & daughter’s troops so far haven’t had any issues with fire or knives, etc. and don’t require scouts to have these chits on them. Getting this in to place in either troop will take a chunk of work both from the adults and the scouts, with little benefit.

That said, I can see if it has become a problem for a particular troop, it could be a worthwhile intervention, or a motivation and thus worth the overhead of keeping track.


I think it’s about: what problem are you trying to solve?

And this is really what should drive the entire experience. If your not solving a problem, you might be creating one to solve. I say focus on the four aims of scouting.

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Lots discussion (that lasted five years) here on Bryan’s Blog.

When working with SM’s, I note:

  1. It’s a program for the troop to reinforce skills and safety.
  2. Your SPL/PLs should administer it. Their eyes are younger and sharper than yours – and there are more of them!
  3. It’s a big country. Taking a card in one place is as rude as cutting corners in another. A clipped corner is just a tally of how many times a scout said, “I’m sorry, I’ll do better.”
  4. A first class scout (concept, and I hope patch) is qualified to take his/her scouts hiking and camping independently with their mates. It certainly qualifies him/her to pick up a knife or axe. When you see a violation, challenging a first class scout to live up to his/her rank speaks volumes more than asking to see his/her card.

Some of our SM’s put a lot of weight behind the card. Other’s not so much. The reason there aren’t national rules about this, is that often the SM’s judgement is far better than any national pronouncement.

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Preventing a Scout from using knives/saws/axes until a future date (ie taking a Scout’s card), isn’t rude. It is removing their privilege of using a knife/saw/ax until some further date. Doing our best to assure the safety of Scouts isn’t about manners or rudeness.

As you sate as item #1: it is about the safety of the Scouts and others around them. If a Scout has demonstrated they are not safe; they must be retrained. For some, that retraining can be a correction to a poor choice, for others, they must start over.

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I don’t think that @Qwazse meant that removing privileges for safety sake is rude. And while I think the ideal time for retraining is immediately I also realize that this isn’t always practical for various reasons. (Though I think it should be done immediately if possible and as soon as practical in all instances.)

As others have pointed out though - there is no national standard on how units use the cards. From my (very limited) view it seems most summer camps require the card for purchase of a knife. I am sure much of that goes to their supporting the unit and not wanting to equip a scout not yet trained with a new knife. So far EVERY summer camp we have been to has wanted to do right by the unit even the one my troop won’t return to while I am SM.

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@Matt.Johnson, I find courtesy goes a long way in enforcing safety. For some boys, losing a card is such an affront that they may tune out whatever lesson you’re trying to teach. Cutting corners could be just as rude, but it depends on the delivery of the scout doing the cutting. (I never suggest an adult cut a scout’s card. This is a youth-led movement.)

Secondly, I don’t think there are any safety studies of either strategy. Nothing stops a cardless scout out of your line of sight from picking up the next knife or axe he/she sees. Nothing encourages a scout with a no-longer-rectangular card to be glib about blades or fire. We have a lot of rolling hills here, so patrols don’t have to go far to be invisible to adults.

I do believe that letting a scout keep his card – even to the point of being octagonal – is a great communications tool for the next youth who will need to correct him. Honestly, I have never seen anyone get more than two cuts. By then a scout has been “caught” twice and the PL/SPL/Staff has a sit-down and says, “Looks like you’ve forgotten this before. Wanna go over what’s on the card, before another clip?”

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Cutting corners is clearly a nationally prohibited action - by scouts or adults. It is considered hazing.

Let me restate the obvious: if a Scout isn’t using their knife/saw/axe safely, the should not be allowed to continued use at that time (card or no card). Since the card allows the Scout to carry and use edged tools, the card privileges should be revoked depending on the severity of the misuse. Even if that is an affront to the Scout.

As with any leadership action, including enforcing safety rules, it should be done with care and not rudely. Involving the troop’s Scout leadership is key to helping Scouts always maintain these expectations.