The Cutting Edge of BDSM
Adapted from an article by Mephi§tophele§
Before I begin, there are a few misconceptions related to knife play that I would like dispel from the outset.
The first deals with the "depth" of the cutting. In S&M the goal of the Top in all cases, is to inflict a maximum or desired level of sensation, WITHOUT disfiguring the physique of the bottom. Knife play is therefore about 75% "touching, scraping and rubbing" and about 25% actual cutting.
The second popular misconception, is that a knife has but one use, but one sensation that it can produce, and is therefore of limited use to the S&M devotee. Knives have a cutting edge of course, but also have sides, points, handles and since they are made of metal, can be refrigerated or heated as the Top may decide.
A third erroneous view involves the concept of actual blood letting. True, there may well be some, but this is absolutely unnecessary if undesired.
Finally, the fourth most popular misconception involves the idea that to play with knives means to scar by necessity, and that scars, permanent lasting scars are the name of the game. My current partner and I have played in this manner on many occasions, and she has not ONE permanent scar on her body, despite the fact that I have had her bleed for me as often as not.
Knives are damn dangerous things. They have been used to kill and maim for thousands of years. Some people have an inbred fear of them. Of concern to the Top, should be the fact that unless they are cared for VERY well, are sharp and are above all CLEAN, knives can well incur their traditional penalties.
There are a few rules related to knife play.
1) Buy quality equipment. You are looking for carbon steel blades, the finest quality you can find. You want a keen, smooth UNSERRATED edge. You want to keep this edge razor sharp, or rather dull. Either or, as befits your level of experience. The most dangerous knives are those that are a "little" sharp. These are unpredictable. They cut sometimes, but not others, depending on the texture of the skin. Sharp always cuts. Dull never will. Choose either and be sure of the situation.
2) Keep the knives you choose WELL. That means, use them for no other purpose. Keep them in a fine state of repair. You might well be able to get away with a cat of 20 tails that has a few tails missing, or a riding crop that has a frayed wrapping on the handle, but a knife that is chipped or nicked or has a loose handle, is absolutely ready for the garbage can., or non-S&M related uses.
3) Keep your tools clean. Always use "hospital sterile technique". Wash the knife blade and handle in denatured alcohol, or with a sterilizing soap of the sort surgeons use to scrub up with. "Liquid germicidal soap" works well here, but I still prefer alcohol. It kills bugs dead. Have your bottom take a shower before beginning. Wash your hands, and unless you are playing with your life's partner, BE SURE TO WEAR LATEX RUBBER SURGICAL GLOVES. Aids is transmitted very nicely through the blood. So are a host of other ailments.
4) Go slow. Take your time. We are NOT in a rush. Are we? Enjoy the session, and make it last a rather long time. Make slow distinctive movements. Never vary the speed unless you have a few years of experience under your belt.
5) Nothing above the shoulders. Eyes and facial nerves are impossible to repair if cut or gouged.
BUYING A KNIFE
The purchase of a blade, to be used in S&M play bears a deal of consideration. Visit a knife shop, and have a look at what they have on display. For your first blade, I would strongly suggest that you stay well away from all the fancy "fantasy" blades that they have on sale. They look pretty, but tend to be very cumbersome for the first time "player". Choose instead a basic knife, of medium size. A bowie with a six inch blade is a good choice. Remember, we are going for QUALITY here, so expect to spend from £50 upwards.
As you become experienced with the concepts of knifeplay, you may want to add to your collection of bladed toys. A small knife, of razor sharpness for detail work. (straight razors are the MOST dangerous knives used in this field, so be warned!) A larger blade for scoring and welting. And perhaps even a set of fingertip blades that will make you look like a well manicured version of Freddie Kruger. Each has a specific purpose, each has a role to play.
Eventually, after you have become Master of the blade, you may well at that point want to invest in a premium quality fantasy knife, of the type that caught your eye the first time you walked in the door of the shop.
Knives to stay clear of are chrome plated ones, serrated ones, those made for food preparation, double edged knives (unless you are an expert) "fruit knives", which tend to be chrome plated stainless steel, and are unsharpenable, hobby knives, widget blades, disposable razor blades, box knives, carpet knives, switch blades, folding knives unless they have a positive lock and of course, cheap knives.
KEEPING IT SHARP
If you have followed my advice, and purchased a quality blade, made of steel with a high carbon content, you should have little problem keeping it sharp. You will need a set of oil stones coarse, medium and fine. You will need mineral oil, to keep the stones wetted as you sharpen, and finally, you will need a leather strop (yes just like the kind your Grandfather spanked your Father with) to hone the final edge. These can be bought at most traditional barber suppliers. If you are unsure, your local cutler will be more than pleased to sharpen and hone your purchase for you. If you are a regular customer, you can pop in from time to time to have the edge tweaked. Beginners need no extra sharpening on their blades. The factory does a pretty damn fine job. In fact, you might just like to take that edge DOWN a notch or two, by placing a bit of steel wool on a cutting board, and running the edge through it, as if you are slicing a loaf of bread. The quality knife can always be sharpened again later. It's all a matter of choice, but I find that sharpening the blade while your bottom lays bound on the bed waiting for you adds greatly to the scene.
KEEPING IT CLEAN
Since knives can break the skin (that's what they were ALL made to do in the first place!) it is imperative that you keep them absolutely clean at all times. Wash your knife by hand (NO DISHWASHERS) everytime you plan to do something with it. If it came with a leather scabbard, be sure to clean the blade before putting it away. Cleaning can be as simple as rubbing it with a soft cloth, and oiling it lightly with mineral oil, (high carbon steel WILL rust if not given a light coat of mineral oil from time to time) or as involved as scrubbing it with alcohol or germicidal soap prior to it's use.
Beware of using the same blade on multiple partners without sterilizing it. Never "boil" a knife in oil or water to clean off the germs either. It can ruin the handle, or even warp the blade. It can also impregnate the steel with the oil itself, and cause it to lose some of it's temper. That means you can no longer keep it sharp. (Hospitals can and DO boil all their surgical instruments with hot steam in an autoclave but note that they are all stainless steel, and that the cutting edge is disposable.) Look at it this way, you have spent a lot of money on the knife. The need to keep it clean, take care of it, seems pretty straight forward after that.
I have always held strongly to the philosophy of "Me First" when it comes to trying out new S&M toys. It's not that I am a masochist by any means, but how else can one actually know the sensation one is creating in one's partner. Sit yourself down in a stable chair, and take the blade in your writing hand. Place the blade SHARP SIDE UP, that is away from the skin, on your thigh near the knee, and let the weight of the blade rest more or less, depending on how much you feel, and how heavy the blade is, on it's point.
Draw a line. Be delicate and gentle. Err on the side of caution. In a few minutes, if you have done sufficiently hard enough, a fine welt should begin to appear. Draw another line along side it. Draw several, varying the force on the point and the knife's position and angle. At NO time try this with the "sharp" side of the blade.
Once you have mastered this, you can begin tentative steps with your partner. The technique is the same. Use the blade to draw welted lines. This is the core of knifeplay. Try this with the sharp side of the knife, and you will be taking your partner to the emergency ward. Never EVER reverse the direction of the blade so that the point digs into the skin. This is also a sure way to become familiar with the EMS people in your area.
For the beginner, the drawing of these welted lines is the first stage of the learning curve. It's the beginning that can take up to a year or more to become really good at. These lines will leave no scars, yet may occasionally weep a little blood. This is not a huge concern. They will in time fade, but may take a few days to do so. Something to consider when playing this way, as they may be difficult to explain the following day at work. Experiment with placement of the lines, patterns and such. Don't be afraid to lay them down over the erogenous zones, but watch out for ticklish people. Nobody wants any sudden movements.
Another beginning technique is that of "dragging". Place the blade sharp side down against your thigh. (I am assuming you are going to practice on yourself again first, and are sitting once more on that sturdy chair.) Tilt the blade so that it lays at about a 45 degree angle to your skin. Now move the blade so that it scrapes your skin, that is drag it AWAY from the sharp edge. If you move it the other way, you will cut yourself deeply if the blade is as sharp as I have suggested it be, or you will simply gouge a little if you are a rank beginner and have wisely dulled it on the steel wool as I suggested. Continue to drag the blade, back and forth, as if spreading butter on a slice of bread. Vary the force, and feel how your skin reacts. My partner finds this particularly relaxing on her back, and the backs of her legs. I often use it, and a gentle voice, to help her find her focus prior to beginning more advanced play. Again this can be used all over the body. However, there is ONE caveat. I would not recommend this around the nipples, nor would I suggest this for any places where the body's curves might cause you to unintentionally place too much weight on any one given spot along the length of the blade. Always start the knife moving laterally before applying pressure, or you will cut deeply. NEVER pull the knife to the side, (towards the handle) or you will cut. Again, play cautiously. You have the rest of your life to build up to the "ultimate scene"
MORE ADVANCED TECHNIQUES
Once you feel confident that you have mastered the beginning stages, and can stripe your partner so that he or she looks like a tiger or zebra, consider moving to the next step. By now you will have acquired a variety of blades. Choose a small and wickedly sharp one. Razor sharp. Experiment first on yourself once again. Make a line on your thigh, that will produce a nice clean welt. Lay the large knife aside. Now, using the small blade, make tiny scratches at 90 degrees to the welt line, that will draw a little blood. The cuts need go ONLY into the welt itself, NOT the skin on either side. Hence the need for a small sharp knife, or you WILL cut too far. I find it handy to use a short bladed knife, and to hold it as one would a pencil for this. PLEASE don't give into the temptation to use a stanley knife or a carpet knife...You cannot get them clean enough. Wrap a longer blade with a few layers of sterile bandage tape if you need to to protect your hand from the cutting edge. These cuts will bleed freely, and seal themselves quickly after having done so. Still it is possible to have your partner's back or thighs, or wherever you choose, to become awash in the sheen of red. The secret is not to make deep cuts to flow the blood, but instead to make MANY tiny ones each producing no more than a few drops.
Once you have completed your session, take the time to cleanse your partner's body. Wash with antibacterial soap, and finally, take care of your tools before putting them away.
THAT FIRST SCENE
Alright. You have the tools, you have practiced on yourself, and you have a willing, perhaps wantonly willing partner. How do we begin? If the partner has never felt a blade against his or her skin, now is NOT the time to be placing the blade in the freezer or the oven. In fact, now is not even the time to be bringing any D/s or role-play into the scene. Might I suggest a clinical approach. Take your partner, and lay him or her on a stable surface. The floor works very well, water beds are RIGHT OUT. Have your partner relax, and lay the blade on his or her back, so that it has a chance to come to body temperature, and your partner can relax and focus a bit. Don't put any emotional stress on him or her, now is not the time. Simply explain what is going to happen, and help them to relax.
Begin lightly, stroking them with the handle of the blade. Gradually and gently, touch them here or there, on their back, or buttocks with the flat or dull side of the blade. Get them used to it... take your time. Draw a line on their back with your finger, and tell them this will be the first welted line. Draw the line gently with the blade as I described above. It does not matter if it welts up or not, you are building trust here. Nothing fancy. Continue for a time, and see if all is agreeable. D/s and role-play can come into it on the next session. Be caring and concerned. Otherwise you may well find that you have spent good money and practiced hard, only to have that nice blade become a beautiful ornament on your mantelpiece.
A FINAL WORD
If you remember nothing else from this briefest discussions on knifeplay, remember this. Go it slow, and go it sanely. There are other techniques I personally use, which I will not discuss here, since they involve a degree of skill the average reader will not have even for a few years if he or she plays and practices a fair amount. I have been playing at this game for a long time.