Thursday, January 18, 2018

dust collection box

The photo shows the latest ESSA woodworking studio development project. The planers fill the existing dust collector too quickly, so I'm using plastic 55 gallon drums as a first stage of a triple stage collection system. The larger shavings fall out first.

The dust collection hoses from the two planers at left and right enter on opposite corners causing a circular airflow and allow the larger chips to fall from the air stream before it is extracted from the top.

Part of the challenge of this project involved the three sizes of connections required. The planer on the left has a 4 inch outlet port. The larger planer on the right requires a 5 in. hose. The existing dust collector uses a 6 in. connector hose to go to the box. There are shut off slides to shut off one planer or the other when not in use, but I expect it to handle both at the same time.

This is experimental. I will learn quickly whether it works as I hope.

To finish the system, I'll build a support frame to hold the box up while the barrels are wheeled out from underneath.  The section of stove pipe from the top of the box will connect with the existing two stage dust collector. The barrels will each have wheels added so they can be quickly replaced and wheeled out of the shop. The shavings will be used in campus landscaping projects.

My bag is packed for travel to Rochester, New York on Friday.

Make, fix, create and assist others in learning likewise.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

mfg OMG

Yesterday in picking up 55 gallon plastic drums to use for sawdust in the ESSA wood shop, I visited a small manufacturing plant in Springdale, Arkansas where about 30 women were busy making and packaging scented bath salts. The pace of their work was mind boggling. It made me wonder how hands could  be trained to move so fast. The shop foreman said the women workers were like robots. He said that they were happy to develop their speed and expertise because if they got their quota done they got to go home early.

At the head of the operation, women were weighing ingredients and others were mixing them by hand with unrestrained vigor. Then, when thoroughly mixed, the materials were distributed to pairs of workers. One measured exact scoops into a die and another placed the die in a press, slapped two buttons (one with each hand) while the press dropped down to form a ball of bath salts. The woman operating the press lifted the die, and rolled the ball out into a tray, with each tray holding a precise number of balls.

From there the balls went into a drying room where the humidity and heat were carefully controlled for hardening. 46,000 balls a day. The balls upon hardening would bounce off a concrete floor if you were to throw them.

Packaging came next. From this small plant, packaged bath salt balls are distributed throughout the US, and with increasing production, the world.

What I could not describe from my visit would be the overwhelming scent of the fragrances added and the furious pace at which production takes place.

I was reminded of my own time operating a punch press in a manufacturing line. A shop manager in white shirt and tie watched me as he made notes on his clipboard. He commented on the speed of my work and noted that if all worked at that speed they'd do well. I informed him that it was my last day.

In the meantime, there are people who need to work are willing to develop skill and make money and are proud to serve their families. They deserve that we be proud of them.

Clear Spring School is out today due to severe cold and the icy road remnants of our winter storm. I will be preparing for my trip to Rochester, New York on Friday where I will make an evening presentation and teach a one day class. I am also building a new dust collection separation box for the planers at ESSA.

In Washington, DC, our legislators are about to shut down government because they failed to learn the basic lesson of Kindergarten: how to get along with each other and treat each other with respect. Some in one particular party think it is perfectly acceptable to disparage and demean large portions of our society and other nations and then lie about having done so. I wish they all had been able to attend the Clear Spring School where they might have learned more about character and integrity.

Make, fix, create, and assist others in learning likewise.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018


The United States, purporting to be the richest country in the world, has a reported literacy rate of 86%. Costa Rica has a literacy rate for men and women of 98%. In addition, the US spends more on education K-12 per child, than any other country on earth. In a listing of countries by educational performance, the US ranks 17th of 40 in the list.

So why are we getting such poor results? When my wife and daughter and I visited in Costa Rica a few years back, it was obvious that each and every small town had its own school, and each small school served as a center of community life.

In the US, we go for big stuff, big schooling in which students are isolated from community life, sequestered into discrete subjects, and pushed to read before ready. Reading alone can serve as an example. In Finland students in school are asked to begin reading at age 8, and by the time they are tested in the international PISA test, age 13, they far surpass American readers in 30 percent less time. Somewhere along the way, American educators became reading obsessed as though it was the only thing that mattered. And the pressure was applied. But you can't push a rope.

The push in the US is for school consolidation to gain economies of scale at the cost of community engagement. The schools and their administrations tend to be isolated from the needs of their communities. Local school boards have little power except to go through the motions prescribed by the state and federal governments.

But real education is about real life. It is not about statistics. It is not about test scores. It is about play, and it is about community, the engagement of the child within community, and the engagement of community within the life of each child.

Today I will be working on the dust collection system at ESSA, getting the wood shop ready for summer classes. Clear Spring School is closed today due to snow and severe cold.

Make, fix, create, and adjust schooling so that each child learns likewise.

Monday, January 15, 2018

one way or the other...

One faction of society thinks that if anything is done for the poor, they will be stripped of incentive to do things for themselves, and they take that as their reason to do nothing for each other. Another faction of society thinks that if we have the power to be of service to each other we should use the gifts we have been given to make the world a better place.

We get to decide. We can act now through the creation of useful beauty. Then recognizing that the government is like a power tool, enabling us to apply collective force in the resolution of our nation's problems, we can choose how to vote in our next elections.

This is the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. national holiday, and he had learned that the problems facing our nation were not simply matters of race and racial discrimination but also of poverty. We have been held back not only by poverty of physical resources but also by poverty of will. Will we choose as a nation to be of use to each other?

When I was imagining myself, in the early days of my career as a woodworker, I understood the essential relationship between the craftsman and community. I thought of the village blacksmith, and the village carpenter as examples of how people and their lives are interwoven into community life. What I did not fully grasp at the time was the responsive effect. When we work in service to each other, we are transformed in consequence. We become better, more caring persons through our efforts to be of service to each other.

If you've been mistakenly taught, or failed to get the lessons of life and of love at an earlier time, you are probably not reading this blog and will be of that faction that's ideologically opposed to helping the poor. If you are on the fence about things, test matters in your own hands. Use this holiday to try being of greater use to one another.

Make, fix, create, and adjust education so that each student has the opportunity to learn lifewise.

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Up to my ears in guitars...

My publisher returned the guitars I had sent for photography but for one guitar which he bought  from me as a souvenir of the project. I now have more box guitars than I know what to do with. I will be trying to find homes for some. It will be difficult to decide which to sell or which to keep or whether to make a clean breast of things and clear the deck and mind for fresher work.

Yesterday in the ESSA wood shop, with volunteers we rebuilt an important part of the dust collection system, which had been hastily assembled last year to get us up and rolling for the first classes. We've learned a bit since those early days, as we will each year. We also installed pegboard and began arranging tools in the bench room with tool holders that I designed and that Dan assembled last week.

We expect to have a film crew in the ESSA wood shop on the 23rd. I'll be in Rochester, NY next weekend so this weekend is my best chance of getting the shop ready and in top shape.

I am grateful for my volunteers, Suzanne, Bill, Bob, Gilles, Steve, Becky and Cliff.

I am often surprised at how small a world this is. I was looking for plastic drums to use for gathering sawdust in the ESSA wood shop, and went looking for them on Criagslist. I tried to text a seller, and discovered that my phone recognized the phone number as belonging to a fellow ESSA board member. The plastic drums are now to be donated to the school and all I need to do is pick them up and get them ready for use.

My returned  guitars are shown in the photo.

Make, fix, create, and assist others in learning likewise.

Saturday, January 13, 2018

poverty and education.

An article from Associated Press by Maria Danilova in yesterday's Arkansas Democrat-Gazette points out the effects of poverty on education. This is not the first article to describe the effect. The number of years a child must spend in poverty has a well documented dramatic adverse effect on whether or not he or she graduates from high school or goes on to college. 

Forgive me for troubling you with all this, but education is an important issue and it's important that we get things right. I've written about the effects of poverty on education before:

An additional effect is that poor children often live in poor communities where educational resources just do not add up.
"Low income, black and Hispanic students often end up in schools with crumbling walls, old text books and unqualified teachers, according to a report released Thursday by the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights."
So education will not be fixed by hands alone. We must work together to solve the basic problems of poverty. We have economic poverty on the one hand, and moral poverty on the other in which some folks think that accumulating vast wealth at the expense of others in our communities is moral and right. Those impoverished notions lead those folks to demand  that taxes must be cut and cut again, to the point that the government is no longer able to serve the people or the noble ideals to which our nation has long aspired.

Let me set the record straight. Through craftsmanship we learn that what we do has real effect and that what we do is rightfully connected to all else and all others. In craftsmanship, unlike religion and politics you can't just make crap up and get away with it. The joint fits, or it does not. It is sanded smooth and finished well, or it is not. The work will not lie on your behalf.

I have come to the conclusion that higher taxes are a must. We must have the resources to serve those communities that have been impoverished and ignored by a heartless capitalism.

From today's article in the Democrat-Gazette:
'The reality is that the United States does not offer the educational opportunity that is consistent with our ideals." commission chairman Catherine Lhamon said, "That's dangerous and all of us need for it to change."
Educational Sloyd was developed with a noble purpose in mind. Not only was it to lead to growth of the individual child, it was offered to all children in the hope that they would develop an appreciation for all labor, understand the dignity and worth of all persons and thus grasp and conform to the spirit of democracy.

In the wood shop at Clear Spring School, I decided to make some canes with turned handles as shown in the photo.

Today I join with volunteers to work to get the ESSA wood shop ready for 2018 classes.

Make, fix, create, and assist others in learning likewise.

Friday, January 12, 2018

Quarter knees and deck supports.

Yesterday I did some complex cutting on deck supports and quarter knees for the Bevins Skiffs.  Fitting the quarter knees requires cutting  them at angles to fit both the transom and the sides of the boat if they are to set level in place.

I first cut the quarter knees to shape and then used the band saw and fence to make the required angle cuts.  This requires tilting and locking the band saw table to the required angle, as determined by using the sliding T bevel to measure the shape inside the boats.

It is good to have tools capable of such work, and to have enough familiarity with those tools to be able to quickly put them to work.

Fitting the quarter knees is a quickly done task if you know how, and a quick way to make a mess of things if you do not. Just a few more hours of work and the boats will be ready for paint.

I received word today that the Chancellor at the U of Arkansas is very pleased with the boxes I made for him to give as gifts to international guests.

Make, fix, create and encourage others in their efforts to learn likewise.