Friday, March 24, 2017

divided sphere part 4

I managed to get the divided sphere assembled with a total of 7 hinges. It folds and unfolds from a sphere to a hollow cube and back again, and I can attest that this was not easy to make. So why make it? It seems that it is difficult to ignore challenges, and the artifacts of Kindergarten point us in an important direction.

The historic relationship between Kindergarten and the introduction of manual arts training in the US makes Kindergarten relevant today as we as we attempt to renew interest in wood shops in today's schools. The purpose of woodworking education was not to make carpenters, but to make responsible and creative citizens.

As we look at the politics and political shenanigans of today, we can wonder, where were wood shops when we needed them most? Have you ever seen such a mess?

The wood shop at ESSA received its garage door yesterday and the carpenters are putting metal siding on, starting with the back.

Work benches have been ordered and are being shipped. Ordering tools is the next thing on my mind as we proceed toward completion and summer classes.

Today I'll work on my presentations for the Woodworker's Showcase April 1 and 2 in Saratoga Springs, New York.

Make, fix, create, and increase the likelihood of others learning likewise.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

turned sphere part 3.

I am preparing for my classes at Woodworkers Showcase at the end of next week and for the arrival Monday of a small film crew doing a video on Kindergarten in which my students will demonstrate "self activity"in the wood shop and in which I will explain the important relationship between the rise of Kindergarten and the rise of manual arts training in schools.

My mind/hand therapy has been to turn a hinged sphere from wood. In order to do so, I made 8 2-in. cube blocks, routed them to form hinge mortises in just the right places, and then glued the blocks together with brown paper between so that they could be turned on the lathe as shown.

The cuts in the side of the sphere are where the various hinges will fit between the segments when the ball is broken apart and rejoined.

Today I will install the hinges and see what I get. The objective is to make a segmented sphere as shown at the bottom of the second illustration.

 Make, fix, and create...

Wednesday, March 22, 2017


Yesterday I attended the Ozarks Woodcarving Seminar in Springfield Missouri and met a number of fine carvers that we will attempt to recruit for teaching at the Eureka Springs School of the Arts. There were over a hundred students, 18 teachers and several vendors in attendance for the 6 day event.

Shown in the photo is my friend Bill admiring many of the fine tools for sale at the event., Bill Hinson had invited me to the event and made introductions to some of his favorite carvers and those he thought would be of interest to ESSA. He had also taken our catalog to the event so that various teachers would know about our school.

The work by both students and teachers was beautiful.

The show is held in the Knights of Columbus Hall in Springfield, Missouri and is an annual event. Visitors are welcome and the show is open until Friday, March 24.

One thing a visitor will notice at the show is that there are very few young people involved. It seems that we've a great deal of important work to do if we want to maintain craftsmanship in our culture, by passing skill into the hands of fresh generations.

Make, fix, create, and  increase the opportunities for others to learn likewise.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

divided sphere part two

By gluing square strips of wood together with layers of brown paper between, I was able to make the eight separate parts of a divided sphere.The problem came in attempting to use very tiny brass hinges to rejoin the parts of the sphere back into a united whole.

It seems that the normal hands of a craftsman are just to large to manipulate such tiny nails and hinges. The solution will be to make one of a much larger scale and to use hinges and screws I am capable of inserting myself.

You can see that the brown paper dividing line between parts worked great.

"Theory," says Vives, "is easy and short, but has no result other than the gratification that it affords. Practice on the other hand, is difficult and prolix, but is of immense utility." Since this is so, we should diligently seek out a method by which the young may be easily led to the practical application of natural forces, which is to be found in the arts. -- John Amos Comenius (1592-1670)

To divide the sphere after it is turned on the lathe, simply place a sharp chisel at the line between parts and slice. The pieces come readily apart.

Yesterday I spent part of the afternoon cleaning up and recycling lumber from the delivery of roofing materials at the Eureka Springs School of the Arts.

Today I will visit a woodcarving club at Springfield, and look at more tools for the new wood shop.

Make, fix, create, and increase the likelihood that others learn likewise.

Monday, March 20, 2017

making a divided sphere, part one

Some time ago I bought tiny brass hinges with the plan of making a divided sphere like those that were made and used in some Kindergarten classes. The divided sphere was not the kind of object that would be made by most home craftsmen, but my idea has been that by using a modern turning technique that involves a layer of brown paper glued between layers of wood, separable objects can be formed.

The first step is to glue a piece of brown paper in between two pieces of wood.

Then, after that piece is cut into two pieces, glue another piece of brown paper between being careful that the corners line up.  This piece of wood will then be used to turn two matching half spheres of wood.

To divide the half spheres into the 8 pieces of the divided sphere, I'll use a sharp chisel to divide the half spheres along the paper line. The brown paper will separate at the center, leaving just a bit of remnant to be sanded from the wood.

Then I'll have the challenge of hinging the 8 pieces into a divide sphere.
Wish me luck.

Make, fix, create, and increase the likelihood that others have the experience of learning likewise.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

the country boy...

Milton Bradley wrote the following as part of his introduction to Knife Work in the School-Room, 1891:
Manual training is no new thing in our every-day American life. In the country districts fifty years ago the children had nine months of manual training of the best kind, because of the tasks required of them on the farm and in the shop and the kitchen. They also averaged three months of mental training, during which time they learned rapidly, in spite of the lack of ability on the part of their teachers. They had too much manual training and were hungry for the mental, consequently it did not hurt them to study night and day, through the two or three months that they were in school.
These days there are many proponents of year round schooling. In their view 9 months of academic work is not giving the students enough mental training to measure up. Can further numbing of student's mental faculties bring the results these educators hope for? While in the early days of American education 3 months of academic work was more than enough? The point is that children need to do real things to balance and make alive to them the work they do in academic subjects. For those with trained hands, this idea may not be so hard to grasp. But there are educational policy makers who've not acquired the wisdom that training of the hands provides.

From the time that manual arts were first introduced, proponents of academic studies have claimed, "there's no time for that." They've traditionally failed to understand the relationship between doing real things in real life and the readiness to grasp academic content. One kind of exercise prepares the mind for the other.

In addition to working on boxes in my wood shop, I'm working on my presentations for woodworkers showcase, and researching tool acquisitions for the new wood shop at the Eureka Springs School of the Arts.

Make, fix and create...

Saturday, March 18, 2017

moving toward a new era of craftsmanship...

It is spring break at the Clear Spring School, so I have the coming week off to attend to other things. One thing is to prepare for the Woodworker's Showcase April 1 and 2 where I'll be a judge and teach 4 one-hour and 15 minute classes. Another is that I have a film crew coming on March 28 to take some video footage for a documentary film about Kindergarten. A third thing is that I always have wood working to do in my own shop.

We have been making progress on tools and equipment for the new ESSA wood studio. Lee Valley is preparing benches to ship which should be completed in about 10 days.

Thorstein Veblen was a Norwegian American economist and sociologist who explored the relationship between workmanship and economy. His years (1857-1929) roughly paralleled the rise and fall of Educational Sloyd which had promoted woodworking in all schools for all students as a way through which society at large would be lifted toward respect for all persons within. Along similar lines, Veblen invented the term conspicuous consumption, and suggested that the pecuniary impulse in a society is often at odds with the rise of individual craftsmanship. In fact, the leisure class may place economic value on the work of certain individual craftsmen, but show disdain for the irksome craftsmen who had created the work.

The interesting thing is that we know that craftsmanship, the practice of getting good at some tangible act, is one of the means through which human beings moderate their emotional lives, finding self-esteem and through which we create meaningful communities. The rich may look down upon those who've created our cities, and on those who place food on their tables, but to do so is destructive, just as we have learned so many times before through the rise and fall of empires if we were paying any attention at all.

What we need is for a new era of craftsmanship to arise: one in which people at all levels of society are creatively engaged in the practice of making beautiful and useful things.  How can we move in that direction? Only as we take matters into our own hands. In the Educational Sloyd image above, Otto Salomon was careful to show that woodworking was a gentlemanly pursuit, one that the rich might pursue and expressed dignity as well as skill and intelligence.

Make, fix and create...