Thursday, April 27, 2017

batman and mom


I made some progress on my post card for the Incredible Edible fundraising auction at the Eureka Springs School of the Arts in June. A number of local artists were invited to make postcards of their own design, and mine is being made of wood.

I went to the post office yesterday to check to see if the ink they use to cancel stamps is effected by the Danish Oil finish I use. 

After I explained my mission, the clerk asked, "You are not going to really mail that are you?" My test proved that I can get the stamp cancelled first and then apply the Danish oil over their ink to provide a finish.

Water based inks like that in a gel pen, or post office cancellation stamp go well with oil finishes, whereas solvent based inks, like that from a Sharpie will be carried by the oil finish into the surrounding wood.

My elementary school students have continued making caped super heroes. Whether in first grade or in 6th, the enthusiasm has been the same. One first grader made two figures, batman and mom, as shown in the photo. (Facebook readers will have to go to the blog to see) For batman, he decided to use dowels for ears.

Today I will begin moving the first of the equipment into the new wood shop at the Eureka Springs School of the Arts.

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

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Wisdom of the Hands Event

We are having a Wisdom of the Hands fundraising reception  in Eureka Springs on Sunday, April 30, from 3 to 5 PM. If you wish to attend, please RSVP at 479-253-7888 or by email.

If you are unable to attend and wish to support the Wisdom of the Hands Program at the Clear Spring School, donations can be sent to Clear Spring School, PO Box 511, Eureka Springs, AR 72632, or by Paypal on the Clear Spring School website.

So why would someone support a small woodworking program in a small school in a relatively small city in Northwest Arkansas? We are at the cutting edge of what education can be and had best become, and a relatively small investment is what keeps us moving forward.

Today in the Clear Spring School wood shop, students will be making more super heroes, and other interesting things. I am also cleaning the shop for an open house on Saturday April 29.

I have been working on laminated veneer post cards, one of which will be auctioned at the Incredible Edibles Art Show to support the Eureka Springs School of the Arts. Artists from among many supporters of ESSA are asked to make post cards that will be displayed and sold at the event.

The first photo shows the layers of veneer held tightly to the form by the vacuum press as the glue dries.

The laminated "card" will be shaped and sanded to a more interesting form. The mold for the "card" was sawn from a block of solid walnut.

Make, fix, create, and help others to learn likewise.


Tuesday, April 25, 2017

action figures...


Yesterday we made caped action figures in wood shop, inspired by the student's study of "community helpers".... people who make our small city work for the benefit of all. I prepared for the lesson by making some caped action figures of my own. One is super librarian, made in honor of the librarians that keep our wonderful Carnegie Public Library in service to all readers.

The second was in honor of Friedrich Froebel's Charcoal Maker. I read students the poem from Mother Play about the Charcoal Maker and told how the Charcoal maker, frighteningly covered in soot, served an important role in the community and deserved the childrens' respect.  As the poem describes, the charcoal he made was essential to the blacksmith, and for keeping homes warm for the children inside.

One student made a hospital worker as shown. Another made an action figure in honor of his step-father who is such an important influence in his life.

I hope this lesson also helps my readers to understand a bit about how we plan projects. Making a model is essential in helping the teacher (me) to work out the process in advance and to provide a concrete example as the starting point of the child's labor and creativity.

Their main teacher had laid the groundwork for this project by arranging field trips to visit a variety of helpers in our small community. For me to know what the students were doing in their classroom studies helped me to select a project that would be in context.

The upper elementary students were so intrigued by what the younger students had made, they came into the wood shop saying, "I want to make one of those, too!" And so they did.

Part of the inspiration for this project came from a tiny hand powered Singer sewing machine. I wanted the students to have something to sew, and a small cape provided a beginning project. The students had made wooden dolls earlier in the year so they already knew a bit about the processes for the wooden part of the project.

Make, fix, create, and extend the opportunity for others to learn likewise.

Monday, April 24, 2017

finished chest.

Yesterday I applied a first coat of Danish oil to several things I've made recently, including the tool chest shown in the photos here.

It's a pleasure watching the wood change color as the finish is applied. It becomes darker and more reflective, and assures me that the object will be better protected in use.

The cherry in this chest will darken to a richer red-brown from exposure to light. Months from now, the rest of the box (except for inside) will be the same dark color as the turned knob. The inside and the tray will darken too, but at a much slower rate unless I leave the box open part time, allowing the inside to catch up.

My first, second and third grade students have been studying "community helpers." I am interested in having them make super-hero action figures complete with sewn capes, representing such important community helpers as our local librarians, teachers, mothers, and fire fighters.

So this afternoon they will make wooden figures and learn to sew capes using the tiny Singer Model 20 sewing machine that I acquired for use in the class. Depending on how things work out, I may have photos of local action figures tomorrow. I expect it to be fun for me, and I hope it interests my kids. In order to prepare I'll make a few super hero models of my own.

A favorite figure I plan to make is based on Froebel's "charcoal maker" illustrated in his book, Mother Play, or Mutter Und Kose Lieder. The charcoal maker at that time was someone Froebel's students would meet and be frightened of as he came from the forest looking wild and covered with soot. Froebel's song, illustration and finger play would tell the children he was no one to fear, but instead had an important part to play in the wholeness of life. I'll also make a librarian.

I know some of my readers are interested in guidance for the selection of projects for kids to make. The first thing is to make whatever you plan to have them make yourself. This helps you to foresee any problems they might have with regard to holding stock or safe operation of tools. It also provides a model for them to follow.

Allow your teaching to be organized not by models but by growing experience in the use of various tools. Salomon had devised a set of models, but most of his followers saw only the models, not the underlying exercises in the safe use of tools that he also described and upon which the models were based. His model series were systematically arranged according to a series of exercises that were to build the child's skill and understanding just as Froebel's gifts were to be systematically applied.

At this point, having done what I do for so many years, my cupboards contain projects that we've done in the past. There are boats, toy cars, trains, puppets, boxes, tool boxes, and many practical things that kids can make. The kids see those things and want to make them (or not). But whether you've made something as an example for them to follow or be inspired by, or whether you've pulled something from the cupboard of things made in the past, a part of the theory of Educational Sloyd applies: Move from the concrete to the abstract.

The point of Kindergarten as it was first invented, was to introduce the child to the wholeness of real life, not to get a leg up on the competition through increased emphasis on reading, standardized testing and academics. Educational Sloyd shared that original intent.

Make, fix, create, and inspire others to learn likewise.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

paperfuge...

Yesterday I sanded boxes to send to Appalachian Spring Gallery, and today I'll apply Danish Oil to a variety of projects that have been waiting for it. With my income these days being balanced between writing, teaching and making, the selling of work gets pushed to the back burner. In addition to oiling boxes, I'll take breaks to clean the wood shop at school, and to work on a product review and an article for Fine Woodworking. Unless I get distracted from all that.

My daughter, teaching chemistry and physics in New York City, marched in the Science parade in New York, and her sign, acknowledging both her position as a teacher and the importance of science in all things, brought new friends. My own spirits are lifted by a generation that will sooner or later send us back in the right direction and reverse the efforts of the Trump administration. I hope we once again protect our air, water, lands and forests from corporate predation. Corporations are NOT people, have no soul, and must be controlled by regulations to prevent them from inflicting huge irreparable damage on the planet.

My daughter alerted me to two new science tools. One is the origami microscope that can be bought for a dollar and that folds to fit your pocket. Another is the use of the button toy model to make a paper centrifuge or paperfuge.

We've made hundreds of button toys in the wood shop at Clear Spring School, but never thought of them being for something so important. But why should it be any surprise that a toy might serve as a model for a useful tool? Toys are tools for learning, and are most effective when children have made them themselves. The sound of the paperfuge at work is one that my students know

The seesaw that the students and I made at Clear Spring School continues to be the main attraction at recess. There are nearly always 4 students on at a time, with one or two standing by for a turn. Is it because they'd never seen seesaws before or because they had taken a hand in the making of it? I know the latter to be true.

Make, fix, create, and enjoy helping others to learn likewise.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Happy Earth Day...

Scott Bultman has a new trailer for the History of Kindergarten project, and it now includes short b roll views of some of my students at work. https://vimeo.com/214080852/5b3a212cdf

I found it lovely to see some of my student's working represented in this important project.

One of the questions that Scott asked me to answer in my interview had to do with the relationship between Educational Sloyd and the rising maker movement. My point was that the maker movement is a wonderful turn of events that would be enriched by an understanding of its place in the history of manual arts education. Makers have a sense that they've arrived here fresh, that they present something new and vital, and that manual arts training is something old and no longer essential. From that narrow view a rich history and depth of purpose may be missed.

This being Earth Day brings part of that important story to mind. Woodworking in particular, working with very basic tools, as simple as a knife, can provide an intersection between personal creativity and the natural world that surrounds us and upon which we depend. In a maker space, the student is surrounded by manufactured materials and processes that tend to be far greater than arms length from the natural world.

A simple way to think about Educational Sloyd, comparing it to the maker movement would be to think of organic and natural vs. inorganic and chock full of artificial ingredients. Woodworking is one of the ways that students engage in an exploration of materials drawn directly from the natural world. As children spend  more time on the artifice presented by their high tech digital devices, an exploration of the natural world through the child's personal manipulation of natural materials and expressions of personal creativity are far more essential, not less so.

My youngest students love to give me things, and the image above is what Joe called "organic wood." It has a nail carefully driven home at each end. Evidently, the term organic (for Joe) refers to wholesome materials, simple and pure to which no bad things have been done.

Today, scientists are gathering in Washington, DC in a march for science. Some scientists have been concerned that speaking out will cause them to lose voice. The following is from the organizers of the march, with whom I agree.
“In the face of an alarming trend toward discrediting scientific consensus and restricting scientific discovery, we might ask instead: can we afford not to speak out in its defense? There is no Planet B.”
Donald Trump will no doubt celebrate Earth Day by removing more of the carefully crafted regulations designed to protect our environment. As we near the 100th day of his presidency, he can lay claim to having destroyed more of the regulations intended to protect the planet, and put more of the environment at risk than any other president to date.

Happy Earth Day. May we all work toward living in a world in which no bad things have been done.

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


Friday, April 21, 2017

odd mail...

I received an odd piece of mail yesterday. It was a request for sources for the brand of hinge that I reviewed in a recent issue of Fine Woodworking.

But what made it odd was not the subject nor the sender, but that I received it at all. As you can see, it was addressed not to my address, but to my type of work.  "Mr. Doug Stowe, Boxmaker and Furniture Maker" is not an address but an occupation.

Where else but the small town of Eureka Springs, where I've lived for the past 40 plus years, would postal clerks actually deliver mail with such an insufficient address?

The envelope contained a stamped/self-addressed envelope, which is now on its way to an address in Indiana.

The Vertex round stopped hinges that inspired the Indiana woodworker to write me are available from Rockler.com and from Woodcraft.com

 I have written many times of the wonder of small town life. It may not be for everyone. Folks can get on each other's nerves. But when a piece of mail arrives in such an unexpected manner, it reminds me to feel a sense of belonging in this place.  It is wise wherever you are to plant your feet and make an investment in community life.

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