Saturday, May 31, 2008

This is the second footstool for chapter 4, glued and clamped and ready for the next step.. It will be trimmed one inch shorter at the base, and about 1 1/2" will be trimmed off the tops of the legs. Then it will be sanded, finished in Danish Oil and upholstered in seagrass twine. I had so much fun with the Shaker tape on yesterday's project, I am looking for more opportunities to use it. Woodworking is so much fun, it amazes me that people would spend their time watching television when they could be experiencing the pleasure of craftsmanship.
A revolution in precise hand sawing! From Bridge City Toolworks

Friday, May 30, 2008

Here's a great little one day project designed to illustrate the use of shaker tape in upholstering a chair or bench. The checker board pattern is a classic Shaker design. This project and a variation using seagrass with be chapter 5, helping readers to prepare for making a chair.

Remember 'go outside and play?'

Overbearing parents have taken the fun out of childhood and turned it into a grind.
from the LA Times.
So, what is the value of history? They say that those who forget the past are doomed to repeat it. But history is not just the sequence of causes and effects, but the remembrance of ideas that drove those chains of events. During the Viet Nam war, the compelling ideas that drove American foreign policy were the "communist menace" and the "domino effect"... that if we didn't stand up to the "commies" and waste American lives and resources, all of Asia would be taken from us and be enslaved to an abhorrent world view. Please look at Southeast Asia now. With the exception of Myanmar (Burma), Southeast Asia's democratic and economic success offers a striking illustration of contrast from the failure and stupidity of American Viet Nam war era foreign policy and our colossal waste of American and Vietnamese lives. We once believed the world was flat... a world view that served quite well when all of us were isolated tribesmen hunting and gathering our way through survival on a less populated planet.

One of the things we learn from history is that we have been wrong at least half the time, maybe more... Many or even most of the ideas that have framed our perceptions of reality at various times have been proved false. Our world views and beliefs are often based on mistaken notions... So what if we are a nation of idiots? Perhaps that has always been the case.

With the light of history to illuminate our record of mistaken notions and tragic circumstances evolved from utter stupidity, how do we gain a clear view of reality? The first step is to restore a questioning skepticism. One of my students at Clear Spring always asks, "How do you know that?" It is a good question. We take too much on authority.

The hands are a great way to test things. We can see the newsfeed, and listen to the commentary of others, but unless it is our choice to live on a flat earth of ideas, we'd best be making things, testing limits, exploring on our own and drawing our own conclusions, not for the sake of belief, but to further our own exploration, investigation and skepticism.

Years ago, a friend sparked my investigations, when he challenged me, "Why you are studying to become a lawyer, when your brains are so clearly in your hands." My friend brought into question not just what I was planning to do in my own life, but the whole framework in which human intelligence has been understood.

Another reason for the close examination of history is that it can enable us to remember the other ideas, the ones rejected as unsound for unjust cause, without adequate testing in human experience, and whose success or failure was measured in the false framework of flat earth notions of reality. There are near forgotten ideas from the past whose time had not yet come.

Educational Sloyd is one of those ideas, not because it should be repeated exactly as offered in the 19th century, but because it opened for discussion the idea that education was much more than just filling empty heads with half-baked, wrongful notions... It proposed that the use of the hands was essential in the development of meaningful intelligence.

If what we've forgotten is destined for repetition, what about the ideas presented by Educational Sloyd? They disappeared almost completely from the American educational landscape. Let the repetition and testing begin.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

George Large is one of my rocking chair students from my class with the Mt. Diablo woodworkers last summer. He sent me a photo of Katie's finished rocker, and now has to do another one for her sister. Way to go George! It is a jewel. Katie seems very proud.
Today I am weaving the seat for the rustic chair using seagrass. You can tell I'm doing an OK job for a beginner because the open areas still remaining are fairly uniform in width in each direction from the center. I just ran out of seagrass and will have to wait a couple days before finishing the seat and back. This is actually quite easy to do once you understand the pattern.
Don't forget today's experiment below and at right. We get so busy listening to authority, whether scientific, religious, or just television, that we forget to study ourselves and neglect learning from from our own experiential reality.
I woke up this morning thinking about my hands and the ways we use our hands to define and understand the space around us. We know that they have been traditionally used in religious ceremonies either by folding or grasping, and that as we put our hands together palm to palm at the chest, below the chin, it is universally regarded as a sign of devotion. Did someone just make that up and spread it all over the world, or do these gestures have real meaning and physiological effect on consciousness? Is our religious use of our hands based on something real with observable effect other than the simple outward demonstration of conformity?

Let's try a simple experiment to find out. Share what you learn by responding to the poll at right.

Stand up. Close your eyes. Extend your hands as far as you can reach at your sides. Then with your eyes still closed, move your hands slowly together until your fingers lightly touch. You will need to do this more than once, and observe the results. Do you feel anything? As your hands draw more closely together, do you feel anything in your head? Do you see anything?

Answer the poll at right.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

As you can see in the photo at left, the next step in making the rustic chair is finishing the arms. I used some rough-sawn and weathered cherry for making the arms and drilled mortises in them to fit tenons formed on the front legs. The arms are dryer material than the front legs so before assembly I'll cut slots in the ends of the tenons so they can be wedged tightly in place. Tomorrow I'll glue the chair together.

Tomorrow is the "Celebration of the Child" at Clear Spring School, our annual end of the year program in which each child is celebrated and for his or her special qualities of character as well as intelligence. School is not just about making kids smart. It is also about developing those character traits that lead to lifetime achievement, responsible action, and active citizenship.
This is the trial assembly of my rustic chair. Later, I will fit arms to it and then do the final gluing when I know the arms fit properly.
The video below is Cheng Man-ch'ing, famous Chinese Tai-Chi master. The forms, consisting of hand movements and corresponding body movements provide the foundation for a meditative exercise called "push hands."

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

In case you are wondering how to make twig furniture with no bark, here's how: Cut it in the spring then peel it before the wood gets a chance to dry. While the bark is wet and flexible, it comes right off. Well, not exactly right off. You still have to work at it. I use a razor knife to get under the bark and then grab it with my thumbs and pull. Depending on your state of mind, it takes forever, or goes amazingly fast. Being patient and in the moment is a skill, and not one to be taken lightly. It takes practice and for those who live their lives continuously distracted and entertained, being patiently in the moment is excruciating, but it can be learned. It can make the difference between surviving or being road-kill, and it can make the difference between living a life of joy or suffering.

If you don't plan to peel your twigs, cut them in the winter when the cambium layer is dormant. If you cut it in the spring or summer the bark may loosen and come off piecemeal from the finished work.

Paying attention to the timing of things can be essential. In case you have lived indoors too long, I would inform you that the seasons do matter.

The wood shown above is elm, cut green yesterday. I will dry it for a while before use. It may split and check, but this is for rustic work in which the wood tells more of its story than my own. Harvesting materials like this does little or no environmental damage. In fact,the forests often benefit from some thinning of trees to reduce competition for nourishment, water, and light. The surface texture of the wood after peeling is amazing. It is so smooth without sanding. Later when the wood is dry and the work is assembled, I'll rub it with a piece of steel wool and apply an oil finish. The photo below shows gluing the front and back assemblies for the rustic chair. Tomorrow I'll add some more stretchers and arms and begin weaving the seat and back.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Here is a website that will keep you thinking about your hands while I take a day away from the blog. Interesting Facts About Hands collected by a hand surgeon, Dr. Charles Eaton.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

The photo shown is of the beginnings of my rustic chair. The stretcher parts are tenoned with the Veritas tenoner and the mortises are drilled with a 5/8" auger. At this point, I am ready to take the front and back apart for gluing and then I'll take the measurements for the front to back stretchers and determine the angles for drilling the holes. The various sticks are clamped in place to hold the front and back in position for viewing and measuring. The finished chair will be upholstered in seagrass twine, and it will have arms made from cherry, textured with the rotary chisel. In association with this chair, I'll make a variety of foot stools illustrating variations that can be applied to the making of chairs.
An interesting resource for readers to explore is the Wooden Artifacts Group of the AIC The American Institute for the Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works. The Wooden Artifacts Group offers a collection of scholarly articles that can be downloaded as .pdf files on a wide range of interesting topics. You could spend days reading these well written articles.

One article from which the above chart about the original George Washington Axe is borrowed is by R.L. Barclay and compares and explores the restoration and flying of the DC-3 with the use and or preservation of Stradivarius violins.
When musical instruments are ensconced in display cases, are they: “Ignorantly deposed from their sovereignty over our emotions?” Or, if they appear on the concert stage in fully working condition, are they: “Played to destruction for the purposes of ephemeral delight?” These two extreme views capture the dilemma of the musical instrument curator and conservator: how much to restore, how much to use, and when to preserve. When considering such issues, musical instruments are no different in essence from aircraft, costumes, books and the endless range of other objects that must be used in order that their function can be fully expressed.

When we play a historic violin or fly an antique aircraft, what do we gain from the experience? Clearly, we are using these objects to bridge the emotional gulf between “here and now” and “there and then.” We are, figuratively speaking, trying to make a spark jump.

Conservator John Watson of Colonial Williamsburg has put this very well regarding historic pianos: Playing Beethoven on an early nineteenth century piano, one cannot help imagining the day when the same instrument took part in the creative process of Beethoven’s contemporaries, if not the composer himself. This represents a profound opportunity to step into a dimension of the cultural landscape from which the music originated.
I will note that when the hands are withdrawn from the exploration and making of objects, the mind is withdrawn from understanding their physical, emotional and moral dimensions. For the "spark to jump" to new generations of conservators, museum patrons and supporters, today's young people must be engaged in the making of objects through the use of their own hands. Unfortunately, and quite sadly, they are not. We have become a nation of the entertained. If we were to look up from our state of idle amusement, we might become alarmed about a whole lot of things, one of which would be the pending loss of the world's cultural treasures. Who will understand them or sustain them if we have become what Matti Bergström calls finger blind and values damaged?

Friday, May 23, 2008

The photos above and at left are the spoons I finished yesterday and today. The one at left was sanded... an easier operation requiring less concentration on the materials. The one at right was simply cut with the sloyd knife. I could make even finer cuts, but each cut, even the smallest, requires awareness of grain direction and a strategy of blade angle, force and motion specific to the location of the cut to prevent damage to the shape. Fortunately as your hand and eye get trained to be sensitive and intelligent in this work, less brain power is required. The hand develops a concentration of its own. Most people looking at the two spoons would choose the one at left, smooth to the eye and hand as the better design, and yet someone who had learned something of carving techniques and the skill required to make precise cuts might have greater respect for today's spoon. The bowls of both spoons were cut with the crooked knife shown and then sanded smooth.
Art and crafts are often seen as distinct from each other, one falling into the category of functional and the other, non-functional, and yet we know that the boundaries are indistinct, and intellectually indefensible. Even a painting serves the function of bringing color into a room, filling empty wall space and making the room less sterile and uninviting, while A piece of wood, carved into a spoon to stir soup for feed a child can involve an artistic vision, a knowledge of materials and application of attention rivaling that required for the production of any of the "finer" arts.

The difference between crafts and fine arts is much less about the making of the object than with what we are supposed to do with the object once it is made... the distance we are to take from it in our observation and use. Paintings have to be viewed at the right distance. Museums are full of things behind glass or roped off to prevent touch. But distance is not an appropriate word for the engagement of craft objects. In use, there is touch, the antithesis of distance. The craft object must engage the hand for its full depth of meaning to be understood.

We have the concept of art in our lives because we have created distance, separation, barriers, between each of us, and within us as well... the extinction of creative spirit in our daily lives. There is an antidote. It is called "making." Today I have my last class of the school year. The 3rd and 4th grade students will be printing book plates. I have been working on a spoon in which I am trying to avoid sanding. The inside of the bowl will be sanded, but all the rest of the surfaces are being formed through tiny cuts with a sloyd knife. The idea is that each cut requires precise knowledgeable application of attention, and the spoon itself is a composite of each tiny deliberate slice. I'll have results to show later in the day.
Jed Perl's essay in American Craft is a must read for those who have some sense of what the hand conveys to the values and aesthetics of modern life.

"But by now the conviction that any factory-produced object can be pronounced a work of art (and a great work of art at that) has become disturbingly ubiquitous. And I am inclined to join forces with the Arts and Crafts fundamentalists and insist that there is no such thing as a work of art that is not, first and foremost, a work made by hand."

He goes on to describe a turning point in his thoughts, an exhibit in Japan of the work by Japanese sculptor Isamu Noguchi.

"...the distinction between a sculpture and a bowl or a plate did not so much dissolve as it gave way to primary assertions, about the character of forms and surfaces, concerns that united the making of radically different types of objects, objects utilitarian and otherwise. What Noguchi suggested was that there are deep, genetic links between the art traditions and the crafts traditions, a shared conviction that the magic is in the making, that in some essential sense the making trumps the conceptualizing, that art must be made before it can be imagined, that the hand leads the eye and the mind."

Thursday, May 22, 2008

This month's American Craft Magazine has an essay by Jed Perl in a section called critic's corner. He writes, "The artisanal urge--the fundamental human desire to make something with one's own hands--has never been so endangered as it is right now."

The essay contrasts those who create large scale machine made things passing as art in major museums and selling for millions of dollars with those simple things that bear the imprint of the human hand.

He quotes Bernard Leach from "A Potter's Book,"Beauty will emerge from a fusion of the individual character and culture of the potter with the nature of his materials." Perl goes on to state, "What Leach is emphasizing is the visceral nature of creation, the extent to which the final product can never be separated from the mysterious process of its making.... What fascinates me, reading Leach's account of the making of a pot is how intimately linked the final from is with the act of making."

In essence, we have extracted the hand from the making, and extracted the artist from the making as well. Successful artists are measured in their success by the number of employees they have set in motion producing work that bears no imprint or hint of imprint of human touch, their own or that of others and bears no mark of the human qualities of empathy, compassion, understanding or concern.

As stated by Jed Perls, "Creative spirits, whether painters, or potters, cannot leave a mark on the world if they have not first left a mark on their materials." But don't try to tell that to the museums. They very likely will not understand.
From Dr. George Wilson, MD. The Five Gateways of Knowledge, MacMillan, 1856
I lift up my hand, and gaze upon it with wonder and awe. What an instrument for good it is! What an instrument for evil! and all the day long it never is idle. There is no implement which it cannot wield, and it should never in working hours be without one. We unwisely restrict the term handicraftsman, or handworker, to the more laborious callings; but it belongs to all honest, earnest men and women, and is a title which each should covet. For the queen's hand there is the sceptre, and for the soldier's hand the sword; for the carpenter's hand the saw, and for the smith's hand the hammer; for the farmer's hand the plough; for the miner's hand the spade; for the sailor's hand the oar; for the painter's hand the brush; for the sculptor's hand the chisel; for the poet's hand the pen; and for the woman's hand the needle. If none of these of the like will fit us, the felon's chain should be round our wrist, and our hand on the prisoner's crank. But for each willing man and woman there is a tool they may learn to handle; for all there is the command, " Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with all thy might."

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Diogenes Laertius told that THALES, a celebrated Greek philosopher, and the first of the seven wise men of Greece, while walking to contemplate the stars fell into a ditch. The good old woman that attended him, exclaimed, "How canst thou know what is doing in the heavens, when thou seest not what is at thy feet?"
"To know the 'use' either of land or tools you must know what useful things can be grown from the one and made with the other. And therefore to know what is useful, and what useless, and be skillful to provide the one and wise to scorn the other, is the first need for all industrious men. Wherefore, I propose that schools should be established wherein the use of land and tools shall be taught conclusively -- in other words, the sciences of agriculture (with associated river and sea culture), and the noble arts and exercises of humanity." -- John Ruskin, 1881

"In tracing the course of invention and discovery, I found that I was moving in the line of the progress of civilization. I found that the great gulf between the savage and the civilized man is spanned by the seven hand-tools -- the axe, the saw, the plane, the hammer, the square, the chisel, and the file -- and that the modern machine-shop is an aggregation of these tools driven by steam. I hence came to regard tools as the great civilizing agency of the world. With Carlyle I said, "Man without tools is nothing; with tools he is all." From this point it was only a step to the proposition that, It is through the arts alone that all branches of learning find expression, and touch human life. Then I said, The true definition of education is the development of all the powers of man to the culminating point of action; and this power in the concrete, the power to do some useful thing for man -- this must be the last analysis of educational truth." -- Charles Henry Hamm in the preface to his book, Mind and Hand, 1886.

The early introduction of crafts in schools and the sustained use of crafts throughout educational life link knowledge inseparably with subsequent action. Shown in the photo above are my latest spoons carved while the students were working on their own. There has been some discussion over the years whether or not is is good for teachers to model their work and enthusiasm for their work. What do you think? I think it is a no-brainer. Today, 5th and 6th grade teacher Andrea Brinton cut and fitted her first dovetails, making a small drawer to fit a box. Her high level of enthusiasm for what we do in the wood shop helps reinforce the value of the Wisdom of the Hands program. And her love of learning presents a model our students are challenged to emulate.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

We are wrapping up our school year at Clear Spring, and I am looking forward to spending more time on the book. Today in wood shop, the 3rd and 4th grade students continued work on their woodblock prints, with the final printing to take place later in the week. The 1st and 2nd grade students had their last class for the year, finishing projects of their own design. One thing I noticed was the amount of verbal and graphical interchange required as the students described what they needed to complete their work. "I need a piece this big," they would say, while holding their hands apart. There is no doubt that we are more effective at communication when the hands and words are both involved in our efforts.

It is interesting that we often know things in our hands that we can't begin to say. For instance a contractor friend of mine told me that he often finds situations in which it is easier to do a job himself than to describe to an employee exactly how he wants something done. Just because you can't get your verbal expression to conform to to the full dimension of your thoughts doesn't mean that you don't know the right answers or have the right ideas.

Woodworking and crafts offer the means to engage children in active learning and active expression of learning, putting an end to complaisance and cynicism.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Today I finished another rustic project, and it is shown in the foreground as a variation to the table with a structure with a base made of branches. My next project, making branch chairs will start later in the week.

I recently finished my two year term as president of the National Association of Home & Workshop Writers and will continue to serve as a member of the board of directors. In the photo below, I am passing the official NAHWW gavel to our next president, DIY writer and many time Golden Hammer Award winner, Charlie Self.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

A friend of mine sent me this photo of a windmill blade, fiberglass over balsa wood. Charlie's job is to help over-sized loads like this one travel around on limited highways, and just moving these blades from one side of Little Rock to another requires very careful planning. Charlie attributes his expertise in this work to his earlier career in woodworking and furniture restoration... activities which helped develop his spatial sense. He finds it easier to visualize the scale of things because he has had hands-on opportunity to work with real objects.

The National Council of Teachers of Mathematics has long recognized the relationship between spatial sense and the ability to do math. Algebra, geometry, trigonometry and calculus are all built on the child's developed abilities for spatial visualization. You don't get it from the flat screen but from the manipulation and making of three dimensional objects. It is one of many reasons we need to put woodworking and crafts back in school.

Another beautiful historic site I visited in Sweden was Olofsfors south of Umeå. Google Earth resolution there is very poor, but the location is: 63°34'53.77N, 19°26'39.51E

The building shown in the photo above houses the furnace. The blocks used in building the foundation were made of slag, a by-product of the making of iron. Today, a small adjacent building is the studio of a blacksmith who demonstrates his techniques, makinf tools and decorative objects and sells his work through a small gallery. Another building nearby holds a water powered hammer and anvil. To see it in operation is amazing. If you are lucky enough to be there for a demonstration be sure to wear ear plugs. The noise is deafening. The water driven hammer is huge. The old school house in the community houses a museum, and gift store. The other buildings are used as studios by artists.
I have started placing some photos on Google Earth so that some of the beautiful scenes of the original school at Nääs, Sweden can be enjoyed by others. They haven't been made available yet, but photos by other visitors are. If you begin your Google Earth tour with the Sloyd Woodworking Building, your fly-to address is 57°48'59.39"N, 12°23'18.5"E

Where you see small blue markers, click to see a photo. In a week or so, check back for some of mine.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Finding Nääs... If you are interested in finding the home of Educational Sloyd and Otto Salomon's teacher training school. Use and fly to Floda, Lerum, Sweden. Floda is the nearest town. Move the page slightly to the east and you will see a lake and a narrow bridge connecting from one side of the lake to a large peninsula at the center. The word Nääs, rhyming with mess, means peninsula, and on the peninsula, you will see a group of buildings, consisting of the slott, or palace, a large barn and other smaller buildings of the palace compound. Now, move back to the west, and across the bridge, back toward Floda, you will see open green meadows, and a variety of large buildings. These were the school for Educational Sloyd.

I just finished the editing of an article that will come out in Woodwork magazine in the October issue and that will be available in August. The photo at the top is of the gymnasium. On, you will find it at 57° 48'56.94" N, 12° 23' 13.39" E

You will find the original Sloyd building shown below at 57° 48'59.39" N, 12° 23' 18.5" E By loading either of these locations in, you can fly there in moments.

Above are my fellow exhibitors and I, the annual toast at the beginning of the White St. Walk. From left are Karen foster, clay artist, Eleanor Lux, weaver, Max McKee, sculptor and I. There were several hundred art lovers in attendance. The large cherry desk shown behind us is one I made for Eleanor several years ago. Today we have a clean-up day at the Eureka Springs School of the Arts, ESSA to prepare the school facility for this year's classes.

My wife and daughter thought I was a bit harsh in criticism of the work of Jeff Koons work at the MOMA, and perhaps I am out of line in criticizing "art" at all. To look at a single blog post out of context to the understanding of the mission would also be unfair. But we have created a schizophrenic relationship with the arts. They are over there, on view, done by others, disconnected from our lives except on Sunday mornings when the museums are open for free. Instead we might live lives where the arts are at hand, expressed through the activities of each and every hand, revealing the workings and profound nature of our own hearts. Perhaps it is a wonderful thing to go to the roof of the Metropolitan Museum of the Arts and look at big inflatable dogs actually made from stainless steel by a team of 95 dedicated employees fulfilling one man's artistic vision. We should also be directing people young and old to discover the fulfillment and potentials offered by their own hands engaged in artistic process.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Last night at the Carnegie Library, Lyn Dickey, former resident of Eureka Springs and currently involved with the building of a hospital in Santiago Atitlán, Guatemala, showed slides and told about the town and people where she lives. As usual in indigenous cultures, a great deal is being lost through the introduction of junk food and television. You might enjoy reading about Guatemalan back-strap weaving, an activity that could take hours each day, but provide clothing that offered immense pride and cultural identity.

The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence, right? It is interesting that the young people in "third world" cultures can hardly wait to abandon the old ways and enter the hollow self-destructive wasteland of western culture. Junk food and television. Empty calories. In the meantime, some few of us, having a sense of wonder at human hands-on creativity can only marvel at the beauty and sensitivity of the culture they rush to leave behind.

Today I am displaying my work in Eleanor Lux's weaving studio on White St. in Eureka Springs for the White St. Walk. 4-10 PM I know that very few of my readers are in the Eureka Springs area, but come by and join us if you can.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

I am busy setting up for the White St. Art Walk tomorrow night. It is a fun event which I have missed two years in a row. I'll be set up with other artists to sell my work, and I hope to sell a lot of it, as my inventory of boxes has grown large. It was nice to have them available for the article in Fine Woodworking, but now it may be best if they find new homes.

For years I've been just a bit jealous of water color artists. They can take a paint set, pallet, brushes and paper, perhaps an easel, and paint anywhere. Now spoon carving is doing the same for me. I can take a piece of green wood, my crooked knife and a sloyd knife and work anywhere except on airlines. I leave shavings and sawdust wherever I go, so don't invite me to your living room. But come and join me on a back porch somewhere and I'll get you started on something that will take a lifetime to master, but will give creative pleasure right from the start.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

I received some good news today on my Fulbright Senior Specialist application. If you read here regularly, you may remember that I was told earlier that I wasn't qualified because I lacked a Ph.D. After challenging that decision, my application was entered for review and today I was informed that I was added to the roster of available Senior Specialists. That means that specific overseas educational institutions can request my skills with the cost of my travel and lodging being paid by the Fulbright program. That can offer the opportunity for me to share what I've learned at Clear Spring School and through my research on Sloyd with educators at foreign universities. It will also enable me to continue my research on educational sloyd.

Being on the Fulbright roster is not an automatic award of a position as a Fulbright Specialist. The next part comes as a result of a request from foreign universities for my skills, a thing they can do through either the Fulbright Commission or the Public Affairs Office US Embassy. Whether or not being on the roster leads to an opportunity to serve, getting on the roster in the first place is gratifying. It came only as a result of my willingness to stand up against academic bias and insist on the commission's recognition of the value of hands-on learning.

Today I got to play just a bit more as the students worked on various projects. In the photo above, you will see two weird spoons, one complete with a spork at the other end. It takes some amount of play to develop skills which then enrich your play to an even greater degree.

Art has become an inside joke. The "masters" of it, at least the ones on the big stage wonder, "What can I get away with now?" And the big dogs of the museum world, like the Metropolitan Museum of Art, knowing that their missions have more to do with entertainment and distraction than the encouragement of art and personal creativity, buy in whole hog as shown above. Fortunately there are art critics who watch the world without rose colored glasses, and that can lead to some fun reading... The following introduction is from the Furniture Society Newsletter:
John Perreault is an art critic, curator, poet and artist. From 1966 to 1974 he was the art critic for the Village Voice and then from 1975 to 1983 the senior art critic and art editor at the Soho News. His writings on art have appeared in Art in America, ArtForum, and numerous art journals and anthologies. He was senior curator at the American Craft Museum for a while. He is also represented in the influential anthology "Objects and Meaning, New Perspectives on Art and Craft", edited by M. Anna Fariello and Paula Owen, published in 2004.

Although he appeared to have taken a break from writing about craft, apparently he's back, most recently in American Craft and American Ceramics. He writes what he calls "first person art criticism" and posts regular essays on his blog Artopia.
The big dog shown on the roof of MOMA is by Jeff Koons who is the subject of John Perreault's May 11 blog post.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

I had a great day in the Clear Spring School wood shop today. The kids were enthusiastic and engaged in their work. Jade made a bee with working wings. Paige, Johan, Travis and Dylan finished a working model windmill started in an earlier block. As the kids carved wooden blocks for printing book plates, I worked on a spoon as shown below.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Here are some additional calculations. One gallon of gasoline yields 172 cubic feet of carbon dioxide. So 6000 gallons of gas used over the life of a 25 mpg Subaru would yield 1,032,000 cubic feet of carbon dioxide. In other words, it would create enough carbon dioxide to fill a room 100 ft. by 100 ft. with a 1032 ft. ceiling height.
Today the Clear Spring students are off, giving the teachers a chance to rest and catch up following the spring camping trip. It is an intense experience for all, but extremely rewarding.

I finally gave up and ordered a new computer, and paid $9.00 to dispose of the old one. Removal and proper recycling of the CRT takes the most hazardous part of the old thing out of the waste stream. It is a great reminder that every new thing has its price on both ends. When you buy it and when you dispose of it. I've been thinking of a way to illustrate some of this graphically. For instance, when you see a new car, what if you saw it in context to the amount of fuel required to keep it rolling through an average life. A car (like my Subaru), placed in a container takes up 280 cubic feet (5 feet wide x average of 4 ft. high x 14 ft. long of space. The gas required to run that car at 25 mpg for 150,000 miles would be 6000 gallons. There are 7.48 gallons per cubic foot. 6000 gallons fills a space 802 cubic feet or 2.86 times the volume of the car. In other words, a container made to hold both the car and fuel would be almost 4 times the size of the car alone.

It would be interesting and maybe shocking to see all things in such light. The new computer will come in a box several times its size, and if surrounded also by the fuel used to transport it to my home, and the coal or fuel used to keep it powered up, I would think more than twice about it. And if we are to make real changes in our relationships to the planet and each other, the choices will become increasingly difficult, but bringing abstract things into hands-on analysis may at least help our choices become clear.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

So, the idea here is to build a book, Wisdom of the Hands, chapter by chapter, 10 in all, just as we have counting left and right a total of 10 fingers on our hands. Of course, the first chapter, the finger/chapter Harington named Jick, or "Tricky Jick" is symbolized by the left thumb. Hold it up and you will have at least the beginnings of chapter one. If you've ever held a baby in your lap, you will see that finger games start early, that the hands are a source of infinite wonder and intellectual stimulation. In essence, they are also much more. Throughout our lives they provide numeracy. We count on them, both in the number and sequence of events. We use them to create the frameworks through which we perceive order in the universe. Just imagine the state of human consciousness were we to each have only two fingers, one on each hand. Would we have any comprehension of complex relationships?

Of course each chapter needs to be outlined, and filled out with interesting material, but starting out, I have Jick. He has a whole story to tell though I'll give him one chapter at most. And that will come later.

I went on the May Fine Arts Month Gallery walk last night and enjoyed seeing the work of local artists. One gallery owner, noting the success I've had of late in publications, asked me about the sense of accomplishment I must feel. I told her about the spoons I have been carving of late. If you have the opportunity to experience the tactile world, its wonders and the experience of feeling and seeing objects take form in your own hands, the abstract is less meaningful in comparison.

The real value of my published work comes only through the effort of YOUR hands... when YOU make the effort to develop skill, putting your artistic vision to work to create objects of usefulness and beauty or encourage others to do so. Now hold up your left thumb. May I introduce you to Tricky Jick?

The image at the top is from the J.A. Nelson Gallery, new work by my close friend, Jim Nelson.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

I am reading a new book by a favorite author and friend, Donald Harington. Farther Along is his 14th novel about the fictional Arkansas community of "Stay More." It is also offers a glimpse into an earlier time in which people were much more comfortable with their hands and found both solace and inspiration in their company.
... I took note of his long-fingered, almost delicate hands in contrast to the pudgy body: he was not simply clasping them but allowing the thumbs and fingers to play, to interact, almost to dance with one another, like lords and ladies, bowing and curtseying, tripping and curveting. It was fascinating to watch this. It did not at all seem to be a nervous habit but rather a graceful way to keep the fingers from being idle...

At length he noticed my absorption with his fingers, and chuckled. He held them up and pressed them together as if in prayer. "These here's my friends," he said, and let them back off and come together as in a square dance. Then he introduced them to me, one by one, and each bowed or curtsied as it was introduced.

The left thumb: "Tricky Jick"
The right thumb: "Large George"
The left forefinger: "Day Digit"
The right forefinger: "Diana Banana"
The left middle finger: "Learnin Vernon"
The right middle finger: "Jeleny Wieny"
The left ring finger: "Every Clever"
The right middle finger: "Latha the Way"

He paused significantly and gave me an impish look before introducing the last couple,

The left little finger: "Little No Name"
The right little finger: "Stoney Nub"

I knew then many things, if I were sober and did not simply imagine this young moonshiner. I knew most importantly that he was no mere uncouth teen-aged moonshining hermit. And no mere choreographer of fingers. He was a sorcerer, possibly a wizard or warlock, an illusionist. He was Tricky Jick, the left thumb. He did not frighten me at all.
If you are a reader of Harington novels, you may recognize the cast of characters. We use our fingers to develop mental frameworks through which we create a sense of order and comprehension in our lives in the same way the teen-aged moonshiner used his to create a sense of his community. When I plan the sequence of coming events, I count on my fingers, my own Tricky Jick taking the lead. Thanks Don for adding one more wonderful view of the Wisdom of the Hands.

Friday, May 09, 2008

Anyone of you old enough to remember Sky King?It was a TV show that came on late Saturday mornings when I was a kid. You will notice the results of the just completed poll at right, so surely some will remember. About 78% of my blog readers are over 40 years old. That isn't much of a surprise because most people under 40 aren't reading anymore. They are busy downloading movies and music and more entertaining things than text. And this blog is work. It is intended to make you think, involve your hands in the process of thought and leave you with things to do that require effort. So much for entertainment.

I've mentioned before the change that took place in schools when high quality educational television started to mold students before formal schooling. My mother is a retired kindergarten teacher. Before Sesame Street her students came to class and gave her their undivided attention. After the widespread introduction of Sesame Street, my mother had to work very hard to hold their attention. She had to become more of an entertainer herself, and as the years have passed and children have become accustomed to hours of programming each day, things have gotten worse.

If you've been to a museum lately, you may have noticed that they, too are having to make changes to accommodate those who are too quickly and easily bored. Gone are the days when any of us were capable of sitting in contemplation of profound objects without the additional auditory and visual effects to make the experience more entertaining.

I am reminded of Sky King because I noticed way back then that if I watched TV that long on Saturday mornings, starting at 8 AM, by the time Sky King came on at 11, my mind was numb, I felt a pyhsiological lethargy overcoming me making it difficult to get up and go play. I knew that if I sat for a moment longer I would probably die or something.

So, all you old guys and gals, keep reading. Do some very very boring things with your kids. Turn off the TV and go for a walk in the woods. Spend enough time away from entertaining things and a sense of the wonderful normal self will return. Sky King and the stupor you may feel is not real and will go away when you finally manage to get out and play.

Readers interested in carving spoons might be interested in how to make a knife for carving them. Caraboo Blades offers a tutorial. The crooked knife I use and as shown above has a tiny little blade perfectly suited to quiet carving, even on the go. No workshop or workbench required. The photo above shows from left, a cold steel knife blank, my handy spoon knife, a crooked knife we made at the New England Association of Woodworking teachers conference in 2003, and a crooked knife made with Clear Spring high school students in 2004 using an old band saw blade as a source for steel. The sandpaper wrapped dowel is used for sharpening.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

The 7th and 8th grade students are working on English composition, so as an integrated activity, we are hand carving book plate printing blocks which will allow them to hand print book plates for attaching to the opening pages of their books. We are using MDF as our carving material as it has no grain direction and is easy carve. This week the students practiced with the tools, and made lots of mistakes. and we were all challenged to remember to work in mirror image. Carved lines remain white and all letters will be reversed. I had one almost completed before I remembered. Oops! Next week we will all do better.
Our hands and fingers are so profoundly intertwined in human consciousness that it is difficult to get a grip on the full range of their impact. In essence, they give shape to our lives, our thoughts, our relationships with each other, while it is in their very nature and relationship with mind and thought to recede from direct consciousness. We can move through the day, each day, everyday with hands selflessly serving our thoughts. We give them no notice.

But how would our lives be different if we were to observe through the lens that the hands provide? How would things be shaped, and how would we live differently with each other were we to allow our hands greater voice, greater recognition and consciousness?

One of the things you may have noticed if you have become a regular reader of this blog, is that the hands are all over the place. There is nothing in human life that does not show their direct imprint. The human mind, on the other hand is somewhat limited in scope and organizational capacity. We struggle to put too things together where they stick. The mental landscape is fluid, with new theories and ideas constantly replacing notions disproved or supplanted. Finding an organizational framework so things as broad and complex as the relationship between the hands and their shaping of human life can be daunting. I have written a number of outlines for a book based on this blog, "The Wisdom of the Hands," which I have submitted to a variety of publishers and agents, and so far no takers. But that is something that can change in a flash.

Last Sunday at Books in Bloom, I was visiting with Dr. Peggy Kjelgaard, director of the Eureka Springs School of the Arts and realized that my own hands provide the organizational framework required. Open palms provide the introduction, and each finger and thumb provides the foundation of one chapter in ten leading to a complete reassessment of the role of the hands in shaping and reshaping our lives, toward greater meaning and fulfillment. And what could be simpler and more direct? Do you know where the process of digital organization came from in the first place? (I remove my fingers from the keyboard) Let me count the ways.

This May Fine Arts month in Eureka Springs. I'm not sure what "Fine" arts are, but I will be exhibiting my woodworking at Lux Weaving Studio on the night of White Street Walk, an event I missed last year because of my daughter Lucy's graduation and that I missed the year before because of my visit to Nääs, Sweden and the first international conference on Sloyd. I am looking forward my return!

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

The Clear Spring School annual spring camping trip was delayed for a day by heavy rains, so many of the camping related activities took place on the school campus. We whittled on green basswood sticks with sloyd knives, and some of the students and teachers used my crooked knife to carve the recesses for making spoons. The students noticed how much easier it is to carve green wood and you can see from the shavings on the ground that they've carved a lot of wood.

Many of the students weren't ready to put the knives away at the end of the scheduled time, so the knives and basswood are being sent along for tomorrow's camp-out. The photo above shows several students of ages 1st grade through 6th practicing their whittling.

I did a little carving of my own, making another spoon as shown below.
I am nearly finished with another rustic project using a wide maple board and hickory saplings harvested in my woods. I used Veritas tenoners to tenon the ends to fit mortises. The curving line down the center of the table has practical as well as decorative purposes. By cutting the wide slab in two pieces, I was able to feed it though my 12 1/2 in. planer, and by attaching it in two parts, some of the expansion and contraction of the wood takes place towards the middle as well as the outside, thereby allowing the boards to be attached with screws near the center. A small crack in the maple top will be repaired with a hand hammered and shaped wire fastener. I am also making a variation of this table with a more conventional trestle base.

Today, because of more rain, the Clear Spring camping trip has been delayed and camping related activities will be held on campus. I am taking green basswood carving stock and sloyd knives to school this morning to provide a bit of rainy day activity. Photos will come later.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Today in the Clear Spring wood shop, the high school students practiced with sloyd knives and chip carving knives in green basswood. I have never heard a class room so quiet. The students were deeply engaged in their work. We talked briefly about knife safety and the difference in working qualities between green wood and dry and the reasons for those differences.

Shown below is my spoon carved in today's class. When it is complete, the back side will be carved just a bit more to look like an acorn.
Dana Jones, an artist and fellow blogger (Callico Cat Press) sent the following:
I have a friend who is a potter and calls herself an artist. Not a craftsperson. Her pots are mostly functional, useful pieces and I would consider this type of pottery more of a skilled craft, but she doesn't ascribe to the ideas of fine craftsmanship. She prefers to make a crude piece, claiming if you want a perfect form, you could go to any store and buy a slip-cast pot. So, in a way, she has eluded the practice and perfection of her craft, while craftspersons before the industrialized world would have perfected their crafts to show their exquisite skill. The form and finish would have been been considered marred if left with fingerprints and imperfections. I don't really have a judgment about it. It's just an observation that further adds to the questioning. Maybe the answer will evolve as a result of movement and reaction with our human hands in practice.
We are in a cultural period at odds with the long history of human engagement in the arts and crafts. In the making of Persian rugs a single knot was to be left poorly tied in an expression of respect to the perfection of the divine creator. In the early Japanese crafts tradition, a small thing was to be left unattended in respect to the perfection of natural, non-made reality. So you can see that human creativity was an expression of relationship with nature and the divine. If you look at a leaf or a flower as your inspiration, you will be moved in ways different than by what you might find at your local Target store.

Now, we have the near perfection of manufactured objects dominating our lives, and we seek more personal expression to differentiate from the machine and the cold impersonal qualities we face. We are led by inner forces to seek warmth of human engagement in our friendships and in the objects that inhabit our lives. We look for finger prints left in the glaze as evidence of greater worth as we seek some small sign of personal direct human involvement in the making of the object. Even failed attention in the form of crude workmanship is preferable to the impersonal. On the one hand crude craftsmanship may offer a rationale for being lazy. On the other hand it may be a necessary statement of rebellion... a quick expression of spontaneity in a too controlled, overly mechanized existence. I guess it would depend on knowing the motivation of the individual artist to say which.

But it is particularly interesting that early craftsmen and artists defined themselves as creators in alignment with the divine, while we often find our definitions as artists or craftsmen through opposition to the machine and the impersonal qualities of modern life.

It seems we are one step off the mark. And all this helps to explain why, when an early anthropologist asked a Balinese tribesman about Balinese art, the tribesman explained "In Bali we have no art. We do everything as well as we can." In stark contrast, we have arts and crafts because so much is done without care or direct human attention, and we need them (A&C) desperately to help us regain our course.

As we live our lives with less reference to nature and/or the divine, our framework for expression becomes opposition rather than alignment. I suspect that we might progress as a society and as artists and/or craftsmen a bit more if we took a more positive stance, and ceased to underestimate the importance of developed skill as an expression of human will, attention and love.

Monday, May 05, 2008

The boxes above, made of curly maple and big leaf maple burl are made by Scott Culver, one of my students from the Wabash Valley Woodworker's Association and are unrelated to a question from another box maker below...

"I thought to myself over the weekend 'Doug Stowe could answer this question; maybe I'll contact him and ask'.

"I'm a blind woodworker and I enjoy making boxes. Because I'm blind, I'm a messy guy with the glue. I'm good with card scrapers though, and am generally able to get everything cleaned-up nicely except for the interior corners of the box. My boxes often have mitered corners, and because of the inherent weakness of the mitered joints, I'm inclined to get a bit heavy-handed with the glue, with squeeze-out settling-in to the corners.On larger boxes, it's easy to get my hand and scraper inside the box to scrape, but on smaller boxes, I just don't have enough room to get the leverage I need. I'm thinking I need to clean-out the corners before the glue fully sets, and I've also thought of switching to Titebond's Hide Glue formulation - I typically use their #1 or #3 products and I'm thinking the hide glue would be more responsive to a bit of clean-up with a damp cloth.

"Because I'm blind, I've never seen your boxes, but I've had many articles from the woodworking magazines about your work read to me. The descriptions of what you've done, how you've done it, and the thought behind it are inspirational to me." -- Dave

Dave, I dislike cleaning corners and pay careful attention in the application of glue to prevent the mess in the first place.

Over years of experience, I've gotten better at judging the proper amount to apply, and for me it really has more to do with the feel of it than what I can see. Miters of course require both surfaces to be glued due to the rapid absorption of the end-grained surface. I always use my fingers to wipe the glue across the surface. That serves two purposes. One is to spread the glue, and the second, equally important is to remove excess, with the finger acting as squeegie. It is extremely difficult to describe the exact qualities we seek in such an operation.

For those of us who are blessed with normal vision, it is easy to describe what we see, and so much more difficult to describe what we sense with our hands. Fortunately, the fingers get smart on their own and a bit of experience goes a long ways.

I have had quite a bit of experience teaching kids, and have noticed that the major culprit in the problem of excess glue is the bottle itself. There are so many challenges getting it to dispense an accurate amount, and then it is hard to know what the required amount is in the first place. With kids, I take the bottle and squeeze a puddle on a piece of scrap wood. They are fussy about getting their fingers in the glue, but I ask them to dip a finger in the puddle and then wipe the glue on the joint.

There are other options less dependent on feel, like using masking tape on the inside edges along the miter applied to each part prior to gluing. That is too fussy for my impulsive nature. Also, your idea of cleaning out the glue with a small chisel before it gets completely hard is a good one that I have used when I've gotten carried away with too much glue.

Anyway, I hope this helps.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

I spent the day today at Books In Bloom, our local literary festival on the grounds and amidst the gardens of our historic Crescent Hotel. It was my job to take photos and video of authors and the crowds of book buyers. The author lectures and readings were interesting, but as photographer, I watched more than listened. Most were very demonstrative with gestures adding depth and breadth to their presentations. I found myself in a variety of conversations having to do with my favorite subject, the hands. Many people in America are noticing that we have arrived in the future having forgotten to bring with us that which has been most important about ourselves.

I guess you can notice from the poll at right, that most of my readers and probably most of those who have an interest in their hands in learning are well past the age of 30, and this is one of those things. If you don't become engaged in learning through your hands at the right time in normal development, it just may never happen for you to the full depth and breadth of hands-on human experience.

One of my conversations was with a defense department consultant who has been working to raise awareness about the strategic implications of our non-localized food supply. I mentioned to him the strategic concerns that we should be having about our growing incapacity to make things with our hands. American dexterity and creative capacity won the victory of Fascism, and may be needed again in the "war on terror." The hands are at the exact center of the human experience, from the unconscious movements that reinforce our use of language, to the holding of a book, to the making of all things, and to their use in expressing love for each other. Even now, I shake mine and rub them together in complete exasperation at the stupidity of our present state.

Books in Bloom is the annual event that my wife and her co-chair plan for months, and with perfect weather and great attendance, it is pleasing now to just relax.

Saturday, May 03, 2008

The New Amazon Kindle is a wireless reading device, and if you want to buy one and put $39.90 in my pocket, follow the link and buy one now. I am an associate and they will pay me for selling it to you! New consumer products are being made infinitely personalizable but temporal. You can load the Kindle with whatever books you can afford to download, up to its capacity. When you are done, click delete and make room for another.

I am reminded of a Ray Bradbury book, Fahrenheit 451. The name is from the temperature required to make books burn and Bradbury's book is about a repressive society that burns its books in an effort to limit freedom of thought and expression. With digital books, no heat is required. Push delete and it's gone forever.

In the novel, people who have escaped from the repressive society walk around, each with a book, committing it to memory as a means of preserving its contents. Maybe in a future society, we will be walking around with white tablets, reading banned material until the batteries wear out. How about this for "science fiction?" The new generation would have devices like the Kindle which they could read, with content constantly modified by the state to tweak history and our understanding of current events. Hard copy would be outlawed as a threat to the totalitarian state.

Oh, never mind, I guess Bradbury covered that.

This month's National Geographic is about China, and an article by novelist Amy Tan describes a city that sings. One old woman can sing the entire recorded history of her community in a song that lasts 120 verses... if she can find anyone to listen. She may be the last to commit the song to memory. In a town undergoing rapid cultural change, the children say, "That old song is boring, we're too busy to learn something we don't like."

Tomorrow in Eureka Springs, we will celebrate books and authors. Real ones. Books in Bloom is the literary festival produced by the Carroll and Madison Library Foundation in support of our local libraries. While there may come a time in which the digital world will take even greater precedence, tomorrow we celebrate the real thing. My wife is co-director, so I'll have volunteer duties throughout the next two days. Much as in Fahrenheit 451, people (authors) will be reading out loud to each other from things they hold in their hands. Memories and ideas will be shared. People will buy books that they hold in their hands and read in dim light even when their mothers says they'll go blind reading in such light.

If any of our guest authors have the courage to sing 120 verses we may get bored but some of us will listen.

Friday, May 02, 2008

Scientists and philosophers both draw broad inferences from small occurrences. If I were an ornithologist and observed a particular behavior in a nesting pair of a particular species of warbler, I would likely propose that behavior as universal amongst nesting pairs of that species. As a philosopher, I would use my own experience as a starting point in my search for an understanding of life, making the assumption that we, as a human species are very much inclined to be alike in the way we think and that at the core of our being there are commonalities of human experience and values.

Our reliance on experts isolates us from closer examination of physical reality and the emotional landscape of our humanity. But working as a craftsman has a tendency to put your hands on the essence of both.

This morning I awakened to the flashes of light from an amazing thunderstorm that shut off our electric power for an hour. Yesterday the wind blew fiercely from the west. The past two days I've struggled with the defects of reliance on always-aging manufactured electronics, each object marching relentlessly toward obsolescence and disposal. In the process, I am left with the knowledge that our own knowledge and recorded experience are vulnerable, subject to loss, irretrievable in the failure of a hard drive, or in the temporary power failure from weather.

Of course all that means nothing, right? Nothing from which a philosopher or scientist in his or her right mind would infer patterns having greater effect or broader scope, right? Our wonderful modern civilization is marching along just fine, don't you think? So what if we've become helpless! So what if we've taught our children that food comes from the grocery store and that money comes from banks!

There are experts who ask you to be concerned. Jeffrey Sachs of the Earth Institute at Columbia University has an article in Time Magazine this week about the food and energy shortage that threaten our worldwide civilization. He tells steps governments can take. I can tell you something you can do to forestall disaster and become powerful in its face. Learn to work with your hands... whether at woodworking, sewing, gardening, doing for yourself offers tremendous rewards. I've written more than I have time for this morning, so if you want to know more, read more deeply in the blog. It is about empowering our children and ourselves to partake deeply as creators in human culture and life.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

I have been wrestling with computer problems the last couple days. My old iMac G3 computer started erratic behavior, with the screen suddenly jiggling, and freezing up with the power shutting down minutes later. As aggravating as all that can be, I believe that the rationality and confidence developed through hand work offers benefits when one faces the challenge of problem solving in the digital age. By working through things logically, I was able to clear stuff from the desktop and documents folders into files on an external hard drive, so that when the iMac finally reached the point at which it would start no more, most of my important information was safe. Fortunately, it was the video card that went out and the hard drive is still sound in case I decide there are still things I need to retrieve.

There is a distinct relationship between woodworking and the development of skills that are broadly applicable to a wide range of professions. An example is a student that Rob Knight told me about from Community School. He is surgeon who began his love of working with his hands in the school wood shop. It is a complete shock to my senses to note that very few educators in the US seem capable of understanding this or able to do anything about it.
Hi Mr. Stowe,

I contacted you yesterday via telephone. I do appreciate your returning the call. Sorry for the intrusion, but I am a believer of accessing first-hand sources of knowledge. As stated, I am a musician-however, I am also a restoration technician for flood & fire here in town.

That digression aside, I am getting into box making as a sideline with music. As few players in the city & abroad seem to be fans of a box that I made to house my reeds. My question is: When resawing Oak on the table saw, what sort of blade do you find most effective-with regard to TPI & kerf?

I usually go with a solid wood blade @ our owner's carpentry shop-but have to cut wide as I am experiencing burn marks no matter how slow I go-therefore, leading to additional sanding. Any advice you have would be much appreciated.

Thank you for your time in advance.

Dear Paul,

You won’t find a resaw blade that doesn’t require additional surfacing (planing and sanding) to the stock. You can use any ripping blade. I generally use a thin kerf Freud 10 inch ripping blade if I’m going to do enough at a time to justify the time required for changing blades. Ripping blades are more efficient and less likely to burn the wood, but leave a rougher surface. Add more teeth as with a crosscut blade, you cut more slowly and while you may get a more polished surface, you will increase likelihood of burn.

I kind of disagree with you on what you consider a “first hand source of knowledge”. Usually, phone calls aren’t required. You try it and see what works. This is much better in the long run than asking outside consultants. The lessons are more meaningful, more deeply understood, you receive the benefit of much longer retention, and the thrilling sense of personal discovery.

Very best,