Tuesday, January 31, 2012
make it easy?
If you've been a woodworker for as long as I have, you are aware of many of the things that can go wrong in the making of an object. And when you ask a child do the work, other things that you did not anticipate come into play, offering even greater obstacles to the child's success. For instance, a simple pull saw may operate differently in the hands of a child that in the hands of a trained craftsman. Just as there are things in the mind to learn there are actions in the body that must be refined in order to actually do any given thing. Successful cutting with a saw can also be dependent on strength... a thing often overlooked by adults with strong hands.
And so this is a challenge I wrestle with all the time. Do I set up jigs so the kid's work will be more successful with less effort, or do I avoid the jigs, make children more dependent on their own measurements, and allow them to learn from their own mistakes?
Australian shop teacher Richard Bazeley has been working on a jig (shown above) for cutting that will make things easier for children to hold their stock square and secure as it is cut. It can be adapted for either a pull saw or push variety and uses a cam to hold the material tight to the fence as it is cut. I have made earlier jigs that I have grown frustrated with, so I am looking for improvement. I think Richard is onto something. The test will come when children and saws put it to use. In an ideal world, students would have a sense of straight and square, but these things only come from attention and practice, making mistakes and through seeing the effects faulty attention and careless work.
Blog reader and children's woodworking author Jack McKee sent another technique for straight cutting shown in the photo below. He also suggests that readers visit Sherina Poorman's Build-it Bus. It is a great example of a church getting involved in our children's need for hands-on learning.
Make, fix and create...