Friday, March 08, 2013

today in the wood shop...

iPod holder
My apprentice came in this morning to do some sanding for me, and to begin applying Danish oil to boxes if the weather is warm enough to work outdoors.Yesterday was as beautiful a day as could be imagined and today's weather offers more of the same. He borught some of his latest work for show and tell. The photo shows an iPod holder which he made for himself. It works great and has the look (due to the legs) of an old time radio cabinet. There is an amazing satisfaction available in making things of one's own design.

I have a new distraction in my life, a fringe benefit of being in the midst of helping my high school students make box guitars. I've been staying one step ahead, and at this point, mine is done but for learning to play. It is soothing to run my hands down the neck and to hear precise tones arise from my fingers on the frets. But to train old fingers to do new tricks is not easy.

I am of the belief that all children should have the opportunity to explore instrumental music of some kind, and what better kind could there be than an instrument of your own making. As a craftsman, there are some things I would change about this project. I wish the kids would pay more attention to what they could see if they were to look closely at their workmanship. There are glue drips that they think are OK. If they had better judgment in their use or glue in the first place, perhaps the bodies of their guitars would not be such a mess. But on the plus side of things, they'll find greater success than I in learning to play.

Kids have a greater tolerance for things sounding like crap, and when one begins playing any instrument, the first sounds you hear will not be Segovia. Those who have refined senses are often deterred in nearly anything they might take up because it is difficult at first to make things do what you want. And kids are really drawn (despite the evidence provided by schools) to do difficult and challenging things. To spend hours getting a series of chords just right, is right up their alley.

The same applies to woodworking. I have been telling my apprentice that mistakes are inevitable.  There is little sense in doing that which is too easy for you. Mistakes are no cause for shame or embarrassment or anger. We learn to do from what we do. And without evidence of failure, we will not find success. And yet many are deterred from what they would want to do by the apparent failure of their beginning efforts.

And so, the role of the teacher is that of a coach. The job is best when it is 1 or 2 percent teaching and 98-99 percent encouraging and helping students to put their own efforts in better perspective. That's why, when I teach adults, I get the best feedback on the mistakes that I've made in the delivery of lessons. When I demonstrate screwing up, they are given permission to do the same, and take greater exploratory risks knowing that they too, can do so without shame.

Make, fix and create...

1 comment:

  1. If only...
    I wish I had studied music years ago instead of waiting until just a few years ago. I'll never be very good with the saxophone, but it'll still be fun.