Not all work is done or has ever been done at the highest level of craftsmanship. Not every child will aspire to craftsmanship, and yet every child should have the experience of being a maker. Every child and every adult should have the experience of holding something they themselves have made through the use of their own hands. To become a maker is to see oneself in a new and different light. Having made something for the first time means that you are no longer simply a consumer of things made by others, but are instead a creator, aligned with the creative forces of the universe. And that in itself, may open the doors through which a child can find reason to aspire toward making finer things.
So that can be where nails come in. As a teacher, I cannot start children to work doing things that are beyond their capabilities. But nails make things easier for young hands, and even in the use of nails, there are things to learn that are challenge enough. For instance, anyone who has actually tried to hammer nails will have learned that they can either bend as they are driven, or if poorly placed can split wood:
There is one little secret to nails that many of the finest carpenters will not know but that can keep you or your students from splitting wood. To make use of this secret requires close observation of each nail as it is positioned to drive into the wood. This secret is an unintended consequence of the way in which they are made, but can be used to your advantage. When nails are made, wire is pressed between two dies that form its head and point. The process leaves a small mark across the top of the head, and two sharp edges at the point on opposite sides and parallel to the mark on the head. These sharp edges when properly aligned cut into the grain, allow the nail to pierce the wood without splitting if the sharp edges are positioned at a 90 degree angle to the direction of the grain. If the nail is positioned so that these edges parallel the grain, the point of the nail works as a wedge splitting the wood. On very small nails like those used by kids in woodworking projects, the line at the top, and the tiny edges require close scrutiny. The edges are also sharp enough that you can determine proper orientation by feel. But learning the value of close observation is one more thing that students can learn in wood shop. This can be presented as a lesson on the value of close observation. And students can test the theory themselves to see if the lesson is true.Today I am making a box with hand tools, and using nails to make things easier. Even adults need a simple starting point.
Make, fix and create...