Monday, May 19, 2014

using all one's senses...

I got an email from a reader who asked my advice on cutting mitered corners for boxes. He said he often gets confused when cutting miters and wondered whether he should simply go back to butt joints that he found easier to cut, but less attractive in the finished box. Mis-cuts are common, and when making rectilinear boxes, parts can get confusing and its easy to make the wrong cut. I have practiced a lot, and so when I demonstrate either live, or in my DVD, I make it look easy.

I have a new technique that I've demonstrated to a few students that make the whole process easier and that I'll introduce in my new book that will come out in September, but in the meantime, there are simple things that any woodworker can do to improve cutting miters.

Froebel's second gift
Einstein had said that his pencil and he were smarter than he was. We make a tragic mistake in thinking that human intelligence exists in the brain and not in our hands. Just as the pencil can be used to offload calculations, the other sense can be used to offload much of the burden of cognitive activity.

I teach my students to cut grain-matched mitered corners on boxes and find that it can help if we use all our senses at the same time. For instance, first sand what will become the inside of the box. Then clearly mark in pencil what will become the outside of the box. The smooth surface on one side in relation to the rough on the other will help serve as a reminder of what comes next. When I demonstrate making a box, I say out loud, "face side down" as I make my first mitered cut, reminding myself and my students that the first cut must be made with the outside of the box side down flat on the sled. Then as I flip the stock over and put that fresh cut miter against the stop block to cut the miter at the other end, I can see the markings on the outside of the part, can feel the rougher surface of it, and say to myself if alone, or to others if not, "face side up". This mantra may help others to keep things straight. To say out loud, and in order, "face side up," then "face side down," brings auditory intelligence into the process.

We make the assumption that thinking and keeping our thoughts straight is an inside the head thing. That has never been the case, except in academia and the halls of government, and we can see the sorry place that's led us.  The assumption that thinking and intelligence happen in the brain, rather than in the hands is a grave error. My reader had made the even more tragic assumption that he was mentally impaired or in some way deficient because he was having trouble with miters.

gavels turned in 4th and 5th grade
It is best for woodworkers to pull out all the stops. Use your your voice in the process, carefully mark the locations for your cuts, sand what will be the inside of the box, and do whatever sensory thing you can to prepare your stock, your hands and your mind for successful woodworking.

I had a great weekend in Des Moines, made a number of new friends, made it back to Arkansas in time to participate in Books-in-Bloom, and have classes today at Clear Spring School.

It's interesting, that when you have good teachers , the best way to get rid of them is to reduce their budgets to zip, give them more students than they can handle, and then ask them to do impossible things. For instance, our public school music teacher had his budget reduced from $14,000 to zip, was told that inaddition to offering classes to all students in middle and high school, we was to create mandatory solo performance opportunities for each child and that each child would be required to sight read music. I know professional musicians who can't sight read music, and that is not an easy thing for all students to accomplish. Demanding that your teacher meets that standard is a great way to assure his or her failure on the job.

I am sick and tired of such stupidity. Forgive me for venting. But in order to learn from the real world you must be engaged in it. The artificiality of public education and the pettiness of some of its participants as they try to adhere to absurd standards is the true source of American schooling not meeting international standards. Put wood shops and music back in schools, recognize that what we learn hands-on by doing real things is education that sticks like glue and shapes the character of the child at the same time.

Make, fix and create...

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous7:24 PM

    It's easy to cut the small stock required for a box on a manual miter box- vintage or modern (I use a Nobex). Easier to keep track of things, and safer too.

    Jim B