This afternoon, I made an introduction of Sloyd knives to my 5th, 6th, 7th and 8th grade students and allowed them to practice their whittling with the new knives. I made copies of my article from Woodwork magazine, hoping they would take an interest in reading it. They insisted that I read it to them as they began work. What could be more pleasant than being read to as you whittled with a sharp knife. They liked the part of the article in which I mentioned camping at Clear Spring School, as they had all experienced exactly what was described in the article.
At each class period, I had to chase the kids out of the classroom. They would not leave, insisting that they had to do just a bit more to the pens they were carving. It is wonderful when students are so focused on what they are learning that all other things fall aside.
On the subject of Froebel, I've discovered a few things more from my own further experimentation in whittling Froebel's gifts. For instance, while the gouge is perfect for cutting blocks that have a corner cut away in a 1/2 in. radius (gift 5 b), the gouge is relatively useless in cutting the outside shape of a 1/2 round block. The knife is a much better tool for that. So, while I can't say with absolute precision how a particular thing was done in the midst of the 19th century, the nature of the wood and tools involved have not changed. The knife was an important tool for Froebel, and he left a long trail of woodchips behind him. It is just a shame that he and his having invented kindergarten has been ignored and forgotten. The following is from Norwegian author Christian Jacobsen in his book I Slöidsagen. Et Indlaeg (Oslo,1892):
“The knife demands total attention and permits no mechanical work. Furthermore, the knife can produce—unlike the plane, asan example—curved surfaces in form work. This makes the knife superior when it comes to the development of a sense of form and beauty.” [summarized by Hans Thorbjörnsson]Make, fix and create...