Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Sloyd lathe work...

A friend of mine in Denmark who teaches Sloyd to teachers at a university told me that Otto Salomon preferred the lathe over other tools, but that because lathes were too expensive for most schools, it was not featured in the development of Swedish Sloyd. Since spring pole lathes could be inexpensively made, I question the idea my friend put forth. It had been my understanding that Salomon preferred the knife, as it could be used for both straight and curved work, whereas the lathe was more restricted in the range of forms that might be achieved. The lathe also, did not fit into the natural progression from the known to the unknown. Every child in Sweden and Norway knew how to use a knife safely without injury, and from a very early age. The lathe meant the introduction of a complex and unfamiliar tool. Another principle was the movement from the simple to the complex. In comparison with the knife, a lathe and all the various specialized tools and gouges required are far more complex than a knife.

In B. B. Hoffman's book, The Sloyd System of Woodworking published in 1892, a chart is included explaining the advantages and disadvantages of various crafts for use in school.  Of Sloyd lathe work, it says in response to the question,“Is it in accordance with the child’s capabilities? No."

Among further questions and answers are these:
Does it give a respect of rough bodily labor? Hardly.
Does it train to habits of order and exactness? Partly.
Is it beneficial from the hygienic point of view? No.
Does it allow of methodical arrangement? No.
Does it teach general dexterity of hand? No.

To all of these questions and several more, Sloyd Carpentry was given a resounding yes.

N. Christian Jacobsen had noted that if knives were to be considered too dangerous for schools where children would be under close supervision by adults but that children were to be allowed to use them unsupervised outside of school, there was a false logic at work. Would it not be better that children be taught to use knives safely and responsibly as tools of creativity and not danger?

In drilling through a cube, I had difficulties getting the holes drilled from opposite ends to align at the center and in seeking the cause, I found that the table of the drill press was tilted slightly. About two degrees from ninety meant that the holes would miss rather than connect. I made two iterations of jigs before I discovered the fault. Now that the table has been trued at 90 degrees, both jigs work better.

My second jig was formed using the table saw. First I cut the edge of stock at a 35 degree angle and then cut 30 degree miters on the ends to form the jig shown. The jig forms a perfect nest for the cube to fit as it is drilled.

It was challenging to figure out the bedding angle for the flat surfaces to support the cube in the jig. If I'd paid more attention in geometry class I might have been able to figure it out. Instead, I used trial and error. The first plane was cut at 45 degrees. When that didn't work, I adjusted the saw by 10 degrees to cut 35. That angle fit the cube like a glove. The results are shown in the photo below.

We are down to two shopping/making days before Christmas. One of these is more fun than the other.

Make, fix and create...


  1. Your recent posts concerning the Sloyd of woodworking, Froebel's Gifts, his concepts relating to early childhood development and Salomon's interpretations have been good food for thought!

    But, most interesting to me this month has been to have been a "fly on the wall" as you developed your solution to the nesting of the 2" cube in Froebel's Gift #2 in order to drill a centered hole along the diagonal. I thought the whole process was a testimonial to those skills about which you have often spoken.
    Merry Christmas to you and yours!!
    John Kinnear, Sonora California

    I can just imagine how festive Eureka Springs looks as you all celebrate the holidays up there.
    By the way, my "Eureka Springs" here is called Nevada City.

  2. Anonymous10:01 AM

    Math would have given you the correct angle, but then the reality is the precision of angle cut by the table saw is not perfect and the drill press might be very close to 90deg but never perfectly so.
    I have found the teoretical angle to be atan(sqrt(2)/2) which is about 35. 264....deg.
    A graphical method would give an angle to copy without having to know "exactly" what it is.
    merry Xmas.