Friday, January 16, 2015

tools, turning and form...

An old friend gave me a gift yesterday which I assume is intended for use at school. I have known Vernon for about 39 years and taught his two children to turn on the lathe in my school wood shop. The set of Craftsman lathe tools, in original box are a treasure passed along by his dad.

I called Vernon to thank him, and have assured him that these lovely tools will be used at school, kept sharp and that if his son or daughter wants to use them or claim them in their own lives, they will be available here, held in trust.

On the subject of woodturning, one of my students made a candle stick yesterday for his mom. She wanted a matched set. When he was finished, he asked me how I had gotten my own candle sticks so well polished. That gave me the opportunity to discuss form.

Random shapes lack clear definition of form, present challenges when it comes to finish, and show lack of resolve in the craftsman's intent.

Form is one of those things that can be difficult to discuss with those who have not made personal observations in the development of it.

Square and straight lines can be measured. When I ask students to find the center of each end on stock for turning so that it can be mounted properly in the lathe, their first inclination is to simply mark a line from corner to corner as they have seen me do. But somewhere in the watching, they've missed the fact that I used a ruler to help form straight lines intersecting at dead center.

I ask them to go back and do it over. For how else will they learn? When it comes to form, we have too few words for what we might hope to achieve without going deep into human cultural experience.

What is our purpose here? I have said many times in the blog, that the young woman standing at the lathe is busily shaping self, and refining her form. It is not a matter of the curves of the body, but of the intelligent expression of the body in material form.

Sadly, in Kindergartens now, the focus on reading has pushed all else aside. But Froebel and the followers of educational sloyd knew that the development of form was worth investing in the tools and materials so that children would be empowered by their sense of it.

Make, fix and create...

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