Saturday, September 05, 2015


Walnut and elm
I have begun working on a business card box/holder and exploring design ideas. The concept is simple, and not unlike the cassette cases and CD cases that are thrown away every day. Hopefully these will become too lovely and useful for that.

The challenging part is making simple routing templates to shape the lid  to provide a tab for opening the lid and front of the box where the lid will fit. The more challenging part will be making it easy for my readers to do the same thing. I carved the prototype by hand using chisels and a sloyd knife.

So the question nags. Is it better to make procedures and processes easy so students learn from their success, or leave those things obscure so that students learn from their failures?

This box is made from elm and walnut. The finished design will have miter keys at the front corners. As a variation of this design, I'll add commercial inlay strips on both the front and back. The finished boxes will be gently rounded to fit in a pocket. I'll also do do a deeper model to hold a larger number of cards for desktop use.

Make, fix, create and encourage others to do likewise.


  1. I too ponder whether it is best to have clear procedures for students that lead to success or obscure processes that require trial and error. Certainly the answer must be some balance of the two over time and some consideration of the needs of particular students. Just this week I introduced a new project and gave time for trial and error learning...and it was really hard for me to feel like it was successful for my students since I must just trust that they learned without any visible progress. Then there is my limited classroom time and my need to move students through a few carefully chosen projects within the time frame allowed. Trial and error learning takes longer. I enjoy knowing others are pondering the same thing.

  2. It goes against the teacher's higher nature to purposefully set children up for failure. There are plenty of things that can go wrong without the teacher throwing impediments in their student's paths. So, in further reflection, I think it is necessary for teachers to attempt to clarify and make easy to understand, complex principles and techniques.

    But school systems and administrators set students up for failure all the time, don't they? Not by having low expectations, but by failing to provide the scaffolding necessary to become engaged in learning. Educational Sloyd theory said that teachers should move from the concrete to the abstract, but how many lessons are given in academic subjects without students having any concrete connection with what they are to learn.

    The other day our upper school recreated our local landscape in the elementary school sand box, working back and forth between the topo map of the area, and what they knew to be on the ground. It was an excellent exercise in shuttling between the concrete and abstract.

  3. It seems that the best part of a class (or a book) on woodworking, is that the student gets enough information to start out right, and then time for further exploration and creativity.