Thursday, September 01, 2016

kids at work...

It was a lovely thing getting kids back to wood shop after a long summer break. With the students 1st through 6th grades we made desk boxes for them to keep their pencils and such on their desks. This activity allows me to introduce fractions, measuring, square cuts, and the use of various tools, including vise, square, tape measure, saw, hammer and magnets when they spill the nails. They need no instruction when it comes to decorating their work.

Strictly speaking, in educational sloyd, decoration of work was frowned upon, as the purity of underlying form was an objective. But that may work best when kids are in middle school or older.

I tend to be more closely aligned with the first rule of educational sloyd... Start with the interests of the child. Decorating their own work is one of the things children love best.

In my own work, I've made progress on making turned steeples for my chapels of wood, as shown in the photo far below. The steeple is not mere decoration of form, as it is intended as a symbol suggesting that viewers enter a state of reverence as they behold samples of the various woods of Arkansas.

Make, fix, create, and offer to others the chance of learning likewise.


  1. Thanks for sharing. In the sample project that the children are presenting, can you describe briefly what you prepared beforehand vs. what you left up to the child to do? I realize that the age and experience likely has a lot do with this divide but just wanted to get a sense with this example. Also, I see that the backs of the boxes have curved edges, how were those cuts performed and were they made by the children?

  2. Joe,
    On this project, I prepared the stock from pieces of 2 x 4 resawn on the table saw as follows: Backs 5/16 in. x 3 1/2 in. Bottoms 3/16 in. x 3 1/2 in. Ends 1/2 in. x 1 1/2 in. and fronts 5/16 x 1 1/2 in. The various pieces of stock were cut to manageable lengths but the kids did the cutting to length.

    I helped the students mark the lengths, demonstrating a tape measure and square, and had to assist them in getting the saw started. I also had to demonstrate nailing, how to hold stock in the vise, to do so, how to start nails in the stock first before attempting to hold parts together. On the backs, we used coping saws to make the curved cuts, and I got them started on that, so that they saw how it worked. They drew the curved line, I started the saw in action and they finished the cut.

    They used sanding blocks and rasps to fix mistakes in their cuts.

    At this age (first and second grade) you don't expect the kids to be craftsmen, and it is OK to help when they are having trouble or lack confidence, as long as you have the tact to step back when you know the child is ready to go on their own.

    It's like teaching a child to ride a bike. You know when they are ready for you to let go.