Friday, November 11, 2016

teach what you want to learn and do first what you wish to teach.

Yesterday in the wood shop at Clear Spring School, I began attending to the final details in making shaker boxes, so I could demonstrate for my middle school students what would come next in their own steps. The point, of course, is that it is best to test things in your own hands before you bother to instruct others. An experienced woodworker will test what works and define his or her steps to guarantee a better success rate for students.

One thing I love demonstrating is how a person can simply hold a pencil, and with one finger trailing the edge, mark an even line all the way around a box or other object. This is required for marking where the holes are to be drilled to fit toothpicks that secure the bottom of the box, and the top panel in the lid. It is also a demonstration of the wisdom of the hands, as no other measuring instrument is required but the fingers themselves.
Over a period of time, a teacher learns the general capabilities of each student: where they can be encouraged to do better, where to relax standards because they've already done their best, when a new tool can be introduced, and whether or not an individual student can be trusted in its use. Otto Salomon called that sensitivity, "the teacher's tact." The problem in many teaching situations is that no two children are exactly alike, and tact is a requirement. We think that teaching is about knowledge. It is also about relationship.

I have begun work on a dining table for a friend, and the 4" x 8" walnut had a twist (wind) over it's 40 in. length. If you try to pass twisted wood through the planer, the wood simply follows twists all the way through from one end to the other without becoming straight. Without a very wide jointer, it is difficult to remove twist in heavy stock. But by using a carry board and shimming under the stock to make it stable, you can remove twist, making one side perfectly flat, before turning the stock over to plane the other side. The photo above shows how it works. Simply insert shims in one end and the other until the plank rests without rocking.  Screw those shims in place so they don't move. Then screw blocking in place to make certain the plank stays in position on the board as you plane.

I received my author copies of Making Classic Toys that Teach, as you can see in the photo at left.

Make, fix, create, and increase the likelihood that others learn the value of learning likewise.


  1. Congratulations on the book. I know you've been working on this one for quite a while.


  2. Thanks, Mario. This has been in the works for awhile. Most of my work on it was done over a year ago, but it took some time for my editors and I to catch up.

    This book seems so different from my other books in that it's about more than just making things. But then all my books have been a blend of woodworking and philosophy.

    1. Worded that poorly. You've been working on this for a long time, since before you even thought about writing the book.


  3. Yes, you are right. The research on this has been going on for years.