Saturday, November 05, 2016
Teaching woodworking can be complex, but it can also be simple. I had the advantage of beginning to do woodworking with kids after having spent years in my own shop, observing my own hands as they did work with wood.
It can be a bit daunting I know for those who have recognized the need for woodworking with kids but may not be so well prepared.
Today, I'll offer a brief note about materials, but will need to expand it at a later date. Children are best able to work with the simple approach of a carpenter, using soft woods like white pine, fir, or spruce, and in the early days of woodworking in schools and homes, vegetable crates would supply all a child or a classroom of children would need to craft wonderful things. Since vegetables and fruits now come in cardboard boxes instead, I resaw many 2 x 4's into working stock, depending on the size and thickness of the materials required.
The advantage of soft woods is that they can be nailed together, can be more easily sawn, and easily drilled, whereas hardwoods offer much greater resistance, and cannot be nailed. I offer woods in various thicknesses with the nails to be driven through the grain of thinner woods into the end grain of thicker stock. Another advantage of softwoods is that they are easier to obtain from local lumber yards and from building sites in the form of scrap.
I have both hardwoods and soft woods in our school shop, and in a variety of species so that kids learn the difference, not only in how they look and work, but so that they learn their best and most appropriate use. To become familiar with the woods they use in wood shop, is a direct link to their nature studies. The downside is that I'm always telling kids, "That's oak," or "That's cherry or walnut," and I explain that nailing may be difficult or even impossible without pre-drilling. (The test me, however, to see that I'm right.)
I also want to point out some vital information that is embedded in the photograph above. Can you see the collaboration between the father and his children? That kind of thing cannot be well managed in a large classroom of kids, but should be the objective. Schooling should always be about managing and encouraging relationships, between peers, between generations, between the individual and community, and between the individual and the natural world.
Make, fix, create, and suggest through your own efforts that others learn likewise.