Monday, June 18, 2018

Box maker's set-up block

I was cleaning collected items from the center console of my truck and found a tool that should be mentioned. It is a mini machinist's set up block that can be used for both 45 degree joints and 90 degrees. This one has an added advantage in a scale at one end with the measurements clearly identified in 32nds of an inch up to an inch and a half.

This is a perfect tool for box makers who are often required to change table saw angle settings from 45-90 degrees and back. The scale is perfect for setting blade heights.

If I had known it was in my truck, I would have used it several times in the last week. I am scratching my head with regard to how and from whom I acquired it.

In the background on my bench is more recent tool acquisition. Have you ever needed to drill a long straight hole in wood or metal? The gun drill is the tool of choice. I was introduced to the gun drill by Larry Copas as he used one to drill into a hollow form on the lathe. For metal, a stream of lubricating oil is delivered under pressure to the tip to prevent overheating. On the wood lathe, compressed air provides the needed cooling, and Larry was kind enough to adapt this one, bought on eBay so that it can be hooked up to compressed air.

The World Health Organization is about to name "gaming disorder" as a mental health condition. Computer games are engineered to be addictive. Creating objects of useful beauty can also  be addictive but it allows you or your child to make concrete contributions to family and community. Which do you think is the better idea?

We learn so very much from each other.

Make, fix, create and extend the circle so that others learn likewise.

Sunday, June 17, 2018


Yesterday I relaxed some following my 5 day class at ESSA making Viking style chests. The student made chests, as you can see are just as lovely as the one I made in preparation for the class.

The finish applied is boiled linseed oil, a finish used by the Vikings made from flax seed oil.

Flax is the only natural plant fiber that is grown in Western Europe. It is used to make linen cloth.

I have turned my attention toward preparation for my next classes. During the week, June 25-29 I will teach a class at ESSA in box making. On June 30 to July 1,  I will teach a parent child class in making box guitars. You may sign up at  

This is father's day. It is a national holiday to celebrate the father and his role in caring for children. You cannot be a real father without kids. While we celebrate this day, by saying "happy" to each other, children are being taken from their mothers. Fathers are being incarcerated, expelled from our country and kept away from their children. We think of ourselves as being humane and our nation as being good, but our government under it's current leadership is not. We are facing failure of our own national morality. One political party that generally proclaims its own moral and ethical superiority appears happy with that.

The role of fathers (whether biological fathers or not) is to support mothers in the care of all our kids. Let's celebrate fathers day by supporting all fathers in that.

Make, fix, create, and assist others in learning likewise.

Saturday, June 16, 2018

Completed Viking Chests...

Yesterday we completed the class on making Viking style chests at the Eureka Springs School of the Arts. The hardware the students made under the instruction of Bob Patrick worked well. The chests are lovely, and all the students were pleased with their work and with what they had learned.

At ESSA I keep making new friends, and this week, having blacksmiths, woodturners and woodworkers sharing the same studio complex, the opportunities were exponential, and my students were making friends with each other.

Now I begin planning and preparation for my next two classes.

Make, fix, create, and adjust education so that other learn likewise.

Friday, June 15, 2018


A friend refined my lathe dust collector to use larger  3 in. PVC pipe, as shown. He says it is based on my invention, but it shows his ingenuity as well. I see it as an improvement as it can use a much larger and more powerful dust collector. You can see that much happens at the Eureka Springs School of the Arts, including classes.

My shared class with Bob Patrick will come together today to finish our Viking style chests. Forged iron nails will be used to secure the corners of the chests, and be clinched to hold the hardware in place.

Yesterday we had a well attended studio stroll at the Eureka Springs School of the Arts. It was the one year anniversary of the first classes in the woodshop, and we had demonstrations in pastels, blacksmithing, woodturning and box making. Many family members came to see what their loved ones had learned.

I got an email this morning from Fine Woodworking inviting me to learn how to hand plane from a master. That's all well and good. We love work and could watch it all day. But where will you take the next step and learn through your own hands? ESSA is more interesting than youtube.

Make, fix, create and enlist others in assisting all to learn likewise.

Thursday, June 14, 2018

yesterday at ESSA

Yesterday Bob Patrick and I switched students, with mine from earlier in the week moving to making hardware in the metals studio, and the ones who had made hardware the first two days moving to the wood shop. By Friday we will be ready to add the hardware and install the nails that hold the Viking chests together as a finished and lasting pieces. So far, my students seem very pleased with their work and with what they have learned.

Today we have studio stroll from 4-5 PM and you are welcome to attend. There will be demonstrations to enjoy in blacksmithing, wood turning, and in the wood shop.

Yesterday, also, we tested the vacuum dust removal tool that I had designed. It works much better for hand held sanding on the lathe than for sanding with a power drill, as the extra air effects of a power tool disrupts the flow of air created by a spinning bowl or spindle. You can find a video of its operation on my instagram account.

Make, fix and create. Assist others in learning likewise.

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

combined wood and metals studios

This is a big week at the Eureka Springs School of the Arts, as this is the first time all three studios in our wood and metals complex have been busy at the same time. We have Bob Patrick's class forging hardware for the Viking style chests we're making in the wood shop, while we have Les Brandt's class on woodturning taking place in the turning studio.

This has been a goal of mine: to see a sustained maximum utilization of our studio spaces. While we are a long ways from full occupancy on a weekly basis, this week is a step in the right direction.

Please come for studio stroll on Thursday to see the classes in action.

Keeping the studios fully utilized requires student participation. My students ask, "why don't more folks know about this school?" Visit and tell your friends, or bring some with you when you come. If you've been one of the many whose lives have been transformed by a class at ESSA, tell others about it.

This day in wood shop, my students completed the wooden parts for their Viking chests and will begin work with Bob Patrick to make the hardware tomorrow morning. Tomorrow morning Bob Patrick's blacksmithing students who've finished their forging, will join me in the wood shop.  On Friday we will meet as a full group to finish our Viking chests.

I hope Bob Patrick and I can do this same exercise again in a year or two.

Make, fix, create, and join me in encouraging others to learn likewise.

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

viking chest. Day one.

Yesterday we got off to a good start on making Viking style chests at ESSA. I had intended that we work primarily with hand tools, but it quickly became apparent that developing those skills in a such a short time might have been unreasonable for us. The purpose of modern tools is of course to make things easier, faster and more accurate, and to achieve a level of workmanship less dependent on years of personal development. Most of the mistakes yesterday were mine, as a result of faulty set-up.

All new things require learning, and learning requires error. One thing that went particularly well was making coopered lids. My students all got their hands into the process as a collaborative venture, as shown in the photo.

I am grateful to have this opportunity to teach.

Make, fix, create, and assist others in learning lifewise.

Monday, June 11, 2018


This week the American Association of Woodturners is meeting in Portland, Oregon. I heard from one of the editors of their magazine that they want to run the tip I posted here yesterday on the blog, concerning a dust collection device you can make yourself. He and I will  communicate on the details later, after the big annual woodturning conference is over. I'm pleased that I am able to offer something useful to others.

My good friends Ed and Buz are in Portland and I know they will enjoy it.

Today I start my class making a Viking style chest in collaboration with master blacksmith, Bob Patrick. Bob and I are a lot alike in that we've been doing things long enough  to have whittled away most of what could be considered distracting and non-essential to the process.

We will have a total of 9 students for the 5 days, and I've been looking forward to this for weeks.

The box in the photo is made to hold library pockets, which are in turn made to hold 3 x 5 in. cards. Teachers at the Clear Spring School want this to be the first project when we start back to school at the end of summer. I made it as a demonstration on how to make a simple, useful, unlidded box. The library card pockets are a perfect fit.

Make, fix, create, and adjust education so that others learn lifewise.

Sunday, June 10, 2018

lathe dust collector

I have simple invention that I made for the lathe, that allows a standard shop vac to be used to remove sanding dust.

There are two critical factors in dust collection. One is the volume of air passing through the space in which the dust s being generated. The other is the proximity and efficiency of the collection device. You can have a very large machine pulling huge amounts of air and still miss the pickup of airborne particles that create havoc and health risk in the shop. You can test this with your home vacuum cleaner by trying to pick something up that is inches away. Even a much more powerful vacuum will have the same difficulties.

I  made these simple vacuum devices for the lathes at the Eureka Springs School of the Arts. Taking the place of the tool rest during sanding it can be set close to the source and thus be more effective than large dust collectors.  It mounts to the lathe with a simple cylinder turned on one end to fit the post hole for the tool rest. I used a circle cutter to cut the hole for the vacuum tool to fit, attached it to the post with glue and staples and the vacuum tool simply fits in one side and the vacuum hose into the tool from the other. The vacuum cleaner tool can be turned in the holder to the angle you desire. The post to which it is attached and mounted in the banjo, can be raised, lowered or turned for maximum effect, thus tuned in to get closer to the source of dust than a standard dust collector.

I had considered a much more complex and powerful dust collection system for the lathe room. Perhaps there is merit in a simpler approach, and the simplicity of this device may be useful to other woodturners.

I have submitted this as a tip to American Woodturner Magazine. As with many of my ideas, they seem so simple to me that it seems likely that they are no big deal at all, and have likely been discovered and invented by others before me. I have learned, however, that is not often the case. And this, like most of the things I invent, you can make yourself.

Make, fix, create, and increase the likelihood that others learn lifewise.

Saturday, June 09, 2018

who is ready for what?

Yesterday I demonstrated the making of a miter box on camera for use in my book, "Wisdom of the hands, a guide to teachers of the manual arts." I also demonstrated that you can make perfectly square cuts just using a saw and square. You mark with the square and pencil, then cut using your saw and your careful attention. It requires practice. It requires attention to posture and grip of the hand on saw and you get better at it.

This brings me to the question, is it the teacher's job to make things easy for his students, or difficult, or simply to assist and guide in the dance between the two? If work is hard we learn more, and develop more and remember more. Learning to saw takes place in the body and in the mind and in the powers of attention.

Educational Sloyd suggests that students move from the easy to the more difficult. But make things too easy... to the point that student attention is not required, and interest quickly wanes and sense of accomplishment falters. Early manual arts educators were concerned that work not become "overly mechanical" which is what it becomes when provisions are made for it to be thoughtlessly done.

Woodworking philosopher David Pye had noted the difference between craftsmanship of certainty in which the jigs and fixtures were set up to avoid error (and everything always comes out the same), and craftsmanship of risk in which the craftsman is reliant upon his own intellect, her own attention and their own skill.

The purpose of a miter box is to hold the material and saw square to each other so that the cut is square. Attention, practice and skill can do the same thing with greater rewards in learning and satisfaction. The teachers job is in part, to know who's ready for what and to encourage the steps in growth that are most appropriate to the child at the time.

I continue and will continue, to be concerned about the use of disposable plastic. In essence, all plastic is disposable and everything you buy in the big box store is destined for disposal. This is not true, necessarily, of the things we make from wood or from iron.

The night before last I demonstrated (for a group of women) the use of my wonderful beer bottle opener I made in blacksmithing class. I also showed photos of the massive garden claw that I made.  My original intent was to make that as a gift for my wife. I realized it was larger than what she would want, so using my better judgement I made no pretense of it being a gift for our anniversary. Good thing. It frightened her. But it made a good story. The others in my blacksmithing class thought it was so romantic that I was making a garden tool for Jean. It turned out to be more than that. It's called "evidence of learning."

Today is the opening celebration of the Eureka Springs Community Center. It's a day Jean has been working toward for years. Today, also, I'll begin preparing the ESSA woodshop for my week-long class making a viking chest. Sign up if you are able.

Make, fix, create and accept that we all learn best likewise.

Friday, June 08, 2018

DaVinci bridge

Yesterday at a staff meeting at the Clear Spring School, we built a Da Vinci bridge using half round dowels and 3/4 in. sticks. It is an interesting exercise in engineering. These bridges are popular as an exercise for kids interested in building things. If you have a wood shop, it takes only a few minutes to prepare a kit.

This youtube video shows a father and son building one:

Make, fix and create...

Thursday, June 07, 2018

ECHO Village

This week on Passion Play Road in Eureka Springs, an amazing thing is taking place. Volunteers from all over the US are creating a community of low income homes that are going up at a rapid pace. 

It shows in part that folks really want to be a part of something larger than themselves. They (and we) seek ways through which to make a lasting contribution to the lives of others.

It is human nature to do so.

ECHO Village is being built by the Eureka Christian Health Outreach, an organization that was created to provide free medical services to the poor and uninsured.

Drive by or stop and watch. Take tools and you can help.

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

Wednesday, June 06, 2018

preparing for class...

Last week I ordered a couple pounds of fancy square cut nails from Tremont Cut Nail Co. Those nails come from a machine made in the 19th century. This week I'm at work preparing for the class (June 11-15) that Bob Patrick and I share, making a Viking style chest. The chest is simply an excuse to engage in the making of your own hardware, but you will create an heirloom, and there are still openings in the class. It is all about learning. What you make will be ample evidence of that.

Enroll if you are a wood worker hoping to broaden your horizons into hand forged iron. Enroll if you are an experienced blacksmith and want to expand into wooden furniture and cabinetry. Both groups are welcome. In fact, you can have experience in neither and thus learn a great deal about both.

The chest itself will offer the opportunity to use both hand and power tools. Students will be divided in two groups, one with Bob in the blacksmithing studio and one with me in wood. Bob and I will trade students mid week. and finish as a whole group on Friday. Even though I bought ready made square cut decorative nails for the project, Bob will demonstrate making nails and you are welcome to try that, too. Who knows, you might get good at it and lay claim to an even deeper level of accomplishment.

This is not a huge chest, so you need not be wondering too hard where you will put your finished work. The prototype measures 7 in. x 15 in. x 9 in. high.  In case you need a different size, it can be made slightly larger or smaller without a change in the hardware you will make yourself.

If you want to enroll, call ESSA 479-253-5384 or go to

Make, fix, and create. Assist others in doing likewise.

Tuesday, June 05, 2018

making the monster claw

In blacksmithing, I wanted to try my hand at making a garden tool. This would be the kind of thing in an earlier time one might have asked their local village blacksmith to make. A person might walk into the blacksmith's shop and make a sketch of the size and shape of the thing to be made and return in the afternoon to pick it up. If it wasn't quite right, the blacksmith could put it back in the fire and make adjustments to a tool that would fit your hand and last your whole life.

Yesterday I added a handle that cracked as I was hammering it in place. The copper ferrule I had made held it tight. Even with the flawed handle (which I could replace) it is ready to work.

In any case, the tool is frightfully larger than necessary, which reminds me of an excellent paper by Rudolph J. Drillis called "Folk Norms and Biomechanics." It can be found here: At one time, tools were made to fit the hand and the body of the user.

Now tools are made to fit the shelves of the big box store, they eye of the consumer and the economies of production. Drillis, in "Folk Norms and Biomechanics" explored the relationship between the tool and the body and the customizing to fit.

To make the monster claw, I took two pieces of 3/8 in. bar stock and drew out tapers both ends. Sound easy? Perhaps it is if you practice first. I bent the ends while held red hot in the vise, and cut the side tines to length. Back in the fire, I again heated the parts red hot and malleable. Returning to the vise with the red hot stock, I bent them to align with the central tine.

All this was under the guidance of master teacher Bert Jones. Bert helped me then by arc welding the parts together. After grinding to make flush, I returned the whole thing to the forge to bring the steel to an even tone.

Have I made a useful tool? Perhaps for digging rocks. It is robust and not the gentle tool for gardening that I had in mind in the first place. But is it evidence of learning? I'll say yes on that.

Make, fix, create and learn to help others learn likewise.

Monday, June 04, 2018

Black smithing holiday...

Yesterday I took a holiday at the forge. Putting other things aside, I pounded hot steel in the ESSA metals studio. It is fun and engaging. Using tongs to pull a hot iron bar from the forge, carrying it to the anvil and whacking it into a new shape with a hammer takes care and concentration.

My teacher Bert Jones had gotten his start in black smithing at ESSA. He is great at showing how, and great also at building confidence. He was taught by master blacksmith Bob Patrick and so the circles widen and new folks are brought into the fold.

I made two projects, one simple, one more complex. I hope others will have the confidence to try. I expanded my comfort zone. Walking around the studio with tongs and hot iron in hand was new and exciting.

At one time, every small town in America would have a black smith available to fix things. Now we throw things away. The things we buy are often cheaply made and not repairable. And so we are building mountains of discarded junk and filling the oceans with plastic crap when we could instead be developing skill, developing problem solving intelligence and building character.

No one is bored when they have the opportunity to do real things of value to their communities. Compare that to conventional schooling.

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

Sunday, June 03, 2018

Orbis Pictus

I had a brief blacksmithing lesson at ESSA yesterday morning and today I take the hammer in hand and beat hot steel.

The image is of a blacksmith at work from Comenius' book Orbis Pictus, in which he developed instruction using illustrations. The book is a marvel from the 17th century, that can be found on Google Play. Search for Comenius Orbis Pictus and download it  for free.

I have been attracted to the ideals of the village blacksmith, the village carpenter, the village potter, the village weaver, and the village whatever, as a complete village would have all of the above and many more, each one fulfilling an important role in village life. These ideals represent a time in which each assisted others in the construction of community. Orbis Pictus portrays many traditional craftsmen at work. Comenius offered the following counsel to the educators of his time.
"The ground of this business is, that sensual (sensuous) objects be rightly presented to the senses for fear that they not be received. I say, and say it again aloud, that this is the foundation of all the rest; because we can neither act nor speak wisely, unless we first rightly understand all the things which are to be done and whereof we have to speak. Now there is nothing in the understanding which was not before in the senses. And therefore to exercise the senses well about the right perceiving of the differences of things will be to lay the grounds for wisdom and all wise discourse, and all discreet actions in one's course of life, which, because it is commonly neglected in schools, and the things that are to be learned are offered to scholars without their being understood or being rightly presented to the senses, it cometh to pass that the work of teaching and learning goeth heavily onward and offereth little benefit."
Comenius was considered the father of modern education, but even in this day, schools attempt to teach things that they fail to present to the full range of senses. By failing to use the senses in education, policy makers create an atmosphere in which even those things that are veritably true are not to be trusted.

As a teen and through college, my father owned a small hardware store in Valley, Nebraska. I would work there on weekends and during the week in summer months. We had a daily stream of tradesmen looking for things they needed for their work. One of my favorites ran a car wrecking business in Kings Lake, Nebraska and would come in smelling of motor oil and covered with grease, but with a smile I can remember even to this day. Folks from their fields of employment were not embarrassed by coming to town appearing as they did. I learned from them that working for a living and showing your work on what you wear is a  mark of having been of service to your fellow man.

Some have prejudices that will not allow them to stretch far in their acceptance of others. But man is made noble by being of service to others, even when he gets dirty in the process. The soil on hands and clothing that comes from an honest day's toil should be regarded with particular favor and wisdom gained by those who've done real things should be considered.

Make, fix, and create.... Plan in schooling for students to do real things.

Saturday, June 02, 2018

making toys...

In order to show parents and teachers how to make models for them to use to instruct kids, I'm making some of the toys we've made over the years. This pair of horses is to pull a wagon on a fictional adventure on the Oregon Trail. In wood shop we made horses, wagons and scale models of the necessary contents for the wagons. The students wrote stories about their journey with families they made up. It was written up in American Woodworker magazine a few years back as an example of a school woodworking program that works.

Making models is necessary as it is very difficult for kids to make what they cannot see. Making models is also necessary for the teacher to gain an understanding of a project's appropriateness for his students with regard to their strength, their experience, their interests, and their capabilities. Making models first allows the teacher to anticipate where the children will have difficulties with the project and make decisions with regard to what tools will work best and which tools will be needed. The model is a necessary step in the planning.

Not all shop time requires models. Sometimes, after having had some experience and developing some skill, the kids have ideas of their own.

This morning the woodcarving club is meeting at ESSA and a beginning blacksmithing class will be underway. Come see. 

Make, fix, create and assist others in learning likewise.

Friday, June 01, 2018

Captain America!

I spent part of the day yesterday meeting at ESSA with the program committee and the building and grounds committee. We will be growing the school in the coming years by enriching our programs, making them more responsive to student needs and by building new facilities as we are able.

The character in the photo is a previously unnamed superhero puppet that survived play with various school children on campus throughout the second semester of school. The last I saw of him before he was returned to the wood shop, he was being launched at high speed down the slide and used as target practice for slingshots. He is no worse for the wear from such abuse.

When things are made of wood, they can last, and if not, they can be fixed, and when their useful life is over, they can be composted or provide warmth in the fire. This guy will serve now as an example of student work in the book I'm working on.

He is a patriot. You can tell by the red, blue and natural wood colors. I hereby name him "Captain America" and you can tell by his small head, that his body is strong.

A reader informed me that even in Vermont, wood working programs are still falling under the policy maker's axe.

I have this fantasy... that we learn to devote our time to making things that last, that are worth caring for, and that then allow us to withdraw from participation in the consumer culture that's killing us and the planet. On Sunday we were invited to dinner and ate from the ceramic plates the hostess had made. Can we have more of that, PLEASE?

On Sunday I plan to take a blacksmithing class at ESSA, and use my time there to harden blades for carving knives so they can be re-handled and made more useful than when I made them in the first place. Each thing we learn to do for ourselves cuts one of the strings that binds us as mindless consumers to a wheel of planetary destruction. I will be writing today and fitting drawers to small jewelry chests to maintain balance during the process.

When the manual arts were first introduced to schools, many teachers argued that there was no time in the school day for such frivolity. Manual arts proponents argued successfully, that learning to making real things, actually made the time spent in academic work more effective, and raised the students' interests overall. The manual arts advocates were proven right. Then the policy maker's efforts to cheap out on our children's educations pushed manual training aside. We can fix that.

Join me if you can.

Make, fix, create, and adjust education so that we all learn likewise.

Thursday, May 31, 2018

small jewelry chests

Last night I was honored at a spaghetti dinner for my work as an arts educator. I was selected through an online nominating and voting process among community members, sponsored by Main Street Eureka Springs. The spaghetti dinner was held in the street and it was a friendly event with live music.

Yesterday I glued small maple jewelry chests together from carefully shaped and sanded parts. I only have four of the perfect clamps for this operation, so I glue one, wait long enough for the glue to set, then glue another.

Einstein had said that his pencil and he were smarter than he was, and the same can be said about each tool. Every tool can be an instrument that increases human potential and intelligence. Each is an embodiment of human experience and thought.

Tools shape the way we see the world, and our places within it. They convey the potential of mastery, and invite us to think in new ways about the world and about ourselves. 

Tools can also be used mindlessly, or destructively, and to be entrusted with the use of a tool carries a responsibility. Shouldering the weight of responsible tool use is an opportunity that we must offer to all kids. It unleashes their potential to be smart, caring and responsible.

Today  I have two committee meetings at the Eureka Springs School of the Arts. One is to plan campus facilities development, and the other to plan fall and winter programs.

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

Wednesday, May 30, 2018


I spent much of the day yesterday and the day before at my desk, writing bits and pieces of the Wisdom of the Hands Guide to woodworking with kids. I need to remember to keep more balance into my life. Concrete to balance the abstract.

Last night my cousin Mary Lou Taylor was featured on the CBS News program 48 hours as they explored her work to discover the truth about her brother's death in Vietnam. You can read about it here:

We are so proud of Mary Lou and her courage in leading a quest for the truth and for restoring her brother's honor. In 2001 Jean, Lucy and I were privileged to be among the guests at Arlington Cemetery when Andy Muns received (posthumously and at long last) the honors that had been denied him. We met the folks from NCIS that worked on the case. It is a remarkable story in which she had to confront her brother's killer after having watched him re-enact the murder during his confession.

Today in the wood shop I'll be working on jewelry chests. They are ready for assembly, and for me to begin the careful fitting of drawers.

Larry Copas did an experiment drilling through a  maple dowel with a gun drill to gauge its effect. The variance as about 1/16 in. over a length of 13 inches. This would be perfect for making flutes. Drill first, then rechuck so that the centers are in the holes at each end. A tool is an expression of human knowledge and the culmination of experience. Each tools carries the potential for an expansion of human creativity.

Make, fix, and create.

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

a social experiment

It might surprise some that the Clear Spring School wood shop is such a social experience. The students praise each other. They share. They compete. They inspire each other. They collaborate. And while early day manual arts classes had students assigned to individual benches, that would not work well at the Clear Spring School. My first grade students like to sit very close to each other and work together, their ideas blending into a single form.

I ran across an interesting title and description for a lecture in Norway, by Nora Sternfeld entitled: "Give her the tools, she will know what to do with them!” Sternfeld offers the following:
Some Thoughts about Learning Together
How can we learn something that doesn't exist yet? On the one hand this sounds paradoxical. But isn't it on the other hand exactly what radical education is all about? Learning as a political and emancipatory practice has always been understood as a process towards another possibility: as a way to understand the social relations in order to change them; to understand them as they might only be understandable in another world. And maybe by doing so this one might change… As this process of self-transformation is a collective practice we can only learn it together.
If anyone wants to know what goes on in the CSS woodshop, it is surely a process of social and political transformation.

On Saturday Larry Copas showed me a new tool to use at the lathe, and as Nora suggests a single tool can open doors of possibility. Some of my students had been wanting to make blow guns to shoot darts, and the gun drill on the lathe would be the perfect tool for that, allowing us to use the lathe to drill perfect straight holes from one end of a piece of wood to the other.

I spent much of the say yesterday, writing about tools and safety, and the safe introduction of tools in school, according to the principles of Educational Sloyd. I hope these chapters and sidebars will become the basis for a reintroduction of wood working in schools, not just to push us back in the direction of being a manufacturing nation, but to restore a process of social, personal and collaborative transformation, available to all students. The theory of Educational Sloyd can be applied as a guide to all learning endeavors.

I have been reviewing Scott Bultman's 75 minute long pitch video on Kindergarten and captured a screen image from it to share with you. It is one of many shots taken in the CSS wood shop of my students at work. The pitch video is intended to bring investors and collaborators on board with the project.

Make, fix, create, and insist that others be permitted to learn likewise.

Monday, May 28, 2018

industrious play.

What students do in the Clear Spring School wood shop could be called "Industrious Play." It is not play with no purpose in mind, but rather, play with a direct intention and tangible result. The objective is only partially to make things and develop skill. It is also to reinforce an "industrious disposition" in the child.

Conventional education may rob a child of his or her industrial disposition.

Yesterday, I, my wife and board members from our local community center used our pressure washer and wire brushes to clean glass bricks that will be given as rewards to founding members of the new Eureka Springs Community Center.

The photo shows two Froebel Gifts that were developed by an American follower of Froebel, Minnie Maud Glidden of Pratt Institute. These were given to me by Scott Bultman who is developing a documentary film series on Kindergarten. Yesterday he sent me a  link to a promotional video that I wish I could share. The time  for you to see it will come later. Gift D is the divided cylinder, and C are curvilinear building forms. Both sets fit neatly back into their boxes when you are finished with industrious play.

A college professor of education in the video says, "learning starts with impulse. By the time many of my students arrive in my class, impulse has been trained out of them." The "sit still and learn" approach is not working.

Today I will be at work on another chapter of my woodworking guide for teachers.

Make, fix and create.

Sunday, May 27, 2018

Woodturning at ESSA

I failed to count the number of Woodturners at ESSA yesterday, but I counted over 20 cars in the lot, not counting my own. One gave a demonstration on cutting parts for segmented turning. Larry Copas gave a demonstration of a gun drill to create hollow forms.

The gun drill is a device my students at school would have loved for its capacity to drill very long, very straight holes into wood. You connect it to an to an air compressor, the air of which helps to remove the chips that gather inside. The stream of air also cools the tip so that it does not overheat. It would be useful for making long hollow tubes like one might use to make a flute. Can that be yet another project to add to my creative horizon? I thank Larry for showing me something new.

One thing should be noted about wood. It is easily bio-degradable.  Cared for, it lasts for centuries. Even used daily, it can last for a hundred years. The world is now drowning in plastic, and the latest National Geographic magazine tells the story.

When wood is no longer in service, it decays in a relatively short time into biodegradable bits that are natural to every biological system on the planet. Plastic does not. It decays into bits and molecular chains that were never a part of life on earth. Is it not time now for us to think about a few things?

I am beginning to prepare for my summer classes and taking time to work in my own shop.

Make, fix, create, and increase the likelihood that others learn lifewise.

Saturday, May 26, 2018


One last thing was requested by Woodcraft Magazine for an article we're doing about making a box guitar. They wanted a picture of me playing it. So here goes. With this photo, my submitted article is complete. But do not assume from this photo that I actually know how to play. I learned as a young man that my own fingers and hands were better equipped for steady work, not the fancy finger play required for guitar.

Today at ESSA the Stateline Woodturner's Guild will meet for a general turning session. Visitors are welcome. Come and learn why wood turning is such a popular and engaging craft.

Make, fix, create, and adjust schooling so that all can learn by doing real things.

Friday, May 25, 2018

Out for summer

Yesterday, with the "celebration of the child," I am now out for the summer, but for a few planning meetings with my fellow staff at the Clear Spring School.

Being out for the summer is not what you think it might mean. I will be teaching adults at the Eureka Springs School of the Arts, at the Marc Adams School of Woodworking, and at the Connecticut Valley School of Woodworking. I will continue writing, and working in my own shop.

I will miss the kids. Perhaps they will also miss me. Where else can they work with real tools and develop real skills? I hope some are inspired to carry on through the summer months.

It is somewhat odd that folks in academia and government hold illusions of self-superiority over those who fix things and make things. Those who journey on through abstract learning and "higher" education are rewarded and advanced over those who have little patience with such things.  Their encounters with the real world would surely inform them of their ineptitude, which should in turn generate a reverence and respect for those who are endowed with skill and experience in the real world.  But it seems that is not always the case. If it were, folks would insist that learning be hands-on and that students be afforded the opportunity to be of real service to their families and communities.

National Geographic this month has an article about the proliferation of plastics and what they are doing to  our planet.  We are drowning in disposable plastic stuff. The Wisdom of the Hands presents an alternative. What if we were to revise our ways, and inhabit our lives with beautifully crafted  lastingly meaningful objects we had made for ourselves or that had been crafted for us by those we love? Think wood. It grows on trees, which are themselves beautiful to behold.

My thanks to Pam Greenway for the lovely photo of one of my students at work.

Make, fix, create, and assist others in learning lifewise.

Thursday, May 24, 2018

the celebration of the child.

This is the last day of the 2017-18 school year at the Clear Spring School. The kids are a bit sad to have the school year end. When you are having fun learning with friends, you feel strongly about school, in the good way.

I spent much of the day yesterday clearing and cleaning, and sending things home, but not before launching a new middle school project for next year, and helping students make a few more wooden skates.

The annual end of year program at the Clear Spring School is called "the Celebration of the Child." There will be skits and musical performances, and the presentation of awards of special recognition. Each and every child receives an award based on the special qualities of character they've demonstrated during the year.

The items shown are one student's woodwork from the last few weeks of school, ready to take home. The items include a bluebird house, a cane, a piece of turned wood and a sling shot.

Make, fix, create and assist others in learning lifewise.

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

reading buddies

I keep telling folks that the best time to visit the Clear Spring School is either the 10:15 morning recess or at the 12:15 lunch recess. At either of these times you'll find our students engaged in play... and for sure, play is the most effective way of learning. You will also find that when  the kids are arriving for the day at 8:15, there is joyfulness afoot. Our kids, grades 1-12, play with each other, and there is so much joy expressed that you'll envy staff members who witness it every day.

In the early days of manual arts training, it was argued by those against it that the time invested in hands-on learning would detract from academic studies. It was soon proven that was not the case. The manual arts refreshed the attitude toward learning to the degree that academic pursuits were accomplished in less time.

Of course there is more going on at Clear Spring School than play.  If you are not here at recess you'll find learning taking place with an equal amount of enthusiasm. Reading is an example. Just as our student play together, regardless of age, they buddy up for reading, too.  Our students pair up to read to each other. The process leads to growth on both ends.

Allow me to suggest that manual arts can lead the way, both in kids making stuff, and in providing a philosophy of teaching. For teachers, the less they do, the more students learn. The more students are driven by internal compulsion, the better they are directed toward lifelong learning.

I should explain that. If I prepare parts for students to assemble like a kit rather than supplying tools and materials, inspiration  and encouragement, I would be busy making parts and my students would not be learning how to do things for themselves. If I was telling the kids what to do rather than allowing them to learn from their own internal guidance, they would develop less self-reliance and intrinsic motivation.

Make, fix and create...

Tuesday, May 22, 2018


Yesterday at the Clear Spring School we made sling shots. The project began when one boy started making one last week. It was obvious that there were some things about sling shots, based on what I saw him making that he did not understand how they worked or what parts would be required. I asked him where he learned about sling shots and he said, "a video game." I learned that he had never seen a sling shot in real life. He did not know that it required a pouch to hold the object that's to be shot.

I helped him with making a leather pouch, and then helped him to get the rubber bands he had wrapped uselessly on the wood into a useful arrangement. That of course led to the other boys (and some girls) wanting sling shots of their own.

What will we be as a culture when most of our information about life comes in digital doses of meaningless abstraction? Are you folks worried about that?

I am busy writing end of year reports for my students and classes. Today I will begin cleaning the wood shop at the Clear Spring School so that I can turn my attention toward summer classes at ESSA, The Connecticut Valley School of Woodworking, and Marc Adams School of Woodworking.

There are still spaces available in these schools for your participation.

Make, fix, and create. Allow for others to learn likewise.

Monday, May 21, 2018

The King Arthur Flour Bakery: Artisans at Work

Yesterday at Books in Bloom, Martin Phillip, author, banjo player and baker with King Arthur Flour was with us to give readings from his book, Breaking Bread. We had other fine authors as well, but meeting Martin Phillip was a special treat. A video of Martin and fellow bakers at work can be found here:

Martin is a big believer in the hands.  As Martin says, "It is the human that comes in and makes it something special." The wisdom of the hands is not just about wood working. It comes in many forms and "literally" touches all of human life.

Make, fix, create, and adjust education so that we all learn lifewise.

Sunday, May 20, 2018

no need for a bogus quote...

Yesterday evening I heard a radio program announcer use the following quote in his rapturous support of the arts in school: “When Churchill was asked to cut arts funding in favour of the war effort, he simply replied, ‘Then what are we fighting for?’” Churchill, according to extensive research never said such a thing, but the bogus quote once launched circles round and could come back and bite. Who needs made up stuff?

He did actually say, “The arts are essen­tial to any com­plete national life. The State owes it to itself to sus­tain and encour­age them…Ill fares the race which fails to salute the arts with the rev­er­ence and delight which are their due.” Churchill was in fact a painter.

But do we need to rely upon the expertise of others to see that which is actually at hand? Are educational policy makers dumb or what? Can we not see and bear witness to the power of our hands and the arts and meaning they create? And then make the adjustments necessary to place the arts and science at the center of education?

I was not held captive by the royal wedding yesterday, but I did take time to listen and watch the young American cellist playing at the end of the ceremony. Are we to be given such beauty in life if we do not take time and invest in such things as music, wood shop, and the other arts?

The drawing is one I did to show the immature hammer grip of a child. As he or she learns, grows and gains strength, the hand will move down the shaft to give greater force.

Make, fix, create, and adjust schooling so that others learn lifewise.

Saturday, May 19, 2018


I had a successful White St. Art Walk, selling boxes and visiting with friends.

Yesterday my high school students painted more on the Bevin's Skiff, bringing them nearly to a point of completion.  The students have taken great pride in them and their work as you can see.

Jerome Bruner and others have talked about education as being a process of scaffolding. Bruner's concept of scaffolding comes from his recognition that the development of human intellect is sustained by an external skeleton as described below:
“(a) Human’s use of mind is dependent upon her/his ability to develop and use tools or instruments or technologies that make it possible for him to express and amplify her/his powers”
Scaffolds in the building trades are constructed of light weight components that allow workers to safely reach heights beyond the safety of ladders. The idea of scaffolding is an apt metaphor for what we would like to happen in schools.

Of what is the educational scaffold made? Here is an idea. Experience, what the child already knows, forms the foundation from which inquiry takes place. Technology plays a part, as Einstein said, "My pencil and I are smarter than I am." You can think of the computer as the pencil on steroids. The teacher plays his or her part as a pry bar, attempting to inspire, challenge and steady the child's climb. A fourth component has to do with the school culture. Does it support an atmosphere of inquiry, of creativity and creative expression for teachers and students alike? If we had the fundamental materials of scaffold building on site, what wonders would we behold in American education! Can you see it from where you are? Use scaffolding to get a better view.

Make, fix, and create. Assist others in learning likewise.

Friday, May 18, 2018

white st.

I have set up a display of my work at the Lux Weaving Studio for the White St. Art Walk. It is one of the premier art events of the May Festival of the Arts. Join us this evening from 4-10 PM

This is a busy weekend. I am trying to help my students finish projects at school. My wife is getting ready for the Books in Bloom Literary Festival at the Crescent Hotel on Sunday. I will be there directing traffic.

The toy tank is one that I made as an example, based on similar toys my students have made in the past. Having seen it as an example, some of my students now want to make them. It works that way. What they see they want to make. The physical object tells them what they need that with experience tells them what to do next. What they make may not end up looking like mine after their own creativity is launched. Attention to the relationship between the concrete and the abstract is a useful tool in planning lessons and learning. When kids do real things in school, no test is required as the real learning is self evident in what they've done.

It is a lovely day today to finish painting our Bevins Skiffs. We will do that.

Make, fix, create, and adjust learning so that all students have the opportunity to learn likewise.

Thursday, May 17, 2018

pride and sadness.

The elaborate home arrangement shown in the photo took two weeks of twice a week wood shop to complete. I cannot tell you what everything is, but I can tell that it was well thought out and carefully decorated and arranged.

Today I continue arranging my work at the Lux Weaving Studio in preparation for the White St. Art Walk on Friday May 18 from 4 PM until 10 o'clock.

Yesterday my middle school students finished their birdhouses. They were not perfect, but as the kids noted, "the birds won't mind."

Yesterday we had a new student in wood shop whose parents have enrolled him for the coming year. His little brother was along when his mother came to pick him up. I could hear the little brother screaming from across the playground, "I didn't get to make anything!" The tears were real.

Would you not also be sad if your brother had gotten to make something and you had not? I invited the boy to come into the shop and select from some items that had been left unclaimed and unwanted by other students. The boy left happy. If all works out well, he will be in the Clear Spring School wood shop in a couple years making things for himself.

How do we impress upon parents the need their children have to create?  The pride they have in what they've made might have some effect.

Make, fix, and create. Assist others in learning likewise.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

how to avoid whacking your thumb.

A friend of mine showed up at the gym with his thumb bandaged having been hit by a hammer hard enough that he might lose his nail. That can happen to anyone. My illustration tells how to avoid it. The captions read "Hold nail at point, hammer miss smashes thumb."  "Hold nail at the top, hammer miss brushes thumb aside before striking wood." In the one case, depending on how hard the thumb is whacked, the nail could be bruised or bloodied and left in great pain. In the other case, no harm is done.

Please heed this simple advice.

The interesting thing is that out of fear we would typically try to keep our fingers away from where the hammer will strike, thus putting them at greater risk.

I have been going through mountains of information I've compiled about woodworking with kids, trying to distill it to an essence that will help parents and teachers feel confident allowing children to create beautiful and lasting things from real wood.

Today in the wood shop at the Clear Spring School, my students and I will be cleaning, organizing shop, and finishing projects that must not be left over the summer months.

Make, fix, create, and assist others in learning likewise.

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Winding down...

We are winding down the school year at the Clear Spring School with this being the last full week of classes. Students are working on end of year presentations and performances, and it always seems to come quickly to this point. Yesterday in wood shop, one of my youngest students announced that he wanted to make a train. I invited him to study an engine that had been left hanging about, and asked him to tell me what he needed first. With me supplying the materials, he left the wood shop happy, indeed.

I have been making rings on the lathe to use as rewards for extra effort in cleaning the wood shop. I used most of those yesterday with my students grade 4-8 pitching it to help.

One of the big challenges in box making with kids is to get them to make square cuts. If the cuts are not square, the box will not be. If the box is not square, the lids and bottoms will be hard to fit, and the box will not sit on a table flat. Square cuts are why we have miter boxes.

Yesterday I got a new miter saw for use in the wood shop at school and as an illustration of what is available to others wanting to introduce wood working to kids. This one is made by Stanley, and was delivered to my door for $38.00 through Amazon. To prepare it for actual use, I'll add a board on the bottom that will then allow it to be clamped to the bench or table, so that students can put their attention into powering the saw, rather than in holding the miter box still during the cut. The saw is large, but the teeth are small and hardened for long life.

I purchased this saw to test because it has those little yellow clamps, that twist tight against the stock. While large adult hands may have enough strength to hold the stock in position while a cut is made, a child's hands do not. I'll be testing it with kids later in the week.

Make, fix, create and assist others in learning likewise.

Monday, May 14, 2018

moving toward crunch time.

This week I have the White St. Art Walk at which I'll sell work and next week is the end of the school year with high school graduation and our annual program, the celebration of the child. This Sunday, the literary festival my wife created and co-directs is happening, also. This is a busy time.

I spent the weekend reviewing photos, taking a few new ones and writing portions of chapters of a Wisdom of the Hands guide for teachers, parents and friends wanting to help children learn woodworking. It is all a lot to get my head around.

I have been reading Pestalozzi's book, How Gertrude Teaches Her Children which is basically an account of how Pestalozzi developed his teaching methods. It provides insight into his character and his goals which was in large part to make education accessible to all and to do so through the senses.
"You are as a physical living being nothing but your five senses; consequently the clearness or mistiness of your ideas must absolutely and essentially rest. upon the nearness or distance with which all external objects touch these five senses,—that is, yourself, the centre, because your ideas converge in you.

"You, yourself, are the centre of all your sense-impressions; you are also yourself an object for your sense-impressions. It is easier to make all that is within you clear and plain than all that is without you. All that you feel of yourself is in itself a definite sense impression; only that which is without can be a con fused sense-impression for you.

"It follows that the course of your knowledge, in so far as it touches your self, is a step shorter than when it comes from some thing outside yourself. All that you know of yourself, you know clearly; all that you yourself know is in you, and in itself clear through you.

"It follows that this road to clear ideas is easier and safer in this direction than in any other; and among all that is clear nothing can be clearer than this principle: man’s knowledge of truth comes from his knowledge of himself." –Pestalozzi
Pestalozzi was one of the building blocks of progressive education. Building things and making things is one of the ways we use the formation of sense impressions in schooling. Squirming in your seat is not but may be what you remember most.

Make, fix, create, and assist others in learning likewise.

Sunday, May 13, 2018

commence learning.

We know that the human body is a sensory mechanism and it is that even before the moment of birth. Senses are not just for our amusement. They are the means through which we learn about our environment and our culture. The baby immediately learns that by crying out, attention to needs will come.

Pestalozzi recognized that learning began  began early, that the engagement of the senses was required, and he recognized too, the importance of the mother's role as the child's first teacher. The point was that children be led actively to name, observe, and measure with all their senses before being led to read and well before being tested upon that which they've read. The following is from How Gertrude Teaches Her Children.
Truth that springs from sense-impression may make tiresome talk and tedious arguments superfluous (these have almost as much effect against error and prejudice as bell-ringing against a storm), because truth so acquired generates a power in the man that makes his soul proof against prejudice and error; and even when through the continual chatter of our race they come to his ears, they become so isolated in him that they cannot have the same effect as upon the common-place men of our time, on whom truth and error alike, without sense impression, with mere cabalistic words, are thrown as through a magic lantern upon the imagination.
The train in the photo was one made in the Clear Spring School wood shop inspired by a boy who loved trains and wanted to make one. Who would not want to make such a thing?  We have gone off the deep end in artificiality of education, pushed there by policy makers who show little or no interest in the individual child. Students are measured through standardized tests that are strange and irrelevant to their own lives and interests. What's the point? Must we manipulate them to meet our own interests of management? Or can we recognize that learning and growing are the innate qualities of the child, and that we share those same learning impulses into great age if we are encouraged to do so?

 I offer a simple test. Ask yourself how you learn best and to deepest effect. Is it not by doing real things? If that is your best learning means, what would lead you to assume the same does not apply to kids? And if the same applies to kids, why would we offer a  substandard means of schooling that actually damages many of our children by sequestering them in boredom and disinterest for long periods of each day?

Making a simple train is an example of starting with the interest of the child.

Make, fix, create and allow others to learn likewise.

Saturday, May 12, 2018

How Gertrude Teaches Her Children

Last night I was thinking about the true spirit of education, and in doing so, could not wander far from the teachings of Pestalozzi. I have written before in my blog, Wisdom of the Hands, about Pestalozzi and his wonderful old book Leonard and Gertrude that had become a best seller in Europe after being published in 1801. You can find Leonard and Gertrude online as a free download. Read it and join me in visualizing a new day in American education.

For helping our new ESSA wood and metals studio coordinator  build a better understanding of safety requirements,  I found a powerpoint presentation that featured the image above as an example of table saw safety. So let's play the game,  "what's dangerous about this?" The powerpoint is offered to teachers by the University of Alaska, Fairbanks. Test your own understanding of physics and tell me what happens next.

Make, fix and create.

Friday, May 11, 2018


On April 6 1917, the United States entered WWI after a German U Boat had sunk an American ocean liner, the Housatonic. Earlier in that year, Congress passed and president Woodrow Wilson signed into law, the Smith-Hughes Act. The Smith-Hughes Act had been regarded as a victory for the manual arts, as it directed federal funding into vocational education. On the other hand, Smith-Hughes isolated vocational education from the rest of the curriculum and from most school settings. Woodrow Wilson, as president of Princeton University had said:
"We want one class of persons to have a liberal education, and we want another class of persons, a very much larger class, of necessity, in every society, to forgo the privileges of a liberal education and fit themselves to perform specific difficult manual tasks."— Woodrow Wilson
He was talking about class and divide and the need to sustain it through a two tier educational system. Haven't we had fun with that?

Charles A. Bennett, the first Columbia University Ph.D. in Manual Arts Education wrote the two volume set of the History of Manual and Industrial Arts which he ended in 1917 due to the passage of the Smith-Hughes Act. Bennett noted it to be both a high point, due to the infusion of federal funds, and a low point due to its failure to grasp that training in the manual arts is a thing that all students need, particularly those who will go on to college.

That last sentence will make no sense to most readers. For surely white collar, blue collar and the line between is still a great divide in America, just as Woodrow Wilson had proposed. This is not a new topic in the blog. Read here:  One of the objectives of Educational Sloyd was to help create a sense of the dignity of all labor and to help diminish the divide between the "intellectual" and working classes. If those who were destined to college had received some direct experience in the manual arts they would not look down their noses at those who had worked to develop skill. They would then have some respect for the supporting contributions made by others in their communities. I'm not talking about socialism here. The subject is human decency, respect and the ability to build strong communities.

I have made some new nail assist devices able to hold the smallest brad safely while being nailed without hitting your fingers with the hammer. The last ones I made were small cherry sticks that were likely to be swept up in the sawdust or used by one of my students in a construct of some kind. These new ones look more like tools one might keep and use for years to come. And we don't like hitting our thumbs, do we? This simple device, held on edge is also useful to parent fingers trying to hold nails as a child makes his or her first attempts to drive them into wood. By making it large enough to avoid throwing it in the trash, I've also made it more useful than the previous model.

Make, fix, create, and assist others in learning lifewise.

Thursday, May 10, 2018

clamping miter box and saw.

I just purchased this interesting miter box and saw made by Stanley/Black and Decker. It is plastic, as you can see. The saw is sharp and has hardened teeth for a long life.

It looks a lot like the other plastic miter boxes on the market, but it has one special feature that sets it apart. The black sticks are clamps that hold the stock in place. You simply stick the round end of the stick in a hole and twist it until it's tight against the stock. Its oval shape makes it lock against the wood. I look for things that will make my students' work just a bit easier, and more accurate and in my testing of it, it works well.

My first test was to take two pieces of wood in equal size, line them  up even on one end, insert and tighten the clamping rods, and cut. In minutes I had equal size front and back for a box.

With attention, a square and a handsaw, one can develop the skill to make square cuts. A miter box is intended to make things automatically square. Square cuts are essential to box making. If cuts are not square, the box will not come together in a rectilinear form.

A common miter box is easy to make. The challenge, however is holding the wood in position as it is being cut. Children's hands often lack sufficient strength. This Stanley clamping miter box and saw may be the answer for that, so I will ask my students to test it next week when they are back from their camping trip.

I have heard recently of more school industrial arts programs closing due to the retirement of teachers, and the difficulty of finding replacements. Teaching the manual arts is not an easy thing to do. It's best that you have skill as a teacher and a strong interest in craftsmanship. The other important consideration is that of working for an administration that understands the necessity of hands-on learning for all kids. Since policy makers and administrators don't get passing grades when it comes to delivering the hands-on learning our children need, others must rise to the occasion and take matters into our own hands.

It is ironic that the famous Teacher's College in NYC was founded for the specific purpose of providing teachers for manual and industrial arts. Their first building on the campus adjoining Columbia University, was the Macy Manual Arts Building which stands to this day. Columbia University was the first to offer a doctoral degree in manual arts education. Where are these schools now? Have they forgotten history? Will they rise again to redirect our nation toward hands-on learning? Let's hope.

Make, fix, create, and assist others in learning lifewise.

Wednesday, May 09, 2018

creative transformation

On Monday my first, second and third grade students noticed a small wooden car I'd made out of a piece of scrap 2x4 cut in an arched shape. It was utterly simple in design. I had sanded it and added wheels. The students decided they wanted to make the same thing, but it is inevitable that they take a simple design and add their own creative touches but with a bit less sanding.

One girl decided that hers needed holes in the top, so I set up the drill press with a Forstner bit. She drilled as I held the assembled car in the position she wanted. Having holes in the top was not enough. She decided it needed a door on top, complete with a metal hinge. In the finished car, you  can open the lid to gain access to the compartment.

 I need to get more hinges for my students to use, because hinges have become a favorite thing to add to their many constructions. The student wanted a hack saw to cut the hinge shorter than it is, and that may be something we can attend to next week.

The point is simple. The teacher provides materials and a launching point, along with tools and a demonstration of technique. The students can be relied upon to exercise their own creativity.

Friend and craftsman Larry Copas confirmed the value of teaching hands on skills by standing behind the student, hand over hand in the following note:
"I've been stick welding for 50 years now and can do a passable job for a hobbyist. About 30 years ago my young nephew asked me to teach him. He was a terrible student and stuck the welding rod almost every time. I got frustrated as he just could not get it and I could see he was getting frustrated. Than I stood behind, wrapped my arms around him, grabbed his hands and we welded a bead. He was welding in five minutes.

"I've taught several more to weld using the same technique. Something I've noticed is that it creates a special bond between teacher and student."
Make, fix, create and adjust schooling so that others learn lifewise.

Tuesday, May 08, 2018

whittling and the knife

Yesterday in wood shop, I went over knife safety with my first through 6th grade students. They leave for a two night, three day camping trip to Tahlequah, Oklahoma this AM, and using knives in whittling is a traditional part of the Clear Spring School camping experience.

The Sloyd knife was an important part of Educational Sloyd that was not adopted in all countries. I explained that in an article in Woodwork Magazine a few years back.  Please take time to read it, as it gives a historical perspective on the educational use of the knife.

It is better that you to read it there than here, so I will not need to repeat myself.

At first some of my students did not want to whittle, as there were other things they wanted to do in wood shop. When I had showed them the proper technique, they did not want to quit. The thing I discovered was that if I put my arms around the students one at a time, and we hold the knife and the whittling stick together so they see very clearly the angle of the blade and feel through my hands, the required motions of their own hand, arm and knife, they are soon ready to go off on their own, having learned things I could not describe, and that seeing me do apart from them, they would not have understood. To see something done is an abstraction. To do something with your own hands is concrete. So this is an example of "moving from the concrete to the abstract," one of the principles of Educational Sloyd.

The same approach can work in teaching students to turn on the lathe. Stand behind the student with your arms around and your hands holding the tool over the student's hands. The student will more quickly grasp the feel of turning.

Make, fix, create, and assist others in learning lifewise.

Monday, May 07, 2018

A centering vise for wheels and pens.

On Saturday, I used my tractor to pull the Clear Spring School float in the Artragious Art Parade. The Kubota has nice gears for pulling at slow speed. The jury is out on whether or not a Kubota offers sufficient COOL power. Normally floats are pulled by oversized pick-up trucks. I washed my tractor for the occasion.

Yesterday I made my Kindergarten presentation at the UU Fellowship and assembled a large KD reception desk at the Eureka Springs Community Center, in preparation for their opening day in June. What follows is just a bit of what I did not have time to cover in my Kindergarten presentation. In the early days kindergarten teachers were not just teachers. They were a special breed of teachers self-identified  as "Kindergartners."

Kindergartens began in the US as early as the 1850s, but the 1876 Philadelphia Exposition provided the opportunity for Kindergartners to show off their system of education to a nation hungry for reform. Nina C. Vandewalker described this in her book, The Kindergarten in American Education, 1908:
The Exposition kindergarten was conducted in an annex to the Woman's Pavilion, by Miss Ruth Burritt of Wisconsin, who had had several years of experience as a primary teacher before she became a kindergartner, and whose manner and insight were such as to gain adherents for the new cause. The enclosure for visitors was always crowded, many of the on-lookers being "hewers of wood and drawers of water, who were attracted by the sweet singing and were spellbound by the lovely spectacle." Thousands thronged to see the new educational departure, and many remained hours afterwards to ask questions.

The Exposition marked an epoch in the advancement of the kindergarten movement, as it marked an epoch in the history of elementary education. The ready acceptance of the kindergarten after the Philadelphia Exposition did not imply a recognition of its pedagogical value alone; in fact it is worthy of note that many of the kindergartens established at this period were philanthropic in their ultimate purpose. As the rapid growth of cities and the increasing immigration was fast developing the slum with its attendant evils, people were beginning to realize that some antidote must be found. The value of the kindergarten as a child-saving agency was at once recognized, and churches and philanthropic societies took up the movement.

The first charity kindergarten was opened in 1870 in the village of College Point, N.Y.; others were opened the same year in Cleveland, Ohio, and Florence, Mass. In speaking of this phase of kindergarten work in the Report of the Commissioner of Education, Miss Laura Fisher says : — "Centering among, and concerning itself with, the children of the poor, and having for its aim the elevation of the home, it was natural that the kindergarten as a philanthropic movement should win great and early favor. The mere fact that the children of the slums were kept off the streets, and that they were made clean and happy by kind and motherly young women; that the child thus being cared for enabled the mother to go about her work in or outside the home — all this appealed to the heart of America, and America gave freely to make these kindergartens possible. Churches established kindergartens, individuals endowed kindergartens, and associations were organized for the spread and support of kindergartens in nearly every large city."
Now Kindergarten's name has grown meaningless. Froebel is nearly forgotten. Educational policy makers continue to attempt to impose new schemes for control of learning directed toward measurable outcomes (through standardized testing) having to do with reading and math. The Kindergarten movement recognized the important role of mothers as the child's first teacher, and chose to empower children through music, through play, through exploratory devices that helped children to come to terms with their own creative capacities, and prepare them for lifelong learning.

Among the hewers of wood at the Exposition in 1876 was Frank Lloyd Wright's mother, Anna. As a teacher herself, she was captivated by the method and purchased Froebel blocks for her son. Here is what Frank Lloyd Wright remembered in his autobiography: "For several years I sat at the little Kindergarten table-top ... and played ... with the cube, the sphere and the triangle—these smooth wooden maple blocks ... All are in my fingers to this day ..."

With the weekend over I look forward to a relaxing time with the kids in wood shop. The photo shows my new vise for drilling pens and wheels. Clamped to the drill press table and centered beneath the drill chuck and bit, students can drill their own wheels or pens blanks, and quickly alternate between the two.

Make, fix, create, and adjust teaching methodology to allow for others to learn lifewise.