Friday, August 17, 2018

rabbetting plane

I am making some sliding lid boxes, and wanted to be able to use a small 1/8 in. rabbet plane to cut grooves where the sliding lids will fit. I could try to find one to buy, or make it myself. I chose the latter solution, as shown.  I tested it. It works. I may add an edge guide next.

In the meantime, we are inching toward the start of school.

Thursday, August 16, 2018

a warning, our nation in red...

New York Governor Cuomo got in trouble for saying America is not quite so great as we think we are.  But what's the truth here? You might be interested in where the US stands in relation to other developed nations.

We think of the US as being the "greatest nation on earth." We have the missiles to prove it. But we are deficient in a number of the most important ways. How do we care for our people? Education is one. My wife and I will visit Helsinki in September and I'm attempting to gain an opportunity to visit a Finnish School as a way of highlighting their educational success story. Visiting schools in Finland is a popular pastime and a small industry of sorts. A tour can be expensive and only touch on the surface of things. So I do not know how successful I'll be in gaining the insight I hope to attain.

In any case, this chart from the New York Times in 2011 shows our standing. You'll find the US portrayed in red.

At the Clear Spring School classrooms are in disarray as teachers try to prepare for students to return on August 26-30 for conferences and classes.

Yesterday I shipped the Governor's award bases for Arkansas Quality, and today I will return attention to my book on training teachers, parents and grandparents to do woodworking with kids.

Make, fix, create, and assist in building a more reasonable, equitable and just society in the US. It may take decades to do so.

Wednesday, August 15, 2018


Today I am to proceed with clean up and planning for the school year in my classroom at the Clear Spring School.

Next week I'll lead a portion of our school teacher inservice. I will begin with a preview of portions of the History of Kindergarten film project, and then we will do a work-together woodworking project, making gifts 3 and 4 from wood to be used in various classrooms.  (boxes and blocks as shown) I hope to lead a discussion among staff of the importance of play, and some of Froebel's concepts, to give an overview of his philosophy and help our teachers understand how it fits our classrooms, today.

I believe we at the Clear Spring School have been on the right track for a long time. You can see a brief trailer for the Kindergarten History project here.

When my wife Jean and I were in Trondheim, Norway we visited the folk museum in which Kindergarten gifts were treasured and displayed as an important part of their heritage. Those gifts were made by craftsmen in the community for student use, shaping the character and intelligence of their kids. Perhaps with some further explanation, and with your help in sharing the story, we will return to education that values play and uses the child's natural inclination to learn and grow.

In my woodshop today I'll assemble the Arkansas Governor's Awards for Quality and prepare them for shipping.

Make, fix, create and insist that others have the chance to learn likewise.

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

sand pile part two...

In G. Stanley Hall's book, "The Story of a Sand Pile," he describes the effects of allowing boys a summer's activity guided by their own creative impulses, using a sand pile as follows:
"On the whole, the “sand-pile” has, in the opinion of the parents, been of about as much yearly educational value to the boys as the eight months of school. Very many problems that puzzle older brains have been met in simpler terms, and solved wisely and well. The spirit and habit of active, and even prying observation has been greatly quickened. Industrial processes, institutions, and methods of administration and organization have been appropriated and put into practice. The boys have grown more companionable and rational, learned many a lesson of self control, and developed a spirit of self-help. The parents have been enabled to control indirectly, the associations of their boys, and, in a very mixed boy-community, to have them, in a measure, under observation without in the least restricting their freedom. The habit of loafing, and the evils that attend it, has been avoided, a strong practical and even industrial bent has been given to their development, and much social morality has been taught in the often complicated modus vivendi with others that has been evolved. Finally, this may perhaps be called one illustration of the education, according to nature we so often hear and speak of. Each element in this vast variety of interests is an organic part of a comprehensive whole, compared with which the concentrative methodic unities of Ziller seem artificial, and, as Bacon said of scholastic methods, very inadequate to subtility of nature."
And so, my friends, here we have it. The father of the standardized testing movement, G. Stanley Hall, describing what education should be and could be if we were to dispense with the stupidity of our current methodology in which disciplines are divided and championed as though they are separate from each other. Hall wrote further on this point.
Had the elements of all the subjects involved in the “sand-pile,” industrial, administrative, moral, geographical, mathematical, etc., been taught separately and as mere school exercises, the result would have been worry, waste, and chaos.
And so we have it. Worry, waste, chaos, willingly accepted by parents and teachers who have no knowledge that other alternatives exist. It is the externally imposed artificiality of education that kills its spirit.

As you can see, what the boys created was no ordinary sand pile. It was a microcosm of their own community in which they would learn according to their own inclinations.What we must remember is that children are hard wired for learning. It's what they do, so it needs not be forced, but can be gently directed. Play is the means to do so. I had thought of G. Stanley Hall as being rigid and authoritarian, so finding "The Story of a Sand Pile" has been a surprise to me.

Make, fix, create, and allow for the possibility that others will prefer learning likewise.

Monday, August 13, 2018

The sandbox...

G. Stanley Hall, psychologist responsible for the rise of standardized testing was also (in 1897) an advocate of Froebel's Kindergarten. He wrote this lovely simple book about boys playing in sand and learning from it. The Story of a Sand Pile

Hall's book reminds me of when a huge pile of playground gravel was delivered to the Clear Spring School playground and the students had an immense amount of fun before tractors and shovels were brought in and distributed it across the yard. What can be more engaging than a hill of loose gravel to climb.

G. Stanley Hall noted of the sand pile,
"Here is perfect mental sanity and unity, but with more variety than in the most heterogeneous and soul-disintegrating school-curriculum. The unity of all the diverse interests and activities of the “ sand—pile ” is, as it always is, ideal. There is nothing so practical in education as the ideal, nor so ideal as the practical. This means not less that brain work and hand work should go together than that the general and special must help each other in order to produce the best results. As boys are quickened by the imagination to realize their conceptions of adult life, so men are best stimulated to greatest efforts by striving to realize the highest human ideals, whether those actualized in the lives of the best men, the best pages of history, or the highest legitimate, though yet unrealized, ideals of tradition and the future."
The point is, of course, to play, for it is through play that we learn best.  The photo is one from Jean Lee Hunt's Catalog of Play Equipment, 1918 and shows the Teacher's College experimental playground in New York.

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

Sunday, August 12, 2018


One of the things I noticed in my summer adult classes is that often students may want their teacher (me) to do their observing for them. They want to know, "Why doesn't this joint pull together?"

The answer is usually obvious to me. A bottom or top panel may be too long, or too wide or the grooves joining them may not be cut to a consistent depth. In finger jointed boxes, the spaces between the fingers may not all have been cut to an equal depth. In making a box, there are always just a few things that can be wrong. And with some experience, and guidance, most problems can be solved through attention to:  1. careful measuring and set up to make cuts. 2. a firm and consistent grip as parts are guided through operations, and 3. the removal of waste sawdust or wood chips that can get in the way of parts being in position for consistent cuts. So I generally look for three things. Knowing what those things are can help me in getting my students to observe those same three things for themselves and solve their own box making problems.

In a video, Michael Fortune shows how to tune a bandsaw to avoid "drift". He's simplified things in 3 steps. One is to center the blade on the upper wheel. The second is to make sure the fence is aligned with the miter gauge slot. The third is to make sure the table is aligned square to the cut so the miter gauge slot will be aligned to the direction of cut.

Of course, all that's not as easy as it sounds. One must first become an observer and learn to trust what one sees and one's own skills of interpretation and discernment. Those are things students learn by doing real things in school, things you will not get from a book. My students tell me, "It looked easy when you did it." Adding some practice, it will be easy for them also.
"Let the youth once learn to take a straight shaving off a plank, or draw a fine curve without faltering, or lay a brick level in its mortar, and he has learned a multitude of other matters which no lips of man could ever teach him." --John Ruskin, "Time and Tide", 1883
Make, fix, create and assist others in learning lifewise.

Saturday, August 11, 2018

using Maloof's formula...

I've begun using Sam Maloof's formula to finish the Arkansas Governor's Quality Award bases, and a few incidental boxes as well. When applying an oil finish, it makes sense to apply it to a number of items in the same batch just to improve the efficiency and timing. The finish must be allowed to dry a bit before being rubbed with a dry cloth. So I try to finish enough product at the same time so that when all have finish applied, the first finished will be ready for rubbing at that time.

The secret to mixing Sam Maloof's formula is shown in the photo. The one quart measuring cup. You don't need to mix whole gallons or quarts at once. A one quart measuring cup allows the formula to be mixed up in 3 cup batches as needed. This way the formula remains fresh. I use one cup each of urethane finish, mineral spirits and boiled linseed oil, using the lines on the cup to measure the amounts of each added. The ingredients are relatively inexpensive, and locally available.

This is a penetrating finish that soaks into the depths of the wood to awaken full color but also builds up to a slight gloss on the surface of the wood. The urethane adds its protective qualities. At least two coats are required.

I am also working on a new hinging machine for barbed hinges and planning for the coming school year at the Clear Spring School.

Make, fix and create...

Friday, August 10, 2018

The danger of one size fits all.

If you are shopping for shoes, you know that not all sizes fit. In fact, most will not. But if you are planning for your children to be successful in their lives, do you plan for them to go to college and then express disappointment and condemn them as failures if they do not? Is successful completion of college the only measure of  their success? Or may we allow our children to find their own internal motivations, their own successes and allow for them to find joy in their lives and in service to others regardless of whatever academic hurdles they choose to tackle or not?

For many years, TV advertisements have made the point that those who achieve higher degrees from colleges and universities have higher lifetime earnings. But I wonder what the the balance would be if the time and expenditure for colleges and universities were taken into consideration. How much was paid by dropouts for uncompleted degrees? How would we take into consideration all the false starts, changed majors and careers that take off in vastly different directions?

Most parents have things in mind that they hope their children will do or become. And we wish success to each. Under most circumstances we wish greater success to our own children. But we can create a society in which all those who make contributions to the success of human culture are afforded dignity and respect. And why not?

I saw on the news that Ivanka Trump visited a technical college and tried her hand at virtual welding using a simulator. It is good that technical training is making a comeback. I wonder if she would urge her own son or daughter to become educated in that direction. What we need is more than isolated technical training as described by Woodrow Wilson when he was president of Princeton:
"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
What we need is a general education for all children (even those destined for college) that's infused with the character and intelligence that the engagement of the hands, doing real things, can provide.

That education should allow for the diverse interests of each child rather than forcing all children to comply with uniform standards.

Then we need to reshape society so that the super rich are more fully cognizant of their own debts to society and the labors upon which they stand. If you have a class of persons who've never made diddly squat, or attempted to gain skill in the practical arts, how will they then act to sustain the dignity and value of others in their communities... Those who may have had no choice but to engage in the practical arts?

Yesterday I attended studio stroll at ESSA and saw wonderful tables the students had made in Steve Palmer's furniture design class. Each table was unique. Each was a reflection of the student's interests and intended use.

Make, fix and create...

Thursday, August 09, 2018

knowledge in balance...

In the German language, knowledge is described in two forms, Wissenshaft, and Kentniss. Wissenshaft refers to knowledge passed along, accumulated and expressed second hand and Kentniss refers to knowledge gained directly through experience. If you have any practical experience in the real world and have gained skill as a result, you may know the difference between the two, and the way in which one reinforces the other.

Field Marshall Rommel was an example of a general who had both. He was described as having  fingerspitzengefühl, knowledge in the tips of his fingers, that would come from a practical combination of Wissenshaft and Kentniss.

Through the last forty years of American education, the assumption was made that only those children going to college would gain success. This was good for American colleges and universities. It allowed tuition to sky rocket to the point that students, upon graduation, are often encumbered with massive debt, a large proportion of which is for uncompleted studies. Even many of those receiving degrees (like myself) did not take jobs in their fields of study. This does not mean that all college is a waste. But I would like to suggest that it may be a successful hornswaggle in too many cases.

What in the hell is the matter with plumbing and other services that benefit our communities and families? Why are we, as a nation, unwilling to acknowledge the importance of the trades. And perhaps the more important question is why do we put academics on a lofty pedestal, and place such high regard on the artificiality of academic degrees?

I demand that we rethink our priorities. Universal woodworking education in schools was proposed as a means to foster a sense of the dignity of all labor and create conditions in which the barrier of harsh judgement between classes would be eliminated. The great stupidity of American education is that policy makers have no sense of the importance of that. Instead, schools have been made a sorting procedure, pushing students toward college rather than preparing them for real life.

Make, fix and create...

Wednesday, August 08, 2018

"shut up and dribble."

When LeBron James said a few things insulting President Trump's rude behavior and destructive policies, conservative talking head Laura Ingraham told him derisively, "shut up and dribble," making her point that athletes and folks like them have no place in politics, where smart mouths like her's should hold sway.

LeBron James has taken her insult and turned it backwards as the title for a new Showtime series. His point apparently in using that title is that talking heads might learn a thing or two from engagement in the real world. Many intellectuals make the wrongful and destructive assumption that those who have invested time and energy in developing skills of hand, body and mind in the real world will not have cultivated their finer intellectual capacities like those one might find in a book.

My point is that doing things in the real world becomes an enhancement and stimulant to intellectual capacity. It also has profound effect on character. for instance, compare Laura Ingraham's contributions to her community (what has she done?), with what LeBron James is doing for the children of Chicago and Akron.

I had a great visit with cousins yesterday, and will settle into the wood shop for a day of pleasure crafting things from wood. That I'm using my hands does not make me stupid in other things. The reverse may be true.

Make, fix, and create...

Tuesday, August 07, 2018

how things get passed along.

My own involvement in the Eureka Springs School of the Arts as one of the founders of the organization came as a result of my uncle Ron's involvement in Arrowmont, a school in East Tennessee that Ron and his wife Louise attended for years as I was busy launching my career as a woodworker and attempting to learn what I now do and teach today.

They would tell me about their attendance at Arrowmont, and that gave me the idea that we needed a school of that type here in Eureka Springs. This is ESSA's twentieth year, and today I'll take my uncle Ron's three sons and their wives on a tour of the facility their father and mother in a rather direct way helped to launch. This is an illustration of how things get passed along and a thing you can do in your own life and in your own community.

No craftsman is an island unto himself. I use the word craftsman while insisting that the term is not gender specific. It takes a community to make one. Even if you are not one or choose not to be one, there are ways you can play a part. One simple way is to support craftsmanship and woodworking as a thing children learn to do in school. Another simple way is to support craftsmanship and woodworking as a thing adults do in school. We are by nature, lifelong learners.

You can read about my experience teaching at Arrowmont here, "Turning Left at the Hard Rock Cafe:"

This week Steve Palmer is teaching furniture design at ESSA.

Make, fix, and create...

Monday, August 06, 2018

the process of filtration

I am back at work today following a week of vacation and my series of summer classes. I'm also in the process of planning for next year's summer classes, as that schedule must be set in time for various school catalogs to be published. My dates for Marc Adams School have already been set, June 10-15.

In my wood shop, I'm cleaning and working on Arkansas Quality Awards. At Clear Spring School, I will be doing deep cleaning in preparation for another year of classes, K-12.

My drawing above is simple. It shows a series of filters that exist between various levels of education. Those are promoted who fit a particular style of learning. If you are good at taking notes, and repeating what you have been taught you might pass through to the highest levels. Each filter in order from left to right has a  finer mesh removing non-academic style learners from advancement to positions of power and influence in education. To fix this problem some educational theorists have prescribed designing prescriptive lesson plans with bits and pieces of this and that to meet the various learning styles of specific students. For instance Johnny may be an auditory learner, so we'd best throw in a bit of music for the boy.

The far simpler approach is to do things that are real and of service to the community. Woodworking, for instance, utilizes the whole person, thus every learning style is available to be expressed at the same time.

Make, fix, create, and allow for others to learn as we do best.

Sunday, August 05, 2018

four macs on a porch...

One fine thing during my class at Marc Adams School of Woodworking was to gather with my fellow instructors on the porch of the instructor lodging that was introduced this year. In the past we stayed in a hotel 15 minutes away. The new house purchased and remodeled for school use provides lodging for 4 instructors and puts them in association with each other. This year my fellow teachers were Steve Latta, Mary May and Sari Robinson.

In the evening we sat on the porch, watching the sun go down over a field of elephant-eye-high corn, as we checked email on our mac laptops and talked about miscellaneous stuff.

It is a meaningful thing to share time in fellowship with high level, dedicated teachers of the woodworking art.

One of our plans at ESSA is to provide instructor lodging that connects teachers in collaboration with each other. The idea is to build 4 small duplex efficiency units housing up to 8 teachers at a time. My initial plans are ready to turn over to our architect for refinement.

Make, fix, create and assist in providing means for others to learn likewise.

Saturday, August 04, 2018

you can depend...

You can depend on what a keen cutting tool can do.

Today my wife and I arrived home from visiting family in Denver, and my shop is a mess after teaching at Marc Adams School of Woodworking and the Connecticut Valley School of Woodworking, each week-long classes in Box Making. I have several projects in the works in my shop that were put on hold as I traveled and taught.

Now I need to buckle down and get ready for a resumption of classes at the Clear Spring School.

Make, fix, create. Keep your tools sharp, your mind also.

Friday, August 03, 2018


Yesterday we went to the Downtown Aquarium in Denver and I was reminded of the old rule in fishing. One must be quiet, so as not to disturb the fish.

That was not the rule in the Downtown Aquarium. Where children were not screaming, loud music was playing to increase the drama of the experience. Perhaps their fish are used to a particular noise level that would be distressing to fish in the wilds. But should children not be taught a reasonable behavior in wild places? And should quiet behaviors not be a requirement when we are given the opportunity to engage visually with wild things?

On the plus side,  the fish appeared healthy and there were hundreds of people at the Aquarium. On the unpleasing side, the experience of too many screaming children was not conducive to the kind of reverence that their displays deserve or that would have enhanced their exhibit for those more sensitive to such things.

Children these days are suffering form Nature Deficit Disorder. They need to be engaged in learning about the world. Zoos and aquariums can play a role in that. Children also need to be taught to show respect for nature. They need to learn to walk quietly through the forest so that they might learn from it. Children and adults also need to be taught how their everyday lives impact nature. Missing from the Downtown Aquarium was any sort of display of what the proliferation of single use plastics are doing to our oceans and our environment.

At the Henry Doorly Zoo Aquarium in Omaha Nebraska, visitors are greeted by a quotation by African environmentalist Baba Dioum who said,
"In the end we will conserve only what we love, we will love only what we understand, and we will understand only what we are taught."
To at least make a suggestion that children be taught by their parents to engage the exhibits with a sense of reverence, wonder, and respect would be an easy thing to do that would not even cut into profits. To suggest that visitors review and reconsider their use of plastics would also be a good thing.

The Denver Downtown Aquarium is owned by Landry's Restaurants, Inc., a restaurant chain. It was purchased at a fire sale price after its founding non-profit declared bankruptcy during the financial collapse of 2008.

Make, fix, and create.

Thursday, August 02, 2018


I am in Denver visiting my wife's family and while I learned that Denver Schools have abandoned cursive, our great niece is studying it at home on her iPad. Is that enough? It would be a shame for American children to neither read nor write cursive. To put one's thoughts cleanly and efficiently on a page of paper is an admirable thing.

In keyboarding you can type mindlessly and then go back and salvage something from what you've written. The same is not the case when you take a pen, dip it in ink and proceed to inform paper of your thoughts. The thoughts must actually come first, meaning that you have chosen in advance what to say, how to say it, and whether or not it is actually worth saying. In keyboarding, its the speed and accuracy that counts, not the meaning or the expression of humanity.

Woodworking philosopher David Pye considered writing with ink on paper to be an expression of craftsmanship of risk, in that you will certainly mess up if you've not practiced, or if you are not giving full attention to the process at hand. This contrasts with craftsmanship of certainty in which machines and devices provide perfect results despite the lack of skill, vision, creative insight of the operator.

Perhaps human beings  in general have become machine operators rather than what we once were. But I can understand why cursive has been abandoned in schools. As adults we rarely use it. Is that a good thing? Or we be more thoughtful if we practiced?

Make, fix, and create...

Wednesday, August 01, 2018

the opportunity to make mistakes

I regard my box making class for adults to be an ideal learning environment. Students are encouraged to design their own work. Students are taught the means to build a basic box. No specific requirements are preordained as to size, choice of materials, or design. Students get to make their own mistakes. I make some mistakes of my own (though not on purpose) showing that to make mistakes is human and forgivable.

I bring a variety of boxes to serve as examples and to stimulate thoughts.

Children are very effective at learning in part because they respond to error without being slowed by recrimination. They take also take risks without caring what other people might think.

As quickly as possible, I give my students a variety of choices in joinery types, so that they are then distributed among a number of tool and processes and do not wait too long in line.

I attempt to deliver instructions when we are all standing at the tool required, material in hand. I demonstrate, and offer the students the opportunity to ask questions about my techniques. Then I step out of the way so that students can try their own hands at the task. I remain available to coach students through their successful use of the tools and answer any questions that may come up. When things go awry, I am there to help the students assess. When things go right, I am there to compliment and congratulate.

This might serve as an effective model in all educational environments from pre-K through university and beyond. The photo is from the Sloyd School at Nääs, where teachers came from around the world to learn to use woodworking as a means to extend Kindergarten style learning beyond the Kindergarten years, an ideal proposed by Uno Cygnaeus in his development of the Finnish Folk Schools.

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

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

at the top of the slide

While I was teaching at Marc Adams School of Woodworking last week, I told my students that Kindergarten was the learning model we would attempt to follow. Each student would be learning at the their own pace and through play.

When asked about the Kindergarten I attended, I remembered St. Mary's Kindergarten in Memphis, where they had an indoor slide and sandbox. Walking into St. Mary's was like finding one's way to a joyous place.

For woodworkers intent on learning, that's what MASW (and other woodworking schools) can feel like. Lining up at the table saw was like lining up at the top of the slide, and saying to one's peers, "watch this!" For some dirty reason, school administrators and politicians decided that school must not be fun. I challenge that foolishness. I hope you will, too.

The photo is from an old book, Jean Lee Hunt's Catalog of Play Equipment from 1918 that helped teachers understand that children with some adult supervision, can make their own dangerous but wonderful playground. Join me at the top of the slide, and watch this...

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

Monday, July 30, 2018

a Quick tip...

I have a box making tip in this month's Fine Woodworking, p. 14. It is about using spacers to stabilize a box while the lid is being cut from the base. Read the article in Fine Woodworking Magazine Number 270, September/October 2018.

Readers interested in putting woodworking back in schools might enjoy an article I wrote for Encounter, Education for Meaning and Social Justice, in 2006. It was written less than a third of the way into my teaching at the Clear Spring School. The article opens with these words:
"Woodworking in school — with real tools, real materials, real work, and making real objects — turns abstract concepts to concrete, experiential learning."
These words are still true. You can test them yourself and in your own hands. Then use what you've discovered to set others to work developing wisdom. These days we need it.

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

Sunday, July 29, 2018

How we learn...

You can learn a lot by watching your own internal dialog. For instance, I can remember sitting in class and if the teacher said something, and if it interested me, I would have thoughts of my own.  From what the teacher said, (and if I was paying attention) a question might arise in my mind, or a thought linking me to something I knew from prior experience. My own receipt of information would be thus shifted at that point and I would miss whatever was said next.

So to take a whole class with each student having unique experiences and thoughts of their own and expect them to each learn the same things at the same time is completely unreasonable.

Lecturing to a class is an incredibly ineffective means through which to convey information and understanding. One of the things that makes me an effective teacher is that I am fully aware of the inefficiencies of the normal teaching style. My students say I'm patient. The simple truth is that I know how things work, that individualized learning is the only way to get the best teaching results, and that to be an effective teacher requires that I do much more than simply instruct. I must give time to the learning needs of each student. If I were to expect my students to actually get what I was instructing before their own hands were in place, I would wrongfully feel justified in feeling impatient when my students don't get the results that the ease of my own well practiced demonstrations suggest.

Learning is also complicated by simple psychology involving a thing called the serial position effect. We tend to remember best what comes first and last and forget the middle.  This is a thing that you can test yourself by going to the grocery store with a list of five things to remember.  You will likely remember the first and last things on the list and forget one or more things in the middle. And so you show someone how to do things and tell them how to do things and until they've practiced the full operation with all the steps, they'll be unlikely to be able to do the full thing on their own.

Throughout hundreds of years of academic instruction the assumption has been made that if something has come out of the teacher's mouth, it has gone into the student's mind, and little could be further from the truth. Shop teachers have long known how students learn and could teach other teachers a thing or two, but which academic teachers and educational policy makers are willing to admit that?

The photo shows learning at its best. The students are all doing different things. They are testing what I've told them and demonstrated for them through their own hands as applied to projects that arise from their own interest to create.

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

Saturday, July 28, 2018

A week's collection of boxes.

This is my class with their collection of boxes. Two students left early or there would have been more. We had a great week.

I am back in Eureka Springs after having a great trip.

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

Friday, July 27, 2018

day 5

I am ready for my 5th day of box making class at the Marc Adams School of Woodworking. Real life is the best form of learning, and the students are excited with each learning at their own pace.

All the students have several boxes in the works, using a variety of joints, woods, hinging types, proportions and decorative effects. Some students are more adventurous than others, depending on confidence and goals.

One challenge is that we are trained to look to others to provide feedback with regard to what we do. My students are sometimes puzzled when things don't work out quite as they expect. So I say, "look at this," and ask my students to look very closely at the object itself to provide insight into why things may not fit quite right. If things don't fit, then its because some small earlier step may not have been done quite right. And that requires inquiry and careful observation.

When you do something for the first time it takes extra brain power as the hands are trained to perform and feel what you are doing. The hands both sense and perform, but in an untrained condition in a newly introduced task may not get everything at once. In woodworking, all the senses are required, and and require training.

This afternoon I will take a class photo with my students and their many boxes.

Make, fix, and create...

Thursday, July 26, 2018

Day four...

Today is my fourth day of box making at the Marc Adams School of Woodworking. I'll demonstrate a few more joints, and begin making inlay, along with other demonstrations. My students are making lots of boxes, and each has more than one in the works.

The box in the photo is an example.

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

leaning is fun

My students at Marc Adams School of Woodworking are doing well and most of my 16 students already have boxes on their benches that are nearing completion.

Learning is fun. You start with the interests of the student and things flow freely from there. When student interest is secured, progress is rapid. The model that serves children serves adults as well. And vise-versa. But politicos and administrators are too obsessed with measuring to allow actual free-flow learning to take place.

Today we will have demonstrations on oversize box joints. I will give personalized instruction in the finer points of mitered box joints. We will begin a fresh series of additional demonstrations, driven in part by what the students ask of me.

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

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Day two at MASW

I am here at the Marc Adams School of Woodworking for the second day of my box making  class and this is my 11th or 12th year teaching at this school. I cannot tell you in sufficient terms what a remarkable place this is. There is no university program in the world that offers so much instruction in the woodworking field. I am one among hundreds of woodworkers who teach here and there are thousands of dedicated students who come through for week at a time instruction.

Mostly, however, we are of a particular age, and there are too few young people in attendance.

Ars longa, vita brevis. This is a quote attributed to Hippocrates, translated as Life is short, the craft long to learn. Is it that folks must arrive at this point in their lives to have the leisure time and the resources to afford learning?

 There is a misunderstanding in American education with regard to understanding what the hands offer the mind. And we would be a smarter nation with greater compassion and understanding for each other if we were earlier engaged in the making of useful beauty as a way of being of service to each other.

I urge you to consider these things.

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

Sunday, July 22, 2018


I am in Indiana ready to begin my 5 day class in box making. A photo of some of my box guitars is now featured on the CBGitty website.

On another front, there is a new short Kindergarten pitch video to enjoy.

Make, fix, create and assist others in learning likewise

Saturday, July 21, 2018

learning in the real world

One of the things that children do as a matter of course is learn. We are hard wired for it. We are not wired for sitting still in classrooms and being instructed in things that the adult world has assumed we must be taught.

And so, when it comes to design of education we must carefully avoid disrupting that which is most natural to each child, the inclination to learn and to love learning.

Howard Gardner, in his book Frames of Mind: The Theory of Multiple Intelligences made the important point that we are smart in a variety of ways and that we each have inclinations and abilities to learn related to individual dominance of particular senses. Gardner's work led to good thing in the recognition that not all children learn the same. It also led to demands that teachers carefully script their lesson plans to match a variety of learning styles, that the teacher may not have much experience or confidence in.

In fact, those who graduate from traditional colleges to become teachers are among those who've demonstrated a strong inclination for academic learning, and little for the rest of it.

So let's break barriers. A+ Schools is about that. I am pleased that at the Clear Spring School, we now have two A+ fellows who will take on the responsibility of training teachers in other schools. In addition, ESSA will host the Arkansas A+ fellows retreat in October. At that retreat I'll teach the fellows to teach teachers to use woodworking. I am pleased that the Clear Spring School is stepping up to a role of leadership in educational reform

The point is not just to put arts and crafts in school, but to bring real life into the classroom and to make sure that the child's full range of senses is employed. From a prescriptive approach, one might say, Johnny, is kinesthetic, Angela is auditory, Susie is haptic,  and Ermilio is visual in their learning styles. But if you are simply proceeding to do real things, all the senses and all the learning styles are energized and employed.

If you enter my woodshed at the Clear Spring School the first thing that hits you is the fresh smell of wood. All of the senses follow.

Make, fix and create...

Friday, July 20, 2018

at this point

I have the Governor's Quality Award bases ready for gluing, sanding, and finish. Those tasks will wait for my return from my box making class at the Marc Adams School of Woodworking.

The bases are simply trial assembled without glue at this point to check to see that all the parts fit, and that the miter joints are tight.

 I leave for Indiana today. The car will be loaded with boxes, tools and supplies. The boxes are to lead students through a design exercise and to serve as examples. We learn best through  concrete examples, and the process of design is needlessly abstract without examples to study and learn from.

And so, once again, I remind my readers of the principles of Educational Sloyd. Start with the interests of the child, move from the known to the unknown, from the easy to the more difficult, from the simple to the complex, and from the concrete to the abstract. These same principles apply to effective learning in all subjects. Few academics would acknowledge they might learn something from industrial arts.

For that reason I'll carefully explain that Adolph Diesterweg was the source of inspiration for the principles of Educational Sloyd. Friedrich Adolph Wilhelm Diesterweg  ( ) was not specifically an advocate for manual training, but as an associate of Friedrich Froebel was one of the philosophical influences that Cygnaeus drew upon in the formation of the Finnish Folk Schools. Diesterweg was a prolific writer, with his most notable works being on the role of the Volksshcule (folk school) in the promotion of democracy. As with Friedrich Froebel's Kindergartens, the Kaiser shut Diesterweg's schools down, too. Progressive education and an intelligent populace are inconsistent with the aims of militarism and authoritarianism. In a top down militarist society, you cannot have people who think for themselves and are willing to stand up to fascist inclinations.

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

Thursday, July 19, 2018

inlaying spalted wood

As you can see in the photo, I've sawn spalted sycamore into thin strips and have routed channels in walnut for them to fit. I am making 5 Arkansas Governor's Award bases recipients of the quality award. What you see in the photo are the parts for one base. Next I'll miter and assemble these parts, sand the assemblies and prepare the parts for application of a Danish oil finish.

I have loaded photos of making patterned inlay on my instagram account.

In addition to making the Quality Award bases, I continue to prepare for my box making class at the Marc Adams School of Woodworking.

Make, fix and create...

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

gluing exotic woods

One of my students in Connecticut sent this photo of me making my classic inlay. As always, I learned a few things.

One of my students went home in the evening and made his own version of the inlay using exotic woods, some of which don't work well with yellow glue. When he attempted to cut the glued up block into thin strips, the first cut broke at the joint between two resinous woods.

"Quit right there," I insisted.  "It is not going to work."

His block had contained highly resinous woods incapable of making a secure glue joint with yellow glue.

Would other glues work? The point of my own inlay is to demonstrate the beauty and utility of our own native hardwoods, and building my patterns using exotic hardwoods has never been of interest to me. But I am always in debt to my students for teaching me a few things. While making these patterns works well with domestic hardwoods, some exotics should be kept from the mix.

Thanks you, Larry for the photo.

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

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Today in the wood shop.

I have been working on Arkansas Governor's Quality Award bases. My hope is to have them ready to assemble before I leave for Indiana on Friday where I'll teach for a week at the Marc Adams School of Woodworking. Having come from one box making class and preparing to leave for another has put me in good shape.

Today I will inlay the parts for the bases with spalted woods as I've done from the start in 1994. Then I'll make a small sliding top box for use as a demonstration in my current book and perhaps add just a  bit about the making of wheels.

I watched with horror, but with no surprise as President Trump met with Vladimir Putin to proudly undermine American values. Treason is the crime of betraying one's country. Now that Trump has done so in a public manner, shamelessly for all to see, perhaps not so many Republicans will collude or condone. Some may actually find the courage to stand up.

Do I dare hold my breath? When faced with evil, proceed to do the good. And there is plenty of good to be done in the wood shop.

Make, fix and  create...

Monday, July 16, 2018


Yesterday I was using a jig that I'd made over twenty years ago from flimsy nailed together stock.  It had been quickly made but worked, was kept and served year after year. It broke as it started into the planer, so I made another.

I'd not known that the  first one would last so long, or that my making of Arkansas Governor's Awards for quality would be such a lasting thing. This is my 24th year of making the prestigious award.

Knowing now what I did not know then, I've made this one with better stock. It is more robust. The purpose of it is to carry angled stock through the planer to be surfaced first on one side and then the other. The glued up walnut will become a portion of the award base.

In addition to working on the awards bases, I am getting ready for my week long box making class at the Marc Adams School of Woodworking and will spend a bit of time working on my current book.

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

Sunday, July 15, 2018

One week

I am home in Arkansas and have one week to do two things. The first thing is to be ready to leave for my class at the Marc Adams School of Woodworking Class on Friday. My class will begin on Monday morning July 23 but I intend to visit family on the way.

My second thing is to work on Arkansas Governor's Awards for Quality. This is my 24th year of producing this special award. Some years one company may meet standards, sometimes two, and sometimes none. Last year no top level awards were given, but this year, we seem to have bumper crop. I have been assured that the award bases I've made in the past are treasures to the folks who have worked so hard to earn them and they are put on prominent display.

Yesterday I visited Mark Twain House in Hartford, CT, and the adjoining Harriet Beecher Stowe house and museum. Both were wonderful and enlightening. The folks at the Stowe house were especially accommodating. I had a very tight schedule and was offered a special  "walk-through" house tour that allowed me to catch my flight.

The bed shown is the actual Harriet Beecher Stowe bed in which she slept the last years of her life. On the bed is a large facsimile of the paper in which her book Uncle Tom's Cabin was first published. Her husband Calvin Stowe, had urged her to use her power of pen to write in response to the horror's she had witnessed in slavery. She did.

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

Saturday, July 14, 2018

a completed class

I am traveling home to Arkansas today and will spend the next week getting ready for my class at the Marc Adams School of Woodworking. The photo shows my students from this week and the boxes they made. A couple demonstration boxes of my own are there with me on the left.

I was honored to be able to share with these folks. Each learned, practiced, and worked harmoniously with each other.

On my way to the Hartford airport, I hope to visit the Mark Twain house and the home of Harriet Beecher Stowe.

Make, fix, and create. Increase the likelihood that others have the opportunity to learn likewise.

Friday, July 13, 2018

An ash and walnut box

A few weeks back one of my students asked for parts that were left over from a demonstration. He wanted to finish them as a box for his grand daughter. The photo is of the completed box.

David asked if I knew the ash would be so beautiful. Yes, I did. My cutting of the parts was to create a four corner match which is shown at the facing  corner of the box.

Today I finish my five day box making class at the Connecticut Valley School of Woodworking. My students have created a diverse array of wonderful boxes, each illustrating a point of personal growth.

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

Thursday, July 12, 2018

CVSW day 4

Yesterday I did demonstrations on a variety of techniques which you can see in my students' work. They are making mitered finger joints, installing hinges, creating veneered patterns, and have an insatiable appetite for more. I'm hoping to offer two things. Confidence and a sense of play.

Yesterday I also received an order for 4 Governor's Quality Awards to be given to Arkansas corporations that have met very specific standard in their  pursuit of quality. This will be my 24th year to make these awards, and I was told on the phone how very proud Arkansas companies are to display these special awards.

Today we will make wooden hinges, inlay and more.

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

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Day 3 CVSW

My students at  CVSW are doing well and have a long list of things they want to learn. Dan, a student from my last box making class sent a photo of a box he finished using the bit of inlay he received as a gift from me at the end of  class. It makes a classy box, don't you think?

Ia m starting my third day of box making here in Connecticut.

Make, fix and create...

Tuesday, July 10, 2018


I  spent my first day of a 5 day class at the Connecticut Valley School of Woodworking getting my students through some basic exercises in building a box. Each is building a similar box. Today my students will begin exercising their own creativity. I'll be introducing some new techniques.

Make, fix, and create...

Monday, July 09, 2018

Box making in Guyana

I received photos from a box maker in Guyana who says he was inspired by my books.

Guyana borders Venezuela, Brazil, and Suriname. Eddie had received copies of two of my books from a friend in the UK and was inspired to to make boxes. I am grateful that I have friends from around the world. There's something about woodworking that brings people together.

The main wood in the box is purple heart, an exotic wood prized by North American wood workers. The darker green wood is likely "greenheart," a wood that is prized as a boat building wood. It is known to explode during milling, so sawyers will lash chains around the portion of the log that's already been cut.

Guyana is the only country in South America where English is the official language.

This morning I begin box making at the Connecticut Valley School of Woodworking.

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

Sunday, July 08, 2018


Today I'm flying to Manchester, Connecticut to teach for 5 days at the Connecticut Valley School of Woodworking. There may still be openings in this class.

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

Saturday, July 07, 2018

Learning Through Woodwork

The title of this post refers to a new book on woodworking with kids by Pete Moorhouse in the UK. I received a review copy yesterday. It is full of good information on getting started with woodworking, particularly in the early levels of school. Part of the book deals with the history of woodworking education in the primary years, making some reference to Friedrich Froebel and Rudolf Steiner.

Perhaps most useful to some will be the discussion of the teacher's role in introducing woodworking to kids. Moorhouse quotes Otto Salmon as follows:  The teachers concerns must be: "not only of how much he shall demand from the children, but of how much he shall tell them and how much he shall not tell them. The best teacher is the one that teaches least."

You can find Learning Through Woodwork here:

The point, of course, is to stage and maintain an environment of discovery, not just of distribution of information through instruction. It is also a mistake to think that you must be a skilled woodworker to teach woodworking to kids. Do it.

I am getting ready for travel to Connecticut tomorrow for my five day adult class in box making. An interesting point is that children and adults learn best in the same way, by discovery that comes from doing real things.

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

Friday, July 06, 2018

I can explain it (maybe)

A friend in my ESSA box making class gave me a t-shirt with the message shown. "I can explain it to you but I can't understand it for you." And that seems to be the case in American education and everywhere else.

Learning from another is a two way street, and what the teacher teaches must be met at least half way by student interest and attention.

An associate of Froebel, Adolph Diesterweg, was the educator who laid out the basic principles that evolved into the principles of Educational Sloyd. Start with the interests of the child, move from the known to the unknown, from the easy to the more difficult, from the simple to the complex and from the concrete to the abstract. Adherence to these principles is the means through which the teacher's presentation of learning is carefully paced to conform to the student's growing interest and engagement. To follow these principles requires that the teacher actually know his or her students. That's a difficult challenge when you have 25 to thirty kids in a class.

Abandon these principles and students become disinterested and disruptive. Apply these principles to all areas of instruction and students blossom.

Today I have meetings at ESSA, and will continue preparing for my teaching in Connecticut.

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

Thursday, July 05, 2018

Router table, free plan

Fine Woodworking offers a free plan for my minimalist router table that you can download here:

The router table is minimalist, and the plans are, too. But I think you'll get the idea and be able to make one yourself. I use a Porter Cable router in mine, as it can be screwed directly to a sheet of plywood using machine screws. The plans do not show that the router base plate should be removed. The screw holes where the base plate had been will be the mounting holes for attaching the router to the table.

Since these plans are free, please share them with others, too.

I have been gathering online resources to share with my students from last week and next, and this article should be of interest. The minimalist router table is one I still use regularly and one that has lasted over 20 years.

I am getting ready for my class at the Connecticut Valley School of Woodworking that starts Monday. If you are in the Northeast, and are interested in box making, there are still openings for more students in this class.

Make, fix, create and provide opportunities for others to learn likewise.

Wednesday, July 04, 2018

unfinished boxes

Last week, I thought I would be able to use some number of my unfinished boxes from prior classes to demonstrate box making techniques.  I just made more. As my students were making boxes and actually finishing them, I lagged behind assisting and answering questions.

Part of my accumulation of unfinished boxes is shown in the photo. They are in a variety of woods and in a variety of sizes. I have well figured ash and walnut to consider in making top panels.

What needs to happen next with these boxes will be the addition of floating panels for the lids and then bottoms as well. After that I'll add hinges, lift tabs for the lids, sanding and finish. Then the greater complication arises. Will I be able to sell these boxes?

Happy 4th of July, Independence day in the US. On this date 242 years ago the American colonial congress approved a document declaring "that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness." Can we celebrate our freedom while our government incarcerates families, holds children hostage and refuses to unite them with their parents? Is this the government that the founding fathers had in mind? As a nation we seem to dance between angels and demons. Our founding documents promised the nobility of man,  and our actions as a nation frequently move in the wrong direction.

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

Tuesday, July 03, 2018

A new way...

Today I am still recovering from 7 days of classes and I am attending to followup. That includes sending  files to my box making students, an exercise that will also help with my class in Connecticut next week. I have been scanning a few articles that I'd written for Fine Woodworking Magazine and for other magazines that I can share with students.

The photo shows a new way of making a guitar top integral to the neck. I rout a recess into the body of the box, and then rout a 1/8 in. groove into the side of the neck. This makes a rigid structure to support the bridge and strings and gives a precise location for the nut and bridge. Some tonal quality is sacrificed for ease and accuracy of assembly. This is a technique I developed to use in the weekend class.

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

Monday, July 02, 2018


I finished my box guitar class yesterday so will spend the next week getting ready for my other summer classes and may also return attention to my book about woodworking with kids.

I am hesitant to picture students without parental permission so have attached a photo of Annunziata with her wonderfully shaped rock guitar, made during the parent/child box guitar class.

I developed a new method of attaching the neck to the body of the box for this class. It is a hybrid technique in which the  construction benefits of a kit guitar and the creative opportunities inherent in oddly shaped boxes are combined.

The kids were extremely excited to paint their guitars and then to put strings on.

It is easy and fun to make your own boxes for box guitars, without being dependent on the tobacco industry for your musical enjoyment. The added benefit of using shapes from your own imagination should make my box guitar book popular if folks discover it, which you can on and other book seller websites.

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

Sunday, July 01, 2018

Box Guitars...

Yesterday I started a two day class with parents and kids to build box guitars. We will finish them today.

For some reason, all the adults are mothers with one grandmother. 

The parent/child pairs built the box first, then my assitant Darla and I helped to attach the necks. Each step offered design opportunities for the kids, and the adults got to help as you can see in the photo.

One of the mothers had never done any woodworking before, and one of the students is blind, bringing greater focus on the effective use of the hands.

I leave in one week to teach for five days at the Connecticut Valley School of Woodworking Sign up for a class.

Make, fix and create. Make the world a better place by learning to trust the character and intelligence nourished and expressed by the hands.

Saturday, June 30, 2018

completed box making class.

Yesterday we completed our box making class at ESSA. Today I start a parent/child box guitar class. The photo shows a collection of wooden boxes and a group of happy box makers.

It was a pleasure to see the machine room and bench room at the one year old woodworking studio in full swing.

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

Friday, June 29, 2018

Day 5 Box making.

I managed to go through another day of box making forgetting to take photos of student's work. We had about 15-20 folks there at ESSA for studio stroll and demonstrations, and the guests were so busy admiring my students' work that it was hard to pull them away to watch while I cut mitered finger joints as my demo.

This is our last day of box making class. My students and I seem to be equally tired at this point, and I've been unable to finish some of the boxes I had intended. Today I will take in my ever popular make-it-yourself router table to show. The illustration is from Fine Woodworking. Tomorrow I begin a parent child class making box guitars.

As we all know, we all learn best hands-on and through personalized instruction, and yet most schools are set up to ignore what we all know about learning. Why is that so? It's because governments and policy makers could care less. Their interest lies in management of kids and in keeping teachers cheaply in line to do so.

Make, fix and create...

Thursday, June 28, 2018

Box making day 4.

Today we have studio stroll at ESSA and you are welcome to attend and see what my students have learned so far this week. I neglected to take photos yesterday, but I received a new hammer handle in the mail yesterday for my great-grandfather's blacksmith's hammer.

There is an old story about grandfathers' axes. "This is my grandfather's axe. I replaced the handle 3 times and the head twice. This is my grandfather's axe." And so I have no proof of this tool having belonged to my great-grandfather. What I do know for sure was that my dad gave it to me. I had seen it in his use. The handle had been cracked when it came into my use. I broke it myself. It is refreshed for another generation or two.

Can you imagine children of a future generation?  What will connect them to the fabric of humanity?

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

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Beginning day 3...

I am ready for day three of Box Making at ESSA. The students are asking for demonstrations in adding hinges, using veneers and making inlay. So we will do those things.

Yesterday as shown, students including my cousin Newt Heston (shown) learned to make box joints, also called "finger joints, using a dedicated router table of my own design. I wrote about it a few years back for an article in American Woodworker. It is relatively easy to use and easy to make, but still involves a learning curve. It offers several ways you can mess up and we got most of those out of our systems today. Today offers a bit more clear sailing. And some opportunity for fresh new mistakes.

We learn best by making a few

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

Tuesday, June 26, 2018


I made it through the first full day of class forgetting to take any photos. I will try to do better today. The students have been successfully cutting mitered joints, planing wood, resawing on the bandsaw, and figuring ways to personalize their boxes.

I know it must make some curious. If the hands make you so smart, how can some folks in the trades be so foolish in how they vote against their own best interests. Examples: Live in a farm state? Vote for candidates who are philosophically opposed to farm support. Live in a poor state? Vote against those who would preserve food stamps, medicare and the affordable care act. Live in a poor state, badly polluted by industry? Vote for candidates wanting to cripple the EPA and make it easier for industries to pollute. All sad situations, but very true.

I attempted to explain a a few things during the aftermath of the 2008 election, as our nation was on the brink of economic collapse. I used our old friend Joe the Plumber from the 2008 election campaign as an example. My point is not to offend, but to stimulate thought.

Schools seem to operate a Harry Potter type sorting hat. These selected students will be going to college, so let's not give them the hand skills that would refresh and enliven their understanding of the real world. We'll keep those students mired in the abstract. These other students are not going to college, so let's narrow their interests to vocational pursuits. After depriving them of the confidence to penetrate the complexity of the real world, they can be managed by wedge issues to vote against their own best interests.

Now Donald Trump's administration wants to combine the department of labor and the department of education. Perhaps his idea is that the only purpose of learning is to feed folks to industrial employment, and not to think higher thoughts. But the desire to figure things out through poetry, and the arts, is what makes us human. And these things are just as important as industrial employment.

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

Monday, June 25, 2018

Three things.

Normally when I teach box making, I end up getting a few boxes started as demonstrations for my students. I am taking some of these unfinished boxes to box making class today to carry a step further in the process. So while I'm helping my students make boxes I hope to use these unfinished boxes as examples and props.

I will also be making a variety of jigs during the week that will be left at ESSA for future use.

This week's class starting today is full with 9 students.

My next classes will be at the Connecticut Valley School of Woodworking  in Manchester, CT and at the Marc Adams School of Woodworking in Franklin, IN. Check with either of those schools for details.

The photo shows two large boxes awaiting further steps towards completion.

Yesterday our ESSA director Kelly McDonough made a presentation at our local UU fellowship. With regard to ESSA and the arts, she made three points. One is that the arts have a profound economic impact. The arts in the US contribute more dollars to the economy than agriculture. Is that not surprising? The arts bring in a balance of trade surplus.

Then there are the truly important things. The arts make us feel better, making a profound contribution to mental health. And the arts build community. Do I need to say these things? You may have discovered these three points on your own.

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

Sunday, June 24, 2018

a very simple forge

Blacksmith Bob Patrick sent me a video on making a simple forge with four firebricks in five minutes. He notes that the hardware we made for our Viking Chests could have been made in such a simple forge. Under most circumstances, it makes sense to simplify. Other simple forges are also shown on youtube.

I continue to prepare for my 5 day box making class which starts tomorrow.  The illustration is from Orbis Pictus by Comenius, showing the box maker and wood turner in their shops.

Orbis Pictus published in 1658 is considered the first illustrated children's book and contains over a hundred illustrations showing common scenes and activities of the times. Items in the illustrations were numbered with descriptions in both Latin and the child's native language. Scrinarius is Latin for carpenter, and if you can make a box, you can make nearly anything from wood.

Comenius described the carpenter's work  as follows: (He) smootheth hewen Boards, 2. with a Plain, 3. upon a work-board, 4. he maketh them very smooth with a little-plain, 5. he boreth them thorow with an Augre, 6. carveth them with a Knife, 7. fasteneth them together with Glew and Cramp-irons, 8. and maketh Tables, 9. Boards, 10. Chests.

This week in box making our equipment will be more diverse and efficient, but the work will be to the same general effect.

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

Saturday, June 23, 2018

fixing an old hammer...

Having taken a blacksmithing class at ESSA a couple weeks ago interested me in re-handling a blacksmith's hammer that had belonged (If I have my story right) to my great-grandfather. It was given me by my dad with a split in the handle. I used it most recently as a bucking iron in making Bevins Skiffs, but having seen similar hammers in use at ESSA I decided it deserves a bit of fresh hickory to restore it to proper use.

My great Grandfather had been a contractor in Ft. Dodge, Iowa and would have had use for a hammer like this. My grandfather, being an attorney did not. So, it was passed from grandfather to grandson to son. I hope to use it in the ESSA metals shop, and perhaps to make more tools like it.

I went shopping for a new handle today. My local hardware store did not have one to fit. I checked Amazon and all their handles were expensive and the descriptions gave me no confidence in choosing one to fit.

House Handle Company in Cassville, Missouri (just 30 miles from here) is the place to shop online. For $3.35 plus postage, the proper handle for this hammer has been purchased and is on its way. The most important thing in fitting a new handle to a hammer head is shaping the end of the handle to fit the hole in the head.

A reader reminded me that liability is often given as an excuse for ending manual arts training in schools. Hand-tool wood working is far less dangerous than basketball.  Power-tool wood working can also be safely done in schools. Part of the problem, however, is that administrators will load 25-30 kids in a class full of powertools and expect miracles... that all kids will be attentive and well managed. Woodworking demands greater one-on-one personalized instruction, and thus demands smaller class sizes.

My weeklong box making class at ESSA starts on Monday.

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