Wednesday, August 12, 2020

Wood Magazine review.

 Wood Magazine published a review of my new book, The Guide to Woodworking with Kids.

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

Tuesday, August 11, 2020

rats that drive and love it.

 Kelly  Lambert at the University of North Carolina has done extensive study of what she calls "effort driven rewards", that what we do has direct impact on how we feel and how we feel about ourselves. This is a lovely bit of research that confirms the necessity of engaging the world hands-first, by doing real things.

Make, fix and create.

Thursday, August 06, 2020

Getting a full grip

There's an old idiom "all thumbs" to describe being physically inept regarding our ability to do things requiring the hands. 

The origins of the idiom are traced back to before 1546, as it was published in John Heywood's collection of proverbs written in 1546: "When he should get aught, each finger is a thumb."

These days, if you watch children and adults using their iPhones you'll see their thumbs moving rapidly, while the rest of their fingers are idle supporting the device. Our thumbs can be amazingly dextrous. 

What happens however, when the rest of the fingers providing functionality to the human hand are ignored? Will we suffer in intellect and character as a species if we fail to cultivate the full range of human grips?

Technology has put us at that point that it is altering the way we think. Each of the grips shown in the drawing are also ways of grasping. We grasp with the hands. We also grasp with the mind. If our fingers are over used in poking and dragging over the glass surfaces of our digital devices, to the neglect of the dexterity of our other fingers will we lose the stronger grip on reality that we get from the full use of our hands? If our children should get more than "aught" meaning goose egg, nada, naught, nil, nix, nothing, null, zero, zilch, zip, zippo, let them develop their full capacities to grasp reality, by doing real things.

I've been at work on my new book based on the contents of this blog, developed over quite a number of years. With a goal of no more than 60,000 words, I'm over one third complete at this point. We are having A+ Schools staff training today, preparing for Clear Spring School to become a full-fledged member of the  organization bringing arts integration into American education.

These are not normal times. Our nation is in a serious crisis.

Make, fix, create, and get a grip....

Monday, July 27, 2020

no lazy-bones

The following was translated from a placard at the Leipsic Manual Training School and should be shared with those boys and girls who are today trapped in schooling. We don't want any lazy-boned boys. Girls either for that matter.
"Listen to what we have to say, boys. It concerns every true boy. Every one of you who wants to become a true man likes to watch diligent workmen and wishes to do like them — that is to say, use the hammer and hatchet, the tweezers and gimlet, the plane and saw, the file and rasp, the bolt and solder, the blow-pipe, the modeling-tool and carving-knife, etc. Every boy who is a real boy tries to use these tools. He will find opportunities to do so in our manual training-school.

"We don't want to make artisans of you, for your leisure hours would not suffice for that; but we want to make you more skillful and clever than boys usually are. How many can drive a nail without hitting their fingers? How many can make kites that balance and fly well? How many, when the skates get shaky on the ice, can help themselves and need not run to the locksmith? Yes, many of you can not even point a pencil well, or put a wrapper around a school-book without making it look clumsy.

"Your parents mean to benefit you when they present you with a tool box at Christmas. How many of such boxes are shoved into the corner, where the tools rust and the box is covered with dust? You must have some one who teaches you how to use tools. Or you get a scroll-saw, and, after breaking a number of saw-blades, you succeed in sawing out of cigar-box boards a few clumsy patterns. Then you go to a joiner to have them glued and adjusted. He is the one who does the real work. Yet you give these things away as your work. It isn't right, boys! It can't be right!

"We must talk plainly, boys. Most of you do not know how to use tools. That needs to be learned. Most of you spend too much time in reading, and spoiling their precious eye-sight. When you are called to do a manual job for your mothers, you are at a loss how to go at it. Oh, what would have become of you had you been in Robinson Crusoe's place? You would have perished miserably. Come, boys, think of it!

Things should be different. When school is over and home tasks are done, a true boy spends an hour happily on the playground and in summer takes a bath in the river. In winter he may learn to work with his hands at the work-bench and the vise. After many hours of brain-work he uses his strength in planing and sawing, hammering and chiseling. He learns to see and admire lines of beauty in drawing, and working out his drawings in models. He furnishes models in clay and carves wood. He makes physical experiments, and works neat Christmas presents for his dear ones at home.

"And when, outside, the winter storms rage and the snow-flakes fall, our pupils come together in a warm room and work like good fellows to produce something, and laugh, chat, and sing in company, while book worms sit in corners like hermits. Our pupils have had such pleasures for several years. Come and join us.

But, remember, we don't want any 'lazy-bones.' If any of you like to shirk work, and after a few weeks, when the work gets harder, thinks he has a toothache, or perchance some other ache, don't let him come. We don't want him. We want diligent boys. All who like to work are welcome. Ask your parents. They will allow you to come for an hour or two where they know you are well looked after.

"Life is full of work, boys, now more than ever. Prepare for it. A true man learns to help himself, and we will show you how. So come, and be welcomed by The Masters of the Training-School." — Richard Lewis Klemm, 1889
Make, fix and create....

Sunday, July 26, 2020

An old diploma

A reader sent me a photo of his grandfather's graduation diploma from Gustaf Larsson's Sloyd Teacher Training School in Boston. Dana Andrews Stanley, upon graduating in 1912, became a teacher of the manual arts, leaving a lasting legacy among his students and within his family. 

Thousands, like Dana Andrews Stanley went on to teach woodworking throughout the US.

Recognizing that the power to create and to serve society through what we made, was just as important as literacy, the manual arts were an important part of American education. Then, in an odd twist, educational policy makers decided that all students were to go to college and the manual arts were brushed aside. 

We went from being a manufacturing nation to being one in which students attend college, fail to get college degrees and are left with massive debt and in which we're addicted to buying foreign made stuff. When you make something, you are not just making that thing. You are remaking yourself as a craftsman.

We must look at American education and make an important change. All students should have the opportunity to learn real things by doing real things.

Make, fix and create....

Saturday, July 25, 2020

First and second sleep

It was once well recognized and accepted in human culture that instead of going to bed and sleeping through the night, human beings would sleep for a few hours, then get up and do a few things, driven either by necessity or inward awakening, and then go back to bed. This was called first and second sleep by some. In 1840, Charles Dickens wrote in Barnaby Rudge (1840):  
"He knew this, even in the horror with which he started from his first sleep, and threw up the window to dispel it by the presence of some object, beyond the room, which had not been, as it were, the witness of his dream."
You can read about it here: The point may be to help us toward finding a rich, more personal inner life. I can attribute much of my waking life creativity to being sleepless from about 2 AM until 3 or 3:30. It's a time in which the day just passed is done, sleep has begun to bring detachment from it, and the next day's wonders are fresh on the horizon. I learned the inlay technique that I've used on thousands of my small boxes by going to a lumber yard one day, becoming entranced with the variety of colors and textures of different species of woods, and then wondering in the middle of the night how I would use them in my work.

I think the larger portion of human creativity arrives to us through those times we are awake and unable to sleep. I do some of my best planning when we think I ought to be sleeping, but that is indeed the natural pattern of our human kind.

For that, we can make plans. Awaken and watch the wonders come. I thank my friend Grant Mallet, for helping me find a name for the phenomenon.

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

Wednesday, July 22, 2020

getting better at zoom

Last night I attended the Oregon Guild of Woodworkers meeting via zoom, and it seems that with the pandemic, I'm zooming a lot. It allows me to connect with woodworkers from around the world from the convenience of my office. 

Today I have a zoom conference with folks from the Idea Center at Notre Dame (the university, not the cathedral), and tomorrow one with the program committee for the Eureka Springs School of the Arts.

I've been giving some thought to the importance of mistakes, and of forgiveness. Mistakes they say, are inevitable, even though we may have feelings of self-loathing when they happen. They do alert us to our own humanity. They may help train us to accept the humanity of others. Along with acceptance of blame, we accept our own humanity, and our responsibilities to attempt to do better. And the quicker we act on forgiveness, the faster we get back to the work at hand.

Only two of our presidents, to my knowledge have been woodworkers. One was Thomas Jefferson, though he likely had most of his work performed by slaves. The other is Jimmy Carter, who in time will be acknowledged as one of the greats, in that he's lived long and set an example of selfless service. There are some who despise him for that. I have a nice note from Jimmy Carter that I've kept on my bulletin board in my office, in which he thanked me for a copy of one of my books that I sent to him years ago.

I wonder if mistakes are part of the plan that sets us up for success... not success in having the right perfect stuff, but success in our arrival as fully functional human beings capable of such divinity as the practice of forgiveness. 

The world of manufactured stuff sets us up for an unreasonable competition of man vs. machine. Machines go out of whack over time. People, real people, have the opportunity to improve performance through the development of skill. But if we make a simple guess, that the reason we make mistakes is a divine plan to enable us to learn crucial lessons of forgiveness of others, would our mistakes no longer be necessary to our development? It's an experiment you can help me with. Get out there, and goof up. Then practice the forgiveness of others. You may discover that it helps. It's certainly one of the lessons we learn in wood shop.

I started last night's meeting with this brief, 8 minute video produced by the Arkansas Arts Council.

Make, fix, and create...

Monday, July 20, 2020

three little puppies...

I've been installing new equipment in the Clear Spring School wood shop and arranging the tools we already had to be of better service in the coming school year. This next year promises to be a doozie. We do not know whether we'll be able to have face to face classes, as that will depend on the success in removing the threat that Covid-19 presents to our families and community. Of course there's a need to have kids in school. And yes, there's a great need to keep our families safe.

I am preparing for the possibility that some at-home learning will have to be part of the new school year. The new planer and dust collector will help us to be ready to prepare take home kits for student learning.

I have been awakening in the middle of the night, thinking about the new book. If only I was able to be as poetic in the day, as the words that come in the night! Is there a higher consciousness to which we are attached when we are at the edge of sleep? I suspect so. At least when I awaken I'm able to dredge forward a few thoughts from a deeper state.

I'm proposing a slight adjustment of the title of the book. "Wisdom of Our Hands: Crafting self, family, community and human culture" feels a bit too cold and academic. To make it more personal, as if someone might take the book as a personal action plan (as is my hope), my slight change is as follows: "Wisdom of Our Hands: A guide to crafting self, family, community and human culture." It may be longer, but it implies that action may result, and as our world comes apart, to hell in a hand basket, we'll need a guide that restores the most powerful aspect of our humanity. The thoughtful relationship between head and hands in empathetic service to each other.

My wife is using this bit of time during the Covid-19 crisis to arrange photos from our lives into scrap books and she noted how many photos there are of my daughter Lucy and I in which she's in my lap and I'm reading to her. What joyous memories! I'm reminded of a story I used to tell from my own mind that Lucy requested over and over again, about the "three little puppies." I never told that story twice the same, and perhaps that will become my project when the "Wisdom of our hands" is complete and off to Linden Press for editing and publication.

Make, fix, and create.

Friday, July 17, 2020

simple advice on tools

When my daughter was attending Columbia I had a friend Gus at the Teacher's College Library who would pass along discarded copies of old books on the manual arts in the hopes they would find use.

The text excerpt below in quotes is from The Amateur House Carpenter, by Ellis Davidson published in 1875. My own copy was given to me from Teacher's College Library in New York and had been acquired by them in 1887. It was the 428th volume acquired by the fledgling university and before their move to their current site adjacent to Columbia University on the Upper West Side.

The illustration of a hammer striking a nail is one of the original illustrations from the book, drawn by the author on wood.
"There are chisels which, after bending in a curve, proceed in a straight line, by which the ground under carved work may be cut. There are in fact, numerous varieties of carving tools, not a twentieth of which will be required by those for whom these pages are written and for whom a coupe of chisels,  couple of gouges, and a couple of print-cutter's tools (small chisels), and a single bent toll, will suffice for present purposes.

"It is by far the better plan to supply the necessity for additional tools as it arises, than to buy a "good set," containing so many of of such various forms, that the amateur is puzzled which to use first; and in attempting to manage a complex tool, intended only for expert workmen and for some very peculiar purpose, the work which could have been fairly done with simple tools is often injured or spoilt altogether."
The simple point is one that I try to make to my students. It is easy to become overwhelmed by the variety of tools available to the modern woodworker. There are so many tools and jigs that are intended to make fine woodworking easy enough that even an ignoramus can do it. Far better than to be overwhelmed is to take a softer approach, acquiring tools as they are needed. That way you know what to do with them, and before that time is reached you will hopefully have exhausted the potential of the tools you already have.

There's a zen saying about this. "Poverty is your greatest treasure, never trade it for an easy life." So how can poverty be a treasure? It demands growth. It requires that you refine your approach, not only to the tools and materials, but to those neighbors who surround you. It demands modesty, and compels empathy. It's just as simple as that.

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

Sunday, July 12, 2020

the knife

It is interesting how some things come to us in the night. Do you wake up in the night with things on your mind that are related to what you're to be doing the next day? 

Last night I was thinking of educational Sloyd and how difficult it can be to contend with grain during the use of the knife. In early sloyd model series, one of the challenging models was that of the scoop, a common tool carved from wood. 

The challenge is to get a clean cut where there's a reversal of grain. You can use a chisel or gouge, or a knife with a hooked blade, but there's no ideal tool to make the task easy without the intense application of mind and without hands well-trained and practiced for the task.

The following was translated for me from a book written in early Norwegian by N. Christian Jacobsen,
I Sløjdsagen Et Inlæg
"The knife is that tool which a child most naturally and easily grasps: it is simple to have at hand and can be used for both this and that. It is a tool with which much work can completely be done, and without help from another. Yes, nothing more on this need be said; the knife is above all else the tool of ordinary dexterity, that is to say, sloyd’s tool. 

"But it is with the knife as with smoothing: it is not appealing to start with when the mechanical saw comes before it. The knife makes large demands on thought and on the hand. The saw can be operated mechanically while the knife requires a freedom which consists in developing one's own effort. In hand skills in particular the knife is especially suited for the development of the sense of form in right-angle and curved forms. 

"What counts with the knife is to be able to freely put it to use through a multitude of hand movements, under which the aimed at form must be brought into clear focus, and the nature of the wood and action of the tools steadily observed. This compels to continual consideration and continual search for the desired form lying in the material before its emergence. – N. Christian Jacobsen, Kristiania (Oslo) January 1892"
I'm grateful to Barbara Bauer for her translation, and Christian Jacobsen, one of Otto Salomon's favorite authors suggests the complexity of one of our most simple tools.

It's amazing how academic life often revolves around the acquisition and regurgitation of information rather than demonstration of direct learning. The consequences for society are disastrous. We are carefully trained to undervalue the contributions of those who've labored long and hard to develop skill.

The photo shows a simple pin hinge inserted in a tiny box. It was one of my planned accomplishments for yesterday in the wood shop. How can such a simple thing be challenging? Would you not just simply take such things for granted? 

In order for the hinge to operate smoothly, the pin has to be positioned exactly on both sides. In order for that to be done with success on a number of boxes requires having the  right tools available, having the tools set up properly (measurement, measurement and measurement again) and having a feel for the process. For an exploration of the ways mind is applied in fields that we've been trained to think of as mindless, I recommend a book by Mike Rose, The Mind at Work.

Make, fix and create...

Saturday, July 11, 2020

The value of labor and the value of the laborer

I'm beginning to develop an outline for my new book and so am reading through some of the notes I've been compiling in the blog since 2006. What follows was from an earlier blog post, September 20, 2105 on the undisclosed value of manual arts training. 

Developing an ethos of craftsmanship...

Blog reader Tim Holton asked a question in response to the Forbes article on CTE/Vocational Training in School can a just society, in which all are treated fairly and able to find and generate work satisfying both to themselves and to the needs of society, educate the full range of tradespeople necessary to vital communities?
This is not a new question, and is one that is almost never addressed in discussions of Career and Technical Education. Whether or not someone would find satisfaction in being a garbage collector might concern those who want to make certain that we have a culture in which all citizens are afforded a reasonable level of dignity and reward for their service. This was a big concern to Uno Cygnaeus and Otto Salomon, the two founders of Educational Sloyd. Cygnaeus wrote of his initial conception of sloyd (inspired by Froebel's Kindergarten) as follows:
"the child must not only practise intuition, and express the representation which he has thus received, but should also learn to carry out in play, and in smaller pieces of hand-work, what he has grasped — should as a productive being be educated from the beginning to self-activity and productive energy — should thus be educated through work for work. ... In this way I was led to the thought that we must introduce into the school not only Froebel's gifts and the rest of the exercises in work recommended by him, but also establish for elder children such kinds of hand-work as have for their aim the training of the hand, the development of the sense of form, and of the aesthetic feeling, and which help young men to a general practical dexterity, which shall be useful in every walk of life. ...But all these kinds of work must not be conducted like trades, but always with reference to the aim of general education and as a means of culture." 
The point was not to establish a separate system of manual arts/industrial education and a separate career track for those deemed unworthy of academic instruction, but that all would benefit from an education of the hands... It would be an easy thing in this blog to explain what should be as clear as the nose on my face.We need technical training in schools to provide the kinds of intelligent workers required in a modern society. What is more difficult to explain, and what keeps me writing is that ALL children need the kinds of learning that wood shop provides. All children need to face the challenges of learning craftsmanship. The practice of craftsmanship applies to all else that we might tackle in our long lives, and applies directly to the culture we pass along to our children. Salomon said the following in reference to the true value of Sloyd and woodworking for all students: 
“...persons not manually trained, generally regard the products of manual labour at less than their real value. They think it much more difficult to solve a mathematical problem than to make a table. It is not an easy thing to make a parcel-pin or a pen-holder with accuracy, and when students have done these things they will be the better able to estimate comparatively the difficulty of making a table or chair; and what perhaps is of still greater importance, they will become qualified to decide between what is good and what is bad work.” 
I restate Salomon to apply additional emphasis on an important point. 
“...persons not manually trained, generally regard the products of manual labor and performers of that labor of at less than their real value."
In other words, those who fail to understand the real value of manual labor, what it entails, and what it costs to learn, and to learn well, will not grant dignity or fair value to those who perform it. It's why we have a 99% and a 1% who could care less for the bottom tier of society and who place themselves on pedestals of wealth as being better than the rest of us. It's also why we import so much junk from other countries instead of developing an ethos of craftsmanship in our own citizenry.

This was a point that brought some contention between Otto Salmon and his mentor, Uno Cygnaeus when Salomon made statements in favor of separate manual training schools. Cygnaeus insisted that Salomon had misunderstood the important societal principles involved. Students were not to be divided and sent along on separate career and educational tracks without having first acquired a thorough understanding of the dignity of all labor.
Make, fix, create, and insist that all be given an equal opportunity to learn likewise.

Friday, July 10, 2020

crafting self, family, community and human culture.

I have a contract coming in the mail for a new book that I hope will be called, "the Wisdom of our Hands: Crafting self, family, community and human culture." The publisher has the ultimate say on what the title will be. But this is huge for me... an opportunity I've been working toward for the last 20 years. 

The book will be based on personal observation and experience over my 40 plus years as a furniture craftsman, box maker, and teacher of woodworking. Long time blog readers may notice a slight shift, from wisdom of the hands (impersonal) to wisdom of our hands (very personal) and more inviting.

This will be a project to help carry me through the worst of Covid-19 with a completion date of March, 2021. Wish us all the best of luck.

Last night I had a zoom meeting with the Annapolis Woodworking Guild, and today I'll be sanding pencil cups and business card holders and cutting miter joints for a new design box.

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

Thursday, July 09, 2020

Pinch me, please...

Yesterday I finished inlaying 36 pencil cups and 50 business card holders. I also started a new design smaller box and received prototype cedar boxes back from the engraver. These are not the reasons a good pinch is called for. I've been offered a contract for the book I've been planning for years, about the wisdom of our hands. It will be published by Linden Press, a highly respected publisher of books on crafts. It will allow me to tell my story as a woodworker and teacher of woodworking and share the philosophy that emerges from deep engagement in creative crafts.

On another subject, I received an alert to a published article,  Inhuman hands and missing child: Touching a literacy event in a Finnish primary school and read the following summary:  
"This paper explores an inhuman reading of 'hands' with/in visual images of a Finnish literacy lesson. Inspired by Karen Barad's agential realism and the ontological turn, we disrupt a metaphysics of presence, the temporality of progress and binary logic, to reconfigure the child in literacy practices as a sympoietic phenomenon, always already assembled in human and more-than-human company. We think with/in the concept of 'touch' as a method to reconfigure literacies as inhuman."
I've no idea what an "inhuman hand" is and I can promise you that the book I've proposed with offer easier reading with none of the specialized jargon found in the sentences above. I spent too much time on the internet trying to learn what inhuman hands and inhumanism are about.  If any of my readers can humanize the subject for me, please do.  I find that there's something wonderful about being human and having real hands, particularly as we observe nurses and doctors caring for the victims of the coronavirus pandemic.

In the midst of all this, president Trump insists that the pandemic is almost over and that schools must start back in the fall despite the risks to children and teachers and the other support people involved and despite the risks offered to parents, and grandparents who've safely sequestered so far from exposure to the disease. The head of our nation's largest teacher's union "double-dog-dared" Trump to sit in a classroom full of kids. You'll notice that Trump and Pence have begun modeling better social distancing, by sitting at meetings six feet apart. That will not be possible with kids in a typical public school. So I triple-dog-dare Trump to allow himself to be schooled by science.

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

Wednesday, July 08, 2020

Path to Learning podcast

A few weeks ago I was interviewed by the Path to Learning podcast and that interview is now edited and live.  My thanks to John, Jay and Scott for helping me to tell the story of what the hands give learning at the Clear Spring School. 

This podcast episode is about the power of hands-on learning as it is applied through the wood shop at the Clear Spring School.

The Path to Learning podcasts grew from the Kindergarten documentary film series that can be found at A trailer for the film series can be found here:

At school I'm hooking up a new dust collection system in preparation for the coming school year. In my home wood shop, I've been inlaying 50 business card holders and 35 pencil cups for sales when the economy and nation return to some semblance of normal.

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

Monday, July 06, 2020

an early blog post

On Thursday, September 7, 2006, I began writing this blog. On the second day, I offered an invitation for personal investigation that went like this:

In order to understand the importance of the hands in learning, I can point you to a number of authorities. But first, I ask you to make a few personal observations. 

We have become a society reliant on experts. We hire people to tell us things about our lives, when we might find the greatest truths through simple and direct observation. For instance, we check our phones to learn the temperature, when we might step outside instead, feeling the chill or warmth of the air on our own skin. 

Here is a simple thing to help you to begin your own observatons. Pick up a long stick and hold it if front of you. Now close your eyes. You can feel in the tensions of your hand whether or not the stick is vertical, or slightly out of balance. You can adjust the position of your hand along it's length to bring it into balance. Centering one end in the palm of your hand you can feel or direct its motion, pointing it straight up or feel the weight of it when it moves away from dead balance. 

When you pick up a tool for the first time, whether it is a chisel or a pencil, the same dynamic principles are measured by the hand. The hand, measuring and adapting to those forces moves from the foreground of awareness to the background, disappearing from conscious thought as it learns the weight, form and movement of the object. In the use of a chisel, the hand itself can disappear from thought and consciousness to the degree that the only thing felt in the mind is the position and sharpness of the cutting edge. 

We take our hands for granted due to the extremely close integration between the hand and brain in the development of our consciousness and our awareness of the world around us. The use of the hands to assess the reality that surrounds us begins at the earliest possible age in our existence. 

As an excercise in the development of your own wisdom, I invite you to watch carefully today as your fingers engage the keyboard, as you write notes in pencil to a friend, as you pick up a bag of groceries, pull a book down from the shelf, or wipe the tear from the eye of a child. Hands that we take for granted are the key to being fully engaged in our lives, sensing and creating.

Dr. Frank Wilson, author of the 1999 book the Hand, How its Use Shapes the Brain, Language and Human Culture, shared the following in response to that first blog post:

"Great to see this site, in honor of whose youth I thought I'd say something about the earliest steps toward an enduring hand-mind partnership as I've seen them taken by my grand-daughter, now just 14 months old. From completely undifferentiated open/close movements of the whole hand and fist, she has gradually gained the ability to control the pinch grip of thumb/index finger (thanks to endless practice collecting Cheerios and then depositing them in her mouth). 
"Starting at about six months she was manipulating small objects bimanually. She became skilled at dropping things from her high chair. She next began tapping hard surfaces with spoons and blocks, testing their sounds. She also started exploring the surfaces of grampa's teeth with her fingertips. She started using her hands to pull herself up. She learned to use a spoon to maneuver peas into her mouth. She began to tear paper; then to pull books from bookshelves. She played with a springy doorstop to make noises. 
"By the age of 1 year she was gesturing -- pointing with her index finger, waving bye-bye, slapping both hands to the temples repeatedly with a wild facial expression as if to say: "Oh, what can I do???!! 
"She has fallen in love with buttons: buttons on musical toys, buttons on her mom's Blackberry, and now the buttons on the elevator in our building. 
"Two weeks ago she started walking, and immediately she approached other small children to pat them on the head, or touch their tummy, or gently push on the belly-button (as if expecting to see the kid's nose light up). 
"It's already a huge repertoire. What next????" – Dr. Frank Wilson, Friday, September 8, 2006

And so, what's next? We all have that same question at the tip of our lips. Will we technologize our way our of the huge mess we're in? Or will the hands provide a path forward. I bet on the hands.

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

Thursday, July 02, 2020

New small cedar boxes

This is a new cedar box design that could be laser engraved for sales in gift shops and museum stores. The outside of the box will be polished with wax for protection and the inside will be left unfinished to allow for the cedar smell to entice customers. 

I've arranged to have the laser engraving of samples done. This will likely not be my final design. My hope is that it could become a nice carry home tourist item when the economy recovers. 

In the meantime, we're safely sequestered, and not taking chances that the coronavirus will suddenly just disappear. As nice as that would be for all of us viruses just do not perform in that manner.

We are apparently in deep trouble. Be safe. 

Make, fix, and create.

Tuesday, June 30, 2020

A New Machine

Yesterday I finally got my new hinge slot cutting machine working. It's a project I've been working on for months, and it's great to see that it performs exactly as planned. 

I have two barbed hinge machines now. One is set up for a larger size hinge and this one is to cut very small slots for a smaller barbed hinge that I plan to use with cedar boxes. It will also help me to return to making small hardwood boxes that I've not made in years.

Cedar boxes have a very long history in Ozark Mountain tourism. The smell of cedar inside a box and a clever message on the outside can lure folks to buy one and take it home. 

My plan is to have some  boxes laser engraved to be sold from museum stores and tourist shops. Once developed it could be a business that I sell or pass along to another craftsman.

This is a project I set up for myself as a way to be productive (and sane) during the Covid-19 pandemic. 

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

Saturday, June 27, 2020

The "hand basket"

Are we there yet? Here's a list:
Global warming.
Economic injustice.
Police violence.
Political polarization.
Economic collapse.
Anger, fear, anxiety and depression on the uptick.

On the other hand, the hands allow us to take direct action toward the alleviation of each thing. Were we not taught to take care of each other?

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

Friday, June 26, 2020


I've been assembling new equipment for the Clear Spring School wood shop. We have a new planer, a new dust collector and a new small drill press that will be dedicated to making wheels. Each requires assembly. 

It's fun, reading and following instructions, finding where each screw or bolt goes and putting it in place. I was stopped in my assembly of the dust collector yesterday by the weight of one of the components. It was just too heavy for me to lift and position on my own. So friends. We count on them. We'll mask up, take care and lift the component into place. 

The new tools will make us better able to do materials preparation in the school shop... some of which I'd been doing in my own wood shop, and allow for my replacement by another teacher when that time comes.

Do we plan for such things? Yes, in a  time of coronavirus and coming change, we must.

With cases rising again across the US, and folks who think their own right to flaunt safe health practices is greater than the necessity of protecting the health of their families, communities, and the economy, we are in very deep trouble.

But, human beings have a tendency to rise anew from troubled times. And so we are entering a period of adjustment. 

I am reminded always of this quote from Jean Jacques Rousseau... 
"Put a young man in a wood shop, his hands will benefit his brain. He will become a philosopher while thinking himself only a craftsman."
There's some serious meat in that quote... Meat you can gnaw right off the bone if you can understand  first that it applies to women as well as to men. Working with our hands makes light work for the mind. It allows for the intrusion of other things to clarify the workings of thought. One thing about the quote that appeals to me is the word, "only." It implies a sense of humility. Like the glass that's half full, it is not pretentious. It admits humility, and with humility, we have the opportunity to learn a few things.

And so these are uncertain times. We, together, will make the best of what ails us.

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

Tuesday, June 23, 2020

Religiosity and Faith...

One of the hazards of formal education comes when teachers or administrators use education as an authoritarian means to attempt to control the beliefs of small children. Froebel had grown up as the neglected son of a Lutheran minister, and discovered his own faith by wandering the Thuringen forest. 

By observing nature and life directly rather than by merely assimilating what is told to us by others, we develop faith. When there's real faith, belief becomes a distraction from the accuracy of observation. 

Froebel's faith led him to examine the role of mothers in the education of their children and led him then to devise a method of schooling that trusted the sensory engagement of the child to guide learning and growth through self-activity. 

The teacher's efforts were not to be directed toward shaping the child's beliefs, but rather to facilitate and encourage the child's creative expression and interconnectedness with all things.

There is a difference between religiosity and faith. Religious beliefs may require a teacher to demand something from her children. Faith allows the teacher to set up learning experiences for her pupils all the while clear in her trust that the children will draw what they need from real life, just as thousands of generations of children have done before. Faith requires freedom of consciousness while religion demands conformity. 

Creative craftsmanship, pure and simple, is a means through which children and adults can come to a better understanding of reality and find a clear basis for belief, faith and trust. Froebel had faith that given constructive learning experiences, the child would grow in harmony with family and community. That was similar to what Matti Bergström called black games and white games and the consideration that children need to engage both certainty and possibility... allowing human culture to arise fresh within each subsequent generation. 

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

Sunday, June 21, 2020

Watching the oven door.

We had my daughter, her new husband, his brother, the brother's cat and the daughter and son-in-law's dog with us for 2 months and now they're safely back in New York. The coronavirus seems to be in better management status there, while heating up here due to people's itchiness to get back to more regular life and a refusal to understand the importance of wearing masks.

After our family had been with us for a couple weeks, our golden doodle, Rosie discovered there was a cat in the house. She would stand outside the bedroom trying to get a peek at our mysterious and reclusive houseguest. She decided that the front glass on the oven door was a window through which she might catch a glimpse of the mysterious cat.

Yesterday afternoon Rosie heard my daughter's voice on the phone and immediately went to the oven door, attempting to peak into the black glass. How can I explain to my wonderful pooch that the oven door is not a TV and that there's no Lucy there, no cat, no dog, and neither of the two bros?

It appears that we've given up on our own curiosity. We accept digital technology without questioning it. It might inspire more wonder than it does. For instance, "how does this stuff work?" Without asking that question and understanding at least a small part of it, we are somewhat in the dark no matter how much we feel ourselves to be on top of things.

In the early days of Educational Sloyd, students were to start with the very basics of their own lives, understanding the simple, easy, knowable, concrete phenomena and build in increments from there, so as to merge with greater understanding of place and purpose within the vast scheme of things. We've chosen instead to launch student learning with devices that are inexplicable. Even toddlers are given their parent's iPhones for amusement and distraction, with very little real learning taking place.

Perhaps I'm being overly harsh. Online instruction can lead to good things. But only if you break from it and test what you've learned in the real world, generating your own discoveries and turning your efforts toward service.

Let's put real tools in the hands of kids and allow them to journey forth.

A friend of mine, Jason Proulx, has an article and plan in the latest issue of the Lee Valley Newsletter.

Jason, a long time reader of this blog named his educational blog after the three words featured at the end of each of my blog posts, 

Make, fix and create.

Saturday, June 20, 2020

Let's look at this...

Let's look at this. The photo shows a girl working at a woodworking bench in school in 1918, and as schools are almost never equipped with such things today, we must wonder where things went wrong. 

So what went wrong and how do we fix it? A few years ago I had the opportunity to speak at the Craft Organization Development Association's national convention. A woman came up to me after my talk to tell me that she had bought woodworking tools for her grandson, but that her daughter in law would not allow them in her house. She was afraid her son would make a mess in her home while the grandmother, knowing the value of the arts, and creative expression was afraid the mother was making a mess of her grandson. 

There has been a failure in getting folks in the general public to understand the nature and real benefits of creativity. Children develop both character and intellect when given the opportunity to create useful beauty to be shared with family and community. Please stand with me in launching a change of view. 

The public relations firm helping in the promotion of my new book, The Guide to Woodworking with Kids is having a good response from woodworking clubs and magazines. You can help, too, by buying the book and sharing it with family and friends. Amazon is currently offering a special price, 3 for the price of two, meaning buy two and get one free.

Unlike tangible, tactile tools of the trade, digital devices give the false impression of creativity. We watch with wonder at what a toddler can do with an iPhone, neglecting to note that the creativity was coded and pre-formatted as an element of deception. Unless the child is doing the coding, no real creativity is taking place. 

Every classroom in America should have at least one woodworking bench. Even those classes at upper levels. It would serve at the very least, as a reminder that we are all have real work to do, making the world a better place.

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

Friday, June 19, 2020

ESSA on Facebook

This week on the Eureka Springs School of the Arts Facebook page, they're sharing some of my work in their series, #everyonesharesomeart. Tune in each day for more.

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

Monday, June 15, 2020

open ended learning

I've been consulting on a project to develop subscription boxes for woodworking kids. The idea is that a parent subscribes to receive monthly packages of tools, materials, and instruction for their kids along with inspirational material that leads the child to engage in creative woodworking. 

One of the challenges is to develop projects that inspire open ended learning.

I walked by a display of kits at a Lowe's store the other day. The kits were not flying off the shelf. They are static. They are assembled with simple tools and with each part engineered to go in it's particular spot. This is not to tell you not to buy such things. Any woodworking is better than no woodworking at all. But projects must be designed to allow open ended creativity, for surprising consequences to be arrived at, and for the potential of failure and the exercise of plan B.

A fellow woodworking teacher on the East coast, whom I very much admire, compared my new book, The Guide to Woodworking with Kids, to a book by an earlier author, Richard Starr. That's a compliment of the first order.

In any case, the Covid-19 pandemic is offering some valuable lessons in life. As was once in Kindergarten,  we are each challenged to learn to work together, to care for each other and to make the best of things by exercising our own playful creativity. We get along better as a nation when we've learned the basics. And since the basics are often not taught as they once were, here we are learning from real life. Barbara Bauer sent this poem, one that is excellent for these times: from
These are the hands
for the 60th anniversary of the NHS 

These are the hands
That touch us first
Feel your head
Find the pulse
And make your bed.

These are the hands
That tap your back
Test the skin
Hold your arm
Wheel the bin
Change the bulb
Fix the drip
Pour the jug
Replace your hip.

These are the hands
That fill the bath
Mop the floor
Flick the switch
Soothe the sore
Burn the swabs
Give us a jab
Throw out sharps
Design the lab.

And these are the hands
That stop the leaks
Empty the pan
Wipe the pipes
Carry the can
Clamp the veins
Make the cast
Log the dose
And touch us last. —Michael Rosen 

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

Sunday, June 14, 2020

deign to design

Yesterday I had my first zoom class, teaching 3D design with the Eureka Springs School of the Arts. I used boxes as a tool to help students go from "what they like" to a better understanding of the principles and elements of design. It's a class I hope to teach again, as design actually touches every aspect of human life, and human life is enriched when we act with greater awareness and heightened holistic purpose.

The video is one I created to assist my students in a discussion of the principles and elements of design, despite our being at a distance from each other.

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

Friday, June 12, 2020


A friend Mario is re-reading Isaac Asimov's Foundation series published in 1951. He suggests it as the perfect read for these times as it's about societal disintegration with hints of possible renewal. Mario noted that Asimov and I are in agreement in one particular passage.
"The hands?
But why not the hands? Trevize found himself floating away, almost drowsy, but with no loss of mental acuity. Why not the hands? 
"The eyes were no more than sense organs. The brain was no more than a central switchboard, encased in bone and removed from the working surface of the body. It was the hands that were the working surface, the hands that felt and manipulated the Universe. Human beings thought with their hands. It was their hands that were the answer of curiosity that felt and pinched and turned and lifted and hefted. 
"There were animals that had brains of respectable size, but they had no hands and that made all the difference. And as he and the computer held hands, their thinking merged and it no longer mattered whether his eyes were open or closed. Opening them did not improve his vision nor did closing them dim it. Either way he saw the room with complete clarity."

And so, here we are. Police forces are challenged over their inappropriate use of force. They respond through inappropriate escalation of force, proving the demonstrators right. In the meantime, we are experiencing a rapid rise in Covid-19 cases and hospitalizations in Northwest Arkansas. And we have a national election that will determine whether or not our nation attempts to hold true to the ideals of justice and democracy. 

Tomorrow I have a zoom based class at the Eureka Springs School of the Arts. It may seem trivial to some that we would have a class on design. But design is at the core of renewal. Some of what we learn through designing and building a box or any other lovely useful thing applies also to what we build as a new foundation for a society in which we have love for each other. There are still a few vacancies in this class

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

Thursday, June 11, 2020

A 4th aspect of design...

I'm preparing for my 3D design class on Saturday at ESSA, to be held via Zoom. It should actually be 4D as there's another aspect of design that's often overlooked in art classes.

You can think of the process of design, beyond the idea that it represents 3 dimensions, x, y, and z, the axes of a material object, in that an object also must fit cultural parameters, the 4th dimension. It must fit the lives of both the maker and the user of the product and possibly the longer term relationship of the material object to the planet.

So in the process of design, and beyond what something will look like and feel like and how it will be used, and whether or not it will actually be useful,  we ask why it is to be made, how it's to be made, how long it's intended to last, and what's to be done with it in the very much longer term.

The photo shows the base of a white oak and walnut table I made just a few years ago. It is the expression of a shared set of cultural values.

The class on 3D design will be participatory and I'm expecting it to be fun. Join us if you can on Saturday June 13.

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

Tuesday, June 09, 2020

finding a stark contrast.

Today I'll continue preparing for my 3D design class on Saturday with the Eureka Springs School of the Arts. I'll be in the wood studio at ESSA while my students will be across the US participating through Zoom. This will be a first time for me to teach using this technology and at a distance, but it's what's called for by these difficult times. There are still a few spots available in the class.

I noticed in the news that an 8 year old boy in NYC was arrested and hand-cuffed for carrying a stick, and find that to be a stark contrast with police "forces" across the US carrying metal and wood "batons" into crowds of unarmed protesters. I've noted in my teaching of kids, how holding a stick can give confidence.

Kids want to make hiking sticks and canes. They need to be cautioned about their use and about not waving them in the air where they might injure another. But it is natural to find some delight in the sense of power that one finds in waving a good stick. An officer who would arrest and hand-cuff an eight year old boy for carrying a stick should be ashamed of himself. And any officer who felt the need to carry a baton to wield against a group of unarmed protesters should also reconsider.

Geoffrey Canada had written a book that I consider a classic about the escalation of violence. It is called Fist, Stick, Knife, Gun. But the use of sticks is not directly related to an escalation of violence or an expression of violent intent.  It can be an exercise in imagination. I'm reminded of many years ago when one of my much earlier students, Sylvester, stood triumphantly at the top of a slide, stick in hand. He proclaimed it to be a cane, a sword, a broom and an umbrella.

I also read a suggestion that police be redefined as a "service" rather than a "force." What a good starting point that would be! Some of my readers may disagree with me on this. But open hearts and open minds will find a path forward.

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

Sunday, June 07, 2020

Welcome to Kindergarten

Yesterday I brought my new workbench to a near completed state and assisted my new son-in-law in making a cherry box. He plans it as a gift to his dad.

On the workbench, I still need to do some additional sanding, a touch of routing, and the application of a Danish oil finish.

I've been avoiding writing in the blog for a few days. What does one write about when there are larger issues at hand. I have been sending short letters to my local and statewide newspapers about the mess we are in.

It seems that policing has a dual purpose. One is to protect and serve. But apparently protecting and serving often has to do with service to a social elite and protection of their properties, and not the people on the street.

It is often said that education has a dual purpose, one that's professed as a humanitarian ideal, that of educating the people, and with the other being control: of kids and classrooms and the social order necessary for protecting the interests of the societal elite.

So what about schooling during these days of crisis and potential change. Educators and parents ask about ceremonies and proof of learning as measured by seat time in classrooms, SAT and ACT scores and standardized testing of all kinds. The truth is that if learning is our concern, there's a whole lot happening during the coronavirus pandemic and disruption in the streets. What's learned may not be as easily measured in a standardized test, but may be more crucial to the health of our families, communities and nation.

Just as in the early days of Kindergarten children were to learn to listen to each other and to get along with each other and to respect each other and to value the differences between us, and we are all back at that point. Welcome to Kindergarten. I pray that we make the best of it.

Make, fix, create, and assist others in learning lifewise. Believe me, please, it's worth it.

Tuesday, June 02, 2020

This is a very sad time.

Today I have a podcast interview with I do not know when the podcast will be aired, but will let you know at a later date. Today also, I'm expecting a carton of my new book to be delivered by UPS.

It is difficult, however, to think much of such mundane things as our country is purposefully torn apart.

On the one hand, we have the pandemic and a president far too inept and self-congratulatory in all things to mount an effective or humane response.

On the other hand, we have systemic racism and class division resulting in poverty and lack of equal opportunity that's pushed things to the brink of open warfare in the streets, with a president unable to feel what's felt and understood by others and that chooses to use violence against his own people, even when they are demonstrating peacefully as is guaranteed by our constitution and bill of rights.

I'm very sad. I have never seen our nation in such a disgusting mess. And I fear that it will get much worse before better.

Make, fix, create, and assist others in learning lifewise, even when it seems we are learning far too much and more than what we can handle.

Saturday, May 30, 2020

designing with wood

I'm beginning to prepare for my class on 3D design for craft artists that will be presented June 13 at ESSA using Zoom. It will cover the basics of 3D design, and also offer specific information related to working with wood. Wood has its own special characteristics that present both challenges and opportunities to craft artists. One of those particular opportunities is that wood can connect us directly to the natural environment.

Clay is mined from the earth in ways that the earth is left scarred. Metals and stone are the same. Trees, on the other hand, grow around us. We have the opportunity to observe their growth, to care for them, to protect them, to find comfort in their shade, to bask in their beauty, and to share that beauty and usefulness in what we shape from their wood.

So, working with wood is an invitation into a world of natural wonder, and into a world in which we shape not only the objects that come through our hands, but also the world around us, and indeed ourselves.

It is a lovely day in Arkansas. I'm sitting on our front porch looking into the woods. The temperature is just right. The songbirds sing. The woodpeckers thump on dead branches. My dog Rosie is at work on a stick. She brings them home from our walks, with her head held high and chews them to splinters, stripping them bare of bark.

You will find the online class here: Even if wood is "not your thing," other craft artists will find value in it.

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

Friday, May 29, 2020

get busy working with wood.

A reader had written out of concern that her husband wanted to introduce their 2 1/2 year old son to woodworking. She was concerned that he would be too much at risk of injury.

While I agree with the mom that 2 1/2 is too young, I also applaud the dad's interest in sharing what he loves with his son. The compromise I suggested was that mom and son both join dad in the woodshop. Thus safety can be assured and all will find love for working with wood.

The June 2020 issue of GetWoodworking, a magazine in the UK, published a letter I'd sent them about woodworking at home with kids. It's on pages 78 and 79 and I've loaded a pdf of the pages to dropbox.

We are in some terrible, stormy times. On the one hand we have the coronavirus pandemic. On the other is police violence and anger and destruction in response.

There is safety and gentleness in working with wood. In the photo, can you see how the dad steadies the drill and holds  the stock as his son drills the hole in wood? Can we not steady for each other as we pass through these stormy times?

Make, fix, create. Assist others in learning lifewise.

Thursday, May 28, 2020

a path to learning...

Next Tuesday I have an interview with the Path to Learning podcast. so I've been thinking about Friedrich Froebel. One of his important concepts was that what we learn needs to be balanced and expressed by what we do. Schools should therefore be places in which learning is expressed in equal measure. By using what we learn, we learn at a deeper level and stimulate greater interest. By using what we learn, we anchor that knowledge through the full real estate of the human brain and throughout the neural network of the human body.

Typical schools require that children express what they learn through ways that only rarely interest kids. For example, taking tests. Then when the test is over and done with, the knowledge, having become only loosely attached, can be quickly forgotten. Only small snippets will remain. The old saying that applies accurately is "use it or lose it." Without the balance that Froebel recommended, you may never get it in the first place, as doing requires that you learn at a deeper level.

I'm reminded of a student from a few years back who in response to my instruction would say dismissively, "I know that." So I asked, him, "show me." You can guess his response.

Yesterday I struggled to assemble a cherry veneered plywood box to house drawers for the workbench I'm making. I'd cut mitered edges for the pieces to fit to each other, but had great difficultly keeping all the pieces together long enough to get the band clamps fitted to hold the parts together. It's funny how easy things can be in the mind, and how much more complicated they can be in real life.

The Path to Learning podcast is a rich place, with highly regarded experts in education outlining  a path forward. I am grateful for the chance to share. I'll let you know when my interview goes live on the site. Parents and teachers will find value in watching the full set of podcasts.

On the same subject, a variety of publications in the US and UK are interested in reviewing and promoting my new book, The Guide to Woodworking with Kids.

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

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

when in doubt, do something.

This has been a difficult time for all of us and I’m looking forward to more normal classes at the Clear Spring School in the fall. I’ve been trying to present lessons from a distance by using an email newsletter directed to parents and kids with projects that can be accomplished using the tools available in their own homes. I have found inspiration from what other teachers in my association have been doing with their kids. 

All woodworking teachers across the US have been facing the same challenge. Their schools have tools and their families may not. I’ve been particularly inspired by the advice of author Lloyd Kahn whose new book Half-Acre Homestead suggests, “Do what you can, where you are, with what you have.” That’s a good philosophy to have for these times. And when in doubt, do something.

I do not know whether or not my newsletters and take home projects have been useful to parents or kids. I do know they’ve been useful to me. They’ve given me something to do when so much else has been lost. What we do with our hands provides a sense of agency, and a sense of control. One symptom of depression is a feeling that things are no longer under our control. Doing something in service to your family or community, or even for yourself, can help to reclaim and maintain mental health.

There are blessings to be found in these circumstances. Caring for each other is an important way through which the wisdom of our hands is expressed. It’s human to become cross and irritable under difficult circumstances. It is even more human to help. It is even more human to care for each other and do for each other. And they say absence from each other makes our hearts grow fonder. That’s certainly the situation we face.

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

Monday, May 25, 2020

Bench dog holes

I'm building a small workbench from a leftover slab of maple and using dovetailed drawers taken from one of my earlier household projects that was decommissioned. This morning I began drilling dog holes in the top which will allow boards to be clamped in place using the vise.

To be assured the bench dog holes are absolutely vertical, I first drilled through a piece of 2 x 6 lumber using the drill press and I clamp that in place as my guide as I drill into the top of the bench. I plan the hole depth so I can clean up from the other side, rather than having chunks torn out on the underside.

Figuring out how to do such things is part of the fun of being in the shop and embarking on new projects. You'll notice that the new tail vise is already mounted. Drilling the dog holes in the vise had to be done before the positions of the holes in the top could be planned.

Like a blind man walking to work, I do not know what I'll encounter along the way, but trust that I can feel my way through. This technique may be useful to others.

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

Saturday, May 23, 2020


My newsletter, Number 10, Woodworking at home with kids  was sent out yesterday, as we finish our school year at the Clear Spring School.

I loaded my Building Small Cabinets DVD to my youtube channel:

I'm beginning preparations for a 3D design class for woodworkers to be presented online through the Eureka Springs School of the Arts. This will be my first online class and part of a series of classes presented online via Zoom due to the coronavirus pandemic and the dangers of disease transmission involved in gathering face to face. Due to it being online, you can enroll from anyplace in the world. The class will present information useful to all craft artists, with additional information specific to our favorite material, wood. Technical support will be offered for those new to Zoom.

The photo shows superheroes designed by my daughter Lucy and her fiancé Nick. Making superheroes is this week's project presented in newsletter number 10, with the materials provided to kids at the Clear Spring School.

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

Thursday, May 21, 2020

chisel in one hand, mallet in the other.

It appears we are hurtling through space at an ever fast pace, too often ignoring the people and things that most directly surround us. It is time to take stock. Slow down, adjust to a reasonable pace that leaves room for forests, wildlife, notice of the loveliness of the natural world, the morning sunrise, and as the sun sets.
"Things men have made with wakened hands, and put soft life into are awake through years with transferred touch, and go on glowing for long years.And for this reason, some old things are lovely warm still with the life of forgotten men who made them." -- D.H. Lawrence
But you must slow down to notice those things.

The hands, better than the eyes, bring important things more clearly into focus. Holding a chisel in one and a mallet in the other, provides the means to shape wood. It also provides the means to hold something even more dear... the creative spirit that inhabited the makers of the long generations that preceded our own.

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

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

3D design, online class

The Eureka Springs School of the Arts and I are offering a 3D Design Class for woodworkers and other craft artists on Saturday, June 13, 2020. Enrollment opened today. Use this link for additional details:

My online class is part of a series of classes to keep the school engaged during  the coronavirus pandemic.

The box shown in the photo is in the Norwegian Tine style and is  one I made from white oak.

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

Part three, Rustic Furniture Basics

I got permission from Taunton Press to put my other two DVDs on my youtube channel. Rustic Furniture Basics is live to view now.

Building Small Cabinets will premier on Thursday, May 21, 2020 at 5 PM Central time. Both DVDs were produced as companions to books by the same names.

Please invite your friends to join me in my wood shop. I thank Taunton Press and video production cameraman and editor Gary Junken, for helping me share my work.

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

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

reading to Rosie

My first copy of The Guide to Woodworking with Kids arrived today.

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

Sunday, May 17, 2020

Making a new workbench...

As personal therapy during the coronavirus pandemic, I'm turning a 3 in. thick slab of maple into a new workbench to replace a thrown-together bench from years ago. It's an upgrade. It will have wheels and drawers and a bench vise that I ordered yesterday. The already completed dovetailed drawers were salvaged from a project I'd done years ago.

I enlisted the help of houseguests in wrestling the huge slab of wood through the bandsaw to square off the ends and cut it to shape.

Woodworking at its best is a collegial, cooperative operation, in which we share what we do with friends and in which we ask their help when it's needed.

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

Saturday, May 16, 2020

making a toy horse

I've been reviewing some of my old youtube videos as I plan a half-hour presentation about woodworking for kids. This ten-year old video shows my students at work.

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

Friday, May 15, 2020

bench making for kids

In 2008, I presented a series of brief articles to the FineWoodworking website about woodworking with kids. One of the projects was making small benches for use at our preschool. It and others can be found there still. My article also presented the following rules:

 Rules for Grownups
1. Set an example of caring craftsmanship.
2. Supervise the kids, answer questions, and show them how to use tools safely.
3. Mill lumber to thickness, according to the cutlist. Make any preliminary cuts as specified in the instructions and make extra parts to allow for mistakes.
4. Leave project designs open for students to test their own ideas, create problems for themselves and find solutions. Encourage them to discover and test their own solutions.
5. Be a cheerleader for their best efforts.
6. Congratulate the kids on a job well done and be specific.

Rules for Kids
1.  Listen to what the grownups tell you. 
2.  Ask a lot of questions.
3.  Always use tools exactly as you’re told.
4. Have fun.
Rules for Working Safely
1.  No woodworking without adult supervision.
2.  No horsing around!
3. Use clamps or a bench vise to hold work for cutting, sanding, or drilling.
4. When using a saw, either hold it with both hands or put one hand behind your back.
Make, fix, create, and assist others in learning lifewise.