Saturday, May 23, 2009

tip of the month, make your own

New York Times readers looking for the source of my quote in Matthew Crawford's article, The Case for Working With Your Hands can find it here on October 16, 2006.

In the meantime, Woodworkers who use Danish oil finishes are left with the nagging problem, "How do I get this stuff off my hands?" Over the years I've tried a number of hand cleaners with some minor success. Now I've stumbled upon the miracle cleaner, one that it seems I will never need to buy at the store, and as long as I'm working with wood, will never run out of. Sawdust! I put a quart or two in the bottom of a small plastic trash bin and use it to scrub just like I would have done with soap and water. It is extremely effective, even removing the smell. After scrubbing thoroughly in sawdust, wash your hands as usual with soap and water. I am sure you will be amazed.

My students at Clear Spring School fussed about getting oil on their hands as they finished up end of the year projects last week. After discovering the effectiveness of sawdust at removing the oil from their hands, there were no further complaints and no hesitancy to get back at work on a second coat. I regard this simple thing as a major discovery.

I would also like to welcome readers who have found their way here from the New York Times article by Matthew B. Crawford, The Case for Working With Your Hands. What you will find here are over three years of blog posts conveying insight on education, the role of the hands in learning, educational sloyd which set the benchmark for hands-on education, and documentation of my 8 years of teaching in my Wisdom of the Hands program at Clear Spring School. We all know that we learn best when our hands are engaged, but how do we do that effectively in schools?

The mission statement at Clear Spring School explains it:
Together, all at Clear Spring School promote a lifelong love of learning through a hands-on and hearts-engaged educational environment.
We are a model program demonstrating education as it must be if we are to be truly effective for the 21st century.


  1. tico vogt8:24 AM

    It's probably best not to get any danish oil on your skin to begin with. It is not free of toxins. From years of using such finishes my system has become ultra-sensitized, and now I need gloves to handle them. Even then, the type of glove is important. This winter I used some protective finishing gloves I picked up at Lowe's which resulted in my hands turning quite red.
    The oil finish that I use is Tried and True, a pure, non-toxic linseed oil that I'm sure you're familiar with. It's application and removal take some skill, care, and plenty of time. Applied with a foam brush to drag the oil in very thin coats that barely cover the wood, moving it back and forth to get everything covered, and then removed in a series of polishing, wiping motions, and then carefully watching the surface for awhile to check that it is all gone. It smells good, is safe, and the sheen it imparts is wonderful.

  2. I have to second what Tico says. Take your own risks if you must, but don't expose others who are trusting you, be they students or employees, to keep a safe workplace.

  3. It is extremely difficult to apply an oil finish to small items while wearing gloves and it is difficult to apply and rub out without getting some on your hands. The purpose of my post wasn't to encourage prolonged exposure to oil finishes, but to minimize the exposure by getting them off the hands easily and without using other solvents. Is that a problem?

    I have heard of Tried and True and will give it a try.