Friday, February 24, 2012

today in the wood shop...

Today I am working at home, applying Danish oil finish to wooden boxes, doing a sawdust firing of pottery crafted by CSS high school students, and recovering from a minor surgical procedure (no heavy lifting). I will be on Paul Preston's Ed Talk Radio for the 4th time on this Sunday, 2 PM Pacific, 4 PM Central or 10 PM GMT, and the subject will be the strategic implementation of the hands at the Clear Spring School.

In the long term, the strategic implementation of the hands in American schooling offers the potential of a revolution. The evidence is overwhelming, and overwhelmingly ignored. And so I have become an advocate for hands-on learning in homes and workshops as well as schools, knowing that those who are already engaged in crafts of some kind, already know the value of hands-on learning and will seek ways to bring these essential experiences to whatever children we can, particularly our own.

JD told last week of the powerful feelings that arose when he helped his grandchildren to make friendship boxes. The kids were proud of their work, and JD was excited to share his own love of woodworking with the younger generation. It was a win/win situation, and even the parents were thrilled. Now JD wonders how to bring more woodworkers into the fold. I welcome your thoughts.

I had proposed to Fine Woodworking Magazine that they do something similar to what Wooden Boat Magazine does... a pull-out removable collectable insert that would help parents and grandparents feel inspired and clearly recognize the need to share with new generations. It would have been a smart way to increase  FWW subscribers in the long term. They chose instead to do a website, Getting Started in Woodworking, which they then let founder. If you visit it now, you will find hardly a bit of content on the site.

We need a social movement that is not owned by a specific entity, that grows from within, that is motivated by the desire we all feel to share. One of my thoughts has been a web based club for woodworking with kids. Is that a notion that any of my readers would take interest in? Would others be willing to offer content and participate? The idea would not be to abandon the notion of woodworking in  schools, but rather to further enable it. Education in America has grown to the point at which we must take matters into our own hands.

Make, fix and create...


  1. Anonymous2:33 PM

    I think a web based club would be useful especially if the kids are allowed to contribute to the conversation.

    A list of recommended tools that work nicely in terms of fitting small hands, short arms and not so strong muscles is important. Having the right sized tools makes learning much easier for the kids.

    One thing I hear over and over from the adults I work with who want to learn woodworking is that they don't know how to figure out how to make workshop jigs and other shop aids. I teach these essential skills as an integral part of the lessons when I work with the 3rd graders I am involved with teaching woodworking to. I feel it is much like learning a any kind of language at an early age, that is the time it comes easiest.

    There should also be some emphasis of the artist aesthetics of woodworking. Such as asking the child how does that piece make you feel? Do you enjoy looking at it, do you like the way a line curves or the balance and rhythm of the parts and the way they go together? Do you like the grain of the wood and the texture of the surfaces? What would you want to change if you made the project again?

    When I was 6 years old we had formal art lessons. We would be using tempera paints and learning about colors right along with looking at the paintings of the great masters. Is anyone showing young children who are learning woodworking outstanding examples of the best craftsmanship of the ages? That would be a fantastic feature once a month or so to put on a website for the kids, teach them the historic heritage of the craft, not just the techniques.

  2. Those are very good suggestions. Thanks. One of the things I need to do is check with my connections who are publishers, manufacturers and suppliers to see if they would be interested in sponsoring a club of this type. I hope other readers will also chime in with ideas.

  3. Doug,
    I like the idea.

    I'm not quite sure what you are picturing. Off the cuff, I suppose it could take the form of a picture gallery, facebook page, forum, blog, directory, magazine or ezine, a course, an email list, a youtube channel, or any number of other formats.

    Perhaps this would be an appropriate topic for a magazine.

    Of course, there is also the question of whether it would be mainly parental involvement in the "club" or children participating.

    This is an idea I will keep thinking about and would love to talk about.

    My wife is expecting a baby in the next few days, so please don't be offended if I miss some of your posts over the next week or two.

    Luke Townsley