Thursday, November 01, 2012


The video of High Tech High and was suggested by a reader who said, "I wish I could go back to middle school." Watch it, it's worth it. Pay attention to the integration of the arts, science and math. The video is better to watch through this link.

I had a busy day in the shop yesterday and will repeat the experience today with my trusted helper. We started making 500 boxes. Some narrow minded pinheads watching from a place of detachment would think going through these motions, making cut after cut would be an exercise in mindlessness. However, nothing could be further from the truth.

Because these boxes are made of real wood, each piece requires careful assessment as to suitability of size, wood grain, color and possible defects. No cut is made without careful examination of the stock and reflection on its best use. The hand, eye and mind working together make these simple, well practiced assessments quickly, so no lengthy deliberation is required. The speed at which these assessments are made might lead some inexperienced nincompoop  to assume the process mindless. Working with the characteristics of real wood, it is anything but.

As I was cutting mitered corners, each piece again required close scrutiny. First, I had to observe each piece as to which end to begin my cuts. Checks and cracks needed to be avoided. I used the same technique to obtain a 3 corner match that I've demonstrated in my books, classes and articles on box making. The description of what goes through my mind as I make each set of cuts would take paragraphs, and yet with my hands and mind working together, the process goes quickly, allowing me to cut the corners of a box in what would appear to be a flash.

But the mindfulness is not just in the process itself. It took years of reflection on processes to get to this point. It took years of careful observation and training to integrate my hands, eyes and mind in making boxes. It also requires hands trained in the manipulation of parts... sensitivity as well as motor capacity.

And so, while we have been trained to see mindfulness in some things and not others, to see a man at work in a thing as simple as the making of a box is to see mind at work. In fact, the deliberate motions of the hands illustrate the workings of mind, even though some in the academic world, unskilled in the making of things might fail to see it.

So today is more of the same. There is a richness of mind that comes from close scrutiny of physical reality in the making of real things. Research by Ellen Langer proves that mindfulness is essential to a long and meaningful life. And there is no better path to mindfulness than that offered by the hands. In her interview on Talk of the Nation, Ellen Langer was asked about the apparent mindlessness in the performance of music. She laughed at the foolishness of such notions.

As you can see in the photo at left, the small wooden things I showed in yesterday's post are door stops. The pins protruding are used just as are dowel centers and will mark the location for matching holes to be drilled in the doors, so that rare earth magnets can be glued in place to hold the doors closed.

Make, fix and create...


  1. As woodworkers, chefs, musicians and those kids in the video have shown, practice makes better. And the connection between the hands and the mind become less obvious to an observer.


  2. OK, that was a nice use. But it must be a rather big door, if it requires two of these.