Thursday, October 31, 2013

Today in the wood shop...

I have been working toward this point for days, getting products ready to assemble and sand so that holiday orders can be filled. I navigate between days at school and time in my own shop, sometimes doing a bit of time in each. The following is from the Paradise of Childhood, Quarter Century Edition, 1907 published by Milton Bradley:
"Free invention, creating, is the culminating point of mental independence. We lead the child to this eminence by degrees. Sometimes accident has led to invention and production of the new, but Froebel has provided a systematically graded method by which infancy may at once start upon the road to this eminent aim of inventing.

If the full consciousness, the clear conception of its aim is at first wanting, it is prepared by every step onward. The objects present and the material employed, afford the child, under the guidance of a mature mind, the alphabet of art, as well as that of knowledge, and it is worth while there to remark that history shows that art comes before science in all human development." (emphasis mine)
Testing of children has revealed a rapid decline in measurable creativity commencing their first days of school.

It seems that teachers and schools prefer quiet, measurably intelligent kids, to creative and potentially disruptive ones, and that the system is designed to advance one kind of child and squelch the other.

As we watch our decline from the smartest toward among the dumbest of all nations, we can point to our schools as the reason why. But can you imagine a system of education that fosters children's creativity, that recognizes that their meaningful introduction to science must be derived from the arts, and that children are at their best when they are inventing? Friedrich Froebel did that. With his guidance we too, can imagine schooling in which the hands are at the center of learning and children become instruments in the creation of useful beauty.

Alfie Kohn posted a dozen essential guidelines for educators that go along the lines of what you read here.

Make, fix and create...

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

purposeful awakening of beauty...

In the mid to late 1800's Kindergartens in America spread like fire, in part because of enthusiasts like Milton Bradley. He turned his manufacturing experience toward the making of Froebel's gifts. That in itself was a major endeavor. There were 20 of them. To put the use of color into children's hands, he manufactured crayons in competition with Binney and Smith. He also published the "Paradise of Childhood", a book that explained in detail how the gifts were to be used as "occupations". Those who read here on a regular basis, may remember how Educational Sloyd training used models (objects of useful beauty  made by students) and exercises (tool methods that enabled the child to make the models.) The similarity between Kindergarten and Educational Sloyd (derived from Kindergarten) was the relationship between the concrete form and the abstract activity that is derived from it (in the case of kindergarten) or enables it (in the case of Educational Sloyd).

Both Kindergarten and Educational Sloyd were very much concerned with utilizing the child' innate inclinations to discover beauty in their surroundings and to make it in service of others. In fact, modern day kindergartens in which children are being pushed to read, have nothing in common with the original Kindergartens, just as in most cases school wood shops as they evolved fell far short of the Educational Sloyd ideals. The following is from the Paradise of Childhood, Quarter Century Edition.
"Nothing is plainer to the careful observer of the child's nature than the desire of the little mind to observe and imbibe all its surroundings with all its senses simultaneously. It wishes to see, to hear, to feel, all beautiful, joyful, and pleasant things, and then strives to reproduce them as far as its limited faculties will admit. To receive and give back, is life, life is what the child desires, what it should be led to accomplish with a view to its own development. Eyes and ears seek the beautiful, the sense of taste and smell enjoy the agreeable, and the impression which this beautiful and agreeable make upon the child's mind calls forth in the child's innermost soul, the desire, nay, the necessity of production, representation, or formation. If we should neglect providing he means to gratify such desire, a full development of the heart of the individual, a higher taste for the ideal in it, never could be the result."
While modern day kindergartens are reduced to a single year, and have now become concerned with getting a leg up on reading rather than play, the original Kindergarten was proposed to last 3 or 4 years in the life of the child, and was concerned much more with the cultivation of a sense of beauty, harmonious relationship and craftsmanship rather than with just reading and math. Can you imagine schools in which the creation of beauty and the awakening of the child's sense of it came first? Can you imagine the culture that would arise form such schools?

Make, fix and create...

Monday, October 28, 2013


I've been named to present the Fiske Memorial Lecture this year with the Northeast Woodworkers Association, as described in their November newsletter.Thursday, November 14, 2013 7PM, Clifton Park Senior Center, Vischer Ferry Road, Clifton Park, NY In addition I'll present two days of box making class on November 15-16.
"Doug Stowe has been selected as the 2013 recipient of the Fiske Award and will be honored at the November general meeting. He will be the 18th to receive the award. Among previous awardees are Silas Kopf, Phil Lowe, Teri Masaschi, Ernie Conover, Hank Gilpin and Garrett Hack."
The Fiske Memorial Lecture is named in honor of Milan Fiske, one of the eight founding members of the Northeast Woodworking Association (NWA). The public is invited.

I have been reading The Paradise of Childhood, 25th anniversary edition published and edited by Milton Bradley in 1907. I found it as an old book to supplement the electronic version I downloaded from Google Books. It's an ex-library copy from the Philadelphia Normal School for Girls and has the smell that arises from old books that have rested on the shelf too long with their words ignored. And it has evidence left by other eager readers from over 100 years ago.

In a brief section on kindergarten culture it offers this Latin explanation "Nihil est in intellectu, quod non antea fuerit in sensu", "Nothing is in the understanding that was not earlier in the senses." ... That's why children need to be doing real things in school (art, music, wood shop, laboratory science and more) in addition to reading, writing, and math.
Definite ideas are to originate as abstractions from perceptions... If they do not originate in such manner they are not the product of one's own mental activity, but simply the consent of the understanding to the ideas of others. By far the greatest part of all acquired knowledge with the mass of the people, is of this kind. Every one, however, even the least gifted, may acquire a stock of fundamental perceptions, which shall serve as points of relation in the process of thinking. Indefinite or confused fundamental or elementary perceptions prevent understanding words with precision, which is necessary to reflecting on the ideas and thoughts of others with clearness, and appropriating them to one's self. In the fact that a large majority of persons are lacking in clear and distinct fundamental perceptions, we find cause of the existence of so many confused heads, full of the most absurd notions.
In German, there are two forms of knowledge Wissenschaft and Kenntnis with one being from instruction (language based from lecture or from books) and the other from actual experiences through which all the senses would be engaged. The Kindergarten method was to create a set of shared experiences as the foundation for subsequent knowledge, based on the assumption that we learn best, most thoroughly, and to greatest lasting effect, when we learn through our own active engagement in learning. In other words, Hands-on.

Make, fix and create...

Japanese handsaws...

Years ago when I got my first dozuki saw, I was thrilled with the quality of its cut. I was also somewhat dismayed that its teeth were fragile. After a time, it was missing a few teeth in important places, and I had read that a Japanese carpenter could take the saw down to a flat blade and start over with the filing and setting of new teeth. Not having a clue as to the high level of expertise required, I tried it with files that I ordered from a mail order tool company. I did a hack job of it. Besides, as I learned later, the Japanese hand saws supplied to the American woodworking market were hardened steel and not suitable for resharpening in the first place.  That explained why so many teeth had broken off during its use.

Douglas Brooks wrote an excellent article in the last issue of Wooden Boat (234) that goes deeply into the subject of Japanese hand saws, some of which are specially designed for the making of wooden boats. He explains that a high quality Japanese saw made with softer steel that can be resharpened and reset may sell for $500.00 or more. Needless to say, the saws we use at Clear Spring School and the dozuki saws in my shop are not of that quality.

In any case, Brooks' article is a must read for anyone fascinated as I am about the use of tools of any kind.

Today in the Clear Spring School wood shop our upper elementary school students will be working on wooden habitat for their new gerbils. The high school students will be working on their cahones.

Make, fix and create...

Sunday, October 27, 2013

even on your worst day...

A simple plexiglass cover over the router bit allows me to safely and accurately fit pieces of spalted wood inlay into grooves cut to exact size. Note the impossibility of getting my fingers into the router bit. By making things safe, I can keep doing this into my 90s.

One of the complications of craftsmanship is that it takes a sense of ever increasing expertise to engage the flow of nuerohormones that result in feelings of ecstasy. We are led to engage in ambitious projects and risky projects by personal egotism, the desire for recognition and by the intensity of our engagement when we are doing difficult and challenging things.

On the other hand, it makes plain sense to plan some of your work so that it can be done successfully and safely, even on your worst day. The pleasure you can find in simple work will bring balance to your life, and if you have simple work to do your wood shop will become a place that will call to you and welcome you even when the outside world seems to be at odds with your spirit, and even when more complex projects aren't working out so well.

I spent the day yesterday in my shop inlaying box lids, pencil cups and business card holders, and have more to do today. These small products are not my most glorious endeavor. They are not difficult to make because I've refined my techniques through years of their making.  I can walk to the shop and spend hours doing what I am doing today, and as the work passes through my hands, I can find a sense of inner piece.

Years ago when I began making inlaid wooden boxes, I realized that I would be doing what I was doing until the end of my days. That's partly a matter of choice, in that I like what I do, and partly a matter of circumstance in that there are no guaranteed retirement plans for self-employed craftsmen. But the skills and understanding of technique in the application of mind and hand to material in the making of beautiful and useful things offers service to the spirit as well as to the bank account. And making of small things has become easy enough for me that I plan to do it when more ambitious projects are out of my reach.

In the meantime, we are waiting for the Administrative Law Judge to make her decision on the AEP/SWEPCO EHV power line through Eureka Springs application. Utility companies are now facing what some have called "The Death Spiral" in which their high prices are no longer competitive with the developing solar industry and folks begin leaving the grid in droves. AEP is currently the world's largest commercial producer of greenhouse gasses, and they way they've treated my community, the death spiral seems appropriate. When it comes to the death spiral, they've earned it.

Make, fix and create...

Saturday, October 26, 2013

3rd place...

My gallery talk at the Zarrow Center, students from JBU
I received the 3rd place award for best hat at the Mad Hatter's Ball last night in Eureka Springs. The Mad Hatter's Ball is an annual fundraiser for the Eureka Springs School of the Arts. My daughter Lucy designed my hat to be a protest against AEP/SWEPCO's invasion of our small community. I think I got votes of sympathy for our cause. No one wants them to do what they want to do to us.

Yesterday I drove to Tulsa to give my gallery talk at the Zarrow Art Center. It would have been poorly attended but for a group of students from John Brown University who were in the neighborhood at the time and walked in off the street. The students were taking a class called "the arts for non-artists."

It is interesting to me  that the arts are considered by most to be something separate from their own lives. In schools the arts are considered separate from academic disciplines... as though the arts are in some way disconnected from math, science, psychology, sociology, and all else. What utter nonsense that is. All students should be deeply engaged in the arts.

It was said that in Bali they have no arts, they do everything as well as they can. Here we have arts, because there is a tendency to do things to the point of sufficiency, rather than to a point of excellence. I find examples of this everywhere I look. In the AEP/SWEPCO Environmental Impact Statement, they tried to offer the minimal amount of information to get by and squeeze their proposal through the regulatory process. In the judge's order she asked whether the EIS was "sufficient to meet the requirements of Arkansas State Law." And if you read the Arkansas State Law, you'll find as I did that it's sufficient only enough to provide lawyers an opportunity to argue both sides in court.

Testing and standardized testing in schools creates an environment in which getting by is OK. The arts and craftsmanship engage students in pursuits in which there are no limits to possible growth. Without the arts, we dwell in persistent mediocrity.

An art teacher friend of mine had noted that his time with his kids was but a pinpoint in time. What could he possibly accomplish in that pinpoint in time? But a child's engagement in craftsmanship and participation in the arts can inspire work and shape attitudes and relationships for a lifetime.

Pass the saw between and edges will be cut to fit tight.
Today in the wood shop, I'm working on boxes to fill gallery orders before the holiday season. I am behind as usual. And I always keep discovering new ways to improve the accuracy of my work. For instance, I now fit inlay by laying two parts on the table saw sled and pass the blade between. This innovation was brought to mind by a Japanese boat building technique called suriawase in which a saw is passed between two boards to bring them into perfect alignment.

Make, fix and create....

Friday, October 25, 2013

Bauen Kleine Schränke...

Publication rights to my most recent book, Building Small Cabinets, have been sold to Holtzwerken for translation and publication in German. It may be a while before it comes out, and I don't know for certain what the title will be... perhaps "Bauen Kleine Schränke," but I'll have to wait months to learn for sure.

This is the second of my books to be printed by Holtzwerken in German. The first was Kästen & Schachteln, perfekt konstruieren und bauen.

Today I'll be traveling to Tulsa to do a gallery talk on my work and that of Steve Miller, Robyn Horn and John Horn. The talk will focus on the interpersonal connections that influence the creative lives of artists and will attempt to address the full range of intellectual tools available to us as we make beautiful, useful and meaningful things.

Make, fix and create...

Thursday, October 24, 2013


I'll be in the Zarrow Gallery, University of Tulsa for a gallery talk at 12 Noon, tomorrow, October 25. It's free and the public is invited. I will be discussing the work of sculptor, Robyn Horn, printers, Steve Miller and John Horn, and my own work, as well as the creative interconnections and collaborations between artists. RSVP, Cindy Williams  918-631-4402 or

  1. Not clearly expressed; inexplicit.
  2. Not thinking or expressing oneself clearly.
  3. Lacking definite shape, form, or character; indistinct: saw a vague outline of a building through the fog.
  4. Not clear in meaning or application. See Synonyms at ambiguous.
  5. Indistinctly felt, perceived, understood, or recalled; hazy: a vague uneasiness.
In a school culture of routine testing and particularly one in which standardized testing is allowed to be determinant in all things, 80% right is OK. Ninety percent is better, and almost completely right (like 98%) gives a student marks that propel him or her toward a glorious destiny in the halls of academic success. Students taking standardized tests are encouraged to guess the answers if they don't know them. The purpose is simply to advance one child over another and sort them out for college and careers... rather than to prepare them for engagement in the discovery of and adherence to truth. Verisimilitude is the name of the game. Stephen Colbert calls it truthiness. It looks like truth and it's close enough to fool the common folk. Keeping common folk fooled may be a hidden agenda in American education.

In box making, there are no right or wrong answers, but still truth can be found. How to hinge lids without relying on store bought ones is a question that a middle school teacher asked in this morning's email.

There are lots of hard ways to install hinges that are easier if you are a skilled woodworker. Pin hinges is one method that comes to mind. Pin hinges with the pins drilled in from the sides of the box into the  lid require very precise set-ups on the drill press or horizontal borer, and require precision in the cutting of parts. Let them go there when they've shown a great interest and have developed skill. What I've suggested is the simple pivot lid as shown in the sketchup illustration above. The pins for attaching the lid are available from Lee Valley. The idea here is to go from the simple to the complex, from the easy to more difficult, and from the concrete to the abstract... principles of Educational Sloyd. My students assemble this box with nails.

Today in my wood shop, I am making some of my standard boxes to fill gallery orders prior to the holiday season.

Make, fix and create...

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

The Paradise of Childhood...

As I've mentioned before, manual arts training was seen by early educators as a way to extend Froebel's teaching methods throughout the child's school experience. Why should the very best of education be limited to one's first year in school? And then why, after such a great introduction, should the rest of a child's school life be a torturous experience? Anyone wondering what those teaching methods were would benefit from the book that Milton Bradley published as a 25th anniversary edition of The Paradise of Childhood.

Originally, Bradley had been a small manufacturer of board games, and when he met Edward Wiebé, he was not all that impressed by the book that Wiebé wanted him to publish. Then he met another early advocate of kindergarten who impressed him thoroughly, and led him to reconsider. He published Wiebé's The Paradise of Childhood, and began making the various gifts used in the kindergarten teaching method. The 25th anniversary edition includes a huge amount of information as to how the method is used.

Children should be as thoroughly versed in human creative methodologies as they are in reading and math. Children educated in their own creativity represent our human species species at a new level.

The book is rich in visual images in explanation of Froebel's gifts, and also in human understanding as follows:
"The fantasy of the child is inexhaustibly rich in inventing new forms. It creates gardens, yards, stables with horses and cattle, household furniture of all kinds, beds with sleeping brothers and sisters in them, tables, chairs, sofas, etc., etc. If several children combine their individual building they produce large structures, perfect barnyards with all outbuildings in them, nay, whole villages and towns. The idea that in union there is strength, and that by co-operation great things may be accomplished, will thus early become manifest to the young mind."
Today in the school wood shop, my first, second and third grade students will continue working on independent projects and my middle school students will continue making book rests using hand tools.If one were to wonder what Froebel had in mind, you would find some of it in the CSS woodshop.

Make, fix and create...

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Milton Bradley...

Most Americans will know the name Milton Bradley as being the original manufacturer of such games as Candyland, Operation, and Battleship. The man, Milton Bradley was also an early American advocate of Kindergartens, published books about Friedrich Froebel, and used his manufacturing capacity to make and market Froebel's gifts.

In 1890, he wrote the following about manual arts education.
"Teach the pupils to make things themselves; things which will be useful and which will be sold to admiring friends;' say the ardent advocates of this new application of an old idea.

"These people, however, although they include a good may educators of note, labor under a serious misapprehension regarding the end of manual training as it is understood by the thoughtful promoters of the so-called new Education. Indeed, it can be safely said that manual training is everywhere suffering form the almost universal misconception on the part of the p public that its end and aim is the teaching of trades, that it robs the pupil of certain hours which would otherwise be give to the common or higher branches for the sake of teaching him to 'make things' which are supposed to belong solely to the carpenter's or blacksmith's shop. But manual training proper, considered in its educational relations, must be at once and for all time separated from the idea of immediate financial, or money getting results. In other words, manual training in the public schools must be kept clear and distinct from trades schools or the teaching of trades.

"The mental education which we undertake to give our children at public cost is supposed to be equally valuable to the pupil whether he becomes a business man, manufacturer, lawyer, clergyman, physician or teacher. On the same principle the manual training which we are seeking to incorporate as a part of our public-school system is intended to benefit alike the future carpenter, machinist, blacksmith, manufacturer or general mechanical engineer; nay more, it is expected to help the boys who are to follow commercial or literary vocations just as much in rounding out their education and equipping them for life as it does the other class. For we can never 'send the whole boy to school' till we give those who are destined for the mechanical class of the world's workers a fair mental training, and also impart to those who are to make up the professional class the fundamental ideas of hand culture."

Today I've been working my way through edited chapters of my new book and beginning to write needed sidebar material. It is not as much fun as sawing and making things, but it ill help others to do so. At noon on Friday, October 25,  I will give a gallery talk at the Zarrow Art Center in Tulsa, on the show of my work that will be closing on Saturday. Please join me if you are in the Tulsa area, and bring a brown bag lunch.

On the SWEPCO front, I got an email from a company I've bought hinges from since 1978. They now have enough solar cells to run their meter backwards while manufacturing is in full swing. AEP/SWEPCO has made a mess of their own customer relations, and we hope they go to hell in a handbasket. It's what they deserve, and as they are rapidly proving themselves to be against our best interests, we can get along without them. If Craft, Inc. can go solar in Massachusetts, we can go them one better in sunny Arkansas.

Make , fix and create...

Monday, October 21, 2013


In designing an education based on an understanding of the child... Robert Keable Row suggested that the child's impulses be considered...
"the impulses to activity, the impulse to get sense stimulations, the impulse to motor activity, to play, to imitate, to construct or to make things, to experiment or see what things will do in different conditions, the social impulse, the aesthetic impulse, the ownership impulse. ...the impulse to think and to work. ...These are all united in the general impulse to activity, with a view to solving problems, satisfying needs, attaining desired controls."
He notes that all of these find expression through the manual arts.

One of the things I enjoy most in the school wood shop, or my own, is making tools that are useful in my teaching and in my work. these are simple wedge type marking gauges. They are easy to make.

Today in the wood shop at Clear Spring School will be making things from their own imaginations and my high school students will be working on their cahones.

Make, fix and create...

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Manual arts and small children...

From Robert Keable Row, The Educational Meaning of Manual Arts and Industries, 1909...
"Because the sensory and motor impulses are usually strong in young children they present a condition that must be met. Generally the children will strive very hard to find some way of expressing these dominant impulses. If the school does not provide for their expression so much the worse for the school; it has a problem in repression. If it succeeds in repression, so much the worse for the children, It is true that, under the right conditions, many kinds of children's games do much for the development of motor control, but it must be remembered that play has its limitations. Play alone can never express the impulse to make, to decorate, to own, to design and plan, to produce something of value. For expression and development along these lines the young child needs much regular training in various forms of manual arts."
If we fail to take advantage of children's natural inclinations toward industry, or are in fact successful at suppressing or diverting their natural inclinations, what kind of world will we have made for them?

Today I will work on edited materials for my new book, ans spend some time at school preparing for Monday's classes.

Make, fix and create...

Saturday, October 19, 2013

by Scripture and Bennett...

The following is from Edward W. Scripture from "Manual Training and Development," Manual Training Magazine, October 1899.
"1. Manual training develops the intellectual side of the mind as nothing else can. 2. Manual training develops character as nothing else can. 3. Manual training furnishes the pupil with real knowledge; it teaches him something. The laboratory method -- the method of learning by doing -- is after all the only method of learning anything, whether it be drawing, or Greek, or chemistry or mathematics. The attempt to commit facts to memory by reading books is hopeless. What is memorized in this way fades in a short time, leaving little or no trace."
From Charles A. Bennett's article, "The Development of Appreciation," Manual Training Magazine, January 1907.
"Two of the direct results of art instruction and manual training, are first, power to do and second, ability to appreciate what is done by others."
One of the assumptions is that children (and adults) can be taught to appreciate art by looking at it, but the greatest appreciation comes from having made the attempt to accomplish real works of useful beauty.

Joseph Park noted:
"The importance of industrial work as a subject which helps to give definite ideas of the value of toil and the real worth of things that are made by the sweat of the brow cannot be overestimated. The rich boy works along with the poor boy, each endeavoring to produce something which will express tangible results. Manual training work to be valuable must be strenuous. Boys must be made to plane and saw and sweat. They must produce shaving that have the artistic curl of the craftsman, not meaningless chips. Shopwork should give ability to plan and execute work according to good technique."
Make, fix and create...

morbid thinkers and miserable workers...

From Educational Woodworking for Home and School, by Joseph C. Park, 1909
"We are always in these days endeavoring to separate intellect and manual labor; we want one man to be always thinking, and another to be always working, and we call one a gentleman, and the other an operative; whereas the workman ought often to be thinking, and the thinker often to be working, and both should be gentlemen in the best sense. As it is, we make both ungentle, the one envying, the other despising, his brother; and the mass of society is made up of morbid thinkers and miserable workers. -- John Ruskin"
Following the rise of manual arts training, it underwent years of decline to reach this day. The attitude of the society described by Ruskin crept into schools. Manual arts classes became the dumping ground for kids who were not planning to go to college, whereas they should have been the fertile ground for intellectual development and moral engagement for all kids. Manual arts teachers found their place in rescuing potential drop outs, while the true purpose of manual arts training was brushed aside for the sake of expedience and economy. Why train students in the finer things if they were to become tradesmen? Why train college bound students in the practical arts if they were destined to greater things? And so the public schools became a place in which the absurd standards of an unjust society as described by Ruskin were coldly and purposefully thrust into future generations.

At this point, I just want to remind readers that manual arts training, whether at home or in school, has a noble purpose that schools and our society have forgotten.
"The most colossal improvement which recent years have seen in secondary education lies in the introduction of manual training schools; not because they will give us a people more handy and practical for domestic life and better skilled in trades, but because they will give us citizens with an entirely different intellectual fiber.

"Laboratory work and shop work engender a habit of observation. They confer precision; because, if you are doing a thing, you must do it definitely right or definitely wrong. They give honesty; for, when you express yourself by making things, and not by using words, it becomes impossible to dissimulate your vagueness or ignorance by ambiguity. They beget a habit of self-reliance, they keep the interest and attention always cheerfully engaged, and reduce the teacher's disciplinary functions to a minimum" -- William James
Make, fix and create...

Friday, October 18, 2013

every seven years...

Every seven years, Clear Spring School goes through our accreditation review, and this is the year we will have a visiting team come from ISACS to go through every thing with a fine toothed comb. The team will come form other independent schools. There is an incredible value in this process. Before they arrive we have to look closely at what we do, and make certain that everything we do aligns with the mission of the school.

I have been looking at what I do, and attempting to write a report on it, that will be short, succinct, accurate and readily understood by educators who are well equipped to walk into a room and assess what's happening from an educational standpoint.

This morning I'm thinking about craftsmanship. David Henry Feldman, PhD. had written a lovely treatise, "The Child as Craftsman." in 1976. It explores the natural inclination all children have to excel to the best of their ability in something. Feldman had made a study of "gifted and talented" children, but the inclination toward craftsmanship is much more of a universal principle in child development. Offering children the opportunity to discover how craftsmanship is constructed, and that it is constructed piece by piece through thorough repetition, gradual effort toward refinement is one of the many things that children learn in the Clear Spring School wood shop. Once discovered the values of craftsmanship can be applied to anything.

In the wood shop, I'm ready to apply Danish oil to box towers, sanded as shown.

On the power line front, we are winning thanks to friends like Faith and Michael.

Make, fix and create...

Thursday, October 17, 2013

today, again, as yesterday...

I expect to be stuck at my desk for most of the day, as I write the text and captions for another chapter. I did one yesterday and plan to do one more today with this one being the last in the book.

Writing step-by-step is vastly different from the writing in which you just make stuff up. Parts of things actually do have to fit without suspension of disbelief. Readers have to be able to take what I've written and apply it in their own lives and in their own workshops. And so while it may not be necessary to trust the author of fiction, there is real trust involved in how-to writing.

We've all read fiction that leads us to a point of disbelief, and some authors do a good job of engaging us in fantasy and imagination, carrying us beyond credibility.  How-to writers engage readers in creative imagination, not fantasy, and the real object is not to engage readers in what will never be, but in what can be, and in what we each can be and do, as the makers of real, beautiful and useful things.

There is nothing fictional about the hands and no fiction in what I've told you about them. The use of the hands in the crafting of beautiful and useful objects is the foundation of human intelligence and human culture. You can take my word for it, or do something to test these principles by taking matters into your own hands.

You may wonder how to get started and to change your modus operandi from that of consumer to maker. It is actually easy.

American Workshop near Minneapolis is planning a "honey-do weekend" in which aspiring wood workers can bring project ideas and get professional help in bringing their plans to fulfillment. October 24 is the planning day, and then October 25-27 are available to get you started (and maybe finished if your creative notions are not too difficult or complex).

Make, fix and create...

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

this morning...

This morning I'm going through photos and writing captions and chapter text for the last but not least chapters of my new book on box making. Did you know that box making is more fun than writing about it? I can just walk into the shop and get busy, an it beats sitting at a desk. The project I'm working on remembers for me right where I left off, even if I've been pulled out of the shop for up to a week or longer.

I've been noticing that when my kids at school are working on a project of their own design, they simply walk into class and pick up where they left off. That is a marvel, as I know that many teachers have to ride their kids to get much done. Often when the project is my idea, I have to work a bit harder to get kids in motion at the beginning of class.

A reader sent me a link to this play set, with the suggestion it might be good for a child or grandchild to see what school wood shop might be like. For $15.00, I would prefer that you buy your child or grandchild some real tools, and spend some time working with them instead of wasting their time and your money.

Make, fix and create...

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

how would you interpret this text?...

This was described as a "motorcycle."
Wednesday will be another big day in the struggle to keep AEP/SWEPCO from foisting an extra high voltage power line through a most beautiful part of the Arkansas Ozark Mountains. Some might not think one more power line to be any big deal. This one is. The poles would be over twice the height of our tallest oaks, and the right of way would equal the width of a twelve lane highway, crashing right through our woods.

A first grade vehicle can be imaginative!
On Wednesday lawyers will submit their reply briefs... one more step in a protracted process that is only protracted in this case because for one of the first times in Arkansas history, a small group of citizens has taken on the major corporation AEP/SWEPCO and said no. According to Arkansas code:
(b) The commission shall not grant a certificate for the location, financing, construction, operation, and maintenance of a major utility facility, either as proposed or as modified by the commission, unless it finds and determines:

(4) That the major utility facility represents an acceptable adverse environmental impact, considering the state of available technology, the requirements of the customers of the applicant for utility service, the nature and economics of the proposal, any state or federal permit for the environmental impact, and the various alternatives, if any, and other pertinent considerations;(emphasis mine)
Text like that is why the lawyers make the big bucks. One side can interpret it one way and the other the other. The crucial point is whether or not this text requires an applicant for a major power line to get permits from various state and federal agencies before applying to the Arkansas Public Service Commission, or whether they can wait until after permission from the APSC is granted. My own reading is related to the second "and." Granted, it is confusing text. But where there is a string of concerns followed by "and" and then followed by another and, it must be assumed that the first "and" refers to the immediately preceding text and that the second "and" is in conclusion to the whole string. Anyone willing to disagree with me?

Lawyers from SWEPCO insist that they are not required to get permits from the US Army Corp of Engineers for a river crossing under the Clean Water Act and other federal regulations until after they've narrowed down and gotten APSC approval for the finally determined route. They claim it would be unreasonable for the APSC to demand that they get permits until the final route has been approved. The law, however, seems to suggest "any" alternative proposed to the APSC must be accompanied by necessary permits... In fact, how can the APSC make its decision without them? And if necessary permits are not required in advance, and need only be obtained when a final route is selected, why does it require permits for any "alternatives?" One of the things I hope the APSC will take into consideration is the huge hardship imposed by utility companies on the local communities their projects affect. To put us through such duress without the power company having first obtained necessary permits from federal agencies is an injustice.

Interestingly, early advocates of manual training made the point that it was necessary to lead kids to reading, and that they be encouraged to read at a deeper level. Manual arts training was thought to do that. First it offered something the students would be interested in, and secondly, it demanded precision in reading. If you cannot read simple step-by-step text offered for the making of a beautiful and useful object, how good would you be at reading, understanding or writing state law? Don't we wish the legislators and attorneys that wrote the state law, had attended shop classes and knew that if you to compose text that would be relied upon by others, it should be sawn to a straight line ?

I will be relieved when AEP/SWEPCO has been sent packing, and we can get back to normal life in the wood shop. Photos of first grade student work is shown above.

Make, fix and create...

Monday, October 14, 2013

Lars Eriksson

A reader recently asked me if I had more information on Lars Eriksson, who was the first to introduce educational Sloyd in America. I found his obituary in Manual Training Magazine, volume 22.

 Today in the CSS wood shop, students worked on independent projects. They love creating from their own imaginations and to meet their own needs and desires. These days, few children get that kind of chance. My high school students continued work on their cahones.

Make, fix and create...

Sunday, October 13, 2013

overlapping lid...

Here's the quick view of the process...

When You have a lid that is larger than the body of a box, using the router table to rout hinge mortises cannot be so easily done as would be the case if the lid and body were exactly the same size. This requires either two story sticks adjusted exactly to each other or a single one with two sides as shown. To use this technique, I cut the space for the hinge to exactly fit on both sides of the story stick and in perfect alignment, a thing I will describe in greater detail in the new book.

The long portion of the story stick is the length of the lid, and the short portion is the length of the body of the box. The cut out areas on the end of the story stick represent the amount of overhang of the lid over the sides, so this stick not only shows the location of the hinges in relation to the ends of the box, but also the relationship of the lid length to the box length.

I want to call your attention to the spacer strip between the story stick and the router table fence. It is exactly 3/8 in. thick, to represent the amount of overhang at the back of the box. With that spacer strip in place, and the stop blocks set up by using the shorter portion of the story stick, the router table is ready to rout the hinge mortises in the back of the box. Then, with the spacer removed, and using the longer side of the story stick, the same router table set up can be used to rout the hinge mortises in the lid.

Fitting the hinge into a mortise fully housed on all four sides as shown in the photo requires an additional fence to constrain the travel of the lid on the router table from all sides. As with nearly all routed hinge mortises, the corners will be chiseled square before the hinge is installed.

Does all this seem complex? It is, but we learn to handle complexity by doing simple things first, and one would probably not want to try this technique without having used my simple flipping story stick method first.

One advantage of making an overlapping lid like this is that the lid itself acts as a stop when it engages with the back of the box.

Today, I've been attempting to get into the edits for my book, and also attempting to understand portions of the case against SWEPCO in the APSC. It is amazing what a person can find when reading State law, and how it can be variously interpreted to make you think that you and not the opposing party are in the right. As has been said by early advocates of the manual arts, it is easy to lie and deceive using words, but when it comes to real work, malfeasance and ineptitude stand clear to be observed by all. If all lawyers were trained through the use of their hands  to interpret the law from a more sensitive perspective, the world would be a better place. In any case, I am glad that I read well and can understand the case.

Make, fix and create...

Upcoming event...
Noon Brown Bag Lunch Lecture Friday, October 25 Noon - 1:00 p.m.
Free. Please RSVP to Cindy Williams at 918-631-4402, or
Explore the idea of associations between artists and their art in the new Connection exhibition with wood sculptor, designer, and author Doug Stowe.
Bring a brown bag lunch to enjoy before you explore the special exhibition in the
Sherman Smith Family Gallery.
Coffee, tea and dessert provided.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

insufficiency of the present system...(1886)

At left you can see my magnetic box towers. The following is from Calvin Woodward, father of the American Manual training movement:
"Nothing is clearer than that our present system of education is inadequate. For fifty years there has been a growing conviction that the education of the schoolroom does not cover the whole ground; that, however excellent the abstract intellectual discipline, however thorough may be the reading of written histories and the study of language, a great want is still unsatisfied. We want a fuller knowledge and a greater familiarity with the material world by which we are surrounded, through the medium of which we act for and upon each other and for our own physical well-being. A knowledge of material things and material instrumentalities can be gained only by close and systematic observation and study, and is in itself a liberal education. Consider for a moment, to how great an extent the value of a man as a factor in society depends upon his exact information of the material world and nature's laws. The conclusions of the best theorizer are valuable only in proportion to the soundness and completeness of his premises. Is a plate of rolled iron equally strong along and across the grain? Does wood in seasoning shrink equally in all directions across the gain? What shapes can, and what can not, be molded and cast? What is any one of the myriad facts of chemistry learned fully only by observation and experiment? Upon your answer to such questions, your practical usefulness depends. In your investigations upon such points, your brain will be as active as your hands. If you neglect  to use either, you will be lame and impotent.

We have two natures, one physical and one spiritual, bound together in a union so close that no man can draw the line of separation. If the material world is not the basis of the intellectual, it is certainly, as far as our human existence is concerned, the sine qua non of its growth and manifestation. The sound mind can be found only in connection with the sound body."
As human beings, we discover who we really are through the process of making beautiful and useful things, and schooling that fails to take advantage of this simple fact will not cover the full ground.

Two length flipping story stick.
I keep learning and pushing my own creative understanding each day. Today, my contribution to box making is the two length flipping story stick. Say for example that you have a box that is one length and the lid overhangs on all sides. That means you have two lengths to contend with in setting up the router table to mortise hinges. The stick shown accomplishes that feat, helping to set up the stop blocks to rout perfect mortises.

Make, fix and create...

Friday, October 11, 2013

The co-education of brain and hand...

The writings of Calvin Woodward continue to be an inspiration to my thoughts. I have so many other things to concentrate on other than the blog at the moment, so I will simply share this from "The Manual Training School," 1886:
"It was the fashion with certain fanatics once, and it is still an article in the creed of some, that we must mortify and despise this fleshly nature. This glorious frame, with all its wondrous mechanism, must be put to shame; the hand must lose its cunning, the body its strength and vigor, the eye its lustre, that the spirit alone may triumph. To us these notions seem but the relic of a barbarous age, and yet they have burned themselves deep into our social constitution.

Our care must be, while developing and strengthening our mental faculties, and imparting some useful information, to cultivate the hands, and arms and eyes, to give them strength, flexibility, dexterity, precision, and habits of prompt obedience to the will. These results come only from early training; while the body is growing and the mind is maturing, the joints are flexible and the muscles are tractable, the eye unprejudiced, and the mechanical judgement in the most teachable condition."
Those who look at education over a time line will notice that the pendulum swings from one side to the other. These days, religious fanaticism with regard to the human body has faded, but the body and the hands, are still regarded by some as an educational inconvenience. Kids squirm, kids fiddle about, kids need to use facilities, and need to be let out for recess and to play. Those things disrupt plans for senseless but steady inculcation of testable information. Educators try to contend with the body. How can we make kids sit still long enough to learn? Drugs, perhaps? Could we put children in cages like we do chickens and trim their beaks so they don't peck themselves to death?

It is time to refresh our understanding that kids' hands are the most valuable of all educational resources. The hands are the way that children engage the world and learn from it in the most direct manner. What we learn hands-on is learned most efficiently, most thoroughly and to greatest lasting effect. There is no better way to engage children in learning than by making beautiful and useful things.

Make, fix and create...

Thursday, October 10, 2013

manual dextrity...

Calvin Woodward noted as follows (1886):
"Manual dexterity is but the evidence of a certain kind of mental power. Certain intellectual faculties, such as observation and judgement in inductive reasoning, can not be properly trained except through the instrumentality of the hand. The proverbial caution of the practical manipulator, and his distrust of mere theory,-- which reasoning based on assumed, not real, fact,-- show how unsafe is reasoning not founded on the closest observation and intimate knowledge of the facts of nature.

A manual training school does not stop with the training of the hand. Physical dexterity is but one, and the very least of the many things sought; and this is sought more a a means than as an end. The great end is education, -- the development of the mind and body and the simultaneous culture of the intellectual, physical, and moral faculties."
Lids and bases for boxes... trial fitted and ready to glue.
There is a misunderstanding in our culture... the assumption that skilled hands have little or nothing to do with development of intellect... whereas the development of intellect often arrives through the training of skilled hands.

If you look around, and with the near complete lack of manual training and laboratory science in schooling, there's enough idiocy cast in the field that one has to watch one's step. Take the US House of Representatives for example.

Today in the wood shop, I'll be working on boxes, putting a few sizes and types into production for my usual holiday sales. In addition,  I'm finishing the last boxes for my new book.

With regard to the AEP/SWEPCO power line atrocity, I have been reading through legal briefs that aren't brief. The attorneys for SWEPCO believe that it is in their interest to disparage our concerns, to mock us, and and treat us like fools. It is not the most fun thing to read in one's spare time.

While other parties submitted "briefs" of 35 pages more or less as requested, SWEPCO's is 104 pages, as though they could make up in quantity for what it lacks in truth.

That and the current fiasco in the US House of Representatives remind me of the kind of world we get when folks have "educations" that keep them out of touch.

The first of my magnetic assembly boxes is ready for sanding and finish. This is made of spalted sycamore and walnut.

I wrote the editorial in this week's Lovely County Citizen, "Serious Disconnect." As a student, I disliked writing. Later I learned that I had something to say. Most students are given empty exercises in writing. They are told to do it, but have little to say without it being contrived. It's just one more way that manual training can serve schooling. Give kids something to write about that's real and has meaning. It makes writing much easier and more fun.

Make, fix and create...

Wednesday, October 09, 2013

manual exercises

Yesterday I began making some of the last cuts for my new book, making lids and bases for final boxes. I did these using a 2 inch spacer block, and the X +/- 2 design formula to make a lid that was 6 3/4 in. x 8 3/4 in. and to overhang the body of the box by 3/8 in. on each side.

The following is from Calvin Woodward, considered a co-father of industrial education in the US:
"Manual exercises, which are at the same time intellectual exercises, are highly attractive to healthy boys. If you doubt this, go into the shops of a manual trainings school and see for yourself. Go, for instance, into our forging-shop, where metals are wrought through the agency of heat. A score of young Vulcans, bare-armed, leather-aproned, with many a drop of honest sweat, stand up to their anvils with an unconscious earnestness which shows how much they enjoy their work. What are they doing? They are using brains and hands. They are studying definitions in the only dictionary which really defines."
One of the things that is missed by those introducing "new" concepts like STEM education, is the value of what has gone on before. Many of the underlying concerns in "new" methods were expressed previously with an eloquence that can be hard to parrot in a completely new and unpracticed voice. The following is also from Calvin Woodward:
"Says Supt. Seaver of Boston; 'Manual training is essential to the right and full development o f the human mind, and therefore no less beneficial to those hwo are not going to become artisans than to those who are. The workshop method of instruction is of great educational value, for it brings the learner face to face with the fats of nature; his mind increases in knowledge by direct personal experience with forms of mater, and manifestations of force. No mere words intervene. The manual exercises of the shop train mental power, rather than load the memory; they fill the mind with the solid merchandise of knowledge, and not with its empty packing cases."
Let's put kids to work with simple tools making beautiful and useful things.

Today I have my lower elementary school and middle school students in the Clear Spring School wood shop.

Make, fix and create...

Tuesday, October 08, 2013

prevocational education...

Authors Frank Leavitt and Edith Brown wrote about Prevocational Education in 1915, and noted that many students don't fit the standard schooling model. They identified students who, although not lacking in intellect, were more active in nature and not easily engaged by books. They proposed that reading would be made more palatable to these students if it furthered their actual engagement in real things, to wit, "... some concrete, constructive work with a vocational content which the children genuinely enjoy and at which they will work vigorously." The authors further noted:
"Much of that which has been written about 'joy in work' has referred to some kind of laborious, manual work. It should be remembered that, for many individuals, intellectual work is laborious and that it is quite necessary to find some way of making it joyous, -- in other words, of 'motivating education.' Indeed the worker in every field of human endeavor, even the highest, needs the stimulus which comes from joy in anticipated achievement that he may despise and endure the stress and strain 'for the joy that is set before him.'"
At the time the book was written, only a small proportion of students went beyond the 6th grade, and there was a growing recognition that conventional schools had become joyless places (sound familiar?) and that those children inclined toward an active life were choosing to opt out. The book noted, as I have mentioned many times, all children love learning. On the other hand, not many like being taught. We learn best and most enthusiastically from our own efforts and by doing real things.

In 1983, Howard Gardner had noticed that children (and adults) are intelligent in a variety of ways... and that human intelligence was poorly measured if we only examined it through the lens of reading and math. The interesting thing is that when kids are doing real things, rather than the contrived exercises devised by teachers, all the senses are engaged, and all intelligences are made available to learning. Cut the pretense about learning, get the hands engaged. What we learn hands-on by doing real things is learned most thoroughly and to greatest lasting effect, regardless of your intelligence type.

Make, fix and create...

Monday, October 07, 2013

an overview....

While STEM educators may think that they've invented something for the first time, there is some value in looking at the roots and coming to a better understanding of what they are hoping to accomplish. this brief article,Vocational Age Emerges, 1876-1926,  gives a broad overview of the movement that began in earnest in the middle part of the 19th century, and is now called STEM, for Science, Technology, Engineering and Math.

I have the impression that new names are needed every now and then so that young teachers can get excited, feel liike they are facing new frontiers for the first time, and push those who have been involved in education aside without having gained anything from their experience. And yet, it is exciting to have new young folks getting excited about what technology can bring to learning.

You can ask any current teacher about this... at least those who have been teaching for a few years. There is always something that is proclaimed new, that isn't really, but that catches the short-term attention of the administration, that they then ask teachers to implement, even through the teachers have already been doing the same thing under a different name.

Two of my girls in the upper elementary school wood shop had announced to me on the first day of school that they wanted to make very tiny book shelves. "How small? "I'd asked. "This size!" they replied, showing me me with their hands held just a little ways apart.

Today, they started making their book shelves that are to hold tiny books that they make in their spare time.the use of the shooting board has allowed them to cut and fit the shelves, each to the same length. And I am amazed at the quality of their work, and all I did to help was to give them a piece of wood to work with.

Make, fix and create...

Sunday, October 06, 2013

let's not pretend it's something new...

At  Zarrow Center, Tulsa
Human beings are always attracted to glittery objects. We are drawn to new things. We had manual arts starting in the US and around the world in the 1860's. Now we have STEM education coming to schools. Presenting a new acronym, makes old things appear exciting. The first time I heard the acronym STEM was in a question asked me by an educator on a forum when I was speaking on line to a small national audience of educators. "What do you mean? I asked, thus embarrassing myself by revealing my ignorance of a new language. "What do you know about educational sloyd?" I might have asked in return, but that might have made me appear even more out of touch.

The effort to put the hands to work in schooling to solve real problems in the education of scientists and engineers (and everyone else) is not in any way a new thing. Calvin Woodward tried to explain the intellectual values of woodworking in his book The Manual Training School, 1887 and offered the following quote:
"Unintelligent memorizing is at best a most questionable educational method. For one, I utterly disbelieve in it. It never did me any thing but harm; and learning by heart the Greek grammar did me harm, ---a great deal of harm. While I was doing it, the observing and reflective powers lay dormant; indeed, they were systematically suppressed; their exercise was resented as a sort of impertinence. We boys stood up and repeated long rules, and yet longer lists of exceptions to them; and it was drilled into us that we were not there to reason, but to rattle off something written on the blackboard of our minds. The faculties we had in common with the raven were thus cultivated at the expense of that apprehension and reason which, Shakespeare tells us, makes man like the angels and God. And so, looking back from this standpoint of thirty years later, and thinking of the game which has now been lost or won, I silently listen to that talk bout 'the severe intellectual training,' in which a parrot-line memorizing did its best to degrade boys to the level of learned dogs." --Charles Francis Adams
What I think you can see is missing from STEM is the richness of the past. When those who thrust themselves onto the stage of modern education do so in the ignorance of the past, and with an inflated sense of their own place in the the present moment, some important things are lost, one being the extensive, rich and persuasive language of those who dealt with similar issues before us.

Also, when we begin to understand that what we face is a long term problem that arises again and again, we might look at deeper underlying cause, which I think comes from a a misunderstanding of the role of the hands in the conceptualizing of ideas and in the origins of human intelligence. The hands are the source of human wisdom in that they have allowed us to make. To allow boys to make in school and at home is to lift them above the level of learned dogs.

Make, fix and create...
My work in a museum like setting.

Saturday, October 05, 2013

zarrow show...

Yesterday we had the opening night of my show with 3 other artists at the University of Tulsa Zarrow Center, and over 1100 people attended. Folks were very complimentary of my work. The show was laid out in beautiful form, and it is always interesting to me to see what I do regarded as art.

I also visited the Fab Lab in Tulsa while I was there and will post some photos to the blog later.

This was the first time I've made a public display of some of my sculpture in a fine arts gallery setting and it was interesting to observe the response, which appeared favorable. The cabinets and boxes got rave reviews.
One thing we observed at the show was that it was impossible for people to look without touching. Even with signs placed in front of boxes, warning not to touch, folks had to open them, handle them, more than once spilling rocks from the box that had them embedded in the lid. My friend Virginia Carey explained to me many years ago that if a person saw something beautiful his or her next inclination was to touch it. And wood is perhaps the most irresistible of materials. Also, I believe that utilitarian things provide an additional inclination to touch.

I left the show to get dinner with friends, then came back to find all the doors of the cabinets and lids of boxes were open, so folks could see inside. I'm sure that was done by a member of staff to keep things from being handled so much. I closed all the lids before I left at the close of the night.

The show will be on display until October 27, 2013.

Make, fix and create...

What the heck is that? Must be art.

Thursday, October 03, 2013

Friday night in Tulsa...

I'll be at the opening of my show at the University on Friday night, October 4, at the

Zarrow Center
124 East Brady Street
Tulsa, OK 74103.

The show will run through October 26. I will have a variety of small boxes and some cabinets, table and sculpture on display.

I've finished more of my swivel boxes, and these are made of maple and walnut. They are quickly done. I use super glue to connect the butt joints long enough for them to be sanded and to drill dowel holes for connecting the sides to the ends. I am curious what my readers will think. Are these boxes that you would like to make? They are intended to offer a simple starting point for your adventures in box making.

Make, fix and create...

the value of the shooting board in learning...

Yesterday, both my lower elementary school class and my middle school class took turns using shooting boards to square stock and to make simple desk boxes. The great value of the shooting board is that it gives the students the opportunity to square stock, but also gave them a better understanding of why materials need to be cut square in the first place.

As a result, I had students checking their work with squares and paying more attention to careful cuts. The challenge is to get students hooked on craftsmanship, to get them reviewing their own work objectively, and to then find greater pleasure in their work.

My own latest boxes are shown above. Other hardwood versions of this box are in the works.

Make, fix and create...

Wednesday, October 02, 2013

what college could be like...

If you were to take Clear Spring School and raise it to the college level, this is what it would look like:

Yesterday in the wood shop, Scott began assembling his drum. while other high school students worked on their cahones.

Among the younger children, I see steady development in the complexity of their art. Using our new shooting boards, my upper elementary school students made sloyd trivets and then used them as a foundation for exploration of color.

Yesterday was a day scheduled for attorneys in the SWEPCO case to submit briefs, and I should promise myself never to read a legal brief from AEP/SWEPCO just before bed. Reading their lies and misrepresentations left me too unsettled for a good night's sleep. They are truly disgusting. They have gotten away with their behavior for years as few have been able to generate the resources necessary to stand in their way.

I will be glad when the case is finally resolved in our favor. I would have thought AEP would be embarrassed by their own corporate behavior, but realize that only people can be embarrassed. Corporations cannot. And those who have not laid hands through the making of real things may never fully understand the full depth of human values.

Make, fix and create...

Tuesday, October 01, 2013

how to make a shooting board...

Today in the school wood shop I plan to have a tool day to introduce my students to the use of a shooting board. As far as I can see, I've been remiss in not asking them to use this tool before, as it would allow them to square the ends of their sawn stock, giving them better attachment of wood when using nailed joints.

I keep learning. And if I can help my students to achieve a higher degree of craftsmanship, they will reap greater rewards from their work.

As you see, the shooting board consists of three layers... a base of plywood, a layer of thin plywood, and a stop. The important thing is that the stop be square to the thin plywood layer.  Hold a carpenter's square tightly to the thin plywood layer and against the stop as you drive screws through the stop into the base.

Your own shooting board needs not be made to the same dimensions as shown below. Shooting boards can be made so quickly that I made 3 more while I was waiting for my students to arrive at wood shop. These are kid sized and for use with smaller planes.

Make, fix and create...