Friday, July 31, 2015

completion of day 5

My  students and I (along with assistants Doug Dale and and Jerry Forshee) finished our 5 day box making class at Marc Adams School of Woodworking and I am on my way back to Arkansas.

It was a great week, with lots of boxes being made, and skills moved toward greater mastery.

Each student competed several boxes, with each box representing personal design choices.

Make, fix and create... help others to do likewise.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

at the start of day four

I am in the bench room of "Stowe Hall" at Marc Adams School of Woodworking, preparing for my students to arrive for demonstrations and work on their own boxes. The hall has a temporary name above the door painted in black and white. Naming classrooms temporarily for each teacher is an honor that Marc confers upon his teachers, who indeed feel honored to teach.

This is the start of our 4th day of box making class. I have several demonstration boxes on my own bench, and there is evidence of learning at each bench in the long hall.

Today I will demonstrate making wooden hinges, the installation of barbed hinges, and help students with the installation of mini barrel hinges.

Each of my students is making boxes of their own design. We learn best through experience and through discovery. The things we have been taught may be abandoned and perhaps should be when we have knowledge acquired through our own experience and are less dependent on observations made by others.

Make, fix, and  create...

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

at the start of day three...

I am at Marc Adams School of Woodworking for the start of day 3 of my five day box making class. Several of my students are more advanced than many might expect. Some have been in one of my earlier classes and some have watched my box making DVD more than once. So as I prepare for my students to arrive, I can walk up and down the bench room and see great progress. One box in particular stands out, as it was shaped on the outside using a cove cutting table saw technique.

One of the great things about this particular class is that students are each given encouragement to explore their own ideas, while my assistants Jerry and Doug Dale, watch each step with an eye toward safe preparation of parts.

Today I will demonstrate the use of my flipping story stick technique for the installation of butt hinges, show how to install a inlay banding on the top edge of a box, and how to cut mitered box joints.

Make, fix and create...

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Ready for day two...

Yesterday we began my second five day class in box making for the year at Marc Adams School of Woodworking. As this class is intended to explore a "next level" in box making, I have several returning students. One student had been in my very first box making class at MASW 10 years ago, and another student had taken my class at Marc Adams as his first before becoming addicted the school and gaining his masters certificate through the school.

In this class, I am attempting to demonstrate techniques I have never offered before at MASW, so it feels great to be here.

You can see in the photos that my students and the class are already moving at a fast pace in their box making.

Make, fix and create...

Monday, July 27, 2015

More boxes and box making...

 This morning I am up early to do my last minute preparation for 5 more days of box making at Marc Adams School of Woodworking. In this class I will have an even dozen students, but I know already that they won't fit conveniently in a carton to be dealt with as a "class." All students are unique and each will have their own interests and goals.

I am reminded of the theory of educational sloyd which fits all learning and teaching situations.
  • Start with the varying interests of the students.
  • Move from the known to the unknown (which will be different in each case).
  • Move from the easy to the more difficult (all students will have varying pre-existing levels of experience and skill).
  • Move from the simple to the complex (simplification of processes will be of benefit to all students).
  • Move from the concrete to the abstract (This again applies to all learning situations, as students learn best from real life.)
Educational Sloyd also emphasized individualized instruction. The idea of a class in which all students are at the same level and learn at the same pace is utter foolishness, and is continually proven false in American schooling but is none the less rigidly adhered to. The photo below is of the machine room I will be using for the coming week.

Make, fix, create, and pass it along in whatever manner you are able...

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Day one...

For the weekend at Marc Adams School of Woodworking, I have 14 students making keepsake jewelry boxes from white oak and textured basswood. Today we cut sides to size with miters and made  bases and drawer fronts. We applied our first coats of milk paint. Tomorrow we have a very long list of details, including dowels installed in the corners, making drawers, and installation of hinges.

So, in two very busy days we will have made 14 great boxes and the students will have gained skills to last a lifetime.

I want to publicly thank blog reader and box making student David Kings for having brought me a Petoskey stone. He reminded me that they are all over Lake Michigan, and while my own search for Petoskey stones was more effective in the gifts stores of Petoskey than on the beaches of Petoskey State Park, there is no better stone than one received as a gift from a friend.

Make, fix and create...

Friday, July 24, 2015

ready for box making

I'm in Indiana, poised to begin box making for the next 7 days at Marc Adams School of Woodworking. Please check in during the course of the next week to see progress.

Make, fix and create...

Thursday, July 23, 2015

walking in nature...

Today I plan to hunt for Petoskey stones in Petoskey State park, but the real value will not be the stones themselves, but the walk along the shore of Lake Michigan.

Walking in nature it seems is essential to mental health, and is one of those important human exercises most ignored in our digital age. How Walking in Nature Changes the Brain.

The stones found are never as beautiful as the one shown above until polishing is complete. If stones are not found, still, the walk will have polished the perspective and changed the brain.

Tomorrow I fly to Indianapolis for classes at Marc Adams School of Woodworking. In case you are new to the blog, let me direct you to the search function at upper left. You can type in a key word like sloyd,  or the name of an early educational pioneer like Comenius, or a more recent one like David Henry Feldman and see what comes up.

Make, fix and create...

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

to lay back in wonder...

Last night a number of us from our family reunion loaded up in cars and went to the Headlands Dark Sky Park. It is little more than a long beach at the upper end of Lake Michigan from which you can lay back and look up at the stars, but in saying "little more," I am referring to the simplicity of the place. The parking lot was full and there were hundreds laying still on the ground and looking up at the wonders of the night sky.

One of my relatives brought a small telescope so we lined up to take turns gazing at the rings of Saturn.

It was a good reminder that as enticing as modern technologies have become, there are greater wonders in real life and in what little dark sky we have allowed to remain within view. Today I simply remind my readers to look up. The real world is at hand and digital technology is pale in comparison. Edutopia offers some tips on changing schools to maker spacers.

Make, fix and create...

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

if this simple thing is true...

You can test this by measuring against your own experience. If it is true for you, then I'll ask your assistance in altering public education to better serve our children's intellectual interests and the development of character, both for students and for the nation.

We learn best when discovery is involved. Jerome Bruner called this effective surprise. Surprise brings the mind and body to a state of alert, and the things that students have discovered will be remembered for a longer period of time and be put to use. Surprise is made effective student's pre-existing sphere of interest. What we discover often differs from our preceding expectations and may involve a turning point for both students and teachers.

We learn best through what we have done, not through what has been demonstrated for us or taught to us. This fundamental principle is directly connected to the preceding one for without action there is no discovery. Typical lesson plans are intended to eliminate surprise, banish the unintended, and instruct effectively, but in doing so, children are often left bored, dispirited,  and complaisant. From an administrative standpoint, there must be no surprises. From a learning standpoint, surprise is what makes real student learning thrive.

So what should schools be like instead? Replace all classrooms with laboratories, studios, and workshops. Replace teachers with those who put tools and materials in students hands and allow them to create...

Our family reunion is near Petoskey, Michigan, home of the petoskey stone. If you can find one, they are lovely, and were formed from ancient coral predating the time of the dinosaurs. While here, I've been on the watch for one, and expect to discover one before the week is out. That will require me to walk a few beach and keep my eyes open. I am also thinking forward toward my classes beginning this coming Saturday at Marc Adams School of Woodworking.

Make, fix, create...

Monday, July 20, 2015

mentor and guide...

One of my cousins is head of the broadcast journalism school at a major university and asked me what professors are to teach when students have better immediate grasp of the technology than do their professors. But this assumes that all the professors are to teach are those things that give a technical proficiency and not an in depth understanding of the student's appropriate role in human culture.

The ease with which children grasp new technologies has diminished the necessity of "training" in the old sense, but as technologies have become more potent, the necessity of values training in the appropriate use of technologies has grown.

The question arises, how are we to be with each other? What children were to learn in kindergarten has been displaced by standardized testing. The sorting process of who is to do what begins much earlier in life. Instead of children learning to get along with each other and to become problem solvers, they are fed a steady diet of information and misinformation and pushed along through the system until some of them arrive at the top, without a clue the basics of how civilization was crafted, and arrive at the top unskilled in the process of building culture.

At some point in the process, as children learn to know, they must also learn the values of being responsible, honest, caring, loving, etc. Those were some of the values that children learn through craftsmanship and were supposed to learn in Kindergarten. And so, even when the students have a better grasp of some things than does their professor, there are still things that must be learned and learned well, and at great depth. It is through association with good character and being held accountable to good character that these traits are passed from one generation to the next.

At some point, educational policy makers must be led to an understanding that we all learn best by doing, and that to do under the guidance of mentors may be be the best path forward. By doing, we learn at greater depth. Mentors help to frame the experience and direct it toward greater meaning, both for the student and for the society at large.

Make, fix and create... teach others to do likewise.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

in the days of horses...

I am attending a family reunion and one of my older cousins-in-law told of asking his father years ago about the things he had done as a child. We were talking about what we had done as kids and what kids do now to learn from the world in their unsupervised time of which so little is allowed them these days. (I know this last paragraph deserves some careful editing to make it easy for my readers, but I am on vacation and will let you do the work).

In any case, my cousin's father grew up in New York City and told of using sticks to roll iron hoops through the streets. He and his friends would go everywhere without parentally imposed limits and see how far they could keep their hoops rolling. The iron hoops were discarded from broken wooden barrels. My cousin-in-law asked his father, "Why the sticks?" "Why not just roll them by hand?" And his father reminded, "There were horses."  Is it not true that we learn best and remember most from the experiences in which we have applied ourselves? You may also have wondered why one would roll a hoop with a stick. And yet the answer would be most obvious to those who had done so.

The point is that rolling a hoop with a stick can take you into all kinds of experiences that children today would never be allowed to have. They are given technological devices that keep them sheltered from reality, and ignorant of real life. What they learn most often comes only through the information provided through the device. And yet, if left to their own devices, children might come up with ways to set themselves apart and make greater meaning in their lives as shown in the photo above.

Even the notion that woodworking must be taught,  is part of the problem. Folks think that in order for children to do woodworking, someone must teach them to do so, or that in order to teach children to do woodworking they must go through lessons of some kind and be provided a curriculum.

Yes, there is a right way to hold a knife, and there are things that must be remembered in order to be safe. But there is actually nothing standing in your way but to commence with things. The boy with a bike was in Trondheim in the very early 1900's.

So, what's wrong with American schooling these days? A student of mine addressed this issue years ago. He said told me that he "hated learning." The truth was that he hated being taught. Being taught usually involves being required to feign interest in subjects in which you have little interest, and it involves surrendering your life to boredom enforced under the control of others. Being taught is to exist in a framework of subjugation. Learning on the other hand, is liberation. The fundamental principle of Educational Sloyd is to start with the interests of the child.

Make, fix, create, and inspire others to do the same.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

perception of value...

My wife and I are in Traverse City, Michigan for a family reunion in Harbor Springs that begins tomorrow. Fortunately I brought work with me, so that even though I will be away from the wood shop, and even though I will not be making sawdust in the most direct manner throughout the coming week, I will still be able to work on the text and editing of tiny boxes.

We are so attached to the physical things that surround us that we are inclined to overlook the real values. For instance, when things look difficult to do because we don't understand how they are done, we place value upon them. When we see wood fitting closely together we assume one thing or another... either that it was done by a very skilled craftsman, or that it was done by a machine, and that in either case, doing it is therefore outside the realm of the casual observer.

The job of the how-to writer is to strip away the illusions and put the power in the reader's hands. And so, while I don't go through all the step-by-step in this blog, what I want you to know is that most of what you see in the world is accessible for you to take into your own hands, asserting control over the matters of both material and self.

An example is shown in the photo above. By stacking 5 layers of veneer, cutting through them at the same time on the scroll saw, and reassembling them in a mix and match manner, a level of precision can be attained that looks as though it was done with either a machine or by a skilled craftsman.

The wisdom of the hands is not mine, or a thing I have right to claim for myself, but is a thing I hope to awaken in others.  The important thing is not that we make perfect things, but that we grow in skill and confidence and help others to do likewise.

Make, fix and create...

Friday, July 17, 2015

process and mindfulness...

Being present in the creative process. In other words, to seek mindfulness. This week Tibetan monks came to Eureka Springs to create a sand mandala. This was the last day, so as a culmination of their meticulous labors, in a brief closing ceremony they swept the sand in a spiral manner, into the center, just as all human labors are processed into the vortex of eternity. The point, I suspect is to remind us to act with precision, and mindfulness and to not take ourselves and our creations too seriously. The value of art is not in the object but in the self. And the object of crafting is not to make stuff but rather to engage in personal transformation.

It's too bad educational policy makers  had no sense of that when they started closing school wood shops and knocking education back on its haunches. Human beings are much better prepared for academic abstraction when they are grounded in doing real things.

In the other image, I've made inlay of red oak, walnut, mahogany and maple that will be cut into thin slices. Sections of it will be used as inlay on tiny boxes. The coarse grain pattern of the red oak makes the pattern appear more complex than it actually is.

Raytheon, a weapons manufacturer, claims to have made a fully operational, completely 3-D printed guided missile. Our culture's enthusiasm for plastics and for effortless stuff may have thus taken an even darker turn. The oceans are each awash in ever growing gyres of plastic expendable short-term use detritus, and there seems to be no end of it. As exciting as 3-D printing may be, there is more lasting pleasure in the development of skilled craftsmanship.

Perhaps, the world could learn something of great importance from the Tibetan monks. When their laborious meditation was completed, nothing  outside the mandala of their own creation was destroyed in the process.

I will be in Michigan for the next 7 days, and then at Marc Adams School of Woodworking  for one full week beginning Saturday, July 25.

Make, fix and create... Teach others to do likewise.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

puzzle progress...

I continue working on a variety of boxes, including some with sliding lids and the Japanese puzzle boxes. Tiny boxes lend themselves to batch processing. So the number of small boxes  in my shop has grown rapidly.

The illustration at left shows how the Japanese puzzle box is made, not including the sliding lid and dovetailed slide and mechanism at the front of the box. While the sides, front, back and lid appear as though they are crafted from solid wood, they are in fact, laminated in layers as shown.

There is a particular order in which the parts must be made and assembled in order to get good results, and I've yet to prove to myself that I can make one that works.

But then, life at its best is always an experiment.

And we are at our best when we  are actively experimenting, and taking material things and matters into our own hands. My readers may find the following useful:  7 Tenets of creative thinking.

Make, fix and create... teach others to do likewise.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

the creative endeavor...

"A man becomes creative, whether he is an artist or scientist, when he finds a new unity in the variety of nature. He does so by finding a likeness between things which were not thought alike before." –– Jacob Bronowski

"To develop a complete mind, study the science of art, study the art of science. Learn how to see. Realize that everything connects to everything else."–– Leonardo Da Vinci

"This combinatory play seems to be the essential feature in productive thought." –– Albert Einstein

"Creativity is just connecting things. When you ask creative people how they did something, they feel a little guilty because they didn’t really do it, they just saw something. It seemed obvious to them after a while. That’s because they were able to connect experiences they’ve had and synthesize new things. And the reason they were able to do that was that they’ve had more experiences than other people.’
— Steve Jobs

In response that last quote, I suggest that it is not the number of experiences that a person has, but the quality of the experiences that matters. If everyone were to come from standardized schooling, with each child forced to adhere to the same standard, and each receiving the same scripted lessons, American creativity would be brought to an absolute stand-still. And yet, that kind of scripted environment is exactly what American politicians and educational policy makers are demanding. 

If a normal person were to seek to discover his or her own creativity, perhaps the least fertile grounds would be in a normal American public school in which children are all induced to think alike and know the same stuff.

The image above is of my mix and match veneering technique, making the lids for what I hope will become Japanese puzzle boxes.

Make, fix, create... and teach others to do likewise.

Monday, July 13, 2015

mix and match veneering...

The more you do, the more you know, and after a while, a woodworker becomes a walking catalog of techniques that cross fertilize in the projects he or she makes, provided he or she has learned to trust creative inclinations and been allowed to follow them where they might lead.

Alfred North Whitehead said in his essay on the Aims of Education,
In training a child to activity of thought, above all things we must beware of what I will call “inert ideas”—that is to say, ideas that are merely received into the mind without being utilized, or tested, or thrown into fresh combinations.
That's where the hands come into play, for as Charles H. Hamm had noted, the mind seeks the truth but the hands discover it. Utilizing, testing, and throwing into new combinations is what the hands do best.

Whitehead had described a learning in depth process starting with romance of the idea, then the development of precision in the application of that idea, culminating in what he called "generalization" or the ability to leap toward application of an idea into fresh territory that may appear unrelated to the original application. I can explain the hand's role in this process, and it is a relationship I will explain more thoroughly in a subsequent post.

Most internet learning stops short of the precision stage, in that most folks leap romantically from one idea to the next without investing energy in the development of precision. The development of precision requires application of both mind and body in the creative act. The consequence might reasonably be described as leading to a "soul infused notion," one which commands both the wakeful and sleeping mind in continuum. The process Whitehead described is closely associated with the human use of metaphor, and involved the integration of the conscious and unconscious mind.

The photo above shows a mix and match veneering technique as sections of veneer are assembled to glue to the sliding lids on Japanese puzzle boxes. The images at left and below show the parts in process of replication for the boxes to open and close.

Make, fix and create... teach others to do likewise.

learning the secrets of a Japanese puzzle box...

I have been fascinated by Japanese puzzle boxes, and today took a desperate measure with my own hands to learn how they work. I want to make a few for my tiny boxes book, and could just barely see the mechanism between layers when the lid was removed.

Through careful study with a flashlight as I worked the mechanism I could see and understand how it worked, but not how it was made. So I used my small band saw to make three cuts, liberating one end. What I discovered surprised me.The mechanism is quite simple and should present no great challenge to a skilled box maker. The sides, rather than being made from solid wood, were laminated in three layers including the veneered pattern on the outside.

In addition to cutting one open, I began making veneered sides based on what was revealed about how it is made. One challenging part of making it is that it requires very small channels for the parts to slide, which I'll cut on the router table using a solid carbide 1/16 in. diameter bit.

On the academic side of human reality, you can look inside between the cracks and use your power of imagination to postulate
veneered sides for boxes...
how things work. The actual circumstances and mechanics are often far simpler than the mind projects. The eyes and mind seek the truth. The hands find it. And often the complexities of the mind's perceptions are laid bare and artful simplicity is discovered when the hands take the lead in our investigations.

Make, fix, and create... teach others to do likewise.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

the hands touch everything...

When I was first introduced to what became an exploration of my hands and their functioning in relation to my brain, not as a scientist, but as a craftsman, I had been told by a fellow craftsman that my brains were in my hands, not as a general statement, applying to all but one that reflected what he had observed as a natural inclination in my personal case.

I am aware that I tend to write in a convoluted manner that requires the reader to slow down and carefully parse what I write. If it's not worth it to you, speed on.But if you have noticed the power of your own hands to engage your own learning, let's savor a ideas things together.

As a craftsman, I spent years observing my own relationship with my hands, and considering whether or not, I was in any way different from anyone else other than my purposeful engagement of my hands in learning.

Long before my time, observers hand noted the special relationship between the hands and brain. A noted Greek philosopher Anaxagoras had noticed that man is the wisest of all animals because he has hands. More recently, Frank Wilson, in his book on the hands noted that the hands and brain co-evolved as a system deeply rooted in the human genome. Others had noted that while the hands and eyes and other sensory systems rely upon each other and work in harmony with each other, the hands operate at a particular depth at which the truth is more readily ascertained and the engagement of the intellect is more readily sustained. Does a surface look smooth? perhaps. But the hands will prove it or disprove it down to a micron, and need little participation of the brain in the process. Have you looked over a broad ocean and wondered why lies beneath? It is only through the creative powers of the hands, and their constructions that we've penetrated the depths of things.

At this point, scientists at UmeƤ University in Sweden have determined that the hands and brain do indeed serve as s system, and that some tactile processing that we have previously attributed to the brain takes place in the hands, rather than in the brain as all have presumed. Edge orientation processing in first-order tactile neurons.

But when it comes to schooling, the hands are neglected and eschewed. "Keep your hands to yourself,"  they say, and remain bored and detached forever after.

As I was at the Historic Arkansas Museum on Friday night, I watched as visitors struggled with a dilemma. Is it OK to touch? and of course the signs say no. But the consequence is that the admirers are kept at arms length... a good thing for protecting the quality of the work, but a not so good when it comes to engagement in the understanding of it. Even I had difficulty keeping my hands off my own work, when visitors asked me to explain it to them.

Still, the way to fix things in schooling and in life is to put the hands purposefully in play. We, as a species, learn best, to greatest depth, and to most lasting effect when we learn hands on.

On that subject, I need to mention an opportunity. August 10-14, 2015 I will have a class at the Eureka Springs School of the Arts on vacuum veneered boxes. The class will be held in my Clear Spring School woodworking studio/classroom. So far only 1 student is enrolled and I'll need at least two more for the class to proceed. Unlike most of my classes in box making where a large number of students are enrolled. This class will be an opportunity for more personal attention and hands-on direction than is usual in my larger classes. Go to to learn more. Even if you are not interested in veneered boxes, specifically, general box making will be covered and you will walk away with beautiful boxes you will have made with your own hands.

Make, fix and create...

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Arkansas Living Treasures Exhibit

I attended the opening of the Arkansas Living Treasures Exhibit last night in Little Rock. The exhibit will be up until February at the Historic Arkansas Museum. The exhibits are lovely. My own is shown in the photos above and below.

On the one hand, it is wonderful that Arkansas is a state that recognizes the importance of crafts. On the other hand, it is one of the few states to do so in this manner, and there are many more here in Arkansas and in other states who deserve recognition in a similar manner. One "Arkansas Living Treasure" is named each year and there are many more deserving the honor. I was named in 2009.

The program was launched in about 2001. One of our members died, and about 15 crafts artists were represented in the exhibit. A number of us have been friends for years, as the world fine crafts is a small one.

Make, fix and create...

Friday, July 10, 2015

sliding top pocket boxes...

I've begun working on sliding top pocket boxes similar to those long made by Heartwood Creations. When I began box making in about 1976, Heartwood Creations was already at work making tiny inlaid boxes with sliding tops. I made a few sliding top boxes myself, but what was the point in trying to compete with their fabulous designs, and their already extensive marketing? Their sliding top boxes were sold in gift stores all across the US, and still are.

But should that cause one to not find pleasure in making similar boxes for family and friends? Things are always made more rich and more meaningful when they arise through one's own efforts and are shared with those with whom one already feels secure bonds of love.

My own boxes are inlaid, and my readers will have a choice of making them either with the plunge router or on the router table. Instructions will be given for both techniques. This will be the 6th chapter completed for the book, so I will have to start scratching my head for another full set of interesting designs.

Tonight my wife and I will attend the Arkansas Living Treasures Exhibit at the Historic Arkansas Museum in Little Rock, 5 to 8 PM. Join us if you can. A small selection of my work, and my student's work will be shown.

On the education front, the Arkansas Department of Education has reversed course in standardized testing for the third time in 3 years. First the were to use one brand of standardized test, then another, and now has changed course yet again. The interesting thing is that the intention of standardized testing (in theory) is to measure learning and student performance. But if the measure used is changed every year, there is no basis for claiming anything about the procedure as being standard. Do you get the idea here? Can it be that the whole purpose of "standards" is to sell tests and to make an ever increasing profit for the standardized testing industry?

On the other hand, when children are engaged in the making of useful beauty, no test is required for the intelligence and character displayed in their growth is at hand for all to see. I have begun to realize that the changes I would envision for American education will not be easy. Please join me in a difficult revolution.

Make, fix and create... then teach others to do likewise.

Thursday, July 09, 2015


After spending most of the day yesterday at my desk, I've little I can show for myself. Over the last two days I've been captioning photos, and writing the text for two chapters of Tiny Wooden Boxes. And I am in the process of beginning one more. That will lead me to joyous hours of worship in the woodshop.

After we have taken a break from Save the Ozarks (all legal work in our successful opposition being complete) we are now contemplating next steps. It seems that one of the most important weapons at our disposal in opposing SWEPCO's malicious 345 kV power line was the love we all seem to share for this land. Where there is knowledge, there is true power, and when SWEPCO revealed their plans to the public there was consistent outrage on all routes. No one was willing to say OK, and the monstrosity of the project meant that no one was willing to see it imposed on others.

So, now, what does Save the Ozarks do for round two? I am investigating a project that would take the beauty of the Ozarks and all its luscious features live through GIS mapping. The idea is that much more sharing of the value of this place would make it abundantly clear to those who would dump their industrialized intentions upon us that we care too much for the beauty of our place to sacrifice it to their corporate fever for enhanced profits.

In fact, the beauty of this place is what brings tourists. And as stated so clearly by one of our supporters in a public hearing, "you can't eat beauty, but here, without beauty, we don't eat."

On that same subject, one of my neighbors dug through the vile trash deposited upon our roadside and found the name and address of the person to whom the trash rightfully belongs. The county sheriff's office has been supplied with that information, and the guilty party will be given an opportunity to remove all traces of her transgressions to avoid being charged with a felony.

Any readers in the Little Rock Arkansas area may be interested in the opening of the Living Treasures Exhibit at the Historic Arkansas Museum in Little Rock this Friday night, July 10, from 5 to 8 PM. As the Arkansas Living Treasure nominated in 2009, I will be in attendance and there will be a display of my work with some work by my students from the Clear Spring School.

Make, fix and create...

Wednesday, July 08, 2015

further noting my disgust...

 I mentioned yesterday that a rude citizen had desecrated the road leading up to my house with his (or her) household trash. The authorities have been notified and I have hopes he (or she) will be identified and arrested. As you can see from the photo, the culprit probably has children that we hope will not be raised in such insensitivity, as that can be passed along for generations. You will also note in the photo if you look closely, that the bulk of the trash was placed at the foot of a small waterfall, which alone describes a complete disregard for the beauty of nature.

So where does regard for nature come from, and how are we to secure that for future generations? Unfortunately, the future of mother nature is not looking too good. Over half of humans now live in cities and have little direct contact with nature, and sensitivity is on the wane.

You will also note the volume of non-biodegradable plastic in the debris placed at my roadside.

We have a larger than ever engagement in the manufacture of plastic crap emerging from the maker movement. Those who were raised with plastic stuff may not know the difference between plastic and real wood. 3-D printing is a huge and growing consumer phenomenon, in which folks of all ages take pride in having "created" objects downloaded from Thingiverse. With the huge amount of plastic debris overwhelming our roadsides and landfills and we have an ocean full of it, we should be looking for other materials to satisfy our necessity to make.

When you choose to make things from real wood, you engage in a relationship with real trees and a real forest. May we each learn to seek the health and beauty of all that surrounds us.

Make, fix and create...

Tuesday, July 07, 2015

with some disgust...

My wife and I drove down our road this morning and were rudely reminded that there are crude humans living among us.  The image is of trash dumped along our roadside last night, purposely pushed in where extraction of it will take much more labor than would have been the case if the culprit had simply dumped it in plain site. I alerted the sheriff to the situation and have hopes that the authorities will act. Those who do such things should be forced to clean it up. There is a beautiful small waterfall right there at that spot. Is it not amazing that the culprit would choose to desecrate that place of all places, choosing a place of particular beauty as the place where he would deposit his filth?

I realize that not all people in the world share the same moral fiber. Some are driven to the edge by depression, or by the influence of drugs. Among the discarded debris is a small teddy bear, hardly recognizable among the filth. That tiny bear is a reminder that character and the construction of human culture is a long term enterprise, for the worst of human character may be passed along generation after generation unless some stopping point is found.

Human beings are rapidly making a huge mess of things. Whereas, craftsmen, on the other hand, turn to the making of useful beauty as a moral imperative, and are made whole in the process. Can we not create a society in which craftsmanship and the character derived from it are cherished and rewarded? The benefits would be enormous.

I am working on a chapter of my book as rain has been falling in the forest all day. I wish all could live in such beauty and be nourished by it.

Make, fix, and please create...

drill jig...

Accurately drilling hinge pin holes on the drill press requires a simple drilling guide to hold the stock in the right position so that pins, left and right can be positioned in perfect alignment. If they are off slightly from each other, the lid will twist and bind.

As you can see, part of the fun of woodworking is figuring out how to do what needs to be done and eliminating probable error. The pins in the photo above will be trimmed after they are driven the rest of the way in. The business card in the photo below serves as a shim, providing just a bit of clearance so the lid does not bind.

I hope this box is one that my readers will want to make. The small pin hinges in association with the rare earth magnets used to hold the lids closed make for a delightful user experience. The lid operates smoothly, and pops tight when closed.

According to Dale Dougherty's article with KQED:
Dougherty knows many young people ready to go to high school who don’t see their passions being supported there. A lot of high schools got rid of classes like shop and metal work that were the “maker spaces” of a previous era. Parents didn’t see a use for those skills and they were gradually phased out.
Those who were engaged in teaching shop classes were unable to push aside the onslaught of purposeful misinformation that all kids were to go to college. The great lie was that we were to have a "service economy" in an "information age" in which making and the lack of making did not matter. There was huge stupidity in that. "Making" is not just making stuff, it's the means of making lives that matter. Parents could not imagine that kids left to their own passions might create futures for themselves if provided the materials and tools to do so.

Make, fix and create...

Monday, July 06, 2015

more tiny boxes

I now have more boxes assembled and ready for hinges, and I suspect my readers will like the simple inlay pattern. With this decorative technique, no two boxes will be exactly alike. After the hinge pins are put in place, the front edges of each box will be shaped with a disk sander, and rare earth magnets will be installed so the lids will latch.

These are "pocket boxes" designed to fit in a purse or pocket to carry small, essential bits of important stuff.

Some of my readers may have noticed how their own hands may become trained to efficient action with little thought required. It appears that the fingers actually process information, easing the cognitive burden on the brain, but also making the neurological system more efficient. Imagine having reduced the amount of traffic on your neurological highway, thus speeding traffic at the same time. Your fingertips perform brain-like calculations. Read it and see what you think.

The wisdom of the hands is actually quite simple, and easy to acquire. You do not need any phenomenal level of skill to claim it. You do have to become cognitive of what your hands contribute to human life, to human culture, and personal growth and understanding. And then instead of sitting on your hands as though they don't matter, you will be inclined to tinker and let your hands do more of the necessary thinking for you.

Make, fix and create...

Sunday, July 05, 2015

as you can see...

As you can see I'm continuing to make progress on making tiny boxes. These I'm calling hinged pocket boxes for lack of a better name. I've used tiny rare earth magnets to provide a secure closure. The copper hinge pins will be trimmed flush prior to final sanding.

In the next photo I show stock prepared for the next set of tiny boxes. The lids involve a meandering inlay pattern in which veneer is used to fill the bandsaw kerf in thick stock. The maple stock was cut into three sections with meandering lines. These were glued back together with veneer between and cut again with yet another piece of veneer inserted as the two parts are glued back together. After being rip sawn to thickness and cut into short pieces, this stock provides numerous small lids for interesting "hinged pocket boxes."

Years ago a young man told me, "I hate learning." I knew what he meant was that he disliked being taught. Learning is always interesting and exciting and involves discovery. Being taught requires sitting still and listening to someone verbalizing on subjects about which one may have little interest. I was lucky to learn early that I loved learning, that I could do it pretty well on my own, and that I needed to be engaged in work that left plenty to learn for a lifetime of work.

Woodworking is like that. Starting with a simple material, a few tools and a modest skill set, you can build incredible experiences from your own imagination that will serve others through the delivery of useful beauty. I hope what I share in this blog encourages others to take matters and materials into their own hands.

Let me know if all this is working for you.

Make, fix, create and encourage others to do likewise.

Saturday, July 04, 2015

Driving change...

Dale Dougherty, editor of Make Magazine and founder of Maker Faire was interviewed by KQED about the need that kids have to make things, and whether or not making should be included as the standard student fare. Can the Maker Movement Infiltrate Mainstream Clasrooms?.

Of course it can. But educational policy makers are infused with economic stupidity when it comes to education. They prefer to see children as machines that can be programmed to perform on standardized tests, rather than as growing human beings with a basic need to feel deeply connected.

John Amos Comenius, father of modern pedagogy said it thus:
Boys ever delight in being occupied in something for the youthful blood does not allow them to be at rest. Now as this is very useful, it ought not to be restrained, but provision made that they may always have something to do. Let them be like ants, continually occupied in doing something, carrying, drawing, construction and transporting, provided always that whatever they do be done prudently. They ought to be assisted by showing them the forms of all things, even of playthings; for they cannot yet be occupied in real work, and we should play with them.
Dougherty in his interview notes that schools haven't changed much, but student's situations have. Now instead of making things and building with blocks and real tools and materials at an earlier age, children begin schooling with a tactile deficit. They may have played with all the latest technological devices but were allowed no real world genuinely tactile experiences upon which to build a life in the sciences.

“Most of the people that I know who got into science and technology benefited from a set of informal experiences before they had much formal training,” said Dale Dougherty, editor of Make Magazine and founder of Maker Faire on KQED’s Forum program. “And I mean, like building rockets in the backyard, tinkering, playing with things. And that created the interest and motivation to pursue science.”

The best, most educational, most developmental, and most energizing activity is that of making things. It is also instructive. But we allowed students to be virtually strapped in seats, and chart their development based on number of hours bored in schooling. Comenius, in the 17th century was right, and the solution is for all who have arrived at an understanding of the role of the hands in the development of character and intelligence to take matters into our own hands. Big players like the standardized testing industry have been driving change in American education. We must put our own hands firmly on the wheel. One way to do that is to take our own children and grandchildren to the wood shop and share the creative experience we discover there.

In my own work, I am rather pleased with my progress on the tiny box shown above and at left. When I could not locate brass rod thin enough to serve as hinge pins, I went to the hardware store and bought 12 gauge copper wire. When stripped, it's perfectly proportioned to a tiny box, and can be sanded flush. Best of all, it's a solution I discovered for myself.

Never underestimate the power of discovery to energize student learning.

Make, fix and create. Enable others to do likewise.

Friday, July 03, 2015

a new tiny box...

I began working on a new design tiny box yesterday using inlay that I made last week. These are so easy that I know my readers will love making them. I also made 20 golden mean detector wands to share with my students at Marc Adams School of Woodworking later in the month. The boxes will be hinged with copper pins (with heads sanded off), and given an angular shape on the front. The detector wands will be used to provide insight into proportion.

The Golden mean detector wands are shown at left. To cut out the opening, I use a 1/2 in. square chisel mortiser, and then widen the cut to 13/16 in. Using the golden ratio always results in the use of irrational numbers, and 13/16 is about as close as I can measure to .809 in. with the tools I have in the wood shop. For those interested in the math, the aspect ratio is determined by multiplying the fixed width of the hollow chisel mortiser .5 x 1.618.

The wand is used by holding it up between the eye and the object and aligning its edges with the outlines of the object being viewed. If the edges align, the object conforms to the golden mean.

Perfect alignment is rare, as most designers consider adherence to the golden mean as being of less value than meeting other important design criteria.

In a sense, this is much like the rest of life. We can either shape things to match some intellectualized abstraction or to fit the real world.

Education, too, should fit the real world. Wood shop, anyone???

Make, fix and create...

Thursday, July 02, 2015


One of the questions that always comes up when I teach box making or furniture design concerns using the golden mean, based on a system of proportion derived from the Fibonacci sequence of numbers. The golden mean, also called golden ratio, or golden rectangle is assumed by some to have near mystical beauty of proportion and so some designers tout it as being supreme. So some years back, I made golden mean detector wands to allow my students to observe aspect ratio in common everyday things. Naturally they discovered that very few objects, whether we are talking about furniture or things of larger and smaller scale were made with the golden mean in mind.

The Golden Ratio: Design's Biggest Myth: The golden ratio is total nonsense in design. Here's why. This article tends to agree with my own findings that the golden rectangle is rarely used despite the hype, and that all kinds of wonderful things are designed without the least consideration of the most storied principle of design. 

So there are other aspects of proportion to consider that have greater impact on design than the fibonacci sequence. For instance, how does a box fit the objects it is intended to hold? How does the box fit the hand? How does it fit on the desk or on the shelf? Getting into the making and materials of the box, how does the thickness of the sides feel in relation to the size of the box? In making a lid, how is it proportioned to the rest of the box? Questions of design are innumerable, and the usefulness of the box is short changed when it is forced to conform to a flawed theory right off the bat.

Folks just love to come up with one size fits all theories of perfect design. Educational policy makers have been fiddling with education in the same way, trying to tweak it to be more efficient, based on simple formulas. The latest is that standardized testing can force compliance to educational standards. But education deals with real people who are damaged when their individuality and the individuality of their circumstances are not considered in what is planned for them. They learn too quickly that their own needs and interests are of little proportion in comparison to the demands of the system.

In box making, I came up with a simple proportion system, designed to get students making successful boxes, ASAP. I call it x +/- 2. In education, a simple set of ideals was described years ago in Educational Sloyd. Start with the interests of the child, move from the known to the unknown, from the simple to the complex and from the concrete to the abstract. To that, I add one more precept. Engage the hands in all learning. To engage the hands brings the child's full set of sense in play. To leave the hands idle makes schooling senseless and inefficient.

Make, fix, create and pass it on...

Wednesday, July 01, 2015

salt and pepper...

salt and pepper boxes.
I'm wrapping up photos and text for chapter 4 which consists of salt and pepper shakers and similarly designed boxes, all made by using a forstner bit to hollow the interior space. I plan to have 2 or 3 more chapters done in the next 3 weeks.

In addition, our 3rd Oneway lathe will be delivered at Clear Spring School tomorrow. It is exciting to make this sort of program upgrade. The Oneway lathes are more robust, and will therefore be safer for classroom use. This new lathe will also allow me to retire one of the Jet lathes put into operation in 2001.

I have a simple question. That we learn best when we learn something hands-on is nearly a no-brainer, not meaning that the brain is not involved, but that it is so deeply enmeshed in learning that its operation is seamless and unflawed. We can all think of times when we were so deeply involved and what we remember from it. And yet, when it comes to teaching our kids, we ignore the role their hands might play in effective learning. Does that make sense?

The purposeful integration of the hands in learning is the key to efficiency. But how do we lure educational policy makers to engage in revolution? Of course the key is to take matters into our own hands, for the hands offer primacy among the senses.
"The ground of this business is, that sensual (sensuous) objects be rightly presented to the senses for fear that they not be received. I say, and say it again aloud, that this is the foundation of all the rest; because we can neither act nor speak wisely, unless we first rightly understand all the things which are to be done and whereof we have to speak. Now there is nothing in the understanding which was not before in the senses. And therefore to exercise the senses well about the right perceiving of the differences of things will be to lay the grounds for wisdom and all wise discourse, and all discreet actions in one's course of life, which, because it is commonly neglected in schools, and the things that are to be learned are offered to scholars without their being understood or being rightly presented to the senses, it cometh to pass that the work of teaching and learning goeth heavily onward and offereth little benefit." – Comenius
Washington Post:  New research suggests nature walks are good for your brain  In the past several months, a bevy of studies have added to a growing literature on the mental and physical benefits of spending time outdoors. That includes recent research showing that  short micro-breaks spent looking at a nature scene have a rejuvenating effect on the brain — boosting levels of attention — and also that kids who attend schools featuring more greenery  fare better  on cognitive tests.

Make, fix and create...