Wednesday, August 31, 2016

The limitations of conventional language based learning

We all know that craftsmanship is an expression of values. A man or woman does beautiful and useful work because he or she cares enough to make it so. The inclination to create beautiful and useful things is a human universal. It can be found in every culture. It is rooted in relationship. We do good work because we are trained to expect it of ourselves, that we may be seen by others as caring. On the other hand, you can tell folks a thing or two, and lay verbal claim to your moral superiority, with it being shown at some point as total bull.

From Charles H. Hamm, Mind and Hand, 1886:
It is the most astounding fact of history that education has been confined to abstractions. The schools have taught history, mathematics, language and literature and the sciences to the utter exclusion of the arts, not withstanding the obvious fact that it is through the arts alone that other branches of learning touch human life... In a word, public education stops at the exact point where it should begin to apply the theories it has imparted... At this point the school of mental and manual training combined--the Ideal School--begins; not only books but tools are put in to the hands of the pupil, with this injunction of Comenius; "Let those things that have to be done be learned by doing them."
Also, from Charles H. Hamm:
When it shall have been demonstrated that the highest degree of education results from combining manual with intellectual training, the laborer will feel the pride of a genuine triumph; for the consciousness that every thought-impelled blow educates him, and so raises him in the scale of manhood, will nerve his arm, and fire his brain with hope and courage.
Hamm's theory is the antithesis of Plato, mas described in his Divine Dialogs:
"...the simplest and purest way of examining things, is to pursue every particular by thought alone, without offering to support our meditation by seeing or backing our reasonings by any other corporal sense."
To Plato, I offer James' rejoinder: "Philosophy lives in words, but truth and fact well up into our lives in ways that exceed verbal formulation. There is in the living act of perception always something that glimmers and twinkles and will not be caught, and for which reflection comes too late." – William James. The following is also from Charles Hamm.
It is easy to juggle with words, to argue in a circle, to make the worse appear the better reason, and to reach false conclusions which wear a plausible aspect. But it is not so with things. If the cylinder is not tight, the steam engine is a lifeless mass of iron of no value whatever. A flaw in the wheel of the locomotive wrecks the train. Through a defective flue in the chimney the house is set on fire. A lie in the concrete is always hideous; like murder, it will out. Hence it is that the mind is liable to fall into grave errors until it is fortified by the wise counsel of the practical hand.
The human hand is constantly seeking the truth and finding it. By leaving laboratory science and wood shop and the arts outside of education, we have diminished our children in both character and intellect, and diminished our human culture.

Make, fix, create and offer to others inspiration for learning likewise...

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

report on first day of school...

I had my first class with my 7th and 8th grade students  at Clear Spring School yesterday, asking them to do some work for me (restoring sanding blocks) while we discussed the projects they are interested in doing this year. They are interested in learning veneer work, making boxes, making tools, and making things to sell to raise money for travel.

I thought I had the steeples worked out for my small chapels of wood, but am reversing course. It is always inherently appealing to do things a new way, but we should always be ready to assess whether what's new provides new value. These new steeples as shown in yesterday's post were hard to do, but even though I invested too much time in them, in reflection, they do not fit quite as I hoped. The fix will be simple, and perhaps will be shown later in the day. I will make ridge pieces from walnut to which a turned steeple piece will be attached.

The lovely illustration of a plane and its parts is from the Course of Study, Manual Training Department of the Elementary Public Schools, Chicago 1899-1900. Compiled by R. F. Beardsley and available from google books. It contains a huge amount of interesting philosophy and instruction awaiting a renewal of interest.

Make, fix, create, and extend to others the opportunity to learn likewise.

Monday, August 29, 2016


Yesterday I turned small steeples of wood for the boxes that will hold collections of Arkansas woods. The chapel shape of each box, and the turned steeple are used as symbols to suggest to viewers that something sacred is at hand. The glimpse of turned hardwood samples through the windows will lure viewers to a state of curiosity and engagement.

Turning the steeples was easy. the precise fitting to the roof, just a bit more complex.

Next will come the final fitting of the doors, and inside shelves. I have been working my way rather slowly through this project and plan to have these boxes finished in time for a visit by members of the American Folk Art Museum.

Today students return to classes at Clear Spring School and my wood shop classes for some students begin on Wednesday.

Make, fix, create, and extend to others the opportunity to learn likewise.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

the third thread.

I have been in the process of building a new website, and have been trying to gather the necessary photos and text for my web designer make a good site. My present website has served like a weary horse but has received too little of my attention for years. Yesterday's post was an attempt to review some of the philosophy that has driven my work, but in it, I overlooked a third thread, as follows:
"The third thread is knowing that we have a responsibility to teach each other what we know. Doing is one thing, sharing it another. Sharing my skills with others accelerates my own learning and furthers my own appreciation of nature’s beauty and the craft of woodworking. Plus, it, too, is a joy to do."
I think I have a clear grip on the reason for Donald Trump's popularity. People want the license to say whatever comes to mind, to speak in an unfiltered manner without being called out for being rude, selfish and insensitive. But, I'm sorry, things just don't work that way... In real life when rude, thoughtless, and insensitive things are said people take offense and feel hurt. They may respond to boorish behavior and speech even if you are hiding out in the darkest and most vile parts of the internet.

On the other hand, there are real things that we learn from real craftsmanship. We learn that what we think has direct impact on what we do and what we make. For good work, the thoughts must be aligned with a higher purpose and strong values. So it might seem simplistic to suggest craftsmanship as the solution to all that ails us. But let's give it some thought... and then...

Make, fix, create, and extend to others the hope of learning likewise.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

two threads

The philosophy of my work grew from two slender threads, carefully woven through years into a consistent body of work.

The first of those philosophical threads was given to me as a young man when an elder craftsman, guiding me through the restoration of an old car told me that my “brains are in my hands.” I spent the next 25 years as a furniture craftsman exploring that notion, proving it to myself, and arriving at the conclusion that what was true for me was also true for most others as well. I’ve spent the last 15 years helping others to understand the power of the hands to reshape their own lives. There should be no surprises in this. The pre-Socratic Greek philosopher Anaxagoras noted centuries before that “man is the wisest of all animals because he has hands.”

The second thin thread was the realization that the woods that come from our great forests are too rarely understood in their great beauty and diversity. The most meaningful task for any woodworker to perform is to awaken others to the beauty that surrounds us. To craft something lovely and useful from our native woods lures others to discover the value of our native woods and to take care of the forests from which they come.

These two slender threads are carefully woven into a rope with two ends. One is a body of crafted work. The other consists of the sharing of the methods and spirit of that work through books, articles, classes for children and adults, and this daily blog, Wisdom of the Hands, where I promote the ideal of hands-on learning.

Shown above is a collection of some of the thoughts that may go into making a box.

Make, fix, create, and extend to others the likelihood of learning likewise.

Friday, August 26, 2016

thinking through

I have been gradually thinking through my box to hold a collection of turned samples of Arkansas woods, and have as my deadline for completion, September 10 when I have a group of members from the American Folk Arts Museum coming to tour my home and shop.

What you see in the image above are the doors of one box with holders  positioned where they will be attached to hold a dozen samples. The idea of the box is that when it is opened, a whole "choir" of woods can be seen. When the box is closed, only three woods will be visible through the plexiglass rosette.

The box is intended a a shrine to the beauty and value of our native woods.

The process of design is a form of play, but it is also an expression of intelligence of a type that is too often neglected in American schools. IQ tests include "spatial sense as an important type of intelligence that is crucial for engineering, science, music, the arts and mathematics. We do not know how much of the development of spatial sense comes genetically, how much comes through play, and at exactly what ages, but it is my belief, that at all ages, human beings derive benefit from design play.

Make, fix, create, and extend to others the likelihood of learning likewise.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

pattern recognition

After removing 25 feral hogs from the immediate neighborhood we had had some hopes of returning to normal and have begun restoring the rock wall that form the garden beds around our home. I am pretty good at recognizing patterns in the rocks and quickly assessing how they will fit gaps in the wall, but this is a skill area my wife admits is a particular challenge for her. Pattern recognition, spatial sense, and visualization are particular expressions of intelligence used in measuring IQ, and are closely associated with the kinds of play devised by Friedrich Froebel though the use of his gifts. According to the IQ test Labs with regard to pattern recognition:
Out of all mental abilities this type of intelligence is said to have the highest correlation with the general intelligence factor, g. This is primarily because pattern recognition is the ability to see order in a chaotic environment; the primary condition for life.
These kinds of intelligence are also closely associated with wood shop, though few educational policy makers seem willing to admit that could be the case. Is IQ something we either have or don't have? Or are their experiences in childhood that help to develop a higher IQ? I suspect there are, and that having experience in the manipulation of objects helps. For instance, this question involving Rubrik's cube:

How many folks have actual experience in the manipulation of Rubrik's cube? Without experience in it one would have far greater difficulty arriving at the right answer.

I have been meeting with my fellow teachers at the Clear Spring School to plan for the coming school year.

In the wood shop,  I've been using my own pattern recognition skills to continue work on my small chapels of wood. The holes drilled in the shelves are to position turned samples of 27 Arkansas woods.

Make, fix, create, and offer others a chance of learning likewise.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

poliiticians love charter schools. Scientists have other things in mind.

This exposé of charter schools is interesting, and while it might be unfair to paint all charter schools with the same broad brush, when politicians of both parties climb in bed with an idea, perhaps we should be particularly wary.

On the other hand, I would like to call my reader's attention to the work of Biologist/inventor Manu Prakash at Stanford who has created a 50 cent printable origami microscope and a $5.00 chemical analysis music box that is capable of running complex processes.

In the wood shop yesterday I began fitting out the insides of boxes to hold turned samples of 27 species of Arkansas woods.

Make, fix, create, and extend to others the love of learning likewise.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016


I wanted a rosette window in my boxes designed as small chapels of wood, so tried turning plexiglass round on the lathe to fit. After two attempts with it breaking each time, I changed course and used the scroll saw to cut it round. Next, I used the scroll saw free hand to make meandering cuts so that one side of the plexiglass circle can be mounted to each of the double doors. In the photo above, you can see a second door in the background, still covered by the paper used to mark the round shape, and the center line where the doors fit to each other.

This should add overall interest in the box. First, the viewer will be made curious about the objects viewed inside, and secondly, the viewer will be made curious about the craftsmanship involved in cutting glass (or even plexiglass) to such a close meandering fit.

Some may jump to the conclusion that computer technologies were involved. They were not.

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

Monday, August 22, 2016


I have been bending wood for tiny bent wood boxes as shown in the image at left, cutting blocks to finish Froebel block sets number 3 and 4, and working on my special collection boxes I call "the choiring of trees." More photos of those may come later in the day.

There are of course dangers to a society in which all folks are busy crafting beautiful and useful things. First, it would disrupt the status quo. We would be far less busy as consumers, and all the big stores would take a hit on their bottom lines. And this would be particularly true for those companies making and selling useless stuff.

The upside is that when people craft the objects that inhabit their own lives, they learn so much about themselves in the process, that we would be far more forgiving, nurturing and caring for each other. Who can be involved in crafting beauty, and making things to serve others, without learning other unintended things? Consider this:
"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"
And this:
"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, create, and use your example to inspire others to learn likewise.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

the most difficult point

Kim Brand, Director of 1st Maker Space, sent a link to an article describing the need for woodworking in schools. The Future of Woodshop. It is good to see programs on the rise, and to see educational policy makers beginning to understand the necessity of manual arts training. This video on the same school is a heart warming affair.

One of the appeals of woodworking in schools is that it allows children to do real things, which in turn reflects one of the principles suggested by an associate of Froebel, Adolph Diesterweg. He had proposed along the lines of Pestalozzi that education should proceed from the "concrete to the abstract." Education for most students has become mired in pretense and abstraction when kids really need to be doing real things that help to shape them in character as well as in intellect.

Diesterweg proposed: "First educate men, before worrying about their professional training or class... the proletarian and the peasant should both be educated to become human beings." So one mistake often made in manual arts training involves the question "who should receive it?"

Yes manual arts training is extremely important for those students who are not going to college. But YES, it is also a necessity for those who are destined for academic pursuits. That may be the most difficult point for me to get across. Regardless of where you are going in life, your life and the lives of those around you will benefit from your efforts to create useful beauty.

I spent the day yesterday cutting the dense thicket of small trees that has grown up on our drive. Today,  in the wood shop I'll continue bending wood to make tiny boxes and work on a series of boxes that contain samples of 28 Arkansas woods.

The image above is of Froebel's gift number 7 variant with right triangles and unequal sides. The triangles are a bit like the molecules in minerology in that various types fit each other in distinct ways and each set calls forth a differing set of forms. Compare the photo above with photos in the last two posts.

Make, fix, create, and extend to all others an understanding of the need to learn likewise.

Saturday, August 20, 2016


Froebel's gift number 7 was offered in several variations. And each gave the child the lovely opportunity to begin drawing with concrete forms. The tablets in various triangular shapes and in a square form could be arranged in forms reminiscent to those Froebel had witnessed both in nature and through his time working in the mineralogical laboratory of Christian Samuel Weiss.

It would make sense from a mineralogical standpoint to see how various shapes of triangle might lead to various types of form, as each type does lend itself to distinctive designs. The image above shows the use of equilateral triangles, and yesterday's post shows the use of acute triangles with two equal sides.

We captured another large hog in the trap last night, and I'm staying away from it until the hog has been dispatched. He crashes against the side of the trap with a tremendous amount of force, so I am attempting to avoid unnecessary agitation. We found someone to take the meat.

Make, fix, create, and offer an example that others may be inspired to love learning likewise.

Friday, August 19, 2016

in the thick...

I am in the thick of planning for the coming school year, and also planning for two visits by members of the American Folk Art Museum from New York. My shop is a mess and must be cleaned, and I have numerous small projects that need to be completed. In addition, the editor's work on my book about making Froebel's gifts is nearing completion and so I'm in the process of review.

It is fascinating that in IQ tests, knowing how things fit together is an important aspect in the measure of intellect, but schools actually do so very little to encourage understanding of such things, focusing instead on abstractlearning that can be offered on the cheap.

The only recourse at this point is to take matters and materials in your own hands in the education of our kids. The image above is of one variant of gift number 7, this being triangles with two equal sides. My new book will tell how to make such things, and the boxes in which they can be kept.

Make, fix, create, and extend to others the likelihood of learning likewise.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

the creator/craftsman

There is nothing more important to the human race than that its members become involved in the creation of useful beauty, and there is no more useful and beautiful connection between human culture and the natural world than the beautiful and useful things we craft from wood.

The truest purpose of making things, however, is  not to have them, hold them or sell them, but to reshape ourselves and our own lives to align with a higher image of self... Man the creator/craftsman, for in that form we are aligned in service to the rest of humanity.

I know there may be a sense of awkwardness and egotism in laying claim to a sense of moral superiority in relation to the practice of making beautiful and useful things. But please look around you and see what's happening to the real world when caring about the making of useful beauty has been in decline for some time.

Today in my wood shop, I'm cleaning and beginning to make a number of tiny bentwood boxes to sell when we have guests arriving from New York's American Folk Art Museum in September.

Make, fix, create, and extend to others the understanding of the necessity of learning likewise.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016


This morning I take my shovel to the Eureka Springs School of the Arts for a groundbreaking ceremony. The earthwork has already begun leveling the ground for the new wood shop, but we are going to take the time for a photo op to help with publicity for the major new addition to our school campus.

We are also meeting at the Clear Spring School to plan the coming school year, and I have been going through edits for my book on making Froebel's gifts. Naturally, we find a few things missing and a few things that must be fixed, as that's part of the process.

We seem to have been victorious for the time being in our efforts to remove feral hogs. We have had no further sightings of hogs since removal of the 12 feral piglets, and they are being raised in confinement on a small farm to the south of town. Getting out to check the trap each morning is a delight still.

Make, fix, create, and increase the likelihood through your example that others learn to love learning likewise.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Making Froebel's gifts

I have begun the review of edited text for my new book Making Classic Toys That Teach: Step-by-Step Instructions for Building Froebel's Iconic Developmental Toys, and am pleased to have this book moving through the developmental process. The book has been in the works for some time, and the publisher is doing an excellent job of putting it all together in coherent form.

There is hardly anything more important in education at this time than to restore creativity to our nation's homes and schools, and I have hopes that this blog and this new book will help move things in the right direction. Tests of childhood creativity have shown that it diminishes rapidly as children enter elementary school. Froebel's methods and a steady diet of wood shop, the arts and music would counteract that.

Make, fix, create, and extend to others the likelihood of learning likewise.

Monday, August 15, 2016

a new school year

This will be my first day of my teaching year at Clear Spring School and we start out the school year with two teachers remaining from last, one returning from a few years back, and two new to the school. I seem to have become the senior staff member with this being my 16th year teaching in my wisdom of the hands program. We also have a returning head of school and three former staff members helping out to get the new teachers engaged and charging ahead.

Clear Spring School has been called "the miracle in the woods," not only for the quality of its education but for its unlikely location in a small town normally considered too small to sustain an independent school.

So, today we will have orientation like we do at the beginnings of each school year, and it is from this point that I begin planning student projects and my own school year.

I have also been told that my book about making Froebel's gifts is nearing the stage at which my editorial review will begin. So I am just a bit nervous to see how it has been laid out, and to assure myself that all has been put together as I expect. Of particular concern to me is that I've told Froebel's story in such a way that the book will be historically accurate and that it creates a greater interest in hands-on learning.

Let's further complicate my life with a visit from members of the American Folk Art Museum who are coming to attend the exhibit of works from their museum at Crystal Bridges. That will be on the 17th of this next month, so I have shop cleaning to do (as is usually the case.)

Make, fix, create, and extend to others the likeliness of learning likewise.

Sunday, August 14, 2016


Yesterday my wife and I went to Crystal Bridges Museum in Bentonville, AR to see the temporary exhibit from the American Folk Art Museum. It was a lovely thing to see works by anonymous craftsmen placed in a setting in which they are celebrated as "art." And it would be my preference that instead of becoming fixated on art as a thing separated from common, everyday life, that we simply return to our roots, crafting useful beauty to inhabit all things. Every human culture around the world and throughout history was made worthy of celebration and remembrance when the efforts of the common man were dedicated to the making of beautiful and useful things. The following quote fits the objects we found in the museum:
"Things men have made with wakened hands, and put soft life into are awake through years with transferred touch, and go on glowing for long years. And for this reason, some old things are lovely warm still with the life of forgotten men who made them." -- D.H. Lawrence
An interesting point is that when men and women make useful beauty, they are crafting or recrafting themselves in useful and beautiful human form.

Arriving home from the museum and a movie, we found 12 incredible lively feral piglets in our trap. We had been observing them on the game camera for days, and had seen them scurry away several times as we drove by. A neighbor grabbed piglets by their back legs, put them in a crate and hauled them away to be raised in captivity and tamed for bacon.

If left in the wild, these would have been a danger to the entire local ecosystem. At this point, and between friends and neighbors we've trapped 18 hogs and killed an additional 9 in the forest surrounding our house. Catching 12 piglets and safely removing them from the wild has been the high point in our unexpected adventure.

 Yesterday was a big day at ESSA, too. We had 40 blacksmiths from all over Arkansas come to make tools for the blacksmithing studio.

Make, fix, create, and offer to others the likelihood of loving to learn likewise.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

a dream

I had an interesting dream last night that I had gone to a major educational institution for an appointment to meet with someone to explain the basics of the educational process, just as I did in a brief meeting with the provost at Teachers College in 2010.

In the dream I waited and waited for what seemed like hours and then was given just a few moments to speak. The woman could hardly wait to get away (after putting me off for hours it was late.) She gathered her stuff and left while I was in mid-sentence. Friends were gathered with me, and raised a ruckus as the administrator made her hasty retreat. Some of my friends had brought musical instruments, and let rip in serenade as she and her entourage made their way down the hall and out of the building. Would it not be a good thing if some of the educational policy makers were pushed toward a hasty retreat?

There are things that one learns through the practice of craftsmanship and the development of skill that are different in some ways from other occupations, and being different, they offer particular insight. And value. But those things one can learn from craftsmanship and the development of skill, are not what schools, school administrators, or educational policy makers want to hear about. They choose instead to seek an efficiency of learning using the wrong methodologies. I am attempting to work on a graphic illustration to describe with fewer words how holistic learning works. That may come in a few days.

The photo above is of one student's work from my 5 day box making class.

An editorial from the Washington Post describes what we are all up against in the digital online age, and I tip my hat to my student Buz Peine, (work shown above) who is not ever online and will never therefore know of my compliment. The editorial is titled: The age of stream of consciousness — and insanity by Kathleen Parker.

Make, fix, create, and extend to others the likelihood of learning likewise.

Friday, August 12, 2016

veneered boxes day 5.

Today my students will finish their work on veneered boxes, then we will clean up, and I'll haul my special tools for box making home from Clear Spring School. Yesterday at ESSA, the architect, builder, and earth mover met to mark out the footprint for the new woodworking building that will be built over the coming 6-8 months.

If you are a subscriber of Fine Woodworking, please look at page 78 of the current issue and see if you can identify some of the various woodworking contributors to the magazine drawn from among the thousands of woodworkers who have shared their knowledge through the magazine over its first 40 years. I found my own photo close to that of former president Jimmy Carter,  a lifelong woodworker. "How well do you know our authors is set up as a quiz and you can take it here.

Make, fix, create, and extend to others the likelihood of learning likewise.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Veneered boxes day 4

Today we will have a small exhibit of my ESSA student's boxes, including the one almost finished and shown above. I will take Danish oil and rags to school today so that student work can be finished prior to the show.

You are welcome to attend. The address is 374 Dairy Hollow Road, Eureka Springs, AR 72632 and the time from 4 PM to 5:30.

Next week I attend meetings with the Clear Spring School staff to prepare for our new school year.

It is extremely interesting to read what others have in mind for the future of education. Most educators have questions about how we can cover and measure the full breadth of knowledge.

Successful students on the other hand, seem to emerge from going deep and doing things that are real.

Make, fix, create, and offer others at least a chance to learn likewise.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

starting day 3

Starting day 3 of my box making class, nearly all of my students have a box nearly complete, and are started on a second box. They are all learning and having fun, and we are becoming friends. What can be better than that?

As all my readers know, I am a very lucky man having something to do that I love, that interests others and that I am given the chance to share.

Today, I'll introduce another hinging method, and perhaps add to the veneering skills that I've offered so far. And I suspect all of my students will be back for next year's classes. At least, I hope that's the case.

All of my students are excited about the new wood shop to be built beginning this summer at the Eureka Springs School of the Arts. And I will be involved in overseeing that construction during the coming months.

Make, fix, create and offer to others the capacity and opportunity to learn likewise.

Tuesday, August 09, 2016

ready for day 2

Yesterday morning I was greeted by a wailing of hogs trapped in the trap. There were two sows, a boar and a piglet which my friend Ken shot to help rid our forests of this invasive and destructive pest. It was not a pleasant thing, but certainly a reminded of the realities of life.

On a more pleasant subject, our first day of box making led us toward completion of a first box. Today will be more of the same, but we'll have an earlier start.

Richard Bazeley in Australia sent a note about his student's introduction to spoon carving. They were asked to think of their favorite spoon (and each of them had one) and some of them were baby spoons kept in the kitchen drawer. Richard noted that the spoon was the first tool that they had used, and thus we begin to grasp the way that tools and tool use is woven deeply into human culture.

Make, fix, create, and offer to others the opportunity to learn likewise.

Monday, August 08, 2016

making veneered boxes.

This is day one of a week long box making class for the Eureka Springs School of the Arts, so I've been getting ready the last couple days, and getting the Clear Spring School wood shop laid out for 6 students to make boxes. Four of the six students have been in my earlier classes, so it be a reunion of sorts. I should have photos of my student's progress later in the day or tomorrow morning.

Make, fix, create, and extend to others, the opportunity to learn likewise.

Sunday, August 07, 2016

the interconnectedness of all things.

The secrets of the wood wide web is an interesting article in the New Yorker that describes study of the interrelationship between trees in the forest, supported by a network consisting of a subsoil fungi through which they exchange nutrients and information. We tend to look at things as discrete and individual, but in reality, things are not. You cannot learn to do woodworking for example without learning something about tools, and you cannot do woodworking without knowing something about wood, and without having something to make, which then draws you into the milieu of human culture and consciousness.

So while schools tend to treat individual students as discrete objects to be measured and filled, or filled then measured,  as though they bottles on a conveyor belt in the bottling plant, the reality of a child's life (or an adult's life) is that it is intertwined with the whole of planetary existence and that planetary existence is intertwined in the existence of the cosmos.

I read a wonderful book by a Swedish author, Fredrik Backman. A Man Called Ove tells the story of a curmudgeon through a series of flashbacks that help the reader understand this man, his history, his character and his milieu. My readers may particularly enjoy it in that Ove is one of those who takes particular delight in fixing things that he can fix and fighting those he deems responsible for that which he cannot. But I'll not take away the reader's delight in discovering this book.

Today I continue getting ready for a week of box making at the Eureka Springs School of the Arts. The class will be held in the Clear Spring School wood shop. The box shown above is similar to the ones that my students and I will make.

Make, fix, create, and demonstrate for others the necessity of learning likewise.

Saturday, August 06, 2016

One time tools.

Tools and skill are two different things. I am getting the Clear Spring School woodshop ready for next week's ESSA box making class and have been painting guitars. We have a very large sow and 8 or 9 piglets hanging around the feral hog trap, but the sow refuses to go inside. The feral hogs are smart, and the trap, once its danger is understood does not work. The mother pig stands outside and lets her piglets go in and out through openings in the wire while she tries to put her nose under the edge.

In other words, our feral hog trap could be called a "one-time tool," but that name is already taken. Woodcraft Supply, normally one of my favorite woodworking tool suppliers, is selling "one time tools" with the "one time" referring to their marketing plan of them being available only one time. They've had great success with some of their one-time tools and those are being brought back, not as two-time tools, but under the same brand label. The advertisement email from Woodcraft warns, "This is your last chance." And that's what they said the last time this particular "one time tool" was offered.

The big concern I have with these tools  is that you may actually use them "one time," to see if they work, then put them away in a drawer where they are never found again, except when your wife is arranging your estate sale and the auctioneer asks her, "what's that?"

There is an idea among woodworkers that a vast collection of tools is required. Nothing could be further from the truth. Some tools are required, but some skill also. I suggest extreme caution in buying "one time tools." Some may actually be useful to you but without having first developed some skill, you'll end up with a useless collection of little value and have no sense to discern what will be useful to you and what not.

It seems to be widely noted in the media that Donald Trump is the worst presidential candidate of all time. He says racist things, has no experience in public office, has been married three times, thus providing evidence of huge disturbance and mismanagement in his private life, he claims business success despite 6 or 8 bankruptcies, he is petty and petulant, and he is apparently beloved by nearly 40 percent of the American people. I attempted to explain this phenomenon in an earlier post during an earlier presidential election. Why JP ain't smart. 

You can help Trump get a purple heart of his own here: Help Trump get a purple heart. I think sending Trump to war would be a good idea, as it might remove the glory of it and help him to understand the adverse effects.

Make, fix, create, and extend to others the joy of learning likewise.

Friday, August 05, 2016

a good captain owns his mistakes

There is a saying among those who sail professionally, "A good captain owns his mistakes." And a true man or womanly woman, admits when he or she has made a mistake and accepts responsibility for it. It is part of being accountable, of being trustworthy, and earning the continued trust of others. Is that so difficult to understand? No one wants to sail with a captain that cannot admit openly when he or she makes a mistake but instead tries to shift blame on others.

I actually tweeted Donald Trump a few minutes ago. Slightly more than a half hour ago, he stated that the airplane that he had "seen on TV unloading 400,000 dollars in cash on an Iranian airfield, "was actually unloading hostages in Geneva and was unrelated to the transfer of $400,000 to the Iranians.

He did not say oops. He did not apologize to those he had lied to and misled, or to those he had attempted to offend. On Twitter, he did not explain his error, or suggest how he might have avoided it or how he can keep from making such errors in the future.

Unlike a good captain (or a good craftsman) and despite all the many times the man has misperceived, misunderstood, misled and purposefully lied to the American People, he has yet to own up and apologize for any of it. But perhaps tweeting the correct information and clarifying what he actually saw on TV is a very small first step. He should by all rights be challenged now in the media to apologize for misleading the American people on this matter and so many others.

The following is from Charles H. Hamm.
It is easy to juggle with words, to argue in a circle, to make the worse appear the better reason, and to reach false conclusions which wear a plausible aspect. But it is not so with things. If the cylinder is not tight, the steam engine is a lifeless mass of iron of no value whatever. A flaw in the wheel of the locomotive wrecks the train. Through a defective flue in the chimney the house is set on fire. A lie in the concrete is always hideous; like murder, it will out. Hence it is that the mind is liable to fall into grave errors until it is fortified by the wise counsel of the practical hand.
The human hand is constantly seeking the truth and thereby finding it. By leaving laboratory science and wood shop, music and the arts outside of education, we have diminished our children in both character and intellect, and diminished  human culture.

Donald Trump has been called a "short-fingered vulgarian." We have ample evidence of his vulgarity, but now also have evidence that he is short fingered. In fact his hand size ranks only in the 15th percentile when measured against all men even though his frame size is on the upper scale. In other words, his hands would be small, even for a small man. For a tall man, his fingers and hands are minuscule.

a bronze cast imprint of Trump's hand
This is a thing you can actually test for yourself. There is a life-sized bronze casting of Trump's hand near the exit of Madame Tussauds wax museum in New York city. It you are in New York, you can go by the museum and measure your own hands against those of the "short-fingered vulgarian." There is no serious evidence linking hand size and stupidity. On the other hand, there is ample evidence that the training of the hands is a factor in the development of intelligence.  Donald Trump's blunders are enough to make one wonder. He does in fact have tiny hands and no evidence of skill in using them for anything but golf.

If you want to actually compare Trump's hand size to your own, I've made it easy for you. Download and print this .pdf file and compare sizes. Remember that Trump is also 6' 3" tall and should by all rights have a larger than normal hand size.

Make, fix, create, and assist others in learning likewise.

Thursday, August 04, 2016

Your national security briefing.

I heard that as the Republican nominee, Donald Trump has begun receiving top secret national security briefings. As scary as that may seem on its own merits, my own briefing is not top secret. The U.S. won WWII because the people here were busily engaged in making things and growing food, that fed, clothed, armed and protected nearly the entire world against fascism.

This briefing will be brief. Look around you. We do not need spies to tell us what we can see or choose not to see with our own eyes. Our children and young adults are busily chasing Pokeman, while failing to learn the things that might matter most to our nation...

Making beautiful and useful things is not just about the economy. It is also about the growth of intelligence, about the sharing of meaning, about values and about the continued development of human culture.

When Donald Trump announced that he could murder someone in the streets and his faithful followers would still vote for him, he was probably right. There are still 42% of Americans who would be foolish enough to vote for him, thus putting our whole nation and planet in danger.

I have begun work on what will be the last chapter of my book on box guitars, as it involves their paint and decoration.

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

Wednesday, August 03, 2016

There is a realationship...

The hands and mind are connected, and one best gains an understanding of reality by doing real things. And so, as a craftsman, I sometimes feel that I've been granted some insight that at least a few others may not have. For instance, I understand that global warming is real, and I can understand the mechanism of it even though Republicans in congress and the current Republican presidential nominee refuse to accept its reality. I grew up in a household in which my father suffered from un-diagnosed PTSD from WWII. So I do know at least a bit of what happens when politicians decide to send young men to war, even when that war is as necessary as it was in WWII.

And so, to listen to Donald Trump deny the reality of climate change, and to demean Gold Star parents, and then to welcome the gift of a warrior's purple heart, saying "I always wanted one of those," tells me how completely out of touch he and his supporters are. It is my sincere hope that others leave the world's most flamboyant egomaniac stranded and abandoned.

Today it was revealed that Donald Trump had to ask a national security expert 3 times  why using nuclear weapons would not be advisable. Not only is this man dangerously out of touch, but support of him in this presidential election is a very dangerous choice.

This has nothing to do with woodwork or woodworking education, you might complain. In actual fact, there are no boundaries between human activities. Woodworking is deeply connected to every field of study including politics and economics. The use of the hands in the creation of useful beauty is the foundation of human culture, whether we are talking about music, the arts, or the making of useful objects that express concern for each other.

You may not like being lectured on the dangers of a demigod. What I suggest is that we all get busy making beautiful things and allow the wisdom of life to come alive through our hands. The hands and mind are connected and one best gains an understanding of reality by doing real things. Not by simply directing others to do so.

Make, fix, create, and extend by example the love of learning likewise.

Tuesday, August 02, 2016

mother trees...

Trees are full of life in ways that few consider. Now research proves that trees communicate with each other in unexpected ways. Do trees communicate with each other? Evidently the answer is surprisingly yes!

Yesterday I went to the sawmill to pick up lumber sawn from 3 post oak logs I harvested from our small woodlot. The tree the logs came from had been leaning at an extreme angle and  had fallen from root failure during a storm. Harvesting it did little damage to the surrounding forest. The lumber will be used to build a boat.

Today in the wood shop I'll prepare stock for next week's box making class.

Make, fix, create, and extend to others the love of learning likewise.

Monday, August 01, 2016

from the Diane Rehm Show...

The following is from a recent broadcast on the Diane Rehm Show on National Public Radio:
The obsessive use of digital technology is a real problem for many teens and children, say parents and therapists. A recent study by Common Sense Media, a parent advocacy group, found that 59 percent of parents think their teens are “addicted” to mobile devices. A growing number of psychologists specialize in treating young people who use digital technology obsessively— some even to the point of not eating or sleeping. ––How to help teens and children fight tech addiction.
Video games are purposely designed to capture and keep the child's attention through a system of rewards (and punishments.) This is well documented and is a strategy acknowledged by game producers. And yet, parents gladly enable this addiction thinking that games offer some development of useful skill like hand and eye coordination.  These parents take some  pleasure in having their children distracted from doing real things and making a nuisance of themselves. When it  comes to hand and eye coordination, even scissors can provide that. When you work with real tools, to create useful beauty, that, too can be addictive, but in service of mankind. There is a difference.

Yesterday I finished a fret board for a six string box guitar.

Today I plan to pick up a large load of oak lumber that I had milled for materials for building a boat. I will sticker it for drying under the barn.

Make, fix, create, and extend to others the love of learning likewise.