Sunday, September 25, 2016

bikes and brews

This has been Bikes, Blues and Barbecue weekend in Northwest Arkansas, and Eureka Springs has been overrun with thousands and thousands of motorcycles. The event is one of the largest motorcycle rallies in the US, and my small town of Eureka Springs is a hot destination for hot bikes, carefully uniformed bikers and their gals and cold beer. Eureka Springs fits the perfect formula for a biker destination: Long winding roads with valleys deep enough and hills steep enough so that the gut rises as you come up over the top––followed by cold beer and hanging out with others in biker dress when you hit town. The steady roar of loud bike pipes is astounding, and interrupted only by the occasional siren whine of the EMTs racing to the latest crash.

I have other things in mind. For about the same money as a new Harley, you can equip a top quality wood shop with new tools. I drove by some bikers this morning who were lovingly wiping the dew from their expensive machines, and its obvious that they take a certain pride in their rides. For the price of a used Harley, you can buy all the used equipment to do woodworking that you would ever need. In the event you don't have the money for an old Harley, you can start out with only a very small collection of tools... whatever your small budget allows. But you would also need to develop some skill and patience in your tool use and use your imagination to know what to make. In any case, it is probably unfair to draw comparisons. There is a difference between motorcycling, and the deliberate effort to create useful beauty.

From another angle, the unnecessary revving of motors just to hear the echo from our hillsides is unfair to those of us who have chosen to live here to avoid all that noise. We like the money they spend here. We also like the fact that they will be gone on Monday. This morning many of the motorcyclists have gotten back into normal garb, have loaded their Harleys in trailers behind SUVs and are headed home wherever that might be. May they all find their way safely and come back again but with quieter pipes.

The box shown above is one from my new book, Making Classic Toys that Teach. I was reviewing photos for one to be used in the 2017 catalog of classes for Marc Adams School of Woodworking, advertising a class on making Froebel's classic gifts.

Make, fix, create, and guide others toward the likelihood of learning likewise.


  1. Seeing a small box filled with nice blocks like this makes me want to make one.
    I have a small nephew who is 3 years old. I think he would like to get a set like that.
    I just have to complete some of the other projects before starting new ones.

  2. Jonas, Some of the blocks in this set are small enough that they are not recommended for children of the age that would put them in the mouth. But these are fun to play with, and a stimulus to creativity.

    Froebel had recommended children start with gifts one, two, three and four and work their way up to gift 5.

    I recently watched a 1 1/2 year old play with a number 3 set that I'd given her. She stacked them, wasn't ready yet to build representational forms, and was puzzled as to how to get them to fit back in the box. Getting them back in the box is part of the puzzle that keeps these sets together as a lasting object. Without the box the pieces get scattered. Learning to get the parts back securely in the box is much easier when kids start with gift 3.

    My new book will be out in late October, so that gives you some time to get other projects out of the way.

  3. Please let me know when your classic toys book is available!

    An inventory of tools for a basic educational wood shop would be very helpful. Indianapolis Public Schools and University of Indianapolis are interested in building a teacher education center for hands in learning. I believe woodworking should be part of that.



  4. Kim, I can gather a list of tools that would help. Most important are good woodworking vises, and someone who can prepare stock and understand the physics involved well enough to keep a watchful eye.

    I will certainly be posting when the new book comes out. You can pre-order through