Saturday, December 29, 2018

center marking gauge

Marking the center of a wheel is a very easy thing if you have the right tool for it. You can buy tools similar to this for as much as $25.00. For a few cents worth of material and less time than it would take you to order one, and certainly less time than it would take to wait for the UPS truck to arrive, you can make this simple center marking gauge.

This center marking jig will work on square, octagonal or round stock, finding the exact center every time. It is useful for wood turning, but also for making small wheels in toy making. Normally the center is found by making two lines at 90 degrees to each other. That I made several intersecting lines that meet at the exact same point, assures me that the jig is dead on.

My center finding jig is made of 1/8 in. thick Baltic birch and the hole is drilled so that it can be hung for storage and also so it will be known to not be a piece of scrap wood available for student use. I am revisiting my chapter on making wheels, simplifying, and improving. This jig is part of that process.  You will find it best to drill the axle hole using a brad point bit.

Make, fix, and create. Devise opportunities for others to learn lifewise.

Friday, December 28, 2018

The Girl's Own Toy-Maker.

Ebeneezer Landells and his daughter Alice wrote a companion to the Boy's Own Toy-Maker for girls in 1860. It is good that the girls were not forgotten. You can find that book as a free download here: The projects range widely from dolls and doll clothes, to toy furniture, houses, paper boxes and even boats. The plans are not overly complete, leaving plenty for the children to think about on their own/

Ebeneezer Landells said of his book,
My earnest desire has been to make it practical in all respects, and the labour has been cheered and lightened whilst feeling that this little book might become the medium of instilling into the young habits that would lay the foundation of usefulness in after life.
Let us hope that's the case. Think of the millions of children these days whose fingers and thumbs are engaged in useless digital manipulations. Let's remember that hands are to be usefully engaged in service to family, community and self.

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

Thursday, December 27, 2018

Using a fork as hold down.

I made a new wheel drilling jig for use at school, and to keep hands safe, I came up with an ingenious method of holding the work. Using a stainless steel fork like you can find cheap in any thrift store in America, I bent the tips of the tines at 90 degree angle to get a firm grip. The stainless steel fork has a bit of "spring" in the tines, making it perfect for the task.

Yesterday while I was at work in the school wood shop, one of my second grade girls showed up, gently knocking on the wood shop door. She wanted to borrow a screwdriver. "Straight or phillips," I asked. "Straight" she said. She had come to school with her mother to do the school's payroll, and had brought a bunch of stuff in a bag with the plan of taking things apart. "Lovely," I thought. An engineer or scientist or artist in the making.

Make, fix, and create....

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

the Boys' Own Toy-maker

Barbara Bauer alerted me to an article that alerted me to a website to a book, The Boy's Own Toy-Maker, E. Landells, 1860.

With Christmas over and the shower of manufactured stuff having passed and perhaps begun to wear off, perhaps a few children will return to the wonderful things they can make for themselves. I know at least one Clear Spring School student was receiving tools for Christmas. Her mother told me so. Landells says of his book,
"This is a boy's book in which the author has tried with his pen and pencil, to teach some useful things for the pleasant time of play hours. It is a plain book, which he hopes will be easily understood by any boy old enough to be trusted with such common tools as a penknife or a pair of scissors, and still be equally suited for the pastime of those who, of riper age, aspire to manlier amusement."
Of course the contents of the book could be just as well used by girls, but that thought would not fit so well in the time it was written. The book also points to the practical value of the toys children have made in the development of their intelligence for later things.
"All children in a degree love to construct, and this surely points to a most practical means of conveying instruction when you provide amusement. The boy engaged in making a toy-house becomes half an architect in the knowledge acquired of the names and uses of forms and materials which, without a model, he could hardly comprehend. How he forms a tiny boat or cutter, and rigs it himself, acquires a familiarity with every rope and spar that belongs to the vessel he acquires a knowledge which, without going so far as the island desert, may any day of life be of valuable service to him who inhabits an island home. Knowledge is power; the more practical it is the more powerful will it be for our good and for that of our fellow-beings, and it is hoped that our young readers will have reason to remember with a kindly regard among the thousand common circumstances of life, the instruction imparted in these pages."
Enough said, perhaps. A few wise words ought to suffice, if given to the wise. Given the state of America education, likely it will not.

Make, fix and create...

Tuesday, December 25, 2018

Merry Chrismas to all...

Yesterday I mentioned the Spanish conquest of the Incan civilization and the brutality through which the Spanish attempted to obliterate a culture even as they plundered its riches. Let us celebrate the good parts of the message of Christ, and fess up to the evil done in Christ's name, just as we recognize the good ideals put forth by our founding fathers as we fess up and try to improve the relationship between the US and the world and between ourselves and each other. Let us learn to give to each other, to trust each other and to build upon ideals. Those are: the fellowship of human kind, respect for all life, and the right worship as we see fit whether we do the bulk of it in the forest, the classroom, the wood shop or in the shopping mall. We each are born with the responsibility to care for each other.

In my home woodshop, I'm working on a new jig for drilling wheels that may be included in the book if it offers some hope of being an improvement, making wheel making easier for kids. The idea is simple even though it took a long time to arrive in my thoughts. The photo shows the start of the jig. It will fit over the drill press table, but I don't expect you to understand how it works until you see it in use.

Yesterday on the radio (NPR) they were talking about the need for human beings to be able to colonize other planets. Some of their planning is based on accepting an understanding that we've so badly screwed up own planet, that we need someplace to escape to. To those who would go to Mars, I have this wish. Get off your computer and take a walk into the real world. Then having witnessed the wonders of it,  get off your posteriors and apply yourselves to protecting what we have. Certainly we would learn a few things by attempting to live on another planet. But how about attempting to learn a few things from living on earth? And by taking better care of what we've been given?

Make, fix, and create...

Monday, December 24, 2018

what if...

What if scholars are missing something? Since they look at the world largely through words and visual images, they, I think, miss a lot. During Pissaro's conquest of Peru, his small band of mounted and armed soldiers confronted Atahualpa's army of thousands. The Spaniards accompanied by Catholic priests, informed Atahualpa that their holy Bible was a "talking book." When Atahualpa held the book and fanned his fingers through its pages, it said nothing to his touch, and he threw the bible down in disgust. That provided justification for Pissaro's soldiers to attack. Men mounted on horseback and armed with more advanced weaponry killed thousands of Inca warriors without the loss of a single one of Pissaro's men.  Thus began the purposeful annihilation of the Incan culture including the destruction of their Quipu.

Using knotted strings, called quipu, the Incan people kept records of their culture, including stories and transactions. At this point in time, due to the purposeful destruction of the Incan culture, little is known about how to actually read Quipu. As a bystander, I'm intrigued whether or knot the hands may have the key, and whether or not what is recorded about Atahualpa's encounter with the conquerors might be instructive of a thing that's lost. Could it not be true that trained hands might read Quipu, even in the dark, by pulling slender knotted threads through one's fingers? Atahualpa saw no value in the sacred book offered by the priests because it said nothing of truth to his hands and touch.

Of course, this is conjecture and it will take scholars to determine the truth if any are interested.

A graphic novel by Nick Sousanis came to my attention. It is called "Unflattening" about which is said, "The primacy of words over images has deep roots in Western culture. But what if the two are inextricably linked, equal partners in meaning-making? Written and drawn entirely as comics, Unflattening is an experiment in visual thinking." I will go a step further and suggest that even visual images on a page are also flat. It truly takes touch to bring human experience to life.

And so, what if we were to make a leap of faith, and accept what our hands know to be true. Our hands are not dumb slaves to the eyes and mind. They are the proof that emerges as essential to an understanding of reality and our place within it.

Make, fix and create. yes, please.

Sunday, December 23, 2018

January 2019

I received the January 2019 edition of the Woodcraft Catalog, and has it grown massive since I began woodworking. It has many times more interesting tools to choose from, and in that things are much more complicated than when I began my career as a woodworker. The Woodcraft Catalog has always been a source of inspiration.

On the other hand, there are very good reasons to keep things simple. A hammer and a saw and a bit of wood can keep most folks learning for decades. Joni Mitchell had sung about the thumb and the satchel, and the crazy you get from too much choice. Take care in your acquisition of tools. Choose well and avoid the tool craziness that can keep you from getting anything done.

I also received a copy of a book published by the University of Arkansas Press about the work of my friend Robyn Horn. In The Sculpture of Robyn Horn, A variety of experts in the field of crafts (and art) offered their introductory remarks that should help readers to better understand the work displayed throughout the book in wonderful photos.

Make, fix and create...

Saturday, December 22, 2018

shrink pots

This video is from Fine Woodworking showing how to make a shrink pot box. Due to drying time you would not likely have one finished for this Christmas, but there are other boxes you can make in little time. Some of those boxes will be featured in my book about Woodworking with kids.

A few days before winter break, one of my students brought in a small box full of something he wanted to show me. It was the box interested me most. It was a leather hinged box he had made in wood shop and then left in the woods outside his home. It had the appearance of an ancient artifact. And it's nice to witness how the things my students make have an expanded role in their lives. When we make something, we do much more than make an object. We engage in making ourselves as craftsmen.

Today I'll be cleaning my wood shop.

Make, fix and create...

Friday, December 21, 2018

with humility...

I dreamed last night that I ascended a very long dark staircase and opened a door into a softly lit room. There was a table and a lamp, glowing in welcome. As it appeared to be the home of others, I closed the door and descended down into the street.

Where do such dreams come from? I had been thinking of an old friend, who likely occupies a room like that. He had led a meditation group in Springdale of which I had been a part. It was suggested of him, that he had spiritual powers. He made no such claims. His purpose was to build a group of awareness in which each person might be of some support to the others and that each might thereby grow in consciousness.

We have something that sort of resembles that now with facebook, instragram and all. We connect with each other over networks and wires and in rooms in which folks gather in denial of others outside the group, and hold tightly to their opinions, regardless of how much they are thereby restrained from a direct encounter with the facts.

One thing I can say about my friend in Springdale, he was kind and had no pretense. He thought only of others and little for himself. He did not seek to place his on name on top of things. And thereby one can learn the difference between a wise man and a charlatan.

There is a humility to be found in craftsmanship. You try something and it fails and you, having acknowledged your mistakes, attempt to make ammends. The craftsman's best tool is forgiveness.

To those locked in dark chambers of their own making, I advise, carefully avoid arrogance. It is what sets human beings apart.

You can find the Arkansas Made article about ESSA here: The photo of Dale Custer teaching blacksmithing is from that article.

Make, fix and create...

Thursday, December 20, 2018

Band sawn boxes.

Being off from school this week, I'm going through old photo files from the Wisdom of the Hands program at Clear Spring School. The archives are deep, including a variety of bandsawn boxes made from scraps provided by a friend.

When you are given a wood scrap and it's suggested you make something from it, the results are by their very nature, unique. Bandsawn boxes are made by cutting a chunk of wood apart, removing parts of it, and reassembling it into it's near original form. These boxes are made from scrap burl woods. More images can be found on my instagram account:

Make, fix and create... Assist others in learning lifewise.

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Rosie with two balls

Four month old Rosie worked on this technique for carrying two small tennis balls beginning about a month ago. It is a good trick that requires positioning them in her mouth precisely and it was a thing she planned on her own. Do other dogs instinctively do the same thing? I suspect they all have tricks of their own, just as human beings seek ways to entertain themselves and learn at the same time. If this brief movie has not loaded to facebook, go to my blog, or to youtube:

Rosie tried the trick once and it was only after a number of attempts she was able to pick both up at the same time. To her it was not a trick, but something that needed to be done. She decided on her own to perfect the trick by practicing it over and over again. In order to get the balls in her mouth at the same time, she has to hold one ball in the side of her mouth while she positions the other ball with a paw. Then she has to open her mouth just enough to add the second ball without dropping the first.

Q. What gets into a dog that would make it want to perfect a trick like this on her own? A. The same thing that gets into each if us to drive learning and differentiation. Children and dogs each feel the need to be good at something. They need not all be good at the same tricks, and it is best that they not be. The future of the planet is dependent on sustaining diversity of species and thought.

For my regular readers, I've been attending to other things of late, including Rosie the goldendoodle. If you miss these posts, I'll remind that 12 years of regular posts to the Wisdom of the Hands Blog are available here:

We are down to just a few making days before Christmas. This being the time of year for reflection, I'm planning new things for the coming year.

Make, fix and create...

Saturday, December 15, 2018

toys again...

Readers asked about the kids making the delivery of toys to the food bank. This year all the students were tightly scheduled for rehearsals for the holiday program, and so I rather unceremoniously made the delivery alone. In the past I would take a group of 1st and second grade students with me to make the delivery. But the program, attended by family and friends is also important.

The class of 5th and 6th grade students shown took the lead in this year's project. All the other classes joined in and I could not resist making a few myself.

We have about 9 making days before Christmas.

Today I hope to clean shop.

Make, fix and create...

Friday, December 14, 2018

tiny toys

Yesterday I delivered toys made by our students to the local food bank to be given to kids. Two men were cooking the community meal when I arrived and they were excited to see what our students had done.  They treated my arrival like I was a celebrity of some sort. Our students were proud of their work  and I felt proud of what they had pitched in and done.

When children have the opportunity to do real things in benefit to their community, they grow in character as well as in intellect.

This year's toy making was a bit different from last year in that we made very tiny cars and trucks using wheels cut from dowels. The tiny vehicles are fun. and can ride in a shirt pocket.

Make, fix and  create...

Thursday, December 13, 2018

ESSA enrollment open now. Sign up for classes.

Enrollment in ESSA spring and summer classes opened yesterday and there were a flurry of signups taking advantage of a 10% early enrollment discount. Go to this site: You will find classes of interest in nearly every area of the arts and crafts. The printed copy of the catalog will also be available soon. I offer classes in box making.

Today I will deliver toys to the local food bank that our Clear Spring School students have made, and our students will perform in the annual holiday program. Then for me, I'll have a few days to catch up on things around the house and in my woodworking business. We are also going full steam into the editing of my book about woodworking with kids.

A friend noted his use of "21 Reasons Why School Woodshops are important in the 21st Century" in a speech to his local Toast master's Club. That paper, distributed by the Ne England Association of Woodworking Teachers can be found here: I had helped write it.

A few years back I had done an article for Fine Woodworking called "A better way to build boxes." Since then I've taught many classes and further refined my techniques, so I'm working on another article for the same magazine along the same lines. Repetition is the mother of invention and refinement.

This fall, I made 80 engraved boxes to be sent as holiday gifts by the Chancellor at the University of Arkansas. I heard from a friend that her's had been delivered.

Make, fix and create...

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

The good, the bad and the ugly

Years ago, a spaghetti western starring Clint Eastwood was titled, the Good, the Bad and the Ugly. A similar title could be applied to modern technology. It may be more destructive than bad guys with guns, in that it may leave us mindless and brain-dead. (is that why zombie movies are so popular???) Having access to information is not the same as being smart. Having had experience and a way to apply and translate information is essential.

Last week I attended the furniture review panel for 5th year architecture students at the E. Faye Jones School of Architecture at the U of A. The students had been assigned some selected readings during the course of the semester, one of which was Matthew Crawford's book, Shop Class as Soulcraft. Crawford had used a quote from my blog as the opening to Chapter one.
"In Schools we create artificial learning environments for our children that they know to be contrived and undeserving of their full attention and engagement… Without the opportunity to learn through the hands, the world remains abstract, and distant, and the passions for learning will not be engaged." --Wisdom of the Hands blog post of October 16, 2006
 We could on the one hand, allow children to sit around all day on social media. Given the boring nature of conventional schooling, for many children that might be preferred.  They'd not mind sitting around all day checking their Instagram accounts. The alternative is to give them real things to do, that offer meaning and growth. Wood shop is messy. It requires more band-aids than conventional classes. It can be noisy. But it can also be expansive of the child's understanding of the real world.

In the German language new words are created by tacking one on the end of the other. One of my favorite long German words is Fingerspitzengefühl.  Meaning finger tip feeling, "it describes a great situational awareness, and the ability to respond most appropriately and tactfully. It can also be applied to diplomats, bearers of bad news, or to describe a superior ability to respond to an escalated situation." It comes to the child from having both Wissenshaft, and Kentniss, two forms of knowledge, one having to do with real experience and the other derived from external sources, and the guidance to use those two forms of knowledge in problem solving.

Sadly, the experiment involving the widespread implementation of digital technologies is too widespread to fight like gunslingers at the OK corral. We will attend to the wounded, by giving them real things to do. For example, a gift certificate to ESSA, the Eureka Springs School of the Arts might be a great gift for this holiday season. If you want to support either ESSA or the Clear Spring School, there are opportunities to give in the rescue of others. Scholarship support is needed at both schools. Any amount will be wisely used. or In making your pledge, mention the wisdom of the hands.

Make, fix and create. Assist others in learning lifewise.

Monday, December 10, 2018

screen time

Last night the Television show 60 Minutes did an important exposé on the effects of screen time.
Screen time is having major effects on brain development in children.  The American Council of Pediatrics has long warned about the detrimental effects. 60 Minutes described a major study to better determine its detrimental effect.

One thing they pointed out was that it has long been assumed that on-screen learning would augment and enhance real world learning. What they found was that's not the case. There is no direct carryover from screen time into the ability to do real things. For example, stacking two dimensional blocks on screen give no ability to stack the real things.

As I've mentioned before, there is no substitute for engaging children in the real world.

There is danger at hand. First, it was noted that screen time is purposefully addictive and drives dopamine production to give a sense of pleasure that may not be as readily found in real world activities, particularly for those addicted to screen effects. Secondly, it was noted that screen time is directly associated with depression and anxiety.

The simple point, is to unplug the device and spend real time in the real shop, with real tools, learning to do real things of benefit to family, community and self.

Anaxagoras had said that Man is the wisest of all animals because he  has hands. He did not say we are wise because of Google.

I'm not sorry to be so blunt. With the digital revolution we launched ourselves and our children into a vast experiment about which we are just beginning to learn the results and they don't look good.

Make, fix, create. Turn off the instruments of destruction and get thee and thy children to the wood shop.

Saturday, December 08, 2018

Arkansas Made

I am on the cover of "Arkansas Made" magazine that just came out. It is an annual publication produced by Arkansas Times and sponsored by the Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism.

The article is about the Eureka Springs School of the Arts. I hope it brings attention to the school, which is an absolutely wonderful place. Our wonderful city of Eureka Springs is also featured as one of the Art Cities of Arkansas. Come see us.

In the next few days the 2019 calendar of classes will be going online. If you are looking for a holiday gift that will give a lifetime of pleasure, think "Gift Certificate." Hundreds of folks have had their lives enriched by experiences at the Eureka Springs School of the Arts. Thousands more have been touched by the arts of Eureka Springs.

Make, fix and create...

Friday, December 07, 2018

U of A woodworking

Yesterday I attended a furniture review panel at the Faye Jones School of Architecture as a guest. Fifth year architecture students displayed and discussed the chairs, lamps and mallets they had made in the department of architecture wood shop.

All of the chairs were different, and all of the student presentations outlined their growth and the growth of their ideas. It was noted by all that it was challenging to go from the world of flat design to the realm of three dimensional object. A demonstration of that is crucial to an understanding that architects must have in order to be prepared to provide necessary detail to contractors. Chairs seem to have been a perfect exercise as the students contemplated going from their own bodies to what they wanted the chairs to look like and how they wanted them to feel.

I hope to find other ways to be of service at the U of A, as I feel that I've made friends there.

Volume IV of Arkansas Made came out this week as I discovered when I made a delivery to the Crystal Bridges Museum Gift Store. I am on the cover as part of an article about the Eureka Springs School of the Arts. Arkansas Made Magazine is published by the Arkansas Times in partnership with the Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism. It is an annual publication.

Today in the Clear Spring School wood shop, my students will be making tiny cars.

Make, fix and create...

Thursday, December 06, 2018

awakening to interconnected wholeness

This morning I go to the University of Arkansas to join a furniture review panel at the E. Faye Jones School of Architecture. As a long time woodworker I'll be looking at student work and have been asked provide feedback. I hope to be both useful and kind. I doubt that many there will know about Friedrich Froebel and his impact on the world of architecture. Froebel had hoped to become an architect at one point, but became a teacher instead. His impact on architecture was far greater than he would ever know. Frank Lloyd Wright, in his autobiography noted, "I can still feel those maple blocks in my hands to this day."

There is a direct line from Froebel that can be drawn through the lives of every architect at the Faye Jones School, as our noted Arkansas Architect E. Faye Jones was a disciple of Frank Lloyd Wright.

And what is it that Architects could learn from Friedrich Froebel in this day?

The artist may look at the world for the sake of illustration, as being composed of "positive" and "negative" space. I'll note that the "negative space" that surrounds the object is not "empty" space. It is full of the relationships through time and space that connect it, just as Friedrich Froebel sought to "connect" each child with the wonders of nature and human relationships within which each of us exist.

We are trained from birth to grasp hungrily at our individuality and separateness, and yet the truth of our situation is that we are deeply connected. I am reminded of the story of a zen master, who on his death bed, was surrounded by monks crying, "Please master, please don't leave us." He looked up and asked "where do you think I might go?" From the standpoint of "negative," relational space, there is just one of us. We are an interconnected wholeness, the complete sense of which Froebel had hoped to awaken in each child. I hope to practice that for myself as an art.

And so today, that will be my hope and my goal at the E. Faye Jones School of Architecture.

Make, fix and create...

Tuesday, December 04, 2018

What one learns from a quest for quality

This morning I went to the Eureka Springs Hospital for a  very minor medical investigation procedure and for some reason decided to wear a Fine Woodworking shirt I had been given as a regular contributor to that magazine.  The radiologist asked if I was a woodworker. He told me about a year-long apprenticeship he had been able to participate in with Ohio furniture maker Arden Riddle. You can read about Riddle's furniture here: An exhibit of Riddle's work closed in October at the Canton Museum of Art. As an apprentice, my radiologist had worked on one small table for almost a year, so we discussed what it takes to arrive at an understanding of quality, and whether or not that understanding of what it takes to attain quality can be transferred to different realm of endeavor.

It is my belief that if you can rise up to do one thing well, you will have discovered the means through which to attain a high level of quality in other things. The primary material and means (and obstacle) at hand is oneself.

I'll not post pictures of Riddle's work, as the link to the exhibit will suffice.  The following link is to a video review of the exhibit. In addition to being a quality craftsman, Arden Riddle was of quality when measured through the kindness he expressed to others. It is rare for people to want to surround themselves in the adventurous work of assholes, and being kind seems to be an important ingredient in being granted the opportunity to excel.

Yesterday my first grade boys made airplanes. One said, "I need blasters." "What are blasters?" I asked. But give a boy some scraps of wood, and he'll have wonders to perform.

Make, fix and create...

Sunday, December 02, 2018

let us live with our children.

"Let us live with our children," was the motto associated with Friedrich Froebel. He did not say, "Let us live for our children," as a suggestion of slavery. He did not say "Let our children live for us," as a suggestion of slavery in the other direction.

My sister Sue sent a quote this AM from contemporary British painter David Hockney, that "People tend to forget that play is serious." Play is in fact the way we learn best and the way that we as adults impart values. We play by the rules of the game so that our children may also.

Generally, the rules are easy to understand. We do our best for ourselves and those around us. And in all seriousness, we are called to give freely of ourselves to each other. I believe that's what Froebel had in mind. These are great simple rules for school and for life.

Our dog Rosie and I took our first adventure yesterday into the wilds of Eureka. We attended the annual Preservation Society's Tour of Homes. (Outside the houses, of course.) Rosie was frightened by the traffic, but enamored with the people. She could not get enough pets or give enough licks. The process in puppy training parlance is "socialization." And it points to the lack of wisdom in American education when we sequester children for long hours without engagement in real life.

A friend had asked about the meaning of progressive education. While very young pups, dogs stay very close to their mothers. As they become more aware, their litter mates play an important part in their socialization process. As they mature, their consciousness transcends the litter toward engagement in the real world, and that, too, is a gradual process. The pup learns its role in nature and society at large. And that is the process we can call "progressive education." It is natural to the dog or to the child. As the child grows, its sense of self grows also. Froebel had devised a scheme for that in his creation of Kindergarten, and most of what he attempted to teach has been abandoned as submerging the child in reading and math have taken precedence over all else.

A few years back when I attended a conference at the University of Helsinki, I grew weary of lectures, and escaped to the university wood shop, where Kindergarten teachers working on their masters in education degrees were learning to teach woodworking. They, my friends, were on the right track.

The photo is a Kindergarten student's airplane.

Make, fix and create.

Saturday, December 01, 2018

Kindergarten airplanes.

Yesterday in wood shop at the Clear Spring School I gave my 5th and 6th grade students an exercise in reading plans and building birdhouses. They would rather not be bothered with plans, but I tried to explain that previous generations of woodworkers and birding enthusiasts had refined designs for blue bird houses based on a multitude of prototypes and countless hours of direct observation in their use.

Can we not rely on the civilization in which we live to provide a starting point for our own creative endeavors? Would we not build society more effectively if we were to show some homage to the past and the efforts of others?

Reading plans is not easy for my students, many of whom are "great readers." When you read a normal book, you can skip parts and know that you've not missed much. When reading a how-to book or a set of plans, if you miss one small detail, much can go awry.

In my Kindergarten woodworking class, we made toy airplanes. An important principle of Educational Sloyd was that students begin with the known and work toward the unknown. These days, just as all children in the day of Sloyd were familiar with the knife, students are well prepared in the use of markers to color their work. Having the stock prepared in advance, I started the students out using markers in decorating the fuselages of their planes.  Then using thin Baltic birch ply, they designed the shape of their wings, which I then cut out.

Starting with the markers spaced the students out so that not all were requiring the same help at the same time. With the fuselages complete to the student's satisfaction, drilling holes for the axles to fit came next. I held the fuselages in positions the students directed while they drilled the holes.

I helped next by adding the wheels and axles which I had prepared in advance, and one of my 6th grade students, Gracie, assisted next in using hot melt glue to affix the wings in positions decided upon by the students.

Our Kindergarten teacher asked how I can have new projects each week that can be completed in 30 minutes time. Part of the answer to that is that I prepare stock in advance, start students out working on the parts that are most familiar to them, and that I have help. The students are very proud of their work.

Make, fix, and create... Give others the chance to learn likewise.

Friday, November 30, 2018


Today in the Clear Spring School wood shop my 5th and 6th grade students will begin working on blue bird houses. My Kindergarten students will make toy airplanes.

A radio interview from our veterans day event can be found on our local NPR station here:

One thing I learned growing up as a son of a combat veteran is that the costs of war are often unseen, and that they linger. Young men and young women rise to defend our country and must do so because of the greed, arrogance, and short-sightedness of world leaders.

To work toward the creation of useful beauty is good for what ails us. Former President Jimmy Carter is a woodworker, and it shows in his post presidency years. On the world stage, he continues to direct his hands toward world peace. On the local and national level, he's worked to solve problems of poverty and homelessness. There's something that happens in the soul when one works to craft and create. The photo is in our ESSA blacksmithing studio and shows vets shaping useful objects from iron under the watchful eye of our master blacksmith and board member Bert Jones..

Make, fix, and create.

Thursday, November 29, 2018

gathering stuff.

I am gathering items to send to my publisher to plan their cover shot for the Wisdom of the Hands Guide to Woodworking with Kids. I have a large number of things for the photographer to choose from. The image shows the process of cutting small wheels using the bandsaw. Normally, cutting something round  can be a risk due to round things twisting while being cut. Taping two or more dowels together to cut at the same time eliminates this risk.

A friend had asked for a list of authors to help in her investigation of progressive education. Here is my brief response. It may help you as well.
Much of the progressive education movement started with Pestalozzi who wrote a best seller in the late 1700’s called "How Gertrude Teaches Her Children." Next in my thinking would be Froebel about whom I wrote in my book "Making Classic Toys that Teach." Next in line are a number of educators, including Diesterweg, Cygnaeus, and Salomon, then John Dewey and William Heard Kilpatrick.

The thing to remember is that "progressive" does not refer to the introduction of something new related to "progress" but to the natural development of the child. Children and flowers, given proper nutrients grow in similar "progressive" fashion. A favorite essay of mine, is "the child as craftsman" by David Henry Feldman. I referred to him last week in my blog. as I have time and again.
Make, fix and create...

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

tiny cars and planes

My idea for making tiny wheels came from a desire the kids have had for making airplanes. The large wheels we make ourselves are too big to fit under the wing of a small plane, so tiny wheels seemed to be a next step. The tiny wheels allow the making of tiny cars and trucks that fit the pocket.

The image shows the device we use with the drill press to hold the wheels centered under the drill bit. You can see in the photo how small these wheels can be. A 1/8 in. drill forms a perfect hole to fit a bamboo skewer as axle. The pen drilling vise applies pressure on the outside of the wheel blank that keeps it from splitting.

The students were pleased with the toy cars carried off in their pockets.

Yesterday was "cyber-Monday" in the US and shoppers in the US are busy buying stuff online and in stores. What you buy new this year will be trash in barely a few more. The excitement of stuff quickly wears off as it wears and as shiny new replacement stuff is acquired.

Let's turn our attention toward making things instead of owning them. We would be transformed by the process and if we are making things from wood, the wast can be composted and return to the forests from which our lumber comes.

We have 28 Making days left before the Christmas holiday.

Make, fix and create...

Monday, November 26, 2018

tiny wheels

My students and I have been trying our hands at making tiny wheels. We first make hardwood dowels, then cut them to length on the bandsaw, and then drill holes at the center of each one. My first grade boys were able to drill their own using a centering clamp intended for drilling stock for making turned pens. The axles are bamboo skewers. These are much cheaper than buying hardwood dowels and can be trimmed to length using wire cutters.

If anyone was ever to face a crisis in which they might feel unwanted, or without purpose, they might consider spending some time in a class full of kids, each wanting help with something that they want to make.

There is a particular appeal to the making of tiny things.

Make, fix and create...

Friday, November 23, 2018

experience and observation

When children do real things in school, they are invited to observe. Observation is the foundation of science. When they are invited to question and form hypotheses, they are thereby invited to think.

Education has always had two conflicting missions. One was to establish societal order and control. The other was to raise the level of intellectual engagement in society at large and for individual students, that they might rise to highest capacity. A body of students intellectually engaged, and encouraged to question the established order may not be what some schools really want.  There are too many risks involved.

Finnish brain researcher Matti Bergström suggested that children are presented two games. One is the white game in which they are expected to do what parents and teachers want. The other is the black game in which children do what they want and learn from it and the consequences. Bergström insists upon the importance of the black game, asserting that human culture must arise anew within each generation. That black game is most apparent when children play.

At North Arkansas Regional Airport on Wednesday I noticed (observed) that almost without a single exception, cars were parked within the lines. Where lines are provided people apparently choose order  over chaos and work with others in a cooperative manner that provides ease and certainty to all even without the heavy hand of the state.

We had a lovely Thanksgiving day with family and friends. The food was incredible, and I salute those who dedicated their hand skills and intelligence to prepare it.

Make, fix and create...

Thursday, November 22, 2018

believing whatever we are told or whatever we want.

When you gather young men and women into schools sequestered from reality, what you may get is folks who grow up either believing what they are told or believing it's sufficient to believe whatever they want. Stupid and sad whichever the direction. In the meantime, some doctors are beginning to prescribe "park time" as  means of alleviating the effects of depression and anxiety. They are writing actual prescriptions on paper and recording them in patient records just as they would if they were prescribing drugs.

We've noticed what a joy it is to spend time with our Goldendoodle Rosie in our side yard. Early morning or late at night with flashlight in hand, and observing the real world that surrounds us. I've learned that some of my best thinking and reflecting time is when I'm walking behind the push lawn mower.

At Clear Spring School after having had just a bit of snow, the woods are now relatively safe from ticks and the kids are allowed to build forts. There is no nature deficit disorder at our school. And if you would care to witness joy in service of learning, you would be in the right place.

When it comes to believing what ever you want,  or what you've been told over and over again, I'll ask you to examine your own life. When were the points at which you learned something that turned your life around? Can we use those points to reconsider American education? Were you doing something real? And if that may have been the case, can we use what you know to redesign American education so that kids are trusted to do real things?

Let's take time to be thankful that we have heads and hands and that if we put both to use at the same time, we will have the power to bring change even to an institution as large and out of touch as is American education.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Make, fix and create...

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

pandora's box

A few years back I was working in the Clear Spring School wood shop getting ready for classes that would follow summer break. A family with three kids drove by and seeing the school sign, decided to stop. They seemed impressed until the mother asked, "What are your test scores?" I attempted to explain that test scores were only a very small measure of student success and that we were not reliant on standardized testing to measure student performance. I could see in her face that she would not become the proud parent of students at the Clear Spring School.

What a long and ugly way we've come. As a student in Omaha Nebraska public schools in the 1960's we took the Iowa Basic Skills Test (focused only on the skills of reading, reasoning and math) and we were told to keep the results private. They were not to be shared. The test was not a competition between students or intended to give particular parents bragging rights. The test was intended to give administrators a sense of overall school performance, with the intention of improving education for all.

Somehow, the cat got out of the bag. All the crap stuffed inside got loose and standardized testing has become a plague upon mankind, upon schools, upon teachers and upon the individual students whose lives are from thence on based upon a day filling out dots.

When we took the Iowa Basic Skills test there were no practice tests. There was no cramming of students minds in preparation for the test. There was no ceremony to the process. We showed up thinking we were to have a normal school day. That's way different from now. And while schools were once concerned with individual children and their success, they've become creatures immersed in stats. The saddest part is that so many parents have also succumbed to the disease.

Wood shop, and the opportunity for students to do real things in school, that do not require standardized tests to measure, are ways to restore schooling. You do not need a standardized test to demonstrate that you can play a B flat on a clarinet. Nor do you need a standardized test to know that the thing you made in wood shop was your best effort or that you learned new things through your own creativity and engagement or that what you take home will be admired.

Make, fix and create.

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

wooden boat No. 265

Most folks if asked to identify a particular learning experience that left important marks on their own lives will note the presence of their hands as being instrumental. We call those learning exercises "hands-on," and note  (if we are paying attention) the particular effectiveness of hands-on learning.

And yet, we allow schooling to be engineered in such a way that the hands are left aside and sequestered from the learning experience. The consequence is that many students are left disinterested, and disengaged, and they often resort to disruptive behavior as a way of alleviating boredom or to assert their own learning needs. If we were to design schools to maximize student learning potentials rather than to warehouse them off the streets and manage their behavior, we would make every learning experience hands-on.

The hands engage with physical reality in ways that assert the truth of the experience. They offer greater depth of engagement. In the German language, knowledge is recognized in two forms, Kentniss, which is what one learns from one's own experience, and Wissenshaft, referring to knowledge that is passed along second hand through books or lectures. As most folks can tell, second hand knowledge is superficial at best, generally short-lived and yet of enormous value if connected with practical experience and situations to assert its usefulness. Some of each is required, and knowledge of both forms concurrently acquired is best.

My students and Bevins Skiffs are shown in the current issue of Wooden Boat Magazine (Nov-Dec. 2018) in the launching section that notes new wooden boats being completed and launched.

Make, fix and create...

Monday, November 19, 2018

the power of the object

Typically in schools, students rarely ask if they can take their work home. Why bother? But when it comes to things kids have made in wood shop, they ask, "May I take this home?" Why's that? Could it be that they feel they've arrived at a level of mastery in what they've made? Could it be that they, having tangible evidence of what they've learned, want to share it with their parents and siblings? Can it be that they find joy in what they've made and want to maintain possession of it and what they have learned?

David Henry Feldman, in his essay, "the child as craftsman" was inspired by his study of gifted and talented children to note that ALL children have a desire to express confidence and skill. There is no better way to do so than through the making of real things. And so, on Friday afternoons when I have Kindergarten students in the Clear Spring School wood shop, they ask, "Can I take this home?"

The object can be a simple thing, a toy car, a boat, a flag pole or a color wheel. They may have had some help with the work, as it would be a rare thing to have the skills and knowledge to do the work alone and by themselves. But the pride of craftsmanship is a serious thing that is too often lacking in public education. I hope to reverse that loss, and build upon what's most natural to the child. They each want to acquire demonstrable expertise. They each want to share what they've learned with family. And if the objects are useful in some way, they want to take them home to use and to demonstrate, and to allow others to join them in that play.

When Otto Salomon designed the various model series for Educational Sloyd his choice of making beautiful and useful objects was to gain parental support for education during a time in which children's toil was required on the farms. To give up a child to education required that schools earn trust. So making objects that were useful in the home became a means to establish that trust, and to assure parents that their children were becoming not only smart, but useful in school.

Where is that concept in modern American education? Join me please in an effort to restore.

Make, fix and create...

Sunday, November 18, 2018

in reflection.

I am going through some of what I consider to be important stuff on this blog with an eye toward finding those things of particular importance to add as sidebar material in my new book that is now in the process of being edited for publication. This material I think is important, and from a wisdom of the hand blog post, Saturday, August 21, 2010.

"A few days ago, I posted on the subject of David Henry Feldman's metaphor, The Child as Craftsman, and today I want to share Dr. Feldman's exploration of assessment. Our fixation on assessment is what drives our continuing "no child left behind" like testing psychosis, even within the Obama administration.

"Testing is a holdover from earlier metaphors discussed in an earlier post, which for the sake of making my writing a bit easier this morning I won't repeat.

"And so, how does one measure progress in schools in which each child is known to be a craftsman. Feldman suggests two measures, both of which came up recently in our small hands conference at Dearborn. To quote Dr. Feldman,
""The first is simply a restatement of the educational aim of engagement in a more precise form; to the extent that greater numbers of individuals find fields to pursue, find work that engages their energies and through which they derive satisfaction, education can be considered to be making progress."
"Imagine this relative to the level of disengagement we too often see in American classrooms.

"Feldman's "second criterion of educational progress" follows from his thoughts about creativity. That if
""education is done well, creative contributions will tend to take care of themselves. In other words, an education which fosters sustained commitment, satisfaction and joy in accomplishment will naturally lead to occasions that require one to go beyond the limits of one's craft. To reach the limits and find yet another problem to be solved, a goal to be achieved, an idea to be expressed, a technique to be worked out--these are the conditions which favor creativity.
"Feldman concludes,
"I submit that the twin signs of progress toward a fruitful education for the future are; (1) an increasing number of individuals engaged and committed to pursuit of mastery of their fields and (2) he number of novel, unprecedented, or unique contributions that occur in these fields."
"Feldman states further,
"If young children were prepared for a future of craftsmanship it might be possible to strike a better balance between the inculcation of basic skills and the encouragement of human expression; a balance, I hope, that does full justice to the universal and to the unique in each of us."

An example of the child as craftsman is my student, who once his bridge had been tested and proven to support over 400 lbs. without distortion, he insisted on adding additional support. You can also see it in the work by my Kindergarten students making "color wheels" on Friday.

Make, fix and create...

Saturday, November 17, 2018

bridges and color wheels.

Yesterday in the wood shop at the Clear Spring School, we tested student bridges to see if we could break them by applying weight. The weight was applied by standing on them. The maximum weight was applied by their teacher Chris and me standing on one at the same time. The arched bridge thereby held about 410 lbs. without showing any sign of stress. That led the student whose bridge we tested to add more structural support. For what reason? He was extremely proud of his work and unwilling to consider it complete. It was fun at the end of the day, watching bridges be proudly taken home and displayed to their parents. You can be sure they also described the fun they had during the testing of their load bearing strength.

Yesterday I had 6 of our Kindergarten students in the wood shop to make "color wheels".  A color wheel to an artist is a wheel on paper illustrating the variety of colors and their interrelationships. The color wheels we made, and as shown in the photo are discs of wood on stands that the students could color and spin on a wooden axle. As the disc spins, the colors blend and merge and transform, so this project is in perfect alignment with Froebel's gifts. It is also a project I thought about in the middle of the night. I can imagine Froebel doing the same thing.

With Kindergarten students, a project does not necessarily need to make sense. They are ready for anything that can be made with nails, wood and glue. Colored markers offer even greater delight. Then if the project offers action of some kind and can be manipulated in some way, so much the better.

I heard from my friend Hans in Sweden who's now 85. I had written him to confirm the accuracy of the following as it applies at the Clear Spring School.

In the early days of educational sloyd, the progression of pedagogy as outlined in its principles "from easy to more difficult, from known to unknown, from simple to complex" was arranged through the gradual introduction of various tools, gradual increase in complexity of procedures with those tools and increasing difficulty and complexity of projects. The increasing difficulty of projects shown to the students as models was simply the means through which to introduce increasingly complex and difficult processes in tool use.
At the Clear Spring School models of projects for students to make are of great value. What the kids see, they emulate, whether it's something I've made as an example or something another child has made. The point is that models turn abstract thought into concrete expression The models became the focal point of attention and the organizing principle in the curriculum that was shared throughout the world including the US. Critics both in Sweden and around the world claimed that adhering to  a set of models ignored the child’s need for creative expression. But for Otto Salomon, the reason for the projects being presented in a certain order was to present increasing operational challenges in the use of various tools, that then, when realized, gave the child creative capacity, leading to the ability to design and create objects from one’s own imagination.
Make, fix and create...

Friday, November 16, 2018

Many thanks, many things.

I received many wonderful good wishes yesterday on my birthday, including a song from the North of Norway, and a Pablo Neruda poem from friends in Stavanger. The song was recorded by phone lit within a forest of city lights, reminding me that even in the dark winter months, there is joy there in the far north, most particularly when shared with friends. The Neruda poem is about the love of things, and most particularly about the things that the hands embrace and make useful.

We're not far evolved from dogs in that. I gave Rosie a stick with an old rope wrapped around it, and it became her newest friend. It was pulled at, tossed in the air a bit, carried from one end of the yard to the other and of course chewed mightily. We are like that with new things. We may not chew as much. But we are in love with the world of things. I, in particular, am in love with tools that empower the depths of our humanity, in that they can be used by us in service to each other through the making of useful and beautiful things.
 "Man is a Tool-using Animal. Weak in himself, and of small stature, he stands on a basis, at most for the flattest-soled, of some half square foot, insecurely enough; has to straddle out his legs, lest the very wind supplant him. Feeblest of bipeds! Three quintals are a crushing load for him; the steer of the meadow tosses him aloft, like a waste rag. Nevertheless he can use Tools, can devise Tools: with these the granite mountain melts into light dust before him; seas are his smooth highway, winds and fire his unwearying steeds. Nowhere do you find him without Tools; without Tools he is nothing, with Tools he is all." –– Thomas Carlyle
One of the ways to build a curriculum in wood shop is to focus on tools. This was the approach used in the Russian System of industrial arts training. And yet, if, we fail to guide the tools toward meaningful use, we've misplaced the better part of things. A hammer can be idly pounded toward the destruction of stuff, or used to create lasting beautiful things. Those lasting beautiful and useful things can serve in the hands of man far longer than the stick wrapped in rope. Perhaps that's why Otto Salmon made a progression of useful models the core of Educational Sloyd. Putting tools at the center of learning might have missed the more important point.

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

Thursday, November 15, 2018

my 70th.

This is my 70th birthday, and that's a bit past retirement age for many Americans. As a craftsman, I've known that I'd not make as much money as some, but quality of life is the main thing. Even as an older man, I feel that I can make significant contributions to my community.

I do wonder about whether or not this blog will have lasting impact. Are we not what our hands have made of us? And the challenge becomes this: Do we sit on our hands or put them in action and service to others. If we sit upon them, how do we come to a better realization of our own creative force?

I am engaged in the back and forth with my editor, bringing the details of my Wisdom of the Hands Guide to Woodworking With Kids book into coherent form. A how-to book is different from a book of just words. It consists of images, and details that must all be integrated into coherent pages. It is also different in that it challenges the reader to do more than think and reflect. It calls upon the reader to act.

Today I'll play with the dog. If the temperature rises to a level of comfort, I'll apply Danish oil to boxes.

There are some things that you can do to help. Test what I've shared with you in your own hands. Arrive at your own conclusions. Are the hands the source of character and intelligence as I've described? If so, share what you learn through your own hands with others. Develop skill. Observe and reflect. If you find some modicum of truth here, share it with others.

As one art teacher had observed online, the hands are the philosopher's stone. They give meaning, depth, breadth and longevity to learning and have the power to transform education. But that transformation is a larger goal than a 70 year old man can accomplish on his own. Share what you read here, and take action on what you've learned.

Make, fix, create and share what you've learned...

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

the editing begins

I am into the thick of working through the Wisdom of the Hands guide to woodworking with kids with my editors. It is a pleasure to arrive at this point in a project that I've been involved in for almost 20 years. The book should be ready for publication in June.

I have so many wonderful photographs to share, that I hope the book will serve as inspiration for others to share woodworking with kids.

A good book is most often the work of a good team and this will be my third book with Springhouse Press, and my 13th overall.

The photo is of Ozric building a toy car, years ago in the Clear Spring School wood shop.

Make, fix and create...

Sunday, November 11, 2018

veterans day...

This is the day set aside in the USA to express appreciation to those who have served in the military to defend this country. Yesterday we held classes for Veterans at ESSA and were visited there by Senator John Boozman. Senator Boozman has a reputation for assisting servicemen and women who have served in the military.

My own class was in box making. Others were in blacksmithing, painting on glass and jewelry making.

Politicians get us into corners that our service men and women must fight their ways out of.  Whether a war was necessary or not our veterans stood up to serve and they and their families made sacrifices on our behalf and we have a duty to honor their service, whether a war was justified or not.

As a board member and founder of ESSA, I had suggested a Veterans Day event recognizing that veterans, regardless of when they served and in which war, are in need of the healing that comes through the practice of the creative arts.

The mission statement at ESSA claims that art is vital to the human spirit. As such, art is one of the ways that we cope with tragedy and loss. It is also one of the ways we push aside the inclination to be combatively engaged.  It's the old swords vs. plowshares dilemma. As described in the philosophy of Black Elk in "Black Elk Speaks," the "power to create is the power to destroy" and vise versa. We can devise means through which to blow stuff up and wreak havoc in the lives of others. Or we can build together. On this Veterans Day, I suggest the latter. We must learn from service and sacrifice.  Yesterday's event was a whole lot more fun than blowing stuff up. Each of my students made two boxes.

Make, fix and create. Give others the chance to learn likewise.

Friday, November 09, 2018

completed bridges

My 5th and 6th grade students finished making their arched bridges. Now my decks are cleared in preparation for my class for veterans at ESSA tomorrow. I and my students will be making boxes.
The mission statement of ESSA notes that art is vital to the human spirit. It can in many cases ease or heal that which ails us.
On Monday we plan to test one of the bridges to see how much weight it will bear.
Make, fix and create. Assist others in learning likewise.

Thursday, November 08, 2018

What is it?

What is it? I'm sorry I don't  know. It might be a shrine of some sort, an homage to sharp points. Student woodshop projects come from their minds, not mine.

All of my students in grades 1-4 are working on inventions. Some need help in wood shop. It is interesting to listen to them describing what they have in mind. But in the meantime, and as I learned many years ago, inventing requires certain skills and knowledge that allows one to build prototypes and test concepts. The work in the photo was treasured by the student, a first grade boy.

Our goldendoodle Rosie can be seen at play in this link:

Make, fix, play and create... Assist others in playing likewise.

Wednesday, November 07, 2018

boxes of boxes

As you can see in the photo my 80 boxes have been routed. After this photo was taken, the boxes were sanded using 180 grit sand paper in an inverted half sheet orbital sander. Two more sanding operations will be required for each box to prepare them for signing and finish. If all works well, I'll be ready to begin applying Danish oil by the end of the week.

I am also preparing for a day long class at ESSA on Saturday, making boxes with veterans in a special event to honor their service. At ESSA we believe that art is vital to the human spirit, and the creation of art is part of a process of healing for veterans, their families, and our communities. We are made whole when we are engaged in creative processes, and in service to each other.

Make, fix, and please create. Enable others to perform likewise.

Tuesday, November 06, 2018

boxes and bridges...

This morning I routed the edges of 80 inlaid boxes for a corporate gift order. Finish sanding, signing and application of Danish oil finish remains before early December delivery to my customer. Eighty boxes is a large order for me to work into my teaching schedule. But I began milling parts in September.

This is election day. I've never seen our nation so purposely divided. Our bright beacon on the hill is dim.

Yesterday in the Clear Spring School wood shop, my 5th and 6th grade students neared completion of their arched bridges. May this serve as a sign this election day. We need to build bridges in our society. Those who work to create fear and distrust should be brushed aside so that we connect with each other and build a better and more just society.

Make, fix and create...

Sunday, November 04, 2018

When children explain

This link is to a TEDX talk in which the usefulness of children attempting to explain and teachers listening is discussed.

One of the values that woodworking presents arrives through children's explanations of what they need and what they want. I am reminded a bit of my time working in my father's hardware store and listening to the customers' attempts to explain what they need without their having developed the vocabulary to describe it. If I had a nickel for every time I heard "whats-it" or thingamajig, used I might have taken early retirement.

I am not attempting to make a big deal of it, but woodworking terminology is useful and colorful. How many times have you heard some person say, "That dovetails,"without them knowing how to cut one, recognize one, how it is used or useful or how it may actually differ from other joints. An impression is given when the term is used that things may fit together by some form of happenstance, but that is almost never the case.

It's hard to be measurably smart without having adequate vocabulary to express your intelligence to others, and the descriptive interchange that takes place in wood shop is useful in the development of language, culture and intellect. This may be particularly true when students are attempting to work on projects launched from their own interests, and of their own design. So just because a student's hands are at work, does not mean an absence of mind, even though many in the academic arena might ignorantly assume that's the case.

It is lovely fall in the Ozark Mountains. The photo is one from my collection, taken in our 11 acre woods.

Make, fix, and create...

Saturday, November 03, 2018

boat shop

Yesterday at the Clear Spring School harvest party I set up a boat shop for children to make toy sailboats.

I prepared for the event by making a bunch of small boat hulls cut out from 2x4 lumber stock. I made a small cardstock template which I used to trace the hull shape on wood. If you fold cardstock and use scissors to make a cut through both sides at the same time, you end up with a perfectly symmetrical shape. This is  similar to the technique used by real boat builders using a half-model to design boats.

To make the boat shapes more boat like, I tilted the bandsaw for making the cuts. The students and I drilled the holes for the masts to fit, using our small drill press and a step stool to bring the work into reach. The masts are bamboo grilling skewers and the colorful sails are cardstock glued to the masts with hot melt glue.

As a student from the 50's and 60's the importance of voting was made clear. These days, and in stark contrast, one particular party has been working very hard to deprive certain people (the poor and racial and ethnic minorities) of their rights to vote. That whole political strategy offends me at my core.

There are some things you learn from woodworking, most particularly when you are trying to use it to be of service to others. These are forgiveness, compassion, empathy, and love. None of these qualities compels one to trample on the rights of others or to allow others to do so on your behalf.

Make, fix, and create.

Friday, November 02, 2018

Harvest party...

Today at the Clear Spring School, we have our annual harvest party. The students plan games and activities to amuse each other and our preschool and Kindergarten kids.

I will have a small woodworking booth in which students will assemble and color toy sailboats to take home. To prepare, I'll bandsaw a lot of small hulls to shape, prepare some 1/8 in. dowels for masts, and paper sails attached with hot melt glue.

Photos may come later on Instagram

Make, fix and create...

Thursday, November 01, 2018

what do the girls do?

A reader asked what the girls were doing while the first grade boys made sail boats. That's a good question. It was long assumed that woodworking was for boys and that other things were for girls, and never the twain would meet. And yet, wood shop at the Clear Spring School is a gender equal opportunity.

This year at the Clear Spring School I have a bumper crop of first grade boys and the decision was made to keep them in a group as they are all at the same level (generally) of skill and maturity.  Also, I have a limit on class size, so breaking students into groups was required.

The first grade girls were grouped with the older kids, grades 2, 3 and 4, due to their operating on a more mature level. They have been skill building through making things that come more from their own imaginations. The photo shows some of the projects they carry home from a day in the wood shop. The girls had been offered the opportunity to make boats, and declined in order to carry on with things from their own interests and imaginations.

Please allow me to assure you as well as my gentle reader, that the girls are never excluded from the opportunities that woodworking provides, for the development of character and intellect. In fact, the girls at the Clear Spring School have always been bright stars in the Wisdom of the Hands program, and will never be brushed aside.

Make, fix and create...


Yesterday my first grade boys made toy sail boats. They marked the shape on wood. They used saws to cut the shape. They marked the locations for the masts and operated the drill press while I held the boat in position. I helped add the sails and the boys colored them with markers.

Today in my own wood shop I'll assemble more boxes.

Make, fix and create...

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

pick up...

This small pickup truck was made by a student in Monday's class. The student designed it himself using the parts I had on hand and scraps from the scrap bucket I save for such things. I helped by making a few small cuts.

Today in the school wood shop students will be working on a variety of projects at different grade levels. My job is to keep them supplied with the essentials and then to assist and watch over to assure their hands are safe.

Clean up is the most difficult time, as it requires students to quit what they are deeply engrossed in, and bring things to the point at which they can be either taken home or put away.

I hope that some of these lovely things are put away by parents at the end of the day to serve as remembrances. They are expressions of growth and could be treasured as such.

Make, fix and create....

Monday, October 29, 2018


Mondays are busy days in the Clear Spring School wood shop. I start out with the lower elementary students grades 1-4 in the morning, and then have the middle school and upper elementary in the afternoon. My students are working on a variety of projects, ranging from a little free library in the middle school to bridges and toys in the elementary school. My middle school students also want to make mail boxes so they can join in the exchange of mail started in the elementary school.

In my own shop over the weekend, I prepared box parts for hinging and installing lids on 88 boxes.  Assembly comes next.

Yesterday on facebook where you can also receive the posts from this blog  a reader took offense at my making a comment as to the killing of Jews in Pittsburgh and its relationship to political rhetoric practiced by the current administration. The reader's point was that he only wanted to read about woodworking and would not be back.

However, woodworking for me has never been a disconnected arm hanging useless in space. It is deeply entwined in the rest of reality. It is a connecting point, that leads to greater things. And if it did not, what would be the point?

Yes, it can be used to isolate oneself from the world, hanging out safely and alone in one's own wood shop. Or it can be a practice through which one attempts to be of greater service to family and humanity. It can go one way or the other.

For me, it has been a way to learn and practice core values. Craftsmanship, Creativity, Compassion, Connectivity and Forgiveness. If that offends a few, I feel empathy and prescribe some time in the wood shop. Attempting to make beautiful and lasting things from real wood is a great way to practice one's forgiveness.

Make, fix and create...

Sunday, October 28, 2018

in response

I'm not sure what to say in response to a shameful day in America. There are many who can speak more eloquently than I.

Our president who's blown dog whistle politics as a well practiced art said in response to Nazi's marching in Charlottesville, "there are fine people on both sides." It was reported by his first wife that he kept a book of Hitler's speeches at bedside. He believes he should be president for life, just as is his beloved Putin in Russia.

His embrace of certain people and his use of code words from rascist and anti-Semitic sources have provided cover for American anti-Semites, racists and white supremacists. Perhaps he was forgetting or ignoring the millions of Jews killed by the Nazis.

In response to the killing of eleven in the Synagogue in Pittsburgh, he's said a few scripted words written by others before launching into his continued attacks on the free press and on Democrats. The man is incapable of being a normal American president. He has shamed us all.

One must wonder about Republicans. My dad was one. In the bottom drawer of our bureau when I was a child, he kept a scrap book of images from the German concentration camp at Nordhausen. My dad, as an officer in the 104th Infantry Division had to go there to witness and to assist in the clean up, ordering German citizens to go in and stack bodies that in life had been reduced to walking skeletons. My father would be shocked to see a Republican party enslaved to dog whistle politics and anti-Semitism, and a leader cast in the image of the man who attempted to enslave Europe.

Will the Republican party wake up? Early voting has started in Arkansas. I urge you to vote. If you are a Republican urge the leaders of your party to understand that we all are much better than what the party has become.