Sunday, November 17, 2019


Yesterday I quoted calligrapher Donald Jackson as follows:
"When we make things with our hands we put into them energy which comes from our innermost self. When we see and feel objects which were made by craftsmen long dead I believe we can still sense their energy lying beneath brush-stroke or sweep of the pen, and we respond to this energy as much as to the object’s surface beauty or ingenuity of design. When we ourselves write we not only communicate information by the choice and sequence of the words; we also reveal something of our inner spirit with every tremor of the hand.” —Donald Jackson, scribe to Queen Elizabeth
Last night I learned that Donald Jackson was also the former teacher of two past and present board members of our Clear Spring School. And so, the world is small in some ways. Roger Beau, who has visited my wood shop submitted the following:
Donald Jackson was commissioned by the Benedictine monks of St. John's Abbey in Collegeville, MN to create a hand-written and illuminated bible, a monumental project that took more than ten years. A beautiful PBS documentary from 2008 ("Illumination/Full Focus") explores the artistic process and can be found online. It heralds the wisdom of the hands and could inspire young artists and makers.

Make, fix and create...

Saturday, November 16, 2019

from the innermost self.

Our Clear Spring School semi-annual board meeting began yesterday with out of town board members taking a tour of the CSS campus. Our board members were particularly impressed by our collection of oversized Froebel blocks and the way our children keep them in constant use and continual rearrangement. Each and every time I set foot on campus they will be arranged in new configurations.

Every now and then I rearrange them back into the larger cubes to propose new thought.

The following quote was sent to me by one of the founders of the school:
"When we make things with our hands we put into them energy which comes from our innermost self. When we see and feel objects which were made by craftsmen long dead I believe we can still sense their energy lying beneath brush-stroke or sweep of the pen, and we respond to this energy as much as to the object’s surface beauty or ingenuity of design. When we ourselves write we not only communicate information by the choice and sequence of the words; we also reveal something of our inner spirit with every tremor of the hand.” —Donald Jackson, scribe to Queen Elizabeth
Today I'll be raking leaves and assembling boxes.

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

Friday, November 15, 2019

but not for a man

"The days may be equal for a clock, but not for a man."– Marcel Proust

While we shuffle students through grades and classes, let's remember they are not clocks and should not be treated as such. They grow and learn at their own paces with the principle factors being maturity, interest, and support.

My elementary school students and I are making clocks and we'll add movements and hands next Tuesday during wood shop. Some are making their clocks to reflect their studies of different countries, and I gave clock making  parts to our elementary school teachers so they could set examples for the students to follow.

I thank my fellow teacher Ginny for the Marcel Proust quote that she used on her own clock illustrated by her drawing of the Eiffel Tower.

I learned yesterday that my Guide to Woodworking with Kids book is still on track for publication in May.

Make, fix and create...

Thursday, November 14, 2019

children are not clocks

My students at the Clear Spring School are making clocks. But children are not clocks. They do not all mature at the same pace. Is this not obvious to the point that segregation of children rigidly into grade levels is revealed as dumb and insensitive? This study reveals the negative effects on children of holding them back a grade or two in schooling.

Yesterday my Kindergarten students made note holders. They wanted to do other things, but the project was engaging enough that they found great pride in their work.

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

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

cold day, warm shop

There was no school around here yesterday due to Monday's freezing rain, followed by severe cold, that left roads a bit slick.

I managed to get some time in my woodshop. I finished inlaying lids for a couple dozen boxes, and machined a few parts, preparing to fill an order due in December.

The new wood shop at the Clear Springs School is being painted, and after a wood floor is laid, we'll begin preparing to move in.

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

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

simple lift lid

This crematory urn box is made with a lift off lid, and strips of cherry in the lid give it a tight seal.

The pulls at the end are designed so that with two fingers at each end, the box can be carried. With just one finger at each end, the lid can be lifted from the box. It's a unique feature of my own design. It allows for a tighter fit than would be achieved through using hinges.

The lid is simple in the way it works, not so simple in the way it's made. Is that not the way the world works?

The box is finished with Sam Maloof's formula shop made with urethane varnish, mineral spirits, and linseed oil.

It is sad to consider the loss of a friend. But the making of things brings a quiet joy. The engagement in the work of making lovely things, sets one right with the world, despite the pain that one might feel. Today I'll ship the box, and prepare inlaid box lids for engraving.

Make, fix and create.

Monday, November 11, 2019

motion blur

Yesterday I sanded and finished the sample longboard I've made as a teacher at the Clear Spring School. I want the students to know what theirs can look like if they follow the right steps and apply their attention, rather than just hurrying through the process as kids (and adults) have a  tendency to do.

An editorial in yesterday's Democrat-Gazette, our state-wide newspaper, pointed out that excessive vanity was once regarded as a shameful thing. My mother had a saying, that "fool's names and fool's faces are often found in public spaces."

Hyperized display of self-importance is the primary game and source of amusement of the internet age. It covers for a lot of things. Incompetence, insensitivity, anxiety, thereby allowing us to hide from ourselves by putting ourselves into foolish places.

There's a newer saying, "fake it till you make it." The idea is that you can pretend your way to success, or at least fool folks long enough to avoid the hard work involved in acquiring real skill. Motion blur can hide a lot.

Today I'll be in the wood shop. I plan to add lift tabs to the box I'm making for a friend's ashes. I'll also resume the process of inlaying boxes for an order due in December.

Make, fix, and create. Ask that other learn lifewise.

Sunday, November 10, 2019

a maple cremains box

It was a beautiful day yesterday, so I spent some time raking and hauling leaves, and some time in the wood shop with the door open so the dog could go in and out.

There's a price I pay for the dog being in the woodshop. She picked up one of my tape measures and carried it off as a chew toy. That led to an interruption in my work to chase, then to play ball, giving me the chance to snatch the tape measure when she was distracted. All in all, it was a very lovely day.

In addition to beginning the process of inlaying lids for a couple dozen boxes, I dug through the wood stored in my shop to find maple for building a crematory urn box. This one is being designed so that it can serve as a memorial stash when the ashes are placed in their resting place, back in the soil from which we've all come. The inside dimensions are taken from the size of the plastic box that ashes are placed in for delivery to loved ones.

The maple has a pleasing and lovely maple sugar smell as it's cut, but the high sugar content makes it susceptible to burning as it's cut. The black marks will disappear with sanding.

The photo of the maple box parts in trial assembly shows a channel routed on the inside of the box sides. This will be fitted with wooden strips after assembly and after the lid is cut from the body of the box, providing a means to hold the lift off lid in place and providing a tight seal. There will be lift tabs routed in place at both ends of the box.

Our dog is gentle and fun loving and did no damage to the tape measure.

Make, fix and create...

Saturday, November 09, 2019

today in the wood shop

Today, in addition to making walnut parts for small wooden boxes and beginning to inlay their lids, I'll search through my supply of maple to find a piece of maple wood lovely enough to make a special box for the cremains of a good friend dying of cancer.

My sister Mary and I each have each written chapters in a new book that will be released in two weeks by Cahaba Press. Not Dead Yet, Reflections on Life, Aging and Death was conceived and edited by a good friend Dan Krotz. My own contribution to the book offers a few of the things one learns through craftsmanship and engagement in life hands first.

Make, fix, and create.

Friday, November 08, 2019


Two days ago my Kindergarten students made tops, and yesterday my elementary school students wanted to do the same. One was trying to use markers on his while spinning it between his fingers. I suggested the cordless drill, and it worked great. Put one end of the top in the chuck, tighten it up and pull the trigger. The drill spins the top while the marker can be held in one place.

The students also made stands for their tops like those made by the Kindergarten students.

In my own wood shop, I've begun making boxes for an order due in December. Today I'll be making box parts.

As my new wood shop is being painted, the new art room in our hands on learning center is also under construction.

Our large Froebel blocks on the school campus continue to be used before school, during recess, at lunch and at the end of school, so they are constantly being rearranged into new forms. The favorite arrangement seems to be that of an above ground obstacle course in which climbing, jumping and balance beam walking are required.

The standard school approach is to provide adult designed equipment that offers no creative agency to the kids the equipment is intended to serve. The Froebel blocks offer much more.

Make, fix and create....

Thursday, November 07, 2019


Yesterday I planned for my Kindergarten students to make tops and little storage stands to hold them.

The idea was not just to make the tops but to learn to use them and also to share them with family and friends. So each student made three. From having three, questions arise. "Can I spin two at once?" "Which will spin the longest?" Would you like to try, too?" Being able to give them a good spin requires practice.

Decorating them is part of the process for as they spin, the colors merge and lines form circling the top.
"The hand does not only grasp and catch, or push and pull. The hand reaches and extends, receives, and welcomes – and not just things: the hand extends itself, and receives its own welcome in the hands of others. The hand holds. The hand carries. The hand designs and signs, presumably because man is a sign. Two hands are folded into one, a gesture meant to carry man into the great oneness." — Martin Heidegger What is Called Thinking, 1968
Making things is a thoughtful process. And in thinking about the making of things, we are  thrust into complexity. One of my lower middle school students is completely enamored by a computer game called "Fortnight." He would come into the shop with his hands holding an imaginary pickaxe and as his hands moved over his head, I could see him thinking and imagining his own role in the game.

Yesterday I gave him a long dowel and a place at our larger lathe.  He turned a handle for his pickaxe. I helped him turn a piece of 2x4 into the pickaxe head that to his eye resembled that from the game.

Make, fix, create.

Wednesday, November 06, 2019


My high school students are making progress on their longboards. I've yet to sand mine but plan to use a clear finish, accentuating the beautiful hardwoods used to make it. Now, of course,  nearly all my students want to make them.

I've told them I'll not supply beautiful woods without expecting them to put in extreme efforts to achieve quality in their work. No short cuts, for these woods are not to be used without care.

I met via Skype with the Central Arkansas Woodworking Club last night. It was nice to find a few friends in the group. I took them on a video tour of my home and shop and attempted to answer questions. Video chat is not the same thing as actually being with friends, but it may offer a means for me to share with other woodworking groups, without needing to travel from home.

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

Tuesday, November 05, 2019

clocks longboards and Central Arkansas Woodworkers

Today my elementary school students will be beginning a project making clocks. Our teachers want them to be able to read a clock, and what better way than to have made their own? We will go over the project this morning and the lesson will also commence in their math study. These will be free standing clocks and you'll see the results at a future date.

In high school, my students will continue making longboards. Some are defining the shape. Others will be routing and sanding the edges of their boards.

Tonight I'll digitally attend a meeting of the Central Arkansas Woodworker's Club. They plan to show a video produced about my work by Charles Brock, and then I'll lead them on a shop tour and offer some Q&A opportunity.

The clock shown was made by one of my students in 2007.

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

Monday, November 04, 2019


This interview with author Ronald Pursor about his book, McMindfulness, suggests that perhaps filling your mind with relentless observations of self, may not be sufficient for your mental health  or that of the society at large.

Perhaps having your hands full of life would be better, or at least put your hands on equal footing.  A concurrent balance of being and doing should be sought. The wisdom of the hands is not about empty mindless labor, or mindfulness, but about balance.

Some think that meditation is about withdrawing from the world: Taking space from it or living one's life in rejection and denial of the world and all it holds. Balancing mediation with service reminds us that we are part of something  far greater than ourselves.

Woodworking can become a path of mediation when one sees it as a way of connecting with the wholeness of all life. It intersects all aspects of human existence and allows us to be of service to both man and nature.

The tool shown is a machinist's set up block and is of great use to box makers. You can find these on eBay for about $11.00. The 45° set up block helps in quickly setting up a table saw for cutting miters and the scale is useful for measuring and for setting blade height.

Make, fix and create...

Sunday, November 03, 2019

veterans' boxes

Yesterday while I was hosting guests at the Studio Tour, my trusted box making friends Darla and Dan coached veterans in the making of boxes during our special ESSA classes to honor vets. You can see the excellent results in the photo. The woods are yellow pine (over a hundred years old), walnut and catalpa. Didn't they turn out pretty?

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

Saturday, November 02, 2019

Artist's Studio Tour

This is the second day of our 2019 Eureka Springs Artist's Studio Tour, featuring the studios of 13 artists. You are welcome to attend. It's free and open from 10 AM until 5 PM.

This is also the day of free classes for Veterans at the Eureka Springs School of the Arts. I helped plan a box making project in the wood shop and will be there at 9 AM for the launch of the process.

Make, fix and create. Encourage others to learn lifewise.

Friday, November 01, 2019

revisiting the past.

I have been cleaning shop and finding a wide range of unfinished projects that I plan now to dedicate some time to completing. I have lots of unfinished boxes at various stages. Finished, they can be sold if I'm lucky, or given away if someone else is. There are always reasons to give.

I have also nearly finished my demonstration longboard. The first skateboard I made was also made with strips of contrasting hardwoods. That was in about 1962 when the first skateboard craze hit the nation and I was about 14 years old. My work has improved since then.

Today and tomorrow a dozen other Eureka Springs Artists and I are having a studio tour. You are welcome to attend. My address is 412 Sandrock Road, and the passage will be marked from the Railroad depot up to our home. Your iPhone will probably help. I'll have maps to help direct you to other artists whose studios are on the tour. Details are on facebook.

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

Thursday, October 31, 2019

harvest party

Yesterday we held our annual harvest party at the Clear Spring School. A tradition for over 40 years, Harvest Party was originally planned as an alternative to Halloween. Rather than having our students dressed up in halloween costumes and distracting from the wholesome campus environment, a different approach was planned.

The children plan games for each other and the dress up is reflects our history and heritage as a pioneer nation.

In wood shop we made tops. I had cut round disks of wood from large dowels, and pointed smaller dowels to serve as the centers of the tops, giving both a place to grip and a point to turn.

Our preschool children and their families are invited to attend. All children, even the very youngest, need the opportunity to create work in their own hands.

Here in my own shop, we are getting ready for a studio tour on Friday and Saturday, and the many guests that are expected. Please plan to attend.

On Sunday I was quoted in an article about the event in What's Up, a supplement to our Sunday edition to the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. I suggest attention to the role of the hands in the development of character and intelligence, a healthy respect for our forest to be expressed through our work with wood, and an insistence that we share what we learn and who we are with others.

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

Wednesday, October 30, 2019


My high school students have been making longboards, as shown in the photo. They offered to buy their own wheels and trucks. I supplied strips of Arkansas hardwoods from which to glue up the boards, then instructed them in designing symmetrical shapes. They seem to be enjoying the process. The wood and their arrangement of woods will be lovely.

We think of making stuff in such simple terms as making stuff. But is stuff all that's made in the making of "stuff?"

Otto Salomon talked about "formative" education in which children were not just learning about "stuff," but forming their own lives. Fortunately many universities have now come to an understanding that standardized tests are not an adequate measure of what a child can or will become.

This rainy, cold fall day in Arkansas we have the annual harvest party at the Clear Spring School. The students have planned activities for the amusement of each other. I will set up a small operation to make tops.

Make, fix, and create.

Saturday, October 26, 2019

involve me and I learn

Bob Rokeby sent the following quote: Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn.

The reason that quote is accurate, is that each part of the brain has a distinct role in things. Knowledge that's widely distributed throughout, by direct action is more readily accessible for later use.

The cartoon drawing called a homunculus shows the distribution of sensory and motor functions of various parts of the human anatomy within the brain.

The following is from an earlier post, in 2011:

Throughout the ages, man's conception of self has had major impact on how we act, and on the decisions we make. For instance, Freud's notion of the unconscious brought major changes to our perceptions of self. The resulting field of psychology has had profound impact on business, education and culture, and how we think of ourselves.

The drawing of the homunculus is telling us something. It illustrates the proportion of the motor and sensory cortex devoted to particular portions of the human anatomy, with the hand occupying a disproportionately large proportion of the brain's activity. This is nothing new to early educators, who based their teaching on the direct observation of the hand's role in the development of character and intellect, and its unique ability to capture the child's attentions and interests in learning.

What we learn is best learned by doing. What I've told here is best tested in your own hands. If we were to better understand and accept the role of the hands in our perceptions of who we are, we would come to the point of dramatic change in the ways we educate our children, and be more successful for it. Want me to spell it out more clearly? Restore the arts, music, dance and wood shop and integrate them with core subject areas. Each is a way to bring the hands into the classroom, and engage the heart of every learner.

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

Friday, October 25, 2019

arch, arc, architecture

Yesterday with my elementary school students we made wooden arches, inspired by my desire to expand their grasp of how to do things, how to see things and how to describe them. 
I made reference to the nearby Crystal Bridges Museum which consists of a group of arched structures formed by wooden laminations similar to the ones we made today in wood shop held in suspension and relationship by cables as used in building a bridge.
Take a thin piece of wood, bend it and see what happens. A thick piece will not bend without breaking. Take three thin pieces, put glue in between layers and hold it in an arched shape until the glue dries, and you've created a component for building other things that will have strength and hold its shape.
Make, fix and create. Assist others in learning likewise.

Thursday, October 24, 2019

Making flip cars.

My Kindergarten students told me that they wanted to make various cars and trucks, so I decided they could make "flip cars." The flip cars are a Clear Spring School invention from years ago. Having large wheels and an angle on each end, when you press down, the car flips. It can be decorated as a different type of vehicle on each side. It also provides a chassis upon which to build other vehicles as well.

I made the wheels made in advance, but with the children gathered around the drill press, I showed how the holes are drilled at the center. Then  after sanding the wheels smooth, on sanding blocks mounted in the bench vises, we drilled the axle holes in the flip car bodies (also prepared in advance). I held the bodies in position as the children operated the drill press.

The students used hammers to pound the wheels onto the axles, then used markers to personalize their work...

Let's flip education, putting the hands at the center of things.

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

Wednesday, October 23, 2019


Yesterday the carpenters finished their work on the new Clear Spring School wood shop, and the electrician should be finishing up in the next two days or so. After painting we will begin the process of moving in.

Yesterday also, our eagle scout candidate and his mom finished the new outdoor classroom on the Clear Spring School campus. Today my lower middle school students will assist me in adding seating across the front, that will also serve as a workbench for student outdoor construction projects.

Later we'll add storage cabinets for keeping a few tools ready at hand for students to build.

Yesterday, also, we began making long boards with the Clear Spring high school students, my lower middle school students returned to work on the lathe, and my elementary school students explored the use of triangulation to build rigid form structures.

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

Sunday, October 20, 2019

a monkey wrench

My grandfather, Selmer (Sam) Bye used to visit us when I was a small child. As it was his hobby to visit auction sales, buy stuff and sell it at the next, the trunk of his car always held things of interest to a small child. He would let me select my own gift.

Monkey wrenches earned their name as they were frequently used when the correct size wrench was not available or at hand. They are noted for monkeying the heads of a bolt making it much more difficult for the next mechanic to use the correct wrench.

In any case, this small monkey wrench was one I selected from Grampa Bye's trunk when I was a very small child. Even then, I was drawn to tools, and I hope children of today still feel that same attraction. I hope also that adults realize the necessity of putting tools in the hands of kids.

My own monkey wrench had been severely abused before it found it's way to Grampa Bye's trunk. But I've kept it for years nonetheless because it has meaning. I found it because I'm doing a deep cleaning in advance of the Artist's Studio Tour here in Eureka Springs Friday November 1 and Saturday November 2.

If you attend, you'll see where I do my work. Some work will be offered for sale and there are other fine Eureka Springs artists you will want to meet and their works to explore. I'll be but one of thirteen artists making you welcome and sharing our creative passions. Please join us.

Make, fix, create, and

Friday, October 18, 2019

skills of hand, mind and eye

I have been on a push of late to assure intellectual content in providing lessons in the wood shop. This is based in part on the medical school prescription, see one, do one, teach one.

When you have the responsibility to teach someone else how to do something, you are required to do something more than go through empty exercises. Those exercises are observed, brought to mind, and absorbed at a deeper level. Questions about that? Do something real and then accept the responsibility to teach someone else what you've learned to do and you'll see what I mean.

My students love nothing better than "free day" in which they get to do anything they want, but they also like when I have concrete examples of things they can make and have the necessary materials on hand. The important thing for me as their teacher is that they gain both knowledge and skill, which of course go hand in hand. If I've built those lessons into the day, I've met my goals, and can feel OK as some students do whatever they want, while others work from the designs and materials I offer.

We have been working on the idea of square. Not the shape square, but the geometric relationship of planes (not airplanes) (and not the tools called "planes") that meet at 90 degrees. This requires an understanding of the use of the tool by the same name, the "square." It allows us to check our work, to assure that parts will indeed fit together as planned. We do this with the hand plane and the saw, and use the square to mark intended cuts and to assess the results of our work.

The plane is a particularly pleasing tool. The shavings are a delight.  A sharp plane leaves a surface smoother than sanding. It can be pirated just for he pleasure of its shavings. To form a straight, square edge, it requires attention to grip, posture and position. And the square is the perfect tool to check results. The students can check for themselves and the process invites them to do so.

With the elementary school students this week I offered lessons in engineering. An object that's not cut square will not stand straight up in opposition to gravitational force. An object standing straight up will not resist motion, and will not have strength unless other means are used to secure its attachment. I invited the students to offer suggestions as to how a stick could mounted to a flat plane, with sufficient strength to resist the forces involved in gravity and motion. They suggested using small building blocks to surround the pole that give more strength when glued in place. Others suggested strings and sticks to "triangulate" the attachment. As simple as their constructions were, they were pleased with them, with what they had learned about very basic engineering.

Make, fix and create... Provide for others to learn lifewise.

Monday, October 14, 2019


The new outdoor classroom being built on the Clear Spring School as an eagle scout project now has rafters. Four more rafter are to be added to the ends  providing overhang before the purlins and metal roof are added.

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

Saturday, October 12, 2019

boxes by Don.

A box making friend of mine has announced his retirement and going out of business sale. Don Boudreau is an excellent artist and craftsman whose combinations of exotic woods are lovely.

Don had arranged for me to visit and teach in years past with the South Florida Woodworking Guild of which he was an officer and long time member. You can tell from just one sample of his work that he attained a great deal of skill and artistic vision. His shop that he plans to close is full of amazing equipment set up to achieve perfection in each piece.

I wish him well. In the meantime, he is selling is work at a steep 50% discount. The box shown is one of my favorites.

Don, now 81 years old is moving into a retirement community with 2 6000 square foot wood shops where he'll no doubt continue to be an inspiration to others.

A good friend of mine, and fellow artist Ken Addington passed away this last week after a long bout with cancer. Ken's work was an inspiration for the artists of Eureka Springs. He will be missed. Ken made an appearance in this video at the 1:05 point. telling the story of what brought him to Eureka Springs and why he kept coming back. It was about the beauty of this place and the people that help to support each other in their artistic endeavors.

An example is the Eureka Artist's Studio Tour November 1 and 2 and of which I'll be a part. The studio tour was organized by our local artists and 13 artist studios including my own will be open for visitors.

Teachers and craftsmen have an important thing in common. We want to share what we've learned with new generations. We  know that what we know and what we do are important to human culture and to our own communities. We hope that what we've learned is passed on to be of greater use.

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

Thursday, October 10, 2019


For years my woodworking program had focused on grades 1-12. Last year we added Kindergarten woodworking classes, and so I've been building a set of designs that interest kids of the younger set, and that enable them to develop skills that will be useful later in woodshop and beyond.

Yesterday we made key holders. The idea is that even Kindergarten students can make things that are beautiful and useful to members of their families. Unlike refrigerator art, these pieces will be kept for years to come as evidence of learning and of growth.

One of my upper middle school students finished and delivered a music stand to her music teacher yesterday. That was exciting for all. Clear Spring School students grades 1-6 were camping at Lake Leatherwood City Park last night.

My new woodshop addition is ready for sheet rock and we are planning the conversion of the back porch of the Poe Hands on Learning Center to an art room. The long porch is ideally suited to arrangement in "centers" each offering a special aspect of the visual and constructive arts.

Make, fix, create and assure that all have the opportunity to learn lifewise.

Wednesday, October 09, 2019


Yesterday we had a practice day with planes in grades 1-6. My hope was to get the students to observe the quality of their work, and to test their work for square by using a square. How you hold the plane and move it across wood can be either mindless or mindful, so I paired the students up so they could observe and offer hints to each other.

I've been using the medical school model, See one, do one, teach one, relying on my more experienced students to share what they've learned with each other but also thereby helping the "teacher" reach a greater depth of understanding.

We bring what the hands begin to understand through the mind and back to the hands,  and again through the mind creating a feedback loop.

The shavings that come from the plane are fascinating to the kids. The shavings can also be read to understand what the plane has done and how it is impacting the wood. To work well requires attention to posture, grip, position, and fluid motion in both body and mind.

In addition to training the kids to plane wood, they are also being exercised in mindfulness and are honing their powers of direct observation. The shavings, all carefully gathered, present evidence of learning.

Make, fix, create and adjust schooling so all children learn lifewise.

Monday, October 07, 2019

What the school has to do

The following is from Albert Szent-Györgyi in his essay "Teaching and Expanding Knowledge". Albert Szent-Györgyi won the Nobel Prize for his discovery of Vitamin C in 1937.
"So what the school has to do. in the first place. is to make us learn how to learn, to whet our appetites for knowledge. to teach us the delight of doing a job well and the excitement of creativity, to teach us to love what we do, and to help us to find what we love to do." – Albert Szent-Györgyi 
 He noted that "a discovery must be, by definition, at variance with existing knowledge," and so, should schools focus on sequestering children among known facts, or launch them with confidence toward the unknown? Let's consider the school wood shop as a laboratory in which discoveries are made.

Make, fix, create, and adjust schooling so children learn likewise.

Sunday, October 06, 2019

outdoor classroom

Our eagle scout candidate made great progress with his crew in building the outdoor classroom at the Clear Spring School. It now has a floor, posts, and is ready for construction of the roof to begin. I helped with the design, the preparation of the materials list, and have been one of several advisors on the project.

Rain today has brought the project to a halt.

The open classroom when the roof is added will serve as a wonderful place for lessons during rainy fall and spring days.

Make, fix, create, and adjust schooling so that children have more time out of doors. It's necessary.

Friday, October 04, 2019

towers of wood

Publisher Robert Rodale, in the 1980's before his death, suggested that systematic harvesting and preserving of our trees could be used as a means to remove carbon from the environment. Of course back then folks would have thought him crazy for suggesting the need for such things. Few but the most progressive thinkers on the planet were ready to understand the greenhouse effect, the effects of atmospheric carbon and the climate crisis that was to come. The big oil companies had done research proving the  disastrous effects from their industry but they chose to keep their conclusions to themselves and invest instead in the careers of politicians who were willing to deny the connections between their industry and the degradation of all life.

Rodale was not just suggesting the harvest of wood, but its use in massive quantities as a way to sequester carbon.

Now green architects are suggesting the very same thing... That whole cities be built of wood as a means of withdrawing and sequestering the carbon from the atmosphere. You can read about this proposal in the New York Times.

Personally, I like our forests just as they are, filled with diverse species of wildlife, and harboring great beauty.  It strikes me as odd that the subject of conservation never comes up. But with the growing effects of climate change, our forests that we love will not stay just as they are, or were before warming.

Robert Rodale was the owner of Rodale Press, publisher of Organic Gardening. So the value of using wood to sequester carbon was not to be done willy-nilly without concern for the natural environment. Use wood as a means to give voice to our most precious natural resources, our trees and forests and they might just save us yet.

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

Thursday, October 03, 2019

Moerenuma Park

Moerenuma Park, designed by world renown Japanese American sculptor Isamu Noguchi features Froebel's gifts numbers 3 and 4 in a permanent arrangement. They form part of a children's playground. Ours in comparison, are in a constant state of flux, as our students arrange and rearrange them to meet their own creative interests. The park is a renown international destination in Sapporo, Japan. Isamu Noguchi's mother, Léonie Gilmour, was one of the first Kindergarten students in Felix Adler's Kindergarten in New York City. So perhaps you can see where the connection between Noguchi and Froebel was made.

Make, fix and create.

from MIT- an essay creativity and play

We are having a crisis in American education as play based learning has been brushed aside to focus on reading readiness and standardized assessment. It is well documented that children are innately creative, and that creativity takes a plunge as children enter formalized schooling.

At the Clear Spring School we try to avoid that through the use of play. Our wood shop, hands-on mission and dedicated staff keep us heading in the right direction.

I would love for someone to take us on as a PhD learning opportunity. There are tests that can show whether our children are able to maintain their creative edge vs. students in more rigid and standardized public education. I invite scholars interested in pursuing this question to contact the Clear Spring School.

An essay on the maintaining creativity as a purpose of education is offered here: Material matters in children's creative learning.

Our carpenters are making great progress on building the addition to the new Clear Spring School wood shop. We'll be moving out of the old an into the new sooner than I'd expected. Thanks to all who have given generously to support to our matching grant.

Make, fix and create. Provide an opportunity for others to learn likewise.

Tuesday, October 01, 2019

more on blocks and more

The new woodshop is coming closer to the finish line. The walls and roof are up,  and the electrician is ready for the building inspector to check out the wiring installation. We may be ready to move in by Thanksgiving.

Today my students will be practicing whittling in advance of their camping trip that begins Wednesday.

The Froebel blocks are continuously rearranged. They were an obstacle course last week, but arriving on campus yesterday morning I discovered them to be arranged as a building or fort. With twice as many blocks available the construction has become more complex. I decided to to play myself by standing a cube on one of its corners. My idea was to invite further exploration beyond current boundaries in their use.

One of my students is building an outdoor classroom on the CSS campus as his community  project to become an eagle scout. You can support his project through his go fund me website.

The initial editing of my woodworking with kids book is nearly ready to go to layout in the next few days. The publication date is now set as May 5, 2020.

I completed a chapter for a new book of observations on age. Twelve other senior writers and I were invited to contribute and it will be published the spring. I used my simple lessons learned from woodworking to direct readers toward better lives and better preparation for death. We do not yet know the title of that book.

Make, fix, create, and adjust schooling to allow the hands to take the lead.

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

big cubes

Yesterday in the Clear Spring School wood shop I prepared stock for my lower middle school students to make small white oak spatulas. The idea was a stimulated by the educational sloyd recognition that children need to make things that are useful to their families and in the home as a way to build the student's self-esteem and build a strong relationship between home and school. The kids were excited, particularly by the cake knife I'd made as a gift whose birthday yesterday involved cake. They went home with small spatulas fo their own design. Marco said he needed his to cut his burrito. He made three and wants to make more today.

With the elementary school students we began making boxes.

With more Froebel blocks added to the Clear Spring School playground, I decided to mix up the way they have been used as late, by putting them into their classic forms, two large cubes. I wanted to observe how the students used them next.

Make, fix, and create.

Tuesday, September 24, 2019


Yesterday carpenters added trusses to the construction of the new Clear Spring School wood shop addition. That's a real sign of progress, and I was glad to be on hand to help hoist a few and hold them while they were nailed and screwed in place. Today the plywood roof decking will be added.

One of my students has planned a small outdoor classroom for the Clear Spring School as his eagle scout project. It's a challenging project and with some funding from school, he's raising over half the funds himself. You can support his project through his gofundme site:

Yesterday we also added 5 more Froebel blocks to the school playground, giving our students full sets of gifts number 3 and 4.

An article, "Burnt Oysters" in Columbia Magazine described a project in which students and faculty followed recipes recorded by a craftsman over 500 years ago to make paint, varnish, pigments and the like. The craftsman whose name is not known had left 171 folios of instructions and observations. As one of the world's first how to writers his notes are now kept safe in the French National Library. They were written when it was rare to be able to read, so were left unpublished.

There is a great connection between making and knowing, and as I've suggested in the past, craftsmanship and the knowledge derived from it served as the foundation of modern science and are still the best means to unleash the powers of scientific observation.

According to the article the exercise of recreating the formulas "served as a reminder of the simple pleasures of hands-on invention–– and of the adage that there is no learning like doing."

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

Sunday, September 22, 2019

the power of a single image.

In 1993 my cousin Michael came to Eureka Springs and stayed with us for a few days as he participated in Omega Institute training. He left a copy of a magazine for my enjoyment called "The Sciences." In it I was inspired by an image of a book filled with rocks.

That image led me to begin using rocks as additive design elements in my work, ranging from tables to boxes. It also led to my first work featured on the pages of Fine Woodworking Magazine. I've not as yet read the article from which the image came. But I plan to today. You can read along here:

I find it fascinating how a single image and a singlular relationship can have such effect.

Make, fix, and create. Extend to others the opportunity of learning likewise.

Friday, September 20, 2019

straight and square.

My head of school asked about any particular academic content covered during the course of the week, and even in wood shop there are concepts important to the development of a child's powers to observe and discern. "Straight" is one that helps. Another is "square." Both are important in achieving accuracy and to assure that things actually work and go together as planned.

The square (a woodworking tool)  is used to mark 90° lines directly across wood so that a straight, square cut can be made. Students will find it difficult to do quality work without paying attention to the basic concept square.

 On Thursday with my elementary school kids I had a practice day based on the teaching model used in med school. "See one, do one, teach one." And so I put my slightly older kids in charge of teaching the younger ones. Results were good. Cutting accuracy was improved for both the older and younger students.

When one is given the responsibility to teach, enhanced learning is assured. That's why they follow the same rule in med school. An amazing amount of attention is required when making your first cuts. As you practice, less direct attention is required, thus making it appear deceptively easy when it actually is not. The ability to pay attention is an important skill in the arts and sciences and throughout schooling.

Make, fix, create, and assure that others have the chance to learn likewise.

Thursday, September 19, 2019

more blocks

Yesterday my Kindergarten students made small lidless boxes, and my middle school students helped in the assembly of oversized Froebel blocks for the school playground. The addition of more blocks will add to their building capacity.

Today my elementary school students will work on small pivot lid boxes. Yesterday they began putting strings on the looms we finished earlier in the week so they can begin weaving. In the meantime, carpenters are making great progress on the addition to the new Clear Spring School woodshop in the Poe Hands on Learning Center.

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

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

billions in art

Need a safe climate controlled cataclysm proofed place to hide both your wealth and your art? In absolute privacy and so that it can be traded secretly on an international market without ever facing duties or taxes? And so that you alone can ever see it?
What a strange world of dramatic polarization we live within. Would it not be better if our world's wealth was more equitably distributed?

Today my Kindergarten students will be making small boxes and my middle school students will be helping me make very large Froebel blocks.

Yesterday the carpenters began building an addition to the Clear Spring School's new wood shop and golden doodle Rosie loves a good stick.

Make, fix and create. Adjust schooling so that all others learn likewise.

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

brain gain

An opinion piece in the New York Times suggests important things are happening in rural America. Folks are returning from the huge cities to find better lives in the small towns they had once sought to escape. The article claims this phenomenon as a "brain gain" for small towns throughout the US. It can be a truly good thing, affecting the balance of power in the US and bringing progressive ideals to the "heartland."

Today in the wood shop at the Clear Spring School students grades 1-4 will be making small boxes, practicing skills with hammer and saw. Students grades 5 and 6 will be helping me build more large Froebel blocks. I've prepared parts for assembling 8 more blocks giving us two full sets of gifts 3 and 4 in mighty size.

In the meantime, I've been making small pulls on the table saw to use on Jewelry boxes, using an interesting technique as shown in the photo. And I received word that the editing on my Wisdom of the Hands Guide to Woodworking with Kids book is nearly complete.

Make, fix, create, and adjust schooling so that children learn lifewise.

Saturday, September 14, 2019

three days

I'm mentioning this report for the third day in a row because it is important regarding what we're doing with education. There are reasons that schooling sucks. One is that students are groomed for laziness by schooling that requires them to be passive learners. They actually seem to prefer to sit at desks and listen inattentively to teachers at the head of the class. Active learning informs a student how little he or she actually knows and may be perceived at first as a threat.  It leads them out of their complaisant zone. I'm reminded of the student who says, "I know that," but then when asked to demonstrate what he or she knows, faces the truth of how little he or she can do. You can watch someone play the cello. But take one in your own hands and see what you can do with it.

Another point is that teachers find classroom management much easier if the kids aren't doing anything. There are no materials to supply or put away at the end of class. And there are no limits to the number of students you can crowd into a lecture hall. That's great for administration, as it greatly reduces the unit cost of providing instruction. Passive, lecture based instruction simplifies the job of classroom management, making the teacher's job one of maintaining student discipline, not maintaining student learning.

So there are lots of reasons to ignore the necessity of providing active, project based learning. They boil down to one thing. Keeping schooling cheap. Let's ask some essential questions: Do we care about kids enough to give them the education we know works? Can we find reasons to invest in them to assure the future we deserve? By keeping schooling cheap, we waste lives and time by ignoring how children and adults learn best.

So here's what we need to do.

  1. Reduce class sizes.
  2. Train teachers to actually engage kids.
  3. Teach teachers to understand that hands must be engaged to deliver maximum effect.
  4. Place the arts at the center of education.
  5. Demand that school facilities be expanded to allow each to become a laboratory of learning.
  6. Follow the lead that Friedrich Froebel established, putting play in full force.
  7. Allow schools to reflect and enhance the character of their communities.
No, this will not be accomplished in the next three days.

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

Friday, September 13, 2019

That little spinning ball

How learning works... It requires attention, does it not? Otto Salomon who was responsible for the spread of Educational Sloyd throughout the world through his Sloyd training school at Nääs, described the ineffectiveness of classroom teaching. A "class" of students is an abstraction in which the learning needs of individual students is suppressed.

Yes, you can have a certain number of bodies assigned as a class, but how many minds will be present at any given time while you as a teacher blather on with your lecture. How many of those minds can be brought equally to the same subject material at the same time? In the actual age range of a first grade class, there will be students as much as twenty percent older or younger than the rest, so even if all were coming from equal homes and equal experiences, the idea of a class of students is only for the convenience of administration and not to respond to the necessities of intellectual engagement of each child.

The little spinning ball that shows up at times on your computer while you are waiting for something to process, load or connect, is an apt metaphor. Just imagine a classroom teacher surrounded by spinning balls. Some are processing something already said, attempting to connect it with something already present in the learner's experience. Some are attempting to connect, having no clue where to grab hold. Some, having found nothing to connect with in anything you've said, have moved onto more pleasant and productive thoughts. And then there's the necessity of the wandering mind. In order for new information to find a secure fit in the thinking of a child (or adult) the mind must wander to find connecting points. During a lecture you might expect about 20-30 percent of attendees to be intellectually in attendance at any given time.

This  particular piece of research from the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences is particularly important: It is crucial that we extract education from the clutches of lecture based traditional schooling.

I'm fortunate in having my elementary school students combined in two groups with grade levels 1-4 in each group. This allows me to better assess and observe the workings of mind. Some are completely new to the wood shop, but come from active homes. They are better prepared to engage and do than those who are less actively engaged.

I watched the democratic debate last night and was pleased that the subject of education came up. There is a very strong recognition that we need to restore dignity to the teaching profession and better compensate teachers for the contributions they make toward the advancement of societal goals. They touch on every front... our international competitiveness, the safety and security of our communities, the character and intelligence of our kids and their economic success upon which we also depend.

The photo shows one of my second grade students building his loom. It is remarkable how much he's grown over the past year.

Make, fix, and create.

Thursday, September 12, 2019

Real learning vs. misperceptions of learning

Yesterday workers poured the slab for an addition to the school woodshop in our new hands-on learning center. And my Kindergarten students made "color wheels." The color wheels were a hit, and the kids enjoyed demonstrating how they worked when they got home. How do I know that? A parent sent me a video.

Today in the wood shop I'll be helping one of our students plan his eagle scout project, and I'll be helping our upper and lower elementary school students finish making looms the are making for study of world cultures.

An interesting study suggest that despite strong evidence that active experiential learning is far more effective, students and faculty have misperceptions that the opposite is true. The following quote is from the synopsis of the study.
"Comparing passive lectures with active learning using a randomized experimental approach and identical course materials, we find that students in the active classroom learn more, but they feel like they learn less. We show that this negative correlation is caused in part by the increased cognitive effort required during active learning. Faculty who adopt active learning are encouraged to intervene and address this misperception, and we describe a successful example of such an intervention."
This of course has to do with the difference between knowing about the world, and knowing how to actually navigate one's way in the real world. The German word Kentniss refers to the latter. You can put a kid in a lecture hall, and they may be able to recite in the short term a few of the things the professor had said. Put a kid in a laboratory of some kind, be it a chemistry lab or a wood shop, and the lessons persist. Both in the hands and minds, and the things a Kindergarten child makes from real wood will be kept for a generation or more.

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

Monday, September 09, 2019


The Clear Spring School is an accredited member of the National Association of Independent Schools  (NAIS) through its regional organization, the Independent Schools of the Central States (ISACS). Today we meet with a representative of ISACS to formally launch our every seven year re-accreditation process. The accreditation process is important to us because it allows us to measure and observe whether we actually say what we do. It also keeps us connected to a larger body that works to further education in America.
"What the best and wisest parent wants for his own child, that must the community want for all of its children. Any other ideal for our schools is narrow and unlovely; acted upon it destroys our democracy.–John Dewey.
I'll suggest more along the same line. What the best and wisest educators want for their own students they also want for all children. And so the Clear Spring School is not just about teaching our own kids, it's about establishing a new model through which we may serve all kids.

During a previous cycle of accreditation review, the visiting team wondered aloud, "We can see whether or not they're hands-on as their mission statement suggests. How do we measure whether or not the Clear Spring School meets the second part of its mission, that of being 'hearts-engaged."

A few minutes on campus convinced the visiting review team we were not only hands on, we were also "hearts engaged." You recognize joyfulness when you see it, you feel it and are infected by it. And so that's why the Clear Spring School is one of the best kept secrets of American education. You have to set foot on the campus to feel its full effect.

In other words, come visit and dispel all doubts. That hearts are engaged is expressed through joyfulness. And there is no reason at all that children should suffer through learning.

The student in the photo is drilling holes for making a loom. Dowels will fit in the holes and allow for the warp to be wound back and forth from one end to the other. The jig on the drill press is one I made that allows the stock to be moved sequentially. It avoids the mistakes that come from measuring alignment and layout.

Make, fix, create, and adjust learning so that all others have the opportunity to learn lifewise.

Sunday, September 08, 2019

inspiration lab story

I submitted a story from the Clear Spring School to the NAIS website, about building Froebel blocks and their use at the Clear Spring School. I believe that children should be empowered to have effect.

It's wonderful that parents, teachers, and community members invest in building carefully engineered playgrounds for kids, but we must not overlook and ignore what kids can do for themselves. The story can be found here:

Make, fix and create...

Friday, September 06, 2019

the discovery of cool things

Being surprised heightens our senses. It calls the mind and body to attention. It has physiological and emotional effect. And so, when delivering a piece of furniture, I try to have built a few surprises in. It's best when things continue to surprise, over a period of time.

There are good surprises and some not so good, so when the customers who ordered the table told me that it had exceeded their expectations, I was pleased. I seek purposely to violate the rule against mixing business and pleasure as I know that my best work comes when I work for friends whose trust I dare not offend.

This is not to say that forgiveness is not important. We know from lessons learned from our own humanity that nothing emerging from the hands of man is ever perfect.

Schools suffer from routine. We need to stir things up. Woodworking education is a way to accomplish that.

I am in the process of cleaning my wood shop. I began classes at the Clear Spring School on Wednesday. We had a ground breaking photo yesterday of the addition to the new Clear Spring School wood shop which we hope to occupy during the second semester.

I'm planning to add more blocks to our Froebel sets 3 and 4 on the Clear Spring School playground. They continue to be used with excitement, as you can see. While the blocks are being used as an obstacle course, they are also being continuously rearranged at the same time. Every time I arrive on campus they are in a new configuration. What do they learn from the blocks? One important lesson involves cooperation and collaboration.

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

Wednesday, September 04, 2019

a big delivery...

I was grateful yesterday to arrive at the destination for the delivery of the maple table to find four strong men waiting to carry it into the house. The table's new owner had arranged with the contractor who had rebuilt his house to have his crew on hand.

Just as the table barely fit inside the trailer, it barely fit around one tight corner moving into the living room. But slowly, slowly, and carefully, we snaked our way through.

The table is at home among a collection of lovely works by other artists in a setting that overlooks the  Arkansas River. I am grateful to have had a chance once again to do lovely work.

How do we assure that American creativity lasts into the next century? By asking folks of all ages to create. It must begin in preschool and Kindergartens and before that even in our homes. It must involve mothers and fathers and teachers all being taken off the standard educational routine of preparing for standardized tests, and being relaunched with a renewed effort toward the arts.

For those who collect art, let's reward them with the recognition that they change lives. And for those who make art, let's reward them with the recognition that their spirit is essential to us all.

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

Tuesday, September 03, 2019

a perfect fit.

The photo shows loading the silver maple table into a small trailer for the trip to its new home in Little Rock. My friend and sometimes assistant Greg is installing the lag screws that attach the top to the base.

The top fits into the door of the trailer with only about a quarter inch to spare, and fits the trailer in length with only enough extra room for blankets. The perfect fit and lots of padding and straps should keep it safely in place for its journey today.

I want to describe for you the ways that buyers encourage the growth of craftsmanship, character and intelligence. That seems to be a message that's little understood. Perhaps setting you thinking in that direction alone will help. Is it not obvious? And if it's obvious, why do we not choose to create craftsmanship in our own towns and cities? Is it that we'd rather just cheap out?

Make, fix and create...

Sunday, September 01, 2019

fun guide and more

Our Golden Doodle Rosie is featured in the newly released Eureka Springs Fun Guide: Look for her on page 21. On page 12 you'll find information on the artist's studio tour, November 1 and 2 during which my studio will be open to guests.

In the wood shop I've been making bridle joints for 32 looms that our students will use to weave textile patterns from around the world. Thirty two looms require 128 joints, each cut with precise fit.

School woodshop begins on Wednesday. Making bridle joints has offered another use for spacers. I found that I can use spacers to quickly set up and use a tenoning jig to form the mating parts of a bridle joint marrying two pieces of wood together at a right angle.

Each of the two spacers is thicknessed to fit exactly in the dado cut. The mouth of the bridle joint is cut with one spacer in place. The inside face of the bridal joint, forming one side of the tenon is cut with two spacers in place, and both are removed to cut the opposite side. I plan to make a set of spacers that will be use rare earth magnets to hold tightly to the body of the tenoning jig. An assembled joint is shown in the photo.

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

Friday, August 30, 2019

young hands, young minds.

I've noticed in my teaching that it's often difficult for older adults to grasp things that come easy to to the young. It's best not to become discouraged when trying to emulate what I do. I've been making boxes and furniture for over 40 years and before that had studied woodworking in junior high, then pottery in college, and my dad bought me a shop smith for my 14th birthday. Facility with the hands and mind are best developed at an early age in which they are fresh to the world.

Getting an early start in your creative work gives you an advantage. Children learn quickly what it can take adults years to learn, and that they'll never grasp quite so easily or completely as the young. This applies to both hand skills and to what are thought of as "skills of mind," and it's idiocy to think that they are actually different things.

When we listen to a well trained pianist we are not instantly convinced that we can do the same thing. He or she will make it seem easy, but it will indeed not be as easy as it appears. It takes practice, and those who arise to the highest levels of the art, are most often given a very early start.

Woodworking takes place at a slower rate. That you can actually see the hands moving more slowly does not mean that practice was not required. In other words the same rules apply. It's best to get an early start.

I had made a suggestion in the blog and to some experts that the Quipus used by the Incans to record transactions and history were to be read not only by looking at but also by running one's fingers through the patterns of knots and thereby sensing the vibratory patterns they present. Quipus were, after all, described as talking threads. Were earlier scholars taking a purely intellectual approach not listening? Now some experts are exploring this idea based in part on interviews as to how they were read. Unlocking their full mystery will be a challenge for untrained hands.

I have been asked by Fine Woodworking to be an instructor in their 2020 Hands-on Tampa Event. The maple dining table is upside down and ready for the lag screws connecting base and top to be drilled and installed.

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

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

table base

I have been meeting with my fellow teachers and planning for the beginning of my school year. In my own shop, I've assembled the table base as you can see in the photo. It is extremely stable, as is necessary given the size and weight of the top.

As you can also see in th photo, my shop is a complete mess and ready for a thorough cleaning when the large project is delivered and out of the way.

Make, fix, and create. Adjust schooling so that others have the opportunity to learn lifewise.