Monday, December 30, 2019

a family class

Yesterday my wife and daughter and I took a family class at ESSA with Julie Hop, a noted watercolorist from the ESSA staff. It was a delightful time. My daughter Lucy excelled. Her's is the work shown. I struggled, knowing that free expression is not as easy for me as is the use of jigs and fixtures of my own design for crafting wood.

Fortunately we started with the basics. By the end of the day we had paintings ready to frame and enough basic skill to get better at it. (knowing that it can take years to get good).

When we think of the word "economy," we tend to think large and complex. We ought to instead think of Thoreau, of Shakers, of parsimony, of thrift and of great grandparents who wasted not a single thing. I mention the Shakers in reference not only to thrift but to the quality of design that is reduced to utter simplicity. I mention Thoreau because he suggested a path toward a more meaningful life. Economy of thought can lead to an uncluttered state of mind, allowing us to live more simply, and to reveal and release something greater in ourselves toward building the value of community.

We need to think much more about real economy. Not the one discussed among the world's financial elite, but is instead shared at the community level. The economy where members of families and volunteers make an effort to be of service to each other. A new round of Republican tax cuts raises the nation's deficit by 50% and is poised to make the rich richer by 25% or more. They need the money to fill hollow lives. In the real economy, the one that's not tracked or measured, or even measurable in "economic" terms, people find may find real joy.

We need to redirect families and communities toward simple service. The economy so important to the sustenance of the economic elite is killing the planet. We have the opportunity to save it by becoming advocates of a more simple life.

reduce, conserve, simplify, make, fix and create.

Thursday, December 26, 2019

Forest School

A lovely video sent to me by the department of education at the University of Helsinki shows a laboratory school in Finland in which children spend every Friday out of doors in the surrounding forest. Use this link:

Children learn best from real life. One of the things most lacking in education is the means to bring us into greater harmony with nature.

Woodworking draws a straight line from the forest toward creative empowerment. As you can see in the photo we are moving equipment into the new Clear Spring School wood studio.

Make, fix, and create.

Wednesday, December 25, 2019

Merry Christmas...

It's been a great season for online merchants as folks have been obsessed with buying meaningless stuff. That stuff may bring short term joy, and then become a burden of distribution or disposal. There are costs at both ends...When its made and we spend money for it, and then again when we have it hauled off and buried with massive quantities of stuff. In addition to the monetary costs, there's a large cost to the environment, again, at both ends.

My wife and I settled on a single gift to buy for each other. It is an original water color painting by a friend, Glenn Gant, who passed away in 1999. While Glenn was alive he never cared to sell his work. A good friend of mine would buy it by visiting Glenn in his home, making clear his admiration for a painting, and then lay a couple hundred dollar bills on the bed. You can learn just a bit about Glenn here: But no encyclopedia entry can touch upon the whole man. Glenn is also featured in the long video by Betty and Tony Maffei on my youtube channel. Building a Legacy of the Arts

The Eureka Art Gallery on North Main St. here in Eureka Springs is offering over 100 pieces of Glenn's work for sale that had been held in a private collection. The sale offers the opportunity to acquire a lovely piece of Eureka Springs Art from one of the founding members of our art community.

So, what do we make when we make something beautiful and useful? Certainly, and with some degree of certainty, a machine can make things faster and in some ways better than can we. But when we make something, we have the opportunity to escape mediocrity in the making of ourselves as artists. While the machine is in the process of wearing itself out making meaningless stuff, the artists on the other hand, hone and polish their own souls.

May the season bring joy. Make fix and create.

Tuesday, December 24, 2019

a simple note on Chritmas Eve

Some days I have to sit back and attempt to make sense of things.
Black Elk described the wholeness to be found in nature as follows:
Everything the Power of the World does is done in a circle. The sky is round, and I have heard that the earth is round like a ball, and so are all the stars. The wind, in its greatest power, whirls. Birds make their nests in circles, for theirs is the same religion as ours. The sun comes forth and goes down again in a circle. The moon does the same, and both are round. Even the seasons form a great circle in their changing, and always come back again to where they were. The life of a man is a circle from childhood to childhood, and so it is in everything where power moves. Our tepees were round like the nests of birds and these were always set in a circle, the nation's hoop, a nest of many nests, where the Great Spirit meant for us to hatch our children. -- Black Elk
Again, along the same lines, the following is from Dr. Matti Bergström's book, Hjarnans resurser — en bok om ideernas ursprung "The Brain's Resources — a Book about the Origin of Ideas."
...We evolve in order to unite the world we live in into a wholeness. ...This is why the unifying force, the collective principle ... assumes ever greater importance in our lives. It becomes apparent in our thirst for peace, accord, and harmony, goodness, a social and religious paradise, love of our fellow humans and nature and an ensouling of nature. ...Even in our science we wish more and more to be rid of one-sided analysis, divisiveness and disjointed knowledge to create instead a method of research that tends toward synthesis and holism, wholeness and cohesion, where values can coexist without battling each other. — pp. 147-8
It seems the human condition requires great effort to make sense of. While our training and relentless activity is to discern one thing from another, the understanding of wholeness, a thing Froebel called Gliedganzes, requires us to put things together and to find the common thread. An ancient  Chinese text called the Hsin Hsin Ming describes the process and the solution. "The great way," it says is, "is not difficult for those who have no preferences, but make the slightest distinction, and heaven and earth are set infinitely apart." The solution it proposes is that whenever doubts or dissensions arise they must be met with the firm assertion, "not two," that there are no real boundaries between us.

The following is from Froebel and Education through Self-Activity by H. Courthope Bowen describing a conversation between Adolph Diesterweg and Froebel:
The night was clear, bright, and starry, as they drove home from Inselsberg to Liebenstein, and the beauty of the heavens had set them talking. "No one of the heavenly bodies is isolated; every planet has its centre in the sun of its system. All the solar systems are in relation and continual interaction with one another. This is the condition of all life — everywhere mutual relation of parts. As there above, in great things, unbroken connection and harmony rule, so also here below, even in the smallest thing; everywhere there are the same order and harmony, because the same law rules everywhere, the one law of God, which expresses itself in thousand-fold many-sidedness, but in the last analysis is one, for God is himself the law." "That is what people call pantheism," remarked Diesterweg. "And very unjustly," rejoined Froebel; "I do not say, like the pantheists, that the world is God's body, that God dwells in it, as in a house, but that the spirit of God dwells and lives in nature, produces, fosters, and unfolds everything, as the common life principle. As the spirit of the artist is found again in his masterpieces, so must we find God's spirit (Geist) in his works."
Have you not yourself, walked with friends along a pathway in a starry night and wondered at the billions of stars and the interrelationship between all things? You need not be religious to do so.

The illustration is of Anaxagoras who said simply, that man is the wisest of all animals because he has hands.

Make, fix, and create. Use the powers of mind that you have been given to transcend the fractures that divide us and that leave us lonely and afraid.

Monday, December 23, 2019

cultural affairs...

The first time I met Louis and Elsie Freund was at an art show sponsored by the Cultural Affairs Committee. I had a couple pieces of my pottery on display, and was gratified that senior artists of their stature took an interest in me. The show was held in the Eureka Springs Historical Museum and that must have been in the winter of 1976. I later became close to Louis and Elsie as we formed the Eureka Springs Guild of Artists and Craftspeople in the summer of 1977.

I had invited artists to join together at Lake Leatherwood to form an arts guild. I was proclaimed the first president due to my being the only one there with a piece of paper on which to take notes. Louis and Elsie joined the group at our next meeting which was held on the Balcony of the Crescent Hotel. It was there that we discussed the name of the organization, settling on the "Guild of Artists and Craftspeople" due to the word "craftsman" being too sexist for some.

I write this in remembrance of the need for senior artists to foster and bring forth the young. I can still feel what it felt like to be nurtured and encouraged by artists whose stature had been earned at an earlier time.

Today I continue moving into the new woodworking studio in the newly developing Hands on Learning Center at the Clear Spring School. The floor is completed in the classroom area and the table saw will be he next major tool to move in the front loader of my Kubota.

In the meantime, I'm convinced that the story of the arts in Eureka Springs and how the arts affect the development of community is important, and that it must be told as it would be useful to every small town in the world. The relationships formed between artists through which we nourish and encourage each other in our growth can be the basis of cultural renewal. A few moments with Louis and Elsie there in 1976 within the walls of the Eureka Springs Historical Museum, standing by a Raku pot I'd thrown, and receiving their acknowledgment, helped me to make clear to myself, that I'm an artist.

You can meet Louis and Elsie in this video taken in 1996 by friends Betty and Tony Maffei.

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

Sunday, December 22, 2019

finally it's time?

In the Saturday edition of the Arkansas Democrat Gazette, columnist Rex Nelson, in writing about development in Northwest Arkansas, noted the following about my town of Eureka Springs.
"Finally, it's time for those with wealth in Benton and Washington Counties to fully adopt the quirky old Arkansas town of Eureka Springs in nearby Carroll County. That will be a subject of a future column."
The local Eureka Springs City Advertising and Promotion Commission just approved and expenditure of $25,000 to launch a branding development scheme. We'll see where that goes.

Years ago, Eureka Springs Artists Don Kennett and Louis Freund worked very hard to get the local chamber of commerce to understand the importance of the arts. Earlier, Louis had been a staunch protector of our historic architecture. In speaking on behalf of establishing a historic district and the laws governing the protection of historic resources, Louis noted the millions of dollars being poured into the development of Colonial Williamsburg and contrasted that with Eureka Springs. He said that while they were spending millions to rebuild something from scratch, all we had to do was protect what we already have.

The same can be said of the arts. While Benton and Washington Counties are spending many millions to develop an arts community, all we really need to do is recognize who we are and what we have and protect it. A bit of recognition from those who have the big bucks would go a long way in helping Eureka Springs remain a pinnacle of the arts. The first step could be to get the local chamber of commerce and the City Advertising and Promotion Commission (CAPC) to recognize what should be as clear as the nose on our face.

As a younger man, I would travel around the country to sell my work and wherever I'd go, the reputation of Eureka Springs as an arts community preceded me. My customers had met others from this small town, artists and craftspeople who had established their own credentials as artists and the identity of Eureka Springs as a home for the arts.

I hope to have a brief conversation with Rex Nelson. When Arkansas poet John Gould Fletcher wrote to Louis and Elsie Freund back in the forties, he said, "not much happening in Eureka, but it sure is laid out pretty." That remains true to this day. That beauty brings to our town those who are particularly sensitive to the beauty of our natural landscape, and architecture. Those folks of course tend to be artists. And so the bedrock of this community, as strong as the limestone under this town, is in four parts, beauty, outdoor recreation, historic preservation, and the arts.

My thanks to Dr. Dan Bell for alerting me to the need for this post.

Make, fix, and create...

Saturday, December 21, 2019

moving beyond the days of 360° 24/7 self-aggrandizement

I mention again an interesting book by Catherine S. Barker. It was first published in 1941 and was republished this year with fresh notes and introductory materials by the University of Arkansas Press. Yesterday Today is a factual account of life in the Ozark Mountains and of the challenges faced by the rural poor. The book is lovingly written, and I celebrate the University of Arkansas Press for bringing it back to life.

The book presents an interesting contrast with life in the Ozarks today. Now we have multi-national corporations and companies that specialize in making things from plastic.

There's an interesting Zen saying, that, "Poverty is your greatest treasure. Never trade it for an easy life." A song lyric that interests me is from Joni Mitchel. She sang about "the thumb and the satchel or the rented Rolls Royce, and the crazy you get from too much choice."

We are in the times of 360 degree 24/7 self-aggrandizement. Did you know that the big gold letters on the top of Trump Hotels and towers are not gold and that they are actually made of plastic? You can make plastic look like virtually anything. But there's a difference between virtual and virtue. One is the denial of the other. Not enough is said these days about simplicity. Another favorite suggestion is to live simply so that others may simply live.

The eight year old youtube star is making 26 million bucks a year reviewing and thereby promoting toys. Can you guess what they're made of? In the meantime, the maker of Lego blocks is offering to take back legos from the hoards of unsorted legos that are out there, and to resort them and send them to the poor. That's better than having them floating in the great Pacific garbage gyre. Perhaps we could consider a similar effort in the collection and renewal of old barbies. Gather them up, take them apart and reassemble them into new creative forms.

I'll compare legos to homemade wooden Froebel blocks. Does the world have enough? Being made  from wood, most have been burned or composted with no harm to the environment. My book, Making Classic Toys that Teach might send my readers in the right direction.

Yesterday we began moving tools and work benches from the old Clear Spring School wood shop to our new studio in the hands on learning center. I felt extremely grateful to have had a tractor for some of the heaviest lifting and to have had great help.

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

Friday, December 20, 2019

a thought about wood.

The highest paid youtube star is 8 years old and earned 26 million dollars. 500 hours of youtube video are uploaded every minute. The way someone gets paid is by attracting viewers and receiving advertising revenue. Corporations get paid additionally by gathering information on us, where we are, what we buy, what we're likely to buy next, to thereby make certain they're the ones to sell it to us.

Eighty to 90% of what's sold in the US is destined for the landfill or disposal within 2-3 years. We have a relentless appetite to have fresh stuff put at our disposal. The costs are enormous, both on the personal level and for the planet. We have a huge balance of trade deficit that puts our future ever more securely in the hands of the Chinese and other investors in American "prosperity."

And so the question arises, "what if we were each empowered to make beautiful, useful, and lasting things for ourselves?"

Yesterday I helped the staff of the Eureka Springs School of the Arts make boxes. While the boxes we made in a short period of time were not perfect, (Perfection can only come through time and repetition) each box made is a symbol of growth that will find a useful place in each maker's life.

While environmentalists race to remove the great Pacific garbage patch of swirling plastic and as it grinds its way into smaller micro-plastic bits that will be impossible to remove from the marine ecosystem or from intrusion into all life, wood's not like that at all. It is a natural, renewable component to the planet. It can be composted or burned without deleterious effect. Wood has always been an important part of the natural environment. Plastic has not.

Today I'll begin moving the benches, tools and cabinetry of the Clear Spring School woodworking studio into its new space.

Make, fix and create.

Thursday, December 19, 2019

the character of wood

This week my Kindergarten students finished their toy trains and were excited to take them home.

Today I have a special adult box making class for the staff of the Eureka Springs School of the Arts. Tomorrow we begin moving the Clear Spring School wood studio to its new location.

Woodworking is a bit different from other means of artistic expression. If you cut a piece of steel too short, you can heat it, and hammer it, extending its length. Lacking a forge, you can widen your weld, simply filling in the unsightly gap.  If clay is too long or too short, it can be squished or stretched to fit.

Wood's not like that. Precision is required. Woodworkers have joked about a board stretcher. No such invention has been made. Then there's the other joke. "I cut this board twice, and it's still too short."

And so there are certain characteristics inherent in the wood. Those characteristics make it challenging. They also make it lovely. Its beauty. What more need I say?

Well, I might mention its usefulness. Today my students will be making boxes that I can assure you will find a useful place in life.

And is there yet one more thing I might say about the character of wood? Yes indeed. Like human beings, wood is narrative. It tells its own story. The life of the tree is written in the grain, along with its strength and its loveliness. As we work with wood, using it to tell our own stories, we are blending in a larger world of creation.

And is there yet one more thing I might say about the character of wood? I can tell you about the diverse properties of various species. They are hard or soft. They are weak or strong (comparatively). Woods come in diverse colors and are suited to a wide variety of best uses. To enter the world of wood can be to fall into a wonderful entrapment in which one may discover love for the natural world.

Make, fix, create, and adjust education so that others learn lifewise.

Friday, December 13, 2019

I want to make that.

My younger students see the things that the older students are making and they tell me, "I want to make that." The opportunities in wood shop are endless.

Wood lends itself to being transformed into useful, lasting beauty. It also offers enough resistance to its transformation that it alters the character and temperament of the maker.
Alteration of character is a necessary mission for education. At the Clear Spring School students become makers and doers and live lives richer, more resilient and more in touch.

Yesterday one of my classes of elementary school students asked if they could make canes. And in a weakened state, I allowed them to use materials I'd prepared for older students to make canes for the elderly and disabled.

The handles came from scrap stock that I pick up at a handle factory, and the shafts are cut from hardwood stock into an octagonal shape using the table saw. The handles are drilled at center using a 5/8 in. Forstner bit. The tenons on the ends of the shafts are formed using a Veritas tenon cutter. The work can be quickly done because we have tools and I supply materials for such projects.

I have been reading an interesting book by Catherine S. Barker. It was first published in 1941 and was republished this year with fresh notes and introductory materials by the University of Arkansas Press. Yesterday Today is a factual account of life in the Ozark Mountains and of the challenges faced by the rural poor. The book is lovingly written, and I celebrate the U of A Press for bringing it back to life.

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

Thursday, December 12, 2019

finishing up...

We have one more week in the current Clear Spring School wood shop before we begin moving into the new hands on learning center. That means many student projects must be finished and taken home, or taken apart if they are abandoned.

Our Kindergarten students are finishing their toy trains. The engines and cars will be assembled in strings next week.

Other students are making boxes, canes and walking sticks.

Part of the value of woodworking is that in order to do it, students must think and observe closely, just as they must do in science. In fact, many early scientists were craftsmen as well in making the laboratory equipment required.

One of the challenges I have is that students come up with elaborate ideas about things they want to make. For instance, one student wanted to make a chicken house and came up with a design requiring what I estimated to be three sheets of plywood. I asked, "Do you see any wood around here that would enable you to do that?" He settled on a much smaller design.

In the digital world where many children and adults spend their time, all things are made easy. In fact, each new version of each program has been made successively more and more "user friendly" meaning easy to use. If it's easy to use, it can be done any anyone, no special skills required, and no student growth required. And yet, if you study kids you learn that they want to learn new and challenging things that allow them to demonstrate expertise and set themselves apart from each other. I refer you back to David Henry Feldman's essay that can be found by searching this blog for "The Child as Craftsman."

Kids have long been set apart from each other by having parents who buy them stuff. But there's a shallowness and artificiality to that when you compare it with the opportunities found in craftsmanship which requires students to do real things and develop real skill in the real world.

I received copies of Not Dead Yet, Reflections on Life, Aging and Death, yesterday to share with family and friends. My sister Mary needs not receive a copy as she's one of the contributors to the book. The Kindle edition is cheap, but it's nice to hold a real book. I thank the editor Dan Krotz for including our essays in it.

Make, fix and create...

Monday, December 09, 2019

building readers

An OpEd in the New York Times  tells about success in Mississippi in teaching children to read. The idea Mississippi legislators came up with was that if teachers were taught the scientific basis for success in reading, their students would have greater success. The simple formula is this.

  decoding ability x language comprehension = reading comprehension 

You'll note in this formula that if decoding ability is zero, the reading comprehension is also zero. Or if language comprehension is zero, then reading comprehension will also be zero. So teachers in Mississippi are taught to emphasize both the use of words and the decoding and sounding out strings of letters. What they fail to mention is a third factor, readiness to read. Not all children mature to be ready to read at the same time. When they're not ready, frustration ensues, and school districts spend hundreds of millions of dollars attempting fix something that should never have been broken in the first place.

When I visited the University of Helsinki wood shop in 2008, I found Kindergarten teachers learning to teach woodworking to their kids. Each teacher was excitedly engaged. Woodworking builds language comprehension, as does doing other real things. By delaying the start of school reading until age 8 and by doing other real things in school, beyond reading and math, the Finns build better readers in 30% less time.

In my own shop, I've been attending to orphaned boxes, those left unfinished after using them to demonstrate techniques. The photo shows installing hinges and one finished box.

Make, fix and create...

Thursday, December 05, 2019

canes and ornaments

Yesterday my students worked on canes and ornaments. The canes are made for the elderly and infirm at our local medical clinic, and the ornaments are being made for a Christmas Tree at the Crescent Hotel. Beginning on December 7, you can vote on your favorite tree by giving a dollar or more.

Those trees that get the most votes receive additional money from the hotel. On or after December 7, take money, go to the hotel and vote big. We hope the hands and toys will capture the hearts of those visiting the forest of trees representing charitable organizations in our community.

My students will be finishing more ornaments in the wood shop today.

Make, fix and create.

Wednesday, December 04, 2019


My students and I have now made about 30 toys to use as ornaments on a Clear Spring School Christmas tree for the Crescent Hotel to be displayed starting Dec. 7. Most of them have now been painted. I'll take a photo of some of the finished cars today.

Today my Kindergarten students will begin making toy trains, and I have a new way to hold the train cars connected in a string. By cutting a groove in the underside of each one, a simple string can be hot melt glued in place connecting them. It does not offer the option of coupling and uncoupling cars, but is a simple way to make a train to capture the love of  the youngest kids.

Part of the fun of woodworking with kids is that the teacher gets to be creative and learn new things.

Last night I packaged 20 boxes to ship to a customer in Little Rock.

I had correspondence with a publisher who told me that they were going to place greater emphasis on publishing scholarly works, making it less likely that they would publish my book Wisdom of the Hands: Crafting Self, Community and Human Culture. The perception that "scholarly" precludes personal experience in reshaping and restoring the role of the hands in learning and in life, is a dangerous thing. In the German language they recognize two kinds of knowledge, Wissennshaft that comes second hand from reading about stuff, and Kentniss that comes from doing real things. The perception that "scholarly" is about one and not the other is a sad notion in academia. The wisdom of the hands is likely a threat to the academic status quo.

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

Tuesday, December 03, 2019


Three recent studies suggests that instead of fidget spinners being useful in helping some students toward classroom learning success, they have the opposite effect. It has been argued that fidget spinners help kids adapt to the stress of the modern classroom, having particular effect on those students suffering from ADHD. Claims for the value of fidget spinners were made by the marketers on pure speculation and without evidence.

On the other hand, fidget spinners may be useful in helping kids to cope with boring lessons... not in helping to manage to learn those lessons but helping them to manage sitting still without disrupting others. So let's be clear. Children don't fit well in classrooms that are one size supposed-to-fit all.

On Thursday I talked with my great nephew Knox about his schooling. As a very bright boy he would find school to be very boring but for being recognized as "gifted" and being assigned a mentor who listens to his interests and helps design lessons specific to what he wants most to learn. But then, this raises the question, are not all children "gifted" and talented in one way or another? Perhaps with individually assigned mentors or smaller class sizes we'd find out.

On the other hand, there are two things standing in the way of greater educational success, each of these well proven by research. Poverty is the greatest obstacle standing in the way of student success, and it should come as no surprise that my great nephew Knox, comes from a family that gives him full support and total love. Gifted kids come from families like his that offer attention and support.

The other obstacle is class size. Teachers with 25 to 30 kids in a class are incapable of knowing their students' interests or exact level of development and thus must force engagement through other means.  They command, "Sit still kids." When sitting still is not what their minds, and bodies need. Don't you remember the figits from when you were a kid?

So these are two things to fix. Poverty and class size. Shouldn't we be talking about these two things? And of course the third point is the hands. Students should be engaged in project based learning through which their hands are engaged in doing real things. The value of doing real things is far greater than cramming useless information into the brain that will be quickly forgotten

Today my elementary students will be making toy cars and trucks. My middle school students will be making canes for the elderly. My high school students will be working on their longboards.

The photo is for my friend Bob whose shop I visited last week, and for whom I tried to explain my method for attaching the ESSA compound miter saw to dust collection. A picture is worth far more than a thousand words. It is great fun to visit other woodworker's shops and seeing how they've solved problems common to us all.

Make, fix and create...

Friday, November 29, 2019

not dead yet.

Not Dead Yet: Reflections on Life, Aging & Death, the new book to which I contributed a chapter is now available on Amazon, as either Kindle edition or print. Not Dead Yet contains the work of 16 participants, edited by my good friend Dan Krotz and published by Cahaba Press.

My students at the Clear Spring School came up with a new use for the Froebel blocks. They set them up as courts for ball play. With a student at each end, they roll the ball back and forth keeping count of the number of times the ball goes from one to the other. It has been a good way for those proficient in counting to share their skill with others less proficient, and the fact that their bodies are involved may strengthen the learning process. That the kids came up with this on their own gives it extra learning value.

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

Wednesday, November 27, 2019


I was asked to make ornaments for a school fundraising Christmas tree that will be on display at the Crescent Hotel from Dec. 7 until the first week of January. With the students we're making tiny cars and trucks and wooden hands that can be hung on the tree.

The toy cars and trucks are easy to make and the students can design their own. I have the drill press set up so they can make their own wheels. A loop of yarn passed through a hole in the toy provides a means to hang it from the tree.

The students traced their hands on paper which I then glued on Baltic birch plywood using spray adhesive. I cut out the hands on the band saw and scroll saw. They will paint them after Thanksgiving holiday break.

The wooden hands reflect the Clear Spring School's mission statement:
Together, all at Clear Spring School promote a lifelong love of learning through a HANDS ON and HEARTS ENGAGED educational environment.
As you may have noticed by observing in your own life, there is a direct relationship between the engagement of the hands and the fulfillment of the heart.

I wish all my readers and friends a very happy Thanksgiving. It's one of my favorite American holidays. Good food as we gather in love for one another.

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

Monday, November 25, 2019

beyond McMind

A new book by Ronald Purser, McMindfulness: How Mindfulness Became the New Capitalist Spirituality explores the shortcomings the mindfulness movement. Another of my blogs  sawzen, in which I've not written since 2015 promotes the idea of sustaining a unified mental state, being both in the world and of it, and noting that we are in this world equipped with bodies (and hands) so that we can be of service to each other.

We are infinitely and intimately connected to each other and to all else while we are confronted at the same time with an unceasing number of real things that require our complete attention. Dual awareness is the practice of attending equally and seamlessly to the full range of self.

In other words, sawzen is not zazen. It's not about withdrawing from the world into a meditative state, but is entering into the world with soul in focus and reality at hand.

Woodworking can be a path toward realization of greater SELF. In my shop I continue sanding boxes, knowing they will leave my hands and find their way into other hands, building connections between us.

There is a whole bunch of hype and egotism built into the practice of "spirituality." Let's avoid that and get to work.

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

Sunday, November 24, 2019

crystals on a puddle

This morning I found ice crystals forming in a puddle at the end of my road. The loveliness of nature and natural processes can be discovered in unlikely places. The crystals formed as long shafts, criss-crossing each other to form stars.

The temperature last night hovered just below the freezing point, allowing crystals for form in long pathways on the surface of the water.

Last week at the Clear Spring School, the woods above the campus were opened to student play, a thing that happens each year when freezing temperatures put ticks and chiggers into a dormant state. I'm reminded of the importance of kids playing in the woods, but the freezing puddle this morning reminds me of the importance of adults also getting out of doors to observe the wonders of the real world.

I introduced our dog Rosie to the wonders of doggy TV. There are hours and hours of programming available of squirrels and birds and dogs at play,  or on leashes walking with their masters along forest paths. Rosie prefers, however, to sit with me on the front porch chewing a stick. She keeps and eye open to the real woods, where if a real squirrel shows up, she's on the ready for a real run.

Yesterday she climbed the stairs behind the wall to which our television screen is mounted. She wanted (I assume) to see if there were any real squirrels and birds behind the screen. Not finding them there, she asked to go out.

I'll remind you of the necessity of distracting and extracting ourselves from the digital world that keeps us sequestered from real life. The wood shop is a great way to reengage in reality. In my shop, I'm busy sanding 46 small wooden boxes, which I expect to have finished next week.

Make, fix, create, and adjust your life to learn lifewise.

Thursday, November 21, 2019

tiny cars

Yesterday my Kindergarten students made tiny cars and trucks, small enough to fit in their pockets. They were excited about the project, and next week my other students will begin making tiny cars and trucks for our annual toy project in which toys are made for kids to receive at our local food bank.

Our kids ask, "may I make one to keep?" and of course the answer is yes.

Education, in order to assure efficiency of learning and lasting effect, begins with grasping the interests of the children. Wood shop does that.

Make, fix and create.

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

a Finnish clock

Yesterday in the wood shop at the Clear Spring Schools we finished making clocks. The teachers wanted working clocks to encourage their students to learn to tell time, so it became a project involving the use of compasses, then layout of numbers on the clock face, some art and some woodworking as well.

The project was also integrated with their study of various countries from around the world. This particular clock shows a breed of dog from Finland, the Finnish Spitz. You may note that this particular clock also used Roman numerals.

The clocks are intended to be used and kept to learn and remember.

Yesterday we were also visited  in the wood shop by the Head of Greenhill School from Dallas, Texas.

Greenhill was founded by the parents of the founders of the Clear Spring School.

Today in the wood shop, our Kindergarten students will make tiny cars to fit in their pockets.

Make, fix and create.

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.