Tuesday, July 16, 2019

a pivot lid box...

A student from this year's class at Marc Adams School of Woodworking contacted me about an upcoming visit with his grandson and his desire to share his love of box making. He remembered seeing my pivot lid box that we've made the Clear Spring School and asked if I could direct him to more information.

The blog that I've written since 2006  http://wisdomofhands.blogspot.com has a search function that allows readers to find such things.

https://wisdomofhands.blogspot.com/2013/10/vague.html https://wisdomofhands.blogspot.com/2013/09/new-box-design.html https://wisdomofhands.blogspot.com/2019/02/labrador-retriever.html

Knowing that I have helped inspire parents and grandparents to do woodworking with their kids is enormously satisfying to me. It means that there will be yet more generations of creativity and engagement in woodworking.

Today I'll be reworking some essays for my new book. It will include some pivot lid boxes.

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

Monday, July 15, 2019

We had great fun

We had great fun making box guitars and I was pleased the class went so well. It followed five intense days of box making at ESSA. I'm exhausted, not so much from seven straight days of class, but from the emotions involved in the death of my younger sister, Sue. Her death reminds me of my own mortality and the pressing concern of doing what's mine to do in the time I've got.

We must redirect American education toward the full implementation of our greatest human resources, our hands.

It's a large task. Gargantuan. I'll not do it alone. Pre-Socratic Greek philosopher Anaxagoras had proclaimed man to be the wisest of all animals because he has hands. So this is not a discovery I made up on my own. It is a thing observed by countless wise folks through the long history of the human race. It is a thing that you can test in your own hands through recollections of your own learning experiences: those that have brought about an actual shift in your thinking or the direction of your  own life.

You will not need a standardized test or exhaustive research paper devised by experts to tell you what you need to know and that you can observe for yourself if you trust yourself to do so. We learn best, most efficiently and to greatest lasting effect when we learn hands-on.

So what do I mean by hands-on? Think of the first mate's call, All hands on Deck. He's not calling for hands alone, but hands connected to mind and will and skill and intelligence to do what needs to be done, sometimes in desperation to save the ship.

When children are allowed to do real things in service to family and community they learn from the real world those things they need to enable them to make even greater contributions as they mature. When they learn these things in the context of formal education, school becomes relevant  and even exciting to their own learning needs. The erasure of woodworking from schools is a symptom of greater issues: a reliance upon the contrived which the informs children that school is made up, unreal and the lessons therefore a waste of their time.

The ship of state is desperate shape and calls for courage. The state of American education, the same. It calls that we be good and that we be brave, and that we stand up against those who want education to confine children in classrooms with empty hands and empty minds.

So how about it? The photo shows one of our finished box guitars. Today I have my opening dialog with the editor of my book about woodworking with kids.

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

Sunday, July 14, 2019

day one box guitars

Yesterday I began a two day parent/child box guitar class with grandparents, an aunt, and children ages 9-17. We covered tables with white paper so they could design and draw the boxes they wanted to make. Each started with full scale drawings the kids and adults developed in cooperation.

Each designed a box guitar that will be absolutely unique. After assembling the box sides, we added bottoms, tops and necks and began painting, with the kids making decisions on the colors of milk paint to be used.

Adults and children alike enjoy watching the creative process, and one grandparent noted that it was so much better that each was trusted from the outset to exercise creativity than for all to be expected to do the same thing.

Children are hungry to learn and conventional schooling can kill that spark. Woodworking in school is a way to keep enthusiasm up and learning alive.

Today the students will finish painting their guitars and will add tuning pegs, bridge, nut and strings.

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

Friday, July 12, 2019

day 5 at ESSA

Today I finish my 5 day box making class at ESSA and will then set up for a two day adult/child class on making box guitars.

Yesterday I gave a demonstration of cutting mitered finger joints during ESSA's studio stroll. Real work, doing real things provides the opportunity to discuss philosophy without boring the listener, so I used the opportunity to make a plug for a return to a more thoughtful societal state in which what we acquire and own would reinforce character in our communities and build resilience in our nation state.

That's a hard slog when you can get machine made stuff imported from foreign lands so cheap. Just imagine! We would rather destroy the planet for cheap stuff than build skill, character and intelligence in each other.

As my sister Sue lay dying the night before last, my brother-in-law Mike heard her say quietly to herself, "Be good. Be brave." Whether words of encouragement to herself, or counsel to others, the words are wise for both life and for death.

We must all be brave. We must all talk frankly with each other and be brave and good in what we say and do.

One of my students at lunch suggested term limits as a way to improve politics in America. I mentioned my wife's 30 plus year service to our local libraries. Would it not be better if, instead of throwing the bums out on a routine basis that we encourage them to adhere to higher standards? My wife would be a better Senate majority leader than Mitch McConnell, simply because she has personal standards of goodness that require that she serve the public, not serve the party, or the big donors, or the ideology or what it takes to be re-elected.

So let's reform elections in the US and raise the expectation that elected "public servants" be held to the same standards of goodness and bravery as the rest of us. That we must be good enough and brave enough to be in steady service to each other.

Make, fix, and create...

Thursday, July 11, 2019

ready for day 4.

I am preparing for day four of my box making class at ESSA. At lunch today we talked about the decline in the relationship between people and the overabundance of things in their lives.

We are overwhelmed by meaningless stuff that can be acquired with little or no benefit to our communities. When we ask those we love to make things for us, we ask them thereby to grow in skill, character and intellect, and in that lies the growth of real community.

We can go online for the fake stuff. If you want the real deal, make beautiful and useful things with your own hands and share them with each other. Today in the ESSA wood shop, we'll install hinges, and apply finish to the boxes that have been assembled so far. Other boxes will be launched. Because the class is small, I've managed to work on some of my own.

I have been in a state of grief over a younger sister dying of cancer. Sue Shelden passed away yesterday afternoon. She was an art lover. She exercised her hands and mind in pottery, basketry  and more. She was the one in her household to fix things whether the task required a wrench or a Skilsaw. She would go to her local book stores and if she found one of my books, she would place it cover side out so that others would be drawn to what was inside.  It is only a very small comfort to know that we remain deeply connected to each other.

The boxes shown are some made by Jerry in my class. Each of my students has beautiful boxes in the works. This afternoon, from 4-5:30 we have studio stroll at the Eureka Springs School of the Arts. This is your special invitation. Light snacks, beer and wine will be served.

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

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

day three

I'm ready for my third day of box making class at the Eureka Springs School of the Arts. The students have been cutting mitered joints, installing miter keys, making finger joints, designing and fitting lift lids and no two boxes are alike. Today I'll demonstrate installing hinges.

There is a difference between woodworking and some of the other art forms taught at ESSA. Woodworking involves a heavy dose of both left and right brain. Wood being of dense material, requires that the hands be strong, and the mind patient. Facing the challenge of safe use of the equipment can be a stretch for some.

And so we grow. We support each other and are reminded that the single greatest illusion of our shared humanity is that we are individuals and separate from each other. We become captured in our own heads, and as a result fail to understand our own breadth.

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

Saturday, July 06, 2019

lost arts?

Chris Schwarz's blog, The lost Arts Press gave a shout to this blog, in the title of his most recent post dedicated to David Esterly, author of the Lost Carving, a classic. Esterly died last month.


I received an invitation from a friend inviting me to write 5-10,000 words for a new book about what it's like to be old. I guess I've reached that milestone, having learned just a bit about standing in line at the local pharmacy.

In the meantime, I have a box making class at ESSA starting on Monday morning. There are still spaces in the class, so if you are ready to learn, show up. The details are on the ESSA website. https://essa-art.org/workshops/wood/build-a-small-cabinet/

If you have come to the blog through a link from the Lost Arts Press, read deeply, but act. The only truly lost arts are those you've helped abandon.

We learn best when we do real things. Think for a moment about the artificiality of schooling.  You sat through years of it, as did I. I was quoted at the beginning of Matthew Crawford's book Shop Class as Soulcraft, as follows:
“In schools we create artificial learning environments for our children that they know to be contrived and undeserving of their full attention and engagement… Without the opportunity to learn through the hands, the world remains abstract, and distant, and the passions for learning will not be engaged.”
Make, fix, and create. Assist others in learning likewise.

Wednesday, July 03, 2019

in addition...

In addition to getting ready for next week's box making class at ESSA, I'm making gradual progress on my new kerfed hinge machine.  As the table holding the box slides forward, the blade emerges to make the kerf for the hinge to fit. By adding a stop block on the right, the box can be held in perfect position so the hinge kerfs in the lid and body of the box will be in alignment.

I still need to fine tune it and install a switch to turn the motor on and off. I'm also waiting for a different motor shaft extension to arrive.

If you are interested, there are still spaces to fill in next week's box making class. You can go here to register: https://essa-art.org/workshops/wood/small-decorative-boxes/ You need not have any prior experience. I will provide that.

Make, fix, create, and increase the likelihood that others learn likewise.

Tuesday, July 02, 2019

calling all hands....

I had a bit of time yesterday as I prepared stock for my upcoming week of classes, to work on my kerfed hinge machine. This is a second iteration and uses a 3000 rpm TEFC motor. The point of this machine is to ease the installation of hinges that fit in thin kerfs at the back of the box.

The distinctive feature of this hinge is that it installs with much greater ease. These hinges are also cheap, and so I've used thousands over my years making boxes. I used to know roughly how many boxes I'd made by the number of hinges I ordered by the thousands. But I've lost track.

The knobs on the back of the box are for raising the motor and cutter assembly up and down to position the hinge slot a reasonable inset from the back edge of the box. The maple runners allow the top surface that supports the box to slide into and out of the cutter while held in place by a fence and stop block.

Part of the great fun of woodworking is to figure out ways to speed up and simplify the process. Part of that is training the hands to perform. Part of that is training the mind to understand. Part of that is cultivating the mind to imagine.

There were those who believed that woodworking had no place in schooling. They maintained that we would become a nation of servants to each other, without getting mussed. Clean hands, college minds. And yet the hands have their own callings. The mind alone, unsupported by inquiring hands is insufficient.

Make, fix and create...

Monday, July 01, 2019

this day

I began this blog http://wisdomofhands.blogspot.com in 2006 with the hope of encouraging an understanding of the necessity of hands-on learning. The statistics provided by google began counting in 2009 and show that I'm nearing the 2 million page view mark since that date.

The more important things are not so easily measured. A teacher never knows the full impact of a life teaching kids. A box maker never knows how long his or her boxes will last or hold interest. And a writer rarely knows whether the lives he or she has touched have been changed in any way.

In any case, I urge you to do more than read. Take what you know and teach others. Something. Anything. If you have a passion make sure that it's shared. If you want to know something and learn it well, teach it to another.

Today I'll be preparing stock for two classes next week. July 5-9 I teach box making at ESSA. On July 6 and 7, I have a parent/child class on making box guitars. There are still spaces available in each class.

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

Sunday, June 30, 2019

play in the wood shop

Yesterday I got parts of the maple table base finished and trial assembled. The coopered leg sections must be firmly fitted to the white oak stretcher in order to keep the table from wiggling as the 3 inch thick top weighs nearly 200 lbs. While the shape of the legs give some resistance to moving, that I've created interlocking joints and will bolt the legs to the stretcher will assure stable support. The photo shows the table base upside down on the work bench during a trial fit.

All of this is a form of play. I've never done anything exactly like this before in my life which is what makes it fun and engaging. You'll notice the texturing on the leg sections. This was done by making sweeping gestures across the face of the wood with an angle grinder.

All play involves risk. You know you can make mistakes. And because there's risk, you give it your full attention. And because you give it your full attention, you may find yourself relieved of some of the other burdens of life.

Woodworking philosopher David Pye said that there are two forms of craftsmanship. Craftsmanship of certainty is where all things are so well set up that there are no risks of failure, and that little or no human attention is required in the delivery of endless mountains of stuff. Craftsmanship of risk requires human attention. Out of insecurity, and unwillingness to embrace play, we've surrounded ourselves with mountains of meaningless stuff in which very little actual human attention was required in the making of it. We can value one form of craftsmanship or the other. One form embraces our humanity. The other exhibits love for the machine and fear of each other.  What do I mean? "Oh, what will they think of me? Have I gotten the best deal?"

Perhaps we should choose love for each other.

At the Clear Spring School, students are attending summer art camp. The large Froebel blocks are stacked to the side because boys against the girls brought bickering in their play. They will be released from sequester when the children are better prepared for their cooperative use. I'll suggest that they be released one type of block at a time, just as they were introduced in the first place.

Make, fix, and create.

Saturday, June 29, 2019

a summer day

Yesterday evening we went out on a pontoon boat on Beaver Lake with friends and it was our goldendoodle Rosie's first time in a boat. She loves the water as you can see.

Today in my wood shop I'll continue applying finish to parts of the maple table and also begin preparing stock for my upcoming box making and box guitar classes at the Eureka Springs School of the Arts.

As Rosie shows, and as we all know the world is a fascinating place deserving our attention. Children and dogs deserve to learn directly from the real world by doing real things.

In conventional schools we crowd too many children into purposely sterile classrooms. We swap kids between teachers, reassigning them to new ones as they "progress." We design schools based on the efficiency of handling kids, rather than to meet the interests of each child. And students soon learn that they must mold themselves to fit in or struggle to escape.

My mother would tell about one of her first Kindergarten students, Dougie Dencker. Her classroom was partly in the basement with windows that were at ground level on the outside of the building. So when she found herself missing Dougie, the other students informed her, "Oh, Miss Bye, he escaped out the window." And how many of us can remember that urge to escape?

When my mother called Mrs. Dencker to inform her that her child was on the loose, Mrs. Dencker said, "Oh, don't worry about Dougie. He knows his way home." He was found a short time later standing in the middle of downtown Ft. Dodge directing traffic. "Dougie" Dencker grew up to be an over the road truck driver. He lived in Iowa, Alaska, Colorado, Kansas and California and died in 2003.

Make, fix and create... Allow for us all to express our individuality, even in schooling.

Friday, June 28, 2019

cheery about cherry...

A friend of mine alerted me to a sale on kiln dried cherry at my favorite sawmill. The lumber is premium with much of it running from 8 to 11 inches wide and the low price per board foot made it enticing for me to buy much more than I'll need for my small cabinets class at ESSA during the week of August 5-9. 

The lumber is already planed to 13/16ths inch thick and while I prefer thicker stock for resawing material for box making, this material will be ideal for the small cabinets I have in mind.

You can sign up  for that class here: https://essa-art.org/workshops/wood/build-a-small-cabinet/

Of more immediate interest is my upcoming small decorative boxes class July 8 through 12. There are still vacancies in each class.

A student this summer who has taken 35 classes at the Marc Adams School of Woodworking told me that my small box making class was the most fun of all the classes he'd taken at the school. Join us for lots of fun.

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

Thursday, June 27, 2019

reprise... a brain on jazz

Today I'll be working in the shop, beginning to finish parts of the base for a large maple table. For your reading pleasure I submit the following, concerning the brain, jazz, and the reading comprehension level of words used in presidential debates.


Make, fix, create, and realize that all children need the opportunity to learn likewise.

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

designing to deep

When the teacher is required to stand at the head of the class and deliver lectures that are intended to excite student interest it takes a great deal of time to prepare. You can crowd a hundred students into stadium seating for the live performance (a good teacher can put on a good show), and those students who did not spend their time on facebook might feel inspired to go deeper into the subject area.

Better is when, instead of a teacher telling students what he knows is when he or she presents a subject and inquires of the students what they know or how they feel about the subject, and then offers the tools of inquiry that allow them to go deep. Of course this presents management issues. How can a teacher get the students in and out of class in the allotted time? The teacher is to tread hallowed ground made sacred by millions of years of shared human inquiry.

During our A+ Schools teacher training one of the Teaching Fellows supplied pattern blocks, big bags of them, that we were told to divide equally among groups. Once the bags were opened and the blocks were on the table, we each, without hesitation, began arranging the blocks in rhythm and patterned arrangements.  When our Teaching Fellow Chrissy would call "happy hands" we were asked to stop fooling with the blocks and shake our hands in the air. It was difficult to stop playing with the blocks. Her lessons were for math.

We later used the same blocks to encode poetry, laying out lines from Edgar Allan Poe's poem the Raven, noting with various pattern blocks: rhyme, meter and alliteration. And the point is that at all levels of learning, simple tools and simple questions can lead one into greater depth of learning.

There is a close relationship between inquiry and surprise. We ask questions just hoping for surprise. And when we are surprised (Jerome Bruner's effective surprise) we are inclined to go deep, learning at greater depth. And so a question, please. Is all this sounding like something you would once have found in a Kindergarten class? I hope so. All learning can be like Kindergarten, even and most particularly when it is hoped that we are led to great depths.

Yesterday in the wood shop I resumed work on the maple table.

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

Monday, June 24, 2019

principles and elements of design...

I'm intrigued by the subject of design enough to make design a regular part of my box making classes for adults. The principles and elements of design are taught in art school, but rarely considered by amateur woodworkers who come from other professions, like medicine, engineering, and teaching.

I'm posting on this subject, because design was at the heart of our A+ Schools training last week.

The principles and elements of design really touch on all areas of human life, and deserve to be taught from an early age, particularly if we want students to be able to self-assess their work or offer constructive (and non-hurtful) criticism to their peers.

The elements of design are usually taught as follows:
  • Points, lines, planes, shapes and focal point. 
  • Scale. 
  • Texture. 
  • Value. 
  • Color. 
  • Space. 
I find it useful to think of the elements of design as being design tools. The word "elements" is abstract and not as useful.

The principles of design are usually taught as follows:
  • Unity. 
  • Harmony. 
  • Contrast. 
  • Proportion. 
  • Rhythm. 
  • Balance. 
  • Visual Illusion. 
I find it useful to think of the principles of design as being goals, as the term "principles" is not as useful to me or my adult students as the word "goals." The elements are the tools you use to reach your design goals. There are additional design goals having to do with function and purpose that are not outlined in the principles.

One of the basic principles of Educational Sloyd is to go from the concrete to the abstract, so in order to get my adult students of grasp the principles and elements of design, I start them out with concrete examples of various boxes I've made and invite them to choose a box that they like and that they are willing to describe to their fellow students, particularly why they chose it. I make sure that they know that their comments either positive or negative are welcome.

That concrete experience then allows for the exploration of the principles and elements of design to not remain a set of abstract concepts. The additional purpose in the exercise is to invite my students to explore their own design tools and design goals before we launch into the full blown class. Two weeks ago my 14 students made a total of 79 boxes in five days. Some had never made a box before in their lives.

One of the most interesting principles of design is that of visual illusion, or as I've renamed it in honor of Jerome Bruner, "Effective surprise." In visual illusion, an oil painter might create a pathway through the woods, across a small creek, through a meadow to grandmother's house with grandmother's rocker on the front porch. We know that it's only a painting and is flat and not the real path to grandmother's house, but it effectively and affectively carries one to a remembrance of grandmother's house.

In effective surprise, applying to 3D constructions like a box, surprise built through the arrangement of texture, color, scale, points, lines, planes and their use in fulfilling other design goals, brings one to a heightened sense of engagement with the object. It can be both effective and affective, touching both the mind and the emotions.

The principles and elements of design are made more useful to the artist through practice and continued observation. And they are as useful if you are designing a lesson plan as they are in making a box.

The box shown in the photo illustrates the use of line (and focal point), rhythm, texture and color as design tools, and the use of balance, unity, imbalance, harmony, and contrast as design goals. As one of the favorite boxes I've made, I'm glad to have kept it as an example. It is made of spalted hickory  and walnut. The principles and elements of design lead to a deliberative process useful in all aspects of education.

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

Sunday, June 23, 2019

thinking outside the educational box.

1. For some, the idea of education is that of controlling kids to keep them out of trouble during the school day.

2. For some the idea of education is to pass children through a process providing measurable results.

For most the purpose of education is to perform a balance of one and two. Where that balance lies will be variable depending on who's watching and who's measuring.

All may have some idealized goal for child development tempered to some degree by what they understand to be reality. For instance, those associated with the Lutheran church in the 1850's in Germany would have wanted to raise and educate children to be "obedient to the word of God." And subservient to that, to be obedient to the state and to the laws of the state.

Friedrich Froebel saw natural forces present in his universe that could be witnessed, known, and understood, and of which he and every child was a part. He no doubt arrived at his perceptions through his observations.

As a very small child he was emotionally abandoned by an inattentive step mother and had to look elsewhere for support. He witnessed mothers' love as a thing absent from his own life. As a forester's apprentice he was awakened to the fascinating beauty and harmony of nature and of which man was a part. As a mineralogist he learned that the patterns of nature were based on an internal order inherent in each thing. As an educator he looked for those patterns of development and internal order to be present in each child. He thus proposed that the point of learning was not to force something in, but to provide the tools that would bring something out. And what was to be brought out was for the child to grasp his or her place in a harmonious universe.

To follow Froebel we must begin to propose deeper purpose, and to accept the fact that we are each connected in profound ways to nature, to community and to each other.

Make, fix and create...

Saturday, June 22, 2019

essential questions.

We finished three days of staff training with A+ schools, dedicated to infusing the arts into the school curriculum. That's a thing we've done quite well for over 40 years, but by being a part of the A+ Schools network, it is our hope that we may end up being of service to others.

So an essential question is "how can we demonstrate the value of the arts in teaching and learning in areas outside 'the arts?'" The arts are thought of by educational policy makers as stand alone. But examine history without the arts, and you'll find an empty timeline of facts, nothing more. Examine math without the arts, and you'll find a line of numbers and formulas with nothing to bring them to life. So what do you plan in an ideal school curriculum, that remains untouched by the arts? Not even lunch.

Another essential question is, "how do we transform American education so that the arts lead the way?" Incorporation of the arts in all aspects of a school's curriculum can enliven learning across the board. A+ Schools, in North Carolina, Arkansas, Oklahoma, and Louisiana offer a path forward toward a dramatic renewal.

I'll add another essential question. I ask you what you can do. Shall I suggest an answer?

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

Thursday, June 20, 2019

why does this train have no stops?

I used to sell my work each year at the Philadelphia Buyers Market of American Crafts. Through that show I established a number of wholesale accounts with small galleries across the US.

During the show I would stay each year with my cousin's family at Marion, PA, a suburb of Philadelphia. Since my cousin's home was on the commuter train line that connected the suburbs with downtown Philly, I would take the train each morning. It was a lovely and convenient way to go to work.

I noticed, however, that the train would make a number of stops in the suburbs, but then would go a very long ways without stopping. I wondered why. When driving around in my truck, I discovered the reason for it. The train line was built to serve the suburbs, and built to glide past all those who lived in the inner city without stops.

I began to wonder whether the builders of that line intended to shelter members of the suburban elite from the lower classes that occupied the space between. Could not having stops on or off prevent folks of lesser means from intruding on the world of the privileged elite? Just wondering. We live in a society that was engineered to marginalize those who work with their hands.

This may be a difficult subject for some. But let's think about it. Let's figure out how we can build a more equitable society. It can start with every child having the opportunity to learn hands-on the values that the hands impart and that encourage us to respect and care deeply for each other.

Today we have our second day of A+ training for the Clear Spring School staff.

Make, fix, create, and sustain others attempting to learn likewise.

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

A+ Training...

Today at ESSA we will begin three days of A+ Schools training for the staff of Clear Spring School. With this training Clear Spring will become an official A+ School in the Arkansas A+ Schools network. The purpose of A+ Schools is to integrate the arts into the curriculum. We do that and have done that for many years. But being a part of the network may help us to be of greater use to others in the renewal of American progressive education.

We will become the smallest school to attain A+ membership, but as the smallest school in a network of much larger public schools we hope to strengthen our role as an example to others.

Children need to do real things in school to bring their learning to life. The arts assure that real things happen in school. The arts bring connections between various elements of the school curriculum. Can you learn math in history class? You can when the arts have erased the absurd boundary lines drawn between areas of study, and the arts invite collaboration between members of the teaching staff. Want more reasons why the arts are important? The first rule of educational Sloyd is to start with the interests of the child and children love the arts. Doing real things invites greater student engagement, and thus more effective learning.

Make, fix, create, and assist others in having the opportunity to learn likewise.

Sunday, June 16, 2019

heading home...

I am in the airport at Indianapolis waiting for my return flights to Arkansas. Yesterday at the Marc Adams School of Woodworking I had a class of 19 students to explore the inside of a box. What do we want when we open one? To put things simply, we hope to be surprised. At the very least, we hope to not be disappointed.

As with my five day box making class, I began with the principles and elements of design.

One common mistake box makers make is to buy a bunch of the same stuff other box makers buy to fit out the insides of their boxes to hold jewelry and the like. When you do so, other box makers open the box and may know just where you got what. They may be impressed by how much money you spent, but that's beside the point. When you rely instead on your own creative inclinations, not only do you save money (a single brass post to hold a necklace can cost $5.00 or more at a Rockler store), you may offer the viewer something he or she has not seen before. My presentation yesterday was as much about thinking outside the box, as about finding things to put in it.

When I went to a Rockler woodworking store on Friday to scout out what they had for the insides of boxes, the clerk asked, "Do you want flocking?" Spray flocking to line boxes was the very last thing on my mind.

As an alternative you can go to a Michael's craft store and find an endless array of interesting papers that can do the same thing. The colors are much more interesting, and you can choose a texture that creates a sense of "I haven't seen that before."

Some of this reflects the difference between an "artistic" playful approach to woodworking, vs. a craftsperson's effort to color exactly between the lines.

It will be very good to be home in Arkansas.

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

Saturday, June 15, 2019

inside the box.

Today at Marc Adams School of woodworking I have a class of 18 students interested in thinking and planning inside the box. I'll demonstrate making drawers, dividers and linings and offer a variety of design tips to help box makers make the insides of their boxes as interesting as the outsides.

The photo shows an interesting box made by one of my students a few years back.

My student had a set of Veritas rabbeting planes that he wanted to keep in a special box. The results caught the attention of Lee Valley and was published in their newsletter.

Make, fix, create, and accept the fact that we all learn best likewise.

Friday, June 14, 2019

class conclusion... MASW

We finished our 5 day box making class at the Marc Adams School of Woodworking and we set a record of 79 boxes made by students. Tomorrow I have a class on box interiors, and then will return to Arkansas on Sunday.

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

Thursday, June 13, 2019

day 4 MASW

I'm at Marc Adams School of Woodworking and ready to start day four of classes. A number of my students have read at least one of my books and practiced box making, so we are making great progress.

All the students have several boxes in the works and have learned and practiced a variety of techniques. We all learn best by doing real things and lessons are best absorbed and held fast in the memory when they've been learned hands on.

If the purpose of American education is to teach kids and not to simply restrain them and corral them into conformity, we would allow them to go deep in their learning through the use of their hands.

Make, fix, create and provide for others to learn likewise.

Sunday, June 09, 2019

Off to MASW

I am at the Northwest Arkansas Regional Airport waiting to board my flight to Indiana where I'll teach for 6 days at the Marc Adams School of Woodworking. If you want to get good at doing something, do a lot of it. If you want to get even better at it, teach someone else to do it. Teaching requires that you look at things from various angles, and to put what you do in words, which then fertilize the mind and cognitive processes. As my week progresses, I'll have more to share.

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

Saturday, June 08, 2019

a successful benefit...

Last night we had a very successful benefit for our hands on learning center and have now raised over half of the money for our matching grant of $35,000. First priority will be to turn an oversized two car garage into a new wood shop for the Wisdom of the Hands program. This will involve adding on to one end to create a machine room for materials prep and storage, heat and air, and adding electrical capacity.

The floorplan shows the arrangement of benches, lathes and some tools.

The new permanent home for the Wisdom of the Hands program will provide a place for teaching teachers to teach woodworking.

Today I'll be doing my final packing and preparation for teaching a week at the Marc Adams School of Woodworking. I have two classes. The first is a 5 day class on box making and the second is a one day demonstration class on "interior architecture." In that class we will make drawers, dividers, line boxes with various materials, and go deeper into the principles and elements of design.

If you missed the event and would like to contribute, please send your check to the Clear Spring School, PO Box 511, Eureka Springs, AR 72632 or call 479-253-7888 on Monday morning.

Make, fix, create, and adjust education at large so that all children learn through the use of their hands.

Friday, June 07, 2019

Activities planned...

Today, Friday, June 7, 2019 we have a cook-out at our Hands on learning center. Five to Seven PM. A variety of activities are planned and kids are welcome.

On the front porch we'll be whittling, and making pencil holders. Come learn the joy of passing a knife safely through wood while bringing your intent to bear. Then create a personalized pencil holder that you can use on your own desk.

Inside, I'll have copies of my book, "Making Classic Toys that Teach" and a display of objects from that book alongside projects made in the Clear Spring School. If you've wondered about the giant wooden blocks on the Clear Spring School playground, ask, and I'll explain them.

Front porch whittling is a long standing tradition in the Ozarks. Men would sit outside grocery and dry goods stores while their wives were shopping. Or they would come to town on their own to whittle and chat. What were they making, you might ask? The pleasure of passing a sharp knife through wood. I've prepared a bundle of recycled redwood whittling stock.

Bring your checkbook or credit card and help us forward in meeting a matching grant.

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

Thursday, June 06, 2019

an invitation

Tomorrow, June 7, we have a fundraiser and open house at our new hands-on learning center at the Clear Spring School. Of course, the whole school is actually a hands-on learning center, but this new facility will bring additional focus and capacity.  We hope it inspires other schools to grasp the necessity of hands-on learning.

Getting moved in will take place over time. We have a $35,000 matching grant, so aside from my inviting you to attend, I also invite you to participate as a donor. Your contributions to the Clear Spring School are doubled by the match and are tax deductible.

It will have a dedicated area for art and craft, a maker space, a room for video production and editing, a culinary arts center, a space for dance, and a space in which to relocate the school wood shop. Getting moved into the new wood shop requires an addition and modest renovation toward which a large portion of the funds raised will be applied.

The new hands on learning center is adjacent to the Clear Spring School 374 Dairy Hollow Road in Eureka Springs. The open house/cookout/reception/fundraiser will be from 5 - 7 PM and children are invited.We will have woodworking activities for children and adults. Contributions can be mailed to PO Box 511 Eureka Springs, AR 72632 USA. You can also contribute by credit card by calling 479-253-7888.

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

Wednesday, June 05, 2019

localizing education...

The importance of using local resources in education is made clear in a story about Pestalozzi.
Back in the late 1700’s a child in Pestalozzi’s school challenged his teacher, “You want me to learn the word ladder, but you show me a picture. Wouldn’t it be better to go look at the real ladder in the shed?” The teacher was frustrated by the child’s interruption and explained that he would rather not take the whole class outside the building just to look at a ladder. Later, the same child was shown the picture of a window and again interrupted the teacher. “Wouldn’t it be better to talk about the real window that is right there? We don’t even have to go outside to look at it!” The teacher asked Pestalozzi about the incident and was informed that the child was right. Whenever possible children should learn from the real world and the greater depth of experiences it offers.
Utilizing local resources allows learning to move from the concrete to the abstract, to maintain relevance to the child's life, to go deep enough to incite passion. It creates opportunities for service to family and community. It also offers real opportunities for engagement of the hands.

Yesterday in a staff meeting we began planning for the coming school year. To invite collaboration between grade levels, we chose a theme for the coming year from among the four Greek elements. We'll have an earth year that invites the exploration of our Karst terrain, soils, planting, geology, earth sciences, magnetism, how the lands shape human culture and much more and at varying levels of rigor and depth at various grade levels. It also creates opportunities for children to share what they've learned with other classes in the school.

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

Tuesday, June 04, 2019

how things fit...

We are in the process of examining the Clear Spring School curriculum and since we tend to be far more flexible than other teaching environments, we are establishing pillars or anchor points allowing for flexibility, thus describing our methods rather than creating documents that are not useful. Re-examination of the curriculum is an important part of preparing for re-accreditation and it's important that we do what we say we do.

The first pillar (or anchor) is to start with the interests of the child. The second is to plan for integration between grade levels and a high level of coordination between members of the teaching staff. Just these two points are revolutionary in comparison to most K-12 teaching environments. Integration between teaching staff and grade levels makes the educational environment more fulfilling and engaging for all, plus a whole lot more fun.

In my own woodshop, I'm also concerned with how things fit. If you are reading this on Facebook, you'll see only one photo so the second, if you are interested, can be seen in the Wisdom of the Hands blog from which this is automatically shared. http://wisdomofhands.blogspot.com

The first photo shows my go-to tool of choice. that I used to square routed channels for the leg sections to fit. This chisel was one that was used in the original Sloyd Teacher Seminary at Nääs as you will see if you look close. The blade of the chisel is stamped to identify it as an original tool made specifically for that school.

It gives me a sense of connection with things larger than myself to use tools like this. The handle is one I made to match the original style. The joint being cut is to connect the coopered leg sections to the trestle that runs along on the underside of the table top. Channels cut in the various parts fits them rigidly and very precisely to each other.

The second photo shows how a leg unit fits the trestle. Perfecto. A shallow channel in the trestle keeps the legs from twisting once they are bolted tightly in place. The deeper channel shown in the photo above is the one that the trestle rests upon.

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

Sunday, June 02, 2019

bring the tool to the wood

In the age of large power tools in the common woodworking shop, the general practice is to bring the wood to the tool. This is not the case when the wood becomes too heavy to move with ease. The six and a half foot long 2 5/8 in. x 7 1/2 in. white oak board is right at the edge of my ability to lift safely (even through I work out regularly). There was no way to move it safely across the jointer in my shop. I also did not have a bench capable of holding it securely enough for the rigorous exercise of hand planing.

The ideal solution for squaring one edge was to use the power plane shown. It is a lovely and effective tool for the purpose of straightening out a long board. It has an edge guide that helps to hold it square to the stock. Two other things you see in the photo (besides mess) are a combination square used to check for square and a walnut board that I used to check that there were no dips or high spots along the length of the board as my work quickly progressed. The other important tool is the eye. You use it to sight along the edge to make dead certain that the wood is straight over its whole length.

This oak board will connect the coopered leg sections of the large table I'm making in the wood shop. It feels good to step outside of box making on occasion. I learn from it.

I have the first of my bags packed for my trip to the Marc Adams School of Woodworking where my classes begin on June 10.

Make, fix, create. Assist others in growing likewise.

Saturday, June 01, 2019

the definition of self...

Yesterday I visited a friend in the hospital who is dying of cancer. He wanted to talk at length about the ego and how it has nagged him his whole life. It appears to me that the self is only part of the picture, and that we are given the choice of looking at the lines separating us from each other, or we can look at the vibrancy of relationship connecting us with all else. To draw a line on a page is a convenient over simplification of reality and relationship. Lines can be used to define, clarify, illuminate, isolate and divide. If our own definition of self is without boundaries we are better prepared for the dissolution of boundaries that comes at death.

I'm not sure that this is exactly what Friedrich Froebel had in mind. Children who were deeply immersed in nature, in science, in community would be led to a holistic understanding of self that would serve throughout life, even at the end of it, giving the opportunity (and consolation?)  to think one's last thoughts of others rather than for self.

The principles were as follows: Start with the interests of the child and move from the known and proceed toward the unknown, move from the easy to the difficult, from the simple to the complex, and from the concrete to the abstract. These engagements, unlike Bruner's temporary "scaffolding" build a firm and lasting foundation for the child's engagement in life. The ego serves to keep the child's learning on track(or an adult's life on track), but can become the instrument of derangement.

Bob Dylan, beat poet for my generation, came up in my visit with my friend. A line that stuck with me from those days, was "being bent out of shape by society's pliers." Are we not each bent in some ways by the circumstance of growing from childhood to becoming adults?

What can a person say when a friend faces turmoil at the time of passage from life? We are connected with each other if that serves as any sort of consolation. That can be described in words, but is more simply put by being present and awake in each other's lives.

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

Friday, May 31, 2019

the Celebration of the Child.

Yesterday at the Clear Spring School we had our annual Celebration of the Child and our high school graduation. One of the graduates was a boy I'd had as a student in wood shop since he was in first grade, so it was a touching moment in their lives and mine.

In the Celebration of the Child, each child is honored for  qualities of character, as these are their most important gifts. Friendship, initiative, curiosity, a sense of humor, kindness, helpfulness, flexibility, perseverance, and more.

With school finished but for end of year reports and in-service training, I'll turn my attention to teaching adults. Serious editing of my woodworking with kids book is about to commence as I'm preparing for summer classes at the Marc Adams School of Woodworking and at the Eureka Springs School of the Arts. At the beginning of July I have an editor from Fine Woodworking coming to take photographs for yet another article about box making.

Do not forget that we are launching a capital campaign for our hands-on learning center. Part of the funds will be used to add onto the new wood shop. Part will be used to enclose a large porch for use in visual arts. Part will be used to turn  a large kitchen into a culinary arts studio. The Windgate Foundation will match funds (gifts or pledges) one for one up to a total of $35,000.00. This is a chance to donate and see your money doubled for a good cause. You can mail checks to the Clear Spring School PO Box 511, Eureka Springs, Arkansas 72632. Donations can also be made by phone. Please call 479-253-7888. Contributions are tax deductible.

The doll house is one made by a couple of my middle school students to be played with in the lower grades.

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

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

a chance to give and share...

We are nearing the close of the school year and I have but one more day of classes to wrap up.

Friday was my last Kindergarten class of the year and the kids made this card as a thank you for their time in wood shop. It was a great experience for all of us. I thank you for sharing in this journey.

I will have teacher inservice training for a week and then a fundraising event for the Wisdom of the Hands and our new Hands-on Learning Center on June 7. A planned wood shop expansion will better enable teaching adults to teach woodworking to kids.

For that, we are launching a capital campaign and donations will be matched by the Windgate Foundation. You can mail checks to the Clear Spring School PO Box 511, Eureka Springs, Arkansas 72632. Donations can also be made by phone. Please call 479-253-7888. Contributions are tax deductible.

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

Monday, May 27, 2019

whittling and turning

In an article in this month's American Woodturner magazine famous woodturner David Ellsworth used a whittling knife to teach the character of wood and to impart greater skill to woodturners. Whittling knives don't cut very well against the grain, and the same is true of gouges on the lathe. You get a cleaner cut when attention is paid to the direction of wood grain and to stand mindless at the lathe will not bring the best results. Ellsworth's point was to get turners to observe closely rather than standing dumb at the lathe.

Ellsworth said, "The basic principles behind woodworking, especially turning wood, are all illustrated through the process of whittling." In the article he also discussed posture and movement, thus suggesting other ways that woodturning and wood working in general can give shape to both the maker and what's made.

That's one of the reasons I introduce whittling to my students at Clear Spring School. They enjoy it, but also there are things you can observe and learn about the character of wood, and about about your self.

I have been reading online about making recorders on the lathe and was reminded of an artist who used to live in Eureka Springs. His name at the time was Garrett Alden and he made lovely carved netsuke from wood and stone that doubled as whistles and flutes. They were incredible works of art. After moving from Eureka he changed his name to Whittaker Freegard, and published an article in Fine Woodworking on making a flute in 1984. Whittaker Freegard passed away in 2006.

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

Sunday, May 26, 2019

a first line of defense

Finland is mobilized against Russian misinformation and sharing a long border and a long face-to-face history with that rogue state has made defense of their democracy of vital importance. In the US we are just learning how Facebook was weaponized in the last election. Finland's schools have become active in countering purposeful misinformation and that sets an example for us, too. https://edition.cnn.com/interactive/2019/05/europe/finland-fake-news-intl/

In Finland they regard the Kindergarten classroom as their "first line of defense" as children in school begin to learn to discern that which is true from that which is purposefully distorted to gain advantage.

But how can Kindergarten students learn to discern truth from misinformation? It helps when they are doing real things and engaged directly in the real world. Kindergarten woodworking can play a role in that.

When I was at the University of Helsinki for a conference, I wandered off during a boring presentation and discovered the wood shop where Kindergarten teachers were being taught to teach woodworking to their pupils. How wonderful is that? It's nice when kids read at an early age, but without a foundation of experience, reading leaves them vulnerable to malicious manipulation.

One good measure that I'll suggest for our own use of social media. If a post is kind, it has a greater likelihood of truth. Facebook was invented as way of sharing among friends, and even its founders were unprepared for the ugliness that would ensue when malicious forces gained access to their platform. We can watch the angry tweets and political temper tantrums and know something is amiss as evil forces try to manipulate us through the use of anger, resentment, divisiveness and fear. We watched these things play out to our great loss in the last election and will see it again in the next.

Just as we can look to Finland for a better model of public education, we can look there for the means of killing misinformation before it wrecks our democracy.  They are training their populace to discern truth from malicious misinformation. Latvia is another nation threatened by renewed Russian hegemony. They have a prime-time Sunday night television program, "The lies the Russians told this week." And in Estonia they have an army of volunteer online protectors to counter Russian influence and fake news. It's important to them because they know what it means to live under the thumb of the Russian state. It is important to us, too. We just didn't know it quite so well yet.

Yesterday I attended a meeting of the Stateline Woodturners held at ESSA and watched as our ESSA director learned to turn wood on the lathe for the first time. I also tested my gun drill that's used for drilling long holes accurately through cylinders of wood. It is hooked up to a compressor that forces air through the tip, keeping it cool and expelling wood chips before they build up in the hole. It drills perfectly straight.

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

Saturday, May 25, 2019

friendship boxes...

Yesterday with the last Kindergarten woodworking class of the year, I helped my students to make "friendship boxes." In years past, and in exclusive summer camps on the east coast, campers would make friendship boxes and exchange them with each other as a way of sharing memories of their delightful days at camp and the good friends they had found there. I was made aware of friendship boxes by an article in the Smithsonian a number of years ago.

So friendship boxes seemed to be an ideal way to end the school year. Each student had someone in mind as the boxes were made and decorated. Small boxes are useful enough that they will be kept and enjoyed for years to come. The students wrote notes to go inside.

The boxes are nailed and glued, and lid pivots open using an axle intended for wooden wheels as the pivot pin. In preparation for the project, I cut the parts to size and predrilled the nail holes. I also had the drill press set up with the right bit for drilling holes for the pivot pin attaching the lid.

Yesterday one of our teachers told me that our oversized Froebel blocks have played a role in bringing out the confidence in one of our boys. He had been socially awkward. While the other boys were playing together he would manipulate the blocks on his own, gradually drawing the other boys in. Now he is showing greater confidence in his relationship with all the other students in class and in other things. I can assure you that the blocks have no magic power on their own, but they have helped foster a more loving and cooperative environment for learning.

Today the Stateline Woodturners will meet at ESSA to practice segmented turning. I plan to attend.

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

Friday, May 24, 2019

community arts awards

I received two awards last night at a spaghetti dinner honoring the artists in our community. Hosted by the Basin Park Hotel and Main Street Eureka Springs, I was honored as "Best Arts Educator," and for "Best Fine Craft." The voting was online. of all the artists and art teachers in town, it was an honor to be singled out.

The Eureka Springs Pleine Air Festival is this week so there are painters set up with easels in lovely locations all over town. Years ago Arkansas poet John Gould Fletcher had written to Louis Freund, that "There's not much happening in Eureka Springs, but it sure is laid out pretty." That can be said today, so it's not surprising that painters would come from all over to paint this week.

My last classes of the school year for Kindergarten and for 5th and 6th grades are today, so I'm beginning to wrap up another year and I'll be turning my attention to a summer of adult classes.

The photo is from our boat outing on Wednesday.

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

Thursday, May 23, 2019

boat and picnic day

Our Bevins Skiffs that we built last year gave us an excuse for a day at Lake Leatherwood where our students played, picnicked and took turns rowing around the lake.

We had a boat day last year that was for the builders to have a turn at the oars. Yesterday our students grades 1 through 12 had an opportunity to go out in the boats. It was fun. All came back safe and dry. The boats were perfect.

I thank the staff at the Clear Spring School for planning the event, feeding the kids and helping in every way. The girl in the lead boat asked, "Will you take my picture, please? I want to see it on facebook." Here, you see it too. Thanks also to Juanita and Anna for serving as water safety observers on paddle board and kayak.

The Bevins Skiff is a boat specifically designed for teaching math.

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

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

this day...

Today we had a visit by staff members from Arkansas A+ Schools in preparation for further training in June which will allow us to become an official A+ School. A+ refers to the integration of the Arts. We do that quite well and hope that Clear Spring School can help as a role model for other schools.

Tomorrow is boat and cook out day. All of our students will go to Lake Leatherwood to play and to ride in the Bevins Skiffs we built last year.

I am working to solidify my program for the coming years. The wood shop will move this summer into the garage of our new hands-on learning center. The garage will require some expansion and so we will have a capital campaign to help it become a space for teaching teachers as well as kids. My old wood shop space will be surrendered and refurbished to provide classroom space for further growth of our school.

I've been training a possible replacement teacher, and at some point, I may step back into the sidelines. But not yet.

Make, fix, create, and insist that others have the opportunity to learn likewise.

Monday, May 20, 2019

back to the hands

Yesterday I spent most of the Books in Bloom Literary Festival hauling tents, putting up tents, parking cars, taking down tents and hauling tents back to the storage unit where they will wait for next year's event. (husbandly support)

I did attend one of the author presentations on a book about those of us who moved to the Ozark Mountains in the early to mid seventies. In it we were cleverly named "hipbillies" a term combining the terms hippies and hillbillies.

The book is largely about the "back to the land" movement that brought growth and new direction to the Ozark region. It mentions Ed Jeffords and the Ozark Institute for which I built library shelves in my small garage shop in the late 1970's. A number of my other friends are featured or mentioned in the book. Many other friends who had come and tried their best to scratch honest livings from thin and barren soils moved on to other things.

The "back to the land"movement would be better described as a "back to the hand"movement, as it was built not only of those who wanted to farm and own land  (also a return to the hand) but also those of us who had hoped for more meaningful lives as artists and craftspeople. The back to the landers would show up in Eureka Springs to "boogie." While the artists and craftspeople were here and in Mountain View or in surrounding hills, struggling to learn to make beautiful and useful things.

The book,"Hipbillies" was sold out yesterday at the event but I had the opportunity to review a copy prior to publication. It is an interesting read and a look into the history of this place that I and my friends were parts of. My own signed copy of the book will be sent by mail.

Today in the wood shop at the Clear Spring School, we'll be inching toward the conclusion of the school year.

Make, fix, and create. Assure a future in which all others learn likewise.

Sunday, May 19, 2019

books in bloom (what did you learn in wood shop?)

Today is our annual Books in Bloom literary festival at the Crescent Hotel in Eureka Springs. It's an opportunity to meet a variety of nationally known and local writers. And buy their books. Organizing Books in Bloom is one of my wife's most significant projects, so I am called in as a volunteer and sponsor.

Yesterday I picked up Jeffrey Deaver from the airport and learned that in addition to having over 40 million books in print in multiple languages, he took shop class in 7th and 8th grades. "What happened to all that, " he wondered aloud. I assured him that shop classes were on a comeback tour, just as this is Jeffrey Deaver's second visit to Eureka Springs. Shop classes are becoming popular again, driven by a renewed understanding that we need skilled workers unless we've agreed to be a nation of idle consumers and fail as a nation.

Unfortunately, the recognition that all children are brought to greater understanding and fit into the fabric of humanity and human culture and natural life, has not sunk in yet.

Jeffrey Deaver, author of many, many books, can still remember what he learned in wood shop. Ask him about it.

Make, fix, read then create. Plan for others to learn likewise.

Friday, May 17, 2019

white st. art walk

Tonight is the 29th annual White St. Walk in which yards, porches and homes along White St. in Eureka Springs will host artists selling their work. It is a major event in the year, and as usual, I'll have some of my work set up for sale at Lux Weaving Studio. I hope that a few readers can attend.

The photo shows student engagement in the arrangement and play with the large Froebel blocks in the Clear Spring School sand box. The sand, originally put in place for volleyball, provides an ideal foundation for the blocks. Once arrangements of blocks are made, the children play.

In preparation for reaccreditation at the Clear Spring School, we are  reviewing our school curriculum and scope and sequence of learning between the various age groups. One thing became clear to me in recent reading. We are a school located in a special place that affords special opportunities for place based learning. We are located in a community filled with music and the arts, with a backdrop of historic architecture, and set in a unique and rich natural environment. Our students camp, travel and play in the woods. They engage in internships, and they collaborate between grade levels.

In explaining to ISACS, our accreditation organization, what we do and how our curriculum is designed, these are important points. While most school have become walled enclaves purposely isolated from the real world. we recognize that schooling to be at its best should be connected with reality in order for learning to go deep and connect deeply.

Make, fix, create, and adjust schooling so that others play and learn likewise.

Thursday, May 16, 2019

National Arbor Day.

Yesterday was National Arbor Day and we celebrated at the Clear Spring School by planting a sugar maple along the soon to be built Clear Spring Trail that will go from the school to Harmon Park and and provide an option to walking in the road. The trail is a collaboration between the school and the parks commission and will be networked to trails throughout our city. Our mayor read a proclamation noting the importance of the day.

Today I will be setting up my display for the White St. Art Walk, one of the premier events of the May Festival of the Arts in Eureka Springs. It is a large street party, now in its 29th year. If you are local to Eureka Springs, find a place to park and come to Lux Weaving Studio 18 White St. on Friday sometime from 5-10 PM and I'll show you some of my work. Other artists will have their work on display and for sale, up and down the street.

Most artists need to sell their work in order to make more and to survive. Folks who are independently wealthy only rarely feel the need to create, but they can be of assistance to those who do.

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

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

a highlight of the school year

One of our teachers yesterday told me that one of the highlights of the school year has been my introduction of the supersized Froebel blocks to the school playground. The kids have not tired of manipulating them into new configurations, and even with a small number of blocks the variations are endless. It helped that I introduced them only one at a time. 

The photo shows the first block, which created interest and invited manipulation. Each new element brings renewed interest.

My latest addition is a 4 x 8 plank 8 feet long with a carrying strap connected at each end. It is heavy enough that it takes more than one child to lift it into place. The straps allow it to be dragged from place to place and keep fingers from being pinched underneath.

The blocks are of a size that they require collaboration in moving and arranging, so they invite students to work together toward shared goals.

We are now in a time of year in which the students are restless and most of their assigned work has been done. On Friday I'll be selling my work in the Lux Weaving Studio during the White Street Art Walk.

Make, fix, create, and plan for others to learn likewise.

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

sometimes I just don't know...

There are times when I just do not know what my students are making. For example, this work is one that defies my ability to understand. It's one that took several woodworking classes to complete. He alone knew when it was complete and ready to take home. His parents may or may not marvel at its construction. Is it fine craftsmanship? The maker was not concerned about that. Concern with such details is something that comes developmentally at a later age.

One of my first grade boys made a wooden bench and had hand planed the top. He took it home. He was proud of it. How many children of his age had ever had the opportunity to make something so useful and interesting?  His dad decided that it had not been sanded sufficiently. He took it to the garage and worked on it for an hour, bringing it closer in alignment with his own standards. Had I known I would have counseled to leave it alone.  Had he witnessed how hard his son had worked on it, he might have had a deeper appreciation for it just as it was. The student's work is their own. And we need not be overly concerned with their craftsmanship and should instead trust them with knowing when it's complete. There are stages in artistic development, in what children see and understand, and to apply adult standards to their work is to miss the point, and to miss the value of what they have accomplished.

The following post offers my own discussion of Victor Lowenfeld's writing on the stages of artistic development. https://wisdomofhands.blogspot.com/2009/10/if-you-want-science-start-with-arts.html It is particularly interesting, in that as children near adolescence, they divide roughly along two paths of development. One, Lowenfeld identified as visual, being concerned with representations of verisimilitude and the other haptic, being concerned with how things feel. I've witnessed it as children grow through their years in wood shop. There are some who are concerned only with the appearance of things and only understand the need for sanding when they see how a surface can be made to shine. Then there are those who are obsessed with how smooth they can make a surface feel to the touch.

As parents, would we expect a child to automatically develop it all at once? Or can we simply watch their growth and celebrate the signs of it?

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

Monday, May 13, 2019

human culture

At what point do we cease to claim that we are part of human culture? And how do we restore the humanity to our daily lives? Are we now living in a machine culture? One in which our mechanics have eclipsed our humanity? Consider the following:
"We live in a machine culture; in our daily lives, we are more and more surrounded by and interfaced with machines.  We are no longer, like our ancestors, simply supplied by machines; we live in and through them. From our workplaces to our errands about town to our leisure time at home, human experience is to an unprecedented extent the experience of being interfaced with the machine, of imbibing its logic, of being surrounded by it and seeking it out..." – Phoebe Sengers.
The bigger and more powerful the machine, the less it lies within our control, and as the machine slides from our control (we are losing our grip), the less human and humane the outcome.

When education is no longer hands-on, and thus no longer relevant to students' live, students have little to grasp. When the hands-on exploration of materials through crafts, and further extensions of hands-on learning through scientific experimentation are removed from schooling, we construct a disconnect between the layman and the scientist, allowing political forces to manipulate public opinion to conform to evil machinations. We've become wired for direct manipulation.

What we see in the political community these days is the result of an educational intent expressed in the design of our institutions: Use schooling to shape students to become blind consumers who can be manipulated to do as told by a ruling class that cares little or nothing for the planet nor for the health of its creatures.

And so the question lingers, "How do we restore human culture?" I think there's a simple path forward. Make a direct study of the past and of simpler times. Then:

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

Sunday, May 12, 2019


This simple joint, called a "birdsmouth" can be useful in building hollow forms. This month's Wooden Boat Magazine shows it being used to make hollow masts and spars for wooden sailboats. In that case the birdsmouth would be formed using a table saw. There are also router bits for cutting the same joint.

I am using this technique to help a student build a music stand. The hollow will house a six sided shaft that will slide within it, making it adjustable in height. The birdsmouth joint offers additional gluing surface over a coopered joint, thus giving it greater strength.

The photo suggests where it got its name. My thanks to Larry Copas for peaking my interest in the technique and my student for offering an opportunity to try it out.

Happy Mothers day to those who are mothers and to those who have mothers. I can remember my mother as being somewhat different from many. When I would go to friends houses as a very young child, we would be left alone to play with toys. When children would come to my house to play, my mother had all kinds of interesting things for us to do that came from her training as a Kindergarten teacher.

Friedrich Froebel had noted the special quality of mothers, recognizing in them the ideal teacher. The same was noted by Pestalozzi in his book, "How Gertrude Teaches Her Children."

Make, fix, create, and plan for others to learn likewise.

Saturday, May 11, 2019


Yesterday one of my newer students broke down in tears, and I thought at first he had hit himself in the thumb with a hammer. It was not that. He told me that he kept making mistakes.

I asked one of my students who's been in the shop for years to tell how many mistakes he's made. He showed the kind of loving compassion than one can learn in the practice of craft. I witnessed an unfolding of human empathy, pure and simple that almost brought tears to my own eyes. Each student reassured the humanity of the other.

We are human beings We make mistakes. Mistakes and the making of them are part of who we are. We are not machines, and had best not have unreasonable expectations of our selves. This does not mean that the practice of craft will not lead us toward perfection. But perhaps it's a perfection of a different kind in which we care for each other.

We engage in the material world to learn from it and to learn about ourselves. Part of what we learn is that skills require practice.  The greater the skill, the more of it. And qualities of character are forged in the quest to attain skill.

Many students these days have been taught to live in horror of making mistakes. That is a terrible thing.

We are about to watch the prices of plastic stuff skyrocket due to tariff's placed on Chinese goods. The tariff will be 25%. And so a piece of plastic stuff that would sell for 10 bucks will be 12.50. This tariff is likely to hit hard at the toy isle. Would we not be better off if children and parents were to make their own toys?

Sunday is Mother's day, so Yesterday in wood shop my Kindergarten students made napkin holders, as you can see in the photo.

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

Friday, May 10, 2019

Oregon teachers walk out...

Oregon teachers went on strike for the very right reasons. They want smaller, more manageable classes. They want more librarians, more mental health professionals.

Teachers do not become teachers, (obviously) for the money, but because they want to make a difference in people's lives. Why do politicians not give them greater support? It may be that they think public schools are for other people's kids, not their own.
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, School and Society

Make, fix and create...

Thursday, May 09, 2019

shaping wood

I am using an angle grinder to shape the inside curvature of the coopered leg sections for the maple natural edged table. This turns out to be an easier job than I expected.

I test the curved surface as I go, using my hands to judge whether the surface is "fair" just as the builder of a small boat might use his hands to "see" what the hands cannot. Where the hands feel a slight rise, I sand again, using the curved edge of the sanding disk to engage the surface rather than the flat face.

It needs not be perfect but to the touch. After texturing any discrepancy will be difficult to see. But caring craftsmanship has its own requirements. In the making of useful beauty, all surfaces require care.

This is a dusty job, requiring a mask. I tested the concept indoors in my already dusty shop, but will take the operation outdoors when the weather improves.

Make, fix, create. Use your imagination and character to grow likewise.


I found this simple definition:
"Craftsmanship is what skilled artists and builders demonstrate when they create something."
Does the term imply gender? Years ago when we founded the Eureka Springs Guild of Artists and Craftspeople (the organization that preceded the Eureka Springs School of the Arts) we were careful in naming the organization to use the term "craftspeople," as a way to avoid using the sexist term "craftsmen."

Is it equally mistaken to use the term "craftsmanship?" Does it also imply the exclusion of women in the appication of caring and skill? Some may go one way and some the other.

Today I will begin texturing the coopered leg sections for the table. The photo shows a student's creation. He tells me it's not done yet and is to be saved to work on next week.

Make, fix and create. Encourage the exercise of care and skill in the making of beautiful useful things.

Wednesday, May 08, 2019

on writing and on art.

My mother had once suggested, "Write about what you know, and if you don't know it, don't write about it." This may not apply directly to fiction or to poetry, but both of those have greater, more profound effect when drawn from real life.  Even science fiction and fantasy are brought to greater life when they draw upon emotions that are known and real to the reader or are made real by the use of literary devices that make the scene and characters seem more real. So the writer gains a particular advantage by being involved in real life and doing real things. Even woodworking may be useful as a source of metaphor, and provide an interpretive framework for clarifying and understanding life.

When I write instructions on how to make things, I first must prove that my instructions actually work and are thus true. Poets and other writers are not necessarily under the same constraints. When I write it's to empower others to do what I do. Other writers may not be under the same constraints.

Yesterday I was interviewed on camera by our high school students who are creating an online artist registry for our town. I carefully explained that I'm more a craftsman than an artist, in that I want my work to be useful as well as beautiful and to be an "artist' or whether or not something is "art," is something for others to decide. This is particularly true of useful objects. A painting is always called art but the same is not always said of a teacup or box.

One man a few years back had told me that if you can sell it it's art. His art's not my art.

The photo is of assembled sections of table base. These will be fitted to a central beam, textured and ebonized, but at the moment they resemble objects Froebel might have designed for children to play with and learn from.

Make, fix and create. Prepare for others to learn likewise.