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 and Saturday of this week.

If you attend, you'll see where I do my work. Some will be offered work for sale. I'll be but one of thirteen artists making you welcome and sharing our creative passions. Please join us.

Make, fix, create, and

Friday, October 18, 2019

skills of hand, mind and eye

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, October 14, 2019


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

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

Saturday, October 12, 2019

boxes by Don.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, October 10, 2019


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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, October 09, 2019


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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, October 07, 2019

What the school has to do

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

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

Sunday, October 06, 2019

outdoor classroom

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

Rain today has brought the project to a halt.

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

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

Friday, October 04, 2019

towers of wood

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, October 03, 2019

Moerenuma Park

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

Make, fix and create.

from MIT- an essay creativity and play

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, October 01, 2019

more on blocks and more

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

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

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

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

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

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

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