Friday, November 29, 2019

not dead yet.

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

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

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

Wednesday, November 27, 2019


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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, November 25, 2019

beyond McMind

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, November 24, 2019

crystals on a puddle

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, November 21, 2019

tiny cars

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

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

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

Make, fix and create.

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

a Finnish clock

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

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

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

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

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

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

Make, fix and create.

Sunday, November 17, 2019


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

Make, fix and create...

Saturday, November 16, 2019

from the innermost self.

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

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

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

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

Friday, November 15, 2019

but not for a man

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

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

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

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

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

Make, fix and create...

Thursday, November 14, 2019

children are not clocks

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

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

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

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

cold day, warm shop

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

simple lift lid

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

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

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

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

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

Make, fix and create.

Monday, November 11, 2019

motion blur

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, November 10, 2019

a maple cremains box

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

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

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

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

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

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

Make, fix and create...

Saturday, November 09, 2019

today in the wood shop

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

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

Make, fix, and create.

Friday, November 08, 2019


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

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

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

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

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

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

Make, fix and create....

Thursday, November 07, 2019


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

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

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

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

Make, fix, create.

Wednesday, November 06, 2019


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

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

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

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

Tuesday, November 05, 2019

clocks longboards and Central Arkansas Woodworkers

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, November 04, 2019


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

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

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

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

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

Make, fix and create...

Sunday, November 03, 2019

veterans' boxes

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

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

Saturday, November 02, 2019

Artist's Studio Tour

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

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

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

Friday, November 01, 2019

revisiting the past.

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

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

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

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