Thursday, April 30, 2020

number 7

I sent out number 7 of my weekly newsletter, Woodworking at home with kids. I welcome feedback, and you are welcome to subscribe if you are not already receiving it. This week I'm exploring paper box making as a way to increase proficiency of hand and mind.

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

Wednesday, April 29, 2020

making do...

The Shiloh Museum in Springdale, Arkansas has an online exhibit, Make Do, appropriate to our times. While we are waiting for the next Amazon cardboard box to arrive, we might consider making a few things for ourselves.

Friends Dustin and April Griffith and their home made of shipping containers is included in the exhibit. Another good friend Darla Gray-Winter has her box guitars featured in the exhibit.

May we hope for better days to come in which we all are motivated to engage in cooking, making, and making-do from the things we find around us. There is a nice video showing how to make a simple box from a cereal box. Just think about how much wonderful material is thrown out from our homes each day.

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

Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Wissenshaft, kentniss and seen that.

In the German language, knowledge is described in two forms, Wissenshaft, and Kentniss. Wissenshaft refers to knowledge passed along, accumulated and expressed second hand and Kentniss refers to knowledge gained directly through experience. If you have any practical experience in the real world and have gained skill as a result, you may know the difference between the two, and the way in which one reinforces the other.

There's another form of knowledge held by the youtube learner that we can call "seen that." Unlike wissenshaft which most often requires reading skills, youtube learning allows you to jump from one thing to another in a passive manner. I'm trying to understand whether that's better or worse. If youtube learning leads to non-youtube doing, that could be a good thing.

I'm reminded of a student years ago who insisted as I tried to introduce a new technique, "I know that." His comment seemed dismissive, so I asked him to show me what he knew, for surely there's a difference between knowing something about something, and knowing how to actually do something. There's a difference between the virtual world and what we can call a virtuous world. In one, we pretend to do stuff. It's likely harmless. In the other we find ways to be of service to each other.

Yesterday I applied a second coat of Danish oil to about 25 boxes. They'll get one more coat and then at some point be distributed for sale. I also applied another coat of Danish oil to the bathroom bench.

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

Sunday, April 26, 2020

what's up?

This morning I'm on the cover of "What's Up," an entertainment insert in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, and I was featured in the lead article about the White St. Walk, a craft show that I participate in each year here in Eureka Springs.

The White St. Walk was cancelled this year due to the coronavirus pandemic, so the Democrat-Gazette was kind enough to create a "virtual" White St. Walk with several local artists.

It's not the same as being able to visit safely with friends. We look forward to next year.

Today I'll take advantage of lovely warm, dry weather to apply Danish oil to boxes and the small bench.

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

Saturday, April 25, 2020

a small ash bench

I've been making a small amount of progress each day on a bathroom bench. It will be a place to sit as you get dressed, and is made of ash. Today I'll drill holes in the legs for the dowels that will attach the base to the top.

It has some subtle features. The stretcher that stabilizes the legs is tightened through the use of wedges that will be pounded in place from the top and underside and glued. The leg sections are tapered toward the top, to make it appear just a bit lighter, but without sacrificing width and stability at the base.

The top is shaped to feel more inviting.

The parts from which the angled legs were assembled were cut from a single 12 in. wide board, as was the top. The angled legs add just a bit more stability to the structure, as they are shaped to stand on their own, even when disconnected from the bench.

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

Friday, April 24, 2020

number 6 Newsletter.

Yesterday I sent out newsletter number 6, Woodworking at Home with Kids.

This one is about making a Sloyd trivet. I've prepared the materials for distribution to Clear Spring School students on Monday.

The expanding trivet (my own design) is a modification and enhancement of the fixed size trivets shown in Gustaf Larsson's book Elementary Sloyd and Whittling. The kids like it because it can be adjusted and played with after assembly. It demands accuracy in the alignment of parts.

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

Thursday, April 23, 2020

developing heart...

You may have wondered about the difference between sapwood and heartwood. Sapwood carries nutrients and water between the roots and leaves, while the dense heartwood cells fill over time with solids that give the tree greater strength and decay resistance.

Sapwood is generally a lighter color, and is therefore thought less attractive by some. Others are intrigued by the contrast it offers in the design of work. In situations where decay is possible, like in building wooden boats or outdoor furniture, it should be avoided.

These days, many trees are purposely grown so fast for a profit that heartwood has too little time to fully form. This leads to wood of lesser quality than the woods of old.

Note in the illustration that there's springwood in which the tree grows quickly forming new rings, summerwood that's more dense, followed by winter in which little growth takes place.

With the pandemic and social distancing, it may seem we're stuck. Is this winter still? Or are we poised for fresh growth? We are in strange times, indeed. You'll note in the drawing that not all years of growth are the same. And yet, we can feel assured that growth is relentless. We will get through these times together.

Like the heartwood in the tree, we, too, take time to form and to have strength. These difficult days will build us, and make us strong. Be safe, Stay well. Take special care of each other.

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

Wednesday, April 22, 2020

It's Earth Day...

It is Earth Day and the 50th anniversary of its founding in 1970. This is a time to be thankful for whatever natural environment we have left, and to do more than plant a few trees in remembrance of what we've lost.

I have clear memories of the first Earth Day. I was a senior at Hastings College in Nebraska, and a very small number my friends and I gathered along a small drainage ditch in a field. It was the most close-to-natural spot we could find. We said a few words as we stood together, the gist of which was that the Earth and its natural world should no longer be neglected, but should instead be preserved. It was clear to us that man was making a mess of things and that from that Earth Day forward, we (mankind) would do a better job of preserving things.

I can look at these intervening 50 years with disappointment.

A friend had told me that while everyone was concerned about saving the earth, the earth would take care of itself, and that the people should worry that if we don't take care of the earth and all life upon it, it would be the people that suffer. Welcome to 2020. Is this a year to learn from our past and gain a clearer view of what's to come? Can we learn at long last to live in greater harmony with the Earth and its wonders?

Let's hope.

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

Tuesday, April 21, 2020

a small bench

Today in my home wood shop, after finalizing a design with my wife, I'm beginning work on a small bench. It will be a place to sit while getting dressed and will replace a five board bench from my book on Making Rustic Furniture that will be moved to another spot.

The new bench will be made of ash. The angled shape of the legs will give it a great deal of stability and strength.

I'm also putting lift tabs on the lids of boxes to make them easy to open, and preparing more materials for my students to continue woodworking at home. Due to the Coronavirus, things in the shop and life in general are moving at a leisurely pace.

I hope my readers are well and staying safe.

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

Friday, April 17, 2020

Uncoddleing the American mind.

Circumstances have a way of bringing us back to reality, and even though we might find comfort in a retreat to the safety of our digital devices, that both distract us from real things, and remind us of them. There are real dangers out there. There is no real ease in the real world, even though we may find temporary sequester from it. Stock all your closets with toilet paper, and that still doesn't mean you won't run out of it at some point.

David Brooks in the New York Times write an OpEd, "The Age of Coddling is Over, Learning what hardship has to teach us." He talks about the rigors of med school and of science education and how doctors are trained by the rigors of their educations, not to run away from danger, but toward it. And if you are paying attention to what's going on around the world, and not just gaming your life away, you no doubt feel some great sense of gratitude for those willing to put their own lives on the line in defense of others.

The world is changing. Normal is no longer a word that will fit. We are attempting to distance from each other and band together in safer, smaller groups. And perhaps the age of coddling our children is over. And perhaps truly caring for them would have been best handled by giving them real work to do, in service to family, community and friends, thus preparing them, as does med school, and the army, to take risks and to rise up.

Is it possible that sequestering children from reality to make their lives safe, also coddles their minds? Current circumstances suggest that we can no longer do that.

The large Froebel blocks on the Clear Spring School campus have been idle for weeks.When they are in use you see children lifting and moving them and arranging them to the limits of their strength.

I've been using the wood shop there to drill a few holes in preparation for student at-home work. These days will come to an end. Children will return to work and play. But where's the testing and tracing that needs to be put in place first? So far, not so good.

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

Thursday, April 16, 2020

volume 1, number 5

Today I sent out Volume 1, Number 5 of my newsletter, Woodworking at Home with Kids. In it, I offer useful information for both kids and adults, including two quick videos on wood grain, how to read it and how to understand it.

I've known for a long time that all kids need to have hands-on learning experiences that schools in general no longer supply. So the burden of education falls on parents and grandparents to offer creative experiences that the children's schools ignore. If you are not receiving the newsletter, you can sign up for it here:

It's interesting what the Covid-19 virus is doing to our nation's schools. On the one hand, teachers and students are being forced online, despite the warnings that screen time is actually a disruptive force in child development, that leads to depression, anxiety, childhood obesity and additional serious effects. On the other hand, the usual testing regime that takes place this time of year have also been disrupted, requiring universities to find other models for accepting students in place of the usual ACT and SAT test scores which never actually measured anything that important in the first place.

It is time to be acutely aware of our own and each other's needs for mental health. Researchers have noted that symptoms of depression and anxiety are alleviated when we are busy and feel a direct sense of agency and control over our own lives. Our hands have the power to reshape our emotions and our feelings about ourselves and our surroundings. Never has it been more important to be doing real things that offer some service to each other. This applies to both children and adults.

In my own wood shop I find a sense of comfort in preparing tools and materials for my students to make things at home. Be safe, Stay well!

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

Wednesday, April 15, 2020

a walk in the woods.

Yesterday my daughter Lucy and I took 42 of her New York high school students on a visual walk in the woods outside out home. We were accompanied by our dogs Beepers and Rosie and walked the area that Lucy used to play in as a child. The students now know just a wee bit about Arkansas, a bit abut the forest ecology and a bit about a life that's far different from their own.

In my woodshop and in the studio at the Clear Spring School, I've been making parts for students to use at home, and that will be packaged for distribution next Monday. I also plan to work on boxes today for the time when the economy eventually opens back up.

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

Tuesday, April 14, 2020

Risky play

There is a new brief video trailer on "Risky Play" from Match Frame Creative that features some of our Clear Spring School Students at work in the wood shop.

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

Monday, April 13, 2020


The Writer's Colony at Dairy Hollow released a podcast interview with me on their website. I want to thank Chad Gurley from the Writer's Colony for allowing me to tell my story. We tell stories in the hopes that we may be of some use to each other. The interview is part of a series of podcasts the Writer's Colony is doing to address the question, "how are artists and writers dealing with the Covid-19 pandemic?" We all are making changes. You can find the podcasts here:

My own podcast is here:

Today I delivered wooden squares and nails to the Clear Spring School to be picked up and used in at home lessons. I've been attempting to develop an on-screen tutorial about using the free 3D modeling program Sketchup to build a Lego block. I keep making mistakes as I've been attempting to run through the entire process without needing to edit. In the wood shop I have lots of boxes to sand and finish. With shops closed, and retail buying curtailed, I make things for the pleasure and necessity of doing work.

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

Saturday, April 11, 2020

enough already!

We are beginning our second month of being socially distant, and it takes its toll. The folks at the grocery store seem stressed and cautious, and we all will welcome better days. Those days will come.

I'm working in my own shop to get kits made for my student's parents to pick up next week, and the week after and I'm working on a youtube tutorial on how to use Sketchup to make a Lego block. The value of that is partly in learning a useful design program, and also in learning to follow explicit instructions to a "T." A small typing error, inputing the wrong dimension, being off by a fraction of a millimeter will not create a Lego block that fits other Lego blocks.

When we are no longer so distant my students and I will be able to print their Lego blocks using the school's 3D printers.

Keeping busy allows me to cope.

My newsletter for woodworking at home with kids Volume 1, Number 4,  went out yesterday and explains the use of the square. My shop made squares are ready for parents to pick up at school on Monday to continue at home learning.

Kids are being pushed into more and more screen time and while our internet devices are helping us all to cope, in the long term we need to be doing real things.

There's an arts initiative to support artists that shows promise:

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

Wednesday, April 08, 2020

Make something for a friend.

During our "social distancing, " we might feel lonely and missing our friends. It's ironic that our woodworking tools that some think of as dangerous, are actually less dangerous to us than hanging out with friends.

In any case, making art can ease the troubled heart. It's therapeutic. And it's done best when you can hold your friend and friendships in mind. Think of someone you miss and make something for them. You'll feel much better, I guarantee.

The Eureka Springs School of the Arts, and the Good Shepherd Humane Society have teamed up for a wonderful fund raiser in honor of our furry friends.

You can donate your skills as artist or develop your skills as an artist and participate in this worthwhile event. If you have a furry friend you love, you can have its portrait done by an artist or aspiring artist for the low price of $15.00. The picture shows an example. For more information, follow the link below.

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

Tuesday, April 07, 2020

Rosie Edition

I've published a new woodworking at home for kids newsletter featuring the woodworking of Rosie. I hope it is useful to you.

You can subscribe through the link above.

This afternoon I participated in a recording of  podcast for the Writer's Colony at Dairy Hollow. I'll let you know when that podcast is available for your listening pleasure.

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

Monday, April 06, 2020

Using a square

Using a square.

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

a simple demonstration of wood grain

This is a simple demonstration of wood grain and its effects in working with wood.

Saturday, April 04, 2020

the making of masks.

A friend and blog reader Tim Holton sent me a link to his own blog that mentions a thing he'd read here last year about the "fabric of community." I urge you to read it because it's a beautiful piece that concerns the making of masks.

If it's N95 masks that the medical community needs, what place is there in that for the home-made? Have you wondered? Here in our own town of Eureka Springs many are making fabric masks in a project led by local clothing designer and teacher at the Clear Spring School, Mark Hughes. You can see Mark's video tutorial through this link. There is joy in feeling of service to others that I hope all come to know.

It's recommended now that we all wear masks when we go out, but is there a place for hand-made masks in hospitals? I learned from Tim Holton's post that some in the medical community are wearing hand-made masks over their N95's. They give a sense of identity and recognition to the faceless heroes of our Coronavirus catastrophe. They also protect the important N95's from being discarded due to becoming soiled.

That they are made with love should say enough.

Stay well.

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


I heard back from a reader who began using Paper Sloyd with his stuck at home kids. Matt said,
"The ‘lesson’ was a success, despite initial grumbling. Once the kids decided for themselves that they could make the project theirs by customizing things, they were all over it. Attached is a photo."
Thanks Matt, for sharing this. I've been reflecting on the narrative qualities of wood, that: "where there's a knot, there had been a branch" and how much we are like trees. They tell their stories. We tell ours, even though we often tend to take the easy way out, by using our words, rather than mind, muscle, and hands. It makes a difference how we think of narrative. Is it only human jabber, or is it connected to deeper human experience? One difference between trees and man is that trees don't jabber.

This coming week I have a podcast with the Writer's Colony in Eureka Springs, so I've also been reflecting on the difference between how-to writers, and those who dwell upon fictional subjects. This is not to disparage other forms of writing which also require effort and imagination, but we how-to writers are held to the bonds and boundaries of the real world, and in that are empowered to bring real change to real lives. A child writing a note to Nana to fill an envelope carefully crafted from paper offers a small example of our work.

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

Friday, April 03, 2020

attempting to be brief...

As I've been attempting to convey lessons in woodworking to the students and parents at the Clear Spring School, I'm beginning to realize that I need to be brief. Many (even parents) will not read what I write, as reading has become hard for us in our twitter age.

Even with the corona virus slowing us down and giving us more time to read we seem to have lost the knack for long sentences.

But it's difficult for me to be brief on a subject I love so much and that's so deeply entwined in human culture to the point many don't know that it's there.

Wood and the attempt to make useful and beautiful objects from it are foundation blocks in human civilization.

So for those who don't like to read so much, I offer the following about the kits that Clear Spring School parents will pick up for their kids beginning Monday by arrangement with their core teachers or head of school.
  1. A labeled and finished sample of an Arkansas hardwood. The students are to  use the internet to learn more about the tree and the uses of its wood, then draw a picture of the tree or write a poem or observations about the tree.
  2. A block of 2 x 4 spruce (a common building material). Count the annual rings and give thought to how long it took to grow in comparison to their own lives.
  3. A sanding block with which they are to work on the 2 x 4 block, sanding to compare results, across and with the grain.
While we are in some difficult times, look at the spaces between the annual rings and notice that not all are not the same. Trees, too, grow through difficult times, and that the rings go on, tells us that we, too, will grow on to better days.

With the sanding block, I offer this warning to kids. Only use it on unfinished wood. Using it on other things will get you in big trouble.

I'll try to lay out assignments more simply in my future mailings. If you want to receive those mailings, use this link.

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

Thursday, April 02, 2020

number 3

I just sent out the number 3 newsletter Woodworking at Home with Kids. There are millions of kids out there, suffering from social distancing that would benefit from woodworking, a better understanding of wood and a greater respect for craftsmanship. You can help by passing the newsletter along to parents, grandparents and teachers.

If you want to subscribe, click on the link above. It offers the opportunities to subscribe, view earlier editions, and have the page translated into a language of your choice.

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

Wednesday, April 01, 2020

an easier link

A friend, Kim Brand sent an easier link for folks trying to download the Paper Sloyd book than from my drop box account.

This will be useful for those attempting to make use of my emails about woodworking at home with kids.

Viewing the email online you can subscribe, download the previous message, and thanks to google also view translations in a wide variety of languages, so world-wide, parents and children can benefit from stay at home woodworking exercises.

I received this lovely quote from Marsha:
"Behind the visible surface of things is the infinite ocean of possibility. Its waves are so beautiful and inviting. "What a wonderful world," Louis Armstrong sings. What a wonderful life, in which the playful waves in the cosmic ocean dare you, tease you, and play a game of hide and seek with you, all the time hoping that you will catch one and turn it into a beautiful poem, a painting, a song, or a wonderful act of human kindness." — Lothar Shäfer - Infinite Potential - What Quantum Physics Reveals About How We Should Live
I am reminded that we are interconnected, and perhaps that offers some consolation in challenging times. We can dwell upon our separateness and suffer the pain of isolation, or we can feel (even while sequestered) that we are not alone.

As I work alone in my shop, am I alone? There are tools there in my own hands that others have designed and crafted or that were passed down to me. And from my simple shop, there's a flow of ideas and forms that can be placed in service for others. And the woods! May I tell you about the woods? I'm overwhelmed thinking about that, so the subject will await another day. Wood will be the subject of my next news letter. You will have to subscribe to receive it.

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