Saturday, May 30, 2020

designing with wood

I'm beginning to prepare for my class on 3D design for craft artists that will be presented June 13 at ESSA using Zoom. It will cover the basics of 3D design, and also offer specific information related to working with wood. Wood has its own special characteristics that present both challenges and opportunities to craft artists. One of those particular opportunities is that wood can connect us directly to the natural environment.

Clay is mined from the earth in ways that the earth is left scarred. Metals and stone are the same. Trees, on the other hand, grow around us. We have the opportunity to observe their growth, to care for them, to protect them, to find comfort in their shade, to bask in their beauty, and to share that beauty and usefulness in what we shape from their wood.

So, working with wood is an invitation into a world of natural wonder, and into a world in which we shape not only the objects that come through our hands, but also the world around us, and indeed ourselves.

It is a lovely day in Arkansas. I'm sitting on our front porch looking into the woods. The temperature is just right. The songbirds sing. The woodpeckers thump on dead branches. My dog Rosie is at work on a stick. She brings them home from our walks, with her head held high and chews them to splinters, stripping them bare of bark.

You will find the online class here: Even if wood is "not your thing," other craft artists will find value in it.

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

Friday, May 29, 2020

get busy working with wood.

A reader had written out of concern that her husband wanted to introduce their 2 1/2 year old son to woodworking. She was concerned that he would be too much at risk of injury.

While I agree with the mom that 2 1/2 is too young, I also applaud the dad's interest in sharing what he loves with his son. The compromise I suggested was that mom and son both join dad in the woodshop. Thus safety can be assured and all will find love for working with wood.

The June 2020 issue of GetWoodworking, a magazine in the UK, published a letter I'd sent them about woodworking at home with kids. It's on pages 78 and 79 and I've loaded a pdf of the pages to dropbox.

We are in some terrible, stormy times. On the one hand we have the coronavirus pandemic. On the other is police violence and anger and destruction in response.

There is safety and gentleness in working with wood. In the photo, can you see how the dad steadies the drill and holds  the stock as his son drills the hole in wood? Can we not steady for each other as we pass through these stormy times?

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

Thursday, May 28, 2020

a path to learning...

Next Tuesday I have an interview with the Path to Learning podcast. so I've been thinking about Friedrich Froebel. One of his important concepts was that what we learn needs to be balanced and expressed by what we do. Schools should therefore be places in which learning is expressed in equal measure. By using what we learn, we learn at a deeper level and stimulate greater interest. By using what we learn, we anchor that knowledge through the full real estate of the human brain and throughout the neural network of the human body.

Typical schools require that children express what they learn through ways that only rarely interest kids. For example, taking tests. Then when the test is over and done with, the knowledge, having become only loosely attached, can be quickly forgotten. Only small snippets will remain. The old saying that applies accurately is "use it or lose it." Without the balance that Froebel recommended, you may never get it in the first place, as doing requires that you learn at a deeper level.

I'm reminded of a student from a few years back who in response to my instruction would say dismissively, "I know that." So I asked, him, "show me." You can guess his response.

Yesterday I struggled to assemble a cherry veneered plywood box to house drawers for the workbench I'm making. I'd cut mitered edges for the pieces to fit to each other, but had great difficultly keeping all the pieces together long enough to get the band clamps fitted to hold the parts together. It's funny how easy things can be in the mind, and how much more complicated they can be in real life.

The Path to Learning podcast is a rich place, with highly regarded experts in education outlining  a path forward. I am grateful for the chance to share. I'll let you know when my interview goes live on the site. Parents and teachers will find value in watching the full set of podcasts.

On the same subject, a variety of publications in the US and UK are interested in reviewing and promoting my new book, The Guide to Woodworking with Kids.

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

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

when in doubt, do something.

This has been a difficult time for all of us and I’m looking forward to more normal classes at the Clear Spring School in the fall. I’ve been trying to present lessons from a distance by using an email newsletter directed to parents and kids with projects that can be accomplished using the tools available in their own homes. I have found inspiration from what other teachers in my association have been doing with their kids. 

All woodworking teachers across the US have been facing the same challenge. Their schools have tools and their families may not. I’ve been particularly inspired by the advice of author Lloyd Kahn whose new book Half-Acre Homestead suggests, “Do what you can, where you are, with what you have.” That’s a good philosophy to have for these times. And when in doubt, do something.

I do not know whether or not my newsletters and take home projects have been useful to parents or kids. I do know they’ve been useful to me. They’ve given me something to do when so much else has been lost. What we do with our hands provides a sense of agency, and a sense of control. One symptom of depression is a feeling that things are no longer under our control. Doing something in service to your family or community, or even for yourself, can help to reclaim and maintain mental health.

There are blessings to be found in these circumstances. Caring for each other is an important way through which the wisdom of our hands is expressed. It’s human to become cross and irritable under difficult circumstances. It is even more human to help. It is even more human to care for each other and do for each other. And they say absence from each other makes our hearts grow fonder. That’s certainly the situation we face.

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

Monday, May 25, 2020

Bench dog holes

I'm building a small workbench from a leftover slab of maple and using dovetailed drawers taken from one of my earlier household projects that was decommissioned. This morning I began drilling dog holes in the top which will allow boards to be clamped in place using the vise.

To be assured the bench dog holes are absolutely vertical, I first drilled through a piece of 2 x 6 lumber using the drill press and I clamp that in place as my guide as I drill into the top of the bench. I plan the hole depth so I can clean up from the other side, rather than having chunks torn out on the underside.

Figuring out how to do such things is part of the fun of being in the shop and embarking on new projects. You'll notice that the new tail vise is already mounted. Drilling the dog holes in the vise had to be done before the positions of the holes in the top could be planned.

Like a blind man walking to work, I do not know what I'll encounter along the way, but trust that I can feel my way through. This technique may be useful to others.

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

Saturday, May 23, 2020


My newsletter, Number 10, Woodworking at home with kids  was sent out yesterday, as we finish our school year at the Clear Spring School.

I loaded my Building Small Cabinets DVD to my youtube channel:

I'm beginning preparations for a 3D design class for woodworkers to be presented online through the Eureka Springs School of the Arts. This will be my first online class and part of a series of classes presented online via Zoom due to the coronavirus pandemic and the dangers of disease transmission involved in gathering face to face. Due to it being online, you can enroll from anyplace in the world. The class will present information useful to all craft artists, with additional information specific to our favorite material, wood. Technical support will be offered for those new to Zoom.

The photo shows superheroes designed by my daughter Lucy and her fiancé Nick. Making superheroes is this week's project presented in newsletter number 10, with the materials provided to kids at the Clear Spring School.

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

Thursday, May 21, 2020

chisel in one hand, mallet in the other.

It appears we are hurtling through space at an ever fast pace, too often ignoring the people and things that most directly surround us. It is time to take stock. Slow down, adjust to a reasonable pace that leaves room for forests, wildlife, notice of the loveliness of the natural world, the morning sunrise, and as the sun sets.
"Things men have made with wakened hands, and put soft life into are awake through years with transferred touch, and go on glowing for long years.And for this reason, some old things are lovely warm still with the life of forgotten men who made them." -- D.H. Lawrence
But you must slow down to notice those things.

The hands, better than the eyes, bring important things more clearly into focus. Holding a chisel in one and a mallet in the other, provides the means to shape wood. It also provides the means to hold something even more dear... the creative spirit that inhabited the makers of the long generations that preceded our own.

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

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

3D design, online class

The Eureka Springs School of the Arts and I are offering a 3D Design Class for woodworkers and other craft artists on Saturday, June 13, 2020. Enrollment opened today. Use this link for additional details:

My online class is part of a series of classes to keep the school engaged during  the coronavirus pandemic.

The box shown in the photo is in the Norwegian Tine style and is  one I made from white oak.

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

Part three, Rustic Furniture Basics

I got permission from Taunton Press to put my other two DVDs on my youtube channel. Rustic Furniture Basics is live to view now.

Building Small Cabinets will premier on Thursday, May 21, 2020 at 5 PM Central time. Both DVDs were produced as companions to books by the same names.

Please invite your friends to join me in my wood shop. I thank Taunton Press and video production cameraman and editor Gary Junken, for helping me share my work.

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

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

reading to Rosie

My first copy of The Guide to Woodworking with Kids arrived today.

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

Sunday, May 17, 2020

Making a new workbench...

As personal therapy during the coronavirus pandemic, I'm turning a 3 in. thick slab of maple into a new workbench to replace a thrown-together bench from years ago. It's an upgrade. It will have wheels and drawers and a bench vise that I ordered yesterday. The already completed dovetailed drawers were salvaged from a project I'd done years ago.

I enlisted the help of houseguests in wrestling the huge slab of wood through the bandsaw to square off the ends and cut it to shape.

Woodworking at its best is a collegial, cooperative operation, in which we share what we do with friends and in which we ask their help when it's needed.

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

Saturday, May 16, 2020

making a toy horse

I've been reviewing some of my old youtube videos as I plan a half-hour presentation about woodworking for kids. This ten-year old video shows my students at work.

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

Friday, May 15, 2020

bench making for kids

In 2008, I presented a series of brief articles to the FineWoodworking website about woodworking with kids. One of the projects was making small benches for use at our preschool. It and others can be found there still. My article also presented the following rules:

 Rules for Grownups
1. Set an example of caring craftsmanship.
2. Supervise the kids, answer questions, and show them how to use tools safely.
3. Mill lumber to thickness, according to the cutlist. Make any preliminary cuts as specified in the instructions and make extra parts to allow for mistakes.
4. Leave project designs open for students to test their own ideas, create problems for themselves and find solutions. Encourage them to discover and test their own solutions.
5. Be a cheerleader for their best efforts.
6. Congratulate the kids on a job well done and be specific.

Rules for Kids
1.  Listen to what the grownups tell you. 
2.  Ask a lot of questions.
3.  Always use tools exactly as you’re told.
4. Have fun.
Rules for Working Safely
1.  No woodworking without adult supervision.
2.  No horsing around!
3. Use clamps or a bench vise to hold work for cutting, sanding, or drilling.
4. When using a saw, either hold it with both hands or put one hand behind your back.
Make, fix, create, and assist others in learning lifewise.

Thursday, May 14, 2020

newsletter number 9

We've spent over two months in serious household lockdown with only very necessary trips out. I've made one small piece of furniture and finished about 70 boxes which, with luck and return of a reasonable economy will be sold.

This morning I sent out newsletter number 9 offering hands-on activities for the students of the Clear Spring School. I've received comments from other teachers that the newsletters have been useful.

Today's newsletter offers the making of a Soma cube puzzle. Puzzles like this and the making of them encourage the development of spatial sense, critical to the development of abilities in math, engineering and the arts.

You can read the newsletter number nine though this link:

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

Sunday, May 10, 2020

Expand the 62% club

A poll of 1000 millennial dads found that 38% did not own screwdrivers. This does not mean that they are not good at other things, but DIY outside the realm of apps and consumer technology is not their strongest suit.  The poll suggests that at least 62% do have screwdrivers in their homes.  That's a club we want to encourage and expand. If you have a screwdriver (you may need a full set of them to tackle the vast array of screw types and sizes), you can take things apart, you can fix things,  and failing that, you can learn something about how things were made. Forty six percent of millennial dads have cordless drills, 49% have step ladders and 32% have hammers.

Without screwdrivers we are helpless slaves of technology and consumption. With screwdrivers we have at least a small but fighting chance to conquer the forces that constrain us. One of those forces is ignorance. Another is complaisance. Another is the failing of our own curiosity. Are millennial dads to blame for something? All generations seem to agree that technological devices are often unfixable and too complex for most of us to work on or even comprehend. But a set of screw drivers might be a good way to launch an investigation.

Make, fix, create, and equip our children to learn lifewise.

Saturday, May 09, 2020

Where was I?

It seems I've been so deeply disturbed by the coronavirus' impact on our nation, and the failed leadership that's allowing it to take deep hold, that it's been difficult to keep my attention on less important issues.

Education has taken a big hit, as teaching has been forced to move online, and students, sequestered in their own homes are forced more deeply into "virtual" engagement than before.

There is a clear difference between virtual learning and virtuous learning. In one, it's two dimensional and onscreen. The other involves doing real things that are of deep benefit to family, community and self. So while parents are reluctant to set limits to screen time (as it's now where their kids get schooled), some clear lines had best be drawn.

I'm grateful to have prep work to do for my kids at the Clear Spring School. I sent out the weekly newsletter yesterday and dropped off fresh materials for the kids to pick up at school to continue hands on learning.

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

Wednesday, May 06, 2020

coming soon!

A public relations agent is working on the promotion of my new book and this is a preview of one of the press releases. You can help us to promote this book.

There will be two press releases, with one directed toward parents and educators and the other targeting woodworkers who hope to share the joy of woodworking with their kids. The one for parents reads as follows:

For Immediate Release—

The Guide To Woodworking With Kids: Craft Projects to Develop the Lifelong Skills of Young Makers Available May 26th

Doug Stowe’s how-to book for parents, grandparents, and teachers—experienced or not—to safely engage children in life-enhancing creative arts

May 6, 2020 - Eureka Springs, AR - For everyone from experienced carpenters to first-time dabblers, there are always lessons to be learned while woodworking; patience, perseverance, and grit, to name a few. Problem-solving and resourcefulness round out the rough edges of students as they progress through skills that will affect every aspect of their lives, which is why it’s so important to get started at a young age. Unfortunately, there are many inexperienced adults who don’t feel comfortable enough in a woodshop to pass along lessons and wisdom to the next generation. Enter Doug Stowe’s new instructional book, The Guide to Woodworking With Kids: Craft Projects to Develop the Lifelong Skills of Young Makers. Whether it be novice craft-minded parents and grandparents or longtime woodworking enthusiasts The Guide to Woodworking With Kids gives adults the correct tools to introduce children to the craft of woodworking and the invaluable life skills that come with it—and as the Maker Movement grows alongside the push for less screen time and more hands-on activity for children, Stowe’s book effortlessly marries the two concepts between its covers. Pre-order The Guide to Woodworking With Kids here before its May 26th release date.

The Guide to Woodworking With Kids is a culmination of craftsman Doug Stowe’s four-decade career in woodworking and nearly twenty years of working with students K-12 in his Wisdom of the Hands woodworking class at the Clear Spring School in his hometown of Eureka Springs, Arkansas. In that time, Stowe has seen firsthand how children’s executive function skills thrive through woodwork with the help of equal parts instruction and encouragement. But don’t just take Stowe’s word for it; studies have proven that children engaged in a hands-on craft develop—among other key skills—confidence, problem-solving abilities, and independent thinking.

Based in part on the philosophies of Froebel’s Kindergarten and Educational Sloyd, The Guide to Woodworking with Kids illustrates the importance of doing real, hands-on activities in school and at home that enable students to think things through for themselves, be handy and resourceful, explore their own self-interests, and create useful beauty which benefits family, community, and self. However, The Guide to Woodworking With Kids isn’t only as the title implies. Adults, whether longtime craftsmen and women or new hobbyists working through this book, may also pick up some invaluable skills they may have missed along the way; an irreplaceable chance for the teacher to find themselves as the student, once again. 

Title: The Guide to Woodworking With Kids: 15 Craft Projects to Develop the Lifelong Skills of Young Makers
Publication Date: May 26, 2020
Price: $24.95
ISBN: 9781940611884
Format: Paperback

More About The Author: Doug Stowe began his woodworking career in 1976 and was reminded of the importance of hands-on learning by teaching his own daughter in the woodshop. In 2001, he launched the Wisdom of the Hands Program at the Clear Spring School to prove the value of hands-on learning in a school woodshop. He is the author of 13 other woodworking books, over 100 articles in the woodworking magazines and educational journals, and publishes a blog dedicated to promoting the value of hands-on learning. The son of a kindergarten teacher, Stowe has become a respected authority on learning for all ages. In addition to teaching at the Clear Spring School, Stowe teaches adults the fine art of woodworking at schools and clubs throughout the United States.

More About Blue Hills Press: In an era where it’s easy to take things for granted, the goal of Blue Hills Press is to help you take back the knowledge and satisfaction that comes from doing things yourself and understanding the things that bring you joy. Whether it’s controlling the food you cook and consume, better understanding the music you love, or creating and interacting with items you encounter every day, being engaged in what we do enriches our lives. 

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

Tuesday, May 05, 2020

a bit lonely...

It feels a bit lonely these days to drive by the Clear Spring School campus and to see the Froebel blocks in the same position they were in the last time I drove by.

Normally they are rearranged and rearranged on a daily basis as children play, exercising their strength, athleticism and creative intelligence. It's called play. An article, The Long Island Play Revolution highlights the need for play and it's nice to see that other schools and communities are beginning to accept what we've known for a very long time.

Perhaps when the Covid-19 disaster is over, we can return to things in a better state. Our hopes are high for a time when our children can play safely together without fear.

In my wood shop I've been helping my daughter's fiancé, Nick, build a triptych frame for a painting he wants to create. It's his first time to do woodworking and he's already hooked and hoping for another project, and looking forward to having his own wood shop. Nick's brother is building a large wooden sculpture and both are learning basic woodworking skills.

I'm also working on forty three small inlaid boxes and preparing materials for our kids at Clear Spring School to pick up for woodworking lessons at home.

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

Saturday, May 02, 2020

The Great Realisation

Make, fix, create. Based on your work alone, the world will become a better place.

Friday, May 01, 2020

today in the woodshop...

Months ago I had inlaid the lids to small boxes and with things being slow around here due to Covid-19 and social distancing I'm cutting parts to complete what I'd started. Do I need to make more boxes? Perhaps not. But do I need to make more boxes? Yes.

There is a direct connection between the hands and the brain. Busy hands create a sense of agency, thus brushing aside feelings of anxiety and depression. They lead us through tough times. I also know that when I have a supply of boxes that can be sold in better days, my own economic future is slightly more bright.

The photo shows one of the boxes I finished last week. The woods are birdseye maple and walnut.

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