Monday, October 18, 2021

Unhook from the supply chain...

This year supply chain problems will severely impact the delivery of mountains of Christmas time toys and stuff. That will likely impact for additional months to come, the volume of broken stuff delivered to landfills. 

Naturally President Biden will be blamed as children are deprived of meaningless stuff that would have been intended to generate Christmas time delight but that then would have been thrown out as meaningless in the months to come.

How about taking matters into our own hands. We and our kids can make the things we need and my book, Guide to Woodworking with Kids can help. It is currently scheduled to be reprinted and I'm hoping that the shortage of paper doesn't interfere with a timely delivery. 

If supply chain issues affect my Guide to Woodworking with Kids, I've been assured other books of mine are in sufficient supply. Making Classic Toys that Teach provides instructions for making Froebel's gifts and explores his philosophy for teaching kids. While Froebel is known as the inventor of Kindergarten, his methodology of learning through play applies to us all. And even adults will love working their way through this book.

And then there's box making. I have a variety of books about that.

If you want to make the coming holiday season far more meaningful than others where crap was in abundant supply, try spending time with your kids in advance of Christmas. Make gifts and toys for each other. A few tools will help, and a new hammer under the tree will bring delight. 

The photo shows a plane made by Veritas that I reviewed for Quercus magazine this last year. Sized for a child's hands and unlike the toys that go in the trash, this tool will perform for a century or more as your children grow up and share it with their kids.

Unhook from the supply chain. This is the year for it.

Make, fix and create.

Sunday, October 17, 2021

five or six Ds.

When a student in Pestalozzi's school was told to look at a picture of a ladder, the child asked, "why should I look at a picture when there's a real ladder in the shed?" "We don't have time to go out to the shed," the student was told. Later when the child was presented with the picture of a window, the child asked, why do we have to look at a picture when there's a real window right there? We don't even have to go outside to look at it." The teacher complained to Pestalozzi and was told that the student was right. Whenever possible, lessons should be based on the real world. But we confine our students to classrooms and isolate them from deeper engagement. 
 “The sensational curiosity of childhood is appealed to more particularly by certain determinate kinds of objects. Material things, things that move, living things, human actions and accounts of human action, will win the attention better than anything that is more abstract. Here again comes in the advantage of the object-teaching and manual training methods. The pupil's attention is spontaneously held by any problem that involves the presentation of a new material object or of an activity on any one's part. The teacher's earliest appeals, therefore, must be through objects shown or acts performed or described. Theoretic curiosity, curiosity about the rational relations between things, can hardly be said to awake at all until adolescence is reached.” -- William James. Talks To Teachers On Psychology: And To Students On Some Of Life's Ideals. 
Much of what troubles post modern education is its artificiality. Even the pretense that it is all engineered as a benefit for our children is a distortion of the facts. The simple message should be clear. The things that most ail American education can be described as the 5 D's. We've got disinterest, distraction, disappointment, disillusionment and disruption. Some students go though 13 years of schooling without ever being disruptive, but most suffer at least from the first 4. We can add another D, for depression. It's how we all feel when recess is deprived us.

Make, fix and create...

Saturday, October 16, 2021

concrete and abstract

One of the principles of Educational Sloyd was  that of moving from the concrete to the abstract. The idea was that by building and doing real things, rather than just engaging abstract material, students would develop both skill and deeper sustained interest. Back in about 2009 I was quoted by Matthew Crawford in his best selling book Shop Class as Soulcraft used a quote from my blog as the epigraph of chapter one. 

“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.” 

He used the quote noting that in just a few words I'd summarized the dreadful situation we're in. It's the artificiality of it all that drives kids nuts. Some are able to sit bored for hours. Some rebel. Crawford did a later exploration of the same quote in a subsequent book, The World Beyond Your Head in his final chapter. So I'll go a bit deeper into it myself. 

The first thing to note is that kids are smart and they know the difference between the artificiality of schooling and real life. They know that the teachers are presenting the things that the administration cares about, the students' own personal interests be damned. And since they know the curriculum has been manipulated and controlled based on things that are not real to them they need not pay serious heed. 

For some schooling is made barely bearable by having goals that lie beyond graduation. But just because some manage to make it through schooling seemingly unscathed and find some degree of success beyond it does not make it right for any and certainly not for all.

So what's a guy or gal to do? Julie Wilson, in her Path to Learning Podcast episode laid things our pretty clear. You change things, bringing your own unique passions into the school environment. Julie said, 

If school sucked for you, we really need you (to teach). Because you have a lens that we typically don’t have. The vast majority of people in the education system, people like myself, they did school well; therefore, I think we need more of the people who were not served by that traditional model. The more they can rally around this work and bring their different and innovative thinking to it, I think that will really help to turn things."

Yes, this will take time. But there are examples to examine like  our own Clear Spring School and a very long tradition of progressive pedagogy to inspire us to move forward. 

Make, fix and create.

Friday, October 15, 2021

willing suspension of belief.

Religion is a confusing subject as it is based on what we believe or hope to believe or profess belief in. And in that realm we are welcomed to believe what we want, whether true or not, as that is proposed as our right.

It would be far better if we were able to suspend belief rather than disbelief and simply observe, learn to trust science as a process, develop critical thinking skills rather than being required by schooling and religion to suspend disbelief and to take on faith what we've been taught. 

In the schools which we've all endured, we've been planted in seats and measured by our compliance and complaisance. It's the same in church. And not having been encouraged to directly challenge what we've been taught, we fall into the trap of thinking that the reality we've chosen for ourselves is right and the others wrong, and then line up along factional lines against each other and in denial of science which has become overly complex to unskilled minds. And some people are willing to die or cause others they love to die to score marks on the other side.

In the early days of manual training in the US and around the world, Educational Sloyd as practiced in the Nordic countries and as introduced in the US in the 1880s noted the necessity of educating all, absolutely all, in the manual arts. The idea was that working with the hands, developed the mind and also the social fabric, as it helped people in the upper classes develop a greater sense of the value of the contributions to society made by others, regardless of class. Another value was that the manual arts being practiced in schools made schools active rather than passive. Passivity practiced in schooling was destructive of society at large and meant the death of critical thinking skills.

And so here we are now. A huge mess. Factions aligned against each other.

The knife was one of the introductory tools in educational sloyd. They idea was that it was the first tool a Swedish child would use, even before formal education began and every Swedish child knew how to use a knife safely. It was not regarded as a weapon to be used against others. It was a useful tool that gave the student power to shape, and observe. You cannot whittle a stick without making simple hypotheses as to how the edge of the knife will address the wood and how the grain of the stick will impact the result. And so from such humble observations the full powers of science gradually emerge.

We’re a very long ways from reforming education to make schools active rather than passive places. Education today is obsessed with classroom management because classes are too large for teachers to address the varied needs and interests of their kids. By having kids unnaturally forced to sit at desks when their whole bodies are itching to do real things causes them to rebel, not only by becoming disruptive but on the inside, meeting what they are taught with a sense of disdain. Without being granted the opportunity to test what they are being taught and measure it against the real world, lessons are just more crap that they are expected to believe, and even the science upon which all of modern life depends is met with derision and distrust.

Fortunately there is a real world out there. Stupidity will meet its own measure against the realities the world presents, so I find a bit of hope in that. But we could be making things easier for future generations by helping them to do real things in school, allowing them to measure what they've been taught against the realities of the real world that they've been trained to observe for themselves. 

I started out talking about belief, and it seems that folks are all challenged to believe something or are regarded as naked. And yet, to see and see well, without the blinders of belief to distort the reality we live within, would serve us best.

On the home front, I've been finalizing the reading list that will be added to my new book.

Make, fix and create...

Thursday, October 14, 2021

19th Mad Hatter Ball Auction

Our annual fund-raiser for the Eureka Springs School of the Arts went online last night and it's worth your time to browse the offerings and witness the variety of arts practiced here.

Some of the work was produced by teachers, some by students and some by members of our community. who have learned and grown through participation in classes. The proceeds of the auction will advance the school and its role in making Eureka Springs one of the most fabulous places to live in the US.

When we started ESSA, it was with the recognition that having an art school in such an arts-infused place, with a high concentration of amateur and professional artists would be inevitable. And so, choosing to apply some effort to the inevitable, we soon found many friends who shared our sense of its inevitability. Many hands make light work.

One of the great things about ESSA is that it's so easy to be involved. And it's easy to support ESSA by bringing the works of some of our wonderful artists into your own home.

The arts have an interesting effect. They develop the character of those who participate in them, providing us closer relations with each other. If you have money, and lots of it, you can choose to hide behind walls, and when life is done with you, you'll be forgotten. Participation in the arts assures that will not be the case. As you share in creative processes, you have effect that will linger and transform in fluid fashion and through the hands of others for far longer than we can imagine.

Make, fix and  create.

Wednesday, October 13, 2021

Bat houses.

Our Clear Spring School bat houses are complete except for screwing down the roofs making French cleats on the backs so that they can be easily hung.

The students now want to decorate them, naturally.

Make, fix and create... 

Monday, October 11, 2021

manual arts and the upper crust.

I seldom address the economic value of manual and industrial arts in the blog because that's a given. You'd have to be dead-on plumb bob stupid to not know that when you put tools and the power of understanding in the hands of a man or woman, that he or she can become a contributing member of an economy.  Settlement schools like North Bennet St. in Boston and Hull House in Chicago were intended at first to accommodate the huge number of unskilled immigrants who required acculturation and skill in order to make their way in the American political, economic and social landscape.

 I've been concerned more about the benefits of manual arts training to all, as its general value as a tool in the development of character and intellect is the value most ignored. There's been a persistent conceptual divide in American education, with an upper crust or intellectual elite intended to receive academic training, while the rest were to get trained and acculturated for manual labor. And that great divide left the upper crust stupid and unskilled. Along with that divide came disparagement of skill, and the unreasonable elevation of academics as superior to all. But what is the value of knowledge if we can actually do nothing but twiddle thumbs. Fortunately, the American people have means to rise up despite our educational institutions. The persistent inclination to do and to make whether music or objects of useful beauty is endemic. Academics are not.

I got an inquiry from a person in India who is trying to establish programs for their poor, and wanted me to point out my own essays in the blog that best address the value of manual arts training for the poor. Some of the best writing on this subject was by Felix Adler, founder of the Workingman's School in New York City. Here in the blog you can find excerpts of Adler's writings on the subject having to do with both social classes, the rich and poor if you use the search block at upper left. Type in Adler and see what comes up. One of my essays concerning Adler is on the subject of Will. Adler believed that morality was less a matter of religious precept than one of action. He was an advocate of "unsectarian" education. The more modern term would be "non-sectarian". Many still believe that religion and religious dictate are our only sources of human morality.

Non-sectarian education has been important in the US, helping folks from nearly all cultures to find common ground. On the other hand, non-sectarian education is often viewed as lacking in moral content. Kids are often left on their own for moral guidance, as teachers feel constrained to keep out of the moral arena. And so we have schools in which bullying is commonplace and pop-culture is the primary guide to student behavior. According to Dr. Thomas Gordon in Teacher Effectiveness Training, many teachers are reluctant to enter the values or morals arena with their students. They may even be frightened to address moral concerns that may be related to sectarian values. "They prefer to leave these teachings to families, churches and other agencies".

Adler and others in the early days of manual arts education, recognized the value of craftsmanship as a moral force in education. You either do a job well, or not. If you perform carelessly, the results are obvious for all to see. Through craftsmanship a student is pushed toward caring and the expression of care. In academic subjects the results of work are abstract, often disconnected from direct relationship to the child's environment. Assessment of academic labor is vague, often discriminatory, and lacks clarity. What students may learn in academic pursuits is that they can lie and often get away with it. In any case, I urge those interested to read more of Adler, a bit of which follows: 
"All that has been said thus far converges upon the point that has been in view from the beginning—the importance of manual training as an element in disciplining the will. Manual training fulfills the conditions I have just alluded to. It is interesting to the young, as history, geography, and arithmetic often are not. Precisely those pupils who take the least interest or show the least aptitude for literary study are often the most proficient in the workshop and the modeling-room. Nature has not left these neglected children without beautiful compensations. If they are deficient in intellectual power, they are all the more capable of being developed on their active side. Thus, manual training fulfills the one essential condition—it is interesting. It also fulfills the second."

"By manual training we cultivate the intellect in close connection with action. Manual training consists of a series of actions which are controlled by the mind, and which react on it. Let the task assigned be, for instance, the making of a wooden box. The first point to be gained is to attract the attention of the pupil to the task. A wooden box is interesting to a child, hence this first point will be gained. Lethargy is overcome, attention is aroused. Next, it is important to keep the attention fixed on the task: thus only can tenacity of purpose be cultivated. Manual training enables us to keep the attention of the child fixed upon the object of study, because the latter is concrete. Furthermore, the variety of occupations which enter into the- making of the box constantly refreshes this interest after it has once been started. The wood must be sawed to line. The boards must be carefully planed and smoothed. The joints must be accurately worked out and fitted. The lid must be attached with hinges. The box must be painted or varnished. Here is a sequence of means leading to an end, a series of operations all pointing to a final object to be gained, to be created. Again, each of these means becomes in turn and for the time being a secondary end; and the pupil thus learns, in an elementary way, the lesson of subordinating minor ends to a major end. And, when finally the task is done, when the box stands before the boy's eyes a complete whole, a serviceable thing, sightly to the eyes, well adapted to its uses, with what a glow of triumph does he contemplate his work! The pleasure of achievement now comes in to crown his labor; and this sense of achievement, in connection with the work done, leaves in his mind a pleasant after-taste, which will stimulate him to similar work in the future. The child that has once acquired, in connection with the making of a box, the habits just described, has begun to master the secret of a strong will, and will be able to apply the same habits in other directions and on other occasions."
The notion of cultivating a strong will  in students might not appeal to educators whose objective is to make students complaisant, and who think that some purpose might be achieved by making school boring and as much a test of the nerves as a test for the intellect. 

You may notice the gentlemanly clothes of the Sloyd teacher in the drawing above. Otto Salomon was very careful to use drawings and photos showing that Educational Sloyd was for all students, not just those from the working class.

Make, fix and create...

Indigenous People's Day

Old Chris Columbus was sitting at a bar with friends after "discovering" the Americas. His pals were teasing him, that anyone who happened to have sailed that far would have simply bumped into this place. No big deal they insisted. 

Chris then challenged his buddies to try to balance a hard boiled egg on its end and after they tried and failed, he tapped the egg on its end, making a slight flat spot and proceeded to balance it on its tip. "Anyone could do that," his  friends roared. "Yes, now that I've shown you how," Chris replied.

And that's the story of the Columbus egg. Otto Salomon, in his development of Educational Sloyd referred to his systematic introduction of tools and techniques following a natural pattern of growth within the child as his Columbus egg. A thing as simple as tapping an egg on its end, but of enormous value.

Whether or not the story of Chris and his hardboiled egg is true, the consequences of his "discovery" of America were enormous. And here we are today. The conquistadors  brought deadly diseases that preceded their conquests on both continents. And the indigenous peoples who had lived thousands of years in some degree of harmony with the land were pushed aside, their cultures nearly destroyed.

What was once celebrated as Columbus day, we now celebrate as Indigenous People's Day in the hopes that we can once again live with greater sensitivity to the earth and the plants and animals that share this lovely clouded blue dot in space circling around our sun.

Make, fix and create...

Sunday, October 10, 2021

How the forest changes lives

Daycares in Finland, choosing to emulate forest kindergartens, took matters into their own hands by creating forest environments for their children to navigate and learn from.

What researchers found surprising was that engagement in reality actually altered and strengthened the children's immune systems.

So the benefits of engagement in forests are not just intellectual and spiritual, they're physical as well, and every school in the world, even those in cities, should have their own forests.

In my wood shop I'm at work building walnut bases for Arkansas Quality Awards and inlaid boxes for an order.

Make, fix and create...

Thursday, October 07, 2021

stumbling along

Today I'm sitting on the front porch with golden doodle daughter Rosie at my feet. She's chewing a long branch into short pieces and I'm attempting to compose my thoughts. 

A friend, Elliot asked me if I'd studied Viktor Frankl and his book, "Man's Search for Meaning." Sometimes you get much of what you need from the name of the book, taken as an invitation to explore your own mind and your own experiences. As I explain in the introduction to my new book, some will get everything they need from the title alone as it invites them to explore the workings of their own hands and minds in the shaping of the world around us.

Yesterday as Rosie and I sat on the porch, a doe walked out of the woods to present herself not 30 feet away. Of course Rosie jumped up and chased the deer into the woods. When she came back her face was covered in burrs to the point that she could barely open her eyes. That forced me to cancel my classes for the day as Rosie was in dire distress. There were tight clusters of burrs distributed over her whole body. Jean and I spent hours grooming her and took her to another groomer for a bath and clip. The experience was stressful for us and for her. So chewing a good stick on the front porch is a good therapy. I cut the offending weeds in the woods and vow to keep them short forever more.

My dad had a favorite poem that I recited at his funeral service and that I found later in a collection of poems for teachers of manual and industrial arts. It goes: 

Isn’t it strange that princes and kings
And clowns that caper in sawdust rings
All share this common destiny:
Each is given a set of rules,
A lump of stone
And bag of tools,
That each may carve as life as flown,
A stumbling block or stepping stone.

Man’s search for meaning is what drives everything, isn’t it? Money, power, and the attention of others. Having the right car or the right home or the right look of the dog. Then there's corresponding impulse to fit in, to be part of the in crowd, not sticking up to the point where someone else feels the urge to hammer you down. Within that matrix is the urge to build a legacy upon which others can build… a greater sense of purpose that gives life meaning beyond the mundane.

There are two aspects of self that can easily be mistaken for each other: A sense of purpose that connects us with the carving of stepping stones to lift others up, and a sense of self-importance that ultimately leaves us humbled and forgotten. What will your path be? You may choose, stumbling along as we all do.

Make, fix and create...

Wednesday, October 06, 2021

a tangle of hands

In response to sharing the new cover design for my new book, Frank Wilson, author of the Hand sent this image of a young Christ among the doctors by Albrecht Dürer.

It shows much more than a tangle of hands, old and young. It shows the passing of mind from one generation to the next. One pair of hands finds passages in the book. One pair marks a spot in his. One pair holds the book closed as the doctor looks on in wonder. One pair is attempting to instruct. The young Christ is using hands to reflect within. And there at the center, the entanglement of minds.

Make, fix and create...

Tuesday, October 05, 2021

Sloyd trivets and Paper Sloyd

Yesterday student in my class made sloyd trivets. In the meantime, one of the members of the New England Association of Woodworking Teachers (NEAWT) noted that he'll be out of his classroom for 10 days after becoming exposed to Covid-19 by a close encounter with an infected student. 

Asking the members of NEAWT about projects he could have his students do while he's out, I suggested paper sloyd. You can view and download the book free from this site:

His students may argue about being required to learn what students had once learned in Kindergarten and first grade, but they would benefit from it none-the-less, gaining skills they'll need for other things.

It is no longer surprising for teachers of design at the university level to learn that many of their students no longer have skills in the use of rulers, scissors and paper folding. Paper Sloyd, intended as a precursor to Educational Sloyd and originally intended for the younger set, can fix that. It also helps develop skills in utilizing instructions and plans. 

Today my students will be making tiny house letter holders. If you are reading this on the blog and not on Facebook, you can use the search function at the upper left to learn more about Paper Sloyd. There are a number of reasons I want to encourage readers to go to the blog rather than facebook. The blog allows me to use more photos and offer richer content. So if you find facebook down or want to avoid it because it's eating away at our lives, go to

Make, fix and create...

Sunday, October 03, 2021

vaccine policy

Things are opening up and as more folks become vaccinated we are beginning to feel safe returning to normal activities. The Eureka Springs School of the Arts is returning to live classes and I'm grateful for that. Vaccinations are required for participation.

Getting vaccinated is a reasonable way of helping each other be safe and the most practical way of assuring that life returns to normal.

This week the Guild of Oregon Woodworkers explained their board's decision to require vaccination of all those using their shop as follows:

"We are aware that not everyone will elect to be vaccinated, however the board approval of this measure demonstrates our commitment to maintaining safety measures protecting our membership. This measure will certainly have a negative effect on a few members, but we believe it will allow a larger number of members to, after 20 months of staying away, finally have enough confidence to take part in and contribute to valuable teaching and mentoring commitments, as well as ability to work on their own projects in the Guild Shop. It is not fair or logical for these constructive folks to be discouraged at risk of their lives from contributing to our Guild, in consequence of our hosting unvaccinated members.

Unvaccinated population is propagating continued spread of the virus, endangering lives by overpowering hospitals and healthcare workers, to the exclusion of life-saving treatment for other medical conditions."

I think that's rather well put. This week, also in their newsletter is a review of my "Guide to Woodworking with Kids," written by a friend, Bob Sokolow.

Make, fix and create... 

Saturday, October 02, 2021

180 years old and fresh as the day it was born. The kindergarten model of education launched by Froebel in the 19th century should be the model of all schooling from pre-K through university. The ideal is that we learn through play within the realm of real life.

Artificiality and contrivance are the bane of effective learning. They kill it dead. 

Students who want to be teachers should be launched into classrooms their first term at the university so that they are provided a means to test and utilize and be energized and awakened by what they are learning in class. 

Froebel offered an understanding that what was taken into the mind needed to be tested through the outcome of the hands and in real life. Student testing of what is taught is the foundation for the development of critical thinking. That our nation has devolved toward idiocy is the consequence of our failure to develop critical thinking skills. Those are derived from scaffolding developed within the child through the following pathway. Start with the interests of the child. Build from the known toward the unknown, from the easy toward the more difficult, from the simple to the complex, utilizing the concrete to form the foundation for an understanding of abstract principles.

This is not rocket science, but  is built upon observations from the 18th and 19th centuries on how children and adults learn best.

You can participate in a renewal of education by paying attention to the Kindergarten documentary film series, and by attending to the path to learning podcasts created by my friends Scott Bultman, Jay Irwin and John Pottinger. Path to learning can be found here:

Make, fix and create...

Thursday, September 30, 2021

little brown bats

Yesterday with our outdoors study class we checked the game camera to see if it was recording the coming and goings of bats and found that it had captured nothing all week. Our conclusion was that the camera needed to be moved closer to the nesting site simply because their bodies are so small they may not trigger the motion sensing mechanism in the camera without it being closer.

We also did a rough estimate of the number of bat turds in the collection box. Students had made guesses about the number ranging from 50-60 to 150 individual poops. To attempt a more accurate count we tried using sticks to gather them in groups of 10 on the bottom of the box, but that proved impossible. 

Our second attempt was to weigh a number using a gram scale and then extrapolate to the whole weight of the bat turds gathered in the box. But they were too light to measure accurately in grams. So our third try was to count the number of turds in a table spoon and then measure the number of table spoons in the box. 

The resulting estimate was a surprise to the students as we found there to be 165 turds to a table spoon and approximately 7 table spoons in the box for a total of 1155, far surpassing student guesses.

With approximately 50 bats in the nesting area pooping over an 8 day period we learned that the bats while nesting poop about 3 turds per day. Each small turd represents hundreds of small bugs harvested from the night sky.

To make future observations easier, we marked a grid pattern at the bottom of the box so we can quickly observe the number of turds per square inch. We were first alerted to the presence of bats by the pile of guano left below their nesting site, and the box will allow us to observe a hoped for relocation to more permanent bat boxes.

Next week we begin assembling bat houses.

Make, fix and create...

Wednesday, September 29, 2021


Yesterday I met briefly with the head of Mounds Park Academy, an ISACS member school from Minneapolis/St. Paul. Bill Hudson was here as team leader for our every seven year re-accreditation process. 

My students practiced making straight and square cuts using two different kinds of saws as Bill observed. We had a great conversation about pedagogy following the class and I look forward to his return later in the year. 

Today we'll check the game camera we're using to monitor bats and will run a count on the guano collection box to see if student estimates of numbers of nightly poops come close to the actual number.

We may have to reposition the game camera to get a better view. If lucky we'll get movies of the bats coming and going at night.

My old roommate from college sent me this photo of my younger studious self attempting to make sense of a sociology text book.

Make, fix and create. Assist others in learning likewise

Tuesday, September 28, 2021

a new cover

Linden Press has offered a revised cover to my new book as shown. Unlike the stock photo image used on the advanced review copy, this image was  taken by a photographer visiting my wood shop at the Clear Spring School. 

Professional photographer Arshia Khan took the photo in 2012 for an article in Arkansas Life Magazine.  In it I'm showing a student how to mark the center of a turning blank to mount on the lathe.

Make, fix and create... 

Sunday, September 26, 2021

Good as new

Yesterday I mentioned repairing a mirror that had fallen and come apart at the joints. This is what it looks like now with the joints re-glued. The  outer frame is cherry and the inner frame walnut, inlaid with strips of cherry, walnut and mahogany. It's now ready to hang for another 40+ years. 

In the Nelson-Atkins Museum in Kansas City there's carved Quan-yin in their Chinese exhibit  that's a thousand years old. Inside a secret compartment the curators found a scroll with the names of the craftsmen who carved it. They are gone but what they did has not been forgotten.

I'll not claim there to be anything special about my work. But things that have lasting meaning will endure, and the meaning in this case reflects a partnership between friends. I made it in the hopes it would last, and my friends who have  cared for it for these years made sure it did.

Make, fix and create...

Saturday, September 25, 2021

a surprise inside

Yesterday a friend returned a mirror I'd made in 1978 for repair. The line from which it was suspended had broken. The mirror fell onto a table and then onto the floor, causing three corners of the frame to break loose. 

In taking it apart I found a surprise inside. I'd used a page from our local Times-Echo newspaper as a backing for the mirror and there was a photo showing a candidate for Arkansas Governor visiting our city and a good friend Lucilla Garrett looking on. The candidate for governor is one others might recognize and not just in the state of Arkansas. 

The mirror is reglued, reassembled and readied to hang for another 40 years. I left the paper inside to be discovered again.

Make, fix and create... 

Friday, September 24, 2021

look and see.

When I was in first grade nearly every other child in the US read the exact same books in school, Dick and Jane.  I remember one particular line to this day. "Look, look, see spot run." And there is nothing more important than getting children to look and see, unless it's also to touch and become engaged.

I've written before about Admiral Beaufort's wonderful scale that allowed common British seamen to become engaged in making accurate scientific observations and thus becoming a part of science. 

On Wednesday we installed a game camera at the Clear Spring School to observe the comings and goings of bats that nest in a vent under the eaves of one of our classroom buildings. We also installed a long plywood box underneath the nesting area to be able to measure the amount of guano produced. I have no way of knowing how many poops a small brown bat can produce in a day, but now we have a means to measure. After just one day the 40-50 bats nesting during the day produced well over 100 small poops.

Yesterday I had an interview with an editor at Independent School Magazine interested in my 20 years of teaching at the Clear Spring School for their section on School News. A 300 word article is not going to tell much about the Clear Spring School, but a photo or two might help and I'll be selecting some to send today. 

One of the benefits of wood shop is facilitating the advancement of science by getting students to look and see for themselves and to develop critical thinking skills. Having a simple frame of reference for such things as wind velocity (Thanks Admiral) or poop, thanks to our plywood box, can bring students to a better understanding of science so that instead of science being abstract and disconnected from our lives, we become a part of what advances our human understanding. It's what we learned from Dick and Jane. Look, see.

Make, fix and create...

Tuesday, September 21, 2021

the ARC

I received copies of the Advanced Review Copy (ARC) of my new book in the mail yesterday and took one by to a local mentor and sent another off to a friend in Berryville. The cover of the published volume may change and the last chapter received serious editing and addition after the print version of the ARC went to press. The purpose of the ARC is to get various reviewers and distributors on board with promotion of the book.

In the woodshop at the Clear Spring School we've been at work making things needed for campus improvement. Yesterday we made sorting lids for recycling, and flag holders for class flags (more may be explained about that later.) Today we'll make book holders  of a new design that will be used in our school library.

Make, fix and create...

Saturday, September 18, 2021

Serial Position Effect

Serial Position Effect refers to an important principle in psychology having to do with how and if we remember things, and attention to it can have profound effect on the effectiveness of teaching.

In wood working how we break down things into steps can have an affect on how the steps are remembered, and so in teaching wood shop whether with kids or adults, how we offer necessary information can make all the difference in the world.

In a list of items, steps or facts we have a greater ability to remember the first things and the last, and a greater tendency to forget the things in the middle. Test yourself in this. Head to the grocery store with a list in your head of things you need to pick up and then see which things have been forgotten, which in all likelihood will be things in the middle.

Remembering the first things on the list is called the primary effect, and the things mentioned last are called the regency effect. By avoiding overloading the middle steps in an order of operations can be better recalled. This can be help for a teacher planning lessons. Arrange things in groups of two or three ad suggest o the student, "ask me for your next steps when you've done the first two."

Another way teachers use serial position effect is to offer the most important facts or information first and last with things of lesser importance occupying the middle ground.

I was taking with a friend this morning about the challenge of training employees to be effective educators. They may not even think of themselves in that role. But they are, especially in sales of things that are complex and sometimes daunting to the user. 

Teaching and marketing are a whole lot alike and the  principles of Educational Sloyd can fit. Make sure your explanations for things fit the prior experience of the customer. Getting to know our customer and their prior experiences can help you to tailor your presentation of information to fit their needs. Build from the known to the unknown, from the easy to more difficult, from the simple to the complex and from the concrete to the abstract. And sometimes what the customer wants is not all that much complex information, but information that is tailored to their framework of understanding, along with the assurance that you care bout their success in the use of your product.

Make, fix and create...

Friday, September 17, 2021

Inspired to Make: Stories of the Onkwehón:we - Stephen Jerome

Shared by Lee Valley 
Make, fix and create...

Stand aside. Step back

This week at the Clear Spring School we began going over the rules of woodshop. We have a number of new students so going over the rules is important, and one of my returning students noted a new rule that should be added. When someone is doing something, stand back, out of the way.

Yesterday we finished the last round of edits to my new book before it gets turned over to the copy editor. I'll have one more chance to look at it after that, just before it goes to press. My editor said that they have a tight window of opportunity for the copy editor to do their work. So it's time for me to follow the new woodshop rule, stand aside, step back. And that means I do other things. I went to the wood shop to apply Danish oil to boxes. 

The Wisdom of Our Hands is a book I envisioned twenty years ago and it's completion is finally in sight thanks to Linden Press. If I'm lucky it will sell well and make a mark on how we see education and how we see ourselves. I should receive advanced review copies of the book in the mail today.

Yesterday I was pleased to welcome two great art teachers to my Clear Spring School Woodshop. Robert Dancik and Sarah Doremus are our resident artists at ESSA for the month in a trial program to expand our outreach into the education community. They've been working with students in the public schools and in our own ESSA studios as well. You can learn about their work through these links:

We expect to welcome larger cohorts of artists in the future to collaborate and learn together and make use of the campus housing we finished last year.

Make, fix and create...

Monday, September 13, 2021

A musical interlude

I was reading this morning about Noel Gilbert, my violin teacher from when I was in first or second grade. I was thinking of him due to the important role that music plays in our lives and that the sounds of craftsmanship are not that very different from music. In woodworking there are textures and lines and punctuation points that help establish rhythm and meaning.

 When I was in second grade my mother took me to audition for violin lessons with the director of the Memphis Symphony orchestra. I remember the audition in which he asked me to sing and then examined my mother’s fingers and my own. He noted that my pitch was OK and that my long slender fingers might be useful on a violin.

The violin upon which I was to play had been my mother’s when she was a child. I took lessons for only a short time but remember to this day as I played Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star and was accompanied by the teacher on a larger violin and his son on a cello. They made beautiful music around me as their parts wove in and out and surrounded me. 

Much later when I’d first moved to Eureka Springs, there was a woman learning to play the violin. Downtown Eureka Springs is like a canyon, a narrow street with two story buildings on both sides. A set of good fingers on the neck and a sensitive hand on the bow during the late hours when the stores are closed and the tourists have gone back to their motels, creates a haunting sound that one would consider sublime. 

The screeches made by the fresh hand on the violin was not that. I admired her bravery under the circumstances. Others may have said something critical to her for I never heard her play again. There are gifts granted to the young in such things. One is the indiscriminate mind that allow for actual play. 

There are challenges in learning to play the guitar after becoming a lover of Segovia. What we do in music or in crafts may not come out as pure as our hopes or what we might see in our mind’s eye. And we can soon tire of having disappointed ourselves. There may be a very good reason why the word "play" or "playing" is associated with our engagement in music whether we’re just listening or attempting to play on our own. To play is always to give oneself over to a process where the exacting nature of the results cannot be known. So play. Let your own sense of playfulness without regard for the screeching sounds you make lead you forward in your craft.

Today children return to classes at the Clear Spring School. If ou want to know about my violin teacher Noel Gilbert, you can find him the Tennessee Encyclopedia

Make, fix and create...

Saturday, September 11, 2021

this morning I look back

As many are also doing this morning, I look back 20 years ago to the morning when much of our world changed. On that morning, 9/11/2001, I was just starting as a part-time woodworking teacher for kids at the brand new Clear Spring High School. As the news began coming from New York of the terror assault on the World Trade Tower, we attempted to gather around a large TV. We were all shaken. And then responding to parental desires that they be able to hold their kids close, we closed early on that terrible day.

Today is a milestone for our nation as it represents miles of twists and turns (many of them false and delusional) that followed from that day. Today also represents the start of my 20th year as a woodworking teacher of kids and marks the anniversary of the launch of my own efforts to reassert an understanding of the value of hands-on learning in our nation's schools. 

I hope to use the coming school year to look back and reflect as well as to move forward.

Make, fix and create...

Friday, September 10, 2021

a tedious task

In making bat houses the most tedious task involves cutting grooves that allow the bats to get a good grip inside. This is most easily done on the table saw, by cutting regularly spaced grooves 1/16 in. deep. They can be spaced between a quarter inch and one half inch apart. Each of the four chamber bat houses require three interior panels grooved as shown and the back, also grooved in the same manner. So for making 4 bat houses, a total of 16 panels grooved in this manner are required.

This is part of what a wood shop teacher does: prepare materials for student learning. In fact, it's what all teachers do.

Clear Spring School is starting classes on Monday and I'll begin having students in woodshop on Tuesday. I'll be preparing materials over the weekend and on Monday morning.

Make, fix and create. 

Thursday, September 09, 2021

bat houses

Yesterday I began preparing materials for my students to make bat houses. While we could spend days with students designing their own bat houses, in this case it's important that we adhere to science and make use of designs that have already been proven in use. The four chamber bat house offers the opportunity for bats to seek warmth by congregating together and to move around inside to the spot they find most comfortable.

We have a large colony of bats nesting in vents under the eves in one of our school buildings and while it can be a challenge to lure a colony of bats to a new location, luxurious new bat houses carefully engineered for their safety and happiness may help. Experimental designs my not.

A good source of information about bats is the Bat House Builder's Handbook, by Merlin D. Tuttle.

One of the tedious jobs in preparing the materials for making bat houses is that of grooving the parts that must be textured for the bats to get a good grip on the insides of the box and that allow them to climb around inside. I've been doing the grooving using the table saw in the school wood shop. We have been enjoying relatively bug free evenings on our deck this summer, and for that, I thank our bats.

The drawing shows the design of the bat houses we're making and detailed plans are available in the book.

Make, fix and create.

Wednesday, September 08, 2021

the space between poetry and prose.

I'm working my way through the last of the edits for my new book, with just a few minor tweaks and corrections before it goes through the copy editing process. My article about making spoon carving knives came out in Quercus Magazine this month and I received a copy in yesterday's mail.

In the meantime, I have meetings this morning with the teaching staff the Clear Spring School as we plan integrated woodworking projects for the coming months. 

A friend of mine asked me about my writing processes. Typical questions are like this: "Do you set aside a number of hours each day to write?" "Do you set a target for the number of pages you hope to write each day?" I tried to explain how much of my work I do at night. Caught in that space between wakefulness and sleep, I'm trapped also between poetry and prose. And I try to relocate myself between those points when I'm up and out of bed. So writing and woodworking are much the same to me. You dream it and let wakeful matters proceed from there.

There's a metaphor that asserts: "Time is money." But let's not get confused. Time is not money. It's meaning. It's art. And it's a whole lot more that money can't buy. And, yes, in the meantime, there are schedules to create and attend and cash flow, bills to pay, etc. I will get about $175.00 for a page and a half. So to write there must be other reasons to do it.

Make, fix and create.

Tuesday, September 07, 2021

a rustic box

One of my students from Marc Adams School of Woodworking sent this photo of a box he made in class and finished when he got home. The interesting iron pull was salvaged from a set of horse hames that had belonged to his grandfather, thus preserving a bit of family heritage in this box.

This was one of at least 5 boxes Terry Tinnin made in class. 

It is gratifying to see what I've shared about box making passed through other hands. 

I have been preparing for this year's classes at the Clear Spring School by tuning equipment and sharpening knives. Sharpening plane irons needs to come next. Today I'll pick up material for building bat houses with one group of students.

Make, fix and create.

Saturday, September 04, 2021

box making with friends

Yesterday morning we finished my box making with friends class at the Clear Spring School, and my students left with boxes they had made. Chuck noted that he could not have made his box without my guidance and support, and that's true. I provided the wood, the tools, the techniques and guided the process throughout, and was very happy to do so. The class was held as a fundraiser for Clear Spring Schoo, so they provided the shop space. My involvement did not diminish the pride they had for their boxes, which had become symbolic of friendship and their own learning.

There are two kinds of educational scaffolding. One is where the teacher sets up all the stuff in the environment, including step-by-step instruction and observation to eliminate possible mistakes. That kind of scaffolding ends when the student steps out of class, finished lesson in hand. You walk into a shop with all provided for your success and then when you leave class the scaffolding is no longer in place.

The other kind of scaffolding is within. It consists of knowledge gained through experience and is transferable from one environment to the next. It's built in the following manner. Start with the interests of the child, proceed from the known to the unknown, from the easy to the more difficult, from the simple to the complex and from the concrete to the abstract. If you've caught me repeating myself again and again, it's because what I've said is worth knowing.

The way that the two forms of scaffolding intersect is through forming of "islands of competence." The feelings of "I did this!" and "I can do that!" can carry forward from external scaffolding to the next learning opportunity.

My friend Kim Brand is putting maker spaces in Indiana schools and recently worked with Maplewood Shop to train 36 teachers from one school. Kim was amazed watching teachers learning as he noted that very few actually followed instructions but all the teachers loved it as their own distinct personalities emerged. 

The purpose of a chemistry laboratory is not different from the purpose of a school wood shop. In either, you can do things that you are not able to do outside the laboratory environment. A shop or laboratory are forms of external scaffolding. Formation of the internal scaffolding is aided by the attention of the teacher who's job is to watch over the points I mentioned before, starting with the interests of the child.

Make, fix and create.

Thursday, September 02, 2021

keeping things simple

In planning school learning experiences that involve doing real things in a relatively short period of time with a group of students, it's important to keep an eye on simplicity. The adult mind can get overly complicated and abstract as we follow proposed threads of inquiry. Most teachers teach the what we were taught, while the learning needs of our students are often different from that.

Yesterday we were discussing making bat houses and spent 30 minutes doing so before we finally got around to actually look at where the bats nest on campus and learn a few things that would have been right before our own eyes had they been open and inquiring. 

I'm reminded of the story of one hand clapping in which the young monk was challenged with the question, "what is the sound of one hand clapping?" The young monk ran all over and kept coming back with proposed answers. "It's the sound of water flowing in the brook." "It's the sound of a child laughing." "It's the sound of rustling leaves." And each answer led him no closer to the simple truth that could have been easily discovered by waving one hand alone in front of his own face.

This calls to mind a principle that I mentioned yesterday from Educational Sloyd. Move from the simple to the complex. Is it the teacher's job to complicate things, or is it best that he or she start simple leading the child to observe and reflect and to move from that point letting complications arise on their own, which they always do?

Make, fix and create.

Wednesday, September 01, 2021

anchored by experience

There are reasons that Educational Sloyd should be important, even to the educators of today. In Salomon’s Theory of Educational Sloyd he laid out basic principles of education that extend far beyond the realm of the manual arts. And while it would be unlikely that those engaged in academic style teaching would accept that they might have something to learn about learning from manual arts education, the principles are as universal as they are concise. They are: 

  • Start with the interests of the child. 
  • Move incrementally from the known to the unknown,
  • And from the easy to the more difficult. 
  • Move from the simple to the more complex 
  • and always from the concrete to the abstract. 

Educational psychologist Jerome Bruner without offering such detail and a hundred years later called this “scaffolding.” Each new learning event if properly "scaffolded" is anchored by prior experience. It is in the failure to connect between the concrete and abstract that our greatest educational failings lie, and this is not only apparent in first grade, but in University training as well. 

Where each new learning event is properly anchored it becomes part of what we call "a body of knowledge." A body of knowledge is more than disconnected facts. And it serves to propel students toward lifelong learning and service to others.

I'm busy planning my twentieth year of teaching at the Clear Spring School and will spend some time looking back on what we've done and learned.

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

Tuesday, August 31, 2021

looking way back

This is a photo of my earlier  self, from my freshman year at Hastings College 55 years ago and in my room in the Bronc Hall dorm. I was trim, smart, studious, and thought that I might become a lawyer. 

When we're that age, it's very difficult to know where we'll end up. My thanks to roommate Karl Budd for leading me down memory lane. 

I'm missing our 50th class reunion this weekend due to covid-19 in Arkansas.

Make fix and create. Or at least imagine yourself doing so.

Monday, August 30, 2021

lying flat

Young adults in the Asia have been growing tired of the rat race as they try relentlessly to get ahead. Many are taking a break from the pressures and they call it "lying flat."

I suggest that instead of settling for less, they might settle for more. Using the hands to craft useful and beautiful things might do. There's growth in that and when you rise up, your community may follow.

I'm completing a new keyed miter sled to use when I have an editor from Fine Woodworking here to take step-by-step photos for an article on box making in October. It is shown in the photo.  The adjustable stop block rests in a T-track and is locked in position with a t-bolt and plastic nut.

Make, fix and create...

Sunday, August 29, 2021

A lovely site.

One of our Clear Spring School graduates has opened a new luthier shop in Helsinki along with a partner where they make and restore stringed instruments. 

Mayim Alpert graduated from Clear Spring School long before I began teaching here and before we began having students of high school age. You may enjoy exploring their website.  

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

Wednesday, August 25, 2021

lined up and oiled

I've been applying danish oil to boxes as you can see in the photo. The 20 boxes were made during the late spring and early summer but waited patiently while I sanded them and got them ready for finish. 

The finish used is inspired by the Sam Maloof formula that you can mix yourself. Mix 2 parts oil based polyurethane, one part boiled linseed oil and one part mineral spirits. The finish can be mixed in small batches and is relatively inexpensive to mix up. I use a plastic container that has ounce markings on the side. I pour in polyurethane from the can, up to the ten ounce mark, then linseed oil up to the fifteen ounce mark and then top off with mineral spirits to the 20 ounce mark. 

One advantage of this finish is that it can be wiped on and rubbed out to a pleasant sheen. It requires two coats. Another advantage is that it smells OK. And if you are going to work with a finish, you'll want it to be pleasant to the nose as well as to the hands. 

But what about the hands? You can wear rubber gloves if you like, or use sawdust to scrub the oil off your hands before washing with soap and water. In a wood shop sawdust is in abundant supply and readily absorbs oil from oily hands.

Make, fix and create...

Monday, August 23, 2021

Work Sharp

I bought a Work Sharp Precision Knife Sharpener for the purpose of keeping our sloyd knives at the Clear Spring School sharp. Unfortunately, it was not designed to sharpen such small blades effectively at my desired angle. 

So I made a simple jig that locks in the jaws of the devise and holds the knife through the use of three quarter in. diameter rare earth magnets.  The jig is in two parts, left and right. It works perfect and I'm grateful to have the skills required to design and make a devise that might be useful to others. 

The knife is now razor sharp and ready for fine honing on a leather strop. 

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

Sunday, August 22, 2021

How Kindergarten changed the world (and can again)

Scott Bultman and Match Frame Creative has announced the release of the first part of their Kindergarten documentary series on a subscription basis. Three dollars and 99 cents pay for a 48 hour rental of the 72 minute pilot episode. 

Funds generated will help pay for the editing and release fo future episodes. The Garden of Children tells us much of what we need to know in the reform and restoration of American education.

You'll find the series to be beautifully produced and inspirational. You'll find my students and I featured in one or more episodes. In the meantime, the forward for my new book my Matt Crawford is ready for final editing and inserting into the text.

Make, fix and create.

Saturday, August 21, 2021

on Amazon

My new book has been posted on Amazon even though it will not be released until February 2022. The posting offers a very brief synopsis of the book's contents. February feels a long ways off. This book has been in the works for 20 years now, so the last few months will make me feel impatient to see how readers respond.

Make, fix and create...

the mind at work

Esteemed writer and educator Mike Rose passed away a few days ago. He's a person whose writing I admired, as he made clear that the work of labor was not devoid of intellect as so many in the upper echelons of management have wanted us to believe. 

Mike's mother was a waitress and he had marveled at how she kept straight all the various wants and needs of each person at each table in the restaurant where she worked. His writing was to remind us of the dignity and value of work. His seminal book, The Mind at Work has been on my shelves for years and I've referred to him many times in conversation and in my blog,  I thank Mike for his contributions to education and to my own thoughts.

"We are students of words; we are shut up in schools and colleges and recitation room from ten to fifteen years, and come out at the last with a bag of wind, a memory of words, and do not know a thing. We cannot use our hands, or our legs, or eyes, or our arms... In a hundred high schools and colleges, this warfare against common sense still goes on."—Ralph Waldo Emerson

Make, fix and create... 

Friday, August 20, 2021

A+ Arkansas

We completed our third year of A+ Schools training at the Clear Spring School yesterday with the key word being relevance. If students do not see what is offered in school as being relevant to them, touching upon their own lives and solving the problems that are important to them, they tune out. This is a factor in education that haunts all levels from kindergarten through advanced degrees.

One of the most natural human engagements aside from breathing and eating and moving around is to learn, and yet we create schools in which students are held back from learning by failure to engage them in subject material  that is relevant to them.

I'll quickly repeat the principles of Educational Sloyd as these are essential to providing the scaffolding necessary to provide an effective educational environment. Move from the known to the unknown, Move from the easy to the more difficult, move from the simple to the complex and move from the concrete to the abstract. Start from and adhere to the interests of the child.

Lose the students' interests and you've lost the value of instruction. 

My Guide to Woodworking with Kids received a kind review in Fine Woodworking written by my friend Joe Youcha, founder and director of Building To Teach, a teacher training program that uses the building process to provide context for math. It is quite rare for Fine Woodworking to review books, so I hope this helps to sell copies and to renew and interest in the use of crafts to establish relevance in our nation's schools.

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

Thursday, August 19, 2021

at the cutting edge

I've ordered and will be testing a new sharpening system for us to use at the Clear Spring School to keep our sloyd knives as sharp as they were when they first arrived years ago. The laminated blade with very hard steel bonded within more flexible outer layers has given our knives long life, but they are ready for a tune-up.

Today we have trainers from A+ Schools helping us plan for the coming year, and as we embark on further refinements of the Clear Spring School educational environment. 

We at the Clear Spring School are at the cutting edge of education and as is always the case, honing is required. And if you were to wonder where metaphors come from that help us to explain things to each other, look no further than the hands and the processes we use to create useful beauty in our own lives. 

The publisher of my new book, The Wisdom of our hands, has been busy preparing the promotional material that will accompany the release of the advanced review copy, and I'm planning my teaching schedule for 2022.

Make, fix and create.

Tuesday, August 17, 2021

review in Fine Woodworking

Fine Woodworking is considered by many to be the best American woodworking magazine, and this month they've run a review of my Guide to Woodworking With Kids. The review was written at their request by Joe Youcha, founder and director of Building To Teach, a teacher training program that uses the building process to provide context for math instruction. Joe was the designer of the wooden boats we built a few years ago at the Clear Spring School.

Make fix and create. Assist others in learning likewise.

Trees that bear witness

My friend Elliot Washor shared an article on the Harbor Freight Fellows blog  about the trees that bore witness to the horrible devastation from our use of nuclear weapons during WWII.

In Hiroshima, the trees that remained standing and alive during the terrible conflagration are marked and held sacred as Hibakujumoku, the trees that suffered from the Atomic blast. Each is identified by species and with it's distance from the blast recorded in a small sign. The trees are visited and held sacred as signs of hope. 

You can find Elliot's blog post at In it he mentions my friend Joe Youcha to whom I introduced him last week, and he mentions my new book, Wisdom  of our Hands. But the article Elliot shared about Hibakujumoku is one that I strongly urge you to read. It is a touching thing. I repeat the link:

As I often tell my students, human beings are narrative creatures. We tell our stories. Trees, also are narrative. Where there's a knot in wood, there had been a branch in life. But for the stories to be read and for the stories to be understood, an intersection between man and the forests must be established and made clear.

Make, fix and create...

Friday, August 13, 2021

5 days

The photo shows my happy class at the Marc Adams School of Woodworking, along with the beautiful boxes they made. I return to Arkansas in the morning.

Make, fix and create...

Tuesday, August 10, 2021

the illusions of class

Harbor Freight Fellows has reposted on of my earlier blog posts here:

It remains worth reading as it describes the illusions of class. My class at the Marc Adams School of Woodworking is going well with most students having more than one box in the works.

I learned that Matthew Crawford's blurb will be featured on the cover of the ARC of my new book. His blurb is as follows:

 "For decades now, Doug Stowe has been one of the most humane voices in education. He insists we need those quiet moments when intelligence shines forth in practical activities. He shows that they hold clues to our nature that normally lie beneath the notice of our obsessive schooling and credentialing, but are indispensable to a good life."

This evening I had dinner at school with a friend Kim Brand who is working to put woodworking and maker spaces in Indiana Schools.

I learned this evening that a review of my Guide to Woodworking with Kids is in Fine Woodworking's current issue along with an ad promoting sales. I want to thank Joe Youcha of the Building Small Boats Alliance for his review which I'm hoping to see soon.

The photo is of my students' descriptions of the boxes they want to make.

Make, fix and create,

this morning, day two

I am at the Marc Adams School of Woodworking spending part of my time in Stowe Hall, the bench room temporarily named in my honor. The signage is a special touch offered by Marc to each of his instructors as we pass through and teach. 

I learned yesterday that Matt Crawford will write the introduction to my new book. Matt is the author of Shop Class as Soulcraft, a New York Times best seller. I'm pleased and honored as Matt has become an old friend.

In the wood shop yesterday my students began making mitered boxes after we laid some groundwork using the principles and elements of design. Today, in addition to assembling the boxes we made yesterday, we'll begin finger jointed boxes.

Make, fix and create.

Sunday, August 08, 2021

Purpose and meaning

A podcast episode of the Hidden Brain explores "purpose" and the profound effects that cultivating a sense of purpose has on our own lives while providing an avenue through which we may affect others. 

The podcast can be found here:

The podcast is worth listening to as we seek greater meaning in our own lives. Some folks are led to a sense of purpose by the example presented to them by others. Some are pushed by unique and often tragic events that make their paths forward certain and clear. Some cultivate their own sense of purpose in a more gradual manner as they begin to assemble pieces from their own experience.

An example of finding purpose from the example of others is the way my wife Jean in her role as a public librarian has inspired a number of young folks to study library science and to become librarians. An example of someone thrust forward by tragic circumstances is my friend Paul Leopoulis, founder of the Thea Foundation that supports the arts in schools here in Arkansas. Paul and his wife built the foundation in response to the tragic death of their daughter Thea who had a promising future in the arts.

I am more an example of the third path. Being told at an early age that my brains were in my hands, I began testing the idea and wondering if the same beneficial potential of the hands and brain working in partnership would not be equally true for all.

Today I'm traveling to Indiana to teach at the Marc Adams School of Woodworking. I'm masked up in an N-95 that makes me look like a duck, but safe in my travels.

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

Friday, August 06, 2021


I'm busy packing for travel to the Marc Adams School of Woodworking where I'll teach a 5 day class on Box Making. I'm feeling a bit rusty about teaching adults due to the suspension of most of my usual classes due to the pandemic. It is agonizing to watch as the delta variant and low vaccination rate in my county in Arkansas have made our own area one of particular concern. The focus in the international news has shifted from Arkansas to other states that have become even worse.

Being vaccinated I'm unlikely to have debilitating effects from exposure to the virus, but I'll wear an N-95 mask for my journey as a way to protect myself and also protect  others. I'll arrive in Indiana on Sunday to begin setting up for my class.

My new book, the Wisdom of our Hands, has been handed off for its next step, the printing of the advanced review copy. So now our attention is directed towards advanced promotion of the book that will come out in February.

The Gallery at the Central Arkansas Library has added my work to their website here:

The photo is from an earlier year's class at the Marc Adams School of Woodworking.

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