Thursday, July 29, 2021

Almost done...

Yesterday I went through my personal library of old books, listing some by title, author, publisher and date for use in the bibliography of my new book. 

The list is long so I'll do some weeding and thinning before the book goes to press. The next step for the publisher will be to prepare the ARC, (Advanced Reader Copy) that will have a proposed cover design in place. The printed and bound ARC will be distributed to a number of reviewers and also to specialists in the publishing industry who will provide feedback aimed at bringing the book to a wide audience. The ARC should be ready for distribution in early September. 

I began work on this book in 2001, as I had it in mind when I began teaching at the Clear Spring School. Its content has shifted and morphed through the years as my understanding and experience have morphed as well. I had begun looking for an agent to represent this book to publishers over a dozen years ago, and learned from them that the concept had not yet matured. I had given up several times. 

Then in June 2020 (Just over a year ago) I got an email from the head of Linden Press noting that he'd read my comments on a book about mindfulness and wondered if I would consider writing a book for them. I have been surprised a number of times in my life to be led by forces unseen and unknowable (circumstances) to do just what I had in mind.

I want to sing high praise for editors. Throughout my woodworking/writing career, what I've been able to convey has become richer and more meaningful through the eyes and understandings that others have brought to bear. So in this case I thank Clare Jacobson who took my manuscript and moved many things to more fitting locations, challenged me to be less vague in some of my text, and made what I'd written more ready to be understood. Lot's of unneeded, distracting fluff got trimmed away making the book much better than it would have been without her help.

A friend had asked if I had a ideal book in mind that I hoped my book might emulate in some way. I suggested Aldo Leopold's Sand County Almanac for it being both practical and poetic. My editors, Clare Jacobson and Kent Sorsky have helped move it in that direction.

This type of book is so different from the books I've written in the past. I'm looking forward to February when it will be released. The image is of a sample cover design.

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

Tuesday, July 27, 2021


In planning my book, the Wisdom of our hands, I  was asked by the publisher at Linden Press about the approximate length of the proposed book. I told him 50-60,000 words. After most of the editing is complete, we are now at 52,639 words. With a few illustrations, and the addition of the index and front material the book will fall in at about 220-240 pages. So I'm pleased to see that my original projection has been met. 

The next step for the publisher is the printing of what's called an ARC or Advanced Review Copy which will be circulated both digitally and in print form to a number of reviewers, those we hope will offer  blurbs and to those candidates we may ask to write a forward to the book.

I've also been asked to provide a bibliography and we're discussing the addition of suplemental material at a the end of the book.

Make, fix and create.

Monday, July 26, 2021

the real world

 I've been going over edits of my new book, attending to the editor's comments and questions, and realized that I make a number of references to the "real" world that might be confusing to some of my readers who are so heavily invested in alternative and digital realities that they might question why I do not regard those realms that capture so much of their attention as being real.

So, without meaning to offend, I'll tell how you can distinguish real and true from false and made up. You can call it "the smell test," though it involves more senses than the sense of smell alone.

When something is real, the experience of it involves ALL the senses. When something is artificial or made up, that is not the case. So, is it any wonder that some folks retain an urge to feel the full range of sensory experience? The lack of engagement of the full range of senses, is like fingers sliding over glass. And we'd have to be dumb-numb to our own bodies to mistake one world for the other.

There are two sensory things that are difficult to emulate through the screens of our computers. One is the smell of things. The other is the full range of interaction with gravity and sensing through the hands, fingers, musculature and mind of the tactile qualities of life and doing real things. Those real things have weight and texture. Seeing something made up may convince us to believe in the short term. But a body left hanging loose without the full range of senses to confirm reality, ultimately begins to question.

The other day when I had my one day box making class for supporters of the Clear Spring School, one of the attendees arriving in class noted the strong smell of wood. My own nose is accustomed to that smell, but my student's senses awakened her to welcome the reality of what the day would bring.

Is there something that we can call "the real world" that stands apart from stuff that's made up? I defend the concept and your own senses will confirm.

The drawing developed for the Sloyd teacher training school at Nääs, shows a movement that some in Tai Chi would call "warding off." With the legs spread apart, the body moves forward, shifting weight from one leg to the other as the hands push the tool forward. In this exercise in the real world, you feel the pull of gravity on your own body, the grip of the plane, the resistance of the wood as you push it forward. You see the shaving emerging from the mouth of the plane. You feel the utter smoothness of the fresh surface. You hear the whoosh of the plane cutting the wood. And the smell test? The aroma of freshly planed wood. Of course this is just a picture on your screen. But in real life, there's so much more.

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

Sunday, July 25, 2021

Jointer help

I was contacted by a reader wanting help with his Delta jointer. It was causing snipe at the end of a board, but he was at his wit's end trying to figure out what was wrong, and calls to Delta brought no hope. He was thinking about buying another brand. 

The fix was rather simple. And is related to an understanding of how the jointer works. First, the infeed table and outfield table must be perfectly in the same plane. You can check this with a long very straight piece of wood. Raise the infeed table until it's at the same height as the outfeed table and observe that there are no gaps underneath, either at the middle or at each end. Then when assured that the tables are perfectly aligned, lower the infeed table and with the flat board resting on the outfeed table, adjust its height up or down until the knives, as you rotate the cutterhead by hand, barely touch. 

My reader, following the steps I prescribed, found that his infeed table and outfeed table were perfectly parallel to each other as they must be, and then adjusting the outfeed table as I just prescribed, got perfect results with no snipe at the end of the board being planed. Snipe is a small deeper cut that can take place during planing or jointing wood.

It's nice to be able to help.

Make, fix and create.

Saturday, July 24, 2021

The certainty of what is vs. the uncertainty of what might become.

A friend of mine's wife had invited a neighbor over to dinner, learning only after the invitation was made and dinner ready to serve that the neighbor had refused to take the vaccine. Asked why, she replied that the effects of the vaccine were uncertain. And so we're left wondering how to assist the recalcitrant to act in their own defense and the defense of others.

There have been millions of doses of vaccines administered around the world with minimal significant effects. The Delta variant poses an even more insidious risk of illness, possible long term effects, possible death and likely disruption to our nation's economy. While the feeling of being shunned, shamed and avoided due to one's medical choices may seem unfair, that seems to be the lot that some are casting for themselves. Those who rightfully choose to protect themselves by avoiding those who choose not to protect themselves need not feel shamed themselves for their choices. Being one of those fortunate to have received the vaccine and having suffered only very small detrimental effects from it, I plead that others do the right thing, and choose the right path through which we take each other's welfare to heart.

I had a great day yesterday, box making with friends who'd never done anything quite like it in their lives. We see interesting, previously unrevealed sides of each other when we do things of that kind. Today I'm at work going through the edits for chapter 7 of my new book, Wisdom of our hands.

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

Friday, July 23, 2021

Rosebud's retreat

Yesterday evening Rosie and I attended the opening ceremony of our new instructor lodging units at ESSA and took special interest in Rosebud's Retreat, a cottage named after Rosie. Rosebud is a nickname given to Rosie along with several others last year by Nick and Jonah Burstein when they were visiting last year. 

The cottages are delightful and were designed by our architect, Dave McKee. It was special to see a number of old friends at the event and Rosie was a very good dog, showing love and appreciation to all the new friends she met.

I had donated small cabinets made during the writing of my book "Building Small Cabinets" so there is one in each of the 8 units. A former board member asked, "did you make those?" He was certain he'd recognized my style in the work. I hope the cabinets become places where visiting artist will put interesting things to share with each other. "I found this pretty rock." "I made this lovely small object." I'm leaving this small thing for others to enjoy...

Today I taught a small group of friends to make boxes in the Clear Spring School wood shop. Chuck, Ramona, Sharon and Dave have been long time friends and also long time friends of the Clear Spring School. A couple years ago, before Covid, Ramona bid on and won a box making class for 4 I had offered at the Spring Fling Auction to support the school. So, today was the day and the photo shows what we did.

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

Wednesday, July 21, 2021

avoid the willy nilly

I got an email this morning from a friend in Australia who had seen on their national news that rising cases in Arkansas are once again putting us at serious risk from Covid-19. He was worried about us, and rightly so.

In Australia, Richard and his wife are just now scheduled to get their second doses of vaccine. Fortunately, folks in Australia are also much more likely to take science seriously and follow the guidance of medical experts than is the case in Arkansas. Wearing masks and social distancing works and being smart folks, they have stayed safe.

Here in the US we have an abundance of vaccine and an overly active misinformation machine that discourages folks from getting it. Two of my fall classes are likely to be cancelled due to the refusal of folks to follow medical advice and we have an ESSA board meeting this afternoon to discuss our covid-19 policy going forward for the next critical months.

People are free to get the vaccine or choose not to. Those who choose not to put others at risk. I will try seriously to avoid those who have chosen to avoid protecting others while they run around willy nilly spreading the disease and wrecking our economy.

In the shop I've been sanding boxes and getting ready for my current teaching assignments. My editors and I have made it through chapter 2 of my new book as we prepare it for publication. 

The photo shows the wood working classroom at Nääs, Sweden in the late 1800. You will likely note the abundance of women involved. Teachers from all over the world were trained there to teach woodworking to kids.

Make, fix and create. 

Tuesday, July 20, 2021

quadrant hinges

Readers of Popular Woodworking Magazine will find my article about using a story stick technique to install quadrant hinges in the August issue. It is a complicated technique that may not be real easy for all readers to understand. The article can be found here: Learning comes best through the medical school model. See one, do one, teach one. In the article I show how it can be done, but it's up to the reader to test what I've done and then teach others.

Box making classes are very much on my mind. On Friday I have a special box making class that was purchased by friends at a Clear Spring School charity auction.

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

Sunday, July 18, 2021

looking forward and back

Last year at this time, we were buckled down in a routine of not going out and never without masks. My summer classes had been cancelled due to the dangers of travel and the risk of dying from a deadly disease.  My daughter and son in law who had come here to escape the pandemic in New York had returned to Brooklyn as cases here were rising fast and as New Yorkers were getting a grip on things.

The economy was limping along thanks to stimulus spending intended to keep things afloat. Rich folks were raking money in like gangbusters and poor folks like always were figuring out ways to get by. 

Toilet paper was gradually creeping back onto the supermarket shelves, and the idea of a vaccine that might bring safety to us all seemed like a distant dream. Those of us with a modicum of common sense, knew that the next months would be disastrous for some, most particularly for those who chose to ignore science and refused to wear masks. 

So 600,000 deaths later, here we are again. Arkansas was featured today on the front page of New York Times website, due to the spike in coronavirus hospitalizations and deaths among those who have refused vaccinations. On twitter they call these folks #covidiots. And we've learned that those who choose not to get vaccinations still have the power to infect those who have gotten vaccinations. They are willing to die for their beliefs and take other innocent folks down with them, including those whom they profess to love. (personal note, being willing to die for your beliefs can be a noble thing if your beliefs are truly worthy of dying for. Covid-19 misinformation is not).

With every covid-19 post Facebook tells us to get the facts straight. And they will do the same with this post, issuing a warning. And in the meantime, some folks we may care for and about will be continuing to use social media to stop the use of the vaccine thereby putting friends, neighbors and the national economy at risk.

I urge those who choose to remain among the unvaccinated to reconsider for your sake as well as mine. I want to have a normal school year this fall in which children can run and play and those who are entrusted with their care may be equally as carefree. The vaccination can do that for us.

If you've not gotten your shots, get them ASAP.

In the wood shop I've been sanding boxes. I've been revising edited text for my new book and planning one about making jigs.

Make, fix and create...

Friday, July 16, 2021

my teaching schedule

In my wood shop I'm putting small lift tabs on the lids of boxes. The tabs fit in routed grooves and will be glued in place after they and the boxes have their final sanding.

With my book "theWisdom of Our Hands" being edited and prepared for publication, I'm looking forward to starting another book. 

One subject that seems to interest my students is making jigs and fixtures. Jigs make things easy. Jigs make things safe. Jigs make operations faster and repeatable with less error, and making jigs is nearly as much fun as making boxes. 

Should that be my next book, or do you have other book ideas in mind for me?

I was asked about my upcoming adult classes, and my schedule is as follows:

  • August 9-13 Box Making at Marc Adams School of Woodworking, Franklin, Indiana.
  • August 21-22 Box Making with the Alabama Woodworking Guild near Birmingham.
  • September 1-3 Box Making at the Eureka Springs School of the Arts (ESSA).
  • September 17-19 Scandinavian Bentwood Boxes at ESSA.
  • October 21-25 Making a Viking Chest with NACC at ESSA.
  • November 8-12 Making a Viking Chest at ESSA.
  • November 20 Special Veterans Box Making Class at the Eureka Springs School of the Arts.
  • December 10-12 Box Making at ESSA.
Dates may change or classes may be cancelled due to the Coronavirus pandemic and the failure of some to get vaccinations. 

Arkansas is currently in a surge of new cases due to our low vaccination rate, and due to the amount of misinformation readily accepted by people in our state. If you are 12 years old or older in the US and are not vaccinated please get your shots ASAP. They are safe and offer you a means to protect others.

Make, fix and create...

Thursday, July 15, 2021

finishing loose ends

As is always the case, with a woodshop there are always loose ends to tie up, projects to complete. 

These boxes are from my last box making class at ESSA and are made from elm that was harvested when Beaver Lake was formed, and oak that I've left rough sawn showing the marks left by a large circular saw blade. I've used dowels to secure the mitered corner joints.

My book editing is on hold while the editor is on a short break, so we will resume the back and forth transfer of text next week.

Make, fix and create....

Tuesday, July 13, 2021

Harbor Freight Fellows is republishing some of my blog posts on their site, that can be found here:

I received an announcement advertising my class with the Alabama Woodworking Guild August 21-22. The details can be found on their website: Click on the education tab and select classes. You can register and pay using PayPal.

I've begun receiving edits from my new book, Wisdom of our hands. Using track changes on word, I can accept or reject changes and provide clarification where asked for. The book should be ready to send out review copies in a month or so for publication in February.

Make, fix and create...

Saturday, July 10, 2021

Glen Falls Lumber Boom

Here we are in  a world where our forest are undervalued and plastics are making a huge mess of things.  Republicans and Fox News will insist that human induced global warming is not real. They've done so for decades now as they've sheltered the fossil fuel industry from taxation. They've never met a single use plastic they don't love. And when faced with the mess they've made they will will continue to assert that nothing is ever their fault.

This photo shows the effects of man, even at an earlier date. The book from which this photo was scanned was published in 1908. There are large logs as far as the eye can see and filling the Hudson River from one bank to the other.

Make, fix create and protect.

an apology

Last night a man driving a truck and pulling a 26 ft. long travel trailer came up our road, pulled up very close to the house and attempted to pull the blamed thing around our circle drive that's narrow even for cars. 

Rosie the dog was barking at the confusion, and I was incredulous. 

Earlier in the day I'd posted new signs warning that our road is private with limited opportunity to turn around. My putting up new signs was inspired by a slate of similar events like a few months ago when in the dark a couple men came up our road in a huge pickup truck and pulling a 24 ft. pontoon boat. The pickup and pontoon boat together were probably 50 ft. long. At least the folks with the pontoon boat showed enough judgement to avoid the circle drive coming so close to the house.

We live on a road that goes nowhere but to our home, and I am sorry that my incredulity brings anger to situations in which calm and humor might have been more useful.

I asked the man with the travel trailer to keep the thing off our grass and to avoid running over trees. The deep ruts his trailer left across our grass will heal. That he's gone makes it too late for my apology to have any effect. So my apology, I guess is to myself. I'll try to get used to the ridiculousness of other people's judgment and offer more humor and forgiveness. 

And yet, on our long gravel road, with trees and brush growing from both sides of our single lane road, one might think pulling a 26 ft. travel trailer past a half dozen no trespassing signs would not be such a good idea. Face with our road a reasonable person would turn around before things got worse.

Make, fix and create...

Friday, July 09, 2021

burning our southern forests in Europe's power plants is not "green energy" It's a shame some folks are willing to go so low as to destroy the world's forest in this manner.

helpless and entangled

Yesterday I walked outside and found a bird flopping in the ground with its feet helplessly entangled in this thin plastic thread. 

One end was wrapped around the bird's feet and the other tangled in the grass so the bird had no way to take flight. 

I went into the house and got scissors. By grabbing the end tangled in the grass, I was able to pull the helpless bird close to my hand where I was able to snip the line free. The bird took off and I hope is OK despite his misadventure entangled in errant human technology. Some may recognize the plastic thread as coming from the gradual disintegration of a plastic tarp, of the kind that are sold in the millions. I've bought to many myself.

Just as the bird was helplessly entangled, so are we, to the plastics industry that offers convenience at an unreckoned price.

Yesterday, also, I had two telephone meetings with friendly folks at Linden Press. One conversation was about marketing the book to reach a  wide audience. The other was about coordinating the last of the editorial process. The publication date will be in February, 2022.

Make, fix and create...

Thursday, July 08, 2021

The Democratic Yurtsman

My article about Bill Coperthwaite arrived in the mail yesterday within the latest issue of "Quercus Magazine." I hope readers notice it and find it interesting, as Bill and his work need to be remembered. 

You can learn more about my visits with Bill using the search term "coperthwaite" at the upper left hand column of this blog. If you are reading on Facebook and not directly from the blog site, I'll note that the blog where this was originally posted is the better place to read, as that's where the direct search function is provided. http// 

In the meantime, I'm busy working on things for Linden Press prior to the publication of my new book, "Wisdom of our Hands, Crafting, A life." It is part memoir and part how-to guide for the remaking of our communities and culture, bringing in the transformative relationship between the head and hands that we call "craftsmanship."

In preparation for publication, I'm compiling a list of contacts with clubs, editors and known influencers in education and woodworking that might be of help in promoting the book.

Make, fix and create...

Tuesday, July 06, 2021

the delusion of the self-made man

Self-proclaimed self-made men, it seems are a dime a dozen, if we were to accept what they say about themselves. The idea of the self-made man is well-rooted in the American concept of self... the rugged individualist we cherish in the press, history books and American mythology. 

Frederick Douglass, former slave, famous author and orator, whose writings should be featured in every high school course in American history held another view which he described in his lecture, "Self-Made Men." 

In it he wrote:

"Our best and most valued acquisitions have been obtained either from our contemporaries or from those who have preceded us in the field of thought and discovery. We have all either begged, borrowed or stolen. We have reaped where others have sown, and that which others have strown, we have gathered. It must in truth be said, though it may not accord well with self-conscious individuality and self-conceit, that no possible native force of character, and no depth of wealth and originality, can lift a man into absolute independence of his fellowmen, and no generation of men can be independent of the preceding generation. The brotherhood and inter-dependence of mankind are guarded and defended at all points. I believe in individuality, but individuals are, to the mass, like waves to the ocean. The highest order of genius is as dependent as is the lowest. It, like the loftiest waves of the sea, derives its power and greatness from the grandeur and vastness of the ocean of which it forms a part. We differ as the waves, but are one as the sea. To do something well does not necessarily imply the ability to do everything else equally well. If you can do in one direction that which I cannot do, I may in another direction, be able to do that which you cannot do. Thus the balance of power is kept comparatively even, and a self-acting brotherhood and inter-dependence is maintained."

To feel one's own connections and to feel indebted to those connections offer strength and humility. These days, (as always) we need both. 

Make, fix and create...

Monday, July 05, 2021

The extension of mind

I sent one of my spoon carving knives to a friend in Norway and got a note and photo in return. 

The photo shows a spoon being carved from beech along with the spoon knife, carvers axe and sloyd knife used to bring it to this point. Knud had carved a number of spoons in the past but said that the use of this spoon knife for forming the bowl felt like an extension of his own hand. 

Knud's  spoon is a lovely thing as we witness finished form emerging from rough wood.

My spoon carving knives are different from the usual in that the bevel is ground on the inside of the curve, allowing it to be sharpened with a dowel wrapped in sand paper, and the curvature is tighter, allowing it to make very small cuts on the inside of the spoon's bowl shape.

Michael Polyani, in his description of tacit knowledge described how a blind man's stick would at first register in his consciousness within the sensory framework of his hand and mind, but with practice would extend toward sensing in his mind the surface of a his path as well. Tools have both sensory and transformative relationships to the reality in which we live, and the human hand is the connective link. 

How I make spoon carving knives with be featured in an upcoming issue of Quercus Magazine, and an article I wrote in remembrance of Bill Coperthwaite will be coming to subscribers in the next issue.

Make, fix and create.

Saturday, July 03, 2021

a box for a friend

This box is made of ash, oak and walnut with a lift lid and is made for the ashes of my friend Roger Dale. 

The walnut handles are designed so that you can lift the whole box or lift the lid separately. The wood used in the lid has the markings from a rotary saw mill, reminding that wood tells stories just like we do. (if you're paying attention.)

Make, fix and create.

Thursday, July 01, 2021

Family festival

Yesterday we had our end of school year Family Festival at the Clear Spring School. Students and staff were working for the last month to be ready for it, and  in the wood shop we had a display of whittling, camp stools, a buddy bench and top making to interest parents and guests. 

It was a delight for me to see our kids step in as teachers, sharing their enthusiasm and knowledge.

The entire campus was filled with displays of student work. The outdoor classroom I helped a student build two years ago was the stage for musical performances, and the field of Froebel blocks provided seating for guests. So I'm pleased to see that I've left a mark.

I was awake in the night as a witness to a thread of interconnectedness that ties us each to one another. Imagine a line of ants down from the upper limbs of a tree, down to the dirt at its base, and then into the grass where it's impossible for the eye to follow. We are connected by such things, and what we do and what we do to or for each other as well as what's done for us forms the field of our interconnectedness. To sense that we are a part of larger things was one of the objectives of Kindergarten when it was invented by Friedrich Froebel in the early to mid 1800's. One could not have attended our family festival yesterday without feeling a part of larger things. And while I welcome the end of the school year, and the chance to catch up on things in my own shop, the joy from yesterday's celebration will be carried in my heart.

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

Wednesday, June 23, 2021

day 3

This morning I have a helper teaching my kindergarten class at the Clear Spring School and I begin my third day of box making class at the Eureka Springs School of the Arts. My students there are making great progress and each has a lovely box in the works.

I'm making a special box for the ashes of a friend, Roger Dale, who passed away in Wichita Kansas last week. Roger was an artist and a mentor for me and so many others. He had taught high school art in Bentonville and in Berryville and guided me in making my first dulcimers. He was a dog lover. We built an Olson Fast Fire wood kiln on his property near the White River and spent many hours putzing around together with trials motorcycles. I had no better friends than Roger and his wife Teresa and hold them both dear in my thoughts. The box for Roger's ashes has served as my demonstration box for teaching my students this week, a thing that Roger would appreciate, I'm sure. We know there are no firm boundaries between us. And when we say that someone lives on in our hearts, we know that to be the truth.

Today my students will begin putting hinges on their boxes and get busy on other boxes reflecting things they want to learn in class.

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

Monday, June 21, 2021

Investing in investigation.

A Stanford study has determined that high school students lack the digital skills to spot fake news. Adults suffer from the same malady, but I question whether the skills lacking are digital ones, or whether they are more closely related to failure to integrate what we can learn from engagement in real life with the digital world.

A friend questioned my use of the term "real world." But there is a difference that requires noting. 

On the internet, things are made to appear simple, when in fact, life is more complex and chaotic, and while we might crave easy answers, the truth requires investment in investigation. The cartoon illustrates the dilemma we face.

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

Kids need dirt and danger?

 A reader, Lisa, sent this link to an article in the Atlantic, "Kids need dirt and danger." It is a good read that challenges assumptions about what children really need. Do we script their lives for them, or do we prepare them for life?

Today I start a 5 day box making class at the Eureka Springs School of the Arts as we attempt to reassert normality in the covid-19 era. 

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

Saturday, June 19, 2021

returned to print

I learned yesterday that 2 of my books that F&W Publishing had allowed to go out of print before their bankruptcy and before the book rights were bought by Penguin Random House, have been brought back in print and made available on Amazon. One of these books is my first, Creating Beautiful Boxes with Inlay Techniques.

My 2nd book Simply Beautiful Boxes, was published in 2000. 

Another of my books currently managed and sold by Penguin Random House books is Build 25 Beautiful Boxes, a compilation of the first two books. If you want these books in their original form, buy them. If you want to save some money buy the compilation that includes almost all the contents from the first two books.

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

family style education

An interesting article about a return to the one room schoolhouse ideal for American education has been circulating through the Clear Spring School community, as we have embarked on our own path in that direction. As in many things, Clear Spring School has been ahead of the curve. The article in Forbes can be found here:

The notion of education taking place across different ages—where students are also teachers, and where team-based education proliferates—is indeed an exciting vision for the future. In fact, it’s exactly what happens in our modern-day workplaces and ideally in our democracy too.

And in our families as well. In an industrialized view of education, size matters and the tendency is for schools to become of enormous size in which the individual is marginalized. In the one room school house approach, families are involved and made important, and the learning is supercharged in all directions. 

One of the first truly progressive educators, Johann Heinrich Pestalozzi described the formula in his books Henry and Gertrude, and How Gertrude Teaches Her Children. The relationship between children of various ages forming family-like bonds and through which the medical school model of see one, do one, teach one can be practiced is key. And this simple formula should prevail in all schools.

But then of course, to see one, do one, and teach one, requires that you have something to do other than sitting through mind numbing lectures or thumbing through books or what's online. That's where the Clear Spring School model has the opportunity to excel. We do stuff. Wood shop, music, art, sewing, the culinary arts and the bee garden all add substance and depth to learning and a means through which our kids can show one another and prove to themselves what they can do.

Today I'll be making a presentation via zoom to the Alabama Woodworking Guild prior to a class I'll teach there in August.

Make, fix and create.

Friday, June 18, 2021

giant sofa

Our giant Froebel blocks at the Clear Spring School are constantly being  rearranged by kids, usually as some kind of fort or obstacle course. The other day when I arrived on campus the students had built a giant sofa. This project required the collaboration of efforts by a group of kids working together. I like the way they arranged them with a means to climb up and I'm sorry I missed seeing them putting their sofa to use.

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

Thursday, June 17, 2021

experience in the real world

Yesterday I made a short presentation to our Clear Spring High School students on the Harbor Freight Fellows program that promotes internships in the trades. 

For much too long it has been assumed that students upon arriving at high school age would have to make a choice whether they were going to college or not, and that some would be directed into the trades, those being students insufficiently prepared or or unable to meet the rigors of academia. This was based on a model described by a known racist, Woodrow Wilson who as president of Princeton University had said: 

"We want one class of persons to have a liberal education, and we want another class of persons, a very much larger class, of necessity, in every society, to forgo the privileges of a liberal education and fit themselves to perform specific difficult manual tasks."— Woodrow Wilson

Wilson, as our American president, had signed into law the Smith-Hughes Act (1917) which funneled federal dollars into manual and industrial arts training, separating it from academics, thereby creating two tracks in American education, one "upper" leading to white collar employment and one lower, leading to servitude in the trades.

On the other hand, and as I attempted to explain to our students at the Clear Spring School, the education of hand and the education of mind are best not kept separate. They refresh and reinforce each other, a thing Wilson evidently did not understand.

In the early 1960's my mother who had been educated as a Kindergarten teacher in the 1940's decided to return to work and was given a job teaching in Omaha, Nebraska, on a conditional teaching certificate that required her to return to college to attain a 4 year degree. It was a challenging time for our family, with my mother teaching school during the day and attending college at night. It required my sisters and I to take greater responsibilities around the house, but it was an exciting time also due to the excitement my mother found in her studies. 

Her main competition for good grades were from the "Boot strappers" who having left the military were given the chance to attend college. She noted a marked difference between those students in class who had experience and maturity over those who were simply being shuffled forward through the process of getting their college degrees. Along with experience derived from their participation in the real world, the boots strappers brought seriousness and a deeper level of engagement to their classes thus raising the bar for others.

To make a simple point that has great value, getting a trade and learning from it is not a stopping point, but a beginning. Using the principles of educational sloyd as our learning model, we start with the interests of the child, move 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, at each step building confidence and competence in the student. What you learn in plumbing has direct relationship to what you learn in physics, and what you learn in the wood shop can have direct relationship to every aspect of life. What you learn in mastering a trade can be utilized and leveraged in the quest for higher knowledge which is often not as high as one might hope as it is too often isolated in abstraction and fabrication of made up talking points.

For much too long the trades have been seen as a dead end, but as educators across the US began to insist that every kid go to college, we abandoned the most basic notion, that every child should be prepared for life. That involves (as Wilson suggested) fitting ourselves to perform difficult manual tasks, but also engaging at the same time in understanding matters of philosophy, poetry, religion, math, the arts and the sciences. The interesting thing that's been proven time and time again is that engagement in the physical world brings deeper understanding of all else.

When my mother returned to college to get her four year degree, our whole family was brought to an understanding, observing her model, of the value of life long learning and the joy that can bring. 

As I urged my students yesterday, I urge you all as well. Learn a trade and apply what you've learned as a starting point, not the end of your development. The illustration above is from Nääs, the home of Educational Sloyd where teachers were taught to educate both the hand and mind for the benefit of both the individual and society. Educational Sloyd training in the US declined  after Wilson's implementation of the Smith-Hughes Act, 1917, putting into law Wilson's ideal of maintaining society's separation into two classes.

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

Wednesday, June 16, 2021

camp stools and buddy bench

Yesterday we finished camp stools and a buddy bench in the Clear Spring School wood shop. The photo shows the use of Japanese saws to cut the tops of through tenons attaching the legs. Even the youngest were involved.

Today I have a practice zoom session with the Alabama Woodworking Guild for a Saturday morning zoom session and will begin preparing for a weeklong box making class at ESSA that starts Monday.

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

Monday, June 14, 2021

tour guide...

 This morning I played tour guide, taking Arkansas Democrat-Gazette columnist Rex Nelson to my favorite places in Eureka Springs, the Clear Spring School and the Eureka Springs School of the Arts.

At the Clear Spring School, Rex arrived at my favorite time of the school day, recess when students are expressing great joy. At ESSA we had classes for adults in session. One was a life drawing class with Mary Springer, and the other, an enameling class in the small metals studio.

Rex writes regularly about Arkansas and we were planning to meet over a year ago, and before the Covid-19 pandemic shut things down across the state.

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

Sunday, June 13, 2021

Stanford 1996

Earlier today I mentioned a report on the radio on research that attitude going into a standardized test can adversely affect outcomes, particularly for minorities and for women. The ground breaking research came from Stanford University in 1996.

Not much new there in the last 25 years except that colleges, and universities have done little to nothing to remove the stigma for minorities and women concerning lower performances on standardized tests. Educators, administrators and parents remain fixated on standardized tests results. And standardized testing should be considered as yet another element of institutionalized bias against minorities and women.

We need to redesign education at all levels to bring about the purposeful integration of the hands. 

To become a licensed public school teacher in the US you begin by sitting in classrooms being lectured to for your first three years. Then and only then do you enter the classroom for practice teaching. 

In a program that understood the necessity of hands-on learning, your practice teaching would begin your first or second semester of college providing concrete examples to draw upon in your consideration of the abstract material presented in class. 

In med school instead of spending your first four years cracking the books and attempting to memorize information that's abstract given your lack of experience, you would start the practice of medicine as a nurses aid and work your way up concurrent with your classroom experience. Not only would you be learning from the concrete rather than the abstract, you would know that your own learning was immediately of value to others. You might even be able to offset some of the costs of getting your doctor's degree.

I can guarantee that properly designed programs in medicine and education would reduce the number of dropouts, and improve both  professions.

But then, what do I know about all this? I'm just a woodworking son of a Kindergarten teacher who became a proponent of Educational Sloyd. But if what I say resonates as true to your own experience, pass this along.

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

How to think outside your brain.

A former student of mine from Marc Adams School of Woodworking sent me this article from the New York Times, It suggests that we learn to think outside our brains. Makes sense, right? As a friend of mine suggested many years ago, "there's a real world out there." If we're not paying attention to it, we're really missing out.

But can you just think things through remaining inside your head? What a dumb place to  hang out.

I noted to my friend that I play a word game on my iPad and there are times when I get stumped. If I do something else for a few minutes or move physically to a new location in the house or on the porch, I look at the puzzle with fresh eyes and the missing word becomes clear.

In the old days when folks my age then were taking acid and dropping out, the guide words were  to pay attention to "set and setting." Set had to do with having the right attitude and support entering into the experiment, and setting had to do with dropping acid in a friendly spot that would support a positive experience.

To deny that where we are has impact on how we think is foolish.

I was listening to a report on NPR about how the right introduction to a standardized test can cause minorities and women to perform several points higher. Given the right verbal cues at the beginning of a test can equalize test results between races and genders. This calls into question, yet again, the ridiculousness of American subservience to the standardized testing industry.

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

Saturday, June 12, 2021

On the sanctity of all life.

We claim that human life is precious. Non-human life not so much. Yesterday I visited with a local farmer who raises chickens. They are delivered to his farm and six chicken houses 159,000 at a time as baby chicks. In 8 weeks chicken catchers arrive to gather them for slaughter. The chicken catchers grab them by the legs and pack them in crates for transport to the processing plant. Then they are killed, plucked, dismembered, processed into nuggets and fed to you, my dearest readers. So when it comes to the sanctity of life, it's best not to allow living chickens to enter into your thoughts.

One of the intended purposes of Froebel's Kindergarten was to bring children into an understanding of  all life,  so care for small animals was part of that process. And so I guess you can see why following Froebel's original vision of Kindergarten had to be abandoned: to make way for the industrial processing of kids.

In order to get chickens ready for slaughter in 8 weeks, the baby chicks are first introduced to just one end of the 42 ft. wide chicken house. An automatic feeder delivers an unending supply of feed. As the chicks grow, the length of the feeding area is extended again and again until reaching the end of the 300 ft. long chicken house. I forgot to ask what they do with the poop. Is there some way that they remove it during the 8 weeks? Or are the chickens you'll eat simply wading in it the whole time?

The farmer told me that if some of the chickens are not dying of heart attacks during the process, they are not feeding them at a fast enough rate. And so what I describe may seem quite normal to some and quite disturbing to others.

The world is a morally complex place. Learn about it.

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

Friday, June 11, 2021

A matter of surprise to some

Mademoiselle Albertine Necker de Saussure an early advocate of education for women wrote the following in the early 1800's with regards to the development of the child.
 "It is a matter of surprise to some, that children are satisfied with the rudest imitations. They are looked down upon for their want of feeling for art, while they should rather be admired for the force of imagination which renders such illusion possible. Mold a lump of wax into a figure or cut one out of paper, and, provided it has something like legs and arms and a rounded piece for a head, it will be a man in the eyes of the child. This man will last for weeks; the loss of a limb or two will make no difference; and he will fill every part you choose to make him play.

"The child does not see the imperfect copy, but only the model in his own mind. The wax figure is to him only a symbol on which he does not dwell. No matter though the symbol be ill chosen and insignificant; the young spirit penetrates the veil, arrives at the thing itself, and contemplates it in its true aspect. Too exact imitations of things undergo the fate of the things themselves, of which the child soon tires. He admires them, is delighted with them, but his imagination is impeded by the exactness of their forms, which represent one thing only; and how is he to be contented with one amusement? A toy soldier fully equipped is only a soldier; it can not represent his father or any other personage.

"It would seem as if the young mind felt its originality more strongly when, under the inspiration of the moment, it puts all things in requisition, and sees, in everything around, the instruments of its pleasure. A stool turned over is a boat, a carriage; set on its legs it becomes a horse or a table; a bandbox becomes a house, a cupboard, a wagon—anything. You should enter into his ideas, and, even before the time for useful toys, should provide the child with the means of constructing for himself, rather than with things ready made."
I was reminded yesterday of an interview on NPR with Yo-yo Ma, American cellist. It aired a number of years ago. He was traveling in China and when he played in a family home, the children began wrestling on the floor. When he would quit playing they would stop. When he would start playing again, they would resume wrestling. It seemed backwards from the common expectation that when a musician would play the audience would sit quietly and deferentially and listen. 

Can we put ourselves in the mind of the child and see things from a more appropriate angle? Music and the arts are the means through which we become participants in life. And for that reason should be dead center in their educations, not a sideline or sideshow.

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

Thursday, June 10, 2021


Yesterday was sawing day with our Rainbow group at the Clear Spring School, with the students introduced to the use of a hand saw along with the following poem.

Of all the saws I ever saw saw,
I never saw a saw saw like this saw saws.

We made small note holders using 5/8 in. thick spruce and clothes pins hot melt glued in place. You can be  sure parents will treasure these things that their children have made, and there's no better time to introduce woodworking in schools than in Kindergartens.

The process was as follows. I prepared stock in two different widths, 2 1/2 in. and 1 1/2 in. both 5/8 in.  thick. I made enough parts for me to have one to demonstrate making it, and one to excite student interest and show what the finished product would look like and how it would be useful. 

I made extra parts that the students could trace onto stock for cutting their own parts. They sawed and sawed, first one part, then the other. Next came sanding. To  assemble the parts, I drilled pilot holes in the bases so that the nails would get a good start. We clamped the top part tightly in the vice to hold it for nailing. We applied glue on the one end and the students hammered the parts together while I and their teacher held the parts in place. With the hammering complete I used hot melt glue to attach the clothes pins. With the assembly complete the students used markers to decorate their note holders and then wrote notes on 3 x 5 cards so they could be carried home.

I've begun gathering high definition images for my publisher to use in the publication of my new book. At some point in the next few weeks we'll begin the discussions for finalizing the name of the book.

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

Wednesday, June 09, 2021

on the subject of sloyd

I've sent pdf copies of my articles about Sloyd written for Woodwork Magazine a few years back to Quercus Magazine in the UK. My idea is that the subject of Sloyd has the potential of revitalizing education by putting it on a firm foundation of how we learn and grow. My articles had helped to reawaken an interest among woodworkers in Sloyd, a subject nearly forgotten in the US.

One of the things that I consider most important was that the theory of Educational Sloyd as taught by Otto Salomon spelled out a philosophy of learning and teaching that's relevant to children and adults alike, and that philosophy should infuse all of education. 

  1. Start with the interests of the child. 
  2. Move from the known to the unknown as the known provides the foundation for subsequent learning. 
  3. Move from the easy to more difficult as that provides a vector of development. 
  4. Move from the simple to the more complex as that broadens the capacity of mind. 
  5. Move from the concrete to the abstract, as the concrete provides relevance and provides a framework for reaching toward new notions and a basis for further testing and development which then requires a reinvestigation of the concrete.
This is not a difficult theory to understand, as it's a thing you can observe if you honestly observe how you learn and learn best.

Today I'll introduce my Kindergarten students to sawing wood.

Make, fix and create.

Monday, June 07, 2021

proof, it's an open and shut case

I have long pointed out the ineffectiveness of lecture-based teaching methods. Research from the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences should nail the coffin shut on lecture based teaching as a form of educational abuse. Not only do lectures bore kids and dull their interests in schooling, they are a failure at getting good results. 

In the meantime, if you want to follow this blog via email, there's a link below to have the blog delivered by This is a replacement for feedburner, a program that will no longer be supported. If you are already a subscriber, will continue delivery to you.

Make, fix and create. Assist others in learning likewise


There are two types of sloyd or slöjd, that practiced at home as a component of daily life, and that practiced in schools as an essential part of education. Hemslöjd, or home sloyd refers to the practice of crafts in a family setting, and is a vital means of passing Scandinavian culture between generations. Educational sloyd is a means of supporting the education of the whole child, stimulating the relationship between mind and body, thus invigorating both. The sloyd knife is a symbol of both types of sloyd for it was a tool useful in home crafts, and also in the education of each child.

When I visited Sweden in 2006 for a conference and made a point of visiting Nääs, Otto Salomon's teacher training school for sloyd, I was surprised to learn the full range of educational sloyd. Of course there was a wood shop for teachers to learn to teach woodworking to kids but there were also a gymnasium and fields for athletics. Sloyd was not just for the education of hands and minds, but the whole body as well. And for teachers, there were lectures preparing them for a deeper understanding of progressive educational theory and techniques. The photo shows a slightly younger version of me standing in the classroom where thousands of teachers were taught to teach woodworking to kids.

Make, fix and create...

Thursday, June 03, 2021

W.S. Merwin

These are two important poems by W. S. Merwin:

Native Trees:

and Trees: 

One of the very special things about working with wood is the way it connects us so seamlessly with our natural environment. It provides an interpretive framework for examining the forests that surround us if we're lucky,  or that once surrounded us if we are not. 

Native Trees addresses the child's natural curiosity about the forest in the face of parental ignorance and disinterest. Trees is simply a celebration. 

There's a sycamore tree convenient to our student's path between classes. Its limbs are at the right height for our younger students to "grab aholt of" and hoist themselves up. One of our second grade students, new to the school this year proclaimed, "this is the first time I've climbed a tree!" Can there be any single learning lesson more important than that?

I look out on a foggy morning. The air is perfectly still, with not a single leaf turning or lifting in the still air. You might miss an understanding of the life that lives within.

My thanks to Barbara for sending links to the poems.

Today in the woodshop my students will be working on camp stools and buddy benches and getting to know wood and the story it tells us about ourselves.

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

Wednesday, June 02, 2021

pencil holders

Today in the Clear Spring School wood shop my Kindergarten students made pencil holders as you can see. Each is personalized and decorated.  

During the month of June I have a mixed age group in the wood shop with students first through 10th.

The editor for my new book is almost ready to submit her version of it the publisher.  It is a long wait for me as it gets put into final form. It should be available to readers in March, 2022.

The pencil holders are an easy thing to make and the drawing showing the parts and their dimensions is shown on my blog. The teacher cuts the parts and sets up the drill press for drilling the holes. The student assembles the pencil holder following the teacher's guidance using nails and glue after first sanding and drilling the holes. The teacher must hold the top part in position on the drill press while the holes are drilled and using a cordless drill to make pilot holes helps to get the nails in the right position and to guide them in straight.

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


Tuesday, June 01, 2021

can you guess?

What is it? Can you guess? One of my first grade students made it. Can you put your mind in the eyes of a child, and consider the things that a child might consider important, and then understand the need to create representations of those things?

This of course, is a lego block, a bit larger than most, held together by glue and tape. But it's a thing that one of my students conceived and planned the making of.

In modern life, even the toys children play with are designed and made by others, cutting off from the child the natural progression of things, from easy to difficult, from known to unknown, from simple to complex and from concrete to abstract. But these are not just the principles of educational sloyd, they are also the map describing the journey of growth, for the child and for ourselves as well.

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

Thursday, May 27, 2021

Sid's motor tank

The students in wood shop at the Clear Spring School often have things in mind that can't be easily explained. For instance Sid's Motor Tank has been in the works for weeks as he's explored various ways to add more and more pieces of wood, in defiance of gravity. As you can see, more and more tape has been needed to hold pieces together. I asked how he would improve it if he was to make another. He said, "I'd make it metal." And so we can see prototyping in action. We also witness art in action, as the process of creating art transcends boundaries even when masking tape is necessary to do so. With the motor tank complete Sid began attaching wings, proposing another attribute of the arts. It's that one thing leads to another.

In cross posting from my blog to facebook, only one image makes the transition so visiting the blog directly will show you more. If you are one of those hoping to transition away from facebook and still keep up with happenings on the Wisdom of the Hands blog, you can do so here:

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

Tuesday, May 25, 2021

Today in the woodshop

We are finishing up student projects in the woodshop to clear the decks for an experiment in learning during the month of June in which Clear Spring students will be divided up into three multi-aged groups. 

It's an experiment that would be impossible in most schools. For us it will further extend a family style learning in which students take greater responsibility for each other. Each group has a theme and students are grouped to get along withe each other and to meet student interests.

I'll be working primarily with the "camping group" that will be centered on outdoor learning.

My students Grace and Sola are making a board game for classroom use. It has four turned game pieces, and a central dragon, all on a board carefully laid out on a grid.

The dragon's area of movement is laid out in darker lines at the center of the board.

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

Saturday, May 22, 2021

Wm. Coperthwaite

I've been doing some writing about my friend Bill Coperthwaite which along with photos I hope will become a magazine article. In this poem you will likely understand why.
Love Thy Neighbor
"Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself..." 
As much as I love myself? 
I did not understand.
Then it happened.
Could that possibly mean love thy neighbor as a part of thyself?
Suddenly it came alive: a rule to live by.
My neighbor and I are one - as fingers of one hand 
My neighbor's welfare is my welfare - His poverty my poverty,
His happiness my happiness.
Time passed.
The old commandment has grown to mean: 
Love thy planet as a part of thyself. 
Treat it with love and kindness, 
With care, gentleness, and thanksgiving. 
Any harm done to my planet Is harm done to me. 
— Wm. Coperthwaite

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

Friday, May 21, 2021

building the connections between things.

Some of my students in woodshop told me that they are designing a classroom board game and needed game pieces to be turned on the lathe. I turned these following their instructions and close supervision. 

Of course woodworking is a collaborative experience as is much of life. We work together on things and step in to play our own parts, which in this case for the students became sanding and then coloring of the game pieces using crayons. 

We each bring forth skills and interests that augment the whole. And of course that's one of the problems with education that attempts to separate us into classes. There are social classes, and classroom classes and being stuck in one or the other may offer value to those who manage others and assert power over others, but don't bode well when it comes to growth.

Back in 1917 President Woodrow Wilson, a known racist, signed the Smith-Hughes Act, separating the manual and industrial arts education from the education of those he considered destined to become the masters of society. As President of Princeton, he had said, 

 "We want one class of persons to have a liberal education, and we want another class of persons, a very much larger class, of necessity, in every society, to forgo the privileges of a liberal education and fit themselves to perform specific difficult manual tasks."— Woodrow Wilson 

Wilson said nothing about assuring the dignity of the working class. And so as there's a resurgence of interest in Career and Technical Arts Education, we must go to great lengths to assure ALL that being able to do various difficult things as necessary and needed by society is not the end of learning, but the start. There must be no dividing line between classes.

In the ideal world, schools would hum with activity and the making of things that brought relationship and established deeper connections.

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

Thursday, May 20, 2021

flag poles

Kids in Kindergarten (our rainbow group) will gladly make anything, as there's excitement in the use of tools and in seeing what you're learning develop in concrete form. My student Lane asked, "Do I get to take this home?" That's an important question that shows a direct line from home to school, that builds important links. The students are proud of what they've made and want to share. That they have  a concrete expression of what they've learned makes that age old question, "what did you do in school today?" easy for children to answer.

Yesterday's project was making "flag poles," each being a piece of wood tenoned to fit in a base and adorned with wooden flags. The kids  (with help)operated the drill press and a cordless drill with tenoner, then sanded and decorated the parts and assembled them. With the right tools and preparation in place only a half hour lesson was necessary.

Children having more year's practice in wood shop have more complex ideas. Three of my students decided yesterday that they wanted to design and make a board game for classroom use. So I helped make game pieces on the lathe that they insisted are needed. Over the next two weeks we'll see whether they bring their board game to a finished form.

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

Tuesday, May 18, 2021

The illusions of class

When it comes to poverty and what's called the upper and lower class, class is quite real and we've been contending with that throughout the rise of the modern economy. Salomon's Educational Sloyd was deeply concerned about the barriers presented by class and the struggles that were arising as modern economies took advantage of the poor. By engaging ALL students in the manual arts he hoped that ALL, even those who would pull the economic strings of industry, would develop a sense of the dignity of labor and be willing to reward for its full value.

But there's another meaning to the word class that Salomon regarded as illusion, the idea that you could take a group of kids of the same age and put them at desks and lecture them through an entire course and to then think that they had successfully followed along. Of course the problem is that all students arrive at that "class" with varying experiences to serve as a foundation for what they are to learn and they pass through with too little effect.

Then there's the problem of mind. If I say something to you, it's intended to trigger either complaisance or response. In complaisance it's all "in one ear and out the other." If I say anything at all that stimulates your attention, your own mind becomes engaged with questions about what I've said. Once your mind is stimulated in its own internal dialog, you will no longer be listening to me, but to your own thoughts. For a group of kids to all be attending to the same facts at exactly the same time is near impossible as they each receive learning as it connects with their own prior experience, interest and disposition.

Friedrich Froebel and others in the progressive movement believed that nothing should be learned without the opportunity to test what you've just learned, so instead of sitting idly while being presented with endless streams of useless stuff, schools would be laboratories of learning where students are engaged hands-on. A perfect balance might be one part stuff and 3 parts action, and of course the academician's response would be "we don't have time for all that, we've got important stuff to cover." 

But the truth is that while school can be hard (and boring) learning is easy. And the refreshment that doing real things brings to schooling pays off by providing reason for the students to attend, both in body and mind. For the inventors of Educational Sloyd, woodworking and other crafts would unite the body and mind in learning, extending the Froebel's Kindergarten style of learning into the upper grades.

Those in a so-called "class" are frequently there, but absent in their attentions. Bringing the hands and mind together would assure the participation of the whole child. This is not new folks. Rousseau had noted the way that the activities of hand and mind would each refresh the other. 

Feel free to share this with others. It's important.

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

Monday, May 17, 2021

bridging the gap.

I'd written about this matter before. If the use of the hands makes you smart, then why are there so many folks at odds with those who attain advanced degrees? And the simple answer is that education often fails to bridge the gap between the concrete and the abstract. 

According to the theory of Educational Sloyd, education was to start with the interests of the child, then 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. Launched from student interest and built through steady progression, education was to provide a firm foundation for exploration of the abstract. 

Imagine you are building a bridge from the concrete to the abstract. You start with a single line or cable and add comprehension step-by-step until the bridge is complete. Even the most obscure principles can be understood if the bridging is complete. Education that segments students into classes fails to build the proper foundation and builds barriers between social and economic classes.

What happens too often now is that children are thrown into abstraction without what Otto Salomon called "a firm foundation." The student may achieve understanding in narrow bounds and form judgements on what they consider the stupidity of others. The range of interest is narrowed, and complex subject matter is avoided.

A large part of the problem stems from the illusion that children can be successfully divided into classes based on age and taught together as classes without addressing individual student needs. This idea is not mine alone, but was discussed thoroughly in Salomon's "Theory of Educational Sloyd." But how can student growth be managed so each is allowed to arrive at highest potential and understanding? The family serves as an example: a group of kids, each at differing levels of maturity and interest, and yet with each encouraging the growth of each other, under the guidance of a mentor.

So for those looking for a model for education that sets things right, we need look no further than the 18th century when Pestalozzi wrote "How Gertrude Teaches Her Children" or the 19th century when Froebel invented Kindergarten, and Uno Cygnaeus and Otto Salomon invented Educational Sloyd. But then, how many in the halls of academia would consider they might learn important principles from the manual arts? Or why would anyone be willing to listen to a wood shop teacher with regard to reforming American education? You might be one of the first.

Even in my Rainbow Group (kindergarten) children arrive at school with a variety of prior experiences upon which to build learning. Some come from families where crafting is a regular activity. Some have never used a hammer before. Some readers wonder how we are willing to risk holding our fingers and thumbs so close  as our students hammer for the first time. We're brave.

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

Sunday, May 16, 2021

The indirect workings of mind.

I'm fascinated by the workings of mind... the ways we make connections between things, and these connections and how the mind works are as much drawn from the unconscious and that which we barely know about ourselves as they is from the broad daylight of conscious knowing. And so, what's the purpose of education? Is it to have those connections clearly drawn out between lines, or to provide us the tools to chart our ways through the unknown and unknowable? And so, while administrators would like teachers to be more like newsreaders laying out what the station owner wants the community to know and believe, teaching is more of an art through which students discover themselves and their own relationships to the world at large.

In my how-to writings I can tell, "do this, and next do that," and I offer instructions that if followed to the "t" lead to the product I showed on the first page of the article or chapter, or maybe featured on the cover of the book. But when it comes to people (and students of course) whom we hope to offer skills for the navigation of real life. There are no simple formulas or processes that apply equally to all kids. So it troubles me that children are to be laid out upon a grid of standards without being fully regarded as the valuable individuals they are.

There was a monster in Greek mythology named Procrustes. He would welcome visitors into his home. He had a special bed that was equipped to provide for the one size fits all ideal of classroom learning. If you were too short for the bed, it was fitted with chains and gears through which you would be stretched to fit. If you were too tall, it would chop length from your feet and legs to bring you to the right size.

You can see why Procrustes was regarded as a monster. And you might see some similarities between the bed of Procrustes and what passes as modern education in which children are pressed into molds and held in place until set.

Education at its best is about things other than reading or math or compliance with standards of behavior. It's about navigating that space between the conscious and unconscious mind through building bridges toward a sense of wholeness that assures the student he or she is a part of things, a wholeness of community life within which he or she plays (even as a child) an important part. 

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

Saturday, May 15, 2021

Rackensack Kilns

I attended "Slabberday" at Rackensack Kilns between Gateway and Rogers this morning and was pleased find friends attending from the Stateline Woodturner's Club who were there to demonstrate wood turning. It is a wonderful operation turning wood into lovely slabs of wood that are for sale to woodworkers.  It's  become a destination for area woodworkers and offers a variety of species of lumber, all in large form.

They mill it, dry it and plane it flat for your use. 

A couple days ago I got some new jigs in the mail, sent by a reader who took my flipping story stick technique from my books and articles and made a jig that duplicates the process. Instead of making  story stick for each box, you adjust the jig to the length and use it to set up stop blocks on the router table.

I promised to demonstrate the jig to students in my classes and to test it and provide feedback.

I'll have more to show on that at a later date. The photo shows only a small glimpse of the inventory of slabs available at Rackensack Kilns.

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


Today I'm going with friends to an event called "slabberday," where a man will be cutting logs into large slabs of wood. It is an annual event. In the meantime, this article about a young chess master is an important thing to read.

It concerns a young man proficient at chess, and suggests that we need to offer all children the advantages they need to succeed. The young chess master, in his wisdom says "I don't lose, I learn." And I ask "when will we learn?" that all children and parents need the opportunity to find success, not delivered on a platter or slab of wood, but that they work for and that's within reach.

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

Thursday, May 13, 2021

What we learn about the truth

Yesterday in the woodshop at the Clear Spring School we made tiny house napkin holders with the Rainbow Group (kindergarten). At that age the children are so excited to make things and simple things bring great joy. To prepare for this project I cut front and back pieces and a strip of wood to be nailed between. After the students had sanded the parts, I drilled pilot holes for the nails to give them a head start in entering and joining the pieces. Glue was also applied between parts.

Education that's left overly abstract allows students to think that you can just make things up. Education that involves doing real things, gives children an understanding that discovery of truth is related to powers of observation through the senses.

In 1973 I had watched the joining of the two parts of the Hernando Desoto I-40 bridge in Memphis. It was amazing how they brought the two parts from opposite sides of the river to meet exactly in the middle. Out of curiosity, and before th bridge was opened to traffic, my sister Ann and I walked across that bridge.

Now the Hernando Desoto Bridge is closed to traffic due to the failure of one part, a massive box beam, and it was good that the breakage of that part was discovered before a colossal failure of the bridge. Routine inspection and discovery of the break led the inspectors to call 911 and to demand immediate closure.

As we watch in politics, we learn that you can lie and make things up. You can choose to ignore what you see with your own eyes, and then fabricate and obfuscate. You can deny what you've done and if you can get enough folks out there to go along for various reasons of their own, you can keep lying til the cows come home, and they may not. Perhaps chickens will come home to roost.

You can make stuff up and walk right off the deep end in lies if you choose that as your path, but we should at least be helping our students discover pathways for discerning the truth. You find that path by doing real things.