Friday, April 16, 2021

moving toward an age of wisdom

The news this morning is like the news of too many other mornings: More people killed through gun violence as the enraged or insane deliver mayhem on the soul of our nation. If all politicians cared about people and not power they would have fixed things after Sandy Hook when teachers and kindergarten students were targets of wrath, but if that didn't move them toward action, what can? That they refused to fix things then still amazes me. This interesting editorial by David Brooks, "Wisdom isn't what you think it is," suggests that wisdom is more about listening to others than about what we can say. And I pray for the development of wisdom.

 https://www.nytimes.com/2021/04/15/opinion/wisdom-attention-listening.html

One of the rules I have posted in the woodshop at the Clear Spring School is Listen. The rule is not just about what I say in the form of instruction. It's also about the tools and the sounds they make that inform us of how they are interacting with the material, wood. For wood, being real, is one of the sources we draw upon to engage wisdom. One of the things that becomes clear is that while we may quickly know a few things, on a superficial level, practice is of enormous utility. And as Brooks points out you can quickly grasp other people's knowledge, it takes living and listening to attain wisdom. And true wisdom is less about what you can do, and more about the ways through which we enable others to act courageously and with wisdom of their own.

One of the most common notions of wisdom is that it "comes with age." And yet, we can spend a lot of time doing the same dumb things over and over and not necessarily get wiser in the process.

Knowledge comes from a variety of sources: conversation, books, radio, instruction, television, personal observation.
Knowledge may be acquired either directly or from a third party.
Wisdom emerges from reflection on personal and collective experience.
Wisdom involves understanding the relationships between seemingly disparate events and things and is expressed as action toward improvement of the lives of others. It's not about sitting on our hands, it's about putting them to work.

The following is from Charles H. Ham and his book Hand and Mind, 1880: 
"Nothing stimulates and quickens the intellect more than the use of mechanical tools. The boy who begins to construct things is compelled at once to begin to think, deliberate, reason, and conclude. As he proceeds he is brought in contact with powerful natural forces. If he would control, direct, and apply these forces he must first master the laws by which they are governed; he must investigate the causes of the phenomena of matter, and it will be strange if from this he is not also led to a study of the phenomena of mind. At the very threshold of practical mechanics a thirst for wisdom is engendered, and the student is irresistibly impelled to investigate the mysteries of philosophy. Thus the training of the eye and hand reacts upon the brain, stimulating it to excursions into the realm of scientific discovery in search of facts to be applied in practical forms at the bench and the anvil." 
And so, you will find that it is not enough to read about wisdom and the idea of wisdom may seem pretentious, unless you, too, are inspired to explore the wisdom of your own hands. Plant a garden, play instrumental music, make something of useful beauty.

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

Thursday, April 15, 2021

Kindergarten woodworking

 

Yesterday my Kindergarten students made color wheels, a project that had some hammering for the first time.

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



Wednesday, April 14, 2021

color wheels...

Today my Kindergarten students will have their first weekly lesson in the wood shop at the Clear Spring School. We're off to a late start due to Covid-19 precautionary delays.

We'll make cool color wheels. Unlike the color wheels used by artists, these are made of wood and the wheels can be spun to visually mix colors.  The project includes sanding, nailing, drilling, assembly and decoration.

This was a favorite project introduced in 2018 and remains a project that even older students enjoy. 

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


Tuesday, April 13, 2021

Getting a grip

I've been thinking about Teacher Effectiveness Training and found this interesting article in the New Yorker, "The Repressive Politics of Emotional Intelligence," by Merve Emre. https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2021/04/19/the-repressive-politics-of-emotional-intelligence The article points out the 25th Anniversary of the very influential book by Daniel Goleman, Emotional Intelligence, that promoted the idea that we are each responsible for our own emotions and the effective management of them to thereby fit into the prevailing culture and economy. It suggests that those who manage to control their emotions manage to get ahead. Goleman's book starts with a quote from Aristotle that avoided an important part. I've highlighted in bold the important point that Goleman skips. 

Anybody can become angry-that is easy; but to be angry with the right person, and to the right degree, and at the right time, and for the right purpose, and in the right way—that is not within everybody's power and is not easy.

Are we to be stoic and repressed for the sake of the smooth running of things? Or would it be best that we recognize that emotions are not be be repressed but utilized to bring change and betterment, as well as a better and more cohesive understanding of each other? Can we offer training not in the control of emotions, not to squelch but to empower?

Emotional intelligence sounds like a wonderful term, a great catchphrase recognizing that how we feel is an important aspect of maintaining a grip on things, at both individual and collective levels. But emotions are best not kept in all bollixed up, but let out where they can be felt by others. We either set up a framework of active listening (one of the important concepts in Teacher Effectiveness Training) or we face times like we face now, with police on one side with their tasers and guns, and justifiably angry protesters on the other. We'd best get down to it, listen to each other get to know one another and develop empathy. And that should be what happens in school long before emotions hit the streets.

True emotional intelligence does not avoid sharing what we feel, nor does it disparage or marginalize what others are feeling. 

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


Saturday, April 10, 2021

Small works of art

Today ESSA will offer a short video in which I'll demonstrate matching grain in making a mitered corner box. The video will go live at 10 AM Central time and was made in the wood studio of the Eureka Springs School of the Arts. My thanks to Darla and Hilka at ESSA for producing the video. This page has links to the auction and to the various demonstrations. https://essa-art.org/events/2021-hands-on-essa/

I was awake for a time in the night thinking about Teacher EffectivenessTraining and ways that we practice being more effective in our communication with each other. I was first introduced to Teacher Effectiveness Training as a younger man just out of college when working with kids at the Porter Leath Children's Center in Memphis, TN. 

I was a group leader in a summer program for kids who had been selected for the program for having emotional problems. In preparation we were given a three day class in Teacher Effectiveness Training developed by psychologist Thomas Gordon. There is no way that a three day class in such a revolutionary approach to effective relationship building can turn off and around patterns instilled and reinforced over a lifetime, but there's power in the model that would transform the ways we communicate with each other. 

Later, as a parent at the Clear Spring School, my wife and I took a class in Parent Effectiveness Training, and the subject has kept coming up again and again during my time at the Clear Spring School because it works. Two things are to be remembered, and as simple as they are, old patterns of communication are deeply engrained and difficult to reverse. The Effectiveness Training approach involves a strategy of active listening that came from Thomas Gordon's therapeutic approach, and the extremely powerful "I message." https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/I-message  The I message is an assertion about the feelings, beliefs, values, etc. of the person speaking, generally expressed as a sentence beginning with the word "I", and is contrasted with a "you-message" or "you-statement", which often begins with the word "you" and focuses on the person spoken to.

The power of the I message is to claim power in social relationships through the admission of vulnerability. It is not to claim attention for oneself, but does enlist partnerships in the resolution of whatever problems we face. To say, "this is how I feel" carries ownership and responsibility, but also offers "caring others" an opportunity to help and to build bridges of empathy between us. It's odd that when we attempt to assert power over others by demanding, we seldom get what we want, but that when we offer sincerity and admit vulnerability we then have the capacity to change a few things, bringing others along into an effective relationship bringing the potential for change.

Throughout my time at the Clear Spring School, Teacher Effectiveness Training has provided a model for student engagement in conflict resolution, and interpersonal conflict resolution is probably the thing most needed now in this fractured world, and yet, even for us and for me, continuing refreshment and practice of the model is required.

Join us in raising scholarship money for ESSA.

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



Friday, April 09, 2021

Small Works of Art

Bidding starts today for small works of art to support the Eureka Springs School of the Arts. Please join us for this celebration of hands-on activities. Tomorrow at 10 AM Central time, I'll demonstrate online. A schedule of other free presentations, can be found at this link:

https://essa-art.org/events/2021-hands-on-essa/

Among the small works of art for sale are my own Postcards on edge. Each is made from vacuum laminated veneers and is stamped and postmarked by a clerk at the Eureka Springs Post Office. You will need to register to bid on these and many other fine works. Please join us. 

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

Thursday, April 08, 2021

note to readers.

Some readers may notice that I've not been sharing as much of late. It's because we're preoccupied with getting back to school, home repair and I'm attempting to write other things. So I'll share an earlier post and a photo from that. 

https://wisdomofhands.blogspot.com/2016/01/beautiful-useful-and-that-can-last-ones.html 

In education there's a widely held belief that learning is something that centers primarily in the head, but nothing could be a more foolish view than that. 

ESSA, our school of the arts is having a fund raiser/ annual event, Hands-on ESSA and I urge you to attend on-line. 

https://essa-art.org/events/2021-hands-on-essa/

Among the activities are an auction and presentations from a variety of instructors. I will have a video demonstration on mitering the corners of a box, and paying homage to line.

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


Wednesday, April 07, 2021

long board

 

The photo shows Lucky with his longboard, a project we started before the Covid pandemic and carried proudly home yesterday where he plans to add trucks. He's welcome to bring it back later if he needs further help. It is exciting to get back to regularly teaching kids in person in the wood shop at the Clear Spring School. Covid case loads in our county have fallen to less than one case per week. So the horizon looks hopeful.

Lucky said he wanted his longboard to look like a surfboard. I think he got that effect. The project was a fun one. And even without the added trucks provides evidence of learning and pride of accomplishment. The students selected strips of wood of different species that I provided, glued them up in patterns that they arranged, and then designed their longboards.

Yesterday I presented my high school students with an alternate technique for grinding spoon carving knives, using an angle grinder and a wooden fixture held in the vise.

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

Thursday, April 01, 2021

look first then see

Yesterday in wood shop I introduced my high school students to making spoon carving knives. I began with a short video on spoon carving and then a second short video, part one of making a spoon carving knife. Of course the problem I encountered is that in order to perform a task you must first have an idea of the finished object in order to assess whether or not you are getting the results you want. In order to see the results you want, you must look and shape with an idea of what you are looking for in mind. Øyemål.

I explained that in watching an instructional video, not merely to be entertained by it, they needed to watch very carefully, for very shortly they'd be attempting to do what they'd seen me do in the video. I had spoon carving blanks and spoon carving knives ready for them to use to gain a better understanding of the tool they were about to make, but they largely ignored the opportunity to use the tool. How can a person successfully make something if they do not know thoroughly and thoughtfully how it's used? You can see where the lesson went astray.

I'll likely discard their efforts from yesterday and have them start again. 

I'm facing the craftsman vs. teacher dilemma. As a craftsman, I want the students' work to be successful and for what they make to be useful. A teacher, on the other hand, understands the necessity of failure as a means to challenge the students to look more carefully, and to understand at a deeper level.

The teacher also understands his own need to fail in the delivery of lessons as that also has educational value.

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

Wednesday, March 31, 2021

'godt øyemål'

Øyemål is a Norwegian word meaning "eye measure" and is related as a concept to a phrase used by boat builders when they describe building a boat by "the rack of the eye." The word "rack" is related to Norwegian and Swedish as well as Scots Gaelic meaning straight or direct, and is related it seems to both the ability to discern proper form by eye, and the process of building direct without being encumbered by plans... to go from the mind to the finished form. This is important, as developing a sense of form is related to math in the form of spatial sense. Spatial sense is an important part of mathematics that lies deeper and more foundational than the manipulation of numbers and number sense.

In woodworking,  "godt øyemål" or good eye measure is useful in planing a board flat or an edge straight or square, but it also is useful in determining the "rightness" of curved surfaces, what are called in boat building  "fair forms." In this case, fair does not mean something only halfway done, but rather smooth and beautiful. A fair hull, unencumbered by unnecessary bumps and irregularities would cut through water like a knife. This also seems related to one of my earlier blog posts about Malcolm Galdwell's book "Blink," and left and right brained views of the world. https://wisdomofhands.blogspot.com/2010/07/gut-level-left-right-sense-of.html

It is  also related to the exercise of creativity in the wood shop. Today in the wood shop at the Clear Spring School my students will begin making spoon carving knives. My thanks to my friend Knud in Stavanger for finding the word øyemål.

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

Tuesday, March 30, 2021

Making a Spoon Carving Knife Part One

I am beginning a  project with my high school students in which they will make their own spoon carving knives as shown in thisvideo and two more to come.

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

Sunday, March 28, 2021

Happy Birthday John Amos Comenius

If John Amos Comenius were alive today he would be 429. Born just one hundred years after Columbus landed in the "new world," Comenius became the "founder of modern pedagogy."Pedagogy is the study of how we learn, and is based, as is all science, on observation, reflection, and comparison with the observations made by others until a consensus of understanding and practice is achieved. Interestingly, 

Comenius' observations are still valid to this day, for while times change, how we learn has not.

Comenius proposed that the senses form the foundation of learning: 
"The ground of this business is, that sensual (sensuous) objects be rightly presented to the senses for fear that they not be received. I say, and say it again aloud, that this is the foundation of all the rest; because we can neither act nor speak wisely, unless we first rightly understand all the things which are to be done and whereof we have to speak. Now there is nothing in the understanding which was not before in the senses. And therefore to exercise the senses well about the right perceiving of the differences of things will be to lay the grounds for wisdom and all wise discourse, and all discreet actions in one's course of life, which, because it is commonly neglected in schools, and the things that are to be learned are offered to scholars without their being understood or being rightly presented to the senses, it cometh to pass that the work of teaching and learning goeth heavily onward and offereth little benefit."

And so how do we engage student senses? Lead them out into the real world to do real things. Plan learning so that it complies with the theory of educational sloyd. Move from the known to the unknown, from the easy to the more difficult, from the simple to the complex, from the concrete to the abstract, and remaining attentive to the interests of the learner. It's as simple as that.

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

Saturday, March 27, 2021

getting crosswise and better for it

The huge container ship, "Ever Given" blocking the Suez Canal interests me. As a young man I'd worked as an inspector on dredges in the White River in Arkansas and in the Mississippi River, moving material to enable navigation. So I'm somewhat familiar with such things.

The Ever Given carries 20,000 containers, each full of stuff being shipped from China to destinations in Europe or the US. 

This article in the New York Times https://www.nytimes.com/live/2021/03/27/world/suez-canal-stuck-ship contrasts the huge ship with the tiny village nearby, where folks live without all the stuff considered necessary in modern life. The village, "Manshiyet Rugola" whose name translates as "Little Village of Manhood" offers an interesting vantage point on a drama that's captured the world's attention. For many years folks in the small village watched huge container ships full of stuff float by without stopping. Now with one of the ships stopped dead in its tracks and as the world wonders how long the stoppage of shipping will last, we and they have an opportunity to compare and contrast before the world and its attentions move on.

In a "Little Village of Manhood," folks would, care for each other, learn skill and develop character by doing things in service to each other, and if that big ship, filled way beyond the top with 20,000 containers of consumer stuff, was to remain crosswise in the canal we here without it would figure out ways of becoming little villages of humanity for each other. At a slower pace, we might find time for each other. We would know that when we ask a neighbor to make something for us, the real product is not the thing being crafted, it is the intelligence and character of its maker. 

We would find true prosperity in which insad of value trickling down from the top, it would trickle up toward the top and be built on a firm foundation, the character of our nation.

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

Thursday, March 25, 2021

Deep work

David Katz is friend in Israel, a baker,  www.patbamelach.com and mentioned he was reminded of me and conversations we'd had in the past by a book he's reading, "Deep Work" by Cal Newport. https://www.calnewport.com/books/deep-work/

The book explores finding deeper meaning through deeper engagement and offers a series of rules for transformation of life in this age of distraction. Reading about the book reminded me of Siddhartha who after living as a forest beggar and monk explained his qualifications to a wealthy merchant as, "I can think, and I can fast." Thus describing his latent potential for the world of commerce he was about to enter. With a constant barrage of useless information, how many of us can think for ourselves and fast. We've become addicted, not just to food, but to feeling connected. Too much food we become fat. Too much attention to useless information we become fat and unresponsive and lose the meaning of our individuality. 

I was awake in the night thinking of knives and blades and getting my upper middle and high school students making knives. I have the steel for it. One of the indications of deep work is that it enters your dream life and then compels you to act.

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

Tuesday, March 23, 2021

Idle class

I'm not sure what the "Idle Class" is but I'm featured in an interview in the current  "legacy" issue of Idle Class Magazine, http://idleclassmag.com/legacy-issue-maker/ along with many others not as idle as the name of the magazine implies. There are other interesting interviews with folks who have worked years to improve circumstances for the rest of us. All are continuing to do so. Friends of mine are included in this issue of Idle Class: Kyle Kellams and Michael Warrick.

Today I'll be recording video lessons to share with my students.

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

dear readers...

 I know I have readers of my blog that don't like it much when I suggest that guns are a major problem in America. They would like to just read about tools and kids and making things from wood. But we have an obvious problem. People with guns kill people. They do it in grocery stores,  parking lots, drive by on the streets, in theaters and massage parlors, and even in churches and schools. They even kill children, family members and themselves in their own homes.

So, here I  am telling my dear readers the facts, and if there are any of my dear readers on the other side of the fence, I ask them to carefully consider those they love and the society we might hope for us all to share.

Do we want the cowboy days of the wild west, or shall we strive for a culture in which we can send our children off to school each day confident of their safe return? Certainly we can pray about the matter, but prayer not followed by action is empty of empathy and fruitless in return. 

There's a phrase that gun owners use to justify their fetish with guns. They say, "guns don't kill people, people kill people." And the truth is that people with guns kill people. 

Let's do something about it. Let's make the killing stop.

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

Sunday, March 21, 2021

According to Vives

"There is no end which can be fixed to the pursuit of wisdom," As long as life lasts these three objects must occupy us: "to obtain sound wisdom, to give right expression to it, and to put it into sound action."

Last night my wife and I watched the movie, "Two Popes" about the relationship between Popes Benedict and Francis. The former was classically trained to the point that he was more comfortable speaking in Latin, while the other was made learned by the streets in his native country of Argentina. The two had divergent views of life: One practical based on experience and the other theoretical based perhaps on a a lack of experience. It is a good movie, but also a view of why Juan Luis Vives must be regarded as an important contributor of the progressive education movement. Not only did he insist on the importance of education in the vernacular, but "to obtain sound wisdom, to give right expression of it, and to put it into sound action." That last part is where education as it is practiced in too many schools comes up far short. Action, and developing a predisposition to act with knowledge must be a primary goal of all schooling, not to isolate students from real life but to immerse them in it. Allowing kids to be of service to family and community must accompany what happens in class.

With my students at the Clear Spring School, I'm still working to establish an understanding of the necessity of things being measured and cut square. I'm also planning to introduce tape measures to their tool boxes in preparation for them to be able to work at home.

Make, fix and create. Assist others in learning likewise

Saturday, March 20, 2021

March 2022

I learned yesterday that my new book, "the Wisdom of our Hands" will be published in March 2022, which for me feels like a very long time to wait given the fact that it's been 20 years in the writing. But that's evidently the way some books and the market for them work. Hopefully, the delay will be useful for marketing and preparing the market for the book's success. 

I'll have to be patient and find other things to write about. One thing that interests me is the history of progressive education, and how the torch has been passed along from one generation to the next. It started with Juan Luis Vives and was passed along to Comenius, then others. You recognize the passing of the torch in what one author has been quoted by the next.

The word "progressive" can be easily misunderstood as meaning "progress" which tends to be whatever is "new" on the educational landscape. But we've learned that new is not necessarily good. In fact, far from it.

Progressive education is actually about the inward and outward development of the child following patterns of natural development, as contrasted with ideas and ideals wrongheadedly imposed by adults. So the history of progressive education, quickly told, would be a worthy tale to be told. Each of the fathers and mothers of progressive education played as important a role in stripping away destructive patterns as in modeling new ways. 

Vives, for example, even though educated himself in Latin, insisted that education might be exercised in the vernacular, the native and natural language of the lower classes rather than in Latin or Greek. In that, he recognized the inherent value of each child, and the value of the culture within which that child was being brought up.

In the meantime, and as I await March, 2022, I'll stay busy and the time will fly by.

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


Friday, March 19, 2021

untitled

Yesterday I got my new book ready for the editorial processing to begin. The publisher said, "do these things and my editor can begin." So with those things done, I rest until questions come in. When I'm awake in the night, the words flow through my semi-conscious state like poetry, but then I wake up and struggle to reclaim what I'd just seen.

Last night I dreamed of a leaf standing on its lobes and walking deliberately along the forest floor with as much intention and purpose as might move a spider or a mouse. The spirit of life, it seems, infuses all, whether we admit it to ourselves or not. That spirit of life exists even within those things where we've no skilled senses to discern it.

When Rosie and I go out in the morning she'll stand at a pile of leaves, breathing it in, just as I might stick my nose deeply in the New York Times. With a nose 15,000 times more discerning than mine, she sees and understands things to which my own nose and eyes are blind. There's a real world out there folks, and it's alive.

A friend had asked about my new book, whether I had a model from which to find inspiration. I named Aldo Leopold's "Sand County Almanac" for its poetic qualities and for its impact. As all authors do, I want the book to change the world, how people think, what people do, and how we relate to each other, but these days we read so much and do so little with what we've read. Like Rosie standing at a pile of leaves, we soak ourselves into the realm of words and leave the pile relatively unchanged. I hope for just a bit more than that.

In the wood shop I'm making a new bathroom vanity for our guest bathroom. It is being made of birch plywood with a facing, doors and drawers from ash. It helps to have balance in one's life. The concrete and the abstract. And its best when we build from the one rather than from the other.

A successful novelist employs the reader's senses to create a sense of reality in the framework he or she has created. Much of my new book is about that.

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

Thursday, March 18, 2021

across the board...

I learned yesterday that my Guide to Woodworking with Kids is going to be translated and published in German by HolzWorken, a publisher that also published my Complete Illustrated Guide to Box Making and Building Small Cabinets. This will be my third book translated into German.

I get occasional inquiries from schools wanting to establish k-8 woodworking programs. I've corresponded with a number of folks through the years attempting to follow our example from the Clear Spring School, but have not kept up to see how they might be of help others.  I am a member of the New England Association of Woodworking Teachers, and that group, being in the Northeast and having both public and private school teachers represents a number of k-8 schools. The independent schools in the northeast kept woodworking in schools alive while many public schools no longer saw the need for it. Buckingham, Browne and Nichols School in Cambridge comes to mind. There they recognize that the skills learned in the wood shop apply across the board.

Many people over the years have asked me to share my curriculum and are disappointed when I tell them I don't have one formalized to share with them. My Guide to Woodworking with Kids is my best shot at that. My theory is that learning starts with the interests of the child. The teacher's job becomes to recognize that interest, respond to that interest, encourage that interest, sustain that interest and direct that interest toward further growth and increasing interest. This doesn't mean that the teacher's interests are ignored. We recognize the skills and attitudes that are needed for our own success and use student interest to build those skills and attitudes in our students.

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

Wednesday, March 17, 2021

Cedar Viking runestone

My upper elementary school students have been wood burning wooden runestones from cedar blocks that  I provided. The photo shows an example. 

The symbols are for the elements earth, air, fire and water, and the rune inscriptions identifying each are written in Elder Futhark. This project was proposed by their teacher in support of their study of the Vikings. I used an angle grinder to texture the edges. The cedar block was finished with shellac. 

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

Tuesday, March 16, 2021

The "Columbus egg" of education...

Have you heard of a Columbus egg? This post is from November 2006: 

Otto Salomon, who led the international movement in Educational Sloyd, made reference in letters to his discovery of the "Columbus egg." While some educators might be watching for a mystical philosopher's stone to bring pieces of the puzzle together, the "Columbus egg" has its roots in the practical rather than the mystical. 

The original story of the Columbus egg was as follows:Many, many years ago, Christopher Columbus was sitting in a tavern with some other sea captains who where joking and making light of his discovery. “Anyone could have discovered that!” they said. “No big deal!" (The quotes here are not exact, as I don’t speak Portuguese or Italian.) Columbus grabbed an egg off the table and said, ”I can balance this egg on end.“ The other sea captains tried and then proclaimed, “Impossible!” "You are a fool!" they said. Columbus tapped the egg on its end, cracking it slightly and set it down, perfectly balanced. “That’s cheating!" The captains complained, “Anyone can do that!” “Yes," Columbus said, “now that I’ve shown you how.”

I asked Hans Thorbjörnsson of Sweden about Salomon's discovery-- "Otto Salomon had the opinion that building the Nääs system on exercises was his own invention, his Columbus egg. Salomon was proud that he had analysed sloydwork, finding out that it could be divided into 70-80 different exercises – exercises that could be put together in different combinations – each such combination ending with a complete sloyd model." 

Perhaps a greater Columbus egg that Salomon and many others knew but took for granted is the connection between the hand and brain in learning. The use of the hands pulls the heart into the matter of education. You can see it each day in woodshop. You can see it when Clear Spring School students go outdoors to study botany. We saw it clearly when Clear Spring students went to New Orleans, before and after Katrina, first immersing in culture and then working in service of restoration. Where the hands lead, the heart follows, and the attentions of the mind will be dilligently applied in learning.

Putting our students' hands in service of their education is as simple and as practical as as a Columbus egg. Crack the end, it will stand. Some, like the captains who taunted Columbus will claim that our discovery is of no consequence, but our children will grow and prosper beyond measure.

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

making a shooting board...

Yesterday one of my first grade students was wondering what to make in wood shop, and said suddenly, "I'll make a shooting board." Then when it was done he decided he'd leave it in the wood shop where it would be most useful to him since he didn't have a plane yet at home. There were a few steps in making it that he did not yet understand, but the spark of interest will carry him far. And the value of the student's work is not what the student makes, but in the student.

The value of the shooting board in woodworking is that students need to grow into an understanding of the value of a square cut. If attention is placed early on to marking a straight line, attending to the process of cutting along that straight line, then cleaning up the cut with a shooting board is easy. But if you address the cut haphazardly, cleaning up the cut with the shooting board is a lot of work that could have been more easily avoided. I could set up jigs and fixtures to take the burden of attention away from the student, but to develop attention to the work is key.

A friend sent me an article about a gift from the Windgate Foundation to a community college in Bucks County Pennsylvania to support their fine woodworking program. I am deeply indebted to the Windgate Foundation for years of support for my own Wisdom of the Hands program at the Clear Spring School and for their help in establishing our Eureka Springs School of the Arts. The nationwide impact of the Windgate Foundation on the Arts has been huge. Their impact on my own life is what I describe here each day.

Linden Press is launching into the editing of my new book, "the Wisdom of our Hands." I hope it turns out to be a good read. The book has been a "during covid-19" relief project that I hope will be useful to others. There are so many ways through which our own creative spirits can be expressed. And again, the hands are key.

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


Sunday, March 14, 2021

Juan Luis Vives

The photo shows a board being planed on the new bench for woodworking with kids and the use of bench dogs and a single clamp to hold the wood in place. 

Born one year after Columbus "discovered" America, and living in the age of Henry VIII, Juan Luis Vives 1493-1540 was a Spanish philosopher thought by some to be the "father" of modern psychology. You can also describe him as one of the "fathers" of progressive education. 

He was raised in schools where Latin was spoken in and out of the classroom, but saw and testified to the value of teaching in the vernacular, the common language spoken by common folk. He also promoted the importance of learning from real life. He wrote of the importance of nature studies, field trips, and modifying lessons to meet the interests and understanding of the children being taught. 

He also wrote of the importance of students putting what they learned into practical use. His writings were of importance to Comenius as quoted here:

"Theory," says Vives,"is easy and short, but has no result other than the gratification that it affords. Practice on the other hand, is difficult and prolix, but is of immense utility." Since this is so, we should diligently seek out a method by which the young may be easily led to the practical application of natural forces, which is to be found in the arts. -- John Amos Comenius (1592-1670)

Vives fits into the long line of progressive educators. In fact, a direct line of influence can be drawn from Vives, to Comenius, to Pestalozzi, to Froebel, to Cygnaeus, to Salomon, to Dewey and beyond, landing at our very own Clear Spring School. Why is this important? To discover ourselves within a lineage gives strength and clarity, and makes available to us centuries of ground breaking thought.

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

Saturday, March 13, 2021

Teaching from real life...

I have been re-reading Leonard and Gertrude by Pestalozzi and have gotten to the part in which the local land owner has witnessed Gertrude's teaching of her own children and has decided to build a school based on her methods. In this you can see that the novel is inspired by Pestalozzi's own life, in his observations of the loving methodology used by his own widowed mother in providing the spark for learning, even in the midst of poverty. 
Although Gertrude thus exerted herself to develop very early the manual dexterity of her children, she was in no haste for them to learn to read and write. But she took pains to teach them early how to speak; for, as she said, "of what use is it for a person to be able to read and write, if he cannot speak?-- since reading and writing are only an artificial sort of speech." To this end she used to make the children pronounce syllables after her in regular succession, taking them from an old A-B-C book she had. This exercise in correct and distinct articulation was, however, only a subordinate object in her whole scheme of education, which embraced a true comprehension of life itself. Yet she never adopted the tone of instructor toward her children; she did not say to the; "Child, this is your head, your nose, your hand, your finger;" or: "Where is your eye, your ear?-- but instead, she would say;"Come here child, I will wash your little hands," "I will comb your hair," or: "I will cut your finger-nails." Her verbal instruction seemed to vanish in the spirit of her real activity, in which it always had its source. The result of her system was that each child was skilful, intelligent and active to the full extent that its age and development allowed.

The instruction she gave them in the rudiments of arithmetic was intimately connected with the realities of life. She taught them to count the number of steps from one end of the room to the other, and two of the rows of five panes each, in one of the windows, gave her the opportunity to unfold the decimal relations of numbers. She also made them count their threads while spinning, and the number of turns on the reel, when they wound the yarn int skeins. Above all, in very occupation of life she taught them an accurate and intelligent observation of common objects and the forces of nature. 

All that Gertrude's children knew, they knew so thoroughly that they were able to teach it to the younger ones; and this they often begged permission to do... 
One of the things one learns from a reading of Leonard and Gertrude was the use of crafts as a tool in the education process. Gertrude used spinning and weaving as a means to enhance her children's understanding of the world and develop character. 

Leonard and Gertrude is available free as a google book download and would be a perfect book to help mothers and teachers during the pandemic as it urges learning from real life and without the abstractions of artificialized schooling. https://play.google.com/store/books/details/Johann_Heinrich_Pestalozzi_Leonard_and_Gertrude

I've written a bunch more about Pestalozzi previously in this blog. Here is an example:
 https://wisdomofhands.blogspot.com/2009/04/pestalozzi.html

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

Friday, March 12, 2021

Planing support number 2

 

This photo shows the way the planing support works. One end of the stock to be planed is held in the vise while the other rests on the adjustable planing support. Tomorrow I'll show how the bench dogs, vise and clamps can be used to hold materials on the bench top for a variety of operations.

You must lower the planing support in order to open the lid. That's done by loosening the black knob. The plane in use making tight curls of white oak is a new Veritas Number One which I reviewed in the current issue of Quercus Magazine.

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

Adjustable planing support

I'm adding an adjustable planing support for the kid's workbench that will allow easy edge planing of longer stock. One end of the stock will be held in the vise while the other rests on the adjustable support. It is simply made from the parts shown. 

The two outer cherry parts will be mounted to the sides of the bench and the center part with affixed rest will slide between and lock in position with the plastic knob. 

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

Thursday, March 11, 2021

back to Moxon

I received a copy of Quercus Magazine in the mail today with my review of the new Veritas Number One plane in it, and that reminded me to get busy again working on my review of Taylor Tool Company's kits for building Moxon vises.  The review is intended to go in their next issue. 

To complete my vise I added guides that align it to a table edge, then sanded and finished it with Danish oil. After taking a few photos I'll write the text for the review and send it off in time for the next issue of Quercus.

The Moxon vise is a relatively simple thing, but one whose parts would be difficult to come by or to make on your own. Having the parts supplied in a kit makes it a lovely project that will be useful in my wood shop. You can make as a portable unit, or if you are planning a new bench, it can be built right in. 

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

Tuesday, March 09, 2021

To the dogs

Vises often have metal "dogs" that can be raised to be able to grip things on top of a workbench. Since the inexpensive vise I'm using on the kid's workbench is not equipped with one, I decided to make one from wood. Unlike metal dogs that retract into the surface of the vise, this wooden one just lifts out when not in use. Simply slide it back in place when needed. Store it and extras inside the compartment.

I wanted the bench to have as many features as an adult bench, so having dog holes drilled in the top and a dog built into the vise puts this bench into the running. With one more feature to add, I'll begin arranging and captioning the photos and prepare the text for submitting to Popular Woodworking magazine for publication. The completed bench will be put to use in our lower elementary classroom.

Blog reader Sylvain asked a few questions about the bench. I placed the vise on the right because most of my students are right handed. The vise being relatively lightweight compared to some does not provide enough counterbalance to tip the top board, even when extended, so no latch on the top boards appears to be needed. Their weight is enough to hold them in place. 

I was more concerned about the hinges being able to bear the strain. The top boards extend beyond the apron allowing clamps to be used along the edges, and also allows the boards themselves to stop the travel of the hinges. They open to about 110 degrees and no more. I was concerned that check straps might be necessary, but the hinges are strong enough and the outer edges of the planks rest just right on the apron making the check straps unnecessary. 

One more feature will be added, a rest that will support the other end of a board while it's being planed. One end of the board will fit in the vise and the other will be supported by the adjustable rest.

It feels good to be back in the classroom live with my students at the Clear Spring School. They love woodshop. I do, too.

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

Monday, March 08, 2021

New workbench for kids

For many of my beginning years as a woodworker, my bench was poorly made and missing such things as a good vise. I made do with hand screws and clamps to hold materials for such things as hand cut dovetails and mortise and tenon joints. Many woodworkers put a good bench at the forefront of the wish list. I went the other direction, learning to make fine furniture first and only later building a good bench, one that was featured in Fine Woodworking a number of years back.

During Covid-19 sequestering I made another fine bench, then a Moxon Vise and now a fresh design bench for woodworking with kids. The top opens to reveal storage underneath, so that a parent or grandparent can provide a place for kids to work AND a place for them to keep tools, supplies and a small project or two. 

Imagine you have a grandparent you see only once or twice a year, and imagine the pleasure you would feel if you knew that your tools and projects were safe and awaiting your return.  What better way might there be for a parent or grandparent to show support for a child's creative woodworking and anticipation for spending time together in the  wood shop.

Yesterday in the wood shop at the Clear Spring School my students practiced cutting square parts using wood bodied squares to mark the wood and pull saws to cut along the lines they had cut. Then they used shooting boards to square up where the stock had been mis-cut.

Facebook will only load a single image from the blogger post where this post originates. To see additional photos please visit http://wisdomofhands.blogspot.com The photos are of the nearly finished workbench for kids and of students at work.

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




Sunday, March 07, 2021

A new workbench for kids

In  my wood shop I've been working on an article for Popular Woodworking about making a woodworking bench for kids, similar to the drawing shown which I will adjust to conform to the finished model. I'm adding a compartment under the top for storage of tools. I have just a few hours more work to do on it.

This will become a classroom work bench and it's my belief that every elementary school classroom in America should be equipped with a workbench and tools for woodworking. In addition to that, every woodworking grandparent should have a dedicated bench where their grandchildren can safely work. We can no longer count on typical schools to provide the lessons our children most need and deserve

The Clear Spring School fundraising auction will close at 5 PM Central time today. https://www.silentauctionpro.com/bidonlinegrid.php?groupId=1756 Check out the art and services for sale. 

If you like you can donate directly to the Clear Spring School through this link: https://www.clearspringschool.org/giving

My Guide to Woodworking with Kids has been out of stock at Amazon and other suppliers while the printer tries to catch up. If you are in a rush to get a copy, please contact me via email as I have a few copies on hand that I can ship. In person woodworking classes for me at the Clear Spring School resume on Monday. Students will get a refresher on the rules, a lesson on sawing and then lessons in the use of the shooting board with hand planes.

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


Friday, March 05, 2021

on the web

I ran across an interesting website from Sweden discussing the history of educational sloyd and pointing out differences between the use of crafts in Sweden then as compared to today.  What follows is the caption for the photo in Svenske that I've used Google to translate:

Pyssla, ett helt förkastligt tidsfördriv i slöjdsalen Crafts, a completely reprehensible pastime in the handicraft hall.

Of course the grade level we're looking at it makes a difference. Aluminum foil covered drinking cups with pom poms,  beads and googley eyes might be OK for an exercise in preschool. 

On the website http://www.grund skoleboken.se/wiki/Slöjdhistoria I found this lovely quote from Otto Salomon: Det är barnet och icke träbiten som i slöjden skall formas. In English: It is the child and not the piece of wood that is to be shaped in the craft.

This morning I'm headed out to ESSA to video a tutorial on making boxes using a 3 or 4 corner match.

This is a great time to support the Clear Spring School through our online auction: https://www.clearspringschool.org/events

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

Thursday, March 04, 2021

a shoe shine brush box

A reader sent this photo of a shoe brush box made by his grandfather, then a student of Educational Sloyd in Sweden in 1906. You would have to be of a certain age to know what a shoe brush box was for. At an earlier time people would be judged based on what they wore on their feet and keeping a good shine would tell a great deal about you. Making a good box also tells a lot about you, too.

The brushes for polishing shoes would be kept in the upper compartment and the tins for polish would be kept in the open compartment below. This particular box, though worn from over 100 years, is evidence of skilled craftsmanship.  Note the symmetry at the top and the symmetrical placement of the nails joining the front to the sides. It was carefully done, which explains why it was kept and not thrown out. 

This particular design was from the 1902 Nääs Model Series and likely produced by students all over Sweden in that era. My thanks to Jim Shaw for having sent of photo of his grandfather's box

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


Monday, March 01, 2021

Making and using a shooting board

Much of American education is built upon a wrong premise. As parents and as teachers, we want each child to rise to his or her full capacity enabling successful individuals and a successful society. But in truth, success comes not from the exercise of isolated individualism exercised through the pursuit of grades or test scores, but from the ability to collaborate and awaken to the sense that we are each part of something larger than ourselves  that's worthy of our interest and engagement.

American education is set up as a competition in which students are measured to see which ones come out on top. The ones that stand out in a manner that pleases the administration, measured by grades and standardized test scores, are rewarded and advanced. The ones who come out mid-range to top are harvested by universities with a 50% graduation rate and with the students amassing debt to last years in return for the privilege to fail in five years or less. What can we say about that? Oops is not a strong enough term.

The real factor that plays most strongly in attainment of success is the ability to work closely and successfully with others, as one must in team sports, music or in other collaborative ventures like building a boat.

You notice things in wood shop. For instance, in the Clear Spring School we provide tools, materials, and instruction for kids to make things. Given the same tools, materials and instruction, they might have similar success in another place or in another time, but remove the scaffolding that supports their success, and the creativity shuts down. Create a significant enough interest in creativity and students will find ways to move forward even when the scaffolding no longer surrounds them. So how does one create confident, life-long learners. First step is to start with the interests of the child, nourish those and build from that point.

This morning I visited the first, second and third grade class at Clear Spring School and observed as their teacher Mr. Rigdon, got them settled into their chosen studies. Some were studying dinosaurs and others, other things. One was particularly interested in climbing. Our purpose is to create choice, not to have all the students learn exactly the same things. You start that at an early age, capitalizing on student interest, and the sky's the limit. The same free-wheeling advance of learning can take place throughout education.

Next week I'll be back to teaching live in the wood shop at the Clear Spring School. Yesterday I posted a video on making and using a shooting board, and the use of shooting boards will be part of lessons for next week.

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


Sunday, February 28, 2021

warding off

What some call "warding off" is a Tai Chi movement in which one leg is planted ahead of the other and the hands push forward and as the weight shifts slightly from one leg to the other.  It's a movement very similar to that made while standing at the jointer or planing wood. 

In Tai Chi, the purpose of this movement, like other Tai Chi movements is to build strength, flexibility and mindfulness. It is modeled on movements intended to maintain a firm gravitational centeredness while engaging in defense against an aggressor. If you are firmly centered, it becomes likely that your opponent is not, and the earth will step forward in your defense, bringing down that which is beyond your own strength. 

In woodworking, understanding the relationship between your craft and your state of being centered can add significant meaning.

This movement (warding off) involves the muscular sense that tells of our own position in relation to the real world. It's a sense that affirms we are really in the world and doing real things. Paying attention to muscular sense and our relationship to the earth's gravitational force is one of the ways that our lives are made more deliberate, and engaging.  

One of the differences between warding off and working wood is that in planing or jointing, hand position becomes more critical as instead of just using the hands in a forward thrust to place the opponent at a disadvantage, the hands in planing must also determine the squareness of the tool to gravitational force in order to form a square edge.

One of the very good things about woodworking as a craft,  is that it engages the full range of bodily movement and can be practiced with intent as one would a martial art. This is one of the aspects of woodworking that will be a part of my new book, The Wisdom of Our Hands.

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


 

Thursday, February 18, 2021

Making things make sense

Yesterday I misspoke when I stated that there are 4 basic senses, as I overlooked what is commonly recognized as number 5, the sense of taste. So, forgive me, there are 5 commonly recognized physical senses, touch, sight, hearing, sense of smell and taste. There are two more just as important that I'll add.

One is the muscular sense that tells us body position, stance and physical relationship to the real world, including the sense of the earth's own gravitational pull. As we lift things or even as we stand up, or even as we sit still this sense is active. I state muscular sense as being on of the physical senses because it's important and none of the other senses actually provide the information we receive from this vital sense. 

The other of the two of the additional senses is the narrative sense,  the seventh sense through which we compare all the other senses and the feedback we receive from them to determine what makes "sense." The narrative sense involves our own internal dialog but also goes far deeper than that, even into the realm of the unconscious mind. This seventh sense, called by some the "sixth sense" and associated with psychic powers is the one that's activated and used when we learn in and from the real world. It is the one that interprets and "makes sense" of the information presented by the other senses upon which it relies.

This is exactly why learning should proceed from the concrete to the abstract, and forevermore dip deeply again and again and again into the real world by doing real things. Without the physical senses providing crucial information to the seventh sense, students are left disengaged, disinterested and potentially disruptive of education affecting themselves and others in the process. 

Fortunately, there's a relatively easy fix. Insist that schools allow the students to do real things.

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

quercus

A new issue of Quercus magazine should be arriving in the US soon, as it has just been released in the UK.  Getting this issue off on-time was a major feat after computers and files were stolen from Quercus earlier in the year. Lost was all the correspondence and photographs that had been submitted by contributors.

Editor Nick Gibbs contacted me last week to resubmit a review of the Veritas number one plane which I did and which will be included in this issue. Subscribers can watch for its arrival. The magazine has a strong focus on the use of hand tools and the practice of traditional woodcraft.

I submitted answers this morning to questions from Idle Class Magazine for an article about my work.

On Tuesday Feb. 23, I'll participate in a zoom call with Building to Teach. If you would like a link to attend, please contact me via email. douglasstowe@gmail.com

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

Wednesday, February 17, 2021

the senses are key

We can call this reality based learning. When we do real things, all the various senses are engaged. Sight, hearing, olfactory and touch. You may find it interesting that Howard Gardner described various learning styles, with the suggestion that a good teacher would plan to touch upon each, thus insuring the interest of every child. There is a fifth sense, that of narrative. Narrative is comprised of the explanations offered us by others, "when things make sense" and that may or may not be felt as true or that we compose ourselves when we reconcile our senses and sensory experiences with the world that surrounds us. When we do things that are real, nothing needs be thus contrived. Comenius had put forth his argument that the senses form the core of learning:
"The ground of this business is, that sensual (sensuous) objects be rightly presented to the senses for fear that they not be received. I say, and say it again aloud, that this is the foundation of all the rest; because we can neither act nor speak wisely, unless we first rightly understand all the things which are to be done and whereof we have to speak. Now there is nothing in the understanding which was not before in the senses. And therefore to exercise the senses well about the right perceiving of the differences of things will be to lay the grounds for wisdom and all wise discourse, and all discreet actions in one's course of life, which, because it is commonly neglected in schools, and the things that are to be learned are offered to scholars without their being understood or being rightly presented to the senses, it cometh to pass that the work of teaching and learning goeth heavily onward and offereth little benefit."
Comenius was considered the father of modern education. So here we are in a huge mess of things. Due to the pandemic, kids are kept home and sequestered from normal school life. Naturally we are all looking forward to a return to what had been our previous normal, which I described in an earlier blog post.

https://wisdomofhands.blogspot.com/2006/09/hands-onhearts-engaged-at-clear-spring.html

I wish you all warmth, water with no leaky pipes, power that comes on at the switch, contact with loved ones and friends, and a return to normal, with normal meaning those days before the pandemic was allowed to wreak havoc on our communities, our way of life, and our comfort and safety in gathering together. 

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

Sunday, February 14, 2021

Rosie loves snow and cold

A dog can bring joy, even in the coldest, snowy day of the year. Due to the extreme could we only let her out for short spells wearing a borrowed polar fleece jacket.

Friday, February 12, 2021

Shop video

This short video shows activities in the Clear Spring School woodshop. Due to risk of Civid-19 and my age I've been distance teaching, enabled by youtube videos and a helpful staff of core teachers and an assistant. The footage is from our security camera. I've been grateful to have been able to participate, coach and observe. The kids discovered the location of the camera and wanted to share with me what they'd done.

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

Thursday, February 11, 2021

Collector Cubes

 The photo shows some almost finished boxes made with ash and with lift off lids from various Arkansas hardwoods. The boxes will be finished with Danish oil and lined. They are assemble using miter joints interlocked with small wooden dowels.

I published a new edition of my Woodworking with kids newsletter today and also learned that my Guide to Woodworking With Kids published by Blue Hills Press will be reviewed and promoted at Fine Woodworking Magazine by Joe Youcha, whose Building to Teach program is an inspiration.

The new edition of the newsletter can be found at this link: https://mailchi.mp/36680163bdcb/woodworking-on-a-stormy-day From this link you can subscribe, view earlier newsletters or translate what you're reading into a variety of languages. 

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

Wednesday, February 10, 2021

University in Norway responds to Will Ferrell and GMs Super Bowl ad - So...

postcards from the edge

I am making wooden post cards again. One or two of them will go to a benefit auction for the Eureka Springs School of the Arts in April. Each will have a stamp affixed and be postmarked at the Eureka Springs Post Office. 

None are suitable for mailing, but are instead done as sculptural forms. Each is vacuum laminated using 4 or 5 layers of veneer over a wooden form. No two are the same. Some will be sold in a shop in Eureka Springs or other galleries. These might be considered utter foolishness or lovely, depending on your point of view. Each is designed to stand on edge.

One of the nice things about this project is that each requires hand sanding. That gives me a quiet activity to do on the front porch when the weather is less severe.


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


Sunday, February 07, 2021

our forests at risk


Human beings are not the only species to be suffering from deadly things that are too easily spread. Our nation's forests have long been under attack, and as the effects of global warming become more pronounced, the various at-risk species that we care for and rely upon for untold benefits will be suffering even more. This article from the New York Times tells a bit of the story. 

https://www.nytimes.com/2021/02/06/opinion/epidemic-invasive-species-trees.html

I'm starting work on a new bathroom vanity for our home that's to be made from ash. Currently ash is priced well in the market due to the rush to cut ash trees before they're completely lost to the emerald ash borer. By cutting infected trees and kiln drying the wood to kill larva there's a small hope that unaffected forests can be protected.  We watched a similar story unfold many years ago as American elm trees of massive size were removed from cities to stop the spread of the Dutch elm disease.

The spread of viruses like that that killed most of our once glorious elm and chestnut trees, and the spread of insects like the emerald ash borer are directly related to international trade.

There's good reason in all this to think local as thinking globally as environmentalists suggests. We can treasure and protect what we have before it too is lost.

The screen shot is from the article in the New York Times. Read it if you can.

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

Friday, February 05, 2021

Chiseling Nut Mortises for Moxon vise

I'm working on a review of a kit for making a Moxon Vise for Quercus Magazine in the UK, and this video shows how to inlay a large nut into the inner face of the vise.

It also demonstrates my own effective way to hold a chisel close to the tip, rather than at the handle. Holding the chisel close to the tip presents greater ease in holding it at just the right point for starting the cut. It also allows the handle to serve as a pendulum providing the hand a sense of whether or not the chisel is held in a directly vertical plane. You may not regularly use the chisel in this way, but I invite you to try, and assess on your own whether this technique offers merit over what you'll see commonly demonstrated over the internet.

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

Thursday, February 04, 2021

A moxon vise

Making my Moxon vise is nearly complete so I'm awaiting instruction for writing an article about it for Quercus Magazine in the UK. The article may just be a review of the kit used, or I may describe its various features. If the magazine is interested I may go through the process of building it a second time and take photos of each step. 

The Moxon vise, first described by Joseph Moxon in the 1700's is portable and is easily clamped to a work bench or table. One of its advantages is that there's quite a bit of space between the treaded rods that allows for drawer parts to be clamped for cutting dovetails. The guide bars in many vises get in the way of that. The parts kit is made available by Tay Tools, taytools.com and can also be purchased through Amazon.

I've gotten some positive feedback and direction from my publisher and am launching myself into a third draft of my new book, "Wisdom of Our Hands: Crafting Family, Community, Culture and Self," which I intend to have finished by March.

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

Monday, February 01, 2021

circumstances command that we teach and share.


"The nascent period of the hand centres has not been accurately measured ... but its most active epoch being from the fourth to the fifteenth year, after which these centres in the large majority of persons become somewhat fixed and stubborn. Hence it can be understood that boys and girls whose hands have been altogether untrained up to the fifteenth year are practically incapable of high manual efficiency ever afterwards. "The small muscles of the eye, ear, larynx, tongue, and hand have much higher and more extensive intellectual relations than the large muscles of the trunk and limbs. If you would attain to the full intellectual stature of which you are capable, do not, I would say, neglect the physical education of the hand."--Sir James Crichton-Browne

Please attempt to name a concert pianist who got his start on the piano late in life. A friend of mine, Dr. Frank Wilson who wrote an important book about the hands, had written an earlier book called "Tone Deaf and all Thumbs" recounting his experience trying to keep up with his daughter as she was learning to play the piano.

It is important that we recognize that crafting is a social engagement, and that skills in the making of beautiful and useful objects are built in an intergenerational manner. As Sir James Crichton-Browne notes, development of hand skills will be an exercise fraught with greater difficulties for those who get a late start. Recognizing that skills of hand and mind go hand in hand, and seeing that our own craftsmanship must also entail the development of skill among those who surround us, commands that we teach and share and most particularly with the young, who's skills of hand and mind are yet nascent.

In the wood shop I'm making boxes.

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Sunday, January 31, 2021

Ugly but beautiful

This metal monstrosity is something I made along with all the other students in my 8th grade shop class at Monroe Junior High in Omaha Nebraska.  My time in shop classes  was curtailed when I entered a college prep program at Benson High School, home of the bunnies. Being "college prep" meant no more shop classes, which is actually quite dumb, a course of study designed by those who have no awareness of the value of concrete learning or the immense value of student engagement.

This bent metal object is intended to be a wall hung lamp. It was too ugly to be hung in my parents home, but was kept on a shelf in the basement as evidence of learning. It was intended that it be electrified and that with a socket, bulb and shade it would illuminate more than the moment in which is was made.

And so we must look at it with fresh eyes as would a parent or shop teacher. Note that the bends required attention to symmetry. Note that in order for the parts to be accurately attached to each other, holes had to be precisely marked, drilled and riveted. 

As Otto Salomon had described, the value of the student's work is in the student as he moves on through life as a creative human being, not in the object made, which in some cases like this may be more beautiful than what one can see with bare naked eyes.

Does it seem odd to you that the only tangible evidence remaining in my life from my time in Junior high would be the things I made in shop class? 

Can you see the value in schooling being kept real? And that it be infused with reality from pre-K though university? Do you mind if I state once more that there's a difference between virtual learning and virtuous learning in that in the latter we attempt to be of real service to each other?

Schooling can be ugly and boring or beautiful. It's our job to fix it.

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

Our future depends on it

We know that one of the worst things about education is boredom. As I was quoted by Matt Crawford at the start of his best selling book, Shop Class as Soulcraft, 

“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.”

So what's the fix? Do every thing we can to interject reality into a system of education that's long been overly abstract and purposely sequestered from  the real world.

My friend Elliot Washor co-founder of the Met School in Providence, RI and the Big Picture Schools, http://bigpicture.org now around the world, has co-written a graphic novel called "Get Real, Your Future Depends on It."  https://8b839f2e-d5a0-4505-8a0f-d4b52d46e448.filesusr.com/ugd/519ff5_77b2cf539c894519ad287acf1693de92.pdf

Kids need not be stuck in boring circumstances. Schools can be enlivened. One way is to have students do real things at all levels from pre-k through college. Restore the arts, music and wood shop to their important roles in energizing the school atmosphere, and allow students to fulfill their educational responsibilities by leaving school to fulfill interests and learn through internships.

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

Friday, January 29, 2021

A honing truck

I have a new invention that came to me in my nightly dream state. It is a honing truck that is used with diamond plates to sharpen plane irons. Unlike many sharpening jigs, this one rides on wheels outboard rather than on top of the stone, allowing its user to make full use of the stone's length and width. It is also preset to the preferred angles of 25 degrees for the primary bevel and 30 degrees for the secondary.

There are many other honing guides on the market, so it will be very unlikely for me to find a market for manufacturing  for this one. But when a person gets an idea for something from their dream state, empowerment comes from acting it out in the real world. 

This was a lesson from the classic book, Black Elk Speaks. When a young person would go on a vision quest and return having witnessed in dream state, things beyond the material world, the tribe would gather in a ceremonial acting out of the dream assisting the dreamer in finding its power, which in this case is a sharpening of mind and plane irons at the same time. Plus, it was fun to make. The parts were ordered on Amazon and I have enough parts and materials to do a step-by-step article or video on the making of it.

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