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, now around the world, has co-written a graphic novel called "Get Real, Your Future Depends on It."

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.

Thursday, January 28, 2021

A tour of Handsaws

This video is a tour of various hand saws in my wood shop and a brief description of their use. I have been asked to do a zoom seminar about hand tools, and also thought it would be useful to my students who are inclined to use hand tools so I did this video as a preparatory exercise.

My friend Elliot Washor, co-founder of the Big Picture Schools, has published a report on the effectiveness of the Big Picture model which uses internships to leverage student interests toward effective learning. At this point, what started as a single school in Providence, RI is now an international network of Big Picture Schools including one here in Arkansas, the Future School in Ft. Smith.

The Big Picture model of education is to get kids out of schools and into their communities doing real things though internships. Doing real things makes learning concrete and heightens student engagement. Students doing real things discover ways to connect classroom learning with the world outside the school walls.

Make, fix and create. Assist others in learning likewise

Wednesday, January 27, 2021

Quadrant hinges

I'm completing an article for Popular Woodworking Magazine about installing quadrant hinges using my flipping sorry stick technique. Use of a thin story stick allows for such operations to be performed using the router table rather than trying to balance a router on the thin edge of a box. My technique allows the accuracy of the set up and fit to be assessed before completely messing up a near finished box.

In the past, my students have asked about installing this complex hinge, and this article offers me the chance to tell and show how.

While the steps are not necessarily easy, you can see in the photo that they work. All I have left to do on the article is one more coat of finish, the installation of a lining and lead photos.

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

Saturday, January 23, 2021

craftsmanship as a social art

Whether you are crafting legislation, or poetry, or whittling a stick with buddies on the porch of the hardware store, crafting is a social endeavor. We forget that sometimes. We may spend hours in our wood shops alone. The poet crafting a poem will likely spend many hours in isolation laboring over each word and honing each phrase to be just right. 

But, all is driven by forces within each to respond to that which lies without. Our efforts are not just to turn a phrase, or to whittle a stick into finer form but to thereby whittle ourselves into finer form in the hopes that the world follows. This is the aim and inclination of the common man, to do better, to make more of the world by being better at what we do.

I'm working on an article about the installation of quadrant hinges, and building cash donation boxes to be placed where bicyclists who ride our miles of in-city trails can contribute. I have a new design for a honing jig that I'll make and demonstrate the making and use of. The design came to me in the night and the necessary parts came in yesterday's mail. 

Make, fix, and create. Make the world a better place by learning likewise.

Thursday, January 21, 2021

Building a basis for understanding complex things.

One of the principles of Educational Sloyd is to build from the simple to the complex, and certainly, we live in a world that's enormously complex and difficult for most folks to understand. For instance, I'm typing this on a laptop, connected by a wireless modem to the home network, connected to a cell tower that allows what I write to be distributed to you, my dear readers.

And so, we throw in the towel and throw up our hands at the complexity we use, but cannot fully control and will never fully understand. In this complexity that defies understanding, folks have a tendency to grab information that suits their own limited world views and are thereby easily led as blind lead the blind.

So I've been asked lately, "why woodworking?" What is there about woodworking that makes it ideal in education?" We could at the outset throw children into a wide range of crafts from which to choose. In the early days of manual arts training, schools with limited resources had to choose one craft or another rather than provide a smorgasbord of opportunities. But that alone is insufficient in understanding why only one craft was primarily featured in Educational Sloyd. The point was also to build a common basis for understanding the world. Wood is a real thing. It can be harvested directly from the forest, thereby building a relationship with the natural world. The tools used lend an understanding of industrial processes but also invite reflection on body and culture.  Woodworking lends itself to clarity in the recording of direct action. You cut it once and it cannot be uncut. Due to that factor alone, it hones the powers of attention and mindfulness. That it requires the use of sharp tools, is also an inducement to mindfulness and careful use.

Textile arts were also featured in Educational Sloyd. I visited a room at the University of Helsinki where student works are treasured and preserved. But if you can stitch, you can unstitch and correct errors in the making of things. No such luxury is offered when making something from wood, except, thank God for what woodworkers call "plan b." When things go awry in woodworking, you must engage problem solving skills, and because the range of potential errors is wide, problem solving is done on an individual level, thereby cultivating the powers of individual mind.

The management of complexity and the movement from simple to complex is best grown as one would build an item from wood. You begin with small exercises and build step-by-step toward an understanding of larger things held in complex relationships. That's where Kindergarten comes in. Froebel used the term of his own making gliedganzes, meaning "member, whole" and aiming the child's development toward discovery of his or her place within the vast complexity of all things. Not to be blindly led as folks appear to be now. We need to discover or construct a sense of commonality among us, and start at a very early age, moving from simple to complex in order to understand our place in things.

When I visited Sweden and the home of Educational Sloyd in 2006, I arrived having read a number of books about Sloyd, but unprepared for what I discovered there. The home of Educational Sloyd was not just about training teachers to teach woodworking. Instead, it was about teaching teachers to teach, using woodworking as a model through which to build a foundation for excellence in educating the whole child. In addition to work rooms with benches and tools, there was a gymnasium where teachers were taught to address the physicality of their students through games, gymnastics and dance. Regular activities included lectures on the fundamentals of effective teaching, curriculum development and observance and measurement of student growth.

The photo is of my friend treasured friend Hans Thorbjörnsson who was my guide at Otto Salomon's school and throughout my investigations into Educational Sloyd.

I have written too much today, so will head for the shop.

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

Future schooling

Yesterday I got a call from the principle of the Future School in Ft. Smith, Arkansas. It is a Big Picture School based on the Met School model in which students are led through internships into their communities to learn in real life. After the caution necessitated by the covid-19 pandemic is eased, we plan to get together, learn from each other and collaborate.

A new theme for meaningful educational reform should be "get real." We could call it "reality based learning." We all need means through which to learn to distinguish between that which is real and that which is proposed as real for the purpose of manipulating us by persons and parties seeking greater power.

To "get real" may be accomplished by taking schooling into the real world as is done in the Big Picture Schools model. That's the perfect solution for high school and college aged students. For the younger folks "getting real" requires bringing the real world into schooling by offering real things to do that benefit the child's learning and relationships with the world beyond the school house doors. That can best be accomplished though experimental science, the arts and the use of real tools to create useful beauty. 

The important thing here is the relationship between the concrete and the abstract. In the abstract without confirmation of concrete reality, you get to make things up and believe whatever you want. That's no way to build a nation in which we have a common foundation for getting along with each other. 

As you see in the photo, the hand is the cutting edge of mind. Starting in pre-school and Kindergarten, engagement in the real world builds, step-by-step, a shared framework for understanding the world and each other.

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

Wednesday, January 20, 2021

Welcome to this dawn

There is a nice review of my book Build 25 Beautiful Boxes in the Highland Woodworking Books Review that come in yesterday's mail from Highland Woodworking.

Tuesday, January 19, 2021

Rosie loves snow

I had trouble sleeping last night. On the one hand, we have the Covid-19 pandemic, and on the other, we're only a few hours before the inauguration of a new president.  The old one, rude and eternally ungracious, is on the way out. If the last few days did not  amply illustrate his failure of leadership, the pandemic does.

The thing that kept me awake, however, was  a new invention. I  call it a "honing truck." It has wheels and is designed to straddle over a diamond honing block to carry a plane iron at just the right angle to sharpen its edge. Once having conceptualized it, my mind went into how it would be made and what  parts I would need in order to make it myself.

I have other honing guides, but this one will offer greater simplicity. And the fact that I can make it myself and that I can show how to make it may be of use to others.  The video from just a few days ago explains how to keep one's sense of humor in difficult times.

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

Sunday, January 17, 2021

Are children learning?

During the massive and widespread disruption in American education that's resulted from the covid-19 pandemic, folks are seriously concerned about "whether or not children are learning." The answer of  course is dependent on refining the question. "Learning what?" If we're concerned about whether they're going to perform as well on standardized tests, the answer is probably not so well. If we are asking whether or not children are learning about life, and perhaps things that won't be on the standardized tests and that are more important to their ultimate success the answer is yes. 

One thing we should remind ourselves about learning is that it's one of the most important and relentless of human attributes. We learn. We learn best under certain circumstances, and if traditional schooling were more focused on providing the right circumstances, we'd not find ourselves in the predicament we're now in.

So what are the right circumstances? Education  must be closely associated with and indistinguishable from real life. In the January 18th issue of Time Magazine is an article about Spanish chef Angel Leon in which he states, "The sea saved me." "I was a terrible student. Couldn't sit still, always in trouble." "But when my dad took me out here on his boat, everything changed." And so as a chef, everything he does is related to the sea that saved him. School cannot do for children what real life can. And by artificializing learning, failing to move from the concrete to the abstract, we diminish its effect.  While we fail to engage student interest, we also fail their intelligence, leaving them ignorant of science and the processes of life that surrounds us.

I was talking with a friend, Elliot Washor, earlier in the week about assessment. The question of how do we provide evidence of learning is one that haunts those American educators, who, out of an unwillingness to understand that learning is the most natural of human inclinations, believe that education must be contrived. 

Elliot has come up with a four part assessment scheme. 

  1. Determine and follow student interest for without student interest nothing else follows. 
  2. Establish relationships. These can be mentors in or out of school, but out of school is important evidence of education having transcended the isolation of schooling. 
  3. Observe growth of skill. These can be skills of processing but aimed toward action. These can of course involve the development of hand skills as well as skills of mind. 
  4. Provide opportunities of growth in the form of delivery of service to the community both inside and out of the school walls.
I drove my tractor to school today to make use of its strength in the assembly of a new jointer at the Clear Spring School woodshop. The jointer was too heavy for me to lift out of the box and onto the jointer stand, so I used straps and the front loader of the tractor to lift it high enough to roll the stand underneath. These being covid-19 pandemic times, this was a safer approach than asking friends to help. The photo shows that. The jointer is now assembled and ready for use after it's cleaned up and grease is removed.

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

Wednesday, January 13, 2021

The power of the arts

I hesitate to give him a name. It might be Bob, or Bill, or Doug for that matter. It might be aunt Jill, for crazies these days come in both sexes. But the Republican party has been the sanctuary for some time now for those we excuse as harmless crazed folks when they come to the dinner tables of the sane. 

Remember the folks that insisted that Obama was a secret Muslim and that when he was born in Kenya, the liberal elite had plans, even back then to plant him illegally on American soil and raise him to run for president to destroy our democracy? 

Those folks found safe harbor in the Republican party and ran for statewide offices to gain a foothold of importance in American politics. They passed around photos online of Michelle Obama as a monkey and if caught claimed it was all in jest. They took delight in using the "N" word in private company and hoped for the time when they could be public with their rude thoughts. So then they ran Trump as their chosen candidate for President and all went happily along as he talked about his rude conquests of women, made great fun of the handicapped, called those of hispanic descent rapists and hoodlums, incarcerated children on the border separating them from family while neglecting to keep track of which child was taken from which mom.

So here we are. The innocent crazies, uncle Bob or whatever, have become an angry, violent hoard of gun toting folks, nourished for years within the Republican party. Some of the saner folk are jumping ship, knowing that the trumpian assault on the US Capitol, where "patriots" threatened to hang the VP and execute leadership in both parties has been step too far. It is amazing to me to see what it can take to bring folks to their senses. Some have not yet come awake from the nightmare they hope to inflict on others.

Years ago I had an uncle who was somewhat crazed on the subject of race. The topic was an obsession for him. He would talk about his feelings whether you wanted to listen or not. But then a funny thing happened. He started woodturning. He and his wife, an artist, would come to visit me in the summers, just a quick visit, stopping by to check and see that their craftsman nephew was doing well. I would give him pieces of wood that he used as he was beginning to turn wood. We found the subjects of wood and woodworking to be a bond between us. I have some of his work. His children inherited some of mine.

Each summer my uncle and aunt would attend classes at Arrowmont in Gatlinburg, Tennessee. When my aunt stopped going along, he would go with woodturning friends. When I taught my first adult classes in New Iberia, Louisiana, he signed up. When I saw how much Arrowmont meant to him, I began visualizing a school like that here, which has become the Eureka Springs School of the Arts.

As he began getting good at his work he began selling his work in galleries. His passion led him to make more than he could sell. Every two years at our family reunions he would bring boxes and boxes of his work, asking each member of the family regardless of age to select works to take home, so the whole family has collections of his work. He wanted to offer something meaningful of himself to each and did. His dark obsessions were no longer of interest to him. He had so much more to share.

And so I offer this as a simple observation. When we craft useful beauty, we are also crafting something within ourselves. The transformation that can take place in wood (or through other crafts) is also a transformation of self.

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

Tuesday, January 12, 2021

a pathway toward peace.

Forgive me for having become obsessed with the national news. I would like to be interested in other things. I have watched four years of Trump's relentless assault on our democracy, knowing that it would end like this. And it's not over yet. Pray for sanity. Pray for peace. Pray for a restoration of normalcy in which we can pay greater attention to smaller things.

And of course, praying is not enough. To craft is a form of prayer. It is a form of meditation. And if we all were to pay greater attention to that which is at hand we would find better pathways toward peace

On the personal front, I received a new plane from Veritas in the mail yesterday. It's an amazingly beautiful thing that I'll review in a later post. Yesterday I also finished the installation of a materials exchange cabinet at the Clear Spring School. School to home and back again. 

The photo shows a box that I'm making to use as a prop in an article about installing Brusso quadrant hinges. It's walnut and has a a beveled lid and inlay made of cherry and maple.  The lid will be cut from the body of the box after the outside has been sanded. The corners are joined using finger joints. These are the kinds of things that my adult students learn in my box making classes.

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

Monday, January 11, 2021

Yesterday and today.

Yesterday I installed a cabinet I made on a railing outside the Clear Spring School so parents can pick up work for their kids and that materials can be passed between home and school. It's very sad that the pandemic was allowed to advance this far into the school year. Even with the vaccine on the horizon, we all are at greater risk here now than at any previous time. Had there been a coherent federal response from the outset, led by science and not by ineptitude and purposeful politicalization, we would be far safer at this time with far fewer deaths nationally and in our own county. In-person attendance at the Clear Spring School is delayed while we hope the pandemic will be brought under better control.

At the Clear Spring School, as teachers attempt greater reliance on distance learning, I plan a supportive role consistent with my watch word for the year, "useful." To be useful implies giving over something of oneself in the service of others. Last week I met with the director of a wellness program where they hope to use crafts. This week I meet via zoom with the co-founder of the Big Picture Schools to discuss some kind of collaborative venture that he has in mind.

The world is deeply concerned as we learn more about the hostile takeover of the US Capitol. I read this morning that some of those claiming to oppose the certification of the election of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris were doing so out of fear for the safety of their families... fearing that right wing trumpian extremists would take revenge on their families for disobedience to their insurrection . It's much more likely that they were concerned about their re-elections and the toll loss of elections will take on their family finances. Any excuse will do when you're caught with your pants down. 

Being raised knowing that it was legitimate to oppose government policies, but but that all must uphold the rule of law, I've found myself taking what some would think to be the wrong view. For instance, I was a conscientious objector during the Vietnam war. I was deeply opposed to Bush's invasion of Iraq. I've been a persistent critic of Donald J. Trump and knew exactly how seriously and dangerously his narcissism would play out.

So where are we going with all this? One step at a time. When danger persists, step cautiously. Pray for sanity and peace. There's a saying from the iChing that provides clarity in times like these. When confronted by evil, proceed to do the good. Doing the good puts oneself at peace. In my own case, the "good" is to awaken folks to the glories of the instruments through which we build better families, communities and culture... our own hands.

Today I'm shipping boxes to a gallery in Little Rock.

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

Sunday, January 10, 2021

The compelling nature of that which is Real


Yesterday I installed a  new bedside table in our guest bedroom. It takes the place of the access panel for the bathroom plumbing and was months in planning. It had to be carefully fitted to the wall and required a cut out for the electrical outlet. I made it from white oak. It was not the answer to the question, "what lovely thing would I like to make today?" But it turned out to be an interesting and lovely thing none-the-less, for its loveliness lies in part in meeting a specific need.

I have this idea for the reformation of economy and culture, in that if more of us were engaged in the process of making useful beauty, we would have a clearer sense of what's important in the world and would become less involved in destructive fantasies like those that led to the fascist siege upon our nation's capitol. There is an important essay in the New York Times by historian Timothy Snyder, The American Abyss, that helps explain the predicament we're in.

At one time is was believed that if everyone was educated in the manual arts we would have a better basis for understanding each other. I hold to that belief. We need to come to a better grasp of our commonality. An appreciation of all labor is part of that. We're all in this together. We need each other. Each who contributes deserves respect, including those Capitol Police officers who were overrun by Trumpian insurrectionists.

You need not be an artist to engage in the making of useful beauty and to earn for yourself a new grip on life. You can make simple, practical things. You can give them away if you like, so this need not be yet another operation of commerce. You can listen to the needs in your community and act in fulfillment of those needs.

Engagement in the real world through personal creativity offers its own rewards in the form of neurohormones that awaken feelings of wellness, of being connected and of fitting in. 

I received a copy of a book written by my cousin David Bye. Sharp's Corner School Adventures recounts his experiences attending a one room school house in Minnesota in the 1950's. The book is a refreshing read about simple times and the wholesomeness of family and community. Having visited Dave's family on their farm in the 1950's, I can assure you that every story in Sharp's Corner School Adventures is likely true. My cousin David Bye is a retired teacher of industrial arts.

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

Saturday, January 09, 2021

Mitered finger joint(2)

The photo shows a closer view of the mitered finger joint and how it allows an inlaid edge on the perimeter of a box. The floating panel shown fitted into a box side will be shaped slightly before the box is assembled. 

I am grateful to have simple, practiced things to do that require exactitude and careful, distracting, concentration. To complete this joint requires careful measuring. And when you make a cut, wood cannot be uncut. It's real life. Like when you unleash an angry mob for the purpose of disrupting an election count, you'll have a difficult time fixing what you've broken. 

When you stand up and claim fraud, knowing full well that no fraud was committed, there's at least a chance that angry folks will break what should have never been broken. Public trust is like that. It can be cut, or miscut, but putting it back together will not be an easy thing. It will require those who lie to stop lying.

When I was a kid, there was the tale about the boy who cried wolf. He did so because he saw the effects. When he would cry wolf, people would become frightened and he liked seeing that he could have that effect. To see that he could holler something fearful and get folks stirred up, gave him a sense of his own power. The story ended badly, just as the end of the Trump presidency with all its lies upon lies is ending in disaster. Brace yourselves, please, as it's not over yet.

I'm installing a box for the teachers and parents of students at the Clear Spring School for exchanging lessons between home and school, as in person learning will not resume until the Covid-19 pandemic is under better control in our local community. The American people were lied to about that too, and the consequences are that the real wolf is upon us, uncontrolled and biting at our legs and arms.

Let's pray for the return of safety and sanity to our nation. When we hear folks spewing hateful things, we must answer bravely, simply and with courtesy to ourselves, "I'm sorry, it's not like that."

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

Friday, January 08, 2021

Mitered finger joints

The mitered finger joint is one of my specialties that I teach in my box making classes. Its advantage is that it offers the incredible lasting strength of the finger joint, but the top edges coming together at a miter allows for an inlaid edge around the perimeter of the box. I've been inching my way toward the completion of these boxes, as I'm also tied up with end of year business accounting.

Today I have a conference call with an organization hoping to establish a therapeutic woodworking program. Many woodworkers, recognizing how wood working makes us feel regard it as "sawdust therapy." The evidence is compelling. 

In people's minds there is a slight difference between art and craft. It's not set in stone. Some art is repetitive and formulaic and tends to be like a craft in practice. Some craft is experimental in scope and tends therefore to be more like art.

What we often think of as craft may be more closely aimed toward the making of useful objects, or may be derived from the tradition of making useful objects. Most woodworkers do not consider themselves "artists" as we intend our works to be useful. 

While the arts are an important calling, woodworking and other crafts are easier to grasp by mind and taken in hand. Art often requires explanation or a certain cultural perspective to be seen of value. Things that are useful are often more easily understood. The useful crafts are often not valued at the same level as art because it's intended that we use them and wear them out, while art is to be placed aside and admired and yet our lives and the lives of others in our communities can be transformed by the making and use of useful beauty.

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

Thursday, January 07, 2021

finger jointed boxes

Yesterday I was shocked but not surprised when the US Capitol building was assaulted by Trump terrorists. The Capitol police, being used to tourists, not terrorists were easily overrun. President Trump is clearly to blame. I was not surprised because Trump has been transparent for weeks as he proved himself willing to do anything and everything legal or illegal necessary to retain his grip on power. 

Do you remember in the debate before the election when he told the Proud Boys to stand back and stand by? Yesterday was exactly what he had in his twisted mind and what he was hoping for.  I was shocked that while the president was so transparent in his plan, the police and FBI were totally unprepared. Was that on purpose? If the crowd was black many, many more of the insurrectionists would have been jailed or left dead.

Whether by impeachment or 25th Amendment or resignation, Trump should be removed from office today and spend the rest of his life sequestered in shame. He should not be alone, however. There are many others who encouraged him and egged him on. The list is long. Lindsay Graham danced around like he was wearing no pants last night as he finally admitted that Trump had lost. That it took him so long to admit the truth enabled Trump's furtherance of delusion purposely imposed on the American people.

As we face the pandemic and the destruction of our economy, we need to come together and work toward a common future. Perhaps witnessing such shameful desecration will induce some to resume working together with more serious intent. I'm grateful to have some meaningful work to do as a distraction from worry.

I'm making a couple boxes to use to demonstrate the installation of Brusso quadrant hinges for an article in Popular Woodworking Magazine. This type of hinge is challenging and I have a relatively simple router table technique for installing them that will be useful to other woodworkers. Tomorrow I have a discussion with an organization interested in building a program using woodworking as a form of therapy.

The photo shows walnut box sides, finger jointed and ready for the next step which will be to cut miters at the corners, that allow the inlay made from cherry and maple to intersect and flow around the top edge. When the boxes are assembled and the lids are cut free, the hinging operation will begin.

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

Wednesday, January 06, 2021

Article in Quercus

An article excerpted from my book Making Classic Toys that Teach is published in this month's Quercus Magazine from the UK. The magazine fits a nice niche, as it features hand tools, whittling, woodturning and wood carving, all from a hand tools/simple technology perspective. 

The magazine also shares my interest in woodworking education. From my book the article shares a bit of information about Froebel's Kindergarten and describes how to whittle a sphere from a block of wood.

Make, fix and create. Assist others in learning likewise

Tuesday, January 05, 2021



We have been having beautiful skies lately in Eureka Springs if you're up early enough to catch the receding dark. To see such things is one of the benefits of having a dog. Rosie gets me out early to walk in the woods. This photo had to be manipulated slightly to capture what you see in real life.`

Today in the woodshop I begin work on an article for Popular Woodworking Magazine. To begin, I must make a box.

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

Sunday, January 03, 2021

Kappan Online

You'll find me mentioned in this article by Matthew Crawford. Phi Delta Kappan is an extremely influential journal for educators, and Matthew Crawford is the author of best selling Shop Class as Soulcraft.

When we are able to get back to normal schooling, it should be based on a new/old model from Educational Sloyd. I repeat myself over and over in the hopes that some will hear and help to forge a path forward. 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.

Jerome Bruner proposed something similar though not so explicit in his concept "scaffolding." But scaffolding is an external structure that provides support and that when removed we hope allows the children to succeed. 

I'm reminded of all the wonderful boxes my students are able to make when I teach at Marc Adams School of Woodworking when I'm there to demonstrate and problem solve with three assistants to do likewise, with wonderful wood provided by the school and with all the equipment set up for student success. Can they all go home and do what they've just done? That's an example of scaffolding. In Educational Sloyd the scaffolding was not external, but inside the child, having started from a firm foundation, the child's interests and concrete experiences granted by doing real things.

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


Saturday, January 02, 2021

A new workbench design

I've published a holiday edition of my woodworking with kids newsletter.

The newsletter is not just for kids. It offers techniques that are useful for adults as well.

My wife asked me if there's a guide word that I would choose for the coming year. The word I settled on is "useful." It's a word that's not highly inflated and egotistical. To be useful is to be worthwhile to others just as a fork might be useful to put food in your mouth. In that spirit I've been working on a new design woodworking bench for kids. 

The bench will use an inexpensive woodworking vise that can be purchased on Amazon for less than twenty dollars. The bench will be relatively easy to build using readily available materials and will even offer tool storage. A drawing of it is shown above. I've been asked to offer instructions on YouTube, and in the spirit of being useful, I may do that as well. I'll offer the option of tool storage inside.

An experienced woodworker could build this from the drawing alone. Captioned photos of step-by-step will help others. The top board parallel to the one on which the vise is mounted is to be hinged  giving access to storage for tools underneath. The woodworking vise for which this bench is planned is available from Amazon here: 

Every elementary school classroom in the US should be equipped with a woodworking bench and a few tools.

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

Friday, January 01, 2021

Welcome the new year...

We all share hopes that the year 2021 will be better than what the nation has gone through in 2020. Given the blessings and curse sight, we've seen unprecedented environmental disasters, "proud boys" running amuck, a brutal pandemic completely mismanaged by the Trump administration, 300,000+ unnecessary deaths, and police brutality exposed at an unprecedented level (had you ever dreamed that you'd see a black man on TV being strangled by a white police officer during a pandemic while that officer looks up for the camera and the man is telling the officer, "I can't breathe"?).

If 2021 is to become a better year, it's up to us. It will take the first half of the year to get enough of us vaccinated that we begin to feel safe. Mask up, my friends. We're in this together. Keep busy cooking and caring. Make some useful beauty. to share with each other. Keep hoping and praying for better days. But know that hope is not enough. We must care for each other and show that care by all that we do.

The photo shows dawn in Arkansas. We are at the very crack of dawn for a new year. We can make it better than the one we just lived through.

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