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.

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 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, 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.

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, 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


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.

I've written a bunch more about Pestalozzi previously in this blog. Here is an example:

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 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. Check out the art and services for sale. 

If you like you can donate directly to the Clear Spring School through this link:

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.grundöjdhistoria 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:

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.