Thursday, July 29, 2021

Almost done...

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, July 27, 2021


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

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

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

Make, fix and create.

Monday, July 26, 2021

the real world

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, July 25, 2021

Jointer help

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

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

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

It's nice to be able to help.

Make, fix and create.

Saturday, July 24, 2021

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, July 23, 2021

Rosebud's retreat

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, July 21, 2021

avoid the willy nilly

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

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

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

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

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

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

Make, fix and create. 

Tuesday, July 20, 2021

quadrant hinges

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

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

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

Sunday, July 18, 2021

looking forward and back

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Make, fix and create...

Friday, July 16, 2021

my teaching schedule

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Make, fix and create...

Thursday, July 15, 2021

finishing loose ends

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

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

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

Make, fix and create....

Tuesday, July 13, 2021

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

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

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

Make, fix and create...

Saturday, July 10, 2021

Glen Falls Lumber Boom

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

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

Make, fix create and protect.

an apology

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

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

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

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

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

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

Make, fix and create...

Friday, July 09, 2021

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

helpless and entangled

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

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

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

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

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

Make, fix and create...

Thursday, July 08, 2021

The Democratic Yurtsman

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

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

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

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

Make, fix and create...

Tuesday, July 06, 2021

the delusion of the self-made man

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

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

In it he wrote:

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

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

Make, fix and create...

Monday, July 05, 2021

The extension of mind

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

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

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

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

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

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

Make, fix and create.

Saturday, July 03, 2021

a box for a friend

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

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

Make, fix and create.

Thursday, July 01, 2021

Family festival

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

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

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

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

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