Tuesday, August 31, 2021

looking way back

This is a photo of my earlier  self, from my freshman year at Hastings College 55 years ago and in my room in the Bronc Hall dorm. I was trim, smart, studious, and thought that I might become a lawyer. 

When we're that age, it's very difficult to know where we'll end up. My thanks to roommate Karl Budd for leading me down memory lane. 

I'm missing our 50th class reunion this weekend due to covid-19 in Arkansas.

Make fix and create. Or at least imagine yourself doing so.

Monday, August 30, 2021

lying flat

Young adults in the Asia have been growing tired of the rat race as they try relentlessly to get ahead. Many are taking a break from the pressures and they call it "lying flat." https://www.cnn.com/2021/08/28/economy/china-japan-korea-youth-intl-dst-hnk/index.html

I suggest that instead of settling for less, they might settle for more. Using the hands to craft useful and beautiful things might do. There's growth in that and when you rise up, your community may follow.

I'm completing a new keyed miter sled to use when I have an editor from Fine Woodworking here to take step-by-step photos for an article on box making in October. It is shown in the photo.  The adjustable stop block rests in a T-track and is locked in position with a t-bolt and plastic nut.

Make, fix and create...

Sunday, August 29, 2021

A lovely site.

One of our Clear Spring School graduates has opened a new luthier shop in Helsinki along with a partner where they make and restore stringed instruments. 

Mayim Alpert graduated from Clear Spring School long before I began teaching here and before we began having students of high school age. You may enjoy exploring their website. AlpertKallinen.com  

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

Wednesday, August 25, 2021

lined up and oiled

I've been applying danish oil to boxes as you can see in the photo. The 20 boxes were made during the late spring and early summer but waited patiently while I sanded them and got them ready for finish. 

The finish used is inspired by the Sam Maloof formula that you can mix yourself. Mix 2 parts oil based polyurethane, one part boiled linseed oil and one part mineral spirits. The finish can be mixed in small batches and is relatively inexpensive to mix up. I use a plastic container that has ounce markings on the side. I pour in polyurethane from the can, up to the ten ounce mark, then linseed oil up to the fifteen ounce mark and then top off with mineral spirits to the 20 ounce mark. 

One advantage of this finish is that it can be wiped on and rubbed out to a pleasant sheen. It requires two coats. Another advantage is that it smells OK. And if you are going to work with a finish, you'll want it to be pleasant to the nose as well as to the hands. 

But what about the hands? You can wear rubber gloves if you like, or use sawdust to scrub the oil off your hands before washing with soap and water. In a wood shop sawdust is in abundant supply and readily absorbs oil from oily hands.

Make, fix and create...

Monday, August 23, 2021

Work Sharp

I bought a Work Sharp Precision Knife Sharpener for the purpose of keeping our sloyd knives at the Clear Spring School sharp. Unfortunately, it was not designed to sharpen such small blades effectively at my desired angle. 

So I made a simple jig that locks in the jaws of the devise and holds the knife through the use of three quarter in. diameter rare earth magnets.  The jig is in two parts, left and right. It works perfect and I'm grateful to have the skills required to design and make a devise that might be useful to others. 

The knife is now razor sharp and ready for fine honing on a leather strop. 

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

Sunday, August 22, 2021

How Kindergarten changed the world (and can again)

Scott Bultman and Match Frame Creative has announced the release of the first part of their Kindergarten documentary series on a subscription basis. Three dollars and 99 cents pay for a 48 hour rental of the 72 minute pilot episode. https://mailchi.mp/0221634b8a41/fg8zpvb7da-8042781 

Funds generated will help pay for the editing and release fo future episodes. The Garden of Children tells us much of what we need to know in the reform and restoration of American education.

You'll find the series to be beautifully produced and inspirational. You'll find my students and I featured in one or more episodes. In the meantime, the forward for my new book my Matt Crawford is ready for final editing and inserting into the text.

Make, fix and create.

Saturday, August 21, 2021

on Amazon

My new book has been posted on Amazon even though it will not be released until February 2022. https://www.amazon.com/Wisdom-Our-Hands-Crafting-Life/dp/1610355016/ The posting offers a very brief synopsis of the book's contents. February feels a long ways off. This book has been in the works for 20 years now, so the last few months will make me feel impatient to see how readers respond.

Make, fix and create...

the mind at work

Esteemed writer and educator Mike Rose passed away a few days ago. He's a person whose writing I admired, as he made clear that the work of labor was not devoid of intellect as so many in the upper echelons of management have wanted us to believe. 

Mike's mother was a waitress and he had marveled at how she kept straight all the various wants and needs of each person at each table in the restaurant where she worked. His writing was to remind us of the dignity and value of work. His seminal book, The Mind at Work has been on my shelves for years and I've referred to him many times in conversation and in my blog, Wisdomofhands.blogspot.com  I thank Mike for his contributions to education and to my own thoughts.

"We are students of words; we are shut up in schools and colleges and recitation room from ten to fifteen years, and come out at the last with a bag of wind, a memory of words, and do not know a thing. We cannot use our hands, or our legs, or eyes, or our arms... In a hundred high schools and colleges, this warfare against common sense still goes on."—Ralph Waldo Emerson

Make, fix and create... 

Friday, August 20, 2021

A+ Arkansas

We completed our third year of A+ Schools training at the Clear Spring School yesterday with the key word being relevance. If students do not see what is offered in school as being relevant to them, touching upon their own lives and solving the problems that are important to them, they tune out. This is a factor in education that haunts all levels from kindergarten through advanced degrees.

One of the most natural human engagements aside from breathing and eating and moving around is to learn, and yet we create schools in which students are held back from learning by failure to engage them in subject material  that is relevant to them.

I'll quickly repeat the principles of Educational Sloyd as these are essential to providing the scaffolding necessary to provide an effective educational environment. Move from the known to the unknown, Move from the easy to the more difficult, move from the simple to the complex and move from the concrete to the abstract. Start from and adhere to the interests of the child.

Lose the students' interests and you've lost the value of instruction. 

My Guide to Woodworking with Kids received a kind review in Fine Woodworking written by my friend Joe Youcha, founder and director of Building To Teach, a teacher training program that uses the building process to provide context for math. It is quite rare for Fine Woodworking to review books, so I hope this helps to sell copies and to renew and interest in the use of crafts to establish relevance in our nation's schools.

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

Thursday, August 19, 2021

at the cutting edge

I've ordered and will be testing a new sharpening system for us to use at the Clear Spring School to keep our sloyd knives as sharp as they were when they first arrived years ago. The laminated blade with very hard steel bonded within more flexible outer layers has given our knives long life, but they are ready for a tune-up.

Today we have trainers from A+ Schools helping us plan for the coming year, and as we embark on further refinements of the Clear Spring School educational environment. 

We at the Clear Spring School are at the cutting edge of education and as is always the case, honing is required. And if you were to wonder where metaphors come from that help us to explain things to each other, look no further than the hands and the processes we use to create useful beauty in our own lives. 

The publisher of my new book, The Wisdom of our hands, has been busy preparing the promotional material that will accompany the release of the advanced review copy, and I'm planning my teaching schedule for 2022.

Make, fix and create.

Tuesday, August 17, 2021

review in Fine Woodworking

Fine Woodworking is considered by many to be the best American woodworking magazine, and this month they've run a review of my Guide to Woodworking With Kids. The review was written at their request by Joe Youcha, founder and director of Building To Teach, a teacher training program that uses the building process to provide context for math instruction. https://buildingtoteach.com Joe was the designer of the wooden boats we built a few years ago at the Clear Spring School.

Make fix and create. Assist others in learning likewise.

Trees that bear witness

My friend Elliot Washor shared an article on the Harbor Freight Fellows blog  about the trees that bore witness to the horrible devastation from our use of nuclear weapons during WWII. 


In Hiroshima, the trees that remained standing and alive during the terrible conflagration are marked and held sacred as Hibakujumoku, the trees that suffered from the Atomic blast. Each is identified by species and with it's distance from the blast recorded in a small sign. The trees are visited and held sacred as signs of hope. 

You can find Elliot's blog post at https://www.harborfreightfellows.org/post/elliot-washors-blog-8-13-21 In it he mentions my friend Joe Youcha to whom I introduced him last week, and he mentions my new book, Wisdom  of our Hands. But the article Elliot shared about Hibakujumoku is one that I strongly urge you to read. It is a touching thing. I repeat the link: https://nautil.us/issue/104/harmony/life-always-wins-follow-me

As I often tell my students, human beings are narrative creatures. We tell our stories. Trees, also are narrative. Where there's a knot in wood, there had been a branch in life. But for the stories to be read and for the stories to be understood, an intersection between man and the forests must be established and made clear.

Make, fix and create...

Friday, August 13, 2021

5 days

The photo shows my happy class at the Marc Adams School of Woodworking, along with the beautiful boxes they made. I return to Arkansas in the morning.

Make, fix and create...

Tuesday, August 10, 2021

the illusions of class

Harbor Freight Fellows has reposted on of my earlier blog posts here: https://www.harborfreightfellows.org/post/wisdom-of-the-hands-the-illusions-of-class

It remains worth reading as it describes the illusions of class. My class at the Marc Adams School of Woodworking is going well with most students having more than one box in the works.

I learned that Matthew Crawford's blurb will be featured on the cover of the ARC of my new book. His blurb is as follows:

 "For decades now, Doug Stowe has been one of the most humane voices in education. He insists we need those quiet moments when intelligence shines forth in practical activities. He shows that they hold clues to our nature that normally lie beneath the notice of our obsessive schooling and credentialing, but are indispensable to a good life."

This evening I had dinner at school with a friend Kim Brand who is working to put woodworking and maker spaces in Indiana Schools.

I learned this evening that a review of my Guide to Woodworking with Kids is in Fine Woodworking's current issue along with an ad promoting sales. I want to thank Joe Youcha of the Building Small Boats Alliance for his review which I'm hoping to see soon.

The photo is of my students' descriptions of the boxes they want to make.

Make, fix and create,

this morning, day two

I am at the Marc Adams School of Woodworking spending part of my time in Stowe Hall, the bench room temporarily named in my honor. The signage is a special touch offered by Marc to each of his instructors as we pass through and teach. 

I learned yesterday that Matt Crawford will write the introduction to my new book. Matt is the author of Shop Class as Soulcraft, a New York Times best seller. I'm pleased and honored as Matt has become an old friend.

In the wood shop yesterday my students began making mitered boxes after we laid some groundwork using the principles and elements of design. Today, in addition to assembling the boxes we made yesterday, we'll begin finger jointed boxes.

Make, fix and create.

Sunday, August 08, 2021

Purpose and meaning

A podcast episode of the Hidden Brain explores "purpose" and the profound effects that cultivating a sense of purpose has on our own lives while providing an avenue through which we may affect others. 

The podcast can be found here: https://hiddenbrain.org

The podcast is worth listening to as we seek greater meaning in our own lives. Some folks are led to a sense of purpose by the example presented to them by others. Some are pushed by unique and often tragic events that make their paths forward certain and clear. Some cultivate their own sense of purpose in a more gradual manner as they begin to assemble pieces from their own experience.

An example of finding purpose from the example of others is the way my wife Jean in her role as a public librarian has inspired a number of young folks to study library science and to become librarians. An example of someone thrust forward by tragic circumstances is my friend Paul Leopoulis, founder of the Thea Foundation http://theafoundation.org that supports the arts in schools here in Arkansas. Paul and his wife built the foundation in response to the tragic death of their daughter Thea who had a promising future in the arts.

I am more an example of the third path. Being told at an early age that my brains were in my hands, I began testing the idea and wondering if the same beneficial potential of the hands and brain working in partnership would not be equally true for all.

Today I'm traveling to Indiana to teach at the Marc Adams School of Woodworking. I'm masked up in an N-95 that makes me look like a duck, but safe in my travels.

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

Friday, August 06, 2021


I'm busy packing for travel to the Marc Adams School of Woodworking where I'll teach a 5 day class on Box Making. I'm feeling a bit rusty about teaching adults due to the suspension of most of my usual classes due to the pandemic. It is agonizing to watch as the delta variant and low vaccination rate in my county in Arkansas have made our own area one of particular concern. The focus in the international news has shifted from Arkansas to other states that have become even worse.

Being vaccinated I'm unlikely to have debilitating effects from exposure to the virus, but I'll wear an N-95 mask for my journey as a way to protect myself and also protect  others. I'll arrive in Indiana on Sunday to begin setting up for my class.

My new book, the Wisdom of our Hands, has been handed off for its next step, the printing of the advanced review copy. So now our attention is directed towards advanced promotion of the book that will come out in February.

The Gallery at the Central Arkansas Library has added my work to their website here: https://cals.org/galleries/doug-stowe/

The photo is from an earlier year's class at the Marc Adams School of Woodworking. marcadams.com

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

Monday, August 02, 2021


It is odd that a faucet dripping in a room two doors away can commandeer our attention to the point that we must get up from bed in the night to set things right. In contrast, as a young adult, I would sit in Shelby Forest north of Memphis and watch the Mississippi River flow by so silently that I could hear voices of fishermen a mile away on the other side. Remind yourself of those singular drops that had gotten us up from bed and compare.

The Mississippi would contain billions of such drops moving in silent harmony. I think too of negative space in art, space that is captured between objects and shapes. Negative space is not empty space. It’s like the river of my earlier days, not empty at all but filled with both water and the sound of voices from the other side. There are thoughts there. There are relationships, noticed and unnoticed.

You can choose to focus on the separate shapes (one of which you self-identify and defend as yourself), or you can focus upon the relationships that form the interconnectedness between all things. 

When Freidrich Froebel invented Kindergarten it's purpose was to create within each child, that sense of interconnectedness as the foundation for learning. Each of us carries a seed of interconnectedness through which are led to feel whole and connected. We can use power to wrongfully engineer the lives of others, or we can recognize that spark within others and cease to impede their growth.

My friend Elliot Washor has a new program associated with Big Picture Schools, B-Unbound. It's mission is to meet the following need: 

"As humans, we long for connection, exploration and doing what we love to do. We seek and are drawn to finding meaning in our lives and doing things that matter to ourselves and others. However, many of the current systems surrounding young people are more geared toward compliance, efficiency and regulation." https://www.b-unbound.org

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