Sunday, November 28, 2021

Axle pins and connectors

You can create simple connector building sets by using axle pins. They are designed for use with two sizes of drill bit and are normally used to connect wooden wheels to toy cars and trucks. The tenon will fit tightly into a 7/32 in. hole, or rotate freely in a hole drilled 1/4 in.  diameter.

At the Clear Spring School we use these as axle pins for making toy cars and also for pins to secure pivoting lids on boxes.

Drill 1/4 in. holes in pieces you want to pivot freely, and 7/32 in. holes where you want the pin to fit tight. 

I'll not show you anything further about this, as you can use your own imaginations or rely on the imaginations of your own kids. The point of course is that with a drill, some scraps of wood, and two sizes of drill bit you can build interesting things that move.

Kids love playing with blocks. The pins provide two additional things. Permanency to their creations, and the ability to have the things they've made move into new configurations. It's relatively cheap play, and so much more flexible and unrestrained in its outcome than builder kits less inviting of parental collaboration. The axle pins can be purchased here. Through Amazon smile you have the opportunity to support the Clear Spring School.

A small drill press is useful in making various parts. A workbench with vise is important for keeping hands safe.

Make, fix and create.

Saturday, November 27, 2021

Build our own building Sets.

I got an advertisement via email this morning for this Brio Builder Set shown it the photo. It reminded me that many parents want their kids to be doing stuff. It also reminded me that a some parents out there have the capacity to make building sets that are far more interesting and at a much lower cost, and that offer a much higher level of collaborative fun. 

Threaded inserts are a fabulous way of making jigs and fixtures for woodworking, but they are also great for building things that can be taken apart, and put back together in new configurations.

To build a builder set for your child, make a few long joining strips with 1/4 in. holes in them, buy some 10 x 20 steel screws of various lengths and drill random holes in blocks of wood sized for the threaded inserts to fit. Start with a simple set and allow your child to describe what he or she needs for next steps.

The fun of collaboration will far surpass the joy of watching your child open a gift that consists of plastic parts and fake tools. Tomorrow I'll suggest another simple building set using wooden axle pegs.

The point of course, is that it's far better and much more fun to be a maker than a consumer, and time spent working with your kids will offer far greater rewards to all.

Make, fix and create...

Friday, November 26, 2021

Black Friday

Here we are at Black Friday again, and it seems that enough container ships coming from China made it to port and were unloaded in time to make most consumers happy with things that will fill our landfills in no time flat. The goods delivered to us from foreign manufacturers amount to trillions of dollars in cost with a balance of trade deficit that would quickly cripple a smaller nation. But few questions are asked.

Some while back, economists and policy makers decided that we'd have a service economy rather than one that relied on making the things we need. Then we entered an "information age," in which exchange of information over the television and computer screens would earn our keep. It's time a few of us call BS.

The opportunity cost of spending so much on foreign made stuff is that we've lost the character and intelligence that's derived from making things for ourselves.

Most folks just want the things we buy cheap to actually work. A news host on the radio yesterday complained that she'd bought 4 baby monitors, each one too soon after the other. What she wanted was just one that worked. She described her dismay at seeing each failed unit and its packaging going into the trash. And she complained that none could be fixed. And that is the dreadful state we're in except for a few additional effects.

Making all this stuff uses the world's resources in a wanton manner. 
Having human beings making things of poor quality is a waste of human resources wherever.
The cost of international shipping places a huge toll on our oceans and resources.
We spend a huge amount of time shopping for the same old stuff.
We learn and grow too little in the process.
We isolate our own citizenry from the natural creative processes and the feelings of empowerment they provide. 
Landfills are a scar upon our planet that will last forever, and our lives are filled with meaningless stuff.

"Not so many things, but better, must be the cry of the consumer, and things good enough to be a joy in the making must be the demand of the worker, and until these demands become peremptory we shall hope in vain for a civilization that shall be worth while." —Architect Will Price, founder of the Rose ValleyArt Colony in suburban Philadelphia.

Make, fix and create. 

Thursday, November 25, 2021

Happy Thanksgiving!

This is Thanksgiving day and as folks gather to celebrate the holiday let's remember to stay safe and not infect those we love with a disease that may keep them from being with us in years to come.

Ironically, the celebration of Thanksgiving as a national holiday began during the Civil War in the United States as the North was fighting to abolish human slavery and the South was fighting to retain the right to hold human beings in bondage. And yet, now North and South, we celebrate and give thanks.

One of the points that I make in my new book, The Wisdom of Our Hands has to do with the small things of useful beauty that occupy our lives. 

Shopping small and avoiding the big box stores this holiday season, starting tomorrow with Black Friday, gives us a better handle on things. When we buy things that are made in our own communities and by people we know, we are not just buying stuff, we are also investing in the development of character and intelligence on a local level. Things mass produced in China, and transported in huge container ships, may have a certain beauty and cheapness, but if we are looking for true beauty, that which exists on the inside, we may find greater beauty in simple things.

Otto Salomon co-inventor of Educational Sloyd said that the value of the carpenter's work is in the object that the carpenter makes. The value of the student's work is in the student.

If you are local to Eureka Springs, we have a Pay What You Want Shop set up by the Clear Springs School parking lot. There you will find things that students made, evidence of learning and you can pay what you want. The students decided that they'll split the money they make between our local food bank, and buying play equipment for the school campus. 

We also have a free library on the other side of the parking lot that's jammed to overflowing with free books. Take lots. Please! If you are an adult, leave kid's books, please, unless you have kids. 

Happy Thanksgiving!

Make, fix and create. 

Wednesday, November 24, 2021

a bridge

We've finished an arched bridge with student help at the Clear Spring School, and with help from my tractor and some straps we'll carry it for installation on the school campus, giving our students a clear path over a creek between buildings.

On projects like this, that are adult in nature, not every child will be involved with the same level of enthusiasm, but each can help and learn, and too few kids these days are drawn in as participants in adult labor.

In my home woodshop I'm finishing some boxes that had accumulated unfinished. Each is different, so they'll give me a way to provide boxes to a few galleries that handle my work.

When I have quiet times in the wood shop I've been listening to the Path to Learning Podcast. It is readily available through most podcast streaming services and each episode is one that I feel compelled to recommend. I'm currently listening to one with Nancy Carlson-Paige about the essential nature of play as learning. Every parent and every teacher should make use of this valuable podcast.

Happy Thanksgiving to all.

Make, fix and create...

Sunday, November 21, 2021

Humbleized. Is there a better word?

Yesterday I learned that a friend, Joe Youcha, director of Building to Teach, will write a review of my new book for Wooden Boat Magazine. Publication of the review has been approved by magazine editor, Matt Murphy. You may remember Joe as the designer of the wooden boats we made at the Clear Spring School a few years back. In his Building to Teach program schools build boats to learn math. It's based on the understanding that we learn best when we're doing real things.

Joe, having read an advanced review copy of the book, told me that he intends to buy the book for his students, his own kids, and would buy copies of the book for his own teacher if he was able, as some of those are now gone. Those teachers left profound marks on his life. And so it goes with us. We tend to think of ourselves as distinct individuals and disconnected from each other, but that's not the lesson delivered to us through our hands.

Along my own path, I've found many friends who share our understanding of things, that the hands are central to learning and growth. Unfortunately these folks tend not to be the ones who make educational policy. The hands tend to humanize and humbleize (is that a word?) It is certainly not the same thing as being humiliated.

Last week in the Clear Spring School woodshop we made color wheels with Rainbow Group, more toys in Mr. Chris's class and we installed the bat houses with Ms. Juanita's class. This week as we prepare for Thanksgiving I hope to shift attention toward building a bridge over a ditch that divides our school campus. For help in hanging the bat houses I want to thank Clear Spring alum and former student Kyle Hunnicutt and Clear Spring School father of Charlotte, Blake Durr.

Make, fix and create...

Saturday, November 20, 2021

a student box

One of my students, Ray Taylor, sent me this photo of a box made by one of his students, making it obvious that we live on in the things we've taught others.

Ray teaches woodworking at the Northwest Arkansas Community College.

The following is from Felix Adler's address to the National Conference of Charities and Correction, Buffalo, July 1888 discussing the value of making a simple wooden box:

"By manual training we cultivate the intellect in close connection with action. Manual training consists of a series of actions which are controlled by the mind, and which react on it. Let the task assigned be, for instance, the making of a wooden box. The first point to be gained is to attract the attention of the pupil to the task. A wooden box is interesting to a child, hence this first point will be gained. Lethargy is overcome, attention is aroused. Next, it is important to keep the attention fixed on the task: thus only can tenacity of purpose be cultivated. Manual training enables us to keep the attention of the child fixed upon the object of study, because the latter is concrete. Furthermore, the variety of occupations which enter into the- making of the box constantly refreshes this interest after it has once been started. The wood must be sawed to line. The boards must be carefully planed and smoothed. The joints must be accurately worked out and fitted. The lid must be attached with hinges. The box must be painted or varnished. Here is a sequence of means leading to an end, a series of operations all pointing to a final object to be gained, to be created. Again, each of these means becomes in turn and for the time being a secondary end; and the pupil thus learns, in an elementary way, the lesson of subordinating minor ends to a major end. And, when finally the task is done, when the box stands before the boy's eyes a complete whole, a serviceable thing, sightly to the eyes, well adapted to its uses, with what a glow of triumph does he contemplate his work! The pleasure of achievement now comes in to crown his labor; and this sense of achievement, in connection with the work done, leaves in his mind a pleasant after-taste, which will stimulate him to similar work in the future. The child that has once acquired, in connection with the making of a box, the habits just described, has begun to master the secret of a strong will, and will be able to apply the same habits in other directions and on other occasions."

Make, fix and create... 

Friday, November 19, 2021

National Apprenticeship week

This week, November 15-21 is National Apprenticeship Week in which students are encouraged to take responsibility for their own lives and learning.

Otto Salomon, based on the teaching of Diesterweg and Froebel, had suggested that schools start with the interests of the child, then bridge 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. Apprenticeship builds in these essential areas for the development of the child as well as the economy and culture at large. I use the term bridge, rather than the way I've stated the theory in the past, because a bridge goes both ways, and we never outgrow our need to connect in both directions. For example, we never outgrow the need to connect and test our abstract learning with concrete reality. 

An unfortunate thing about education is that as a child grows through school, even at the earliest age, education becomes increasingly abstract. This is even more true today than before due to the early introduction of digital devices as means to entertain, educate and distract. For instance, while children once entertained themselves through play with scissors, hammers, nails and string, this is now rarely the case.

Imagine how well prepared our student population would be for Apprenticeships and for life if we were to pay greater attention at the outset to their need to engage in concrete reality.

If you were someone who thought schooling was a terrible waste of your time and of you were one who sat in class, bored out of your mind, please know that there are some in the world working to bring change. You'll find some of those folks at the Clear Spring School. We work to provide meaningful education for our kids, and also to serve as a roll model for what education could be for all kids, pre-k through 12th grade.

Did you know that there's a government program to support apprenticeships and a national registry where apprentices can sign up?

Make, fix and create...

Thursday, November 18, 2021

Walmart has assured us...

Walmart has assured us that despite delays in shipping from overseas they will have plenty of stuff to unload in our landfills following the Christmas season holidays in which we feel compelled to give things we know are not needed or wanted and that have no real meaning either to ourselves or to those in whom we hope to induce joy. 

You might consider cutting out the middleman. And in this case, we are the middleman as we buy stuff and direct it into the landfills shortly thereafter. Most of the stuff sold during the holiday season will be discarded without having made us rich in the same ways that making items of useful beauty can, and so that should become our goal. 

I had an interesting idea this last week that crypto currency should be based on something real and that is of benefit to man, all men, and the planet itself. What you need to establish a currency is something to measure and a means of exchange. We've learned from the American dollar that currency needs not be based on something real. But the damage being done by greenhouse gasses including CO2 is enormous, affecting the rich and poor alike, even the defenseless critters and plants that inhabit our planet.

So following this line of thought, I proposed to friends that we develop a crypto currency that would aid in the sequester of carbon dioxide and preserve forests and wetlands and aid in the removal and sequester of CO2 like they are doing in Iceland. Like all good or great ideas there are others who have thought of it before me.

Mark Cuban has been investing in carbon offsets through a blockchain dedicated to exactly what I have in mind. It promises an international currency that actually benefits man, involving not the hoarding of precious resources, but by the removal and sequester of what's killing us all. This page provides some interesting links.

Will Walmart provide us a carbon neutral Christmas season? I hope they can plan that for next year.

Make, fix and create...

Wednesday, November 17, 2021

Nishioka, the temple carpenter

Azby Brown, a friend in Japan offered the following comment after reading through most of my new book. 
"What I get from your book is that creative craft work gives us the opportunity to live a life worth living, and to become better than we are. This really resonates with something I’ve been thinking about and sharing with people lately. 
"The temple carpenter Nishioka was Buddhist to his bones. He didn’t talk a lot about it necessarily, unless you asked him, in which case he revealed himself as an erudite scholar. More importantly he lived it and it shaped everything he did. 
"In his tradition, the best thing a master carpenter can do is help provide a path to enlightenment for his apprentices, through devoted and meaningful work in which they can become selfless. But they never say directly that that's what they’re doing. I think the reason is connected to something you alluded to, about “spiritual competitiveness,” which is just another kind of attachment. 
"Better to just live the work."

Azby is the author of "Just Enough: Lessons from Japan for Sustainable Living, Architecture and Design" 

Make, fix and  create... 

color wheels, scissors and bat houses.

Today at the Clear Spring School we have been hanging the bat houses we made, and with the Rainbow group (kindergarten) we made color wheels. The Clear Spring School  color wheels are not the same thing as what you'd find in college art classes. They are simply a disk of wood mounted on a stand that you can color and spin, blending the colors you applied. 

It is more interesting to kids than a conventional color wheel because it's active. You can spin it and find pleasure in doing so.

A friend of mine who was teaching design at the university level was surprised when she asked her students to use scissors. She learned that both hammers and scissors were foreign tools to her kids. And so when did that happen?

In the olden days, kids entertained themselves, developing dexterity of mind and hand by making things. That seems to no longer be the case.

Make, fix and create...

Sunday, November 14, 2021

wanting less and doing more

An editorial in Bloomberg  notes that Americans need to learn to live more like Europeans, wanting less and saving more. 
"It's become the conventional wisdom that the U.S. economy is built on Americans' endless appetite to buy lots and lots of stuff. Household consumption makes up about 67% of GDP. When the economy falters, we're told spending is our patriotic duty... But suddenly, Americans can’t spend like they used to. Store shelves are emptying, and it can take months to find a car, refrigerator or sofa. If this continues, we may need to learn to do without — and, horrors, live more like the Europeans. That actually might not be a bad thing, because the U.S. economy could be healthier if it were less reliant on consumption.We've entered an age of overabundance. We consume much more than we used to and more than other countries. Consumption per capita grew about 65% from 1990 to 2015, compared with about 35% growth in Europe."—Allison Schrager

A simple note about all that stuff. It comes in the door and then out with the trash a short time later, and we could cease being middlemen in the degradation of planetary resources if we were to change our ways. 

We may not want the economy to come to a complete instantaneous collapse, but we need to make a gradual shift in which we're doing much more for ourselves and spending less time waiting for the shelves to be restocked.

Perhaps we should learn to simply want less and learn to do more. We could save money and the planet in the same simple exercise. To start work on a new more vibrant and wholesome economy consider shopping at our student Pay What You Want Shop at the Clear Spring School. 

Our students have been learning about small business by making and marketing things made from wood. The products do not arrive on our shores in container ships. They are not made in China, contributing to our enormous balance of payments deficit. They are made from renewable materials. You can pay what you want, and if they end up in the landfill at some point just as all the other things you buy this Christmas season will, at least they were made along with the growth of character and intelligence of each child who made it.

Make, fix and create.

Saturday, November 13, 2021

an early review of my new book

I'm starting to accumulate blurbs and reviews for my new book, Wisdom of Our Hands, from various colleagues in a variety of sectors. Pete Moorhouse is an educator and artist in the UK and also the author of the book shown, Learning Through Woodwork. 

Is it rudely self-promoting for me to share what he and others have said? Which is:

"Not hard to be positive!... Wisdom of Our Hands is an exceptional book CONGRATULATIONS!!"

Review/ blurb: "This is a book full of wisdom clearly built upon a lifetime’s experience of working with wood and sharing this generously with students of all ages.

Like his woodwork this book is beautifully crafted. The book shares a secret - the wonder of working with the hands is within our grasp - it is a call to action. Doug conveys the importance and value of working with our hands for holistic learning and nurturing the soul. He hits the nail on the head while challenging the reader to hammer it home.

Doug’s breath of knowledge is vast, drawing upon historical educational pioneers and well as current thinkers. This is an illuminating book, taking us on a journey embracing both the concrete and the abstract with many beautiful observations along the way.

Highly recommended." —Pete Moorhouse Education Consultant, Author and Researcher, UK

Make, fix and create... 

Friday, November 12, 2021

forgive me this is long.

Last night I went to a 10th anniversary celebration and talk at Crystal Bridges Museum held by Alice Walton, museum founder, Rod Bigelow, museum director and Moshe Safdie, architect. Only original members of the museum were invited. The event reminded me of having met Alice Walton and the original museum director Bob Workman years ago just as construction of the museum had been launched. 

I was exhibiting my work at a craft show in downtown Bentonville. I was set up with my work in a building owned by friends Tom and Becky McCoy and Alice came by to see my work. Tom and Becky being neighbors and friends with Alice made a point of introducing us. I asked her whether she planned to have crafts in her museum of fine American art, and I suggested the work of John Townsend, Newport, RI cabinet maker that renown art critic Robert Hughes had called the very finest American Art ever produced.

Alice, having witnessed the chain sawing and bulldozing required in the preparation of the museum site asked me, noting that I was a woodworker, what they should do with the trees that had been cut. Her museum director and I were left to exchange contact information and we met in the following weeks. I connected them with a sawyer to begin milling the logs and gave instructions as to how they should be sawn to be of use to the museum and to be treasured in their use.

Being of some small use to the project gave me the opportunity to tour the site during construction. Later I received a delivery of walnut lumber to use in building a bench for the museum commemorating the roles of Sam Walton and Dr. Neal Compton in preserving the Buffalo River as a national park. Much of the land upon which the museum was built had belonged to Dr. Compton before his death. That bench is shown in the image attached.

When the museum was preparing to celebrate its first anniversary, I was asked to use some of the wood harvested from the site to make boxes for each of the museum’s original staff members. When Alice Walton saw the boxes I’d made for first year staff she asked that I also make boxes for each of their first year’s volunteers. That was one of the larger commissions of my career as a woodworker, the making of 870 wooden boxes, each from wood harvested on the Crystal Bridges museum site.

Last night was a very special night in which Alice Walton described plans for the museum’s future, as it involves crafts. With the generosity of Robyn and John Horn, the Hutchinson family and the Windgate Foundation, a major expansion of the museum is planned with a focus on crafts. Alice described crafts as the art of the people and told how she was strongly influenced in her own collecting by Eureka Springs and a small pottery here, which is of course the Spring St. Pottery in downtown Eureka Springs, founded by Gary Eagan, who was also a long-time supporter of the Clear Spring School.

All in all, it was a very pleasant night.

Make, fix and create…

Tuesday, November 09, 2021

Pay what you want 2

This morning I went to add a padlock and hinges to the cash box on the kid's pay what you want shop. I found the box cleared of all student made merchandise and even some of our shop fixtures were gone. 

Not suspecting theft, I opened the cash box and found money inside. The students counted 8 dollars, seventy six pennies and 50 pesos in Mexican currency. We're counting the first day of business as a success. And in wood shop today the students made more products to sell.

make, fix and create...

Monday, November 08, 2021

Pay what you want....

During the worst of the covid pandemic when all our classes were being taught online, I made a box to allow teaching materials to be passed back and forth between home and school. 

We've repurposed that box as a temporary pay what you want shop for students to sell things they've made in woodshop and gain some insight into the world of small business. 

Today the kids moved inventory into the box. You can drive by and shop. It is unmanned but open 24 hours. At night you'll need to bring a flashlight. The kids are very excited about this project and I hope you'll join in to make it a success.  Select objects you want and put money in the box. 

The Pay what you want shop is mounted to the railing in front of the Clear Spring School office, 374 Dairy Hollow Road. To provide feedback or to request items you would like to see our students make, feel free to contact us.

Make, fix and create...

Sunday, November 07, 2021

Rex Nelson

Rex Nelson is one of Arkansas' most highly respected journalists. There is a great editorial in today's Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, resulting from the day Rex and I spent in Eureka Springs, with me having the honor of serving as his guide to the Clear Spring School and our Eureka Springs School of the Arts. The article can be found here:

Next week's paper will likely have a column about the Clear Spring School. Watch for it.

Make, fix and create...

Friday, November 05, 2021

Studio open house

I invite you to join us on Saturday November 6 for a Open House at the glass and iron studio of Suzanne Reed. I'll be selling books and boxes. The address is 1242 CR 102 and the time from 1 to 4 PM.

Make, fix and create...


Yesterday I had an interview with Ozark Public Broadcasting for their program OzarksWatch. It was great to be able to share our wonderful Eureka Springs School of the Arts as the location for the broadcast which will air in February or March. Shown in the photo are host Dr. Jim Baker, and producers Jason Ferber and Brent Slane. Either Jason or Brent will return in December to take video of my box making class in action.

I hope this increases awareness of our great school.

Make, fix and create...

Thursday, November 04, 2021

what are we willing to fix?

We know what's wrong with education in America, but what are we willing to fix? The answer, of course, is "Not much."

“The division into subjects and periods encourages a segmented rather than an integrated view of knowledge. Consequently, what students are asked to relate to in schooling becomes increasingly artificial, cut off from the human experiences subject matter is supposed to reflect.” (John Goodlad, A Place Called School, McGraw-Hill, 1984, p.266)

It should  be noted that kids are not as dumb as typical schooling assumes they might be. They are not empty vessels ready to fill with whatever beliefs and facts we can pour into them. Instead, because they are smart, they realize the differences between what we try to cram in and what they've already learned about life and reality. The artificiality that they see while sitting at desks, does not compare favorably with the real world outside the classroom walls. In other words, they know when facts and beliefs have been contrived to suit their conditions of containment and knowing that schooling is unworthy of their full attentions, they tune out.

The simple answer of course is to use the real world and projects within it to provide opportunitiies for concrete (rather than abstract) learning.

On Tuesday our outdoors study class came to my home to hang one of the bat houses we made on my barn. The installation involved my having to climb a 16 ft. ladder sliding the bat house up as I climbed to mount it on a French cleat. With the house mounted, I'll observe to see if we get bats nesting within. I'll mount a board below so I can observe the accumulation of guano and report back to the kids.

Yesterday I had my Kindergarten students in the wood shop to practice hammering nails. I provided blocks of 2 x 4 lumber and sheetrock nails for them to practice with. They asked, of course, "Can we take these home?" To carry home actual solid evidence of student learning (bent nails and all) is an important thing, and each of the students was proud of what they'd done.

Yesterday, also, we began making a bat mobile. Not the kind that Batman drives, but one that hangs from the ceiling and celebrates bats.

Today I'm meeting with  video crew and producer from Ozark Public Television to do an interview at ESSA.

Make, fix and create. We live in a real world. Let's learn like it.

Wednesday, November 03, 2021

Guidonian hand

A friend sent me an interesting link to Wikipedia on the Guidonian Hand. Used in Medieval music, the Guidonian hand was a mnemonic device used to assist singers in learning to sight-sing. From Wikipedia:
"Some form of the device may have been used by Guido of Arezzo, a medieval music theorist who wrote a number of treatises, including one instructing singers in sightreading. The hand occurs in some manuscripts before Guido's time as a tool to find the semitone; it does not have the depicted form until the 12th century."

Most of us have heard of the idea of tying a string around a finger to help us to remember something we might forget. The Guidonian Hand suggests the potential for our hands to be used to remember important things. It would be interesting to see a demonstration of how it was used. Perhaps by touching with the fingers of the other hand.

Our own hands may be the most underutilized parts of our anatomy as well as the most underutilized resource in American education. The Guidonian hand is certainly an example of the Wisdom of our hands.

Make, fix and create...