Sunday, June 26, 2022

Tables at ESSA

Steve Palmer's furniture design class returned to ESSA this last week as students gathered to make tables. You can see in the photo that it was a successful 5 day class, with each student making a table utilizing their own design inclinations.

Steve uses a loose tenon technique for joining parts. In that technique, a solid wood tenon is formed that is inserted in mortises cut in both parts. When properly sized and glued in place the loose tenon technique provides as much strength as a conventional mortise and tenon joint. This article explains the technique:

Make, fix and create...

Saturday, June 25, 2022

A pleasant conversation...


I had a pleasant reading, book signing and conversation at the Two Friends Book Store in Bentonville, AR today. And it was particularly pleasing that three woodworking friends came to it. I have long known that woodworkers are particularly generous in wanting to share with each other. It is my belief that attempting to make  beautiful and useful things grooms us for assuming constructive roles in society and  builds a generosity of spirit that's needed now, more than ever given the monumental challenges of these times.

Something I've noticed is that big things have a tendency to grow from small humble things. We can think of the wisdom of our hands in that light. Nourish them with good things to do, keep an eye on them and see what they can accomplish in time. The result may be no less than miraculous. 

The jig shown is one that I use for making cuts in the corners of boxes to install contrasting keys that decorate and strengthen mitered joints. The box rests in the "V" as it passes over the saw blade. The position of the cut is adjusted by simply moving the table saw fence. Having a few tools and knowing a few techniques help to do good work.

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

Friday, June 24, 2022

Cube boxes

One of these days I'll have real boxes to share with you. I actually have two large jewelry boxes in the works, but they take time, and my work on them is proceeding at a snail's pace. Tomorrow I have  book signing at the Two Friends Book Store in Bentonville, and I hope a few friends show up. Scroll down to an earlier post for details.

The small cube box illustration shown is one that was featured on the cover of my book Basic Box Making.

It is made with a keyed-miter joint and mixing and matching woods is an ideal way to add additional interest. The design principle involved is contrast. Contrast lures the eyes into deeper engagement with the object.

Make, fix and create...

Thursday, June 23, 2022

A Jewelry Box design.

I continue to refresh my SketchUp skills, not knowing whether they will come in handy or not except as a means of sharing with you. 

This illustration is another box from my book Beautiful Boxes: Design and Technique. The most difficult thing on this project was to make Brusso JB-102 hinges to fit.

You can buy or borrow the book for additional details on making a box like this for yourself.

I remind my readers and friends of my book signing on Saturday at Two Friends Book Store in Rogers, 11 AM on June 25.

Make, fix and create...

Wednesday, June 22, 2022

A pivot lid box

I've been refining my illustration skills using the SketchUp 3D modelling program, a favorite among woodworkers. It is almost easier to make a box, than to illustrate the box, but I expect that with practice, my illustration skills will improve. If you want to get good at something, do a lot of it. 

The box shown is one that was featured in my book Beautiful Boxes: Design and Technique published by Taunton Press. It can be made with hand or power tools.

A second variation is shown here, also.

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

Tuesday, June 21, 2022

Bentonville Book signing

I have a book signing and reading event on Saturday June 25 at the Two Friends Books Store at 11 AM. Beat the heat, browse books, and give me a chance to explain how the hands bring things together for better lives and richer communities. 

The map and address will help you find your way andTwo Friends Book Store is a place you will enjoy having discovered.

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

Sunday, June 19, 2022


 I checked pricing on two of my books on Amazon and learned that they've jacked the price up over the suggested retail. I don't know the reasons for it as most publishers find Amazon's strategies to be inexplicable. In the meantime, has my Guide to Woodworking with Kids, Making Classic Toys that Teach, and my new book The Wisdom of our Hands available for immediate shipping. These are the links:


There are times when Amazon offers the best price and times when you'll want to ignore them and choose to shop elsewhere. In this case Amazon is hurting my sales by pushing the prices up to their benefit, but not mine.

And I would prefer that if you are buying my books, you get them at the best price.

Make,  fix and create...

Friday, June 17, 2022

Pen and Ink Box

I have a class with ESSA tomorrow making spoon carving knives. We'll use both the wood shop and the metals studio to do it with 8 students.

In the meantime I've been practicing and learning with sketchup, to create new box designs.

This box is a pen and ink box to hold both a bottle of ink and two pens. There's a compartment below the pen tray for additional necessaries.

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

Tuesday, June 14, 2022

development of neural pathways

Imagine you walk each day from the backdoor to the outhouse, and keep the path well worn. Grass and loose stones are knocked unceremoniously from the path by the movement of your feet, and weeds are kept clear by the same effect. If you've been away from home for the summer you'll have found the weeds grown up in your absence and the journey to and from may take greater effort. You may need a weed-whacker to restore the path. But when the weeds are cut back, there again you'll find your well-worn path.

The same applies in the use of tools as repeated use builds neural pathways to and from the brain. Let the tool fall into disuse for a time and when you pick it up again, it may feel a bit awkward at first, but the comfort of the grip will soon return and it will settle into your hands like an old friend. 

The very first time a tool is used an early awkwardness sets in that requires a great deal of brainpower to overcome. And through repeated use, the impressions the tool leaves on the musculature and nerves of the hands refines the passage of information to and from the brain and even within the brain itself. That, of course, is why hands-on learning is so important, so engaging, and so powerful in comparison with online lessons, or lessons delivered through books, articles, lectures, and the like.

Field Marshall Rommel in WWII was described as having fingerspitzengefuhl, an intelligence of hand and mind derived from having done real things in real life and having been a careful observer of what he and others had done. For Rommel, fingerspitzengefuhl gave him a secure sense of the battlefield, even those parts at a distance that he could not see and so you can see that hands on learning is not just for those destined to spend their lives working in the trades.

There is a law in geology that falls somewhat akin. It's that the present is the key to the past. In other words, what you see now, going on around you, is informative. There's nothing in the world that you can't do mindlessly if that's your intent. And of course the difference between one thing and the other is the amount of passion you bring to bear. Are you blasé and dismissive of that which surrounds you, or are you willing to engage your attentions with passion and intent. If the present is indeed the key to the past, then or course, viewed deeply and with passion, that which surrounds us can be viewed in a new light... Even when it's a well worn path to the outhouse and back.

Today was my last day as the director of the Wisdom of the Hands program at the Clear Spring School. While I'm retiring from that job, I'm not retiring from woodworking, from teaching adults, mentoring teachers or from writing books and articles about woodworking or education. The work in those fields is far from complete.

The photo shows the lines used to lay out the carving of a sphere from a wooden cube. Known to be an amateur woodcarver, Friedrich Froebel would have carved such things as he walked from one village to the next. It is a form of contemplation.

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

Sunday, June 12, 2022

this week...

I have been reviewing two soon-to-be published excerpts from my book, Wisdom of Our Hands. One will be in Quercus Magazine in the UK (also distributed in the US) and the other in Woodworker West. Each focuses on different sections of the book. 

I learned this morning that my Wisdom of Our Hands book is in its second printing. That's a good sign that the message within it is gaining traction.

This coming week will be my last as director of the woodworking program at the Clear Spring School. And so I hope to step into a broader but continued role as an advocate for hands-on learning. 

Also this coming week, my Guide to Woodworking with Kids will be back in the warehouse and ready for sales with a reprint being complete. On Saturday I have a class on making spoon carving knives to be held for adults at ESSA. The class will involve both the blacksmithing studio and wood studio at ESSA. We'll make both straight whittling knives and my own improved version of spoon carving knives.

Make, fix and create...

Saturday, June 11, 2022

Brusso JT-101

With just a bit of help from a friend David Heim, who wrote a great book about SketchUp, I managed to made a 3D model of the Brusso JT-101 hinge. It's one I need to finish a box model for an article I'm proposing, and it feels great to be getting better at using the SketchUp 3D modeling program as it will allow me to better prepare for publishing a few extra box designs. 

My big challenge that I had to ask David about was how to develop chamfers in the holes where the screws fit. He did them for me in one leaf and fortunately left the other for me to do with his instructions. So, now I can do them myself!

You can find David's book on Amazon here:

Make, fix and Create...

Box Making at ESSA

Yesterday I finished a five day box making class at ESSA with 9 students. This was my first full class since the start of the Covid pandemic and it was good to have a class again at the full capacity. Students each made three or more  boxes during the five days, and each learned a lot.

I am grateful to have made new friends.

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

Saturday, June 04, 2022

This is my day

Yesterday I was honored at a retirement party at the home of Sally and LeRoy Gorrell. I'm retiring this year from teaching at the Clear Spring School after 20 years teaching kids in the Clear Spring School wood shop. 

My wife, Jean and our head of school Jessica Fitzpatrick, had arranged with the Eureka Springs Mayor to proclaim June 4th as "Doug Stowe Day," so this is my day. I want to thank all those who celebrated with me yesterday, and all those who supported my work over these years. And thanks to our mayor for making this my day.

On this special "Doug Stowe" day, I'll be gardening a bit, playing with Rosie, and getting ready for a five day box making class at ESSA that starts on Monday.

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

Thursday, June 02, 2022


Yesterday I went by the Clear Spring School as students were camping in our field. They had insisted they wanted to whittle, so Dustin Griffith had gone to the woodshop to get a few sloyd knives out for them to use. More and more students wanted to join in, so the number of whittlers grew and I brought out the whole set. Using the sloyd knives and pocket knives brought from home, many sharp sticks were made.

One of my students, Gabe, told me that he whittles nearly every day at home, and I can assure you that whittling is a meditative process that leads to a sharpened point, both in the wood and in the mind of the whittler. To whittle is not the simple minded activity one might assume. To whittle requires one to observe, hypothesize, and test one's hypotheses. As the hand becomes skilled, the knife becomes an extension of mind, and the powers of the mind are set free to explore the realities of life that surround us. We do that through the exploration and use of metaphor. Metaphor is a construction of mind built upon concrete experience. Without the concrete experience metaphor crumbles in abstraction when tested and measured against real life.

A friend suggested a book about chain carving and I ordered. Chain Carvers, Old Men Craft Meaning by Simon J. Bronner, having to do with the minds of old men, arrived in my mailbox on the same morning I was taking a wood carving friend to the clinic for tests. I passed it along for him to read during his recovery from surgery and will get it back later on. I'll read it myself and then pass it along to a friend who is busily crafting wooden chains in his retirement years.

I'm working on an article for Woodcarving Illustrated about children and whittling and so yesterday I took some good photos as the children brought their sticks, and minds to sharp points.

Make, fix and create...

Wednesday, June 01, 2022

A matter of the senses...

Comenius had put forth his argument that the senses form the core of learning:
"The ground of this business (education) is, that sensual 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." 
Comenius was considered the father of modern education. And if you look at what other educators have offered you begin to see that Comenius, though ignored these days, has had his theories expressed more recently by others. For instance, Howard Gardner came up with his theory of multiple intelligences, which isolates the particular senses and proposes them as being expressions of intellect. And yet, we have almost completely ignored Comenius' point. Instead of engineering classroom work to offer avenues for engagement of various forms of intellect as is proposed by followers of Howard Gardner, Comenius proposed that children become engaged in doing real things that connected them more deeply to community and culture. ...Making things of useful beauty, for example. Engagement of the senses is key. 

Why are the senses key? The engagement of the senses and the input they provide is the boundary between the concrete and the abstract. It's the boundary line between those things that have been engineered by teachers to instruct, rather than empower. When the full array of senses is engaged, students know that they are involved in real life, which then commands their full attention. Lose the students' full attention, and you've wasted their lives as well as your own.

When students walk into a wood shop, they know it's not a typical classroom. It is full of tools that have the capacity to alter wood into useful and beautiful forms. They are first of all greeted with the smell of wood having been sawn, and they notice.

I want to return your attention to the quote from Comenius to point out that it's not just about career and technical education and applies just as well to those planning to go to college rather than enter into the trades.  .... "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."

To attend the Make Magazine author interview, you will need to register through this link:

Make, fix and create...

Tuesday, May 31, 2022

Meet the author link

Make Magazine provided this link to enable Wisdom of the Hands blog readers to log in to the zoom interview by Dale Dougherty at 6 PM Central Daylight Time on June 2, 2022.

You will need to register in advance to receive an invitation to attend. I hope to find a few of my friends in the audience. A Q & A session will follow.

Make, fix and create... 

Meet at Make? I'm trying

My zoom conversation with Dale Dougherty at Make Magazine on Thursday is a members only affair and I learned that the link I provided yesterday will not work. I'm checking to see if there's a link I can offer to non-members. I'll share it when I can. 

Make, fix and create...

Monday, May 30, 2022

Meet the author event

On June 2nd, 6-7 PM Central Daylight Time I'll have a zoom call with Dale Dougherty of Make Magazine to discuss my book, The Wisdom of Our Hands: Crafting, A Life. The event is set up for members only and I'm checking to see if I can provide a link.

The event will consist of an interview by Dale, and there will be time allotted for a Q and A.

Make, fix and create...

Sunday, May 29, 2022

Four freedoms

While some are attempting to take part in what they've called a "culture war," by steadfastly refusing to regulate weapons of war, and as children and innocent unarmed adults are killed by assault rifles folks should have few rights to in the first place, FDR proclaimed 4 fundamental freedoms that are essential in a democracy. Those were freedom of speech, freedom of worship, freedom from want, and freedom from fear. Those last two are the ones that we've lost in the culture war that pits the second amendment rights to "bear arms" against the safety of all Americans.

Some of us want to eliminate poverty, as it is most often the source of poor schooling, stresses on the home, divorce, and of kids falling through the cracks. The "conservative" approach is to put hardening of schools as their priority, while also hardening the lives of our kids and increasing the level of fear. Imagine for a moment that your loving fourth grade teacher had an AR-15 at hand behind her desk ready to blow away anyone who arrived in class unexpected. Any other weapon and she'd be outgunned. Imagine for a moment that to enter the supermarket, you had to face an AR-15 armed guard and pass through a metal detector, taking your concealed weapon back to the car when the alarms went off. That's the world some Republicans want.

Freedom from fear these days is the freedom most lacking. So what's a person to do? Put the guns down, walk forth freely and bravely into the world. When we meet those carrying guns let's ask them what they are so afraid of that they need to be "armed", while the rest of us walk forward having put fear aside. The purpose of self-defense weaponry is proposed as that of living with less fear, while parents worry about sending their kids to school, and to see an armed man enter a grocery store makes me want to run for my life.

I work out at the gym with doctors who have long served in our community, including for many years taking turns in the emergency room. I asked them if they could count the numbers of self-inflicted and accidental gun deaths over their many years of service here. The number was beyond their counting. I asked if there was a single case in which a gun saved a life. There were unable to recall even one. So if we want to live without fear, let's remove assault weapons and weapons of war from our society, please.

Saturday, May 28, 2022


I read about a country western music star, a grammy award winner, who backed out of the NRA convention. He said, however, that he was a "proud gun owner." What is there about gun ownership that could make a man feel proud? A young man, 18years or or in some cases younger, can own an assault rifle giving him the potential of taking lives from innocent folks. Would it be more fitting to state one's embarrassment instead? And yet the world seems to be full of "proud gun owners." We've far too many of them, and far too many guns. 

Gun manufacturers have used advertising to attempt to associate their products with military bravery, but should guns not be seen as an expression of cowardice instead? Would it not be a better world if we would walk in it unarmed, placing our fears aside and our faith in each other? And if instead of training kids and cops to face mass shooting incidents we were to return schooling and shopping to a kindlier foundation?

Since politicians seem unwilling to solve our nation's gun problems, I challenge all gun owners to think more critically of themselves and about the rationality of their own fears. What is it they fear so much that they think guns are required in order to feel safe? This, my friends is a world of our own making, but guns won't make things safe. If you are a coward, no number of guns will make you safe. But if you're brave, no gun is required. Owning the same kind of weapon used to rapidly kill children or old folks at the grocery store should never be justification for feeling proud. Perhaps shame instead, for cowardice in the face of life, should be acknowledged by those who hold their guns so dear.

Let's be brave. Let's be strong. Let's feel pride in having put instruments of destruction aside and begin the arduous process of healing others.

Friday, May 27, 2022


Our outdoor studies class is building a "survival structure" that they plan to use for an overnight campout. 

In a survival structure  you need to use the materials at hand, and what we have on campus in large quantities is bamboo. Bamboo is a fascinating material. It grows quickly and has amazing strength. In much of the world it's used to build scaffolding for construction. It is actually a type of grass. It grows thick and in northwest Arkansas is considered a nuisance plant. Once planted, it is so hardy that it is difficult to eradicate. What the students have cut will soon be replenished.

The photo shows student progress. Like a structure built many years ago, "Fanshaw's dwelling" it is a two room dwelling.

I've proposed an article for Quercus Magazine about the project and will be sharing photos and text for future publication.

Make, fix and create...

Wednesday, May 25, 2022

Making a flag boat

As an end of the school year project with  our Kindergarten students (our Rainbow Group), we made a flag boat that the students will release into the White River while on a field trip in June. I made the boat. New CSS wood shop teacher Dustin Griffith used the school's laser engraver to make an identification plate, and the students made and decorated the flags. 

Being released into the White River, the boat will travel to parts unknown, and if found, the engraved plate may lead someone to contact the school. The rather plain looking boat will get additional decoration in the pre-school before launch.

Make, fix and create...

beyond thoughts and prayers.

I routinely teach kids grades k-12, and remain heart broken by gun violence in the US and the refusal of the members of the Republican party to offer more than thoughts and prayers and while they urge that we have more guns, not less. When I think of the children at Robb Elementary or at Sandy Hook, or the other places visited by senseless gun violence, I see the innocent faces of my own kids and pray that congressional inaction is brought to an immediate end. 

We've no excuses. They've no excuses. From Sandy Hook and Columbine on, nearly all Republicans have fought against any sort of restrictions on gun ownership. At the same time, while claiming that the problems are mental health related, they've offered no solutions or leadership in that direction. They wait for anger and despair to die down and then proceed as though nothing happened. 

The Republicans are not alone, as there are some Democrats still afraid of standing up for the safety of our kids.

In the past, the lead talking point was that in the face of horror we must wait and let the passions subside so as to not act in a rash manner. But how many more Sandy Hook and Robb Elementary School massacres must our nation endure as politicians offer "thoughts and prayers" and as they wait the angst to die down and they can skate forward untouched and having done nothing for the safety of our kids or for our society at large.

In March, 2020, schools across American were closed down to wait for the covid pandemic to be brought under better control. What will schools do in the face of the pandemic of gun violence? Perhaps our schools should be closed until congress finds the courage to act.

In the meantime, we continue teaching kids to make beautiful and useful things from wood. The project offered this week was to make eight sided pencil cups, which the kids were proud to take home and put to use.

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

Sunday, May 22, 2022

deliberate practice

My readers will find this article from Forbes to be interesting, and perhaps this quote also from Louis Pasteur, leading it, "that chance favors the prepared mind."

At the gym on Saturday, my weight lifting partners were discussing K. Anders Erickson's 10,000 hour rule, and that so many hours are expended by all of us in frivolous fashion.

An example is that by the time a student graduates from high school, well in excess of 10,000 hours will have been spent in dispassionate time, sitting at desks, when in an alternate approach they might have become fully engaged in pursuit of passional interests.

What does it take as far as a general investment of time to arrive at a high point in valuable engagement and contribution in life? There are three steps toward that level of investment. The first is to awaken possible passion and identify interests. For that to happen, kids have to be exposed to various alternatives and the actual folks performing a wide variety of services and tasks. 

Froebel’s book Mother Play comes to mind, as he illustrated various roles within community through visual images, song and finger play, celebrating the importance of various roles and folks. Even the lowly charcoal maker was celebrated as shown. Kids need some way to grasp a variety of options for finding passionate potentials for engagement. Schools, by focusing primarily on reading and math and only things that can be easily tested, don’t provide that.

The second thing that has to happen is that kids be enabled to see themselves as having a pathway to the next level by being connected with folks who are on the same journey, developing skills in various areas of passionate engagement.

The third thing is that we need to develop systems that reward and support "passionate engagement,"over nearly all else.

It interests me that in years past it was noted that many of the career opportunities in one generation didn’t exist in previous ones, so a focus on CTE may be a bit more narrow than what I have in mind. How about PE, not meaning physical education (though not to exclude that) but "passionate engagement" as being one of the factors aspired toward in education. By the time kids graduate from high school they will have spent in excess of 10,000 hours sitting at desks. Passionate engagement of the type required to raise one’s level of performance to a high standard, one of service to society, will not happen as a result of sitting at desks. It requires deliberate practice.

What the focus on CTE does is expand the range of options. But to get those 1 ,000 hours to mean more than boredom, and getting good at that, we need to respond to student’s natural passions, and also break down the artificial walls between CTE and college prep.

I have a quote in the book from David Henry Feldman that discusses a new standard from his essay the Child As Craftsman, calling for diversity of interests and passionate engagement in diverse interests as being a more useful goal in public education. So it’s really a bit beyond supporting CTE as an alternative to College Prep.

Of course, the hands play a role at center stage.

Make, fix and create...

Saturday, May 21, 2022

September, 2006

At my wife's suggestion in 2006, I launched the Wisdom of the Hands blog with this blog post:  Welcome to my Wisdom of the Hands Blog

Since then there have been over 2.5 million page views recorded reflecting an unknowable number of first time and returning visitors. My wife thought that by doing the log I would not need to write the Wisdom of Our Hands book, and that the one would take the place of the other. But the blog became my way of sifting and recording and practicing getting better at sharing the ideas inherent in the philosophy. The blog also helped me to be connected with like minds all over the world.

If you are not familiar with the blog, the link above will carry you to the very first post, and you can travel for years onward from there. You'll also find lots of creative work that I hope will inspire, not just to do similar work but also to reconsider the role the hands play in our lives, they being crucial to the development of both character and intellect.

In the blog, you'll find numerous references to the concepts in the Wisdom of Our Hands book and you can read for free and to greater depth. As some know, this is my retirement year from teaching kids at the Clear Spring School so there's a bit of sadness for me watching one era end while another slides in to take its place. There's also a deep and lasting connection with lots of kids (and adults) that will linger.

The great thing is that the wisdom of our hands is as much yours as mine. Carry forth in the making of beautiful and useful things.

Make, fix and create.

Friday, May 20, 2022

No True Wealth but Life

"Let the youth once learn to take a straight shaving off a plank, or draw a fine curve without faltering, or lay a brick level in its mortar, and he has learned a multitude of other matters which no lips of man could ever teach him." --John Ruskin, "Time and Tide", 1883

So what are those things that no lips of man could ever teach? Let's start with geometry, and the concepts straight and level. Without seeing or feeling by hand, concepts of math fall beyond the realm that words alone can convey. They are derived from the experience of the real world, shown to us by exercise and example.

Then, beyond that, what does one learn from what Ruskin suggests? I could make a list. Some has to do with the mechanics of our own body and our movement within the world, having to do with skeletal structures and gravity. Some has to do with our placement within human culture. Are we of those who serve others and the whole of life or not.

Finnish neurophysiologist Matti Bergstöm named a sociological and cultural syndrome, "finger blindness" referring to those who have not learned their sense of self from a true connection with reality... like that acquired through the making of beautiful and useful things. He refers to those folks as being "values damaged," in that their values are restricted and narrowed to a single measure of reality. Bergstöm said, "Just as the blind man cannot see the the shape of a physical object, the finger blind cannot perceive its intrinsic worth." 

Rather than understanding the diverse cooperative values associated with craftsmanship, the only measure for the finger blind is that of competitive financial or political success. Some of the richest  and most influential folks in our society suffer from it. We see the effects of this all the time, from SWEPCo having had plans to put a huge superhighway of electric power through my back yard, destroying 48 miles of Arkansas forests in the process, to schools in which politicians and administrators overlook the needs and interests of each child in order to foist schemes of political correctness and short term cost-effectiveness, on our kids. We see it in Putin's attempt to take over Ukraine through a most horrid and brutal war.

As an antidote to the gospel of greed that infects the world, Ruskin proposed what he called "the first law of the universe, that there is no true wealth but life." From that Ruskin proposed "The law of help" which governs all healthy biological and social systems. Ruskin's law of help is as follows: "Government and cooperation are in all things and eternally the laws of life. Anarchy and competition, eternally, and in all things, the laws of death."

The simple answer of course is for us to be of service to each other. There are many ways to serve. Some simple, some complex. Some large some small. There are many ways also to tear at the fabric of our humanity that we must resist by proceeding to do good work.

Make, fix and create... align with the creative and cooperative forces of the universe.

Thursday, May 19, 2022

building the body

I got an interesting email from a reader noting  the value of my new book to his newest passion, playing semi-pro football at the age of 58. He was introduced to my writing by a football coach and former shop teacher who was providing insight into the hand/brain/body connections essential to success in athletics.

It fascinates me as I watch my students learning to saw with a hand saw, that developing a smooth motion with the saw involves developing smooth motion in the underlying infrastructure.

A friend with whom I work out regularly described a coaching tip from a golfing companion, who suggested having watched his swing, that when his arms were pulled back, he would cock his wrists slightly, giving extra force to the swing, but interjecting that additional motion required compensation that made the results  more variable and less controlled. And so, yes, the wisdom of the hands is not just about woodworking. It is about how we engage intelligently as bodies in the real world. Can sawing help your swing? Perhaps.

My Kindergarten students (our Rainbow Group) were shocked and dismayed that yesterday was to be their last day in the wood shop. One asked, "Will I ever see you again?" This is my retirement year from teaching at the Clear Spring School, but I plan to stay involved. And I'm attempting to plan one more lesson for my Kindergarten students before the end of the school year. They are too precious to ignore.

The photo shows my K students with Froebel Gifts number 4 which consists of a box holding 8 flat tile blocks. Froebel distinguished between "gifts" and "occupations" as follows. Gifts were manipulative learning objects that were unchanged by their use, whereas "occupations" would be permanently changed or altered in their use. Examples of occupations  are paper folding or cutting with scissors. Once cut, paper cannot be uncut. But the blocks can be  built with and then put back in the box.

Make, fix and create...

Tuesday, May 17, 2022

Box making at CSS and beyond

We've been making a series of small boxes in wood shop at the Clear Spring School and the photo shows but one example. This one is made to display student made tops. You show a student a box and the student says, "I want to make one." 

Students will be finishing another type of box today.

The second photo shows boxes of a higher standard made by Ray Taylor's older students in NWACC's Construction Technology program. More photos of Ray's student boxes can be found on instagram.

Making beautiful and useful things should be a part of  every student's school experience.

Make, fix and create.

Saturday, May 14, 2022


In 2003 we finished the construction of Fanshaw's dwelling and invited Arkansas author Donald Harington to visit it. Students from our middle school and high school attended.

In addition to being one of Arkansas' most prolific and acclaimed novelists, Harington taught Art History for over 22 years at the University of Arkansas. His presentation might have been over the heads of the students gathered at his feet and at the feet also of two towering pine trees, that for Harington served to illustrate duality in nature and in art.

The two young men sitting at Harington's seem to not be paying attention. After the event was over, I noticed that they had taken notes, recreating with small stones and pine needles a forest scene complete with wigwams and teepees.

What was the value of this exercise? Can one ever determine such things? Will my students have memories of the experience? I do.

Make, fix and create...

Friday, May 13, 2022

Fanshaw's dwelling #2

These are additional photos of the making of Fanshaw's dwelling in 2003. The students loved working together outdoors and the framework of the double dwelling came together quickly with bent saplings lashed together with twine. Gathering the material to form the roof took longer. 

Unlike modern homes, Fanshaw's dwelling decomposed into the earth leaving no trace but these photos and the experiences remembered from making it.

Make, fix and create...

Thursday, May 12, 2022

Making Fanshaw's dwelling

Back in 2003 and as students at the Clear Spring School were studying our indigenous peoples, I had observed Arkansas' nearly famous novelist Don Harington's illustration of Fanshaw's Dwelling in his classic book, The Architecture of the Arkansas Ozarks. 

Don and I had become friends at that point so I asked him if any high school students in the world had built a replica of Fanshaw's dwelling. Learning that none had, we offered be the first. 

As our current group of older students is currently working on a wilderness survival structure, I'll share photos from an earlier time at the Clear Spring School over the next few days.

Fanshaw's dwelling was an unusual one, in that it had two chambers side by side, each with its own entry. Other than that, it was built in the traditional wigwam style of the Osage. It was built with the tools and materials we had at hand.

I will share more in the coming days.

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

Two reviews

 I got two magazines in the mail today and each featured a review of one of my books. Here they are:
Make, fix and create... Thereby reshaping the world in which we live.

Saturday, May 07, 2022

Front Porch Republic

This review came out yesterday.

It is written by fellow woodworker Josh Pauling.

Make, fix and create...

Wednesday, May 04, 2022

A visit and more...

Yesterday I had a visiting woodworking teacher from Indiana who had come to observe classes at the Clear Spring School. Glenn Smith teaches wood shop and Chess at Forest Ridge Academy in northern Indiana up near the great lakes. I put him to work assisting students while he was here. It is always rewarding to commune with other woodworkers, and with other teachers, and when with both, it's a special treat.

Today my Kindergarten students, (the Rainbow Group) began making Froebel gifts number 4. When the blocks are cut they will have both sets 3 and 4 in their collections. It is obvious when playing with gift number 4 that it was the one most useful in developing Frank Lloyd Wright's love of architecture. I could show you a picture, but it would be so much better if you were to take a set in hand and play with it yourself.

Today, also, we began harvesting bamboo from an area of campus to begin building wilderness survival structures. The students, grades 7-9 were very excited and extremely industrious, even as a gentle rain settled in. The project shows the power of giving students real work to do.

With much of the early publicity out on my new book sales seem to be falling off. I'm hoping that it will take on a life of its own, and you can play your part. Order it. Read it, if you've not done so yet. Promote it to others.

Make, fix and create...

Sunday, May 01, 2022

Woodcarving Illustrated

A review of my Guide to Woodworking with Kids should be arriving to subscribers of Woodcarving Illustrated any day now. Watch for the Summer issue, or subscribe at this address:

Supplies of the book are in short supply as the publisher awaits another printing that's due for distribution in June. In the meantime Amazon has it for sale at above list price.

We're working on an article about kids whittling in school to be published in the Fall edition of Woodcarving Illustrated.

Make, fix and create...

a city that artists built

Back in the 1980’s in Eureka Springs, local artists Louis Freund and Don Kennett regularly attended Eureka Springs Chamber of Commerce meetings, attempting to give voice to the artists of our community in the shaping of our local economy. Their point was that the arts might become recognized as the driving force for a more prosperous future. Their vision fell upon rather stony ground, while in the meantime, Eureka Springs artists, selling their wares at craft shows throughout the US and in galleries downtown were busily promoting an understanding in the world at large that we are first and foremost, an arts community. 

We do, after-all, have far more professional artists and serious non-professional artists per capita than almost any other small town in America. And even from the earliest days of Eureka Springs, that has been the case. Artists were originally drawn here by the beauty of this place, and were compelled to linger by the support and encouragement we’ve been able to provide each other. During harder times, it was noted that friends will get you through times of no money better than money will get you through times of no friends. 

Alice Walton has told how her visits to Eureka Springs galleries with her mother were an inspiration guiding her vision of what Northwest Arkansas would become. And so, while they’re busily building a community of the arts next door, is it not time that we all fully acknowledge who and what we are? 

We are a “city that water built” but we are equally and at the very same time, a city built by the arts and by artists. As we watch what Alice Walton and members of her family are doing, and as it was influenced by what Eureka Springs galleries and artists had done, let’s now take a lesson from her and them (but also from ourselves at the same time). 

 This being May 1, and the launch of yet another May Fine Arts Festival in Eureka Springs, let’s all contemplate the many ways that we can infuse the arts in our lives year round. I urge the Chamber and the CAPC as well as each and every business in the city to invest more time and dollars in the promotion of the arts and in the artists who call this place home.

Make, fix and create...

Saturday, April 30, 2022

Fine Woodworking

My publisher placed an ad for my new book in Fine Woodworking as you see here. 

In my wood shop I've been inlaying box lids, a thing I expect I'll be doing even in my 80s. 

Make, fix and create...

Friday, April 29, 2022

We're not the only ones

The Eliot School in Jamaica Plain, MA has been working with the J.F. Kennedy Elementary School in their town to provide woodworking lessons to all the kindergarten kids. It's a joyous experience that all schools should offer. The screen shot shows a kindergarten class in action. You can read about it here:

Make, fix and create...

Thursday, April 28, 2022

wooden boats

Yesterday in the woodshop at the Clear Spring School, my Kindergarten students, our "Rainbow Group," made toy boats. They loved the project, as did I. The level of enthusiasm they bring to the woodshop is an amazing thing.

Make, fix and create...

Tuesday, April 26, 2022


During WWII, a friend of my father, Lovell Lawrence, Jr. was called in as a consultant to solve a problem with de-icing on the B-25 bomber. Mechanical engineers wanted to solve the problem mechanically, Electrical engineers wanted to solve the problem electrically, and hydraulic engineers wanted to solve the problem hydraulically. And so the problem engineers faced was one easy for Lovell Lawrence to solve. It required asking engineers of various kinds to step out of their disciplines to work together.

Lovell Lawrence, known to my Dad and friends as "Bunny"settled things by telling the various engineers which portion of the project was theirs to do. Portions of it needed to be solved electrically, portions mechanically and portions hydraulically. Bunny who had dropped out of college, his own thinking being far advanced of his professors in various disciplines, later became president of Reaction Motors, Inc., won the Goddard award for rocket engineering, and was head of the Lunar Landing project for Chrysler.

Bunny's story is one of knowing how to think outside the box. I met Bunny and his wife when I was a very small child and they were visiting my parents in Memphis, TN. Today I was reminded of Bunny's story by a letter to the editor written to our local paper by our local librarian, April Griffith. Her letter concerns an essay written by the head of our local Electric Coop that supplies electricity throughout many parts of rural Arkansas. Rob Boaz was insisting that subsidies be restored to fossil fuels like coal and gas and that subsidies be removed from various forms of renewable energy. In other words, you can be an engineer in a narrow subset of ideas and be the CEO of a billion dollar organization and still be dumb as a post when it comes to a more holistic view of reality. The saddest thing is that there are numerous folks in Arkansas that could be influenced to agree with him, while Mr. Boaz needs to get out more.

Bunny, when he was visiting my folks in Memphis, offered my dad a job in the fledgling Reaction Motors, Inc. and I'll note that my own life would have been far different if he had taken it.

Today in the woodshop my students made their own rulers using the widths of their own thumbs to lay out the "inch" marks. With an interest in helping them understand measuring at a deeper level, we then laid out half inch and quarter inch marks, each being found half-way between the previous marks. The point of course, was to go from the concrete into the  abstract and what could be more concrete than the use of our own thumbs.

Make, fix and create...

Monday, April 25, 2022

Pop Wood

Popular Woodworking has published an excerpt from my new book in their June issue. Subscribers should watch for it arriving in their mail very soon if it's not gotten to you already. 

In the wood shop today at the Clear Spring School we began a new unit by exploring the relationship between the thumbs and the development of a system of measure. Tomorrow we'll go deeper in exploring the inch. How many know that the inch is actually derived from the width of a man's thumb? Or that  our own hands might be useful as a method of measure? 

In class my student used their own thumbs to plan and measure the length of simple pivot lid wooden boxes. I want my students to become masters of measuring before the block is completed, and making small wooden boxes will be a good way to propel us toward that goal.

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

Sunday, April 24, 2022

book review

Becca Martin-Brown reviewed my new book in the Northwest Arkansas edition of today's Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. The paper to watch for is April 24, 2022. You can read the text of the article here:

Today I've been sanding and assembling small maple drawers, and planning for a new block to begin at school in the morning.

Make, fix and create...

Saturday, April 23, 2022

small drawers

In my home woodshop I've been attempting to finish old projects that have languished for some reason or another. These trial assembled drawers are for two small jewelry chests that I'd begun years ago. 

They are made from maple and are made with simple  mortise and tenon joints. I'll show photos of the finished jewelry chests at a much later date.

Another project is to finish a silk wood box made using round Vertex hinges. The walnut pull resting on top is left over from a much earlier project and will be fitted to the front of the lid

Make, fix and create...