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. https://www.frontporchrepublic.com/2022/05/your-brains-are-in-your-hands-doug-stowe-on-forming-mind-hand-and-culture/

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: http://woodcarvingillustrated.com

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...