Thursday, June 30, 2022

Woodworker West

Subscribers to Woodworker West Magazine can watch for the next issue (July/August) to come in the mail. It includes an excerpt from my book Wisdom of Our Hands: Crafting, A Life. The excerpt comes from my chapter on developing technique and includes a few photos of my furniture not included in the book.

This is the first time I've had anything in that magazine due to it being exactly what the title suggests, Woodworker West  having works from the western half of  the US. Arkansas doesn't quite make that cut.

Among the photos featured with the excerpt is this cherry cabinet that I did for the Horn Collection of American Crafts.

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

Wednesday, June 29, 2022

Useful beauty...

"Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be beautiful or believe to be useful."—William Morris. 

And yet, there may be things that appear pretty on their surface that lack beauty, for beauty is in the eye of the beholder and the beholder may be looking more deeply into things. What about objects that represent the enslavement of man to industrial processes? What of things that come to us from the pillaging of the earth's resources, a bit of beauty brought here at the cost of great loss in other places or to the earth itself?

And then there are things that glow from an inner beauty in that they represent the maker's growth, a thing not seen quickly or at first glance. And then there's that beauty that's found in relationships that objects may represent. In other words, things are complicated, but we need ways of assessing what things we bring into our own lives lest we be overwhelmed by meaningless stuff.

A week or so ago the New York Times invited readers to share with them objects considered heirlooms, objects that carry meaning from on generation to the next. I submitted a photo of my father's WWII service watch that he'd worn through 199 days of combat in Germany. 

After the war, my father watched as thousands of similar watches were smashed by a steam roller on an aircraft runway to keep them from being carried home and destroying the watch market in the US. Over the years, the chrome plated bronze case was deteriorating badly so I had a jeweler friend plate the watch in gold, and I recently had it cleaned so that it runs again, keeping perfect time. This watch is a 17 jewel Hamilton and the video shows that it still works. The tiny shaft that keeps the second hand moving is only a fraction of a millimeter in diameter.

Asked by the New York Times to explain the importance of the heirloom, I explained that my father had it on his wrist and kept it wound as he directed traffic on the Red Ball Express, as his division (the 104th) fought its way through the  dikes of Holland, as they held a defensive position in Germany during the Battle of the Bulge, as they fought for the Hürtgen Forest, as he crossed the Bridge at Remagen, and as he witnessed the horrors at the liberation of Camp Dora, a Nazi death camp outside Nordhausen. It was there as they waited at the Elbe River for the Russian troops to arrive as arranged by agreement between FDR and Stalin. 

In other words beauty can also be found in objects that connect us through generations. Cleaned, cased in gold and lubricated, my dad's watch is good for another 75 years, at least.

Make, fix and create...

Monday, June 27, 2022

Skip the middle man.

Skip the middle man. An article in CNN suggests that big box stores are so overwhelmed with returned merchandise that in some cases they're telling shoppers to "just keep it." The cost of returns and the processing and storage of all that junk has become too much.

So how about this idea? Let's make the things we need or buy things of extraordinary beauty that thus offer deeper meaning.  We can avoid time wandering isles to buy things we really don't need and invest that time in making our lives more meaningful. 

I've written before about the half life of objects. Their time between manufacturing and deposit in landfills is brief. Their cost to the environment is enormous. And while the making and distribution of meaningless stuff keeps folks busy and employed we would find deeper meaning if we were to follow these simple rules: 

If you buy something, be sure it's worth the time someone spent to make it. If you can make it yourself and learn from the process, do so. 

There will be a temporary loss of meaningless employment while we move incrementally toward a sound relationship with the environment. But think of the amount of gas we'll save by not making so many trips to the store.

The jig shown is for making drawer pulls for a jewelry chest. It pivots to guide a rectangular piece of wood through the cut on the bandsaw. The same simple jig is also used with a disc sander to finish shaping the curved form.

Make, fix and create...

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...