Saturday, July 30, 2022

St. Joseph the Worker

A  new Catholic college is opening next year in Ohio that aims at equipping students for careers in the trades while also providing a four year degree in Catholic Studies. Makes sense to me.  As Rousseau had noted, when putting young persons in a wood shop, their hands will work to the benefit of their brains. They will become philosophers while thinking themselves only craftsmen. 

Such a scheme would offer both intelligence and humility, with the latter being too often lacking in the divide between academics and the trades.  Judgement stands as a barrier between social classes. A point I attempted to make in my book Wisdom of Our Hands, is that we each have direct responsibilities to encourage the growth of hand skills, for they are of direct impact on the character and intelligence of our nation.

The new Catholic College of St. Joseph the Worker promises a low cost college education at a time when education costs leave students carrying a staggering debt load and leave them poorly equipped to pay it off.

A recent review of my new book on Amazon noted: 

"Listen to Doug's hands, they are a voice of sanity 

"Doug distills the practical wisdom that comes from a lifetime of experience into an enjoyable, personal and reflective read. If you make things, his experience will resonate. If you don't make things, here is a look into what's possible if you do (spoiler alert: very good things)."

Make, fix and create...

Friday, July 29, 2022

at Walden pond 2

The photo shows me standing in the doorway of a replica of Thoreau's cabin, taken by my wife, Jean. If you want to know more, there are links to many of Thoreau's published works on the Wikipedia website.

All  worth thinking about, as how many of us might benefit from taking a more direct view of the complexities in which we've become embroiled?

Make, fix and create...


Thursday, July 28, 2022

Walden pond.

Today  my wife, my daughter Lucy and I visited Walden Pond. I know Thoreau would be surprised to see as much activity on the lake he loved but even then there were changes afoot.

Today there were bathers on the beaches, and paddle boards at both ends of the lake. But it is still, and never-the-less, a place of great beauty. Even in Thoreau's time trains would pass by at one end of the lake, and there was one today as we walked the trail to his cabin site and around the circumference of the place. 

By the replica of his cabin, a bronze statue of Thoreau appears to contemplate his hand held in front. I urge you to do the same. In these complex times, we're still human beings and given a chance are very much like the man who built a cabin the woods. May we each seek a simpler, more meaningful life. 

Make, fix and create...

Thursday, July 21, 2022

Museum of Eureka Springs Art

Today an important announcement was made about the formation of the Museum of Eureka Springs Art, MESA. We have a board, non-profit status and a place for the museum to exist for a few years while we get it off its feet. Founding a museum to celebrate our art has long been a dream among many here, so this is an important step.

From the press release:
The recently formed Museum of Eureka Springs Art group has secured a space at the Eureka Springs Community Center in what has long been known as the Highlander Room. (Highlanders, you remember it as your old cafeteria!)

The museum will not occupy the space until renovations on the community center’s former band room. Grants have written to transform the former band room into usable space for classes and events.

The museum itself is a cause for celebration! “Our community has waited for a long time, actually it’s past due, to really recognize the great contributions made by the artists here," said business owner and artist Jim Nelson. The founding museum board consists of Steve Beacham, Glenn Crenshaw, Lucilla Garrett, Jim Magee, Jim Nelson, Elise Roenigk and Doug Stowe.

The museum seeks to promote and preserve the beautiful works executed by past and present artists. “In a town that flows with history, art is part of the stream. From the early days of photography and visitors paintings to an art community in the wartime era, to the flowering movement of the art galleries in the 1970s to the present day, Eureka‘s art is part of the lifeblood of our community," said Beacham, museum board chair.

As the museum grows from this simple start, there will be many ways in which the artists and art collectors of Eureka Springs can participate. The photo shows members of the Eureka Springs Community Center board with members of the new board from the Museum of Eureka Springs Art.

Make, fix and create...

Saturday, July 16, 2022

table bases

Yesterday I glued up the table bases and sent photos off to folks at Fine Woodworking to see if they might be interested in another article about table design. Next I drill holes in the table tops to connect with the bases.

Jean and I attended a James Taylor concert last night and note that at 74 years old, he is still in top form. It was a lovely concert. His voice is still lovely and the music was sublime.

Make, fix and create...

Tuesday, July 12, 2022


Today I continue working on two tables, each with curly maple tops. Because the tops are 2 in. thick, I routed the undersides with a very large 45° chamfering bit to make them appear lighter, and I used a wide, flat, tapered shim double stick taped to the surface, supporting the router to cut deeper and hence thinner along the front edge at the center of the board. 

This is intended to add interest, stopping the top from being just a thick, massive, square ended chunk of lovely wood. 

Perhaps you can see in the photo by observing the front edge, how the routing provides a sense of greater thickness at the ends, making it appear less heavy at the center. This is experimental. You can tell me now whether you think it works, or wait until the table is finished and assess then.

Exacting rectangles and straight lines don't occur in nature, which relies more on waves and bubbles to produce form. The ends of the table top have also been gently shaped so as to be less rectangular, more fluid and sculptural. In addition, I cut in along the front, making the table top slightly more narrow at the center. My shaping of the rectangular table top is intended to make it more fluid and natural.

Today I will begin sanding the legs and other various parts prior to assembly.

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

Monday, July 11, 2022

Woodworker West

Woodworker West has featured an excerpt of my new book, Wisdom of Our Hands: Crafting, A Life  in the July/August issue. The same issue features Robyn Horn's exhibit at the San Francisco Museum of Craft & Design. 

To supplement the excerpt, Ron Goldman, editor at Woodworker West asked me to supply photos of some of my furniture. Among the pieces of furniture featured is a cabinet that I made for Robyn Horn.

I have been listening to a good book, Overstory, by David Powers. It is a book about trees but is also a book about the interconnectedness of things. So, I find the notice of Robyn's exhibit only a few pages from the excerpt from my book is interesting. When encountered by coincidence, it is not intended to direct us left or right at the next light, but it does serve to remind us that we are connected with each other in ways we will likely never understand, and of course that may be it's point, and sufficient at that.

The photo is of my walnut workbench that was first featured in Fine Woodworking and now serves as an illustration of my work in Woodworker West.

Make, fix and create...

Sunday, July 10, 2022

ADHD and depression

This article from the New York Times, suggests a steep rise in ADHD and depression resulting from the pandemic. Folks, are naturally stressed out, depressed and anxious and a sharp rise in medication for these issues shows the severity of the problem.

There are, of course, non-medicinal solutions that should be considered. For instance, the purposeful engagement of the hands can alleviate symptoms of both. As I described in this blog and in my new book Wisdom of Our Hands; Crafting, a Life, effort driven rewards of positive mood enhancing neurohormones can alleviate symptoms of depression. In addition, training of the attention through focused hands-on work can counter the effects of ADHD. Woodworking, as an example, is a great way to hone and enhance the powers of attention.

Yesterday I received the July/August edition of Quercus Magazine in the mail containing an excerpt from my new book that covers these exact points. If you are a subscriber in the US you will have received your copy in the mail.

Make, fix, and create.

Saturday, July 09, 2022

San Francisco Museum of Craft and Design...

The San Francisco Museum of Craft and Design has mounted a major exhibition of the work of Arkansas Artist Robyn Horn, with the exhibit being described here: 

Humble, personable and unassuming Robyn has had an impact on the arts reaching far beyond her own work, in that she's long been active in promoting the growth of others, both as a patron of the arts, and through the Windgate Foundation. Yesterday I mentioned the impact of Black Mountain College on the arts. In 30 years time, the efforts of Robyn and John Horn to promote the arts, will be known as equally profound.

The image is of a piece of Robyn's work.

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

Friday, July 08, 2022

Black Mountain College

Black Mountain College is featured in this interesting article in the New York Times.  Our artist power couple Louis and Elsie Freund had visited at Black Mountain College, and the spirit of the place was akin to what so many of us were looking for as we began gathering in Eureka Springs in the 1970's. The article is worth reading.

Today my wife and I will go to Little Rock for a book signing at the Central Arkansas Library, 5-8 PM.

Make, fix and  create....

Thursday, July 07, 2022

A more real education

In the wood shop I've been working on thick curly maple table tops, shaping them along both ends and along the front, making them appear less massive despite their mass. I've made a shim that will allow a routing on the underside to pass deeper at the center of the cut, adding additional interest to the design. How can I describe what I have in mind? A picture when you see it will suffice.

William James book, A Talk to Teachers on Psychology published well over a century ago, tells the essential truth about learning that all educators (and parents, too) should study in depth. 

James, one of the famous founders of modern psychology, was an advocate for manual arts in school for the following reasons: 
Constructiveness is another great instinctive tendency with which the schoolroom has to contract an alliance. Up to the eighth or ninth year of childhood one may say that the child does hardly anything else than handle objects, explore things with his hands, doing and undoing, setting up and knocking down, putting together and pulling apart; for, from the psychological point of view, construction and destruction are two names for the same manual activity. Both signify the production of change, and the working of effects, in outward things. The result of all this is that intimate familiarity with the physical environment, that acquaintance with the properties of material things, which is really the foundation of human consciousness. To the very last, in most of us, the conceptions of objects and their properties are limited to the notion of what we can do with them. A 'stick' means something we can lean upon or strike with; 'fire,' something to cook, or warm ourselves, or burn things up withal; 'string,' something with which to tie things together. For most people these objects have no other meaning. In geometry, the cylinder, circle, sphere, are defined as what you get by going through certain processes of construction, revolving a parallelogram upon one of its sides, etc. The more different kinds of things a child thus gets to know by treating and handling them, the more confident grows his sense of kinship with the world in which he lives. An unsympathetic adult will wonder at the fascinated hours which a child will spend in putting his blocks together and rearranging them. But the wise education takes the tide at the flood, and from the kindergarten upward devotes the first years of education to training in construction and to object-teaching. I need not recapitulate here what I said awhile back about the superiority of the objective and experimental methods. They occupy the pupil in a way most congruous with the spontaneous interests of his age. They absorb him, and leave impressions durable and profound. Compared with the youth taught by these methods, one brought up exclusively by books carries through life a certain remoteness from reality: he stands, as it were, out of the pale, and feels that he stands so; and often suffers a kind of melancholy from which he might have been rescued by a more real education.—William James

So what might a "more real education" do? For one thing, it might help some young people to find greater meaning in school, more reasons to attend, more reasons to pay attention. By deepening the relationship between the concrete and abstract, putting real tools in student hands, they would sense their own creative powers be much more likely to avoid guns and the idealization of destruction in their search for identity.

In the woodshop, in making table tops, I've employed a variety of tools, each demanding deep attention, while also reinforcing a sense of self. A photo is shown.

Make, fix and create.

Wednesday, July 06, 2022

A crystal clear explanation of the value of Sloyd

Today I'm sitting on the front porch, waiting for the heat of the day to drive Rosie and I inside. We've some serious play to do first. 

In the shop, I've about 4 small projects going at once, in an attempt to clear the decks for new work. There are very clear reasons why all schools should have wood shops and other means for students to learn directly from life. The following is from William James.
"The most colossal improvement which recent years have seen in secondary education lies in the introduction of manual training schools; not because they will give us a people more handy and practical for domestic life and better skilled in trades, but because they will give us citizens with an entirely different intellectual fiber. 
 "Laboratory work and shop work engender a habit of observation. They confer precision; because, if you are doing a thing, you must do it definitely right or definitely wrong. They give honesty; for, when you express yourself by making things, and not by using words, it becomes impossible to dissimulate your vagueness or ignorance by ambiguity. They beget a habit of self-reliance, they keep the interest and attention always cheerfully engaged, and reduce the teacher's disciplinary functions to a minimum" -- William James

You can dissect what William James says in these short two paragraphs and see clearly where American education errs. The idea that teachers are to have a "disciplinary function" is somewhat terrifying, as it makes the assumption that kids will be unruly, and of course they will be if restrained against their will in activities that fail to capture their interests.

We are needing a major new investment in schools and in teachers, unless we are wanting to create a society in which people are led like sheep and controlled to serve a powerful elite. We are needing to create a society like James describes as having an "entirely different intellectual fiber." But don't hold your breath waiting for it.  Act as follows:

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

Tuesday, July 05, 2022

pricing at Amazon

I have been troubled lately to find some of my books on Amazon selling for more than the suggested retail price. So instead of buying from Amazon, please go to There you will find "Wisdom of Our Hands: Crafting, A Life" and two earlier books, "Making Classic Toys that Teach" and "The Guide to Woodworking with Kids." All are priced below suggested retail price.

If you are interested in "the Box Maker's Guitar Book," you'll find it on Amazon for $50.00 or on for the suggested retail price of half the current Amazon price. It appears that Amazon has a very weird computer controlled pricing algorithm that may be screwing folks if they're not watchful. They are also screwing authors by inflating the price of our books and deterring sales.

In the shop I'm experimenting with a different top on the torsion tables. The top shown is curly maple.

Make, fix and create.

Set and setting...

Back in the seventies as young folks experimented with LSD, they were advised that set and setting were important to control the outcome of the trip. A trip could be good or bad depending on the circumstances set up in advance. What you expected and the reasons for it (set) had impact on whether you had a good or bad trip. Where you did it and who you did it with (setting) were the other parts... So hang out in lovely places with good folks unless you want to suffer needlessly.

An article in CNN ( discusses how to approach the problem of gun violence, centered on research done in 1973 in which divinity students were presented the opportunity to be "good samaritans" while walking to a venue in which they were to lecture on "the Good Samaritan." Whether or not they acted along the way as "good samaritans" depended on whether they were part of the group told that they were running late. Those who were "late," were not to be bothered with the needs of others. So, set and setting have real consequences even for those who are not experimenting with drugs.

Our predispositions can have dire consequences. If you think the world is a dangerous place, your attitudes may have helped shape it to be such a place, at least for you. If you are angry about gas prices, will you carry your anger out into the roadways where consequences of your anger can lead to your death or the death of others? Big terrible things fester from small wounds to fragile egos.

Perhaps that's where craftsmanship might come in. In the woodshop, I take matters and materials into my own hands. Sometimes, things work out. When they don't, I take my emotions in hand and shift to "Plan B." Sometimes to C or D, if necessary. Perhaps if more of us were "set" on creating useful beauty the setting in which we find ourselves would be vastly improved.

I've been at work on torsion style hall tables. The torsion style is of my own invention and relies on round round mortises and tenons adjusted and glued into simple, rigid forms. But I'm struggling a bit with the top. I had intended to use spalted maple, but I'm going to use a plank of curly maple instead that I've been saving for just such a time. I decided that the table is too tall, so I'm going to cut it down by 3 inches in height. An attitude of willing adjustment can play wonders in life, just as in the wood shop. The photo shows the table in test assembly mode. It will get better, just as I've described. And life in the larger world will get better also,  I hope.

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

Monday, July 04, 2022

concrete vs. abstract

A good example of the relationship between the concrete and abstract comes from people's understanding of Educational Sloyd. If, in the early days of manual arts in schools, you were to mention Educational Sloyd, people assumed you were talking about a series of useful models to be made by students. That error is made today as well. What Otto Salomon had in mind, however, was not a series of models, but rather a series of exercises that represented the development of skill and character. The models were simply the means of delivery for those exercises. The various model series were arranged based on those deeper abstract concepts. 

The same goes for my  books. The idea is not to make stuff, (though that may be the idea that readers have in mind) but to develop skill and creativity that allow for personal expression. I'll repeat the basic precepts of Educational Sloyd for two reasons. First, there may be new readers and secondly, the principles of Educational Sloyd ought to inform every educational enterprise. 

Start with the interest of the child (whether actual child or adult learning like one).

Build from the known to the unknown.

Build also from the easy to the more difficult.

From the simple to the complex, 

And from the concrete to the abstract.

In the wood shop today, I've been making small stubby tenoned parts. I could make these parts on the lathe, but you can see in the video how quickly and accurately they can be made using a Veritas tenor mounted in the drill press along with a pen drilling vise to hold the stock accurately in position. These short parts, tenoned on both ends, will support and connect the tops of tables to torsion bases. At some point I'll have photos to share.

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


Sunday, July 03, 2022

2nd Friday Art Walk

I will be at the Central Arkansas Library Galleries at Library Square on Friday, July 8, 5-8 PM for a book signing. Since my focus will be turning more and more to education and reshaping the way we teach kids, I'll have copies of three books available: The Wisdom of Our Hands: Crafting, A Life, The Guide to Woodworking With Kids, and Making Classic Toys that Teach. 

The Gallery at Library Square sells my work in Little Rock, and I'll also be delivering a few new boxes to them for sale. Watch the gallery's facebook page for more information about the event.

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

Friday, July 01, 2022

Making a jewelry chest.

My curly maple jewelry chests are far enough along now to show more than a box full of loose parts. Assembly and the fitting of drawers and doors is now complete including magnetic catches on the side doors. A chest like this is as complex as most of the large pieces of furniture I've made, so that explains why in bringing it to this stage it languished in my shop for almost a decade. I was busy with other things. I was at the point of either throwing all my earlier work away, or putting in the effort to complete them (there are two).

I've still a lot to do on them before the finish is applied.

Make, fix and create...

Movement builds the child's brain...

Part of what I've been up to over the last few years has been to examine learning, how we learn, and how we can design schooling to be responsive to how we learn best. I've been extremely lucky to have the woodshop at the Clear Spring School as a laboratory for my own growth. Now,  with my retirement from Clear Spring School, I'm in need of additional ways to share what I've learned.

In my book, The Wisdom of Our Hands, I was only able to touch the surface of all that's known about the subject of how our hands form the foundations of character and intellect for the child, and also for society at large.

The following link is to an interesting article on the relationship between movement and brain development that should be informing every educator in the US. 

Understanding the relationship between movement and brain development is of particular importance as children are held captive at desks, and as we've all become captivated and captive to digital devices. 

The hands I take symbolic as they represent the whole child's body, mind and spirit of full engagement in life. And you can help. If you are lucky enough to have young people in your own life, do things with them. If you are a teacher, rebel at least strongly enough to get your students out of their desks, doing real things, and cast aside the yoke of standardized testing and standardized expectations. If you are a policy maker, or administrator, reduce class sizes to enable teachers to better relate to the individual needs and interests of each child. And if you are a parent, please understand that children are not clockwork. They don't all grow at a standardized rate, and their bodily maturity that comes from doing real things in the real world is more important than reading a book, and that the two are closely related.

You can see in the video, that Clear Spring School students' play with blocks is both physical and intellectual. Our Froebel playground is always in flux as designed by our kids.

Make, fix and create...