Wednesday, August 31, 2022

Holzwerken mit Kindern

My Guide to Woodworking with Kids has been translated and published in German with copies available on The title is Holzwerken mit Kindern:Wie Sie SpaƟ wecken und Wissen richtig" and it is my third book translated and published in German by the publisher, Holzwerken. The title means "Woodworking with Kids: How to have fun and pass on knowledge properly."

In the meantime, I had a fine day at ESSA making cedar boxes with a group from the Fayetteville VA. I'll share photos of that tomorrow.

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

Sunday, August 28, 2022

Wood is life.

A sawmill is closing in Hong Kong due to the government's plan for a massive homogenized renewal and development project. An article in the New York Times, Wood is Life, describes the philosophy of the owner and operator of the mill. He thinks young people could learn a great deal from wood. “I hope they’ll learn from its resilient nature and stay grounded and not run away from difficulty.”

When I've asked my students whether they want me to make things easy for them, or difficult so they learn more, they choose the latter.

In my wood shop I've been making a prototype cedar box for a Veteran's class on Wednesday  and making inlaid boxes to fill orders.

Make, fix and create.

Thursday, August 25, 2022

Alfred North Whitehead

Alfred North Whitehead said in his essay on the Aims of Education

" In training a child to activity of thought, above all things we must beware of what I will call “inert ideas”—that is to say, ideas that are merely received into the mind without being utilized, or tested, or thrown into fresh combinations." 

That's where the hands come into play, for as Charles H. Hamm had noted, the mind seeks the truth but the hands discover it. Utilizing, testing, and throwing into new combinations is what the hands do best.

Whitehead had described a learning in depth process starting with romance of the idea, then the development of precision in the application of that idea, culminating in what he called "generalization" or the ability to leap toward application of an idea into fresh territory that may appear unrelated to the original application. 

Most internet learning stops short of the precision stage, in that most folks leap romantically from one idea to the next without investing energy in the development of precision. The development of precision requires application of both mind and body in the creative act. The consequence might reasonably be described as leading to a "soul infused notion," one which commands both the wakeful and sleeping mind in continuum.
The process Whitehead described is closely associated with the human use of metaphor to leap fro the known to the unknown, the formation of hypotheses, and involve the integration of the conscious and unconscious mind.

I share this kind of thing to counter the absurdities of the internet age, in which all things seem to be at the finger tip, and very little seems to be retained in the heart or mind.

I managed to get finish applied to the Arkansas Governor's Award for Quality base I'm making from walnut and spalted sycamore.

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

Wednesday, August 24, 2022

sanding miters?

I've gotten my quality award base to the point of gluing it up. Sanding will come next, then finish, then shipping to the supplier who will attach an acrylic block containing the essential information of the award. 

Cutting the miters and assembling the base reminded me of a question asked by a member of the Central Indiana Wood Workers. He asked about the need to stand miters before assembly. 

There are three good reasons to leave a well cut joint alone. First, in sanding, however much one tries to be perfect, the perfect joint will be made less perfect. Secondly, sanding dust will fill the pores of the wood, making glue less effective in securing the joint. Third, sanding adds an unnecessary step in which mistakes can be made.

How many of these hard bases have I made? I've been making them for about 20 years. Sometimes more than one will be required. Occasionally the award winner will ask for a duplicate to be made so they can share their success at a second business location.

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

Jim Thorpe

A few years ago my wife, daughter and I visited Jim Thorpe, PA, a small tourist town in the Poconos.  It is a delightful small town that got the idea that they could capitalize on the fame of the World's Greatest Athlete with whom the town had no prior connection.

There's a new biography of Jim Thorpe reviewed in the New York Times, "PATH LIT BY LIGHTNING: The Life of Jim Thorpe," by David Maraniss.    

In the meantime, I'm working on an Arkansas Governor's Award base for the Arkansas Quality Awards commission and planning for a veteran's class next week.

Make, fix and create...

Thursday, August 18, 2022


I'm in Indianapolis this week with the Central Indiana Woodworkers We had great attendance last night for my presentation. It is an amazing group, very dedicated to education and service to the communities and kids in the Indianapolis area. 

Among their various activities is making thousands of toys for holiday distribution to kids. At the Indianapolis State Fair this week, they've sold thousands of dollars worth of toys and had hundreds of kids making and decorating tops.

Today and tomorrow I'll be teaching box making techniques.

Make, fix and create...

Tuesday, August 16, 2022

Central Indiana Woodworkers

I leave by air on Wednesday to spend 3 days with the Central Indiana Woodworkers teaching short classes. I begin with an evening session with their monthly meeting. Coffee and Cookies begin at 6:30 PM August 17 with presentation and club meeting to follow. The program is described as follows: 
"Author and unique boxmaker Doug Stowe will be our guest presenter for the Wednesday, August 17, 2022 monthly meeting at the Carpenters Union 301 Hall, 3530 S Rural St., Indianapolis, IN, starting at 7:00 PM. The topic of hs presentation will be the Personal Satisfaction of Working with our Hands. Based on his most recent book, The Wisdom of our Hands, he will share his life-long journey of finding meaning and satisfaction in the woodworking craft and will talk about how woodworking can have a positive impact on communities." 
You can find more information at

My presentation will be followed by two days of classes.

I have been reading an interesting book published in 1985 called "Chain Carvers: Old Men Crafting Meaning." written by ethnographer Simon J. Bronner. In it, Bronner introduces old men living in the Indiana area and describes how work with their hands brings the men comfort, and helps them to cope with the changes taking place in their lives and in their communities. It also illustrates the way crafts extend meaning forward between generations. 

The photo from Chain Carvers shows a hand made knife similar to ones we've made at the Clear Spring School.

Make, fix and create...

Sunday, August 14, 2022

fiction and the real world.

Yesterday I had a pleasant book signing and talk at the Fayetteville Public Library, and as is usually the case when speaking to the public, there were things afterwards that I wish I had said, but did not.

I was very pleased that a few old friends showed up, and new ones as well.

There is a difference in the market place between fiction and non-fiction. Fiction can change lives, but most often does not. We read fiction, not to get closer to reality, but to escape from it or to gain insight into it by seeing things from a different point of view— that of the fictional characters in the book. We often read non-fiction to gain a better understanding of things, but I think you will find it true that a better understanding does not always lead to physical change, particularly in the short term.

My book, "the Wisdom of Our Hands," is my first book in which a table saw is not needed to harvest full value, but like my earlier books, it is a how-to book, in that it describes the human potential for transforming self, family, community and human culture by crafting things of useful beauty. 

The point of the book is not mine alone to make, but yours as well. Were we each to realize and reward the hands in our thinking of things, and as we observe the lives surrounding our own we might move away from the perversion of isolated thought toward a more harmonious community of mankind.

Heather Cox Richardson wrote this morning about the anniversary of the Social Security Act as initially conceived by Francis Perkins.  

When asked to describe the origins of the Social Security Act, Perkins mused that its roots came from the very beginnings of the nation. When Alexis de Tocqueville wrote Democracy in America in 1835, she noted, he thought Americans were uniquely “so generous, so kind, so charitably disposed.” “Well, I don't know anything about the times in which De Tocqueville visited America,” she said, but “I do know that at the time I came into the field of social work, these feelings were real.”

And in the real world we discover that we are deeply connected, and indebted to each other. 

And so that brings me to the point I forgot to make. When we, in our educations, are brought to an understanding of the skills of others (including manual skills) and the labors through which those skills are developed, we have a least some potential of appreciating the contributions of others, even if we were to reside in the loftiest planes of business, academics or politics. That means, of course, that manual training in schools has the potential of transforming even the loftiest of institutions toward a better appreciation of each other. 

The great error in American education came when they decided that the education of the head, and the education of the hands should be separate tracks. That is, of course, something we can fix.

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

Thursday, August 11, 2022

two events...

This Saturday, August 13, 2022 from 2-3 PM I'll be at the Fayetteville Public Library for a talk, display of boxes and readings  from my new book "The Wisdom of Our Hands." The Fayetteville Public Library is located at 401 W. Mountain St. Fayetteville, 72701

On Wednesday evening, August 17, I'll begin a series of demonstrations with the Central Indiana Woodworkers in the Indianapolis area. You will find more information on their website. 

I have been organizing tools and materials for a series of demonstrations. My talk on Wednesday evening August 17 will be open to the public and be held in the Carpenter's Local 301 Meeting Hall 3530 S. Rural St, Indianapolis, IN 46237 Coffee and Cookies at 6:30. Meeting and presentation at 7:00 PM.

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

Monday, August 08, 2022

the real world out there.

There is a real world out there. The Hindu concept Maya suggests that what we see is an illusion, but that's not to deny the reality of what we see, hear or touch but rather, our interpretation of it. Punch the door and your fist will hurt. Pet the cat and it will purr.  Throw the stick and the dog will chase it. The door was real. your fist is real, the pain is real, the cat is real and the sound that the cat makes is also real. The stick was real and if you're lucky the dog will bring it back.

The illusion refers to our making unreal distinctions between things that deny the complex yet simple relationships between things, drawing and redrawing those lines that keep us apart and separate from each other... lines that prevent us from seeing the real world that surrounds us. There is life and there's death, and in the non-duality of the real world, there's only life.

There is an interesting text from the zen tradition called the "Hsin Hsin Ming" that I have found influential in my own thoughts. A fragment of the short text follows: 
The Great Way is neither easy nor difficult for those who have no preferences. When love and hate are both absent everything becomes clear and undisguised. Make the smallest distinction, however, and heaven and earth are set infinitely apart.

Friedrich Froebel's Kindergarten was conceived as a means of awakening children to the richness of their surroundings in both the worlds of nature and of man. Froebel's concept "gliedganzes" meaning member-whole suggested that even though a child was an individual, he or she was also a part of the larger worlds of family, community, nation and even nature itself. 

For a time Kindergarten had become so influential that folks tried to make conventional schooling more like the real world. Due to decades of domination of education by standardized testing schemes, things have gone way off track and even Kindergarten was reshaped to be more inline with standardized testing schemes of measuring reading an math rather as opposed to integration with life.

Things have become a mess. But can be fixed. Reconnecting with the work of our own hands can help.

Make, fix and create...


Sunday, August 07, 2022

the world is real and the self seems abstract.

We tend to see ourselves, not from within, but as a reflection of our interactions with others. I  reach out and grasp the nearest object, and feel its weight and texture. It is a bit harder to do that with myself, so when it comes to grasping my own purpose in life, there can be a challenge. I suspect that's true for others as well.

Yesterday I shared a poem about Khing, the master carver, whose work, and the perfection of it, required work first upon himself, on the discovery of self that led to finding the perfect tree without whose participation the work would have been trivial and of little account.

The interesting thing is that when one commences upon the search for the realization of self, we discover no distinct boundaries. There are no distinct lines between me, sitting on the bench on our front porch, and the dog laying at my feet, for we are intertwined. She watches the forest as I write. If something stirs in the forest, she looks up, and my own eyes follow her gaze into the woods.

I was surprised this week that my newly arrived copy of Fine Woodworking  contains an article illustrating a technique written by another but that I had discovered, taught, and demonstrated to them when an editor was here taking photos for an article on box making. 

My first feelings were that something had been taken from me, as the technique illustrated is clearly one of my own discoveries. My second thoughts were the remembrance that we are deeply connected and indebted to each other, and it's a reminder that we can choose one of two directions in the course of our own lives. One is that of centrifugal force, moving ever outward in the loss of self. The other, inward offers the discovery of who we are.

Yesterday, I also shared a quote from D.H. Lawrence, my sharing of which was also inspired by the article in FWW. We will each be forgotten. What we share with others will live. This is the simple lesson from sitting on the porch, watching the wind flow through the trees, seeing Rosie's nose lift and pull in the aromas of life brought from distant places by that same wind ruffling the leaves. The sound of a jet flying overhead is a reminder of folks flying from one place to another, lifting bags from the overhead compartment, each on journeys of their own fabrication and isolation, and yet not fully disconnected from my own life, or from the winds rustling through the leaves of this forest.

The job of education is not that of filling heads with facts, but that of enabling kids to make and sustain connections with a broad scope, seeing themselves in others and as connected beings within the fabric of reality.

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

Saturday, August 06, 2022

warm still

"Things men have made with wakened hands, and put soft life into are awake through years with transferred touch, and go on glowing for long years. And for this reason, some old things are lovely warm still with the life of forgotten men who made them."—D.H.Lawrence

We will each be forgotten at some point, and yet what we've created and passed along selflessly may live in other hands through extended self.

Parker Palmer, suggests this poem as an allegory for teaching.
Khing, the master carver, made a bell stand
Of precious wood. When it was finished,
All who saw it were astounded. They said it must be
The work of spirits.
The Prince of Lai said to the master carver
"What is your secret?"

Khing replied, "I am only a workman:
I have no secret. There is only this:
When I began to think about the work you commanded
I guarded my spirit, did not expend it
on trifles, that were not to the point.
I fasted in order to set
My heart at rest.
After three days fasting,
I had forgotten praise or criticism.
After seven days
I had forgotten my body
With all its limbs.

"By this time all thought of your Highness
And of the court had faded away.
All that might distract me from the work
Had vanished.
I was collected in the single thought
Of the bell-stand.

"Then I went to the forest
To see the trees in their own natural state.
When the right tree appeared before my eyes,
The bell stand also appeared in it, clearly, beyond doubt.
All I had to do was to put forth my hand
And begin.

"If I had not met this particular tree
There would have been
No bell stand at all.

"What happened?
My own collected thoughts
Encountered the hidden potential in the wood:
From this live encounter came the work
Which you ascribe to the spirits."
Simple, elegant... most of the work was on self, then with the self in control and alignment, the work begins. The results are ascribed to the spirits, and the teacher's job is to bring forth that which is unique.
Make, fix and create... Assist others in doing likewise.

Friday, August 05, 2022

the wisdom of feet.

My trip to Walden Pond lead me to do some reading of Thoreau's "Paradise  (To Be) Regained" in which he reviewed a book (at Emerson's suggestion) written by John Adolphus Etzler, a German engineer who proposed a scheme through which men would no longer have to do diddly squat. Etzler in his book, The Paradise within Reach of All Men, without Labour by powers of Nature and Machinery (Pittsburgh, 1833), proposed a utopian scheme in which the sun, the tides and wind would be harnessed to do all things, much the same way engineers are proposing now. Thoreau found a few things wanting in Etzler's scheme and it's best to read it yourself, as you can do here: not just for a view of modern times through an earlier lens but for additional insight into the thoughtful mind of an American visionary.

I puzzled over this from Thoreau's essay:

"What says Veeshnoo Sarma? He whose mind is at ease is possessed of all riches. Is it not the same to one whose foot is enclosed in a shoe, as if the whole surface of the earth were covered with leather?"

Do we put our minds at ease by limiting our experience of nature and of life? And is such "ease" a richness or an erasure of riches? Etzler's scheme was proposed to eliminate work, when work is a richness of life, and to propose the mind at ease as possession of riches, is to ignore the richness of the mind at work, fulfilling its true purpose.

This last spring some of my students at the Clear Spring School began abandoning foot wear, choosing to go barefoot instead, just as I and my sisters and friends did when living in the south. At winter's end, off went the shoes and we began to "toughen our feet," so that we could walk on rocks and hot pavement without feeling too much pain from the effects of engagement in the real surface of things.

At Walden Pond, my daughter took off her shoes to "get her feet wet" a symbolic thing that implies getting more deeply into the reality that surrounds us. Th photo shows one of many places along the shore of Walden Pond provided to do so. Etzler, finding a few investors in his utopian scheme led them to build colonies in South America, getting their feet wet as they died of tropical diseases and starvation. Etzler survived but disappeared from public record. Thoreau's reflections on Etzler remain informative as technocrats try to make things easy just as Etzler proposed in 1833.

Make, fix and create...

Thursday, August 04, 2022

Paradoxical counterproductivity

Ivan lllich plays a small role in my book The Wisdom of  Our Hands, as I mentioned in my chapter on Tools, the need that we place emphasis on tools that offer what Illich called "conviviality." There's an excellent article about Illich in the summer edition of American Affairs:

Illich’s examination of schooling helped lead him to a broader thesis he called “paradoxical counterproductivity.” This was a dynamic that took hold “whenever the use of an institution paradoxically takes away from society those things the institution was designed to provide.” It is not simply that school fails to impart knowledge; it also degrades and cor­rupts knowledge by enclosing it within the system of self-perpetuating rituals and perverse incentives other social critics have designated “credentialism.” Anyone who has taught will be familiar with the type of student who hasn’t the slightest interest in the subject matter but an intense concern with how to get an A. Whatever their other faults, such students are proceeding from a realistic view of the institution they are operating within, which has replaced learning with artificial signs of it.

Illich was controversial on the right due to his being identified as a socialist, and criticized on the left due to some easy to make misunderstandings having to do with a book he wrote on gender. While women were necessarily asserting their equality in the workplace, Illich was responding to the degradation of both men and women as tools of the economy, for surely we are each so much more. In the commonly held view, we are tools to be bought and sold to profit those who have the most money. But we are more than that, and Illich was attempting to point that out. The article mentioned above suggests Illich's work may reaching its "hour of legibility." I hope that is the case.

The point of course is that there are those things we do for money, and those things that we do for joy, and we're extremely lucky when they overlap and intersect, and we're even luckier when we are able to assist others in finding that same concurrence. Unfortunately, in our current economy, it's not often the case. All seem slaves to the wage one way or another, and despite attempts to bring change, for most women and men it's become worse.

I'm getting ready for classes with the Central Indiana Woodworkers on August, 17, 18 and 19. I'll share information about signing up later in the week. The image above illustrates the dignity of work and is from Otto Salomon's Educational Sloyd suggesting the value of woodworking for all students.

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

Monday, August 01, 2022

stabilizing logs at Bandsaw

I have a quick tip in this month's issue of American Woodturner Magazine, the publication of the American Association of Woodturners. The tip concerns stabilizing logs on the bandsaw to enable a safer cut. There are various jigs that you can buy, but I offer a simpler approach that doesn't require waiting for the UPS truck to arrive. People have wondered what I'll do with myself after retiring from teaching at the Clear Spring School But there're still things to teach to both children and adults, and a variety of ways that I'm offered to share what I've learned. 

If you are an experienced woodturner, these photos from the magazine (originally from my shop) may tell you all that you need to know. To get the magazine on a monthly basis, become member of the AAW.

Make, fix and create...

Homo economicus

The term homo economicus is the assertion by some that the purpose of man is to engage in commerce, the buying and selling of stuff. What a despicable assertion that is, for it views human beings in far too narrow a light. The idea of course is that if you have enough money, you get what you want because other folks are so hungry for money they will give you whatever you want if you offer enough of it. Would that we were more like the Dutch. To be average is good enough. To fit in to your community as a member in full, without having to buy your way in is cause for celebration at all levels.

Jeff Bezos, one of the richest men in the world, decided to build a half billion dollar yacht for himself (without actually lifting a finger, of course), and the company building the yacht did so in a ship yard from which one cannot reach the sea in such a tall ship without dismantling a hundred plus year old bridge. The Dutch people said no. And I love that the richest man in the world can't just buy whatever he wants. The article describing this turn of events is in the New York Times. And I'm cheering for the Dutch. The photo from the New York Times shows the bridge that stands between Bezos' big toy boat and the sea.

In the mid 1800's, a man by the name of John Adolphus Etzler wrote a utopian book about technology and the power of the earth in the form of sun, winds and tide, The Paradise within the Reach of all Men, without Labor, by Powers of Nature and Machinery: An Address to all intelligent men, in two parts (1833). Emerson gave a copy of the book to Thoreau asking him to read it and comment upon it, which he did in a text called, "Paradise (To Be) Regained."  

It is worth reading and noting that the power to do all things may be best reserved for this who may have evolved beyond the condition of the common man, beyond greed, beyond avarice, and beyond self-importance, and in this case, I'm not talking about the founder of Amazon, but rather those danged Dutch who value something more than the big bucks. In Thoreau's text he concludes by making reference to love. I'll not quote but urge you to read it on your own. You'll find direct similarities between Etzler's proposals and those who now seek to accomplish the same thing, realizing the power of the earth to keep them from ever having to lift fingers, and failing to realize that it's through lifting fingers and doing real work that our character and intelligence are formed, and perhaps also lifting fingers is how we discover love.

Make, fix and create...