Friday, September 30, 2022

stuck in Indiana

I'm in Indiana for a class in box making and came down with a case of covid-19 mid-week. Fortunately, by Wednesday, we'd proceeded far enough in the class that my students have been able to carry on without me.  

My assistants took on responsibility for oversight and remaining lessons. I am grateful for such help, but worried that if I've gotten covid-19, others from my class may also. Fortunately, and thanks to my vaccination status, my case is rather mild, requiring isolation and a few over-the-counter medications as well as isolation. I'll return home on Monday.

I stopped by school yesterday after class to pack up my things. A few students were still at work and insisted that even without me, the class has been one of their favorites at Marc Adams School of Woodworking. The reason, I think, is that once the techniques and tools are put in place, student creativity is unleashed. With each student making different boxes of their own design, they stimulate and inspire each other. Add to that shop supervisor Doug Dale and his expertise, and my assistant Jerry Forshee with whom I've worked for years, student success was guaranteed, even without me.

Photos attached. Make, fix and create.

Monday, September 26, 2022

Moving in circles...

I am in Franklin Indiana to teach at the Marc Adams School of Woodworking and am looking forward to a great week making boxes with friends, both new and old. 

While I'm here Marc Adams and his wife Suzie will be headed to Boston where he'll make an address to the American Society for Surgery to the Hand at their annual conference. 

While I'm here, my cousin Mary Lou will be visiting my wife in Eureka Springs. 

I'm reminded that things tend to move in fascinating ways, circles mostly.  I'm here, Mary Lou is there at home in my place. Her husband, Michael, my dear friend, is no longer with us, but had arranged with a friend of his, Rose Ann Reser, to translate for me, an essay by Alfredo Bosi, from Portuguese, Os Trabahos de Mao, The work of the hands. To send Marc thoughtfully on his way to the hand conference, I shared Bosi's thoughtful essay with him, for there is no more beautiful expression of what the hands do, and their importance than what I share now with you.

Os Trabaljos de Mao. The Works of the Hand--Alfredo Bosi 

 It seems to be a characteristic of the symbolic animal to make use of one part of its body to perform many different functions. The hand is an example. The hand pulls from the earth the root and the herb, gathers fruit from the tree, peels it and takes it to its mouth.

The hand catches the object, moves it, brings it into the body, throws it away. The hand pulls and pushes, gathers and scatters, squeezes and relaxes, contracts and distends, rolls up and unrolls; tightens and loosens, clears (as in clearing brush for planting), palpates, caresses, pinches, claws, squeezes, slaps, pummels; afterwards, massages the sore muscle.

The hand feels with the fingertips, palpates and presses with the flesh, scrapes, scratches, rakes (interestingly, in carpentry – the verb escarvar means “scarfs” – creates a joint to unite two pieces of lumber in one continuous piece) scarifies, picks with the fingernails.

With the knuckles, it hits. The hand opens the wound and dresses it. Ruffles the hair (or fur, animal’s coat) and smoothes it. Braids and unbraids the hair. Wrinkles and unwrinkles the paper and the cloth. Anoints and conjures, sprinkles (like baptizing?) and exorcises.

It accuses with the index, applauds with the palms, protects with the cupped hands (literally the “shell”). Allows life with a thumbs-up; and with thumbs-down, orders death. Measures length with the span of the hand (palmo) and weight with the palm (palma).

Signals with gestures the I, you, him, here, there, over there, today, yesterday, tomorrow, little, a lot, more or less, one, two, three, numbers up to ten and its multiples and fractions. No, never, nothing.

It is the voice of the mute, the voice of the deaf, and the reading of the blind. It directs the voice to rise, quiets the hubbub, imposes silence. Greets the friend, waving lightly beside the head, and in the same setting, stretches out the arm and says good-bye. Urges on, and orders a stop. Brings a child into the world and strangles the enemy.

Soaps clothing, scrubs, wrings, rinses, lays it out in the sun, gathers it from the line, smoothes the wrinkles, folds and puts it away.

The hand prepares the food. Grinds grain, peels the vegetable, picks the greens, scales fish, plucks the bird and bones it. It cleans. It squeezes to extract the juice. Pounds with clenched fist, cuts to size, mixes, kneads, flattens, rolls up, smoothes out, oils, covers up, flours, wraps, shapes, pulls apart, flours, garnishes, embellishes and serves. 

The hand throws the ball and catches, parries and strikes. Lifts it and lets it fall. The hand makes sound; beats on the leg and on the chest, marks the beat, strikes the drum and the tambourine, beats, snaps the castanets, plucks the strings of the harp and the guitar, fingers the keys of the harpsichord and the piano, grasps the bow of the violin and the cello, holds woodwinds and brass. The fingers close and open the path of the breath that comes out through the holes of the flute, the clarinet and the oboe. The hand directs the orchestra.

The hand, carrier of the sacred. Hands clasped pray, palm against palm or with laced fingers. With the hand, the faithful makes the sign of the cross. The hand, giver of the sacred. The hand mixes the salt and the water for baptism, and anoints the new Christian; the hand anoints with oil at confirmation, while the godfather’s right hand rests on the godson’s shoulder; the betrothed extend their hands to celebrate the sacrament of love and give each other rings to receive the ring of the alliance; the hand absolves the penitent from sin; the hands serve the eucharist bread to the communicants, hands consecrate the new priest; hands bring extreme unction to the dying one; and to the dead, the blessing and the prayer of peace. In manus tuas, Domine, commendo spiritum meum. 

To perform so many actions, it takes only a small but flexible part of the anatomy; eight little bones in the wrist, five metacarpals, and the fingers with the lower, middle and fingertip phalanxes.

We could never describe all that the hand can do when it is extended and empowered by the tools that human ingenuity has invented in its contradance of needs and desires.

. . . In the Machine Age, has the hand perhaps lost its finest articulations with which it fitted the protuberances and recesses of the material? The workmanship, thus of necessity, diminishes or declines, and hands operate the assembly lines far away from their products. They push buttons, turn handles, connect and disconnect keys, pull and push levers, control panels, ceding to the machine tasks that they used to do. The machine, docile, and therefore violent, does exactly what the hands tell it to do, but if the operator’s muscle flinches, it also knows how to continue, demanding constant vigilance; if not, it cuts off inattentive fingers. There were 8 million work accidents in Brazil alone in 1975. 
Bosi, a poet of renown wrote this piece to urge reform in industry to protect workers from serious injuries... like those that hand surgeons are called to address. My thanks to Henrique for alerting me to Bosi, and to my cousin Michael for bringing Rose Ann into the circle of hands...
Make, fix and create...

Friday, September 23, 2022

letter holders

This week in the Clear Spring School wood shop, my Kindergarten students made letter holders, that could also be used to hold napkins at the kitchen table. There are very good reasons for kids to make useful art. It goes home with them and establishes a great relationship between home and school. When children see the things they've made celebrated by use in the home, they know that they and their work is valued and appreciated. A carefully crafted item is concrete evidence of learning. And when the parents ask their kids, "what did you do in school today?" it's a question easily answered, and the kids are very proud of their work.

For this project, I re-sawed white pine to make thinner stock for the front and back of the letter holder, and I introduced the use of coping saws to cut curved shapes. 

Re-sawing makes thrifty use of the material and makes cutting easier with the coping saw as the kids try to master a new tool. The thinner stock also allows the use of smaller nails which the kids can start themselves without pre-drilling as I did with earlier projects.

The project fits into a series I'm developing, leading the students through the normal progression of learning... From the known to the unknown, from the easy to more difficult, from the simple to the complex and from the concrete to the abstract.

In the first lesson we started with straight cutting Japanese style saws, marking and following straight line cuts. By adding incrementally to the student's foundational skills, they progress in short order, even though not all were at the same starting point.

In my home wood shop, I've been sanding boxes to fill orders. Some are ready to sign and begin finishing today (at least a two day process.) I'm also nearly ready to leave for my weeklong class at Marc Adams School of Woodworking which begins on Monday.

Make, fix and create...

Sunday, September 18, 2022

the effect of trees

New York City embarked on a plan to plant 20,000 new trees a year and already the addition of trees is having its effects on neighborhoods. While I'm grateful to live in a forest, even a single tree in an urban environment can make a difference, as reported in the New York Times. 

On one block in East New York, a line of trees, planted in 2009, has grown into a canopy. Neighbors gather for cards, dominoes and barbecue. “When they first came, I could touch the tops of the trees,” Jaytee Spurgeon, 55, recalls. “It makes the neighborhood better.”

When it comes to human effects on climate, scientists speculate on a "tipping point" at which the effects of CO2 become irreversible and begin accelerating out of control. If we assume that people must be brought to some minimal understanding of nature in order to understand the importance of protecting it, and as people become more and more isolated from it, will we reach a tipping point in our insensitivities at which we allow destruction of nature to proceed without protest?

As demonstrated in New York, even a single tree can make a difference. Also in the New York Times this week was an article about the use of Chestnuts to redeem areas stripped bare by coal mining.

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

Friday, September 16, 2022


Mattie Bergström warned that those who's hands are left untrained will be left "values damaged," and what he meant by that is that they will be left without the full and normal range of human values, and incapable of perceiving the deeper meaning of things. Values like care for the natural environment, historic preservation, art, craftsmanship and real love for each other will ring hollow for those who've been sequestered from engagement in life though failure to develop skills hands-on. 

I am reminded of the Bonwit-Teller Building in New York, that was torn down to build the Trump Tower.

John Baron (really Donald Trump with his voice disguised) claimed that the Art Deco sculptures Donald Trump had previously vowed to preserve, were "without artistic merit." The saving of the sculptures, previously promised to the Metropolitan Museum (where they were thought to have profound artistic merit) was delaying construction, so Trump had them destroyed. Those sculptures were conceived by artists and carved by craftsmen,  and were to be welcomed and preserved by the Met, but did that matter? It would have to a man cognizant of the full range of human values.

Those Bergström described as "values damaged" are lacking the full depth and diverse range of human values. They, knowing little else and having no solid core of humanity adopt money and power as their only driving principles. They become reckless and careless for all else.

We are left in a sad and sorry state when our leaders are drawn from among those Bergström  called "finger blind." And so, developing integrated skills and intellect of hands and mind is essential to the preservation of the quality of human life. Let's make certain that all kids develop integrated skills of hand and mind to prevent them from becoming destructive egomaniacs and putting human culture at risk.

Today in the woodshop, I'm working on small boxes made from ash with lift off lids made of various hardwoods. There's an interesting zen poem that applies. It goes: "Inch, time. Foot gem. Each moment is a precious flower that will not bloom again." If we reflect on the huge expanse of time that brought us to this moment, and then notice that we're brought to this moment by a chain of circumstances, that then lead outward from what we are doing right now, we then observe that the entire future of all things rest upon what we do now. The small boxes I make will pass through a series of hands, each person responding in some way, and in that, the entirety of our known universe is ultimately changed. Must we waste the moments we're given? 
We'd best not. Over a period of a year or more, stone carvers were engaged in creating the beautiful sculptures that Trump destroyed in minutes. Certainly a serious sign of what was to come.

Make, fix and create.

Wednesday, September 14, 2022

reshaping teacher understanding

Adolf Diesterweg was a 19th century German educator and friend of Friedrich Frobel. I was reminded of him as I was perusing my recently published book Holtzwerken mit Kindern, translated from English and in which only a few words from all that German are decipherable by me. 

Diesterweg was responsible for a part of the theory Otto Salomon's Theory of Educational Sloyd in its recognition that learning must move from the known to the unknown, from the easy to more difficult, from the simple to the complex and from the concrete to the abstract. What he was describing would later become known as "scaffolding."

In building knowledge in this manner, it would be essential for the teacher to understand the needs and interests of the child. And of course, given the fact that children are individuals, each with differing needs and levels of understanding, we ought to be pointed in the right direction. Sadly, the needs and interests of the individual child are brushed aside in order to establish control of the "class." And today's classes are generally too large for teachers to discern or respond to the needs and interests of the individual child.

Classroom management has become the overriding objective in most schooling. But Otto Salomon dared to question the idea of "the class." You may also question the idea of the "class" through a thought experiment in which you reflect on your own learning experience.

Say that you are sitting in a college classroom. I'll use my business law classroom from college as an example. You are sitting at your desk. The teacher begins his lecture. If you've done your reading in preparation for the class, some of what the teacher is saying rings a bell. But a question comes up in your mind. You wonder whether or not to raise your hand, and as you deliberate, even for moments, you are no longer listening to what the teacher is attempting to impart. 

My business law teacher in college used a strategy to compel us to do our nightly readings before class. He would call  upon individuals in the class and would ask us to tell in our own words, the outcome of a case. So our attentions were placed in the prayer, "Please don't call on me!!!" It was extremely embarrassing to have to admit to not having read the assignment, the confession being made before the entire class.

The teacher cannot control the attention and learning of all those 25 to 30 individual minds in the classroom that are zooming in or more likely out of his own train of thought. Add to that the fact that some didn't read the homework assignment and had very little prior experience upon which to build an understanding of the lectures content or its relevance to their lives and learning. So with those factors, one can guess that less than 50% of the students are receiving value at any given time.

Today with my Kindergarten students we began building upon last week's lesson. We made color wheels. The project involved repetition of part of what we did in last week's lesson, but to build a fresh project. 

While making note holders was a project intended to build a relationship between school and wood shop and home. The color wheels invited the kids to use markers  to decorate a wheel that can spin and blend the tones into new colors. It added drilling to the project, and allowed each student to work at their own level, with some demonstrating a higher level of sophistication in design, but with each being very pleased with their results.

So what happens when teachers are brought to an understanding of the ineffectiveness of classroom learning? You begin to talk far less and help much more.

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

Saturday, September 10, 2022

for the last 30 years.

For the last 30 years, Republican lawmakers have insisted that   1.Global warming is a hoax. 2. That if it is real, man is not the cause of it. 3. That tackling if it was real would be too costly and disruptive. 4. That the fossil fuel industry that helps also to fuel their conservative candidacies is not to blame for global warming. 

Are we finally at the point of clear understanding that our use of fossil fuels is fueling planetary destruction and disruption? An are we finally at the point where we can call out those obstructionists in politics and replace them in congress with folks capable of understanding science and willing to guide us (and the planet) toward a more sustainable future?

Jimmy Carter, when he was president, was mocked by "conservatives" for wearing a sweater in the White House, turning down the temperature by a few degrees and for putting solar panels on the roof. His idea was living more in line with the concerns of science and human responsibilities regarding nature while reducing our dependence on foreign oil that put nation at the mercy of rogue authoritarian states. Reagan was elected and promptly had the solar panels removed. To conserve was not to be an objective of a "conservative" party.

Can we finally accept the fact that we are not safe in Republican hands and defeat them all (each and every one) in the next election?

I am on the porch, looking out at our forests, the light passing through the trees as it did yesterday and the day before. When we bought this property, part of our objective was to protect it and let the trees grow large. The trees have done their work. But I wonder when others will do theirs? 

Bigger, bigger, better, better, faster, faster and never fast enough, and when will we slow down a bit and conserve the beauty that surrounds us?

When someone self-identifies as "conservative, " please ask them what they are conserving. And you'll likely find them lying through their teeth when it comes to the matters that matter most.

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

On the dangers of belief.

To see, to touch, and to believe. It seems that most human beings live in fantasies devised by others. I do so myself. I grew up within a Christian mythology. Christ could heal the lame, setting them on their feet again. That he could walk on water and feed the multitudes on only a few loaves of bread, was said and taught. He offered a means of altering the laws of Karma, that most chose to ignore, going instead for the perpetual motion of eye for eye. And within that there was at least enough confusion to plant seeds of doubt, for which I'm grateful.

I write this as I sit on the front porch, Rosie at my feet, observing the sun coming through the leaves and feeling the cool air against my skin.

The subject of belief is a curious one. We live in an age in which we're allowed to believe what we want, as that's assumed to be our right. And conflicting beliefs appear to be tearing us apart. We go to certain websites to affirm the main lines of our accepted beliefs, yet fail to open our eyes to the world that surrounds us. 

In this, I'm reminded of Pizarro's conquest of Peru. It was of course sponsored in the name of God, and so Pizarro with under a hundred mounted conquistadors and a few Catholic priests confronted Atahualpa, the emperor of the Incan empire and handed him the sacred book that they had explained to him had the ability to talk. Atahualpa fanned the pages of the book through his fingers, and finding that they had nothing to say, tossed their sacred book to the ground. At that moment in disgust, the Priests gave their blessing on attack. A merciless slaughter of Incan warriors ensued.

The irony of course, is that the Incan quipu, knotted strings recording their history, could talk as you ran your fingers down patterns of knotted thread, in vibrations felt in the finger tips. And so in the coming years most of the quipu were destroyed as was the civilization at large. After capture and confinement Atahualpa was offered ransom. The Incan people were to fill the large room in which he was held captive a number of times in both gold and silver which was delivered as carefully crafted work from all parts of empire. The gold and silver objects of enormous beauty were melted down and shipped to Spain, and with the ransom delivered, Atahualpa was executed anyway.

Isn't it odd and tragic what belief can lead us to do and how it can set us apart from each other and from the natural world as well.

Forgive me if I have not belief but that we intricately entwined with each other. Rosie lifts her eyes to gaze into the woods. My ears perk up at the sound of a siren passing through the valley below. Folks are rushing off to be of aid to each other. Instead of believing, can we simply bear witness instead? Listen, look, attend, allow ourselves to be blended in the reality of things that surround us?

The temperature here on the porch is a delight to the skin. The sky is blue. The wind velocity would be zero on the Beaufort scale, as not a leaf is turning. I don't need my iPhone to tell me this is so.

The photo is a project done by an elementary school student in wood club where they're making catapults. It started as a model cut out by a laser printer, but taken by the student in a more decorative form with additional engineering applied.

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

Wednesday, September 07, 2022

Kindergarten woodworking

I began my Kindergarten wood working class this morning and had a great time. The kids asked, "What are we making today?" And the great thing about working with this age of student is that they're excited about making any thing...

So we made note holders for them to take home and used to convey messages to each other. It is a simple project but involved sawing, hammering, and decorating. Three things that all kids love.

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

chipping away at nature.

Chipper mills in the US have been destroying southern hardwood forests in the US and are now doing the same thing to old growth forests in Europe according to this article in the New York Times: Europe Is Sacrificing Its Ancient Forests for Energy. 

The energy monsters claim that burning ancient forests is a form of green energy, but nothing could be further from the truth. It takes hundreds of years to grow a mature forest, and the burning of them is more costly to the environment than burning coal or natural gas.

In the meantime, today is my first day teaching woodworking to the Kindergarten class at the Clear Spring School. And yesterday I received copies of my Guide to Woodworking with Kids, translated into German. 

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

Monday, September 05, 2022

Lynda Barry in the New York Times

If you agree with anything I've written thus far, you need to read this article about cartoonist and creator Lynda Barry from the New York Times. 

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

Happy Labor Day.

Today we celebrate Labor Day. Ever wonder why there's no federal holiday for Management Day? There are 364 days remaining  in the year dedicated to that. 

Woodrow Wilson, as president of Princeton University had said: "We want one class of persons to have a liberal education, and we want another class of persons, a very much larger class, of necessity, in every society, to forgo the privileges of a liberal education and fit themselves to perform specific difficult manual tasks."— Woodrow Wilson 

He was talking about class and divide and the need to sustain it through a two tier educational system. Haven't we had fun with that? 

Today I'm managing my own labor, as I do most days. I'm preparing boxes for assembly by milling slots for barbed hinges to fit. 

The idea of separating the labors of the hands from the labors of mind is not reasonable. It's a fool's errand intended to divide us into classes and hierarchy. We do best as a society when we recognize the intelligence involved in artistry and labor, and afford each person the dignity their work deserves. 

The photo shows a few box lids moving toward the assembly process. The grooves cut in the lids and sides are for barbed hinges to fit. As part of my own management process, I made a machine to assist.

Make, fix and create.

Sunday, September 04, 2022

in the woods...

With the planet being overpopulated as it is, I'm fully aware of the gifts of living where I do in the forest of Northwest Arkansas. What you see in the photo is what I see on my first brief dog walk in the AM— The sun's first light coming from behind a hill and slicing through the woods.

I have an app to recommend that's provided by National Geographic. It is called "Seek" and can be found online for your phone, too. It allows you to accurately identify individual plants from among thousands of species, and it's like walking with an expert through the forest. 

Once a plant is identified, it will provide access to a database giving additional information about that plant. And it's 100% free. 

Knowing more about each plant species allows me to know which species are invasive and it is surprising how much of our local forest has been disturbed by the introduction of species from other continents. Life is wild and its compulsion to renew itself is without surcease. 

In the meantime, nature is an incredible healing force. It pays huge dividends to immerse oneself in it, even if it requires you to have an app on your phone to do so. 

In the wood shop I've finished inlaying about 50 box lids and will begin preparing for assembly. I don't push the process as hard as I did in my younger years, but have refined the process so that much of it is easy for me, and I've galleries wanting the work.

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

Saturday, September 03, 2022

School is for....?

The New York Times has been running a series of editorials exploring "what is school for?" And this is a favorite. "School is for connecting with Nature."

What a sad and sorry place we create for future generations if we fail to connect our children with the nature that surrounds us. I am sitting on my front porch as is common for me these days in the early morning. Dog Rosie is at my feet, her eyes, nose and ears attuned to the life that surrounds us. She assists me by calling my attention to things I would have missed. 

In the wood shop I've been inlaying box lids, finishing 33 yesterday, and preparing to assemble boxes.

Yesterday friends and I were discussing our own personal overloads of things we've made. A simple solution is to make things that are useful and that get used up in time, rather than making "art," which by necessity needs to be kept safe and whole and purposely unused. That's why I often write of beautiful, useful things in that the objects we make can be both. 

While art can be hung on walls, the useful things we make that then are used become a celebration of life. 

Make, fix and create...

Friday, September 02, 2022

readiness to read

A series of editorials in the New York Times addresses the question "what is school for?" And we must admit that it serves a variety of functions in today's world, ranging all the way from baby sitter to preparing our children for a future that's completely unknown to us. One essay insisted that School is about teaching kids to read. 

When it comes to kids reading in school, some read as early as 4 years old, having read most of the beginning reading books in the library at age 5, and some are reluctant readers, and I suggest that we back way the hell off. 

In the US we begin applying pressure to read in Kindergarten. In Finland they begin formal reading in schools at about age 8. When tested in the PISA test which compares education in various countries at age 15, the Finns beat American students by a significant margin in 30% less time. In Finland, the beginning years of education are for getting the children connected, socialized, and physically active in ways that develop both mind and body.

When my mother was trained as a Kindergarten teacher, she was taught to observe signs of reading readiness. For instance, if a child could skip it suggested a readiness to begin reading. If not, it suggested that they child had not developed sufficiently in mind/body integration to read, and to apply pressure to read would not only be time wasted, but could be detrimental to the child, causing resistance to read... A costly thing to their educations and futures... a costly thing that school districts spend millions of dollars to overcome.

The simple solution is to dial back on the pressures to read, allow children to play, learn through play, be physically active in response to their learning needs. Kids actually do better at reading when they have things worth writing about.

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

Thursday, September 01, 2022

VA Box Making

Yesterday we held a special box making class for folks from the Fayetteville VA as part of their recreational therapy program. We had a great time making cedar boxes. We will have another series of classes for Veterans on Nov. 19. Registration is not open yet. You can find more information here:

I will be teaching. Guess what... wait for it... Box Making. 

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