Wednesday, November 30, 2022

sawing la-de-da style

Sometimes you just have to be cute, especially if you are a part of the rainbow group at the Clear Spring School. To clarify,  I'd just instructed the students in my Kindergarten class to take an easier approach to sawing by allowing the saw to do the work. One must pay attention to getting the saw started on the right line and with attention to one's own body and its smooth motion, the saw does the work. 

Done right, there's time to be cute, even when there are several cuts to be made.

We were making Froebel block sets number 4.


Make, fix and create

Monday, November 28, 2022

a shortage of stuff....

 I found it interesting to read in the New York Times that dumpster diving has become such a big deal. Companies like CVS and Walgreens have so much returned merchandise that gets thrown away each day, that folks go dumpster diving out back to get free stuff, or to illustrate the wastefulness of American consumer culture.

In the meantime, China's strict clampdown on Covid-19 and the protests against their authoritarian rule will likely cause supply chain issues, meaning we'll likely have less stuff. Perhaps in a world overwhelmed with stuff, it will be OK to have less of it.

This is the season for buying lots and lots of stuff. Some of it we buy thinking that it would be great for holiday giving, and then we give it hoping to impress folks who will likely remain unimpressed by receiving stuff for which they have little use.

How about making things instead? Don't be shy about it. When you make presents for people, and even when they're left scratching their heads in disbelief, you will have harvested the personal growth that comes from making beautiful and useful things. We've 27 making days between now and Christmas.

Just in case you are having difficulties knowing where to start or what to make, I've a number of books to recommend. Beginners might try Rustic Furniture Basics. Young parents or grandparents wanting to get their children growing in the real world beyond iPhones and the like might try Making Classic Toys that Teach. The Guide to Woodworking with Kids is an excellent guide for the young or young at heart. The latter two books suggest a path forward for our nation's schools. And of course my most recent book, The Wisdom of Our Hands: Crafting, A Life  is a good way to explain the value of making for those who have never made anything before in their lives.

My friend Bill, told me the other day that he'd purchased a copy of the Wisdom of Our Hands for a friend of his in Little Rock who read it through cover to cover, hardly able to put it down. He then bought two copies to give his sons. As a lifelong craftsman he knew that my book would help explain a few things that needed explanation to a new generation.

You might of course, worry about making more stuff in a world overwhelmed with stuff. But the things a craftsman makes are more than just stuff. Otto Salomon had explained, that the value of the carpenter's work is in the object the carpenter makes, but the value of the student's work is in the student. When you give what you've learned to make you are giving evidence of your own growth to those who would care deeply about such things.

We have 27 days left.

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

Sunday, November 27, 2022

Roy Reed, 1972

In 1972 Roy Reed wrote an article for the New York Times that should be read by others today.
Hippies and Gerald L. K. Smith Make Eureka Springs a Model of Co-existence. It concerns the coexistence in our dear little town between the emerging class of hippies and longhairs, and the national cult leader known by many to be "the minister of hate". I was re-interested in Gerald L. K. Smith by listening to Rachel Maddow's podcast Ultra which explores an earlier time of extremism, authoritarianism and insurrection. Roy Reed suggested that our town should be nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize.

I moved here in 1975 and I owe a great deal to this lovely place.

In my woodshop I've built a new workbench to hold tools and in my sleep at night I'm visualizing new box designs.

The photo shows tiny boxes that had been started while I was writing my book, Tiny Boxes. I'm finishing them as part of my clearing and clean up operation and will be teaching a class at ESSA on Tiny Boxes, December 16-18, and there are openings for two students in this class.

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

Saturday, November 26, 2022

Designing boxes

I'm about to sign a contract with Taunton Press for my 15th book. This one is tentatively titled "Designing Boxes," and will explore box making as a means of fulfillment, artistic creativity and personal growth. To prepare, I'm working on an outline and table of contents, as well as doing some reorganization in the wood shop.

In the meantime I'm also thinking about Otto Salomon's Educational Sloyd and the impact it once had. 

When Salomon set up his school in Nääs, and to which thousands of teachers traveled from around the world to learn the ins and outs of the Sloyd method for teaching crafts to kids, part of his plan was to provide teachers with a philosophical and psychological basis for their teaching experience. He did this trough lectures presented in Swedish, English, German and French.

Ask teachers these days whether they've heard of Comenius, Pestalozzi, Cygnaeus, or Rousseau, and you'll find that most had not heard these names before. To become a teacher these days, is more about management of kids, and principals are hired for their management of teachers, and the ways we actually learn are generally ignored. Salomon sought to instill in his students at Nääs, a firm foundation in the philosophy and psychology of education.

Fortunately, learning is something we have all done and can reflect upon first hand if we are willing to do so. There is a risk involved... that by examining how we learn, we come face to face with how we were taught, and the inefficiencies and inequities of modern education.

One of my own realizations is that regardless of how hard a teacher might work to bring various student attentions to a singular point of focus, the needs of the mind to connect prior experience to what is already known and understood in various students' minds would place students all over the map in terms of how they might absorb and react to what they're being taught. 

Diesterweg's guidance for curriculum development was to start with the interests of the child, then move from the known to the unknown, from the easy to the more difficult, from the simple to the complex and from the concrete to the abstract. 

Of course various students would not have the same interests, nor would they have identical starting knowledge or be able to embrace the same level of difficulty due to each having had different prior experiences.  Otto Salomon challenged the notion that there's such a thing as a class while planting an understanding that each child is unique and deserving of the teacher's attention. And he designed the teaching experience to bridge toward that goal, from the known to unknown, from easy to more difficult, from the simple to the complex and from the concrete to the abstract.

I may be guilty here of projecting onto Salomon what my own observations of education and learning have led me to understand, but I suspect that Salomon would agree with me that in order for education to be psychologically sound, students need to be doing real things, like the activities that wood shop can provide.

What was clearly different between Educational Sloyd and its rival, The Russian System, was that Educational Sloyd was interested in the development of the whole child, while the Russian System was designed to feed workers into the newly emergent industrial economy.

Make, fix and create....

Wednesday, November 23, 2022

cross-cut/miter sled

I used my new design cross-cut/miter sled on Saturday with a class in Wichita, and it worked great. In fact, I used making it as a demonstration for the class.

Having only one runner allows it to be moved from one miter gauge track to the other and so as a quick introduction to the use of a sled it seems to be a winner. 

I would still opt for the reliability of a two runner sled for my regular shop work, but this will be something to demonstrate to get box makers started. The adjustable sled runner that I had featured on the FineWoodworking website was a help.

Making the sled less deep front to back allowed me to use an adjustable stop to control movement of the sled on the saw top. And the stops can be placed both front and back of the sled to prevent a thing I've witnessed while teaching where the novice pulls the sled back so far that it tips. 

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

Tuesday, November 22, 2022

mr. Doug Stowe

Youtube has a policy on monetization from advertising that requires 4,000 hours of watching before payments are made to the contents creator. My own channel statistics are well under that minimum, so the advertising dollars are made by youtube and not by me. 

Please help me to cross the threshold by watching my videos and sharing them with others. The videos include woodworking with kids as well as the full contents of my three DVD's, Rustic Furniture Basics, Basic Box Making, and Building Small Cabinets. If you are a woodworker, watch. If you know a woodworker, share. Ten minutes here or ten minutes there can add up and your time will not be wasted.

Make, fix and create.

Sunday, November 20, 2022

I had a great day yesterday with the Sunflower Woodworker's Guild in Wichita, Kansas. Using the GoCreate facility on the Wichita State University Campus, I made boxes while club members watched attentively, and were kind enough to listen to me as I offered woodworking tips and talked about how we learn.

If you want to join a community within your community that shares a life-long love of learning, please look for your local woodworking club and join up. Woodworkers across the board are kind and generous. They usually have public service projects to benefit their communities, and love sharing their passions and ideas with each other.

I want to thank the Sunflower Woodworking Guild http://www.sunflowerwoodworkers.orgfor making me feel welcome.

Make, fix and create.

Wednesday, November 16, 2022

Froebel blocks

Today my Kindergarten students (our rainbow group) made boxes to hold the sets of Froebel blocks that they made last week. They have been using Froebel blocks that my older students made in their classroom so these blocks will be ones that they can take home.

If you want to know more about Froebel blocks and how they were used to enhance learning, please check out my book, "Making Classic Toys that Teach."

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

Tuesday, November 15, 2022

Maple Wood Shops

Maplewood Shop is helping schools adopt woodworking in schools and is featured in this video from CBS in NYC. A great demonstration of its value.

In the meantime I'm getting things ready to teach box making with the Sunflower Woodworker's Guild in Wichita on Saturday and a presentation on Friday night.

Make, fix and create.

Monday, November 14, 2022


Yesterday I finished a 3 day class with North Arkansas Community College, and lots of beautiful boxes were made. Each student went home with 3, all made with Arkansas hardwoods. Lots of learning took place. 

Make, fix and create.

Sunday, November 13, 2022

day 3

I'm ready for day three of box making with seven students from North Arkansas Community College with the class being held at our Eureka Springs School of the Arts. Students have 3 boxes in the works to be completed today. Student ages range from twenty up to as old as I am.

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

Saturday, November 12, 2022

operant conditioning.

This interesting article from the New York Times describes how our participation in social media (and computer gaming also), are distorting us one quick tweet at a time. The principle is called operant conditioning and it's distorting and poisoning everything from politics to our relationships with each other.

This weekend I'm teaching a class on box making for students from North Arkansas Community College. The class is being held at ESSA and is part of our on-going effort to expand the reach of what our school offers to the community at large. Last week we had faculty and administration from the college attending for lessons in art welding.

A simple remedy for the poison that's destroying us is to join together in doing real things.

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

Thursday, November 10, 2022


Yesterday with my Kindergarten students (our Rainbow Group) we began making Froebel block sets. Lots of sawing was involved. I started with a lesson on the use of a square to mark straight lines across wood, and as is usual, getting the kids to understand that the body of the square has to be tight to the wood in order for the blade of the wood to be square and the line being drawn to be "square," was a challenge. Fortunately the project will be forgiving, of both poorly marked lines and off-square cuts.

Each time a student would finish a cut they would proclaim, "I did it!" or they would tell the number, like, "I've cut five!"

Mastery of the saw requires mastery of your own body... Developing a smooth arm motion as well as developing a posture appropriate to the work.

Next week we will make the boxes in which (we hope) the blocks will fit

The video shows all.

Make, fix and create. 

Wednesday, November 09, 2022

putting things in perspective

I read Heather Cox Richardson's Letters from an American daily to put current events into a historic context. There are always changes afoot, but not all things under the sun are new. Human nature changes at a geologic pace.

Today in her post she noted the large number of young persons mobilized to vote. "If there is an obvious story from today with results still unknown, it is this: a new generation is picking up the torch of our democracy." It's a very good thing. One in which I find consolation.

You can find her initial comments on the election here:

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

Tuesday, November 08, 2022


My sister Mary's first father-in-law had retired from working for Fruehauf, and though I'd only met Mr. Lange a couple times, it was obvious that he had been proud of his work. And why not? You could not drive the interstate highways in the US without following a few. Fruehauf moved its manufacturing overseas, closing the Omaha production facility which was then taken over by another company, so the tradition of building trailers for the trucking industry continues, and later Fruehauf returned to manufacturing in the US. But that's a long story. And not one that diminishes the pride my sister's father-in-law felt about his work.

Can you get it? The labors of hand and the labors of mind are essential to each other, and whichever ways we try to split the two is destructive of the whole. This is not a new point, but one that's been raised for generations.

That's why we need to re-invigorate education at all levels by bringing the hands into play. It ought to be a no brainer. We learn best when the hands are engaged in learning. When we learn through the hands we learn to a deeper and longer lasting effect. It may just be a matter of real estate in the brain. When all the senses are fully engaged, sight, hearing, touch, and the full weight of the body in relation to the earth, many more centers in the brain are actively recording the event.

Meta (Facebook) is having a difficult time selling its virtual reality devices that are supposed to revolutionize our relationships to all things. What a bunch of BS those things are. What about living in the real world for a change? What could be more precious? I'm sitting on the front porch. My dog Rosie is sniffing for squirrels nearby. The sounds I hear are of real things from the world that surrounds me.

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

Monday, November 07, 2022


I have an article in this month's Quercus Magazine from the UK and I received a copy in today's mail.

The article is about students from Clear Spring School having built a survival structure from bamboo and discusses the group work that takes place under such circumstances.

Subscribers should receive copies this week.

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

a nice note

I got a nice note this morning from a PhD student in the UK thanking me for my book The Wisdom of Our Hands. He said the following.

"I hope you do not mind me emailing you, but I am writing to you to firstly say hello and also thank you! 
You see, I have recently finished a paper on the philosophy of work, trying to unite what I see as the opposing view of 'manual' (such as the trades) vs 'intellectual' forms of work that sadly I see as common in society. both here and in the U.S. I wish to try and increase understanding between different professions and to fight stereotypes. Your work, especially your recent book 'The Wisdom of Our Hands' really helped and I have quoted and referenced the book in the paper. 
It really was a great read and I agree with your views about the philosophical and social value of the trades, even as a non-craftsman myself. 
I just wanted to let you know that your work is definitely having an effect!"

Of course my book is only one of many that point to the value of manual work. But observing and acknowledging the value of labor can have value. For instance, in the Minneapolis airport, I noticed one of the custodians pushing a cart stacked high with garbage up a long ramp as I was passing downhill in the other direction. With my mask on he could hardly see my smile, but he smiled in return, just to have been noticed. Acknowledgement is what human beings do for each other.

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

Sunday, November 06, 2022

Standing on a firm foundation

I'm home from Minneapolis and earned a bad cold in my travels. The stress of travel can take a toll. The ISACS conference was great. I got great feedback from several who attended my three presentations. To be with thousands of dedicated teachers is a remarkable experience.

And yet, education in America seems in a state of disarray. I explained to those in my presentations that as a beginning teacher, I knew very little of what I was doing, and was lucky enough to seek help. I did so by attending the first organizational meeting of the New England Association of Woodworking Teachers in the fall of 2001. 

While on my trip to New England, I visited North Benet St. School in Boston, and Buckingham, Brown and Nichols School in Cambridge. At both places I heard the word Sloyd mentioned, and so when I came home, I began research into a form of woodworking education that offered me a firm philosophical foundation that could be of value across education, from early childhood into our adult years. Shall I bore you with repetition? 

Start with the interests of the child (and sustain them). 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. Theses simple principles offer a firm foundation in all subject areas.

When Otto Salomon founded his teacher training academy in Sweden, it was to offer both experience in woodworking and a firm foundation in progressive educational thought. Salomon lectured to the students at Nääs in four languages, Swedish, English, German and French, to make certain the teachers training to teach woodworking  were fluent also in the philosophy of learning that was built by such notables as Rousseau, Comenius, Pestalozzi, and Froebel.

Yesterday we had a great art show at Suzanne Reed's studio. It is always a pleasure to see folks gathered for art, and I was pleased to see friends both old and new and to sell a few boxes and books.

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

Thursday, November 03, 2022


I leave this afternoon for Minneapolis/St. Paul where I'll present at the ISACS annual conference and then fly home tomorrow night. It's a quick trip as on Saturday afternoon I'll be selling my work at a show at Suzanne Reed's studio/gallery.

I'm a bit less nervous about my trip, realizing that time passes and that I'll be glad that I went.

Join me at Suzanne's. You'll find original glasswork by Suzanne, photography by Megan Kirk and pottery by Pat Sullivan in addition to my boxes and books.

It will be a lovely afternoon event.

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

Tuesday, November 01, 2022


I'm getting ready to do two presentations at the annual ISACS conference, this year to be held in Minneapolis/St. Paul. ISACS stands for the Independent Schools Association of the Central States, and it is the membership organization through which the Clear Spring School receives its accreditation. 

One of my presentations is about the Wisdom of our hands, and how the strategic use of the hand benefits learning at all ages. The other presentation is about woodworking with kids. Both of these subjects are well known to me, but that doesn't relieve me of the nervousness about making these presentations.

I'm in the midst of organizing my thoughts and wish I'd started months ago.

Yesterday I received pdfs of two articles I've written for Fine Woodworking magazine, issue 301. One is an 11 page article about making boxes, and the other is 3 pages about installing hinges. I'm to review for refinement and to check for errors. In the article I made 3 boxes as shown in the photo.

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