Wednesday, March 22, 2023

class and presentation

Yesterday I finished a two day box making class with the Guild of Oregon Woodworkers, a total of 36 boxes having been made. Students were pleased, as was I, not only by the numbers and quality of boxes having been made but by the learning that took place.

Last night I was the presenter at the monthly Guild meeting and had a great, attentive  audience. There are some very important things that the hands do. They support wisdom and health within families. They support the development of community. They sustain and advance human culture. They support mental health. They assist as we learn to care for each other. They help us to distinguish between that which is real and that which is made to deceive us.

Make, fix and create... Today I begin a two day class making more boxes.

Tuesday, March 21, 2023

Guild of Oregon Woodworkers

I'm in Portland, Oregon with the Guild of Oregon Woodworkers, making boxes. We have twelve students and studio assistants. 

We're making lift lid boxes, hinged boxes, and today will begin making sliding lid boxes.

I'm having a great time. They have a new teaching classroom equipped with benches and power tools, allowing them to hold classes without interrupting other guild activities. The Guild is a wonderful resource for anyone of any skill level with a desire to learn and grow. If you are in the Portland area and feel a need to connect with others, you'll find the Guild welcoming you. I noticed that they are also preparing for a visit with Mary May, my favorite American woodcarver.

Tonight I'll make a presentation at the monthly guild meeting, and you need not be a member to attend.

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

Monday, March 20, 2023

Where are our values?

This gift article from the New York Times is about the manipulation of the American electorate through enlisting foreign participation in the defeat of Jimmy Carter. That may seem like a long time ago. It was not.

In the meantime, school districts in California and Seattle are filing suit against social media companies in defense of children's mental health. The social media companies know the societal impact of their product and make billions of dollars by destroying mental health, as they pass though unscathed, even as the executives from the companies limit their own children's screen time, knowing the damage their products cause. It has been said that the problem with socialism is socialism, and the problem with capitalism s capitalists. We need a fresh stock of entrepreneurs who care much more for people than for profits.

Today I'm with the Guild of Oregon Woodworkers teaching a class in box making. Woodworking imparts a sense of values, as we attempt to create useful beauty, and develop our skills at the same time.

Make, fix and create... 

Saturday, March 18, 2023

Uncommon sense

On the way to the airport today my wife Jean and I listened to Nick Offerman's interview on the podcast, On Being with Krista Tippett. Anyone interested in woodworking would find pleasure in it. Anyone who enjoys working with their hands will find it of value. Please enjoy, as did I.

The creation of useful beauty is essential to the human spirit, whether that beauty is found in the raising and preparation of food, the compassionate nursing of each other, or the making of boxes.

I'm in the airport in Northwest Arkansas waiting for my flights to the Pacific Northwest.

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

Clear Spring School Podcast

Clear Spring School has launched a new podcast and I am their first guest, answering questions about my "hobby". You can listen here:

I leave this morning for Portland, Oregon where I'll spend 5 days with the Guild of Oregon Woodworkers.

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

Friday, March 17, 2023

Hidden spline lid

A reader had asked to see this box open, perhaps to see more about how it was made. The sides are joined with a hidden spline joint, and the parts of the lid are joined the same way... small pieces of wood fitted between parts, but that are not visible on the outside of the box. The hidden splines in the lid could be compared to the use of biscuits.

To cut the grooves for the hidden splines, I use the jig shown.

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

Thursday, March 16, 2023

My Carter Letter.

 This is a letter I received from former president Jimmy Carter. He is a man of courage and conviction. He's also shared my own passion for woodworking. 

As one of my most admired presidents,  I had sent him a copy of my book, The Complete Illustrated Guide, Box Making, and notice about an article coming at that time in Fine Woodworking Magazine. 

All the holes at the top of the letter are from it being pinned to my bulletin board for the last 19 years. Aside from a shared interest in woodworking, I can cite about a hundred reasons why I hold Jimmy Carter in high esteem, as others do as well.

During the run up to the presidential election that 
Reagan won and Carter lost, emissaries from Reagan sent a cake to the Ayatollah, urging him to delay release of American hostages until after the election, thereby enlisting a foreign adversary to manipulate the outcome of the presidential election. And in that you see the difference between true character and the lust for power. 

Carter lost the election, but won in the game of life through service to the American people and to people around the world. He also did some fine woodworking.

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

Hank Kaminski

 A good friend of mine passed away. Hank Kaminski was one of my early friends when I moved to Eureka Springs, and his wife JoAnn was the person I met who told me about this place and suggested I consider Eureka Springs as a place to work as I was ready to move on from doing pottery at Memphis State. 

Hank's life and achievements are discussed at the Arkansas Department of Heritage website. 

I was honored to have been a panel member selecting Hank as an Arkansas Living Treasure. 

I explained to the panel that I would recuse myself from voting because Hank was like a brother to me, but the panel voted unanimously and at the age of 79 he was named the Arkansas Living Treasure of 2018. 

I’ll be in Portland for the coming week so will have to miss the celebration of his life to be held on Saturday. Hank and JoAnn were such important persons in my early days in Eureka Springs and played such important roles in our development as an arts community. I always felt that Hank was my big brother in the arts… he always being a bit ahead of things. He gave me confidence for my own growth.

I was looking up at the moon this morning against a clear blue sky and wondered that the moon had no eyes to look back. Its movements around our planet have such profound effect, and yet we do not know whether it has the wondrousness of consciousness that life provides. Can it know love?

Artists are trained to look at both positive and negative space. The positive space is occupied by that which falls between the lines. The space beyond is not empty space, but is filled with all else... the relationships that bind us, each to each other.

Physicists tell us that once two particles are entangled with each other they can be thrust to the furthest ends of the universe and what happens to one is known to the other. It may feel as though Hank has been cast beyond reach. But the truth is that even when we are apart, our lives have been entangled and that entanglement is a thing that gives meaning. We are larger in each other than grief allows us to comprehend.

As I was watching the moon, a jet plane flew across its path. It was much too high to be landing at XNA, but I knew from having flown that it was full of beings, each having a consciousness that the moon might envy, connected not only with each other but beyond, each having personal connections at each end of their flight. What a wondrous thing it is that we live this life and that our lives cross.

The photo shows Hank with his Peace Globe in Fayetteville, AR.

Make, fix and create...

Sunday, March 12, 2023

big dog small table

I spent the past two days at ESSA building this table from white oak and a small cabinet from basswood. Both will be featured in Popular Woodworking magazine at some future date. The big dog is Rosie, checking out the aroma of freshly sawn and sanded white oak. 

The table is designed using torsion rods to hold all the parts in relationship and to provide structural stability. Despite being relatively light and airy, the table is very rigid and strong.

As far as I know the design and the use of torsion rods in this way is original from my own work. When I was a kid, I wanted to be an inventor. I guess I am one.

Make, fix and create. Learn while you're at it.

Wednesday, March 08, 2023


My Kindergarten students have been wanting to make toy cats from wood, so that's what we did today. 

To make the cats, students traced from a template I'd prepared and used Vaughan Bear Saws to make the angle cuts forming the ears and legs. The arms are made from 1/4 in. dowels inserted in holes drilled with a cordless drill.

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

Monday, March 06, 2023


I had a dream last night in which I had a conversation with Jimmy Carter, our former American President who is now in hospice care. I touched his arm and felt such strength in it, a hardness like my own. I mentioned how different the world would be if Ronald Reagan had not won. He knew exactly what I meant and rose up to his full height. 

Carter, after all, was a true conservative. He championed American energy independence, knowing our dependence on foreign oil was a hazard to our world's future. He put solar panels on the White House as a suggestion of what what our future would best become... one in which we preserved the planet and delayed the terrible effects of global warming.

Ask a conservative what they are preserving, and they'll likely not have much to say. A true conservative acts as a conservator. True conservatives should by measured by acts of conservation... caring for the planet's people and all planetary life. False conservatives these days talk about the dangers of being "woke." A true conservative would be preserving, conserving and building communities in which each participant is lifted. Those are things we can each do. And those are things Jimmy Carter has done his whole life.

Make, fix and create...

Thursday, March 02, 2023

telling time

The Rainbow Group at the Clear Springs School will be learning to tell time during "T week," which begins this next week and they study words that start with the letter T. So, as you can see,  we made clocks. I prepared the material and provided instruction. The kids, with help, used letter stamps to place the numerals on front.

Make, fix and create...

Tuesday, February 28, 2023



First thing this morning, just as I was waking up, a new jig passed through my thoughts connected with a way to add hidden splines to a mitered lid. It is interesting how the mind works. With the jig being made, I'm ready to test it and see if it does what I dreamed it will do.

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

Thursday, February 23, 2023

Finger joint router bit

In preparation for a class in Portland, Oregon, I decided to test a router bit that cuts 5/32 in. finger joints. Because of the size of the bit, I decided to build a dedicated router table using my large Makita router, one that's rarely used in my shop. You can see the set-up and results in the photo. It has limitations, being useful only for boxes about 2 1/2 in. high or for drawers of similar height height.

An advantage of this method is that all four sides of a box can be clamped together on the sliding portion of the jig to be cut at the same time. Two cuts (and some additional fiddling about) and you've got a box.

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

Thursday, February 16, 2023

Letter/tip in Fine Woodworking

This month's Fine Woodworking arrived this  morning and includes my response to a letter from an interested reader. He had noticed a star knob on the cover of the magazine and wondered about it, directing  letter to me for clarification.

Yesterday in the Clear Spring School wood shop the Rainbow Group made treasure boxes. The exercise fit in well as they've been studying pirates. Decorating the boxes with plastic jewels and markers will come next.

Make, fix and create.

Tuesday, February 14, 2023

ash table top

In an effort to clear out a bit of space in my shop, I'm finishing a few things with a hope that they'll sell. The board shown is ash with a fresh coat of penetrating oil finish composed of half and half, tung oil and polyurethane varnish. The beautiful pattern in the wood is from the heartwood of the tree.

This table will be featured in an upcoming issue of Popular Woodworking Magazine, and you can make a relatively small investment to have it in your own home.

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

When wood comes back to life

There's a magic thing that happens when a clear penetrating oil finish is applied to wood. And that's one of the pleasures that woodworkers receive in their work. 

Yesterday I applied tung oil to two maple table tops and watched the depths of color come forth. The oil also revealed places in the wood that were not quite sanded as smooth as needed, so I used a cabinet scraper to dig a bit deeper into the surface in those spots. After applying an oil finish, sanding is less effective because the oil and sawdust build up in the sand paper. That's not a thing that will affect a cabinet scraper. The closer view shows more of the wood grain and color highlighted by the penetrating oil finish. 

You will also note the darker lines of grain provide an invitation to using walnut or cherry in making the table base. I chose cherry in this case.

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

Monday, February 13, 2023

a tangle of legs and stretchers

What you see in the photo is a tangle of legs and stretchers for two tables that I'd started months ago. 

Having allowed them to sit for a few months I found that the thick maple tops had warped and needed to be flattened and re-planed. I had to place wedges on the underside at opposite corners on each end of the tops to pass them through the planer to get them flat.  By lifting the corners at opposite ends with the wedges allowed one side to be made flat. Flipping the boards over then allowed them to planed smooth and flat on the side that had been supported by the wedges. The boards were reduced in thickness by 5/8 in. But that's a fine thing as it leaves the tops appearing much lighter, as though they can actually float above the base as I intended. 

The tops are sugar maple and the legs cherry. They will be made available for sale.

This technique of table building is one I'll illustrate in an article in Popular Woodworking and one that I first introduced in my book, Making Elegant Custom Tables.

I call these "torsion tables" as they rely on torsion rods similar to those in a VW bug suspension. The resistance provided by the rods in mortises and the triangulation between legs provides an airy, lightweight and solid frame to support the table top.

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

Wednesday, February 08, 2023

Happy valentines day (soon)

Today in the Clear Spring School wood shop we made table decorations in advance of Valentines Day. But first thing first. How do you drill a hole straight up and down easily without using a drill press? The simple cylinder of wood on the drill provides both a way of assuring the drill is held vertical, and that it drills only to the desired depth. This simple set-up was to allow me to quickly drill into pieces of wood to serve as bases for our Rainbow Group to make table decorations in advance of the much loved holiday. Photos of the kids follow.

To make the Valentines hearts I made a template of a half heart. The kids were able to draw a whole heart by drawing one side, and flipping it over to draw the other. It was a great way to demonstrate the use of symmetrical geometric design, a thing that will come to greater importance later as our students develop higher math skills. After tracing their hearts, I helped the students cut them out on the bandsaw. Then they sanded the parts as I drilled holes for each to assemble the hearts and stands using 3/16 in. bamboo skewers as sticks.

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


Saturday, February 04, 2023

6 bowls

I managed to get six bowls thrown on the wheel last Sunday and they were dry enough to trim this afternoon. After further drying these will be ready to go into a bisque firing and then be glazed and fired to cone 6. 

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

Thursday, February 02, 2023

the Luddite club...

An article in the New York Times introduces us to the Luddite Club. Its motto is "Stop using your phone, start using your brain."

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

Wednesday, February 01, 2023

a very rough box

Box making is a narrative venture. In it, we attempt to tell our own stories concerning our own growth as well as describing our own interests and values. This box, as ugly as it may seem to some, tells a few stories that may not be immediately apparent. 

I think the appeal of this project may be three fold. One, the wood was free. Two, it involves an introduction to the use of hand tools. And three, I hope it conveys an understanding to those who want to design boxes, that it's OK to take risks.

It and the step-by-step story of making it will likely become a part of my new book, Designing Boxes.

The finish applied and waiting to be rubbed out is Tung oil. The blotchy finish may even out in time, and as pine does, it will age to a darker honey tone on its own.

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


Monday, January 30, 2023

Rustic made-from-a-pallet with hand tools box.

My rustic made-from-a-pallet with hand tools box is nearly complete but for just a bit more whittling on the hinges some sanding, and final assembly. I angled the lids to give a hint as to where your hands engage to open the box.

Make, fix and create... Don't forget to have fun with it.,

rough work

This morning I've continued working on the box made from a pallet. I've made rough wooden hinges, and  unlike the rest of the pallet, I've identified the wood as being a hardwood, excellent for crafting wooden hinges. Both the color of the wood, and the scent that comes from it as I saw and whittle suggest strongly that it's birch. 

In keeping with the character of the rest of the box, the hinges are rough work... not necessarily unsophisticated in the way they're made, but purposely left rough. 

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

Sunday, January 29, 2023

back on the wheel again.

When I gave up doing pottery in about 1976 to launch my career as a woodworker, I  felt that the clay was in my bones and in my hands to the degree that I could pick it up again.  It was to be "like riding a bike." Today, after 40 some years I tested my theory in the clay studio at ESSA. 

I was rusty. I had a few failures as one would expect, but I managed to "throw" a few bowls. The photo shows one. It will be interesting to see how they turn out after trimming and firing. It was fun. Centering the clay is a process of centering the mind as well, and when the mind wanders, the clay wanders also. I don't have the skill for this that I once had, but in my test of the theory of it, my bowls offer testimony of sorts.

I thank ESSA and my teacher Jessica for the opportunity.

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

Saturday, January 28, 2023

a box from a pallet

We received a wooden pallet holding 450 pounds of tile for a bathroom renovation, but then I was left wondering what to do with the pallet that all the tile had been loaded on. The answer of course was simple. Free Wood! Due to the crate being made originally from green lumber, the nails were clinched too tight in the wood to be easily removed, so with the exception of two boards that I was able to pry loose, I used a skill saw to cut the rest free. Having decided to make the box entirely with hand tools, I hand planed the wood and then cut the joints using a dozuki saw and chisel. Today I plan to add a base and lid.

I chose to leave the materials only partly planed to provide a more rustic result. For joints, I chose a simple hand-cut oversized finger joint. I may choose to strengthen the joints with authentic cut nails.

There's a reason that pallets can be gotten free. They are made from very low grade, very cheap wood, and they are often severely abused. So even as lumber prices climb, pallet lumber will remain cheap and free but for the amount of time you must spend making it ready for use. And then because the wood is low grade, the results of your labor may not match your hopes and dreams. That does not deter one from having fun with it.

Be on the lookout for pallets that are relatively clean and made of soft woods like pine that will be easier to plane and work with hand tools.

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

Friday, January 27, 2023

revolutionary power

This article from the New York Times tells of the revolutionary power of crafting beautiful and useful things. The Revolutionary Power of a Skein of Yarn.

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

Monday, January 23, 2023

New benches at ESSA

We completed two new woodshop benches in the machine room at ESSA with the addition of butcher block tops and bottom shelves made from the tops of old benches. The old benches were one's I'd built out of scrap materialback in the days when we were concerned about having enough money to finish the project. These will serve well for many years in the ESSA wood shop.

Make, fix and create...

Wednesday, January 18, 2023

Giant Froebel Blocks

Play with Giant Froebel blocks at the Clear Spring School

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

Saturday, January 14, 2023

Hinge mortising jig...

Fine Woodworking has offered my article about mortising hinges on their website at this link.

Make, fix and create... 

Friday, January 13, 2023

new counter tops

At ESSA we're replacing old woodshop countertops with hardwood butcher block. The old ones were from scrap left over from construction, so this improvement has been long awaited.

In the background is a new wheeled base for a countertop that I've replaced completely from frame up.

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

Thursday, January 12, 2023

Hidden spline joints


This video featured in the FineWoodworking weekly newsletter can be found on the Fine Woodworking website through this link or on my youtube channel at youtube/MrDougStowe

Make, fix and create...

Monday, January 09, 2023

a prescription for what ails us.

Temple Grandin laid out a case for hands on learning in this article in the New York Times. If you've not read my book, The Wisdom of Our Hands: Crafting, A Life, I hope you will do so.

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

Sunday, January 08, 2023

a pleasant start

Lee Valley, one of my favorite woodworking suppliers, has a kit for getting started in whittling. The kit includes a Frost sloyd knife, protective carving gloves, two flex cut gouges, other miscellaneous supplies, and two roughed out carving blanks along with instructions. What a satisfying way to pass a few hours and to have something to show for it!

Make, fix and create. Assist others in learning likewise

Tuesday, January 03, 2023

practice boxes

These are practice bandsawn boxes made in preparing for a chapter in my new book about designing boxes. Design is serious work that, at best, captures a spirit of play and playfulness. Seriousness and play go hand in hand... especially as I attempt to write about design. The boxes are made from basswood and the lids have been dyed with black leather dye.

Today I start working on a larger version in walnut.

I've placed a couple calls to my local US representative in hopes of persuading him to elect a moderate as speaker of the house. He and other Republicans are unlikely to do so. But it would be good for a few Republicans to propose a less inflammatory conservative that even a few Democrats might support. But making boxes will be a much better use of my day than holding my breath.

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

Monday, January 02, 2023

Jögge Sundqvist


Jögge Sundqvist, author, teacher and master of sloyd sent me a booklet, "Surolle," of a poem about sloyd, and its relationship to life. Last summer when I taught a class at ESSA on making spoon carving knives, one of my students, Bob Farris was planning to take a class with Jögge at Marc Adams School. 

I asked if Bob would give one of my spoon knives to Jögge and he did. The booklet is Jögge's gift in return. I'll treasure it. The spoon knife that I sent will I hope find use. The world of sloyd is a small one. And it is my hope that it grows enormously.

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