Saturday, September 23, 2023

wail of sirens, thunder of cycles.

Here Eureka Springs today I'm sitting on my front porch with Rosie. The rumble of motorcycles from the highway below our home is steady, pierced only by the occasional sirens of ambulances. Fortunately most of the injuries are relatively minor and from which bikers will recover to ride next year.

I've heard that some local businesses are closed here due to the belligerence of some of our guests. Those who truly love this place will learn to schedule their visits when the swarms of motorcyclists are not here. And I remind myself that many of the bikers are nice, like the couple that stood in front of me at the Post Office. They were shipping home several packages of stuff they''ed purchased in our local galleries... art, no doubt.

We console ourselves in the current situation by remembering the money the bikers leave in bars and restaurants and remembering that while the noise is overwhelming, they are only here disturbing our peace for a short time, and will carry their resounding rumble home after the weekend.

Many locals just hunker down for the weekend and let the bikers ride it out. 

A study suggested that there are 21% more organ donors and 26% more organ donations during major bike rallies in the US...  reflecting a great loss for some and the savings of others. And so it goes. We are connected with each other in unseen ways, and I'm attempting to learn better of my fellow man.

To my college students yesterday I mentioned that making a box ought to be a requirement for high school graduation. Never having made boxes before, but were watching me make some, they agreed. Making a box you learn the truth of what Ruskin had said, (paraphrasing here): 

Take a straight shaving from a plank or lay a brick level in its mortar and you'll have learned things that the lips of man cannot teach.

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

Friday, September 22, 2023

A great two days...

I did an afternoon presentation yesterday in the U of A Sculpture studio yesterday afternoon, and today I did an all day box-making demonstration. We made two boxes, one with a hinged lid, another with a lift off lid. 

Then I made another partial box to demonstrate the making of a mitered finger joint box. Then one of the students asked if I could demonstrate making a bandsawn box. Taking a piece of spalted maple left over from a demonstration by artist Robyn Horn, I quickly designed and made a bandsawn box.

I also made a sled, and led an exploration of the principles and elements of design. These were two good days and now I get to refocus on the edits for my new book, and spend time with Rosie on the front porch.

The photo shows my young audience for my Thursday afternoon talk.

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

Thursday, September 21, 2023

this afternoon

I have a presentation to deliver at the University of Arkansas Sculpture department at 5:30 this evening. It is open to the public at 687 W. Praxis Lane. 

In the meantime, folks have been working with wood for over half a billion years, according to discoveries described in the New York Times. Ancient Logs Offer Earliest Example of Human Woodworking. I'm not surprised.

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

Tuesday, September 19, 2023

a video preview...

The new Museum of Eureka Springs Art is taking shape at the Eureka Springs Community Center thanks to a team of volunteers and donors. Thank you Jim Nelson for the video. 

We have new lighting, a polished concrete floor, rolling walls that can be arranged however we want, and plywood panels offering display areas on the concrete block walls. Art comes next.

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


Monday, September 18, 2023

U of A Lecture 9/21/2023

On Thursday September 21, 2023 I'll be making a presentation at the University of Arkansas Sculpture Department. This poster offers the details. The Thursday afternoon presentation is open to the public.

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


Sunday, September 17, 2023

beyond the gift of individuality

We are each given the gift of individuality. Some are given a greater gift of seeing beyond it. 

I learned this morning of the death of a good friend... a talented woodworker, a student in my classes, a supporter of the Clear Spring School's woodworking program, a loving father, grandfather and husband. His physical presence will be missed.

In my friend's honor I share my dad's favorite poem, that I also found in a mimeographed book of poems collected for manual arts teachers.

Isn't it strange that princes and kings,
And clowns that caper in sawdust rings
And common folk like you and me
All share this common destiny:
Each is given a set of rules,
A lump of stone and bag of tools,
That each may carve ere life has flown
A stumbling block or stepping stone. — Anonymous 

Here's to you Bob. You lifted us up, enabled us to reach higher places and made the world a brighter place. 

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

Saturday, September 16, 2023

Fresh from five days

After a five day class at ESSA building small cabinets, I plan to spend the day putting things away, cleaning the shop, and responding to my editor on questions regarding my new book.

I got a question from a reader concerning a process in my book 25 Beautiful Boxes, which is a compilation of projects drawn from my first two books, written over 20 years ago. I'll need to go back and try to refresh my memory as to what he's talking about. He wrote, that as a novice woodworker, he was trying to build the project in chapter 20, and had questions about a particular joint. In a way that's like starting Moby Dick at chapter 89, except that fiction does not require chapter by chapter growth, the way a how-to book may.

I try to order my chapters the way we grow in skill and understanding... from the easy to more difficult, and from the simple to the complex. In fiction, no particular development of the individual is required. In how-to books, you have the option of passivity if you choose, or to use what's offered to actually change your life and the physical world in which you reside. And that's rarely as easy as it looks. 

Human beings of all ages learn through the same pattern of growth. We 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. I mentioned to my reader that building a sample joint might help him to come to a better understanding of the joinery used in chapter 20. Maybe so. 

In any case, I'll look back at the book and see if I can figure out how I might help.

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

Friday, September 15, 2023

sale at ETSY is having a sale in which any order over $25 can receive a $5.00 discount on my products, or the products of other makers.The discount comes from ETSY not the merchant. The discount code is Get5  My shop is located here:

My students and I had a great class building small cabinets at ESSA as you can see.

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

Thursday, September 14, 2023


My students in my small cabinet making class all have doors, so tomorrow we will finish assembly and plan on putting on hinges and hardware. The photo shows an example.

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

Wednesday, September 13, 2023

Today at ESSA, doors

Today in my making small cabinets  class at ESSA we are ready to begin making doors. I woke up early this morning to go through the process of making bridle joint doors, for both glass and raised panels, as my students will be making both. I am so lucky to have practiced such things over the years and to have skills to share and to have found a market for these skills. 

My book on designing boxes is moving through the assembly process. A cover is being designed, marketing materials are being developed, the words and photos are going through the usual editorial processes, an illustrator has been chosen, and there again I'm lucky to have skills to share and a great team to help me share them. This will be my fourteenth how-to book, not including three translated and published in German.

The photo shows one of my student's small cabinets in trial assembly state.

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

Monday, September 11, 2023

Building small cabinets.

Today we had day one of my class Building Small Cabinets. To make things interesting the students determined the sizses of the cabinets that would be most useful in their homes.

All the students chose cherry as their wood of choice though some may add accents of white oak to offer contrast.

This was also the first day in using our new Harvey Dust Collector. That was a resounding success. At low speed it handled the table saws and jointer, and at a decibel level that allowed conversation. With various tools running it was hard to tell by sound whether the dust collector was turned on or not. As an added bonus, it is low profile so we now have a clear view of the table saw from all sides. That allows for closer observation of student safety.

In the photo students are drilling dowel holes in cabinet sides. Dowel holes to fit the top and bottom will be drilled tomorrow, and we will begin making cabinet doors.

For those not in class this week, my entire DVD Building Small Cabinets is available on my youtube site.

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

Thursday, September 07, 2023

New dust collector

Yesterday we installed a new dust collector at ESSA with the intention of improving the noise level and teaching environment. It's made by Harvey and has a low profile, fitting neatly between table saws, and at a height low enough that materials can pass over. 

I'm preparing for a class at ESSA on building small cabinets, that begins on Monday.

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

let there be legs

I've made a few walnut legs to fit to boxes. They are easy to make and assemble, and can be shaped using the band saw, scroll saw and sanding to a variety of interesting shapes.

My book, Designing Boxes is now in the editing stage, and an illustrator has been assigned to take my drawings to a more refined state.

On editing, I'm grateful to be working with Peter Chapman, former director of Taunton Books, and with whom I've worked before.

To make the legs, I simply cut a miter down one side of a piece of walnut, then cut it into lengths. I tape the mitered edges together with glue and then after the glue dries, I had a reinforcement piece that also serves as a place upon which the box rests as the legs are attached.

Today I'll assist with the kindergarten woodworking class at the Clear Spring School and help to install a new dust collector at the Eureka Springs School of Arts, ESSA.

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


Tuesday, September 05, 2023

Reality poised to strike

Yesterday at this time, I'd boarded my flight home from Atlanta, and was ready for takeoff. The Atlanta airport is believed to be the busiest in the US with more traffic even than LAX in Los Angeles or JFK in New York. Today I'm sitting on my front porch. Rosie has a stick to chew. A gentle breeze is passing through the trees and it looks like it might rain.

I had a curious ride from the Woodcraft Store in Alpharetta, Georgia to the Springhill Suites at the Atlanta airport where I spent the night prior to my flight. The driver was talkative as he wove in and out of lanes, telling me that if they were to attach an alternator to each wheel of the car, it would need neither a battery nor engine, as the power for propulsion would be provided by the alternators drawn from the rotation of the wheels. Would that not be a  great thing? He then wanted to tell me about an investment opportunity in which a 10,000 dollar investment would be turned into 2.5 million over a 2 year period, guaranteed and without risk. I simply said, "that's great," not wanting to distract him further from getting me to my destination.

There's a great editorial in the New York Times this morning by Michelle Goldberg, "A Brilliant Examination of a Berserk Political Moment." It describes in detail how folks go off the deep end. I'm concerned that living detached from nature and spending way too much time in altered reality states is a danger to us all. 

Crafts are a great way to get involved in real reality, as we watch and measure the transformation of materials and as we hone useful beauty in our own hands. With my driver to the airport, I left a couple questions unasked. The first was that if his investment is such a good one, "Why was he still driving a car?" The second was that "If he'd made so much money, why he didn't invest in alternators for each wheel and save on gas?" For all of those of us who would rather live in fantasy, I'll note that sooner or later, reality speaks on its own behalf.

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

Sunday, September 03, 2023


I had a great class with the Woodworkers Guild of Georgia and will be headed home in the morning.  I ws too busy to take photos

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

Friday, September 01, 2023

Woodworkers Guild of Georgia

This afternoon I fly to Atlanta for two days of classes with the Woodworkers Guild of Georgia. I plan to make two or three boxes in the two day demonstration class with nearly fifty woodworkers attending I'm also taking a large checked bag with boxes to initiate a discussion of design.

At ESSA we're installing a new Harvey dust collector to serve two table saws and a jointer. It has a low profile and will sit between saws allowing a clear line of site for monitoring safety of student work, and being the same height as the tops of the saws will not impede the movement of materials. It's also promised to be quieter for a classroom setting. I'm excited about the new addition. And our setting for this piece of equipment is ideal.

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

Wednesday, August 30, 2023

turning leaves

Today at the Clear Spring School, I assisted with the Kindergarten woodworking class. I helped to set up the project and guided our new teacher, Thomas, in preparing stock. I also delivered two books that I think will be helpful (in addition to Making Classic Toys that Teach, and the Guide to Woodworking with Kids). The books are From Truths to Tools by Jim Tolpin and George Walker, and Framing Square Math by my friend Joe Youcha. Both are important in developing a hand-centric means of teaching math. Framing Square Math could be used as a step by step classroom curriculum. And I hope it will be.

Teachers tend to teach the ways we were taught, and if we observe the numbers of kids who are turned off by math, we might arrive at the  understanding that the ways we teach math are wrong, a thing made obvious by the fact that only a few develop an excitement for it. 

The problem is that those who catch the math bug and love it, are often ill-equipped to teach it, for teaching (to be most effective) requires a different, hands-on approach. Framing Square Math offers an alternative. And the wood shop is the perfect place for starting out in math, even at the Kindergarten level, which we did today by introducing the square for marking wood. Do the Kindergarten kids need to know they're doing math? Perhaps not yet.

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

Wednesday, August 23, 2023

Making small lift tabs and drawer pulls

A simple jig allows making symmetrical shapes using the bandsaw. Some sanding is required. I’m making these for use as drawer pulls on a large jewelry box and for lift tabs for boxes in my new book Designing Boxes that will come out in the spring 2024, published by Taunton Press. Much of the fun of designing boxes starts with designing the jigs that make them possible. Following the bandsaw, the same jig can be used with a disc sander.

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

Monday, August 21, 2023

Boxes on sale


I've placed some boxes on sale on my Etsy site, offering 40% off for a limited time.

These are offered in white oak, cherry or walnut. The sides are mitered with the grain matching at the corners and strengthened with contrasting keys. The top panels are aluminum bonded to mdf, and the inside of the lid is veneered in a contrasting color. The bottom of the box is lined,

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

Sunday, August 20, 2023

A new sharpening system that works.

Yesterday Mike Taylor from Taylor Tool Company demonstrated their new sharpening system for Megan and I at ESSA. The system works and is far simpler than other systems. It breaks through the assumptions that keeping hand tools sharp is difficult. It does require a special kind of 3M Cubitron™sanding disks, a drill press and a shop made jig. I made three jigs in advance of Mike's arrival, as I wanted one for use at ESSA, one for use in the Clear Spring School workshop and one for my own shop.

Making the jig might be the hard part for many woodworkers, but clear plans are included.You can watch the system at work here:

The system may seem too simple and inexpensive to be true, but it really does work.

Make, fix and create...

Saturday, August 19, 2023

two squares

I received these gifts today, made by Mike Taylor of Taylor Tool Company, Are they too lovely to use? Or are they too lovely to not use.

While visiting Mike demonstrated their new sharpening system using an interesting shop made jig, a drill press and unique sanding disks. I'll publish more about that later. While many woodworkers are nervous to sharpening their tools, Taylor Tools new method should put them at ease.

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

Thursday, August 17, 2023

this morning

This morning I deliver a box to the Walton Art Center in Fayetteville for an art show that will feature works by Northwest Arkansas Artist. 

The box they selected for the show is made of maple with a lid made of spalted maple. The keys at the corners are walnut. The lid opens without hinges.

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

Wednesday, August 16, 2023

color and line

This small lift lid box is intended to illustrate how color can be used to create a sense of unity within a box. The black lines of spalted sycamore invited the use of a black shaker knob on top and black stained dowels to interlock the mitered corners. These three things were purposely related to each other in my process of design.

Note also how the darker grain of the ash box mirrors similar tones to be found in the lid. Note also how the chamfer on the top edge of the box captures and reflects more light, framing the lid in light.

A sense of unity in a box is created by an interplay of design elements. Color and line are powerful forces in design. An interesting thing about the chamfer used along the top edge of this box. A roundover bit in the router creates a rounded edge, and a rounded edge disperses light in all directions, whereas a chamfer, forming a wider plane is more directional and distinct. That is why I use so many routed flat planes in my box making.

Make, fix and create...

Tuesday, August 15, 2023


Heather Cox Richardson in her daily newsletter, Letters from an American noted a significant court finding in Montana, concerning the violation of the state's constitution by the state's continued and continuing support for the fossil fuel industries. In 1972 the state of Montana adopted an amendment stating,"  “[t]he state and each person shall maintain and improve a clean and healthful environment in Montana for present and future generations," and thus commanding the state legislature to make rules protecting the environment. 

In a rare court case on behalf of the children of Montana, a federal judge, as described by Richardson, agreed with the children that "the state’s support for coal, oil, and gas violated their constitutional rights because it created the pollution fueling climate change, thus depriving them of their right to a healthy environment. They pointed to a Montana law forbidding the state and its agents from taking the impact of greenhouse gas emissions or climate change into consideration in their environmental reviews, as well as the state’s fossil fuel–based state energy policy." 

This, is a sign of hope. We've been lied to about the reality of man's role in climate change, and have been denied the opportunity to address the degradation of our natural environment by those in government who adhere to power through obfuscation and denial.  Perhaps their time is coming to an end. 

We each have a responsibility to the earth and the protection of all things in the natural world, for the sake of those who walk behind us.

Make, fix and create...

Saturday, August 12, 2023

my Arrowmont box

This is a box that I made while teaching at Arrowmont in 2002. I wanted to suggest to my students the incorporation of found objects, so we took a brief walk across campus to see what we could find. The piece of weathered wood on top is one that I found and decided to incorporate unaltered in my own box. 

The body of the box and the lid, are made with sycamore displaying its typical lacewood pattern found when it is quarter sawn. I used the hidden spline joint in the corners, and brass pins to elevate the piece of found wood on top.

This box is  out in the world someplace unknown, as are most of the boxes I've made.

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

Tuesday, August 08, 2023

 It is difficult to know if my articles about Soyd in Woodwork Magazine and my blog have had any effect on developments like this:

In any case, it is true that woodworking can have profound effects on child development. And it is truly time for all schools to recognize it. Sloyd, until a few years ago when I began writing about it, was a forgotten movement in American education. My writing about it, has, I think, had some effect. If you want to know more, please go to the Wikipedia Educational Sloyd article that I wrote or use Educational Sloyd as your search term in the box at upper left.

Make, fix and create...

Friday, August 04, 2023

tiny shaker knobs

Years ago I'd purchased some tiny shaker knobs from a major supplier. I found them again on Ebay. To accentuate the black lines formed in the spalted sycamore, I stained them black with a magic marker. Just a bit of design fun.

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

it's not a good thing

 It's not a good thing when your lawyers claim that they need to delay the case in order to review the tremendous amount of evidence they have against you.

Wednesday, August 02, 2023

child's rocker

This is a walnut rocking chair I made about 30+ years ago for my daughter Lucy, who is expecting our first grandchild in early October. I retrieved it from the attic and gave it a fresh coat of Danish oil. Good as new and ready for another 30+ years. On the news today they were telling that some of the local landfills are overflowing. When something is made of wood...  is useful and lovely,  it won't become part of that problem. 

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

Monday, July 31, 2023

Bento boxes

Bento boxes are traditional Japanese bentwood lunch boxes. The rise of plastics has shrunk the market for beautiful wooden boxes, but worse is the aging out of the artisans making them. There are too few young men and women ready to carry on the work.  This link tells the story of a maker in Japan.

And this link shows how they are made.

Bento boxes, Shaker boxes, and Norwegian tiner are all boxes made through the bending of wood. 

Make, fix and create... Assist others in 

Thursday, July 27, 2023

1 billion dollars

There are lots of folks these days who have been identified as billionaires and at least one knew what to do with their money, donating one of his or her billions to McPherson College. It will be used to expand their model for learning, that model having been established by their one of a kind auto restoration program. More about the endowment can be found here:

When we launched the Wisdom of the Hands program at the Clear Spring School, the idea was not that kids needed to know woodworking, but that the way we learn woodworking might serve as a model for all else that requires learning. We start with the interests of the child, progress from the known to the unknown, from the easy to the more difficult, from the simple to the complex, and always from the concrete to the abstract.

The money for McPherson will not be spent all on their classic car restoration program but on assuring similar style learning across the board. For instance, in health care, those interested in entering the field will be engaged in providing healthcare to others, sooner rather than later in their educations... The concrete to the abstract, doing real things, a thing that guarantees the engagement of the hands as well as the heart and mind.

Amanda Gutierrez, director of the auto restoration program, "pointed to the college's health care initiative as a prime example of using auto restoration as a model, noting that the college looked to the auto restoration program's curriculum designed around experiential learning in the field with industry professionals as the basis for putting health care students in regional health care facilities for shadowing, internships, and even as full-time employees prior to graduation." She said, "We've seen that our students have an idea what their chosen career is, but they don't understand the scope or responsibilities in concrete ways until they have those hands-on experiences."  

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

Monday, July 24, 2023

McPherson College

A tiny college in Kansas received a 1 Billion dollar endowment this month, and one might wonder why a school with only 800 students would qualify for such generosity. This article explains it:

They have an automotive restoration program, and are the only college in the US offering a degree in the subject.

The small college has an impressive collection of restored cars, each having received the attention of students from years past. But as stated so clearly by Otto Salomon, the value of the students' labors is not in what the students have made, but in the students. And what does one do with a degree in auto restoration? Anything one wants. The value of having been engaged in doing real things is not to be underestimated.

Thanks, Bob, for alerting me to this story.

Make, fix and create...

Sunday, July 23, 2023

box and rock

The following is the abstract of an article for the Columbia Human Rights Law Review by Professor and legal scholar Ali Khan: 
"The denigration of manual labor is a long, sad, captivating story of human civilization. No community can survive, let alone prosper, without the manual labor of farmers, industrial employees, construction workers, miners, and innumerable other men and women who toil to make everyone's day-to-day life possible. Yet a deeply entrenched prejudice against manual labor persists. Cultures and communities across the globe and throughout history have interwoven complex social, religious, and legal webs to create, maintain, and perpetuate a manual class that performs menial, difficult, and hazardous work. Weavers of these webs, including intellectual, political, and legal elites, personally benefit from the fruits of labor. These elites, however, also undervalue manual labor, nurturing a prejudice often made manifest in visible social realities. It is no mere coincidence that the manual class, providing socially indispensable physical labor, frequently ends up deprived of income, status, social respect, and even human dignity."

The full text of the article from 2001, The  Dignity of Manual Labor, can be found here: 

If colleges and universities want to become more diverse, I suggest they create greater opportunities for their students to become more deeply engaged in doing real things with their hands. Some would demonstrate  skills that others may not have bothered to have. All would gain a deeper respect for the dignity of labor.

In my shop I have a box to show. It illustrates a more formal approach to design with all parts being made of the same wood. The other photo (to put things in perspective) shows a large piece of chert unearthed by my box blade while at work on our road. The fracturing on the surface resembles tree bark. It is from the Ordovician Period that started 484 million years ago, before there were trees on the planet. The first trees came in the Middle Devonian period, only 75 million years later. So what looks like bark is not.

Make, fix and create...

Saturday, July 22, 2023

strategic thinking and problem solving.

The current issue of American Woodturner features amazing work (as always) including a feature article on Matt Monaco who teaches regularly at our Eureka Springs School of the Arts. Our director, Kelly McDonough was interviewed for the article.

One of the interesting things about woodturning is the amount of strategic thinking that's involved. I'm convinced that an educational program could be built on woodturning that would be of tremendous benefit to schools and scholars. 

Just imagine the strategic thinking and problem solving  that is represented by this one vessel featured in this month's American Woodturner Magazine. If you think for one minute that the mind and hand are disconnected in the process of thought or that either is well represented without the other, forget about it.

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

Friday, July 21, 2023

The "core."

When my daughter was a freshman at Columbia University I attempted to contact university president Lee Bollinger to suggest a change to their Core Curriculum. The "Core" is a long standing effort to instill some of the classic literature of western civilization as a common foundation to be faced by every graduate of the institution. Silly me, at the time, I thought some ideas of my own might provide an even better core.

Of course the president of a major university gets lots of letters. And one from a woodworker in Arkansas need not be taken seriously. But the strategic implementation of the hands in learning is actually a serious matter for concern. 

My simple idea was this: Across the street from Columbia University is the great unfinished Cathedral, St. John the Divine. A great university with so much money could finish that cathedral and engage student hands at the same time. And that might not be all. Every student enrolled in the university should be offered some means to develop the wisdom of their hands through service to the community. Carving stone might be but one. A real core uniting the wisdom of the hands to that of the mind would be a far better one than rehashing Plato and Socrates, and far more engaging to the students. And my idea would not force the abandonment of philosophy, but would provide a foundation from which it might be more thoroughly understood... Hands-on.

Universities are now faced with a big challenge, that of insuring diversity. Making a very simple decision, that of bringing all students into a greater appreciation of what the hands do, and an understanding of the intellect required would have a great effect.

Even those who are to be propelled into careers where they need not lift a finger, must at some point develop respect, admiration a willingness to serve and protect those that do if our civilization is to survive. 

It is unlikely that the Core Curriculum will ever be changed to allow students to do real work. In the case that it remains a thing where students only read, write and discuss, I have a book to suggest to their professors. I wrote it. It's called "The Wisdom of Our Hands: Crafting, A Life" and it explains how the hands shape everything.

The tiny chapel shaped box is one from the St. Louis Art Museum.

Make, fix and create...

Wednesday, July 19, 2023

a swing and a miss.

 As one of my students helped me to understand, we all love learning but may not feel so hot on being taught. Being taught involves power dominance of one person over another, fails to acknowledge what's already known and assumes the ignorance of one party or the other. Learning at its best is self-motivated and driven by a desire to understand.

The Arkansas State Legislature, driven by Trump's former press secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders passed the "Arkansas Learns Act" which is considered one of the most radical legislative actions in the history of Arkansas education. It purports to increase teacher salaries, but makes no recognition of the value of long time teachers and the learning that takes place in their careers. Teachers strive as we all do, to become better at what we do. Pay teachers all the same, and offer them no incentive for growth, and you've demoted them to the role of babysitter, the purpose being that of allowing children's parents to work three jobs while their kids are sequestered from real life.

A great thing about learning in my own shop is that I get to explore, play, and make decisions on my own. Sometimes I'm mistaken. A great thing about learning is that it can take place even when kids are not being taught and the real purpose of education should not be teaching, but providing the circumstances in which learning takes place. 

When John Runkle at MIT and Calvin Woodward at Washington University, launched formal industrial arts education programs in the US, thus becoming the "fathers of manual and industrial arts," it was because they'd noticed that the city boys then entering institutions of higher learning were ill equipped to understand engineering and math, subjects that were mastered more readily by those students who came from the farm, and had been thus engaged in doing real things. We might still learn something from that. 

Schools must become centers of active learning where kids do real things and where they discover and follow personal interests... places where they are allowed to measure their own growth. And learn... a thing the "Arkansas Learns" smokescreen Act fails to address. There's a petition going round to require the Arkansas Learns Act to be voted upon in the next Arkansas general election. Sign the petition, please. Then let's have another petition insisting upon the reform and renewal of public education.

The box shown has an experimental base using Shaker knobs as feet. They interject a bit of playful whimsey to an otherwise classic style. I'll likely go to plan b.

Make, fix and create...

Friday, July 14, 2023

This evening 5-7 PM

Today we've invited the community to come to visit our new, fledgling Museum of Eureka Springs Art. We will have a few works on display and show off the space at the Eureka Springs Community Center complex that will serve as the starter home for a unique museum.

While most museums feature the works of individual artists and highlight their work, we are a community of artists and art lovers and the museum will not only celebrate the the individual artists from our past, it will celebrate the relationships between artists  and art patrons that has made our city a unique haven for the arts.

Please join us if you can.

If not able, then celebrate and build the arts in your own community. What we have here can be replicated.

Make, fix and create.

Thursday, July 13, 2023

a mitered finger joint box

The mitered finger joint is a very strong joint for box making, offering rhythm in the corners through the contrast of end grain vs. side grain. The mitered portion of the joint allows for a seamless movement of grain traveling around corners of the box, allows the easy use of floating panels on top (as used in this box), and also offers the possible use of decorative inlays along the top edge of the box. This box shown will have the lid cut free from the body of the box, and then a base, feet, and hinges will be added.

Do not forget the soft opening of the Museum of Eureka Springs Art tomorrow evening 5-7 PM at the Eureka Springs Community Center. We have a very long ways to go in building our museum, and you're invited to help.

Ozarks-at-Large featured an interview with our Museum board President Steve Beacham in yesterday's broadcast and you can listen here:

Make, fix and create... Turn our nation's schools into places of real learning... hands on.

Tuesday, July 11, 2023

Amazon prime day

 It is Amazon Prime day in the US and a number of my books are available at special prices.

These are Rustic Furniture Basics, Basic Box MakingBeautiful Boxes, and Tiny Boxes.

The sale should last until tomorrow.

Friday, July 07, 2023

prime day

 I learned from Taunton Press that some of my books will be featured on their annual Prime Day sale, July 11 and 12. Special prices will be offered on Taunton's Complete Illustrated Guide Box MakingBeautiful Boxes and Tiny Boxes.  These titles will appear in the “Best Deals” in the “Books for Hobbies" category.

I've not heard from my other publishers whether special pricing will be offered on any of my other books, but if you've wanted any of my books "Prime Day" may be an excellent time to buy. 

Thursday, July 06, 2023

brace yourself

There is a debate technique called the "Gish Gallop" named after Duane Gish who used the technique to argue against the facts of evolution. The way the Gish Gallop works is that you make up BS faster than folks can counter it with fact based reality. An expert in the technique can make things up on the fly faster  than experts interested in the truth dispute. 

If you want to see it in action, attend a Donald J. Trump rally. After folks grow weary from the efforts of fact checking, some folks will allow you to get away with anything and believe whatever nonsense is offered by those "on your side."

On the internet we find folks making things up faster than anyone can refute. Add artificial intelligence into the situation and things become a thousand times or a million times worse. Compound the issue by putting children in schools where they are sheltered and sequestered from engagement with the real world, and we have a populace ill-suited to sift fact from fiction, and well equipped to believe what ever they are told. Being thus prepared they are subject to malicious manipulation by others.

That's why in an ideal school, students would be engaged in making beautiful and useful things... Not only to provide a foundation for their future economic value, but to prepare them for discernment of truth.

The box in the photo is made of cherry, walnut and maple. The top and sides are secured with hand-cut dovetails. It was fabricated from real wood and the intelligence used in making it was not artificial.

Make, fix and create...

Tuesday, July 04, 2023

The altar of stupidity

The inclination to create beautiful and useful things is a human universal. It can be found in every culture. It is rooted in relationship. We do good work because we are trained to expect it of ourselves, that we may be seen by others as caring. On the other hand, you can tell folks a thing or two, and lay verbal claim to your moral superiority, with it being revealed at some point as total bull. 

Now with artificial intelligence to supplement the ridiculousness of what folks can make up, we'll have launched ourselves further off the deep end. Imagine someone wants to create an image of Donald J. Trump wearing a tutu and on point. AI will do it in seconds and folks will believe it to be true. I lay the problem's source on our educational institutions and our failure to understand the importance of using the hands to augment mental development.

Charles H. Hamm wrote in 1886 in his book Mind and Hand, 

"It is the most astounding fact of history that education has been confined to abstractions. The schools have taught history, mathematics, language and literature and the sciences to the utter exclusion of the arts, not withstanding the obvious fact that it is through the arts alone that other branches of learning touch human life... In a word, public education stops at the exact point where it should begin to apply the theories it has imparted... At this point the school of mental and manual training combined--the Ideal School--begins; not only books but tools are put in to the hands of the pupil, with this injunction of Comenius; "Let those things that have to be done be learned by doing them."
"When it shall have been demonstrated that the highest degree of education results from combining manual with intellectual training, the laborer will feel the pride of a genuine triumph; for the consciousness that every thought-impelled blow educates him, and so raises him in the scale of manhood, will nerve his arm, and fire his brain with hope and courage."
The following is also from Charles Hamm.
"It is easy to juggle with words, to argue in a circle, to make the worse appear the better reason, and to reach false conclusions which wear a plausible aspect. But it is not so with things. If the cylinder is not tight, the steam engine is a lifeless mass of iron of no value whatever. A flaw in the wheel of the locomotive wrecks the train. Through a defective flue in the chimney the house is set on fire. A lie in the concrete is always hideous; like murder, it will out. Hence it is that the mind is liable to fall into grave errors until it is fortified by the wise counsel of the practical hand."

The human hand is constantly seeking the truth and finding it. By leaving laboratory science and wood shop and the arts outside of education, we have diminished our children in both character and intellect, and sacrificed our human culture on the altar of stupidity.

In the wood shop, I've been oiling boxes. 

Sunday, July 02, 2023

The Museum of Eureka Springs Art

Today we took over space at the Eureka Springs Community Center for the launch of the Museum of Eureka Springs Art. Eureka Springs has long been known as an art center. Our downtown has a number of art galleries, and we have more artists per capita than most small communities in the US. For many years our artists have participated in art and craft shows throughout the US, spreading the word about this wonderful place.

Years ago local artist Louis Freund had proposed a major expansion of our historic museum to accommodate the arts, and while that never worked out, we are paying homage to the artists of our past and present by building a collection that will be exhibited in our newly acquired space.

One of the reasons I've worked toward the establishment of this museum is that it's extremely important to know where we fit into things. As a young artist, I was welcomed and encouraged by the older artists that lived here at the time. Over the years, more artists have arrived, some not knowing the depth of preparatory work done by their predecessors in the arts... It is important that we preserve that legacy, and use it to encourage young artists and help them to find themselves within the history of this place.

In case you don't know it yet, the arts have always been important here in shaping our community. Our museum will help many visitors to our town to understand the transformative role that the arts can play in their own towns and cities. This is one of the points I attempted to convey in my book, The Wisdom of Our Hands: Crafting, a Life.

We will have an open house in the new space on July 14, five to 7 PM and you are invited to attend.

The box shown is one I made with an aluminum top, scrap left over from making a pantry for our house and too interesting to throw out.

Make, fix and create...

Saturday, July 01, 2023

finishing boxes

I need to begin photographing boxes for the cover of my new book, so I'm applying finish. As usual, I've made more boxes than is needed, so I'll have some to sell when the book is completed. I think readers will enjoy making these boxes. 

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

Wednesday, June 21, 2023

another step

The photo shows the lift tabs for a variety of boxes after being fitted and shaped. I sketch the shape I want on the oversized lift tab that I've already fitted in the groove routed in the lid. Then I cut it using a scroll saw and sand its edges smooth. Compare this picture with one I posted yesterday and you'll see progress.

Make, fix and create.

Tuesday, June 20, 2023

shaping lift tabs

To install lift tabs in box lids, I first rout a groove on the front edge of the lid with a 1/8 in router bit about 3/16 in. deep. I then saw stock to a thickness of 1/8 in. and about 3/4 in. wide which I then cut to the length of the grooves cut in the lids. I work in fitting one tab to a lid at a time due to possible variations. 

I use a piece of self-adhesive sand paper on a flat board to round the corners to fit the grooves. Can't fit a square peg in a round hole except by making it too small to fit.

What you see in the photo are lids with the lift tabs fitted but not yet shaped.

Make, fix and create...

Monday, June 19, 2023

the reason

Today I'm working on a bunch of boxes. I've cut slots where lift tabs will fit the lids, and I've done the first sanding of the cuts made when separating the lids from the bodies of the boxes. I sand them using a flat piece of 3/4 in. MDF covered with self-adhesive sandpaper to keep them absolutely flat where the surfaces meet.

Some of my readers know that I'm interested in history, and I've seen eyes glaze over when I mention the history of Friedrich Froebel's Kindergarten, or Educational Sloyd. 

It is good to know our history for two important reasons. Knowledge of history can help us avoid repeating things that we must not repeat. It can also inspire us to repeat things that should be repeated. With Kindergarten and the Educational Sloyd movements, here's to hoping for a repeat of movements as a basis for education renewal in the US.

I'm working on an article for Make Magazine about our giant Froebel blocks and wanted the editor to know more abut the kindergarten movement, so I sent him this link. You may enjoy it also. If you watch carefully, you'll find me in it.

As a special note, the hidden cost of all our cheap imported stuff is the loss of the character of our nation.

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

Friday, June 16, 2023

PW June 2023

The June 2023 issue of Popular Woodworking has an article of mine about making a coopered leg hall table, but what's more exciting is a review of our art and craft school, ESSA. In a 3 page spread, editor Logan Whitmer describes the wonders of our small school as well as the beauty of Eureka Springs.

I'm pleased to have yet another article in a national magazine, and also pleased to see ESSA receive the attention it deserves.

Make, fix and create. Enable others to do likewise.

Thursday, June 15, 2023

more spalted wood

This is another piece of spalted wood forming the lid of a box. I'll add a lift tab along the front edge before adding mite keys to strengthen the box corners. 

I'm lucky to have a few pieces of interesting wood hanging around waiting for their best use.

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

Wednesday, June 14, 2023

lift lid box

This is a new lift lid box. The lid is spalted maple and the body of the box is elm. Note the direction of the wood grain, and that the mitered corners are glued side grain to side grain, making it an easy box to make.

Make, fix and create...

Makers of Ukraine...

This box is unusual in that the grain runs vertically rather than around the box. Gluing edge grain to edge grain eliminates the need of other joinery techniques.

 In the meantime, as I'm working in my shop there are others whose purpose is more profound.

The makers of Ukraine... 

Make, fix and create...

Monday, June 12, 2023


 When we understand the role the hands play in human development, in the growth of character, intelligence and creativity, we also begin to grasp the importance of the arts in education and the necessity of bringing an increasing number of artists into schools and applying their hands (and minds) in the education of our children. Understanding the role of the hands in education also provides a clear rationale for woodworking education. Woodworking in schools is still important despite the concerted effort of many school administrators to do away with it.

An interesting point is made by American amateur woodworkers, when they call what they do in their woodshops “sawdust therapy.” We humbly note the beneficial psychological effects of our efforts toward the creation of useful beauty in our woodshops. We feel better when our hands, hearts and minds are fully engaged in doing real things… 


As American education is facing a post-covid internet age crisis of staggering proportions as children and teens attempt to manage their own mental health, I, as a woodworker, wonder what role the arts should play. Knowing the beneficial side effects on mental health from engagement in the arts, and the crushing need for means to assist children in finding ways to manage their own mental health, I suggest that the arts (including woodshop) take a commanding role in American education and to thereby reassert the arts as a means of personal and cultural advancement. How important are  reading and math scores when our children have not been provided the tools for getting along with each other and managing a sense of their own self worth?

In psychology, the term that applies is self-actualization... a term that describes having found purpose, meaning and depth in the real world.

Make, fix and create...