Tuesday, December 26, 2023

Two gift articles

Today I offer two gift articles from the New York Times related to the hands and the wonders they bring. One involves knitting and the other blacksmithing. Both, while one is noisy and the other not, offer solace to the soul.

Make, fix and create...

Monday, December 25, 2023

beyond troubled times

We seem to live in troubled times, and yet when we take matters into our own creative hands, things seem to fall into a better place. It might be easy to fall into despair, but it's also easy to surrender to the help and companionship of friends.  Lacking friends at hand, your own hands can be your friends, luring you into a meditative state. 

I have found that I've been given a great gift in that I'm given the opportunities to teach, both through my books and articles and through classes. When we empower others to discover their own creativity, expressed in the making useful beauty we are helping to create the world of peace and joy that all long for. 

Along with season’s greetings and holiday cheer, I’m imagining all the wonderful things students have made as Christmas gifts this year, as well as all the wonderful things my students have helped others to make. Perhaps there are a few boxes among those lovely things.

I was sent this lovely photo of things a member of the Oregon Woodworking Guild had made from "scrap". The box holding the kitchen utensils is as lovely as the beautifully figured wood within.

Merry Christmas. May we each find moments of creative joy in the coming year.

Make, fix and create...

Sunday, December 24, 2023

tables and birdmouths

In the wood shop at ESSA I'm beginning a table making project. What I hope will be the end results are shown in the drawing. There will be four that will go in our Commons house that is used for meetings and for guest teachers to gather after hours. They can be arranged individually or assembled as a group for board meetings, and it's all part of the steady growth of our school.

The four columns supporting the table tops are made using birdmouth joints commonly used in boat building to make hollow spars and masts. They are 6 sided and hollow so that steel rods can pass through, and so that lighter material can be used. The feet will rest on pads made from high density plastic that will keep moving them from marring the floor. 

To start, I've been jointing and planing stock. Sometime in February I'll call together a team of volunteers to help. 

I quote from a personal email I received from David Henry Feldman on the state of American education and its problems. 

My own point of view about education is that it has gone lopsided, understandably, because of the number of kids who are unprepared for school and who don’t know how to do school work. So the system puts most of its resources into trying to get all kids at least well enough prepared to do the work up to a minimum standard.

The other, in many respects more important, purpose of education is to help each child find his or her true path. The goal tends to be relegated to after school or out of school activities. The preoccupation with ‘standards’ also has a dampening effect on this second, more sacred, purpose.

Without denigrating the very real challenges of insuring at least a minimum of competence in all of our students, if we don’t also celebrate the uniqueness and distinct potential of each student, and if we don’t guide each one toward a life well lived, we may win the battle but lose the war.

When shop classes were first started in American schools, (and as I've explained before) there were two compelling reasons. One was that we were becoming an industrialized nation and were in need of skilled hands. The second was that it was then realized that making beautiful and useful things bound the child to higher purpose, in the same manner as would engagement in the arts. I can describe (and often do describe) the many non-economic benefits of doing real things and most specifically working with wood.

For example, in 2016 I had my upper elementary school students turning wood on the lathe. Lily had done a beautiful handle for her small hammer. It was smooth. There were no tool markings and the shape was well conceived. She looked at me and stated, "I am very proud of this." But she did not need my guidance in her self-assessment. She knew precisely why it was good work. Moments later I heard her complimenting a younger student. "That's very good Ana." 

And so what I'm describing is not just quality of work. I'm describing qualities fostered in the person doing the work. In less than a minute, Lily had self-assessed, expressed pride, and from the stand-point of her own success had encouraged another in her work. This is what happens when students are encouraged to do real things instead of laboring senselessly on abstraction as they do in most schools.

Make, fix and create.

Saturday, December 23, 2023

the need to do real things.

My essay in the Front Porch Republic will be published in mid January, so in the meantime I'm reviewing material for a second essay that I hope will find a home in another publication.

It is interesting how deep the resources are that promote hands-on learning over the lecture style teaching that we normally subject students to. It is shameful what we put students through in school. That such boredom is acceptable illustrates how little we value human culture and our kids and the development of their minds.  Lecture based learning is proven to be strikingly ineffective, and yet, in schools teachers and administrations persist for they are given little opportunity to  make the changes that are most necessary.

This snippet from an article by Korwin and Jones tells a great deal:

Jerome Bruner, a supporter of varied learning experiences, stated that "...increasing the manipulability of a body of knowledge" creates both a physical and mental optimum learning structure and con-tended that physical operations create feed-back of learning that allow children to seeit happen. 

 Lipson and Fischer sustained this reasoning, stating "Experiences without words are difficult to integrate, describe, and retrieve. Yet, words without experience tend to have limited meaning. The two reinforce each other and are defined by one another". 

Martinez, further explains this in saying that a student who is introduced to a concept such as walnutwood will grasp a different meaning than a student who actually uses walnut and experiences its properties firsthand.

It was proposed that we actually have four different memories involved in learning:  auditory, visual, tactile, and body motor functions. This implies that information that more fully utilizing all four memories would be stronger and more easily retrieved. Hence, the need for students to do real things.

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

Thursday, December 21, 2023

sliding book rack

This simple sliding book rack is made of white oak. Years ago I'd done an article about making them in Woodwork Magazine, and some of my students from the Clear Spring School will remember having made some similar in class. In fact some students may still have them.

I'd started work on these years ago, having cut out the parts, and rather than letting the wood go to waste, I decided to finish them. Making them would be a good two day class, introducing students to a variety of tools and woodworking strategies.

We are down to just a few woodworking days before Christmas. At this time next year I'lll be making grandfatherly toys for Sylvie. In the meantime, let's all remember that we learn best hands on, and that reading (acquisition of knowledge 2nd or 3rd hand) is far less meaningful and effective than learning by doing real things. In schools extreme emphasis is placed on reading. Greater emphasis must be placed instead on doing real things.

Make, fix and create...

Wednesday, December 20, 2023

a reliquary of wood

 With the addition of a plexiglass box to keep the innards safe, my reliquary of wood has been added to the Museum of Eureka Springs Art museum display. 

The reliquary was inspired by a reliquary in the Nelson Atkins Museum in Kansas City and by my participation in  a shrine show (sponsored by ESSA) in which artists were invited to create shrines celebrating the things important in their own lives. 

The idea of a reliquary is to lift as important things that should be treasured. The reliquary in the Nelson Atkins Museum once held the bones of a saint. My reliquary has 25 turned samples of American (Arkansas) hardwoods, each in their natural color. It is a statement of value. The box itself is made of sugar maple.

Some may remember a simple children's finger game that goes, "Here's the church, Here's the steeple. Open the doors and see all the people." The people in my small chapel are the woods of Arkansas, each deserving admiration and respect. The way the doors open is designed to represent hands opening to the wonders of all life.

This small box has been honored before. It was featured in my book, Simply Beautiful Boxes, as best of show winner in a show at the Springfield Art Museum and on the pages of UU World Magazine.

The museum will be open to the public on Saturday, December 23, 2023 from 1 PM until 5.

Make, fix and create...

Monday, December 18, 2023

Veritas Box Maker's Plow Plane

I received two planes from Lee Valley today, left and right plow planes of a smaller size suggested for box making. Like other Veritas planes made by Lee Valley, they are works of art. The crafting of them is exquisite.

Plow planes are used for cutting grooves in wood but can also form beads and coves. In box making you can imagine using them to cut grooves for inlay, or for bottoms to fit. With other cutters installed, beaded edges or panels could add interest to a lovely box.

The tight curls of walnut behind the plane in the photo below were formed in my first test use of the right handed plane.

These are lovely in their design and perfect in their manufacture. They can be ordered here.

Make, fix and create...

Sunday, December 17, 2023


 I frequently evaluate tools that might be useful for woodworking with kids, and I ran across a folding Japanese style Kataba saw that would likely be a good replacement for the Vaughan Bear Saws we've used for years at the Clear Spring School. The Hardtwerk Zen Saw has 13 precision ground hardened teeth per inch and like the Bear Saws and other Japanese designed saws, cuts on the pull stroke. It's not as fine toothed as a Dozuki so would not be a replacement for a dovetail saw, but would cut quickly in softwoods.

While I'm waiting for mine to arrive, you might try it also, as it would provide an excellent opportunity to get some valuable sawing time with children or grandchildren over the holidays, and it folds closed when not in use. The Hardtwerk Zen Saw is of German and Japanese design and only a fraction of the price of the Bear Saw. 

If you are a woodworker, a saw I recommend for your own Christmas stocking is a small flush cut saw, also of Japanese design. I use this saw to trim miter keys flush at the corners of boxes, and with careful use, it will do so without marking the surrounding wood. It cuts quick. I bought two that have kept sharp through several classes and multiple student uses. 

I prefer the Tamatori single edge flush cut saw  over the version with two cutting edges as it allows me to guide the back edge of the saw flush against the work without scraping my fingers with the teeth on the back edge.

Make, fix and create...

Friday, December 15, 2023

Holiday gift idea

If you have a child or grandchild in the 4 year old and up range, a hand drill and a bit of time using it under the guidance of an adult (and that adult could be you!) would make an excellent gift... one that would last at least a generation or longer. 

I suggest a bit of parental supervision to prevent holes showing up at unexpected locations. You can occasionally find antique hand drills on eBay, but for just in time delivery before Christmas, Amazon can deliver.

 This drill from Amazon  has storage for bits in the handle, and unlike some antiques, has a chuck key and the chuck is locked in place with a screw, requiring just a bit of assembly before use. That assembly time gives a bit of one on one with the younger children and a chance to talk about appropriate tool use and storage. It comes with two brad point bits, excellent for drilling in wood or plastic.

At the Clear Spring School I mounted hand drills in blocks of wood so they could be held in vises and used to decorate tops with colored pencils and markers. https://youtu.be/TDJYFR5COHU

If you want your children to become curious about mechanics and the way things work, the gears will be a subject for fascination from an earlier time.

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

Thursday, December 14, 2023

Mentored Residency in Woodworking at ESSA

ESSA has announced a mentored residency program in woodworking at ESSA. I'll be the primary mentor, joined by Larry Copas, an excellent woodworker and instructor from the Springdale area and frequent participant in ESSA classes. 

The details and application form can be found here:


The program is designed to help woodworkers take their work to the next level. Both the wood turning and flat work studios will be available. With on site lodging, we expect lots of collaboration and fellowship among participants. 

The display cabinet shown above is some of my earlier work.

Make, fix and create...

Tuesday, December 12, 2023

wooden ties

I finished making my wooden ties. They are made of walnut, inlaid with cherry, maple, walnut and sycamore.To wear them you simply tie the strings in a bow at the back of the neck.

No, you won't find them at Dillards.

Make, fix and create...

Monday, December 11, 2023

Woodworking with Kids

During the worst of the pandemic I began using emailed woodworking with kids emails in an attempt to keep my students and parents engaged. It met with limited success. Due to the inactivity of my mail chimp account, I was informed that unless it received further attention from me, it would be disabled. I'll try to keep it going because the need for children working with wood has not diminished. If anything, it is more important than ever before as more stuff moves online and a hunger develops for meaningful engagement in the real world.

Adults and children learn in the same manner, direct from the real world and by doing real things. You need not have children or grand children to find value in the newsletters.

You can view old copies or the latest through this link. https://mailchi.mp/8ea7eadc567e/children-and-hammers The browser page makes it easy to subscribe or cancel at will.

I will attempt in the coming months to add more content.

Friday, December 08, 2023

glue spreaders

I began using simple plastic glue spreaders while teaching kids at the Clear Spring School. One of the things you'll soon notice when kids use glue is the mess.  

So I would have the kids make a small puddle of glue on a plastic lid from a box of screws from which dried glue could be easily removed, and then use plastic glue sticks to spread just the amount of glue needed and in just the right place. Glue bottles offer an immediate mess.

These glue spreaders work great. Just as advertised, the dried glue comes right off, and they're cheap enough that you can give them to all your woodworking friends and thereby improve the quality of their own work. These are perfect for applying just the right amount of glue in tight places or for gluing linings in small boxes. 

I've used them for years and at $9.95 for 70 of them you'll get a lifetime supply. The ring around the working end is useful. It holds the messy end up off the workbench.

If you buy through this link I get a small commission as an amazon associate... a bargain for each of us.

Cubitron discs

I was introduced to these excellent sanding discs from Taylor Tool Company taytools.com. They do an excellent job of dust removal and last far longer than other sanding discs. The placement of the dust extraction holes removes the concern with aligning them just right on the sanding pad. And they are hard to wear out. As an amazon affilliate This link to Amazon.com provides a small commission when you buy a set.

Make, fix and create... 

My top selling book this gifting season

I learned that supplies are low on my book The Guide to Woodworking with Kids
but was assured by my publisher that when supplies run out it goes automatically to print on demand so orders will be filled. A larger print run will be available after the first of the year.

It is currently my top selling book. And that's good as it suggests more children will become engaged in the joys of working with wood.

In the meantime, I've fabricated the top knots for my wooden ties, and after further sanding they will be finished with Danish oil, bringing the colors of wood to life, and assembled with string.

Thursday, December 07, 2023

Hinged to fit

In this photo you can see how the wooden tie is hinged to bend at the bottom of the rib cage, allowing it to conform to the body, at least a bit.

The photo was taken by John Rankine for a series of artist portraits commissioned by Marty and Elise Reonigk. The series of photos is now part of the permanent collection of the Museum of Eureka Springs Art, opening in the spring.

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

Wednesday, December 06, 2023

tie one on

Years ago I'd made and sold wooden ties. As I was cleaning up in the shop, I found a few walnut blanks that I'd not used. I also had made some inlay that was not being used, so I put them to work. I now have 8 wooden ties almost ready to finish and assemble.

The woods used to make the inlay are walnut, maple, cherry and sycamore.

Wooden ties are goofy to wear. I've stood in conversation with friends for long minutes before my wood tie was noticed and met with howls of laughter and delight.

Friends of mine won one in a charity auction and when I visited their house for a party I found it framed as though it was art. That's not something you'll do with a Chinese made tie from Dillards. And when you're done with it, it can be composted or used as kindling.

Make, fix and create...


Monday, December 04, 2023

a stash box

Medical marijuana is legal in many states, and a friend of my wife asked if I could make a stash box to hold various paraphernalia. In the old days I know many of my boxes were used for objects associated with the use of marijuana. But that was never discussed. The advantage of this box is that it has two levels of storage, under the lid and in the drawer and we can talk about it.

The top is frame and panel construction, and the drawer is made with a mortise and tenon technique that I always use on small drawers. The wood used is walnut except for the bottom panels (Baltic birch) and the drawer sides (maple.) 

Plans for a similar box can be found in my book Beautiful Boxes: Design and Technique  

With the stash box finished, it will be shipped today. 

Make, fix and create...

Friday, December 01, 2023

Things to love about walnut

One of the things to love about walnut is the  rich shift in color and tone that results when a penetrating finish is applied. Compare the box shown with the unfinished box earlier in the day and you can see the richness that results. I have one or two more coats of finish to apply, but must wait hours between coats

Another reason to prize walnut is shown in the top panel, selected for the curly figure that results from the wood having grown close to a major limb.  The straight grained walnut surrounding it frame it nicely.

Make, fix and create. 

My 7 year old website

 In 2016 Cat Templeton designed my current website. I've been trying to get better at keeping up with it. It looks as fresh and lovely, I think, as the day it was launched. Dougstowe.com Normally websites are out of date in a year or so. This one may last a decade or more.

One thing I'll not change on it is the photo on the publications page
t showing my books arranged on the top of my work bench. It shows 8 books. In the intervening years I've written several more that you can find on Amazon at this link: 
 Just in time for holiday shopping. A book can be a great gift. As a gift to yourself it might guide you in making gifts for others.

Shown on the same workbench today is a walnut stash box ready for final sanding and finish.

Make, fix and create...

Tuesday, November 28, 2023

Making Classic Toys that Teach

At one time Froebel's classic gifts consisting of numbered sets of blocks, tiles and other interesting learning objects were made by artisans in small villages throughout Europe. Predating Maria Montessori by about 75 years, Froebel's gifts were among the earliest toys developed for early childhood developmental learning.

While you can buy Froebel's gifts in a manufactured form, that they were also made by individual village craftsmen, suggested that I write a book, Making Classic Toys that Teach to guide you in making them yourself. That you can make them yourself, for your own children or grandchildren is really, for me, a big deal. You learn some basic woodworking. Your children or grandchildren learn also, and you receive greater pleasure in watching them learn, because you've made the instruments used for their learning.

You can order the book for your holiday giving and enjoyment through Amazon here. Or from my Etsy store, here. 

A good description of Froebel's gifts can be found here: https://99percentinvisible.org/episode/froebels-gifts/ You have about 25 making days before Christmas. Other holidays are more closely upon us.

Make, fix and create...

Sunday, November 26, 2023

Buy a book, read, and promote the concept of hands-on learning

If you are beginning to shop for Christmas or any other seasonal holiday and are a maker or one of those who love working with your hands in the kitchen, garden, or workshop and you wish others might understand you better, this little book of mine may help you to explain yourself to others. Buy it as a gift to yourself, as I know you'll enjoy it. Give it as a gift to others as a way of enlisting friends in a revolution.

We have about 30 making days left before Christmas.

Make, fix and create.

Friday, November 24, 2023

Seeking quality

We are killing ourselves and our planet with cheap stuff. https://www.nytimes.com/2023/11/23/opinion/patagonia-environnment-fast-fashion.html?unlocked_article_code=1.A00.ARcB.rR_6lDsGZwAn&smid=url-share

On Wednesday I picked up a computer desk I'd made about 20 years ago, it being donated by friends to the Museum of Eureka Springs Art. I'm building a base for it that will allow it to be easily moved around the museum. After a quick refresh of the finish, it will be good as new... not just because it was well made, but also because it's pretty enough to have been  taken good care of.

We must begin a renewed emphasis on quality, as it's the only thing that will save us as we hurtle toward planetary disaster. Things should be made to last, and things should be made to be repaired in the event they fail, and the sad fact is that they are not.

I'm not telling you this to preach, but also to remind myself. There are ships at sea, bringing us all cheap stuff. stuff that we have the right to refuse.

At this point we have about 30 making days left before Christmas. This is black Friday, a day celebrated by buying cheap stuff. It would be a better day to begin projects that develop skills and serve others.

Make, fix and create...

Monday, November 20, 2023

small drawers...

I'm making small drawers to fit the walnut stash boxes. The grooves for drawer guides have been cut, the bottoms fitted and the mortise and tenon joints that give the drawers strength and long life have been fitted and glued. A small square is used to assure assembly is square so it will fit in the body of the box.

Make, fix and create...

Wednesday, November 15, 2023


I finished repairing and refinishing the music stand that Crescent Dragonwagon commissioned for Ned Shank. That it leans to the right was not intentional. That resulted from gravity and from it being made from green wood.

Art often tells stories within communities, describing the relationships we have with each other. Illustrating those relationships, telling those stories, is one of the reasons our new museum is important. It can describe for visitors and residents alike, how the arts build communities and how artists nourish and sustain one another.

Make, fix and create...

On the wonders of wood

On the wonders of wood... There are clearly wonderful things about wood. It grows from the earth. It pulls minerals and water from the earth, processes carbon dioxide from the air to make oxygen and then grows large and strong in its relationship to gravity and light. There is no type of living thing that has engaged man's imagination more than our trees. We write poems about them.

Steel, glass, clay and stone are each materials that must be forcibly extracted from the earth before our use of them. Wood emerges abundantly on the surface of the earth, nearly as a gift. There is no material friendlier to the touch. Steel, glass and stone are either cold or hot to the touch. Wood, even in the harshest of conditions is mild to the touch. It may be rough and with splinters at first and yet, the touch can solve that problem as well. It becomes polished to perfection through our caress.

You can walk right into the forest with an axe or a knife, find a deadfall branch and begin making art. No other material lends itself so directly to man's creative genius.

Wood can be such a simple and direct material with such depth of integrity, and yet we know that the wood most people have in the furnishings of their homes isn't really wood at all, but material mixed and compressed from a stew of random forest fibers, reshaped and decorated with printed images on plastic film.

There are several factors that go into the value of an object. One is the integrity of the material. You might ask, is it real? Real wood can be sanded, repaired and refinished. A piece of furniture made from real wood can thus be made to last generations. Another factor is the integrity of the craftsmanship. A craftsman can put into the making of things, the full extent of his knowledge and experience. How can he really know how to do that with newly invented materials? The best craftsmen choose materials with integrity that allow their use of techniques that make their work last beyond their own times. The third factor is the care that is given when the craftsman's work is done. Real wood sustains greater wear without loss of value or appearance, and seldom reaches that sorry point at which the owner of the work no longer cares for it.

The photo above is of a steam bent hickory music stand I made for a violinist. My intent was for it to look as though it just waltzed from the woods. In a sense, it did.

Make, fix and create...

Tuesday, November 14, 2023


I went to our new Museum of Eureka Springs Art to do a repair on the desk we brought in a few days ago, and found another piece of my earlier work had been delivered to the museum needing repair. This piece is a music stand I made for Crescent Dragonwagon to give to her 6 ft. 5 in. amateur violinist, Ned Shank. After his death, it ended up with John Mitchell, a well known art and antiques dealer in Eureka Springs. 

The back leg was broken, so is now being glued back in place, making use of the original mortise and tenon joint.

Back in its day Ned had it ornamented with crystals hanging from the  upper ribs. The music stand will  soon be ready to stand once again on its three legs.

Make, fix and create...

stash box progress

One of the advantages of working with solid hardwoods is that furniture made from them can be repaired, while veneered furniture can present greater difficulties. Today I'll do a bit of repair on the office furniture I'd made for the Arkansas State Chamber of Commerce, preparing it for another 20 year's use.

In the wood shop I'm making progress on stash boxes.  The first photo shows cutting parts to length last week. The second photo shows the boxes partially sanded and ready for making drawers.

Make, fix and create...

Saturday, November 11, 2023

A homecoming of sorts...

Yesterday I drove to Jacksonville, Arkansas to pick up furniture that I'd made years ago that's being donated to the new Museum of Eureka Springs Art. I had made the furniture for Paul Harvel, then director of the Arkansas State Chamber of Commerce for his office in their new building in downtown Little Rock.

The office overlooks the Arkansas River.When Paul retired from the State Chamber, the furniture went with and was used in his offices at Chambers of Commerce in Fort Smith, Russelville, and Jacksonville, and for a time was loaned as the office furniture for the director of the largest advertising firm in the state. 

You can see that it was well traveled before arriving back here in Eureka Springs. Today we'll be setting it up in its new home, and I thank Paul and his wife Barbara for taking such very good care of it and for making such a generous gift to our new museum. I'd talked with Paul for years about his interest in donating the furniture to a museum to assure it would be taken care of. The launch of our new Museum of Eureka Springs Art came just in time. The photo was taken in its original home. The work is all solid wood, but for the glass tops, sugar maple trimmed in walnut.

Make, fix and create...

Thursday, November 09, 2023

making a stash box

Over the years, I'm sure that many of the boxes I've made have been used as "stash boxes," a term used to describe a place to store drug paraphernalia. I've been asked to make box specifically for that use. 

These walnut boxes in process are made with finger joints and each will have a drawer. The design is based on one from my book Beautiful Boxes: Design and Technique.

My customer wanted it to be done in a darker wood. I'm also making it slightly larger. in width, length and depth to hold more stuff. 

The drawer will provide two levels of storage, so one needs not dig to the bottom to retrieve smaller objects. The larger of the two boxes is sold. The other will be available at a later date.

Make, fix and create...

Monday, November 06, 2023

do good work.

Here in the Ozarks we wonder whether this fall will be as beautiful as last. It makes a difference when you look out. Most of the trees capturing the morning light are red and white oaks. Touches of green are cedars and elm. The deep orange in the understory is from dogwood trees. The steps lead down to our front porch where I often sit with Rosie, our 5 year old golden doodle as she watches for squirrels.

There is a reason to observe the beauty that may surround us, and to share it with others. A recent survey found that folks were pleased with their personal lives, and were pleased at the success of their communities, but terrified for the future of our country and the world, that view twisted by our obsession with the national

The folks out there want us to be angry, so that we can be controlled and manipulated. Beauty helps us to find our center, to be powerful and at peace. This doesn't mean that we should not be concerned with such things as the travesty of national politics, or the wars in Gaza and Ukraine, but that we formulate our views based on an inner sense of beauty and peace, that we may thence be led to manifest those things in this world.

There's a Chinese saying that I paraphrase — When you perceive evil, do good work.

Make, fix and create...

Sunday, November 05, 2023

Artificial intelligence vs. hands-on learning

Interesting research at Perdue in 2009 illustrated how hands-on learning was superior to lecture and book based learning for all students. The results were even more significant when gender and language barriers were considered. https://www.purdue.edu/uns/x/2009a/090128DarkStudy.html  And so the question becomes, can hands on learning help to moderate some of the issues of polarization and tribalism currently plaguing  our culture and politics.

In the days of educational sloyd, manual arts were considered to have particular value, not only to those destined to become tradesmen, but even more importantly to those privileged to have leadership roles in the culture and economy. The point was for the upper classes and economic elite develop respect for all labor. 

Work with the hands is an equalizer. It helps those who may not be academically inclined to demonstrate expertise. When schools took on the role of sorting kids it was disastrous. Some students were targeted upward and some down based on standardized test scores that we know to be faulty and biased.

With the rise of Artificial intelligence it is more important than ever that we develop a common framework of understanding that arises  in each and every child through the senses. The hands have a particular role, as the eyes and ears are easily deceived. The hands measure the weight, size, density, and texture of objects, and thereby help us all to build a better framework for discernment of truth.

Make, fix and create...

Saturday, November 04, 2023

Building a shared foundation for shared belief

The way the hands bridge between the arts, science and religion is directly associated with the way we learn as was described by Diesterweg (an associate of Friedrich Froebel) and was described by Otto Salomon in the Theory of Educational Sloyd.

We start with interest of the child
We build 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.

Fundamental science begins early, as you can’t whittle a stick without observing the effects of the knife. If the blade is digging too deep, you “hypothesize” and alter the angle or reverse the stick to compensate for the direction of the grain. Religion is dangerous because we are constantly asked to accept on “faith” that which is proposed by others, often for the purpose of manipulating us, rather than being trusted to build upon shared experience

Everything in life from the most simple things, offers the challenge of observation and interpretation. Both religion and science are perceived as theoretical abstractions, when people, even from the youngest child, have the capacity to observe and reflect, but are cut short from building a cosmology of understanding within their own lives.

Personal and international tragedies mounted in the name of religion, cut short the building of those cosmologies within individuals. What’s happening in Gaza and Israel is an example.

I had an interesting experience in high school. We’d taken a standardized test in Biology and after grading, the teacher asked me to stand up so he could acknowledge me for having scored in the 99th percentile. No other student in the class had even come close. What I chose not to tell him was that none of the questions on the test were in any way related to anything he’d taught in class. Nor were the questions related to anything I’d studied on my own. What happened was that my having some experience in the real world, I think, gave me a foundation for discernment in separating the truth, from stuff made up to resemble the truth.

Instead of trusting children to make observations based on experience and the use of their senses, we begin indoctrination at a very early age, insisting that children believe what they are told that comes second or third hand from others. You will note the difference between first and second “hand” as the word hand is a direct reference to the acquisition of knowledge. In German there are two forms of knowledge, kentniss, which refers to knowledge gained directly, and wissenschaft which refers to knowledge being gained 2nd or third  hand.

Of course, we can’t possibly learn everything from experience, as there’s a lot to know, but a basic structure of knowing that comes in the manner described by Diesterweg offers a foundation for discernment of truth. 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 offers a view of the construction of what Jerome Bruner called scaffolding… an internal construction of understanding, built through the senses in response to observation and the encouragement to reflect. We all have hands, and common use of them begins to build a structure of shared understanding that actually has the power to remake the world in which we live. That’s probably not why the Kaiser outlawed Froebel’s Kindergarten in 1851, as he would not have been capable of understanding that.

Make, fix and create...

Friday, October 27, 2023


I found the original lego that I'd printed to test whether or not my sketchup illustration instructions (precisely followed) would print a lego accurately enough to fit a real lego. The blue one is an official lego block The clear one is one that I printed using PLA filament on a MakerBot in 2015.

It is satisfying that they fit so well.

Make, fix and create...

"red-handed revolutionists in swaddling clothes."

The horrible dangers of Kindergarten, led  to it being outlawed by the Kaiser in 1851, as was later noted in KINDERGARTEN EDUCATION,  a pamphlet from the US Department of the Interior By ALMIRA M. WINCHESTER, 1919

No other phase of education·is more completely democratic and American than the kindergarten. In this respect the prophecy of the founder has been fulfilled that in America, the new world where new life was and is unfolding, the new education of the human race would take firm root. In Germany, the geographical birthplace of the kindergarten, little more than the outer form and the name is discoverable; the essence is missing. The kindergarten is not at home in Germany.

The edict of the Prussian Government in 1851 forbidding the establishment of kindergartens is tacit evidence that system of education for the people based upon the principle of self-activity, freedom, and respect for individuality was considered a dangerous foe to the success of military autocracy. It was charged at the time that the tendency of the kindergartens was toward atheism and revolution, an indictment that inspired the Berlin comic paper to point out as objects of suspicion "those three-year-old demagogues with their inflammatory speeches, those red-handed revolutionists in swaddling clothes."

All education should be bought to bear a closer resemblance to the original Kindergarten, where kids were to learn by play and by doing real things.

Make, fix and create...

Make Mag.

I received a contributor copy today of Make Magazine, volume 87, their November 2023 issue. It includes my article about making super-sized Froebel blocks representing gifts 3 and 4. And introduces readers to a bit of Froebel's philosophy of learning.

The article introduces the maker community to the wonders of Kindergarten, some perhaps for the first time since Kindergarten is no longer what it once was.
If you like making cool things involving chips, wiring, solder, 3D printing and LEDs, you are probably already familiar with Make Magazine. The company sponsors Maker Faires across the US and around the world.

The book stand is one I made for an article in Woodwork Magazine years ago.

Make, fix and create....

Wednesday, October 25, 2023

proposed publication date

Yesterday I learned that the planned publication date for my new book, Designing Boxes, is April 16. In my shop I'm finishing some work that I'd put aside for various reasons. With the completion of the book, I have lots of clean up to attend to, and finishing of unfinished work is part of that.

I'm working on an article for Make Magazine about 3D printing your own legos using Sketchup software to design them. Gabriel at the Clear Spring School printed some for me on the school's printer. The photo shows that they fit together. Further testing will confirm that they fit real legos.

The point of the original exercise was learning to use the software to build a design, and students had the option of personalizing their designs using raised or embossed letters.

I received a contributor copy today of Make Magazine, volume 87, their November 2023 issue. It includes my article about making super-sized Froebel blocks representing gifts 3 and 4.

Make, fix and create...

Tuesday, October 24, 2023

new items on Etsy

 I added five new listings on Etsy today. They can be found in my shop at


Among them is this one-of-a-kind box made of mahogany. It has a textured lid, is made with hidden spline joints visible only when the lift-off lid is opened.

Make, fix and create...

parts arriving

Parts to fix my Grizzly 6 x 48 in. belt sander will arrive this morning. In preparation, I've taken the sander apart to the point that it can be reassembled with the new parts in place... at a savings of over $500.00 and a savings to our local community and the global environment as well. 

Imagine a world in which things could be made to last, and repaired as necessary. We don't live in that world, but one in which complex devices are made to blow each other up.

I'm reminded of the American bombing in Viet Nam.  We would drop cluster bombs on villages to kill the Viet Cong... each bomb costing thousands of dollars, when if we were to drop Kubota tractors as an alternative to bombs we'd have saved millions of dollars and made friends instead.

There's an article in this month's National Geographic about people living on a small island in the Indian ocean that just wants to be left alone. They defend their solitude by shooting arrows at anyone who lands on their beaches. And of course, they are right. They see the detritus from our civilization in the form of plastic waste arriving each day on the tides and know that what we are doing to the planet should be avoided.

In the news we see children's bodies in body bags, and must remember that each has parents and grandparents that felt them sacred to their own lives. Can we not see that we are one, that there is no other, and that we must begin to act as though we are each sacred to each other? I say this as a new grandparent concerned for the safety and protection of my own grand child.

We have a lovely fall day in the Ozarks. The leaves are falling as they must do each year for refreshing and renewal. If they were not to fall, the ice and snow would tear our trees apart. There are people who drive hundreds of miles to see what I see from my porch. At this point about half of my new book has been turned over to production. What remains is in the hands of my editor for review.

Make, fix and create...

Sunday, October 22, 2023

fixing, wearing out and fixing again.

Yesterday, being international repair day https://openrepair.org/international-repair-day/ and all, my Grizzly 6 x 48 in. belt and disk sander started making a loud thumping sound. I managed to get 44 boxes through their first sanding before the sound became completely unbearable. My choice became buying a new sander to replace my 30 plus year old machine or fixing the one I have. The difference in cost of one vs. the other is enormous, and fortunately Grizzly still has parts for my old machine. How often in this horrid age of planned obsolescence is that still the case?

The repair of the machine, after parts arrive in two days, will take less time than taking a new machine out of the box and bolting the parts together as they come out. Add to that the waste involved in a new machine....  Raw materials, manufacturing, packaging, shipping to the US, distribution by truck or train in the US, delivery, recycling of the old machine and disposal of the packaging that assured the safe delivery of the new machine. The economic costs are reflected in the price paid. The environmental costs are unmeasured.

Then let's consider what are called the "opportunity costs"* 

To compare, I could buy a new machine and have it delivered for $800.00 or fix the one I have for $75. In the latter option I'm left with $725.00 to spend in my local community or save, and the not-insignificant cost of disposing of packaging materials by my community would be spared as well. Those who observe toxic garbage mountains growing in place of real mountains might take note.

There are economic, environmental, social and psychological aspects to consider. There's the money that's saved when things are fixed. There's a savings to the environment when things are given longer life. We build stronger local connections when our resources are directed within our communities rather than squandered abroad. And we receive a greater sense of personal enrichment and psychological empowerment when we fix things, or make the things we find useful in our daily lives. If depressed, make something or fix something. If you fail, no worries. You'll get better at it when you try again.

The photo shows a few boxes readied for routing and finish sanding.

Make, fix and create...

*the loss of potential gain from other alternatives when one alternative is chosen.