Friday, March 31, 2023

today in the wood shop!

Today in the wood shop I'm cutting dovetails using the Moxon vise that I made for an article in Quercus to hold the stock. It works well. I'm also using a dovetail marking gauge I developed with the help of Veritas tools to mark the lines along which to cut. 

This marking gauge is unlike the other marking gauges on the market in several ways. It has a scale allowing the dovetails to be scaled up or down from a central mark. That mark can be seen rather than hidden by the body of the jig. So instead of measuring this side and then that side, measuring for each pin or tail is reduced to one mark.

Another advantage is that with the outside edges being square, it serves also as a square in laying out the other marks required.

Veritas chose not to put this jig into production, but at least I have one for my own use. I can understand why they chose not to produce this marking gauge as there are many competitors on the market and to see the value of this one requires some fresh thinking and for me to teach its value.

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

Monday, March 27, 2023

about craft

This is an excellent view of the meaning of craft.

Modern employment leaves workers moving from one thing to another without the grounding in the development of skill that our humanity demands. Things are made ever more "user friendly" without an understanding that we thrive best by doing difficult things that challenge our own personal growth. When things are made user friendly, we are deprived of an understanding of how things work.

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


Saturday, March 25, 2023

One on one

I'm home from having spent 5 days in Portland with the Guild of Oregon Woodworkers, and one of the things we discussed was teaching and learning styles.

To help students through the process of cutting miter key slots in the corners of boxes, we used a team approach and got through safely. One at the saw would cut the corners while the last one to have gone through would help. Having someone on the other side of the cut to lift the box and return it lessened the risk of dropping the box, and gave an additional opportunity to observe the process from a different angle. Each got a turn at cutting and assisting.

Please note how Daniel carefully rotates the box to its next cutting position before handing it back.

In medical school they say, "see one, do one, teach one." We added, "See one, do one, assist the next, and then teach." The most effective learning is hands on, and the most effective teaching is one on one. The video will illustrate.

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

Wednesday, March 22, 2023

class and presentation

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

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

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

Tuesday, March 21, 2023

Guild of Oregon Woodworkers

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, March 20, 2023

Where are our values?

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

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

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

Make, fix and create... 

Saturday, March 18, 2023

Uncommon sense

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

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

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

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

Clear Spring School Podcast

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

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

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

Friday, March 17, 2023

Hidden spline lid

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

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

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

Thursday, March 16, 2023

My Carter Letter.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hank Kaminski

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Make, fix and create...

Sunday, March 12, 2023

big dog small table

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, March 08, 2023


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

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

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

Monday, March 06, 2023


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

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

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

Make, fix and create...

Thursday, March 02, 2023

telling time

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

Make, fix and create...