Wednesday, May 31, 2023

push button smart?

Today I'm making wooden boxes with veneered panel lids. The ones shown are white oak with lacewood and white oak with walnut burl. The interior surfaces of the top panels are also veneered. Your tools must be fine tuned to get good results in fitting the top panels to the sides. After gluing the lids will be cut from the bodies of the boxes and then hinged.
I contacted Wooden Boat Magazine about the launching of our flag boat at the Clear Spring School. While it's unlikely to make the launchings section of Wooden Boat where new and restored boats are celebrated, the excitement of our young launchers brought smiles to the editorial staff. All students should find such joy in learning. The excitement our kids felt was not too far akin from what boat building adults feel at launch time.
Make, fix and create... We must, in particular, fix American education, enabling students and teachers to learn by doing real things. I say this in the age of stupidity in which folks are push button smart but can't fix nuttin.

Tuesday, May 30, 2023

An opening for one...

I have a 5 day class starting on June 5 in the wood shop at the Eureka Springs School of the Arts. There is currently an opening for one additional student, so if interested please call ESSA 479-253-5384 or sign up on-line. Students of all skill levels will learn and have fun in this class. Usually, each student will make several boxes.

Make, fix and create...

Saturday, May 27, 2023

teaching kids to carve...

My article about teaching kids to whittle and carve came out in Woodcarving Illustrated this month, Summer 2023 Issue number 103. The article is based on my teaching at the Clear Spring School. All children will at some point, whether in cooking or crafts will need to acquire skills in the safe use of a knife. It is an activity kids love and it develops the mind as well as the hands.

You cannot whittle a stick without observing and forming simple hypotheses building the kind of understanding of basic reality fundamental to science.

Make, fix and create...

Wednesday, May 24, 2023

loose lid box

Want a box that has a lid that opens as though it's hinged, but in which no hinges are required? 

This simple prototype is the key. The first time I used this technique was in my book Simply Beautiful Boxes, my second book. The piece of plywood is a stand-in as I finish making the real lid. At this point the box and others are ready to glue up, and  lids will be fitted later.

The way this lid works is that as the lid is raised at the front, it is confined by the back edge falls into a deeper groove at the back where it stands in place with no lid support needed. When closed, it simply falls into place where it is confined within the four sides.

I think readers of my new book, Designing Boxes, will like this box.

Make, fix and create.

Berryville Rotary

I was a guest at the Berryville Rotary meeting yesterday where I was invited to speak. All were respectful as I went on a bit beyond the normally allotted time. Education is a matter that is of interest to all. In my news each and nearly every day I've read of gun violence in schools and about the epidemic of anxiety and depression among  our teens. Our children are overwhelmed by their engagement in social media and they are not being offered means through which to attain and maintain the better mental health offered through the arts. 

Schools have become places where students are constantly controlled while being measured in reading and math and the pressure is on. The pressure is on. The pressure is on. And we really need to pull the plug. I told my audience about schools in which play is intentional, as we all learn best when our passions are engaged. When we are at play, doing things for which we feel passion, our whole beings are placed in a state of alert and learning is at its best.

There's a whole lot more going on in education than can be covered in a thirty minute talk, but the answer to the problems of education can be found if we each reflect on those moments that have been most instructive in our own educational experiences. When did we learn best? What were the pivotal moments that gave direction to our own lives?

I told the audience of my own "pivot point" when my friend Jorgy made the suggestion to me that my brains are in my hands. The truth is that the hand-brain connection is there for each of us, and we learn best when our hands and whole beings are doing real things. When we are willing to arrive at our own understanding of our own learning experiences we'll not need educational experts to dictate what schools must become. We'll turn them into laboratories where children (and teachers) learn by doing real things.

As I mentioned to the Rotary members, real learning can be messy and noisy, and the noise and mess are what you see when students are fully engaged. Get over it. Would you rather see kids depressed?

A member of the audience asked a particularly interesting question about gun violence directed toward schools. I can tell you of specific instances when I was bullied at school by both students and adults. The pressures to perform and conform can make schools a hostile environment for teachers and kids alike. Gun nuts will claim that school shootings are due to schools being soft targets. My own urging is that they become softer places, where playfulness expressed through the arts is allowed to come forth and students are allowed greater opportunities for personal growth and deep engagement.

In my wood shop I've been making pattern-veneered lift-lids for boxes as shown. The residue of veneer tape is from holding the pieces together as they were put in the vacuum press.

Make, fix and create...

Monday, May 22, 2023

White oak

Today Hunnicutt Tree Service (Aaron and Kyle) cut dead white oaks on our property that will be milled into lumber for future use. The logs are large and will make great lumber once dry. 

I expect to be able to make a number of pieces of fine furniture from this wood harvested in my own woods.

One of my blog readers reminded me of one of my earlier blog posts from March 14, 2016. It is about poet William Carlos Williams and his line, "no ideas but in things." You may  find it to be a useful read.

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

Thursday, May 18, 2023

Launch of the CSS Flag boat.

We sent our school made flag boat on its journey down the White River. If you see it, note its location, call the school and send it further on its way.


Wednesday, May 17, 2023

SS Friendship 2023

Today in the Clear Spring School wood shop we made a "flag boat," that we'll launch in the White River tomorrow. The boat is made from white oak and we'll see how far it floats before being found (if found) and picked up.

Make, fix and create...

Friday, May 12, 2023

finished class at MASW

 Today I completed a 5 day class at the Marc Adams School of Woodworking. I had 15 students in the class with each having made between six to eight boxes. I suspect the total number would be a record.  We all had fun.

I'll be headed home in the morning, grateful for a very nice week.

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

Tuesday, May 09, 2023

At MASW, ready for day 2

I'm at Marc Adams School of Woodworking and am a bit frustrated when mistakes I've made put other people's work at risk. That makes this a good time for me to remind myself that our greatest learning takes place, not when things are going perfectly well, but when obstacles are faced and overcome.

One of my students mentioned his need to make a wooden box for the ashes of a friend. This link is to a blog post I placed on the Fine Woodworking website in 2012 that describes the making of just such a box.

The photo is from yesterday's class.

Make, fix and create...

Sunday, May 07, 2023


This morning I'm headed for Marc Adams School of Woodworking in Indiana, for my annual weeklong class in box making. Weeks have gone into planning for this year's class. I'll attempt to post photos during the week, but blog posts from previous classes can be found on my blog: Use the search block at upper left on the page and the search term, Marc Adams.

Make, fix and create.

Wednesday, May 03, 2023

today in the wood shop at CSS

Today in the wood shop at the Clear Spring School we made more boats.
In the meantime, others share my concerns that Artificial Intelligence, AI, will be used for purposes that will be intended to destroy the fabric of our communities and our relationship to truth. The following link is to an essay by Thomas Friedman:
I offer this simple truth–– That if bad things are possible to do, there are folks damaged enough to do them. I can offer a number of examples that you'll find throughout history as well as in the present day.
I have no doubt that there will be good things coming from AI but we must make certain that young people are engaged in the creation of useful beauty in service to family and community. In addition to being fun, craftsmanship is one of the building blocks of the care we have for each other. It leads to a sound sense of personal well-being, and offers a means of directing human culture toward the good.
Make, fix and create...

Tuesday, May 02, 2023

as a how-to writer... I uphold the truth.

 I and others have become increasingly concerned about what's called AI or artificial intelligence. Through programs like Chatbot GPT, AI can spew language, writing Shakespearian sonnets faster than you can spell Jackie Robinson. But what you get from the programs is BS. In fact, the more BS that's out there, the easier it becomes to fictionalize reality, and fool the pubic. AI gets even worse when it's creating videos and images intended to distort our understanding of reality.

When how-to writers write, our success is based not on being able to convince others to think what we think but to empower others to succeed in what we do, and we dare not lead others astray, as they will test what we've demonstrated in their own hands and haunt us for our failures.

This is one of the reasons that kids of all ages need to be doing real things in schools and that schools need as much as possible to be (not merely resemble) real life. The artificiality of the typical classroom environment leaves children untrained in the discernment of truth. It leaves them vulnerable to manipulation by despots, whether those despots are petty ones in our own families and communities, or are those who shape political opinions and rule nations.

When I spoke to the Holiday Island Rotary Club this last week, one member in the audience mentioned that she had visited Clear Spring School and that in her observations it was different from what she had observed in other schools. She had noted greater student participation and less teacher control, and she asked me if her observations and how she was describing things were correct.

I was reminded of a story local artist Zeek Taylor told of his first year of teaching high school art. The principal stepped into his classroom as he was preparing for the first day of school, and pronounced sternly as a warning, "Your kids must remain quiet." You'll not find that rule to be in force at the Clear Spring School, where teachers and students are responsive to each other, as must be the case for effective learning to take place.

I've had a few things running through my head of late. One is the Erikson-Anders 10,000 hour rule that suggests that to get world class at something, 10,000 hours of deliberate practice are required. Compare that to the roughly 16,000 hours kids spend at schools sitting passively at desks while teachers follow scripts devised by others and devoid of their own passion.

I've also been thinking about depression and boredom (not my own) that are imposed within the typical classroom environment. And I've been thinking about a revolution in which we empower teachers to do and create, and respect impassioned learning. 

If we each observe and reflect on our own learning experiences and build from there we see a few things that were noted by Diesterweg in the mid 1800's. These observations presented by Otto Salomon  in his book, the Principles of Educational Sloyd  are: Start with the interests of the child, 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. In this I repeat myself,  but if we were to design American education based on how we learn, and with an eye toward engaging students in the quest for truth, we'd be less at risk with regard to Artificial Intelligence, as each student would have real intelligences of their own and their 16,000 hours spent in schooling would not have been squandered. Better mental health would arise also.

Make, fix and create...

Monday, May 01, 2023

triangle boxes, quickly made

These are some quickly made triangle boxes. Some will be angled at the top and used without lids as pencil boxes. Some will get lift off lids. They've been glued and the rubber bands are holding parts together as the glue sets.

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