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.