Wednesday, January 31, 2024

Designing Boxes Cover

Taunton Press has finalized the cover of my new book that's scheduled to come out in April.

This is my 15th book, not counting 3 translated and published in German.

Tuesday, January 30, 2024

A discussion of the need for hands-on learning

Dale Dougherty publisher of Make Magazine asked me what direct steps we can take to improve American education, and he printed my response in this link.

Saturday, January 27, 2024

router mortise jig

I've made this relatively simple new jig for routing mortises using the plunge router and guide bushings. The first step is to cut a piece from the middle of a board equal in size to the selected guide bushing.

Then the base must be glued with an opening to allow for the guide bushing to move a distance equal to the length of the planned mortise, plus an allowance for the different sizse of the router bit and guide bushing.

A guide is added to the underside to position the jig in the right place so that the cut will be centered in the stock. In my jig, I used spacers to adjust the position so I can use the same jig for different thicknesses of wood. The jig can either be clamped in a vise or can be clamped directly to the stock.

Make, fix and create.

ready to sell

My basswood cabinet, milk painted and carved is ready to sell at the annual Clear Spring School fundraising auction. It hangs with a french cleat, so installation is easy. 

You position the cleat on the wall, level it and attach it with screws, and then simply lift the cabinet in place. It is sized to hold a large array of spices. Other small collectables could also be displayed inside.

Make, fix and create.

Thursday, January 25, 2024

quick carving

I've done a quick carving on the front of a basswood spice cabinet. Left and right are not perfectly symmetrical... a thing that might bother some. On the other hand, the carving is spontaneous, taking only a few minutes to do. You get to choose how you would do this to fit your own expectations of results.

Make, fix and create...

Wednesday, January 24, 2024

designing boxes update.

My new book with Taunton Press, Designing Boxes, has now passed through the editorial process and has been moved to layout and design. My next part of the process will be the final review before it goes to press. I'm reminded of what it means to be a part of a good team.

At ESSA we're preparing parts for making tables. The start of a pedestal is shown.

Make, fix and create...

Monday, January 22, 2024

Milk paint

At this point the spice cabinet is painted, ready for clear coating (which will darken the color) and carving which will reveal the color of wood underneath.

A reader, Connie Goddard, who is working on a book about the history of manual arts training for University of Illinois Press sent this interesting comment from 1901 regarding the North Dakota Normal and Industrial School. Thank you Connie. 

Make, fix and create...


Sunday, January 21, 2024

Milk painted spice cabinet.

I'm applying milk paint to a small cabinet featured in a recent article in Popular Woodworking and as an alternate design in my book Building Small Cabinets. This cabinet when finished will be offered in the annual Spring Fling benefit to support the Clear Spring School. After finishing with the milk paint I'll do some simple carving to the front using a v gouge.

The cabinet is sized to fit spice jars and mounts to the wall using a "french cleat."

Want it? You'll be able to bid on it when the auction goes live.

Make, fix and create...

Saturday, January 20, 2024

AI, Kindergarten and the need for universal manual arts training.

I have an essay in this month's Front Porch Republic

In the essay, 

Doug Stowe reflects on the importance of educating students to work with their hands: "With the rise of Artificial Intelligence, it is more important than ever that we develop a common framework of understanding rooted in the senses—sight, sound, and touch—offline, in the real world."

Tuesday, January 16, 2024

box maker's plow plane

Lee Valley suggests that with weather being what it is throughout the US and  Canada, this time to head for the shop and do a bit of woodworking. 

The weather here is cold, and we have 3 or 4 inches of snow. But shop time is a near everyday thing for me.

Yesterday I decided to give my new Veritas Box Maker's plow planes a test, while also rethinking my simple clamping system that uses a common wood bodied hand screw.

With the plow plane I'd wondered whether I might use plane irons from my old Record Multi Plane, and learned that I could.  I used a 1/8 in radius beading cutter to make a practice run on a piece of western cedar and got perfect results. 

Turning a hand screw into an effective clamp for holding stock is relatively easy. For schools interested in converting desks to work benches, it can offer a cost effective alternative to woodworking vises that are expensive to buy and difficult to install.

Make, fix and create...

Monday, January 15, 2024

hidden spline joint

Fine Woodworking sent out an email link this morning to my video on making the hidden spline joint. 

You can also find this video and more on my youtube channel

Saturday, January 13, 2024

My friend Paul

My friend Paul Harvel died yesterday. He was a major advocate for my adopted home state, Arkansas, and his life can serve as a model for the positive effects we can have on each other. I first met Paul when I was selling my work at the Arkansas Craft Guild's Christmas Showcase. He was director of the Little Rock Area Chamber of Commerce and bought some of my boxes to give his staff. He did the same the next year, the year after and for years after that.

His wife Barbara called one day as she was looking for someone to design the Governor's Award for Quality. As she asked about my work I mentioned that I made small inlaid boxes, at which point she picked up a box from her desk that Paul had given her, and noted my signature underneath. That led to my making the Governor's Award for Quality for the next twenty years.

When Paul was involved in building the new Chamber of Commerce offices in downtown Little Rock, he asked me to design and build the furniture for his office. That furniture was recently a gift from Paul and Barbara to the collection of the Museum of Eureka Springs Art.

My point in mentioning Paul, is to point out that an artisan's work is dependent on the support of his community. Paul's particular art was to encourage others, and my own work and development as a craftsman holds me in Paul's debt. If others have been encouraged by my work, they are also at least a bit in Paul's debt.

An illusion that we humans suffer from is that we are separate from each other, and that we come and go from this life. Perhaps a clearer view would be to witness the interconnections between us, noting the fabric of life. In simple terms, Paul is gone, and Paul is not gone,

My love to Barbara, to the state of Arkansas and all the small towns that benefitted from  Paul's attentions as he promoted their growth.

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

Thursday, January 11, 2024

white oak

Yesterday I picked up a small load of white oak... enough to make many boxes or several pieces of small furniture. It has the potential of different interesting things. It must be dried first though some folks do work with green wood. Wood shrinks significantly when it dries, and can warp. So for my use, I'll stack it with strips of wood between layers, allowing air to flow around it on all sides. 

In about a year it will be ready to use. The common understanding suggests one year of drying for each inch of thickness, though that may vary dependent on the amount of air flow around the stack, and how dry the air is in the environment.

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

Monday, January 08, 2024

Music box revisited

The small box in the photo is a music box left over unfinished from the production of my book Simply Beautiful Boxes. That book and its projects were compiled in my book Build 25 Beautiful Boxes. While out of print, it's available in a Kindle edition.

I've installed a small movement that plays Johann Pachelbel's Canon in D and it's being finished for my Granddaughter Sylvie.

The box is made of elm and inlaid with walnut and curly maple. The inlay techniques are demonstrated in the book.

Wednesday, January 03, 2024

fathers of...

There were two men credited as the fathers of the manual arts training movement in the US. Both had attended the 1876 American Centennial World Exposition in Philadelphia celebrating the founding of the United States. Among the exhibits were a huge (the world's largest) steam engine that powered 11 acres of machinery along with an exhibit of the "Russian system" of manual arts training. Calvin Woodward taught mathematics at Washington University, and John Runkle taught math at MIT. Both had observed that as fewer of their students came from the farm where direct from real life learning had built a foundation for abstract studies, students were having greater difficulty understanding concepts in math. 

The answer of course was for them to do real things in school where necessary foundations for abstract studies might be purposely built. The American manual and industrial training movement was thus launched from that exposition and the return of Woodward and Runkle to their respective institutions.

Sorry to be preachy on this subject, but isn't it obvious that children need to be doing real things?

Less noticed at the same exposition was the Swedish School house that featured an exhibit of hand-crafted wooden models representing Educational Sloyd, a system of education bringing the hands, eyes and mind into partnership in developing the whole child. The Swedish School house was moved to New York City's Central Park following the exposition. It currently serves as the Marionette Theater, as it has since that time.

Along with the introduction of manual arts training, Americans were also introduced to Kindergarten at that exposition and the movement to bring Kindergartens to American children and Educational Sloyd to American youth were closely connected and sponsored by some of the same enlightened folks.

You can follow along through this blog and use the search function at upper left to gain more information. The photo shows my visit to the Swedish School House in Central Park.

Make, fix and create...

Monday, January 01, 2024

odd but true

Happy New Year. It's odd but true that every small thing we do has what the bankers call "serial effect."  You bounce one check putting your account into overdraft and the next follows. We make very small choices going this way or that, and the course of our lives is forever changed by each choice we make. 

Unfortunately we are not given clear maps, and the shortest distance between two points is almost never a straight line. Also, it seems that very small decisive moments can make all the difference in the world, while at the same time, we may feel and seem powerless in response to catastrophic world events.

But what is the power that we have, and what can we do with it?

A number of years ago friends brought me a slender volume published at Naropa Institute in Boulder Colorado where they had attended classes in meditation. The thin volume is called the Tsin Tsin Ming, translated from the writings of the third Zen Patriarch. 

The volume suggests a path forward. When we make the slightest distinction, heaven and earth are set infinitely apart, but by refusing to fall into judgement of things, this vs. that, everything becomes clear and undisguised.

In that is a simple path forward. The world we face is profoundly complex. There are people trying to divide us from each other, and they are well practiced in their ways, using buzz words and ready anger to gain power and control. We see it in every event, and yet we are each presented even in this new year with a path of peace that starts from this moment.

The hands have a clear and distinct role to play in this transformation. They demand your (and my) presence in the now, in this moment, and in the real world.

Again, Happy New Year.

Make, fix and create...