Thursday, February 29, 2024

recipe boxes

I mentioned that I've been working on recipe boxes. Now they are complete. They are made with keyed miter joints from ash and cherry and the keys strengthening the corners and the lift tabs on the lids are made from walnut. They are veneered on top with  variety of American hardwoods. The surface mounted hinges have a 90 degree stop.

staff box making class

Today members of the ESSA staff and I made boxes. My demonstration box that I made during the class is shown. Its features are: Finger jointed corners, sloping solid wood lid (providing a thinner profile at the front) and surface mounted hinges with 90 degree stop.

It was a very fun class, and tomorrow I get to repeat the same class with members of the ESSA board.

A few years back when my daughter was at Columbia University and as a freshman was engaged in study of their famed Core Curriculum in which all were to become deeply engaged in the study of civilization and become more uniformly civil in consequence, I attempted to contact University president Lee Bollinger to suggest that with the unfinished cathedral St. John the Divine just across the street, freshmen would benefit more greatly by cutting and carving stone than by a study of Socrates. No doubt, that might have been difficult to explain to the trustees. But I hold deeply, the conviction of its truth. Students would better understand civilization by getting their hands involved in the creation of it.

If any of my readers are friends with the current administration of Columbia University, my offer still stands. I'd gladly help the university get back on the right track.

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

making your child smart...

Today I have a staff class at ESSA in which I'll be teaching and assisting staff members to make wooden boxes. We will go through tool safety and I'll lead my students through a series of operations all aimed toward leaving the class with finished boxes.

Some place I'd read that parents of the poor had objections to manual arts training as it was a way to prevent the advancement of their children into more lucrative studies, and to keep them in their proposed place. Woodrow Wilson had stated as president of Princeton University that: 

"We want one class of persons to have a liberal education, and we want another class of persons, a very much larger class, of necessity, in every society, to forgo the privileges of a liberal education and fit themselves to perform specific difficult manual tasks."

You can see where the idea came from... that an advanced social class resulting from academic education would be served by a lower class drawn from the poor.

The point that too many have missed, is that you don't teach carpentry in schools to turn students into carpenters. You teach it to help all students become smart, and even the children from the upper classes deserve to become smart. 

The image shown is a simple way to shape a lift tab for the front of a box lid, using the table saw to get consistent results. A pencil holds the stock in its nest cut in a piece of 1/8 in. thick MDF.

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

Wednesday, February 28, 2024

new tables in commons

Yesterday we assembled 4 tables at ESSA for the Commons House where our teaching staff can share meals and social time and where we can have corporate retreats and meetings. They are intended to be used separately or arranged as in the photo shown. These were made by volunteers from locally sourced white oak, much of which was quarter sawn to reveal the lovely ray patterns,

Today I begin preparing for staff and board classes in the ESSA woodshop.

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

Saturday, February 24, 2024

recipe boxes

In my woodshop I'm working on recipe boxes at the request of the Historic Arkansas Museum Gift Store. They are made to hold 4 x 6 in. recipe cards and are made from Arkansas hardwoods. They are now nearly complete but for the application of finish.

I used surface mounted hinges that open to a 90 degree stop.

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

Thursday, February 22, 2024

Woodcarving Illustrated and sled runners

Today I received copies of the latest edition of Woodcarving Illustrated, containing my article about making hook knives. 

Beyond that, there is a great deal of information that points to the significant role of the hands in learning. Anyone who has paid a modicum of attention to observing his or her own learning experience, would know that “hands-on” is the key and won't need experts to tell what you can see for yourself. But for those who don’t know their hands from a hole in the ground, there are some important things happening that tell us that we have it ALL wrong in most modern classrooms. Some of the research being done in a variety of areas tells us that we have grossly misunderstood the role of the hands in thinking and the development of intelligence.

One significant item I’ll point to is the research that concludes that the playing of instrumental music in school has a significant effect on the development of math proficiency. I think it is particularly interesting to consider the role of the hands in the playing of music. It was Frank Wilson’s involvement in music that lead to his book, The Hand: How its use shapes the brain, language and human culture, and while this particular research doesn’t specifically address the hand’s role in learning, instrumental music is clearly hands-on. Was it the music that made the difference, or the use of the hands in playing the music? It would take more extensive research to prove one way or the other. I strongly suspect that both have effect, the music and the hands that play it. The book describing the research can be found for download at the  Government Information website "Critical Links: Learning in the Arts and Student Social and Academic Development," was sponsored by grants from the National Endowment for the Arts and the United States Department of Education and was written by James Catterall, Karen Bradley, Larry Scripp, Terry Baker and Rob Horowitz. It is truly astounding how rarely the United States Government is able to take its own advice. It is a clear case of the left hand not knowing what the right hand is doing.

In the meantime, I enjoy making jigs and sleds and for the table saw,
most of my sleds have involved wooden runners. Because I make them myself, they're cheap and because they are wood, it is easy to mount them with screws. But I'm always open to new things. The plastic runner shown is high density 
polyethylene that is cut from a common plastic cutting board I purchased on Amazon here. The advantage is that it is stable material, can be machined with common woodworking tools, and mounted with screws just as I would one made of wood.

Make, fix and create. Help others get the point.

Monday, February 19, 2024

A pen and ink box

A pen and ink box I made for a lawyer in Massachusetts is featured in the current issue of Popular Woodworking.

It is made of ash and walnut, and also serves as an example of interior design in my new book, Designing Boxes.  The lift out tray is to hold pens and the space under is useful for accessories.

I was listening to a report on how the rich play a disproportionate role in climate change. Over 900 private jets converged in Las Vegas for the Super Bowl, and that's just the tip of the melting iceberg. 

If more folks were involved in crafting beautiful and useful things within their own communities, they'd find greater satisfaction in the use of their own hands and would not have to go rushing off toward the destruction of life for the rest of us.

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

Tuesday, February 13, 2024

John Amos Comenius

John Amos Comenius was born March 28, 1592, and as father of modern pedagogy (the science of learning and teaching) said the following.

"The ground of this business (education) is, that sensual objects be rightly presented to the senses for fear that they not be received. I say, and say it again aloud, that this is the foundation of all the rest; because we can neither act nor speak wisely, unless we first rightly understand all the things which are to be done and whereof we have to speak. Now there is nothing in the understanding which was not before in the senses. And therefore to exercise the senses well about the right perceiving of the differences of things will be to lay the grounds for wisdom and all wise discourse, and all discreet actions in one's course of life, which, because it is commonly neglected in schools, and the things that are to be learned are offered to scholars without their being understood or being rightly presented to the senses, it cometh to pass that the work of teaching and learning goeth heavily onward and offereth little benefit.” 

"Theory," says Vives,"is easy and short, but has no result other than the gratification that it affords. Practice on the other hand, is difficult and prolix, but is of immense utility." Since this is so, we should diligently seek out a method by which the young may be easily led to the practical application of natural forces, which is to be found in the arts."

"Boys ever delight in being occupied in something for the youthful blood does not allow them to be at rest. Now as this is very useful, it ought not to be restrained, but provision made that they may always have something to do. Let them be like ants, continually occupied in doing something, carrying, drawing, construction and transporting, provided always that whatever they do be done prudently. They ought to be assisted by showing them the forms of all things, even of playthings; for they cannot yet be occupied in real work, and we should play with them. 

Is it not time that we learned from an expert observer and changed the foundation of America education? More doing and less reading would be a good start, so that when kids are reading or writing they have a firm foundation for it.

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

Sunday, February 11, 2024

A torsion table.

Over the last five days a team of volunteers and I built 5 tables for ESSA. Four are yet to be assembled and all require finish. The table shown in the photo is a torsion table similar in structure to one I have coming out in an article in Popular Woodworking.

I was interviewed last week for an article in the New Republic on the subject of education. I was asked about the problem of cell phones in school. I noted that when kids (and adults) are busy doing real things, cell phones (and their distraction) are of little interest. If we get kids busy in schools doing real things instead of the usual BS, the boredom that drives kids to their phones will be decreased.

My own cell phone use fell dramatically during the last week (over 40%). 

Yes, it can be demanding. Planning for kids to do real things instead of sitting at desks while teachers drone on and on is not an easy thing. But well worth it, as it allows students to have real outcomes to demonstrate and measure their success. When things are real, no standardized tests are required to prove evidence of learning.

On Friday I had a good zoom conversation with Dale Dougherty from Make Magazine about the state of American education and how to turn things around. The torsion table shown in the photo is made from white oak and spalted sycamore. It will serve as the reception table for the Windgate Building, greeting students to the wood and metals studios.

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

Thursday, February 08, 2024

cutting dovetails at ESSA!

Volunteers have been building a display cabinet for the wood shop at ESSA. Practicing dovetails is a notable and noble adventure, sure to grab interest. 

In the meantime, I've been sent the pdf's of my new book, Designing Boxes, to review and got a nice note from a craft collector in Little Rock to tell me that one of my reliquaries of wood will be on display at the Windgate Center for Art and Design at UALR until March 3. The opening reception will be held Thursday, February 15, 2024 from 5 to 7 PM.

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

Tuesday, February 06, 2024

volunteer days

At ESSA this week, a team of volunteers is helping me to make 5 tables. Four are for our commons house where we will hold board meetings and receptions, and one is to go in the lobby that connects the wood and metals studios.

In the photo folks are using cabinet scrapers to finish columns that will become parts of pedestal style bases on white oak tables.

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