Sunday, March 31, 2024

National Woodworking Month

It's no April fool's joke. April is actually National Woodworking Month, observed since 1990. I know nothing more about it. Who proposed it? And how did it become named as such? Was there an act of congress to certify it? I'll celebrate it anyway.
And happy Easter! My children's rocking chairs are parts stacked on every flat surface in the shop, but gradually coming together. Two will be finished and assembled and one will remain loose parts to assist in my rocking chair class in the fall, not yet announced in the ESSA catalog. Progress on these chairs has been a bit slow, as I'm also making jigs that will better guarantee student success, like the angled tenoning jig shown in the photo used for forming angled tenons on the stretcher crossing between the front legs.
Make, fix and create... Assist others in living likewise.

Saturday, March 30, 2024

deadline extended, application simplified

 The application deadline for the mentored woodworking residency has been extended. 

The Eureka Springs School of the Arts is looking for practicing woodworkers seeking focused time to refine their skills, create work, and/or explore new avenues within their medium for a Mentored Residency under Master Woodcrafter, Doug Stowe.                                                                                                                                                                                                                           

  • The 2024 Mentored Woodworking Residency will span 2 weeks from June 17 to June 29, 2024, with a required orientation on June 16, 2024.
  • Up to 6 participants will be selected.
  • Participants pay a $1,200 fee, which includes on-site lodging (see Residency Details for more information). A limited number of scholarships will be awarded. Indicate your interest in receiving scholarship funds by checking the appropriate box on the application form.
  • The deadline for submissions is April 17, 2024, by 5 pm (CST), and successful applicants will be notified by April 19, 2024.
  • Submit application materials via email to 
You can find the applications material here:

Make, fix and create...

Friday, March 29, 2024

too easy? no reward.

Years ago I asked my students whether they would prefer that I make things easy for them or difficult and the answer, of course, was difficult. We all know that it things are made too easy, boredom soon sets in and the suffering begins. Doing difficult and demanding things energizes the spirit.

In the Maker Ed Substack this morning, Dale Dougherty discussed Kelly Lambert's research on  "effort driven rewards," and their relationship to depression, and if a clinical psychologist was to peer into a typical American classroom, he or she might diagnose an overall malaise bordering on depression. Longtime readers of this blog or readers of my book Wisdom of Our Hands will recognize Dr. Lambert's work, as I've discussed it many times before.

Yesterday I visited ESSA briefly where a group of veterans was busy crafting wooden benches, and no malaise was to be found. 

In my wood shop I continue working on children's rocking chairs, toddler size. I'm mainly cutting parts to size and cutting the mortise and tenon joints that hold the parts together. When those operations are complete, I'll hand carve the backs. At the moment I have parts scattered on every flat surface in the shop.

Make, fix and create.

Thursday, March 28, 2024

Happy Birthday Mr. Comenius

Today March 28, 2024 I celebrate John Amos Comenius' 432nd birthday. He was considered the father of modern pedagogy but his contributions to education are now largely dismissed. He influenced a wide range of early educators, an insisted that the senses and learning through the senses was key to greater understanding than reading could provide. He's credited with developing the first picture book for children. He laid the ground work for other influential educators, and was for a time celebrated throughout Europe.

Educators worry that schools are not providing critical thinking skills. I suspect however, that's by design. Exploring life though the application of the senses, provides avenues though which questions arise. Critical thinking is based on a willingness to ask questions. Questions lead inevitably to questions of authority. Democracies headed toward authoritarianism, do not want students to develop critical thinking skills. And yet, critical thinking skills are essential to a successful society.

Last night I watched an interview with a psychologist describing the dangers of children being too deeply engaged in technology and social media. He said that children should be engaged in the real world as it offers benefits for growth and emotional security that the online world does not.

Happy Birthday Mr. Comenius. As long as a few of us remember, there's still hope.

Make, fix and create.

Wednesday, March 27, 2024

fly through

This QR code will take you to a quick fly through of the new Museum of Eureka Springs Art. It is much better to take your time and stroll. The museum is open during farmer's market hours on Thursdays and from 1-5 on Saturday afternoons.

To activate the QR code, aim your phone camera at it. The camera will recognize the link and carry you to youtube for viewing.

Tuesday, March 26, 2024

Mentored residency in woodworking

The deadline for my mentored residency in wood working approaches. Applications for review must be submitted by March 29, just 3 days from today. If you have any questions about the program or wonder what value it may offer to your own woodworking career or interests, you may email me to set up a time to talk.

Scholarships are available.

In my woodshop I'm continuing my work on toddler sized rocking chairs and building jigs that will assist me in teaching a class in the fall.

I've been reading Richard Hofstadter's classic book, Anti-Intellectualism in American Life. I am exploring the idea that anti-intellectualism is rooted at least partly in the failures of our education system  to engage students in the exploration of real life. Shop classes can help to fix that. 

An interesting side note on Hofstadter's book is his mention of Gerald L. K. Smith, a noted Nazi and Anti-Semite who settled in Eureka Springs and is indelibly a part of our local history.

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

Monday, March 25, 2024

micro jig sled

My new micro jig sled using micro jig dovetail clamps is proving useful in a variety of operations, including tapering the back legs of the children's rockers I'm making as preparation for a class at ESSA in the fall.

When I taught making children's rockers in the past, one week was really not long enough, so I'm working on various jigs to clarify and simplify a complex project. Hopefully, that will leave more time for carving the backs. When I had my last rocking chair class, it was with the Diablo Woodworkers in the San Francisco Bay area, and I received photos in years after showing me student's finally finished work.

In addition to using the micro jig dovetail clamps  to hold the work directly on the jig, they can be used to clamp blocks in place trapping the work in position or you can use their kit to set up stops using the same dovetail grooves.

Make, fix and create...

Friday, March 22, 2024

If you can't use it, it may be art.

A friend of mine cut a slice of burl from a tree on the river and gave it to me years ago. It sat on a shelf, taking up space—too lovely to throw away, and too useless to be anything but occasionally admired.

Yesterday I used spray polyurethane to bring its colors more to life and give it  some protection.

Today I added French cleats so it could be hung. The way the cleats are mounted to the back, it can hang one way or the other. And sometimes art is exercised just in the recognition of beauty and placing an object in such a way that others are given a chance to admire it.

My friend gave it to me thinking I might make something from it. but my own imagination goes no further than to appreciate it just as it is. My only exercise in the area of craftsmanship or artistry was to add the French cleats and decide how and where it should be hung.

It hangs over the door that passes between my finish room and the outside.

Make, fix and create. Let beauty guide your path.

Thursday, March 21, 2024

Mortise and tenon joints

I'm working on three children's rocking chairs, one of which will be kept loose as parts to help me set up for a class at ESSA in the fall. I made the first of these chairs in about 1995 and the last about 15 years ago, so it is good to refresh my thoughts in anticipation of the class. The disassembled chair will help in setting things up, and the finished chairs will be available for sale.

I'm routing the mortises using my horizontal boring machine, cutting the tenons on the table saw and quickly rounding the tenons to fit the mortises. In class I may opt for using a hollow chisel mortiser, as that is a more familiar approach for many woodworkers. It is amazing, however, how quickly a few strokes with a rasp can fit the square shouldered tenons into the mortises cut with the boring machine.

I received a lovely photo of the spice cabinet that was sold at the Clear Spring School Spring Fling Art Auction in its new home. It is great to see my work honored in people's homes. It has found a happy place in a happy place.

Make, fix and create.

Tuesday, March 19, 2024

Better things to do.

Michelle Goldberg's essay in the New York Times is interesting reading as it suggests the answer to our social media/phone/internet problems might be to offer them better places to go. I suggest, better things to do.

I had a conversation a few weeks ago with a college professor who is working on an article about technology and education. He asked me about how schools might best deal with the disruptive force of iPhones in school. Parents spend a loot load of money on them, and want their kids to be accessible to them at all times. Social media offered through the phones is recognized as presenting tremendous mental health problems, and they tend to be a distraction. 

A couple weeks ago I offered classes in box making to staff and board at ESSA, the school I helped found 25 years ago. As I taught, I noticed a few phones left on benches that were occasionally picked up so that their owners could record videos and images of the experience so it could be shared or remembered. In no way were the phones disruptive. Nor need they be disruptive in schools.

The secret to integrating phones successfully in schools lies in making learning active, project based, relevant and less mind numbing. Of course kids will be drawn to facebook, instagram, tiktok and other sites if what they're doing in schools is abstract and out of touch. The phones will be put down when there are real things to do.

In my shop I'm revisiting a project from 2002, building toddler sized rocking chairs—in preparation for teaching a class in the fall.

Friday, March 15, 2024

my ETSY shop

I've published some additional items for sale in my ETSY shop. You can find it here:

By selling a few things, I make room to make more.

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

Wednesday, March 13, 2024

Torii tables

I do some furniture that slips away without people in our local community seeing it so many folks are unacquainted with the range of my work.

The tables shown I call Tori tables as they are inspired by Japanese architecture, most particularly the shape of a Torii Temple gate.

I'm sharing my work here in the hopes of attracting folks to apply for my 2024 Woodworking Residency at ESSA. The details can be found on the ESSA website.

Some of the aspects of the Torii Table are  exposed mortise and tenon joints, the shape (of course) and the treatment of the wood, with each piece managed with a sense of reverence for the  material and for the tree from which it came. In addition to the wedged through tenons the tops are floating with the expansion and contraction allowed to take place toward the middle of the table... A future I illustrated in my second Fine Woodworking article "A Fresh take on Table Tops," published in 2006.

Want to take your work to the next level? Perhaps I can help.

Make, fix and create...

Sunday, March 10, 2024

C.P. Huntington

Let me say to you that all honest work is honorable work. If the labor is manual, and seems common, you will have all the more chance to be thinking of other things, or of work that is higher and brings better pay, and to work out in your minds better and higher duties and responsibilities for yourselves, and for thinking of ways by which you can help others as well as yourselves, and bring them up to your own higher level. — C.P. Huntington (1821-1900)

How many times have you been involved in manual work, and had your mind wander in ways that brought some form of gift to others or to yourself? It happens all the time. Never underestimate the value of mindless work. It offers unseen pleasures and surprises, when we invite the right spirit to attend.

Make, fix and create...

Friday, March 08, 2024

adapted hand screw

I've started a small oak stand for miscellaneous in our second bathroom and have been cutting and planing stock. In the meantime, I modified an old hand screw by cutting the handles off and replacing them with octagonal ones on each end of the threaded rods.

These will fit the wrench I made yesterday and  will allow the hand screw to be used as a vise when clamped to a table, desk or bench. The wrench will enable young hands to get the hand screw tight. The shop made octagonal handles are white oak and are glued to the threaded rods with epoxy.

My simple point is that every classroom in America should be readied for hands-on learning.

Am I crazy or what?  I'm powerless to make the changes I have in mind, so that's where you and others can join in. 

My book Designing Boxes has had the publication date changed to June 25, 2024.

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

Thursday, March 07, 2024

Mentored residency in wood.

The deadline to apply for my mentored residency program at ESSA approaches. More information can be found on the ESSA website, including the application material.

As leader of the program, I'm author of 15 woodworking books and over 100 articles in various woodworking magazines including Fine Woodworking. While I'm best known for box making, I've also done a lot of furniture design published in books and articles and for individual clients. For instance, the table shown was for a contractor in Little Rock and is assembled with mortise and tenon joints and sliding dovetails. The rocks embedded in the wood are a theme used in some of my furniture work and boxes.

Residents in the workshop will have full use of the ESSA machine room, lathe room and bench room, my experience in helping to move to the next level in their work, and on campus lodging. Larry Copas, a local woodworker with profound experience in all kinds of machine use will also be available as a resource to residents. You may contact me directly with questions if you like.

Make, fix and create...

Wednesday, March 06, 2024

hand screw

Today I made a simple hand screw, but using common all thread and barrel nuts as the hardware. One of the things I discovered in the process is that all thread takes a lot more time to adjust than common hand screws. Those have threads going opposite directions and adjust twice as fast.

You'll note that in this that I put both handles on the same side so it can be adjusted while clamped to a table or bench.

It was fun making this, and working through the challenges involved. It would be easy to make a Moxon vise using the exact same technique.

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

Tuesday, March 05, 2024

Adding legs to a box.

Adding legs to a box. The box is made of ash with walnut accents and veneered top.

Make, fix and create...

Sunday, March 03, 2024

method or madness

The photo shows two of my demonstration boxes from my classes for board and staff at ESSA. They are made of ash and have now received a first application of Danish oil made using the Sam Maloof mixture of boiled linseed oil, mineral spirits and polyurethane varnish. The oil finish darkens the wood and enhances the grain, bringing natural colors to life, while adding just a bit of sheen and protection to the wood.

The lids have their shape for specific purposes. Being resawn at a 4 degree angle leaves them thick enough at the back for applying surface mounted hinges, and thin enough at the front to not appear overly clunky and graceless. An additional advantage is that by careful resawing, two lids can be cut from the same piece of wood. 

You may be curious how wood can be planed at an angle as was obviously done. First surface the wood on both sides. Then cut the one piece into two using the table saw set at the desired angle. The taping the outside faces together back into the original shape, run it through the planer again, surfacing the sawn sides.  To further utilize the angle of the lid as a design feature in the box, the ends of the lid taper toward the front corners and the front corners of the box taper toward the front, providing a natural spot for the fingers to engage in opening the box. That subtle feature is more easily observed in the open box.

Is all this method or madness? Check the photo, and you decide. If you don't like it, tell us why.

Make, fix and create. Insist that all education become likewise.

Saturday, March 02, 2024

Yesterday, and new clamps

Yesterday I had a great day teaching box making to members of the board of the Eureka Springs School of the Arts. It was a wonderful team building exercise, and ought to serve as an example for corporate retreats. We had a great time and each was able to leave having finished a box.

In the mail yesterday I received some wonderful clamps. One was made by Mike Taylor at Taylor Tool Co. It is a reinvention of the ages old hand screw, but with holes that allow it to be clamped to a table or bench, giving it much greater flexability.  Also, having both handles in the front allow it to perform more like a Moxon vise, and will likely be less confusing to young hands.

The other clamps I received I had ordered from Amazon. They are quick acting lever clamps, and I bought them thinking of the challenge teachers might face in converting a common classroom into a wood working shop... a thing we must consider if schools are to become the places they must be. The clamps are well made, and have exceptional clamping strength. The lever would allow kids or teachers to tighten them with ease, or quickly take down at the end of class and tools must be put away. They are perfect to use with Mike Taylor's custom hand screw, or one converted for classroom use as I will demonstrate in the next issue of Fine Woodworking magazine. 

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

Friday, March 01, 2024


Members of the ESSA board of directors will join with me in making wooden boxes, and while the method is simple, the results are satisfying. I found an interesting article by Booker T. Washington inspired by my search for information about the opposition to manual arts training from parents of the poor.

Let me say to you that all honest work is honorable work. If the labor is manual, and seems common, you will have all the more chance to be thinking of other things, or of work that is higher and brings better pay, and to work out in your minds better and higher duties and responsibilities for yourselves, and for thinking of ways by which you can help others as well as yourselves, and bring them up to your own higher level.—Booker T. Washington

Labor is made boring by being resentful of your part in it, and in it we can always find cause for joy. Washington noted the difference between "working," in which we find joy, and "being worked" in which there is cause for resentment and despair.

Yesterday's staff class was a joy, just as I expect today's class for board members will be. The photo shows the box design we made yesterday and will be making today.

Make, fix and create... assist others in finding the joy in living and learning likewise.