Monday, April 29, 2024


 Let's say you have a very young dog and the kids have given it the very cute name Cricket, and you've decided the dog is worthless. You take it to a neighbor's farm off leash, and allow it to kill chickens left and right, and then decide you must do the responsible thing and shoot the dog in the face rather than admit to your failure in dog training, and without admitting that someone else would actually love the dog and be better suited to raising it.

This woman wants to be vice president of the United States.

I'm sitting with my wonderful dog Rosie on the front porch after a playful jaunt in the  woods. We must be alert enough to common decency to elect our leadership based on the decency with which we ourselves would hope to be treated.

I've been watching with sadness the harsh reaction to campus protests. If there's a failure in it, perhaps it is our own in letting our children be trained by what they see online, and without real experiences to help them to sort truth from fantasy... without the critical thinking skills that come not from lecture or online but from from participation in real life. What started as a  serious concern for others gets twisted by adversarial forces hoping to gain power by tearing us apart. Surely we can do better than that.

In the wood shop I'm working on 16 boxes to replenish my inventory. I must do them  in multiples in order to do them at a price point folks can afford.

Make, fix and create... And if you are stupid about dog training, hire someone else to do it, or gift your dog to a good shelter where it will be offered to a loving family home.

Friday, April 26, 2024

eBay, the internet and the power of DIY

I was having trouble with my Kubota hydraulics system. The operation of the loader and power steering were slow and jerky, even at higher than normal RPM. 

It costs quite a bit to have my tractor hauled in to the dealer, so I took matters into my own hands. One thing I'd noticed was that a hydraulic return line was wet with fluid. So I went on google, was directed to a site in which others having the same troubles were seeking solutions. I found the name of the part thanks to the help of others, then found that part on eBay and received it in yesterday's mail shipped from Southeast Asia for less than half the price of having my tractor hauled into the shop. The real benefit is not in the cost savings but in the satisfaction of having fixed it myself.

In taking the hydraulic return line off I found a split that allowed air to be sucked in. Removing the old hose, and replacing it with the new one took a total of less than 10 minutes. Now the loader, 3 pt. hitch and power steering work like new... as they should with only 300 hours of use on my machine. 

This of course, may seem trivial in comparison to things that are happening in the world at this point. But real power comes from the balanced use of hands and mind. I write about this in my book, Wisdom of Our Hands: Crafting, a Life. 

Thursday, April 25, 2024

whittling and listening

I've spent the morning listening to the supreme court hearing about presidential immunity, and at the same carving a rocking chair back. The carving it more satisfying. This is the second to near completion.

A couple questions come to my mind brought forth by the arguments. First the president is protected from violating the law, by being surrounded by lawyers whose advice he either accepts or rejects. When he rejects their advice he risks violation of the laws of the United States that his job is to protect. 

Secondly, if one was to agree with the argument of total immunity offered by Trump''s attorney, as crazy as it is, a president would have the right to ask his military to assassinate his political rival, if he had reason to do so. An example might be that his adversary is a clear threat to our democracy which many consider to be the case.

Make, fix and create.

Wednesday, April 24, 2024


I have an article in MakerEd published  today by my friend Dale Dougherty. You can read it here:

It is a celebration of Froebel's 242nd birthday, his contributions and our need that education stop ignoring him.

Make, fix and create... 

Sunday, April 21, 2024

carved rocking chair back

This is the first of 3. The textured background offers a soft focus.

Make, fix and create.  Assist others n living likewise    


Happy Birthday Mr. Froebel

Friedrich Froebel, inventor of Kindergarten was born on April 21, 1782 so if he were alive today, he would be 242 years old. His ideas, having grown out of favor are still young. In the early 1840's he was walking over the crest of a mountain pass with fellow educators and proclaimed, "Eureka! I know what to name my youngest child! Kindergarten!" A garden of children. It was a place in which children would be offered the right conditions for their growth, growing from patterns inherent within.

Gliedganzes was a term that Froebel combined from two German words glied meaning member and ganzes meaning whole. Advocates of progressive education talk about the education of the whole child... that education should not only be concerned with teaching a child to read and do math, but to also to become engaged as a creative member of society.

Froebel's odd word gliedganzes was devised to show simultaneous concern for both directions education must proceed at exactly the same time. Froebel's gifts were designed to illustrate this. For example, the gift number 3 consisting of a cube shaped box, containing a smaller cube composed of 8 small blocks illustrates that while each cube is complete in itself, it is also a member of a larger form, just as the child itself is a complete whole and is a member of  larger forms. 

The purpose of Kindergarten was to help children discover their own unique characters and capacities and simultaneously discover their interconnectedness with family, community, human culture and nature.  These may seem divergent, but are actually brought together in Froebel's concept, gliedganzes.

Happy Birthday Mr. Froebel.

You've not been completely forgotten. This video should be widely shared.

Thursday, April 18, 2024

Observe this

The New York Times published an article this morning referencing research by Kelly Lambert on the positive mental health effects of working with your hands.

If you try it, observe this. Take a stick and a knife and whittle. Note that each stroke of the knife offers evidence of effect. Cumulative observed effect provides evidence of your own power, even in such simple things, offsetting the sense of powerlessness that's associated with depression.

Before carving rocking chair backs, I lay out a simple pattern using a small template, then sketch in stems and leaves connecting. Quite simple. The finished carving will  require only 4 chisels.

Make, fix and create...

Tuesday, April 16, 2024

Rocking chair backs

I'm in the process  of making rocking chair backs. I used templates to create the symmetrical design, and then after cutting to shape using the band saw, used an angle grinder to smooth and further shape. I'll design the carving next.

If you've been following progress in my shop you'll see the new mini woodworking bench finding a good use.

Make, fix and create...

Sunday, April 14, 2024

Student absenteeism

Letters from educational experts to the New York Times were written in response to a report about post pandemic absenteeism in schools.  

Of course part of the solution as one letter pointed out is that students need to be engaged in doing real things. That's a no brainer. And the reason kids are determined to use digital devices in schools, even when they're not allowed, is that connection to the internet provides a bit of escape from boredom. Student time ought to be valued more than to subject them to endless hours sitting at desks doing mind numbing stuff.

In my shop, I'm nearly ready to carve the backs for the toddler sized rocking chairs I'm making. Clamping them together took a great deal of pressure, concerning me that I don't have all the angles of the various parts just right. Fortunately I'm not going into production full time, but simply revisiting a project from the past.

In the photo, the assembled chair, not yet with back and slats is resting on the rockers, with the mortises for the legs to fit yet to be cut.

Saturday, April 13, 2024


I'm at the stage in making tiny rocking chairs where the parts are sanded and assembly can begin. With a variety of parts to wrangle,  it's best to go slow, making certain each fits in its proper place.

I've been waking up at night, and in addition to hearing barred owls calling to each other, I think about American education.

 After Kindergarten was introduced in the US, many educators gravitated toward the notion that the upper grades of elementary school should be modeled on the same ideas. That's definitely not the case now.

Before Friedrich Froebel became a teacher, he worked with Christian Samuel Weiss, a pioneer in the study of crystallography and its relationship to math. There were a couple important things in Froebel's philosophy and teaching method that came directly from those early years. On was that crystals grow in their  own unique manner from a pattern inherent in the material, just as a child might grow from a unique pattern embedded within. 

The other was the development of Froebel's gifts, a system of blocks and objects that were used to help the child understand the patterns inherent in the universe. I discuss this and more in my book, Making Classic Toys that Teach. 

The thing that makes me think most of Froebel was what he saw as a primary goal of education— to develop in each child a sense of interconnectedness, from that pattern embedded within stretching out to embrace the whole of life. That is a far cry from the general purpose of education today, but one we'd best keep in mind. As I  lay awake at night, thoughts circling in my own mind, there are greater things afoot. Ask the owl.

Friday, April 12, 2024

box projects

 I discovered that some of my box projects are available on For instance this laminated box is one of my favorites from when I was doing some writing for Woodcraft Magazine.

I hope you enjoy it.

Make, fix and create...

Tuesday, April 09, 2024

flipper vise handles

Inspired by experiments by Mike Taylor at, I've made flipper vise handles for opening and closing a shop made vise. They resemble bird sculptures as they're standing up, waiting for the epoxy glue to set. More will come shortly.

Make, fix and create...  

Sunday, April 07, 2024

Moxon benchette

In the shop I've taking a brief break from rocking chair parts to make a very small work bench inspired by experimental benches made by Mike Taylor at This can be clamped easily to a desk or table and is based on the Moxon vise. The Moxon vise design, however, has the rods that are always in the way at the front of the vise.  On this the threaded rods are arranged so they bury themselves under the bench. You will see more of its features when it's complete.

Is it goofy to call it a benchette? Let me know. It is small and portable and drilled to accept bench dogs and other holdfasts. An outrigger will be made that will extend its length. That, too, is inspired by Mike Taylor and you'll see it later as my work progresses. 

Tomorrow is solar eclipse day in Arkansas, as a large swath of the state is in the zone of totality. Here in Eureka Springs, we're on the fringe with our eclipse being in the 93-95 percent range. There's a range of 2 degrees due to the fact we really don't know how big the sun will be tomorrow. It swells and shrinks, altering how much the moon will be able to block.

Make, fix and create... 

Thursday, April 04, 2024

Addressing the teacher shortage crisis

There's a widely acknowledged teacher shortage in the US. Teaching has become uncomfortable, made so by over-emphasis on standards and to some degree by hostility from politicians, parents and students. Politicians want to use teaching our kids as a wedge issue. Parent are confused and disoriented by the pace of societal change, and students raised on do-whatever-you-want internet engagements are bored and simply don't like being taught. So can we understand why teachers might leave the profession looking for more emotionally satisfying work? Add to that the crisis with guns and the fact that school shootings have generated fear throughout the US, and we have serious trouble.

Dale Dougherty from Make Magazine had asked me for my prescription for fixing American education.

“The first thing to recognize is that the brain, even among college students is good for only a very few minutes of lecture. Even the best minds wander, and must, for in best cases, minds are connecting what they're taking in and associating it with what they already know to be true.

The second thing to recognize is that activities that are by nature real, and therefore engage all the senses (this was noted by Comenius,) create a better network of remembrance, connection and utility in the brain. This has been proven by research… Learning that takes place hands-on, meaning it was accomplished by being physically present thus engaging all the senses has much deeper and longer lasting effect. You can think of this as real estate, hands-on activities are noted in the full sensory and motor cortexes.

The third point, as emphasized by educational sloyd, is the relationship between the concrete and abstract. All abstract studies should be accompanied by concrete learning. We make a huge mistake starting kids to read before they’re doing real things…. reading is abstract, doing is concrete, and reading should always build upon what's known in the senses

 The fourth point is that teachers need to be drawn at least partly from the pool of those who didn’t necessarily do so well in school. Late bloomers are particularly important. A reason for this is that when faced with stress, as happens in many or most schools, teachers tend to fall back into positions most comfortable to them, often meaning the ways they themselves were taught. And those who go to college are generally the ones who learn best by rote, rather than by doing. We need doers in schools whose most comfortable fall  back positions are getting things done rather than talking about it.

 Fifth point, we need to rethink the place of manual arts in schools and make certain that administrators, school boards and parents know the value of the arts, including wood shop.

We desperately need to replenish the number of teachers in the US as some retire and others simply move on from an unpleasant situation. Where can new teachers come from? I suggest artists and musicians be considered. We need doers in school. Not talkers.  And doers would regenerate and renew American education.

Make, fix and create...

Wednesday, April 03, 2024

walnut chair seat panels

At work on my toddler sized rocking chairs, I've arrived at the point of making chair seat panels. The unique design of this chair has floating panel book matched bottoms shaped to fit the curvature of the surrounding parts. So I made a simple jig to use on the router table making certain that all are the same shape to fit the frame. To hold the wood on the jig I routed dovetail shaped grooves first in the plywood base to enable the use of Matchfit dovetail clamps.  This jig will be useful when I teach a class in making these chairs, and there's a lot to do in a five day class. Routing them one on top of the other in pairs helps me to keep the grain aligned.

While these resemble track saw clamps that exert force on the surface of the material in which they are clamped, the force of the dovetail clamp is spread across a wider, and more stable surface with the clamping force going outward as well as up as pressure is increased. 

Make, fix and create...

Tuesday, April 02, 2024

Hands On ESSA

 I'm inviting each of you to join me at Hands On ESSA.There will be crafts for students of all ages (Including yours). Ever turned wood on a lathe or hammered a red hot piece of iron direct from the forge? You can do that and much more at this free event. The place? On the left as you drive toward Inspiration Point. When? Saturday April 6 from 3 to 5:30 PM. Bring Friends! There's an auction also of hand crafted art, including my own.

My 1948 Shopsmith

I dusted off my old 1948 Shopsmith to use as a horizontal borer, forming tenons to attach the top backs on toddler sized rockers. The bit used is for tenoning and dowel making and can be found on Amazon here: It can also be used on a drill press. The operation is shown below.

In using the Shopsmith, I noticed that it needs a new electrical cord, so today, I'll replace it, getting it ready for another 75 years of service.

The Shopsmith (used) was a gift from my Mom and Dad on my 14th birthday. Give your childen iPhones and they'll need new ones next year. Give them real tools and they'll make unique futures for themselves.

Make, fix and create...

Monday, April 01, 2024

I'm celebrating National Woodworking Month

One of the woodworking tasks considered odious by some is sanding. And yet, if you go carefully through the progression of grits, coarse to fine, without skipping too widely between, it goes more quickly and yields better  results. Also, if you've done it for long enough to gauge customer response, you see how important it is. When you watch peoples hands carefully caress the things you've made, you begin to take satisfaction in knowing how others will respond to your work. That anticipatory satisfaction can invest caring in your work, that is then witnessed in the hands of others. Knowing that touch is not the only sense through which your work will be viewed, you work also toward the satisfaction of a more sophisticated audience—not those who are rich and easily deceived, but those who do it themselves and will not be deceived by less than perfect work.

April was proclaimed National Woodworking Month. I don't know by whom, but it has been celebrated by some each year since 1990. For me, every month is woodworking month. I teach it, I do it, and I write about it. And it's a good life.

I'm currently working on some toddler sized walnut rocking chairs, and there are some jobs that are best done by hand. The back edges of the back legs where they bend back, can be done hack job with machine sanders but if you want the lines to be straight, a series of sanding blocks works best to smooth lines left by the band saw. That the lines not be straight may not bother some, but knowing more sophisticated eyes might follow the lines I've created, inspire me to do better work.

Finding a balance between machine work and hand work, gives a deeper level of satisfaction on both ends.

Booker T. Washington, explaining to parents and supporters of the Tuskegee Institute, why it placed a focus on agriculture and industrial arts in addition to academic studies, noted that there's a difference between "being worked" as they were as slaves, and "working to learn" as they did at his school.

Being worked stiffles the human spirit. Working to learn opens pathways toward advancement both for the individual and the race. (and for humankind overall.) As a friend of mine explained to me about 50 years ago, you can look at something as  "I have to do this."  or "I get to do this!"  and attitude makes all the difference in the world. Sanding comes to mind.

In his essay, Industrial Education for the Negro, 1903,Washington quoted industrialist C.P. Huntington as follows: "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.”

Sanding is regarded by some as a mindless activity. Let me assure you it needs not be. It is a thing from which the mind can wander toward the ideals mentioned. It is a thing that both the hands and eyes can assess steady progress. Remember to move carefully from coarse to fine. Pause on occasion to look closely at what you've done. Go with the grain, not across, and use your fingers to feel progress.

It is best to have a dog at your feet. While I sand, Rosie chews sticks, a thing she only does when I'm sitting with her on the porch.

The wood is walnut as is the dust (of course). The sanding block is 180 grit self-adhesive sand paper on a block of scrap plywood. If you are bored or depressed, do something.

Make, fix and create...