Friday, July 28, 2017

Pocket boxes day 5

This is our fifth day of making pocket boxes at the Eureka Springs School of the Arts. We will put hinge pins in tiny boxes and make inlaid lids for others. Students will finish the projects' they've started and at some time during the day we will clean the shop to have it ready for the next class.

I will bring home the various tools I took to ESSA, and begin preparing for my next class which will be at the Connecticut Valley School of Woodworking beginning August 7. There are still openings in that class.  Join us if you can.

I had a chance to play with new designs during this last week. I made some band sawn boxes that look like chunks of wood. The use of pop rivets hidden inside allow them to pivot open. The others are tiny shaker-style bentwood boxes.

In addition, I've been playing with making my own furniture finish based on Sam Maloof's formula that he used on his famous rocking chairs. It is one part urethane finish, one part mineral spirits, and one part boiled linseed oil. It is a simple formula that does not smell as bad as most. Followed by paste wax, and preceded by attention to fine sanding, it can give a lovely finish to a fine box. An additional benefit is that the ingredients to make a quart cost much less that a quart of Danish oil, and you can buy everything you need at your local hardware store.

Make, fix, create, and remind others of the effectiveness of learning likewise.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

3 days, five kinds of box...

My students at ESSA had been at work 3 days, and most have completed 4 or 5 kinds of tiny box. Today we will make hinged and sliding top "pocket boxes." We are each learning and exploring our relationship to the craft, and attempting to express the things that are relatively unique within ourselves.

I have been attempting to make some boxes of new designs to share with my students. One uses buried pop rivets to attach a pivot lid. Another is like a tiny shaker box with lift off lid.  So far, so good. You can make very interesting things from very small pieces of wood.

It's curious how much time is spent by human beings attempting to stand apart from each other and to do so by gaining notice or by defending turf. Loneliness and isolation are not worthwhile goals in human life. We seek to belong. Some gain a mistaken sense of belonging by controlling others. Others gain a sense of belonging by being of service.

In the arts, we are taught to look at both positive and negative space. Positive space is that defined by the shape and outlines of the object. Negative space is all that surrounds it. Thus, negative space describes the relationship of the object in its surroundings. Some of that relationship is visible. Some not. It is interesting that when one looks at an object, and even though we may draw crisp lines at the intersection between perceived shapes, these lines represent illusion and our inability to translate actual relationship onto paper. A painting (or a box) may be a wonderful thing but exists as a representation of relationship that the casual viewer or even its maker, may never fully understand.

There are no definitive lines between I and thou. And let us not forget that we are each a part of one another. That extends even to the least among us  whether we like it or not.

Today at 4PM- 5:30 we will have the ESSA studio stroll. I will demonstrate making tiny boxes. The photo above is of me in my teaching mode at the Mark Adams School of Woodworking, as I attempt to explain the negative space consisting of relationship and potentialities that surround (and inhabit) a simple box. We become better box makers, and better, more imaginative craftsmen, by thinking outside the box.

Make, fix, create, and improve the chances that others learn to love learning likewise.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

day three of pocket boxes.

I am ready for day 3 of making pocket boxes at the Eureka Springs School of the Arts. Students already have several boxes in the works. Today I will get them started on two more designs.

Yesterday we made inlay. It's fun.

Make, fix and create.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Pocket boxes

Yesterday we went though some design lessons, some slides on the making of pocket boxes, and then began making both bentwood and band sawn boxes in the ESSA pocket box making class. While I only have men in this class for some reason, woodworking is not a gender specific sport. In fact, many of the leaders in the manual training movement were women.

Some may recall Ednah Anne Rich, from my earlier writing. She was the author of an incredible book,  Paper Sloyd. I had known that she was educated in Sloyd at Gustaf Larsson's school in Boston, and then at Otto Salomon's school at Nääs. An inquiry from a reader led me to research by her married name, Edna Rich Morse. She and her many contributions to manual arts training in the US had been mentioned by Charles A. Bennett in his book History of Manual and Industrial Education, 1870-1917. You can read just a bit about her remarkable story here.

My point is that Educational Sloyd in its time, played a role in bringing women forward into positions of leadership in education.
"In 1909, the passage of Assembly Bill 1234 established the Santa Barbara State Normal School of Manual Arts and Home Economics. Ednah Rich was president. The school provided professional training in manual arts for careers in teaching. Rich was appointed to the State Board of Education, the first woman to hold such a post."
It had become commonplace to put boys in woodworking and girls in home economics or textiles, and some might think (wrongly, in my opinion) that the purpose was to enforce gender divisions in society at large. Certainly, the intent in Educational Sloyd was not to "keep women in their place." The photo above is one that I acquired on my visit to Nääs in 2006. It shows teachers at one of Otto Salomon's lectures on the history of education. An open mind might notice the number of women involved.

The building in which the lecture was held was the gymnasium where students were also taught to teach gymnastics and physical fitness. Educational Sloyd, in alignment with Kindergarten and the progressive movement in education, believed in the education of the whole child.

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

Monday, July 24, 2017

experts answer

How do you start kids working with wood? What's the first tool to recommend? Lee Valley interviewed folks at a woodworking show. The important thing may not be what tool you start with but that you start. Give them tools and allow them to create.

Today I start a 5 day class at ESSA on making "pocket boxes." Photos of progress will be shared during the week.

Make, fix, create, and allow others to love learning likewise.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

getting ready for pocket boxes.

I have six students for my pocket box class at ESSA that begins on Monday and have room for two more.  If you want to join that class call first thing Monday morning and be prepared for a week of fun. I still have a bit of work to do setting up, and still have an even greater amount of work to do refining the ESSA wood shop.

Yesterday I put up some wall cabinets in the bench room that were left over from my book Building Small Cabinets. One will  hold safety gear and the other small hand tools.

My next class will be Creative Box Making at the Connecticut Valley School of Woodworking, starting in two weeks. There are still limited openings in the class if you want to attend.

One of the great benefit of classes here in Eureka Springs is that this place is so lovely.  It is a place to visit in its own right, and hundreds of thousands do each year. You can come and attend classes and your companion will not be bored while you do so. There's fine dining, fine shopping, and a truly great library.

A good video on the making of iron holdfasts can be found here: It shows a possible point of collaboration between our ESSA woodworking and black smithing studios. I have some of these for my own work bench.

Make, fix, create, and increase the likelihood that others learn likewise.

Saturday, July 22, 2017


The Chinese have successfully teleported an object to space according to a brief article in Time Magazine, using and further proving the concept of quantum entanglement. The idea of entanglement had even left Einstein scratching his head. But now, scientists speculate that quantum entanglement will have all kinds of applications, including computers that can communicate without possibility of hacking. At some point entanglement may enable large objects to be transported through space instantaneously. (or not)

None of this is unrelated to education. The object of education should be to entangle students in the real world, not to sequester them in idleness and artificiality. So Friedrich Froebel used field trips, play with blocks, crafts, gardening, songs and music and care for small animals as tools to deeply engage students in learning (and in life) and to lead them into a full entanglement in holistic thought. Woodshops, as envisioned in Educational Sloyd were to connect the child further with his own creative and formative capacity, a process launched in Kindergarten.

Just as two photons can be introduced to each other and thence be connected through life, even to the furthest expanses of the universe, the same can be true for human beings. We can be led toward the development of powers that may be inexplicable to those who have not been led toward that same point of entanglement. The point of Froebel's kindergarten was to lead children toward a sense of wholeness that Froebel described using the term Gliedganzes or interconnectedness. One might just as easily use the term from modern physics, entanglement.

Entanglement may offer an explanation for what we commonly call coincidence. For example, earlier in the week, I got an email message from Joe Youcha from Alexandria Seaport Museum asking me to help promote his new books on using boat building to teach math. On the same day, I received an email from another person at the same museum asking to set up a appointment for a telephone interview. Neither was aware that the other was contacting me. Was that coincidence or entanglement, or what Black Elk described as follows:
Everything the Power of the World does is done in a circle. The sky is round, and I have heard that the earth is round like a ball, and so are all the stars. The wind, in its greatest power, whirls. Birds make their nests in circles, for theirs is the same religion as ours. The sun comes forth and goes down again in a circle. The moon does the same, and both are round. Even the seasons form a great circle in their changing, and always come back again to where they were. The life of a man is a circle from childhood to childhood, and so it is in everything where power moves. Our tepees were round like the nests of birds and these were always set in a circle, the nation's hoop, a nest of many nests, where the Great Spirit meant for us to hatch our children.-- Black Elk
I shipped a box guitar yesterday to Woodcraft Magazine, but kept one here for my amusement. Today I will prepare for my week long ESSA class on making "pocket boxes."

Make, fix, create, and increase the likelihood that others will become entangled in their own creativity.