Tuesday, November 21, 2017

center frames

Yesterday as our students were involved in Trashathon, picking up road side trash as a community service project, I went to ESSA to get another step completed on the Bevins Skiffs. I am developing various parts as a kit, so that my students can be successful in our boat building project. They would not be involved without my leadership, and they will not be successful without my having done some of the complicated stuff.

The parts for the day were center frames. The center frames  require precision and careful thought that will not happen in a class full of kids. I had cut the parts from white oak and quickly learned the difficulty involved in hammering bronze ring shank nails into oak. Even with a pilot hole, the task proved impossible and rather than go home for a larger drill, I simply remade the parts from Catalpa. The photo shows the template for the center frame, the template for the gussets, and a gusset being nailed in place with Sikaflex adhesive and 1 inch bronze nails. The Catalpa, gussets, nails and glue provide a strong midpoint around which the sides will bend to form the shape of the boat.

My hope is that by December 4 we will be ready to begin forming the boat from the various parts, sides, stem, transom, center frame and bottom ply. Starting  on that day, many hands will make light work.

My first, second and third grade students have been busy making Barbie clothes, so I got an old  1950's Singer SewHandy sewing machine tuned up for their use. It was not working so I studied the mechanism, took it apart, put it back together and got it working just right.

Many years ago, my sister Ann had gotten a child's sewing machine as a gift. She was or seven and I was 4 or 5. I took it apart and it never worked right again. Perhaps my making this one work, and providing it to a classroom of very young fashion designers will make up in some small part for my earlier failure. When I left school for the day, one of the girls had already used the machine to make a pillow. Every elementary school classroom in America should be equipped with such wonderful machines and the chance to use them.

Unlike the cheap plastic toys of today the Singer model 20 was a real sewing machine made to last generations. You can find one for sale like it here: https://www.ebay.com/itm/VIntage-SINGER-Sewhandy-MODEL-No-20-Childs-Sewing-Machine-Original-Box/122812699507?epid=661334956&hash=item1c98351373:g:xlQAAOSwAHBaDhRT

Make, fix and create...

Monday, November 20, 2017

the case against charters...

A number of large foundations and corporations are spending billions to privatize education. The following is from an email I received from the Network for Public Education:
In 1988, AFT President, Al Shanker, voiced his support for charter schools. His hope was that a new school model, judiciously used, would be an incubator of innovation.

However, as Network for Public Education President, Diane Ravitch, reminds us, by 1993 Al Shanker became disillusioned. Shanker saw what charters had become—a privatized system run not by teachers, but rather by non-profit and for-profit corporations who believe that schooling is a business rather than a community responsibility. Instead of supporting and sharing practices with neighborhood schools, most charters have become rivals that seek to attract the most motivated families and the most compliant children. https://networkforpubliceducation.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/11/NPE-Report-Charters-and-Consequences.pdf
Many charters schools in their quest to prove their value through attaining higher test scores limit their enrollment to those students who are easiest to teach and who are already destined toward greater success thereby shifting the burden of teaching under performing students to the schools from which they have starved funding. Even with the cards stacked in their favor, many charters fail to deliver improved test scores. (And I'm not claiming here that test scores are a valid measure of school performance. They are not.)

Yesterday I shaped the 3 remaining boat sides. I laid the carefully shaped first side as a template over the remaining three and used a saber saw to cut just outside the line. Next, I used a template following router bit to rout the clamped together bundle of sides to be exactly the same shape. I also planed and cut the chines to their required size and shape and then formed the center frame gussets. My objective is to develop the parts of the boat into kit form as there are a number of steps for which the students have not developed sufficient skill or experience.  The photo shows a pair of center frame gussets, made to hold the parts of the center frame together.

Today at the Clear Spring School, my elementary school students will make toys for distribution to kids through our local food bank. I get questions on occasion about the Clear Spring School, asking whether it is a charter school. No, it is not. It receives no public funds and does nothing to cost the tax payer or take funding away from our local public schools. Clear Spring School is an independent school accredited by the National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS) and the Independent School Association of the Central States (ISACS).

Unlike charter schools, we serve as an innovative learning laboratory of the kind that AFT President Shaker had hoped for in 1988, but that the charter school movement has failed to deliver. We serve at no cost to the taxpayer. As the holiday giving season begins you are welcome to support the Clear Spring School through the school website: http://clearspringschool.org/giving/ways-to-give#annualfund

Make, fix, and create.

Sunday, November 19, 2017

the case for hand tools.

Power tools are intended to make things easy and fast. They can also make cuts more accurate, thus requiring less skill. They can plough through tough grain that would trouble a hand plane or hand saw. They can saw things that a teacher would not intend, and they exert enough force that parts can be thrown into the face or across the room at others. Some are noisy and dusty and can frighten sensitive kids

Hand tools on the other hand are slow and can wander. They demand continuous attention to the material as it is transformed. I can have a room full of hand tools at work, and can hear their effects, and know from what I hear that they are being safely used. A room full of power tools would frighten me for the safety of my students.

If the purpose of learning is to impart the skills of attention and mindfulness, a room full of hand tools will do that job better than a room full of power tools and at far less risk.

The book shelves hanging from my vise are ones I pulled from my closet to show an example of my 7th grade work. My mother had kept them in the basement of her house in Omaha, Nebraska, and had asked me when I had been there for a visit, "Do you want those shelves you made in wood shop?" I could not imagine she had kept them for so long. But with these as evidence to remind me, I am carried back to the days in which I made them. I remember sawing their shape with a coping saw. The teacher had marked the shapes of the parts on wood. I had felt troubled as my coping saw wandered off the line but was consoled when I looked over and saw how much  worse my neighbor had done on his. On the last day of school, I was using a nail to assemble the shelves and one nail went astray and split the wood. I showed the error to my teacher and he said only these words, "you have done well."

If the purpose of woodworking in schools is to prepare students for the use of power tools then perhaps there's justification for them be used to teach children in school. On the other hand, if woodworking in school is practiced to impart an understanding of materials, and processes and  to develop character, intelligence, mindfulness, and skill, hand tools more safely fit the bill.

This said, I do allow the use some power tools at various ages. First grade students are allowed to use the drill press, operating the switch and handle if I hold the stock. Third grade students (with instruction) can safely operate a scroll saw on thin stock, provided they use safety glasses and properly adjust blade guards. My students begin work on the lathe in 4th grade using a face shield and with proper attention to hair being pulled back and loose clothing secured. At each use, I check to see that the work piece is properly installed and the right tool is being used. In high school, and under close supervision I allow the use of the band saw, and saber saw.  I regard the use of hand tool processes to be the precursor for all else.

Another simple point is that hand tools slow the pace, making the experience more about learning than about getting work done. With the pace being slower I have more time to attend to safety and individual learning needs. Students are working instead of waiting for the teacher's assistance. With the pace being slower and more educational, I need, also, to prepare less stock.

Make, fix and create...

Saturday, November 18, 2017

class size matters

The principles of Educational Sloyd were based on direct observation of how children (and adults) learn. Start with the interests of the child. Move from the known to the unknown, from the easy to the more difficult, from the simple to the complex and from the concrete to the abstract.

These principles are not just for wood shop learning, but apply to all learning endeavors. They fit science, music, reading and math and all else as they are universal. If anyone is uncomfortable about learning something from wood shop that actually applies to all else, let me assure you that these principles came from the followers of Pestalozzi and Froebel and have their origins in the teaching theories of Comenius.

These very simple principles challenge conventional thinking about education.  Children are never exactly on the same page in things. They do not all have the same interests. They do not all have the same prior experience and capacity as a starting point for class room learning. Even if, through extreme effort and care, a good teacher is able to bring all students' attention to the same page for a moment or two, for a child (or an adult) to find a place in the mind for information to be taken in, successfully managed and usefully stored the mind must wander out of the moment into the student's catalog of experience and compared to what's known. At any given moment during a classroom lecture or presentation, the various students' minds are not all in the room or in the same place or on the same page. If you do not believe this, take a few moments to test the workings of your own mind.

And so, Otto Salomon likely got in some trouble with educational policy makers when he insisted that classroom teaching was ineffective. All those concerned with the economic bottom line would want learning (and values) to be injected into the student mind as cheaply as possible. And I will likely get in trouble with educational policy makers today, when I insist the same thing. We learn best when our individual learning needs are met, and small class size is a determining factor in school success. Class size must be small enough to allow for the teacher to make a very personal connection with the learning needs and interests of each child.

Mostly, however, educational policy makers are less concerned about student learning and more concerned about cheaping out.

The photo is of an old-timey fidget spinner, more commonly known as a button toy. We are making them to give children visiting at our local food bank. Unfortunately, most children no longer know how to use such things. With a bit of practice and a bit of skill in making it, and decorating it, you can be distracted, just as kids were in the 16th century...  even before Comenius, when children learned just as we all learn best, doing real things.

Make, fix, and create...

Friday, November 17, 2017


One of my students took a martial arts practice sword (boken) he had made in our wood shop to a weekend Akido competition and it faced scrutiny from a variety of masters. One (an expert in the sword) pointed out that there were several points about my student's boken that did not meet "standards." Nevertheless, all agreed that  it surpassed all others on the site in one particular way.  He had made it himself. None of the other practitioners could say that of their own swords. All of the participants wanted to try his sword, and so they did. The result was that the student received a dose of pride and brought his boken back to wood shop to do a bit more sanding and refinement on it.

Standards must be flexible enough for students to arise through them with spirits energized, not merely in tact. There are higher standards than those grasped tightly on the surface of things. Woodworking in school can be a means through which higher standards than those present in conventional schooling can be met.

Black Elk told that the Lakota Sioux selected their leaders from among those against whom nothing bad could be said. As an observer of the American political arena, I find it a shame that we fail to follow that same strategy. There are so many on both sides of the aisle, whose abilities to lead are encumbered by serious character flaws. They live in hopes that we do not discover the things they have done. I lay the blame for this situation on the failings of our educational institutions.

When you learn to do real things in school, you contend with real consequences that are visible as measures of character and intellect. When students are sequestered in abstraction and unreality, life becomes a game of manipulation and deceit. If we want better, we must be better and hold those around us to higher standards.

Yesterday in woodshop, and as shown in the photos, some of my students assembled a toy car to be given as a prize in a holiday raffle. Tickets are being sold by the parents, students, teachers and board members at the Clear Spring School.

Make, fix and create...

Thursday, November 16, 2017

two points

A nineteen year study of child development and success conducted by Penn State and Duke Universities discovered that a child's success in college and in life is directly related to social and emotional skills developed and learned in Kindergarten. While many schools continue to focus only on reading and math readiness, they are missing the point, as reading and math have too little to do with it. https://www.inc.com/amy-morin/kindergarteners-with-these-two-skills-are-twice-as-likely-to-get-a-college-degree-according-to-a-19-year-study.html

In Finland, they begin reading at age 8 instead of age 5 and by the time their students are tested in the international PISA study, they beat American students hands down in 30 percent less time. I can keep hammering on this in the blog, and on facebook, but until others join the chorus and make direct demands of our educational policy makers, we're screwed, our children are left behind and the American culture becomes increasingly dysfunctional.

Point number two for today has to do with the ineffectiveness of classroom instruction. As I've mentioned before, the principles of Educational Sloyd (derived largely from Kindergarten) are as follows: Start with the interests of the child, move from the known to the unknown, from the easy to the more difficult, from the simple to the complex and from the concrete to the abstract.

First, not all children have exactly the same interest.
Second, not all children entering a classroom have the same experience as a starting point.
Third, not all things are equally easy at the same point for all children.
Fourth, not all children adapt to increasingly complexity at the same pace.
Fifth, all children must be continuously engaged in doing real things as a foundation for abstract study. Even when the facility for abstraction is established, real testing of what is learned is essential to avoid traipsing into the realm of the absurd.

Otto Salomon stressing the ineffectiveness of classroom instruction, insisted that teaching become personalized to the needs of the individual child. To do so, we must drastically reduce class sizes in American schools.

Yesterday in the wood shop at the Clear Spring School my first, second and third grade students finished work on platforms. One made a cat farm as shown in the photo.


Wednesday, November 15, 2017

just another gun-down-day

Whenever there is a mass shooting event, some representatives in the house and Senate who have sworn allegiance to the National Rifle Association, tell us we must not "politicize"by discussing the causes of the tragedy,  or ways to  prevent such things from happening again and that we should pray instead. "It's too soon to talk about it," they say.

About noon yesterday it occurred to me that there had been no mass shooting events having taken place up to that point in the day, so I wondered if it was time to talk about gun tragedy in America. But then I looked at the news. Damn,  there's another. It seems every day is gun down day in America and we have lots to pray about. If gun tragedies keep happening at their current pace, we'll never have the conversation we need to have about stopping gun violence and making dead certain that those who should not have guns do not have such lethal capacity.

As politicians continue to tell us not to "politicize the issue" we should recognize that the issues surrounding guns were "politicized" years ago when the National Rifle Association began pouring money into political campaigns and threatening those politicians who did not vote their way.

If you are hunting for food or for recreation, a fine rifle is a necessary tool. When we choose tools as means to threaten each other, perhaps we should be thinking in a more creative manner. There are lots of tools that do a better job of building character and culture. Woodworking tools come to my mind.

Yesterday, I made progress on projects. I routed the first side of a Bevins Skiff to shape, and also scarf-joined catalpa boards to sufficient length to use as chines. Chines, for those out of the loop on boat talk, are the boards that connect the bottom to the sides.

In the photo, a narrow and therefore flexible piece of plywood screwed to the side is placed according to calculations derived from the boat plans and serves as a router guide. When one side is fully formed, it can be used as a guide to rout the other using a router bit with a guide bearing on the shaft, thus assuring both sides will be perfectly symmetrical.

Returning to my home shop, I began making drawer parts for maple jewelry chests. The photo above shows using a router and a screwed-in-place guide strip to shape a boat side.

Make, fix, and create.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

What will we do?

There are folks wondering what we will do when the efficiency of our machines completely overwhelms the need to do things for ourselves. It's getting bad folks. Human beings have always found our meaning in service to others.

And so what happens when our service is no longer needed and no longer demanded of us? Some folks are asking what we will do for a living when machines replace human beings at all tasks. There is hardly a thing humans do that cannot be done more efficiently by machines, as long as we are willing to accept a life stiffly scripted by standardization.

Some economists are saying we need to provide a basic unearned living allowance to all persons so that we can afford to keep all the machines going, producing the stuff of "civilization," thus keeping the machine owners happy as the money pours in.

The other thing that some have noticed is that mental health is dependent on finding value and meaning in one's service to others. What we must do is make for ourselves, and for others, useful beauty in defiance to the direction of our society. The easy path is to simply buy stuff and let the stuff overwhelm us and our environment. The more challenging and fulfilling path will be to make for ourselves and make meaningful lives in the process.

In Minneapolis, in about 20 minutes (I could have done it in 10 without 86 people watching) I made a simple box joint jig that would allow me to make lots and lots of boxes. I could instead have bought a similar jig from a retailer for about $50.00 and then would have waited a day or more for the UPS truck to arrive. Then I would have had to figure out where to store it when not in use (after all, I spent good money on it). Buy enough jigs and you need a larger shop. Make enough jigs, and you've made yourself smarter in the process and your work easy. The ones you've made yourself can be thrown out when you are done with them. Or used for years and years if they are still of use.

The jig shown is one I made and used recently to scarf join the material for the sides and bottoms of the boats I'm building with my high school students. It can be put away until we start some more boats. It could be sold to another boat builder. Or it could be taken apart and used as kindling.

Today, being back from Minneapolis, I will begin shaping the sides of Bevins Skiffs. My target is to have parts ready for my students to begin building in December.

Make, fix, create, and assist others in learning lifewise

Sunday, November 12, 2017

ON my way home

I completed my two days of class with 85 woodworkers in Minneapolis, MN. I've had a great time and made many new friends. Somehow or other, I was able to get through most of my planned curriculum and I'm grateful to all those who helped. I fly home to Arkansas tomorrow and will resume work on the Bevins Skiffs on Tuesday.

Those who are new to the blog, http://wisdomofhands.blogspot.com will find thousands of earlier posts, each gathered around the main point: We learn most effectively and to greatest lasting effect when we learn hands-on. To sequester the mind from the engagement of the hands leads to disinterest, disaffection and disruption, the 3-Ds of a failing educational system.

Some new readers may prefer to follow this blog on facebook as a means of sharing it with others. The link for that is: https://www.facebook.com/dougstowewoodworking/ The point of sharing is that in order to have effect on the educational system at large and on the policy makers that keep screwing things up, we must each assert and reaffirm and demonstrate for them the ways in which use of the hands make us whole, rooting what we learn in real life.

Make, fix, and create.

Minneapolis, day two

I am here for day two of my box making seminar with the Minnesota Woodworking Guild. Yesterday we cut miters and installed miter keys. I adapted my most recent miter key jig to fit an old Craftsman table saw that was selected for the conference because it would run on 110 volt power and could be moved to the site. I have over 80 students.

Today, I will show how to cut the lid from the body of a box. I'll finish a demonstration on forming a mitered finger joint. I'll cut a hidden spline joint, and I'll show how I install butt hinges. It will be a short day with a lot of ground to cover.

I want to publicly thank the members of the Guild who have worked hard to transform the cafeteria of the Dunwoody Community College into a wood working shop. It is minimalist, just as was the shop I started out with over 40 years ago, reminding me that great boxes can be done with a relatively small commitment to tools and materials.

There's little standing in the way of finding joy in the process of creating beautiful boxes.

Make, fix and create!

Saturday, November 11, 2017

September 21, 1780

On September 21, 1780, during the American Revolution, American General Benedict Arnold met with British Major John Andre to discuss handing over West Point to the British, in return for the promise of a large sum of money and a high position in the British army. The plot was foiled and Arnold, a former American hero, became synonymous with the word “traitor.”

It is odd to me that so many members of the Donald Trump campaign and administration met with Russians with an eye toward sewing chaos in the American democracy, but few call it treason. Perhaps we should think about that.

In the meantime, I am in Minneapolis to teach. During the opening presentation we had a large crowd. Tomorrow for class, we have 85 or 86 students. They will all get a taste of my techniques.

Make, fix and create

Friday, November 10, 2017


Today I'm headed to Minneapolis for an evening lecture and two days of demonstration class. I heard there are 76 or more members of the Minnesota Woodworkers guild planning to attend, and that will be my largest class ever. Please wish me luck.

In wood shop yesterday at Clear Spring School, I had enough projects going so that each student (4th, 5th and 6th grades) was able to work at his or her own level of skill, confidence and interest. Some made toy cars, some made button toys, some made super-heroes, and some turned on the lathe.

Later in the morning I had a planning session with my editor from Springhouse Publications on the "Wisdom of the Hands book." It will start with about 30 pages or more on the philosophy of hands on learning, but then launch (as a workbook) into giving the reader the information necessary to plan projects for kids. The is will not be a book for kids to read (though some might). It is to inspire adults to give children what they need to inspire themselves. The audience will be those who as teachers, grandparents and parents want to  be sure that the children in their lives and for whom they are responsible, get the best learning opportunities available, hands on. It will also convey the following simple message, a thing you can learn yourself if you've been paying attention to your own learning and to your own life.
That which we learn hands-on is learned at a deeper level and to deepest lasting effect. Don't believe me? Examine the things you have learned. Hands-on is a measure of engagement in real life, and no doubt the lessons in your own life that had greatest effect were not learned from google but were learned from real life, doing real things.
In the photo, with a freshly made button toy in one hand, a first grade student in the Clear Spring School wood shop shows her construction of a miniature bathroom, complete with sink, tub and toilet.If children are given the opportunity they will build.

Make, fix and create.

Thursday, November 09, 2017


I am packing and preparing for an evening lecture and two days of class with the Minnesota Woodworkers Guild. Today, in addition to a 9 AM class at Clear Spring School, and an 11 AM meeting (also at school) I hope to fine tune my presentation. The two day class will be easy (I tell myself having done such things many times before) but there are things that inevitably come up.

Life is like that. Yesterday, I had four projects for my students (grades 1-3) to work on, and they still came up with the unexpected. For instance, the cat in the photo is one that a student made from beads glued on a board. The same student worked on a wooden wheeled skateboard to replace the earlier one she made that broke.

I was grateful to have their classroom teacher in the wood shop. He made the engine of a toy train.

I can understand why some administrators and teachers would like more control and predictability in the classroom. But we have to ask whether we want children to adjust to being controlled, or whether we want them be creative, thoughtful and to control themselves. I would choose the latter, and that requires allowing some opportunity for the children and teachers to engage in a bit of chaos.

Matti Bergström, Finnish neuro-scientist who had written lovely books about the brain, noted that children must play the "black game," to engage in "possibility" space. Adults often play the "white game" in which all action is to lead to a proposed outcome. Can we not admit for once that the white game is an impossibility? If you work with real wood, on any given day, on any given project, and regardless of your best intentions, things most often do not turn out exactly as you planned. The same is true of working with kids. By allowing their creativity to enter the learning process, they and I get better, more meaningful results. If you engineer schooling, rather than allowing it to flow from the fabric of real life, the whole thing sucks.

Make, fix, and create.

Wednesday, November 08, 2017

How kind communities teach children

Progressive education (like what we practice at the Clear Spring School) traces its roots to  Johann Heinrich Pestalozzi. By "progressive" I do not mean the next new thing (as in progress) but rather a system of education in which the life and learning of the child was to unfold incrementally in a natural way and without being forced. Pestalozzi's contributions to progressivism were expressed through a number of failed schools, each of which attempted to serve the poor, and a book that he wrote called "How Gertrude Teaches Her Children." It's a worthwhile book to read even today, as it lays out what we still face, the dichotomy between an authoritarian structure and a natural unfolding based on love and respect within a community.

Pestalozzi's Gertrude was a young mother who gathered her own children and some of her neighbor's  children into her home and provided instruction all the while she worked at her craft, that of spinning and weaving. The transference of learning took place in a gentle atmosphere of absolute love in which Gertrude and the older children provided lessons a completely natural setting doing real things of real value.

Pestalozzi’s ideas are reflected in the following:
  • Particular attention paid to the interests and needs of the child
  • A child-centered rather than teacher-centered approach to teaching
  • Active rather than passive participation in the learning experience
  • The freedom of the child based on his or her natural development balanced with the self-discipline to function well as an individual and in society
  • The child having direct experience of the world and the use of natural objects in teaching
  • The use of the senses in training pupils in observation and judgement
  • Cooperation between the school and the home and between parents and teachers
  • The importance of an all-round education – an education of the head, the heart and the hands, but which is led by the heart
  • The use of systemized subjects of instruction, which are also carefully graduated and illustrated
  • Learning which is cross-curricular and includes a varied school life
  • Education which puts emphasis on how things are taught as well as what is taught
  • Authority based on love, not fear
  • Teacher training
A good place to read about Pestalozzi is here: http://www.jhpestalozzi.org/

If someone wants to know why Finnish Schools beat the pants off American Schools in international testing, I suggest that Finland's adherence to the ideals set forth by Pestalozzi holds the answer.

Yesterday, I scarf joined pieces of plywood for building Bevins Skiffs using epoxy glue. The photo shows scarfing of the wide bottom pieces.

Make, fix and create...

Tuesday, November 07, 2017

scarf joints...

Yesterday after school, I cut scarf joints in the plywood for the sides for the Bevins Skiffs. I will scarf the ply for the bottoms tomorrow and begin gluing the scarf joints together into seamless plywood parts. The jig I designed for routing the joints worked flawlessly. In the photo, you will have to look very closely to see the joint, invisible but for the fuzzy edge that will disappear with just a bit of sanding.

At the Clear Spring School I have the most wonderful class of first, second and third grade students, and while it might seem daunting to some to have so many children working with tools, it is a thing of pure delight, seeing what they can make and how much joy they find in it.  They love wood shop and tell me so.

There is something very special about learning through doing real things. And it is disturbing to me that most public education schemes fail to recognize this simple fact. When we (children and adults) are engaged in the creation of useful beauty, whether in music, science or the arts, we are operating at a higher standard and apply greater attention. We seek to excel.

David Henry Feldman recognized this in his award winning essay, "the Child as Craftsman." In it Feldman recognized that children have a natural inclination to strive to excel at things, and we must provide the opportunity and encouragement for them to do so. That's a far cry from the way public schools are managed now. Children under rigid external control are steeped in artificiality that robs them of their natural love of learning.

I will repeat the theory of Educational Sloyd until all my readers know it by heart. Start with the interests of the child. Move from the known to the unknown, from the easy to more difficult, from the simple to the complex and from the concrete to the abstract. These simple principles were learned by watching children learn and remain unchanged through the ages. One further thing should be mentioned. Children (and adults) learn best by doing real things.

On another very sad subject, speaker of the house, congressman Paul Ryan assures us that prayer actually helps in the aftermath of mass shootings to prevent the next. Let us pray now that congress acts on OUR prayers and removes such foolishness from office.When faced with a crisis, a humane individual would use every tool at his disposal, including the law and federal government to prevent such senseless killings of innocent children and adults from ever happening again. To languish in prayerful silence when you have the power to serve God by actually acting in the defense of children is not enough. The government is a collective tool which must be activated in the defense of our nation.

Click on the photo above to see a larger view.

Make, fix, and create.

Monday, November 06, 2017

If you own a backhoe

It is just another sad day in America. In congress and in the administration, Republican folks are praying once again for the victims of gun violence as their excuse for doing nothing about it.

If you own a backhoe you will dig holes and ditches with it. If you own a Sloyd knife, the deep seated inclination is to see how well it will carve wood. The mind directs the tool, but the tool also directs the mind. If you are inept in the use of the backhoe, you'll make a mess of your garden. If you have no piece of wood handy, you might whittle the edge of your dining room table to see how well the knife works. The tools we possess shape who we are, and if you have a closet full of guns, it's best that they be kept locked up, that you may avoid having killed someone you did not intend. If your mind is weak and and your perceptions distorted, that closet full of guns may call to you, demanding your attention, and you may get to join the huge numbers of folks in America who have become participants in gun violence.

I pray, for the victims of gun violence, and also for the victims of the gun disease that has taken over the American mind. Apply common sense. Guns do not make us safe. They do not make men manly. They have nothing to do with courage, or patriotism. They are a curse. They are devices that cowards hide behind. They are tools that are best avoided, as they have only one purpose, that being to kill others and deprive them of meaningful life.

There is a relationship between the having and owning and knowing how to use woodworking tools to create useful beauty and getting a grip on mental health. That's why many woodworkers describe their time in their basement or garage wood shops as "sawdust therapy." When we use tools to create useful beauty, we are made whole. Guns, in contrast, may convey to their owner, a sense of power and control, but they do not make us whole.

Can we not apply just a bit of common sense and take a few guns away from those who should never have had them in the first place? And can we have a discussion in which we can acknowledge that guns are for cowards, and will not be the instruments that make a safe, meaningful and creative society in which we may each find joy?

Make, fix, and create.

Sunday, November 05, 2017

uncommon sense...

Yesterday at ESSA, a small group of wood carvers from around the area converged to whittle, carve, share techniques and encourage each other. It was nice for me to observe as they worked quietly together, and perhaps next month I'll take a project along and join them for some quiet work.

Working with real wood, getting it to do what's in the mind's eye requires patience, and careful observation. As our minds have been overwhelmed with too much information, generated by others in their efforts to manipulate us, it is good to slow down, clear the mind of useless data points and destructive ideology, and engage directly and purposefully in the real world. If the tool is not applied to take advantage of the natural proclivities of the wood, having to do with grain direction, we screw up, and it's noticeable in real time.

In other words, and other worlds apart from the one that politicians and their scheming handlers have mangled for us, there's a lot to learn from the exercise of simple human creative craftsmanship.

It's like healthcare in America. Minds have become inhabited by distraction. One side warns of socialism, and the other asserts need, when both should be looking at the facts. If we, in Carroll County, Arkansas are dying in general, two years or more before our time, as measured and compared with others in our state, and we in Arkansas are dying 6 years before our time in comparison to other countries where national health care plans provide for all citizens, what we have created for ourselves is a simple matter of life and death for ourselves and for others in our community.

There is something simple that happens when a man or woman picks up a gouge or knife and attempts to whittle or carve a chunk of real wood. We learn that it's incontrovertible in that it has qualities of grain, hardness and individual temperament that are not to be denied. The same is true of the real world, and a craftsman, trained to observe what's real and override the blast of disinformation, distraction and purposeful deceit, may stand a chance of putting real things in their place. Only God can help us if we do not.

The photo shows the joinery of a small jewelry chest of drawers. Next comes the routing of drawer guides. The design of the chest is such that it narrows toward the top, leaving it firmly planted in the real world. Would it not be a wonderful thing if our political schemers and voters were as firmly planted in reality?

Make, fix, and create.

Saturday, November 04, 2017


Yesterday I cut transoms to shape and size to fit the Bevins skiffs and began shaping jewelry chests of maple. The sides are now ready for drawer guides to be routed, which is a complex measurement and set-up problem that I make easy for myself through the use of spacers. I may try to take a photo that will explain it.

Yesterday I also met with a small group of the local Democratic Party to help in deciding what things will be important in the next election. Some things are staggering and demand attention and explanation.

The United States, among other nations, ranks 31st in life expectancy, even though we maintain the delusion that we have the best health care in the world. We certainly do have the most expensive. Among states, Arkansas ranks 46th out of 51 and while among Arkansas counties, we rank 7th, (OK, right?) we are 3 years off the mark when it comes to reaching the statewide average.

In other words, there's something going on here (or not going on here) that costs the average Carroll County Arkansas resident 3 years of our lives. There is something going in (or not going on) in Arkansas that costs each of our residents an additional 6 years of our lives if compared with such nations as the top five. Each of the top five has something we do not have. A national health care plan. And so, are we stupid or what? We keep electing those who would rather we die 5 to seven years early than to take care of our children and families as a national priority.

All politics, they say, is local, and how much more local can it get than to die years before your time.

The big argument against national health care is the fear of socialized medicine and that the government will mess things up. The situation now is that hospitals are forced to take patients on an emergency basis who cannot afford the care. When those poor patients are released, they are advised to file for bankruptcy as their only recourse. The costs for the care those persons received are shifted within hospital accounting, and added to the bills of those who have insurance or who can afford care. So, like it or not, under the system we have, those who can pay are paying for the extreme care of those who cannot.

In the meantime, health insurance companies have large staffs to allocate expenses and deny care. This following explains how health insurance put hospitals at risk:
Hospitals across the country lose approximately $262 billion per year on denied claims from insurers, sparking huge cash-flow issues and recovery costs, according to new data.

Payers initially deny about 9% of hospital claims, putting about $5 million in payments per hospital at risk, said Jason Williams, vice president of analytics for Change Healthcare, which collected the data.

Although hospitals ultimately will secure payment for 63% of initially denied claims, it costs $118 per claim on average to recoup the money, not to mention the cost to hospitals of foregoing the payments while they claw back the funds, Williams said.— (http://www.modernhealthcare.com/article/20170627/NEWS/170629905)
So the system we have now costs at both ends, as insurers have a huge staff to deny coverage, and hospitals maintain a staff to insist upon payment. It's no wonder they tell poor folks to file for bankruptcy immediately upon release and it is no wonder that medical expenses are the primary reason people file for bankruptcy in the US.

But bankruptcy aside for the moment, the system we have now is costing lives. Yes we need to exercise more. Yes we need to improve our diets. But yes, we also need access to better health services and a single payer national plan to make certain quality care is available to each of us.

Make, fix, and create...

Friday, November 03, 2017

from stem to transom

Yesterday I made progress in forming the transoms for Bevins Skiffs. These are glued up from Catalpa, an Arkansas wood that Richard Jagels from Wooden Boat Magazine and the University of Maine assured me is good for this use. Tomorrow, after the glue has dried fully, I will cut the transoms to shape. In the same photo you can see the boat stems, also fully formed and ready for the assembly process to begin.

In my own shop, I've been cutting the joints for maple jewelry chests.

Thursday, November 02, 2017

last night.

Last night I was awake with various things running through my head. One was the process for cutting the joints that will connect the sides, top and bottom of small maple jewelry chests. Another was the selection of materials for work on Bevins Skiffs.

Joe Youcha from Alexandria Seaport Museum suggested that I consider cypress as a material for forming the chines and rails of the boats, as it's a material with a reputation for weather resistance that I ought to be able to find in Arkansas. When I had used cypress before to build a table on our deck, instead of it lasting for years and years as the reputation suggests, the table rotted away in three years. So why would that be? The  answer might be found in the difference between heart and sap, and the length of time in which trees are allowed to grow to full maturity before harvest. Old growth cypress and freshly grown stock are not the same quality of wood.

Richard Jagels in the current issue of wooden boat noted that plantation grown teak was once harvested after 40 years or more, but that pace has been quickened to 7 years or less. The quality of that teak is not the same. The same may be true of cypress as well. If it is not allowed it to grow it once did, the difference can be found in the quality of the material that results. Richard Jagels suggested that in teak, the heartwood that gives strength and resilience to the wood is not given time to form.

The same can be said of kids. In too many schools they are pushed to learn a narrow band of certain things, in a set time, and then strictly measured, but only for those things... Those schools neglect of the heartwood that will give them strength and resilience through a long life.

Make, fix, and create.

Wednesday, November 01, 2017

9 benefits of wood shop...

Children rapidly lose creativity during the first three years of formal schooling. This fact has been heavily researched and is widely accepted. You can test it yourself through observing your own child's refrigerator art.
  1. Woodworking in school can be designed to reinforce creativity in the use of materials.
  2. Problem solving behaviors that are useful in engineering and scientific exploration are nurtured in wood shop.
  3. The making of useful beauty to be shared by family and community puts the child in a positive and creative stance with regard to self and society.
  4. Woodworking is a multi sensory experience, putting into play all of the Howard Gardner set of multiple intelligences in a single exercise and location. It thereby engages all learning styles.
  5. Lessons learned through the hands doing real things are learned at a deeper level and to greater long-term effect.
  6. An understanding of history and litereature are reinforced by the student having done real things.
  7. The relevance of mathematics in the development of intellect is made clear in wood shop. 
  8. Children love woodworking as a counterpoint to formal studies as it reintegrates body and mind. 
  9. If we want all our children to thrive and our culture and economy to thrive, the arts, including wood shop are essential to education.
Yesterday I began making small maple chests of drawers for jewelry. The first step is to shape the angle on the sides, making the finished chest more interesting. A simple platform made of scrap plywood supports the stock as it passes through the planer. In order for this process to work, the stock must be long enough to be engaged safely between the infeed and outfeed rollers, and thick enough to not be bent by the downward force they apply to the wood.

Make, fix, create, and reshape education so that students learn by doing real things.

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

How can we?

How can we get the point across? That children should be doing real things in school?

Cutting the stem for a boat is easy and quick if you know how and have the right tools. Seeing the stem held in the vise just so, allows me to see that it will at some point cut water.

Cutting a new stem for education, directing students back toward creative engagement in the real world is not so easy.

Yesterday I got a request for the Clear Spring School woodworking curriculum to help a friend pitch the idea of wood shop to a new charter school forming in Indiana, but my friend noted that talking woodworking to educators is like landing from a strange and distant planet. That was not always the case.

Simplified, the set of circumstances is this:
Those who learn easily from lecture and from books are advanced rapidly through school and end up going to college where a certain proportion of them are inspired to enter the field of education. They become teachers whose primary knowledge of learning is through lecture and through books and who make the assumption that others must either learn the same way or are impaired.

But just as all children do not walk at the same exact month, not all children are ready to read in the same exact year. So they are propelled through schooling as though they must be expected to do these things, and where the system fails, the students are isolated for remediation that assures them they are forever dumb.
Today I am in search of additional wood for boat building as I wait for supplies to arrive.

Make, fix, create, and transform education to allow students to learn lifewise.

Monday, October 30, 2017

From STEM to stern.

Yesterday I began making center frames for Bevins Skiffs, which require making a plywood or cardboard template first. The template helps with the arrangement of parts, and getting them cut to the right angles, and the center frame is crucial to the construction of the boat at an early stage. I am held up going further on the center frames until epoxy glue arrives to attach gussets.

Having made the stems for the boats the day before, I'll give them some decorative shape, as there should be at least a point rising at the prow to touch upon my own Norwegian ancestry.

I have been attempting with the help of Knud in Norway and Barbara in Canada to understand some words in the Norwegian language. Snekke is the name given to a particular kind of Norwegian boat, and another correspondent in Norway had referred to his as "an old worm." If you go to translate.google.com and try the word snekke, the English translation from Norwegian is"worm." If you try the plural form snekker meaning two or more such boats, the translation is "carpenter." It means that, too, and it is confusing until one remembers that in English, one word can have a variety of meanings, and somehow we sort between them based on the context in which it is used and make whatever sense we are able.

STEM is an example. It may refer to Science, Technology, Engineering and Math, or it can mean to stop one thing (as in stem the tide), or be the start of another as in the stem of a plant, or of a pipe, or of a boat. In building a boat we must attend to the whole thing from stem to stern, not forgetting, of course, the center frame.

Perhaps this will help us to understand how and why it is so easy to confuse, befuddle and lie in words, and why to make something real, meaningful, useful and beautiful is so honest, truthful and pure in comparison. To make comes closer to the human spirit, than to make up, and yes, we love to do both.

Today I will deliver some boxes to the museum store at Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art and shape the stems of boats, to attain just a bit more beauty in my mind's eye.

Make, fix, create, and adjust schooling so that others may learn lifewise.

Sunday, October 29, 2017

shaping the stem

Forming the stem for a Bevins Skiff requires some careful angle cuts on the table saw. Starting with a 2 in. x 3 in. piece of white oak, the first is made with the fence on the wrong side of the blade and with the blade tilted to 26 degrees. The photo was taken after the cut was made.

If you are reading this on facebook, you will need to go to the wisdom of the hands blog post to see the second and third photos completing the process. http://wisdomofhands.blogspot.com/2017/10/shaping-stem.html

For the second set of cuts, lower the blade but keep the angle the same. You will note that the fence is now in its conventional position at the right side of the blade.

For the final cuts, the stem is held against the fence, with the distance between fence and blade set so that a 3/8 in. deep rabbet for the 9 mm. marine plywood to fit flush.

This operation is different than was shown in the Bevins Skiff Building manual, as it assumes a right tilt blade. Saws with a left tilt blade have become more common, so perhaps this demonstration will be useful to others as the correct and safe process is different with a left tilt blade.  I sent the photos to Joe Youcha, designer of the Bevins Skiff.

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

Saturday, October 28, 2017

button toys...

Yesterday at the Clear Spring School we held the annual harvest party, attended by all the kids in the school, grades pre-k through 12 along with some parents and grandparents. I set up a booth at which students could make button toys and good luck tokens. Other activities were planned by various classes.

The button toys were a hit at all ages. The children decorated discs of wood using markers, and then with my help drilled holes for the strings to fit.

A square knot in the string completed the assembly. The button toy beats fidget spinners hands down because they provide a similar form of entertainment: one that takes a bit of real skill to operate and that you make yourself. Unless you operate them really fast, they are quieter than fidget spinners and are free if you have a bit of wood and string, a few simple tools and a modicum of skill.

Today I'll begin forming scarf joints in plywood to begin preparing for boat building.

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

Friday, October 27, 2017

Harvest party...

Today the Clear Spring School holds its annual Harvest Party. It is a seasonally appropriate means to fulfill the Halloween dress-up inclination without having our kids dressed up as Dracula, princesses, ghosts and power rangers. It is also a gentle way in which our students do things to benefit each other. The older students are preparing food and drinks. The younger ones have planned games and prizes for each other. In wood shop my upper elementary school students made toys to give to our pre-primary school students. Today in the woodworking booth at Harvest Party, we will make wooden power pendants and button toys with all the kids. I may take some photos during that time.

In the afternoon I'll pick up the plywood for building Bevins Skiffs, so that I can begin work on boats during fall break.
"To get rid of the 'verbosity' of meaningless words Pestalozzi developed his doctrine of Anschauung - direct concrete observation, often inadequately called 'sense perception' or 'object lessons'. No word was to be used for any purpose until adequate Anschauung had preceded. The thing or distinction must be felt or observed in the concrete. Pestalozzi's followers developed various sayings from this: from the known to the unknown, from the simple to the complex, from the concrete to the abstract.

To perfect the perception got by the Anschauung the thing that must be named, an appropriate action must follow. 'A man learns by action... have done with [mere] words!' 'Life shapes us and the life that shapes us is not a matter of words but action'.

Out of this demand for action came an emphasis on repetition - not blind repetition, but repetition of action following the Anschauung." --William H. Kilpatrick in his introduction to Heinrich Pestalozzi (1951) The Education of Man - Aphorisms, New York: Philosophical Library.
An observant (and often wordless) repetition of action is required in the development of skill, whether it is in music, science or the arts. The development of skill is a requirement for the development of the whole child, one who is integrated into the fabric of community and life. Schools that understand the necessity of skill understand also the necessity of doing real things.

Yesterday Barry Dima from Fine Woodworking and I did a photo shoot, completing the photography for two articles on box making. My thanks to Barry and to Fine Woodworking for the opportunity to share a bit of what I've learned with others.

Make, fix, create, and insist that students have the opportunity to learn lifewise.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

what's that?

My first grade students are particularly industrious and ambitious in wood shop, but they have minds of their own.

I salvaged plywood crating material from machinery delivered to ESSA last spring, and cut up into smaller pieces, it's been perfect for platforms on which to build who knows whats. The photo shows an example.

I can't tell you what it is. It came from a student's imagination. It involved managing to glue long sticks onto a board in a manner stable and secure enough to support a complex structure, and in that, there is engineering involved.

In the making of this particular project, I made a small discovery of my own. The student wanted me to hold the tall sticks in place while she went to do other things.  The sticks were not square on the ends and gravity would not allow them to stand for even a moment on their own. I remembered a supply of small blocks of wood in a drawer. The blocks with glue were the perfect way to prop up the sticks and give them sufficient strength so that more could be done. A supply of square blocks will provide a new way to strengthen wood working projects in the days to come.

Today an editor from Fine Woodworking and I will take photos to complete two articles for the magazine, helping adults to find ways to improve their box making.

Plywood for boat building has arrived in Harrison, Arkansas for me to pick up.

Make, fix, create, and adjust education so that others may learn lifewise.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

an inconvenient truth...

Today in the Clear Spring School, my middle school students will be decorating objects they are making through the use of veneers and milk paints. My lower elementary school students will be working on wheeled objects. This evening my editor from Fine Woodworking will arrive for a photo shoot that will likely take all day tomorrow.

There is a temptation to believe that all new things, are good, particularly if we have to spend a lot of money on them. This is not always the case. Everything has a good side and a bad side, and while digital technologies including smart phones, have usefulness, they also have well documented adverse effect.

And yet parents are often ill equipped to navigate and make clear choices for their kids, and are unwilling to draw important lines as to appropriate use.

Students, if given a choice and an opportunity, know the difference between the real world and the artificial construct, and while it may seem convenient to buy their silence by putting digital technology in their hands, the wiser course is to empower them to create. It can be music, theater, or hammers and saws. But when kids do real things, real growth follows. T

My call is not that we take things away from our kids but that we give them real things to do. The inconvenient truth is that learning is messy, it makes noise, and has concrete consequences... unlike fingers sliding over glass, it has real effects.

Make, fix, create and increase the likelihood that others learn lifewise

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

a scarf joint

The photo shows having used a plane to form a scarf joint for assembling pieces of plywood into a longer piece. I set this demonstration up yesterday so that my students at Clear Spring School could try their hand at joining the parts for building a Bevins Skiff. "This is hard," one said. But in less than an hour of attentive effort, a boat side can be formed from two pieces of ply. We used a construction grade plywood for the demonstration joint, and a better grade of marine ply will give better results.

To finish the joint, one piece of ply flips in relationship to the other, and a mixture of epoxy and wood flour is used to finish the joint.

Yesterday one of my students (first grade) told me she wanted to make a skateboard. The only wheels we had in wood shop were the ones we use to make toy cars. I am not certain how long her skate board with wooden wheels will last, but make it, she did.

My upper elementary students had decided to make toys for children from our pre-primary school. They organized themselves into an assembly line, with some drilling wheels, some drilling axle holes, some sanding and some assembling, as other students made super-heroes from wood. Very little instruction was required. Were they learning? And what? And were they each learning at their own pace, and at their own level? You bet.

Make, fix, create, and adjust schooling so that each student learns lifewise.

Monday, October 23, 2017

the idea here.

The simple jig in the photo is my new design scarf joint router jig that supports a plunge router at just the right angle to form a scarf joint between two pieces of marine plywood. The long piece of wood is the guide piece that when screwed down through two layers of plywood hold them and the jig in position as the routing is done.

The jig can be moved along to various positions to rout in stages the full width of the plywood stock. It may sound complicated, but is easier and more accurate than the old way of hand planing each piece of stock. Later in the blog (after the plywood is received) you will see the jig in use. The round hole in the jig is for attaching a vacuum cleaner to assist in removing routed waste. The red board is the support for a plunge router.

Of  course, we could do things the old way, gain greater skill, possibly waste expensive wood, and run a greater risk of failure. I will set up a trial experience so that students can test their hands in the old way.

The Bevins skiff is an eleven and a half foot row boat that can be adapted to sail. It can comfortably fit three, and the point of making at least two is that in sailing, the performance of one can be compared to the other, and students can observe the effects of wind and water and the other vessel in comparison to their own technique.

It seems to be a secret of sorts (at least where educational policy makers are concerned). But when we learn real things by doing real things, what we learn has greater relevance and greater lasting effect.

Make, fix, create and encourage others to learn lifewise.

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Scarf joints...

On Monday I'll order the 9 mm. Meranti plywood for building Bevins Skiffs at the Clear Spring school (starting) in December. In order to have sides and a bottom for each boat of sufficient length, I am making a scarfing jig for the router that will allow the necessary scarf joints to be cut. I also ordered a router bit that I believe will work just right with the jig I designed.

The jig is clamped to the plywood sheets, and supports the router at just the right angle to trim the edges of two pieces at a time to a one to eight inch slope.  After it is assembled I'll cut a channel in the sides so it can follow a guide screwed to the plywood and be aligned across the full width of a plywood sheet. The jig is a refinement and adaptation of one I saw on youtube.com

Other that that, I've little to say that I've not said before.  On my blog, http://wisdomofhands.blogspot.com, I have nearly 5,000 published posts at this point, each one saying nearly the same thing, from slightly different angles. We develop in skill, character, and intelligence, and act in support of human culture, family and community when our hands are central to learning.

I repeat myself, knowing full well that the world at large will likely not listen, and may likely not understand without having taken time to observe personally the relationship between the hands, the heart and the intellect. And yet, the hands are essential to our humanity and will continue to have their effect, whether we are conscious of them or not.

Make, fix, and create.

Saturday, October 21, 2017

pens and cursive...

Yesterday was a big day for Fed Ex as the driver brought 5 packages from Taunton Press. Three contained boxes that I had sent for photography in product review articles and two were blades for cutting box joints that will be used in photography next week when editor Barry Dima returns for a second visit to Eureka Springs on Wednesday.

Making pens in the Clear Spring School has led to the practice of cursive in high school. The lead teacher puts a quote on the board each Wednesday and the students put it in their own hand writing using the pens they crafted in wood shop. An additional benefit will be that our students know how to read cursive.

In the wood shop at the Clear Spring School, my upper elementary school students decided that they wanted to make toys for the pre-primary students to be shared with them at our annual Harvest Party next week.  They began by making super-heroes and making wheels for the toy cars they plan to make next week.

On Monday I'll order boat building supplies for Building Bevins Skiffs at the Clear Spring School. The following week will be perfect for receiving an order of plywood shipped from Ohio, as I will be out from school for fall break.

Last night we held a successful Mad Hatter's Ball at the Crescent Hotel to benefit the Eureka Springs School of the Arts.

Make, fix, create and adjust education so that children learn lifewise.

Friday, October 20, 2017

finished Viking chest...

Yesterday I installed the hand forged hardware on the Viking chest, and applied a coat of boiled linseed oil as a finish. Linseed oil was used as a wood finish on boats and chests in the Viking era as it was a by-product from the growing of flax.  One or more additional coats will be required. It is relatively non-toxic, has a pleasant smell and can be replenished at any time.

My thanks to Bob Patrick for having made the hardware. It is simple, strong and appropriate. I followed his guidance on installing it. First use screws, then one by one, replace the screws with nails. It's better than screwing up.

In the meantime, there is additional information about the effects of smart phones and kids. In fact, the amount of screen time for kids is growing at a rapid pace and our knowledge of the detrimental effects is growing as well.

Parents too often use smart phones to distract and entertain their children, with the goal being that of keeping them quiet. The latest research indicates it does just that... delaying the development of speech. http://www.cnn.com/2017/10/19/health/children-smartphone-tablet-use-report/index.html

It would be best if parents took a cautious approach to technology. But it may be too late for that. Children strive to emulate the behavior they see in adults. When adults are glued to their phones, ignoring what goes on around them, what can we expect from their kids?

Make, fix, create and set an example so others learn lifewise.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

I want to do this at home....

Yesterday I had a great day in wood shop. What starts out as a bit of chaos ends up with the students deeply engaged and reluctant to quit. The student shown sawing in the photo inspired several others to begin making toy cats, and then moved on to build a house for hers. The house was a ramshackle one, held together with a few nails and lots of glue, but it was carried home with great pride. I am not sure what the parents will do with such a collection of work, and I hope that they understand what it represents.

Beginning craftsmanship is rough, it's imaginative, and serves as evidence of effort, of growth and of learning.

One of my students announced yesterday, "I want to work on this more at home." It is wonderful to see children engaged in real work, and the joy of creativity must be extended into the whole fabric of life. It would be a wonderful thing if all schools would renew an interest in woodworking. It would be wonderful if all families were to offer such things also.

So the message is simple. Buy some tools, make them available to your children, and watch over them to see that they are safe.

There has been a dramatic increase in highway deaths that most are attributing to smart phone use.
Smart phones are addictive.  Less dangerous tools like knives, saws, hammers and the like, are addictive as well, but the consequences of their use may lead to greater intelligence and character as the child learns to create useful beauty in service to family, community and self, all without putting others at risk.

Make, fix, create, and increase the joy that comes from learning lifewise.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

33th semi annual

This Saturday is the 33rd semi annual meeting of the New England Association of Woodworking Teachers (NEAWT). It is being held at Pinkerton Academy in Derry, New Hampshire, and I was proud to have attended their first meeting in that same location, 17 years ago.  To RSVP or get additional information please contact Ben Kellman bkellman@billericak12.com Networking between teachers gives purpose and strength.

In my wood shop yesterday I made progress in building a "Viking" tool box, fitting a bottom in it and bending the hardware to fit the curvature of the lid. Still remaining are to drill holes in the hinges and hasp, sand the various parts smooth, nail the corners, and attach the hardware. The Danish oil finish will be applied over the hardware, giving it a protective coat.

I have a second chest in the works, also, but with angled sides, and with hinges made from scrap steel. I'll make the hardware for it on Thursday when I have no classes to attend to.

Make, fix, create, and accelerate learning lifewise.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

viking chest...

The Viking chest prototype is ready for a bottom to be fitted and for hardware to be adapted to fit. Bob Patrick left the hardware un-quenched so that it will be malleable and can be bent to the curvature of the lid. He also left the hole drilling for me so that I can choose where to put the hand forged nails he made to hold the hardware in place. In next summer's ESSA class, students will make the chest and hardware in the wood and metals shops.

Today I plan a quiet day in the wood shop.

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

Monday, October 16, 2017

hidden splines...

Yesterday, in addition to trying to re-conceptualize the Wisdom of the Hands book, I prepared for another article in Fine Woodworking and the visit of an editor from that magazine in two weeks. This article will be about the hidden spline joint, as in the box shown, that will serve as a prop in the article to illustrate the finished joint.

I have yet to sand the outside and apply Danish oil to brighten the color of the woods. I will also add a lining so that it can be sold when the article is complete. The hidden spline joint gives great strength to the corners of a box, and does nothing to interfere with the grain pattern on the outside. If working with wood like this quartersawn white oak, the hidden spline joint can be the perfect choice. Making the hidden spline from a contrasting wood brings emphasis to the craftsmanship involved in forming the joint, and in this case, I chose walnut to match the top panel and lift tab.

In the wood shop at the Clear Spring School today, I will continue reading the manual for building a Bevins skiff to my high school students.

Nearly all of us, whether we are graduates of high school, or college, or hold advanced
degrees have in excess of 13 years of formal education under our belts. For some
education is a story of success, for some it is a story of frustration and failure. Some are led
by their experience to regard themselves as having great expertise, and some
are led to regard themselves as lacking in any sort of expertise whatever. That is the
accepted standard. Some win, some lose and education serves as a sorting process,
pushing some on a path toward college and some off the path entirely. In
America, we make too few allowances for late bloomers. Children do not all develop on the same schedule, and some of the damage done in schooling is never corrected.

There has been this idea that the digital world, and particularly digital devices in school would open up new worlds of efficient and effective education. That has proven to NOT be the case. Given digital technology, kids play with it. The do not learn. This link tells the sad story: https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/education/dont-like-your-kids-tethered-to-screens-at-school-why-not-ask-questions/2017/10/15/f1c37e78-aecf-11e7-9e58-e6288544af98_story.html The article suggests that:
“the new digital world is a toxic environment for the developing minds of young people. Rather than making digital natives superlearners, it has stunted their mental growth.”
Make, fix, create and increase the likelihood that others learn lifewise.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

my day (as planned)

Today I am revisiting my materials for the production of a Wisdom of the Hands Book, as I have no other writing projects to attend to.

Have you ever noticed just how much you use your hands—touching, gripping, sorting, folding, pressing or wiping with them? Exploring textures, gauging hot or cold, wet or dry? Holding and manipulating an object? Whether they are pointing, picking, pinching, smoothing or soothing—the list goes on and on—our hands are rarely at rest. Even when we speak, our hands are engaged, drawing out our words and phrases with gestures that give added dimension and emphasis to our thoughts.

In fact, our hands perform an astounding array of discrete actions each day. It’s no exaggeration to say that every facet of human existence, from the artifacts that inhabit and enrich our daily lives to our grandest cultural achievements, was touched by human hands. And yet, we rarely notice.

From one perspective, this is no problem: we function more efficiently when some of our hand skills, practiced from birth, are employed automatically and unconsciously. But because our hands are so closely integrated with our brains and so seamlessly responsive to our thoughts, we tend to overlook and underestimate their greater significance in shaping our individual lives, our culture, and our society. Even more, in America today, we intentionally eschew handwork, preferring the remote-controlled or battery-operated instead. We design things that are “easier to use”— meaning, without manual effort or skill—when those efforts and skills are in fact what can offer the greatest pleasure and growth of intelligence and character and are the building blocks of a meaningful life.

We also design our children’s schools to be hands-off environments, where the eyes and ears are engaged but the hands are too often required to remain in the lap. As a result, we have created an educational divide between hand and mind, emphasizing academics and relegating arts and crafts, if they are presented at all, as extracurricular activities. This bias persists into our society at large, ignoring or disparaging the value of the hands’ contributions to economy and culture.

Worse, is that by leaving the development of skilled hands to be something apart from schooling, we have closed doors for our kids, that open would have given cause for deeper engagement and lifelong confidence in learning.

Hopefully the book will go on from there (and from here). What I had at first intended was a philosophical treatise. It is a thing I've been trying to get my head around for 18 years. I've begun to realize that much of what's needed is a clear path of instruction on how to get going with it. Philosophy alone is not enough.

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

Saturday, October 14, 2017

The age of distraction.

Yesterday in wood shop, my high school students were at work as I began reading to them from the instruction manual for the Bevins skiff. Some were finishing their models of the Bevins skiff. I had noticed that they had been talking to each other about things unrelated to woodworking and found that reading to them was a way to bring them into a common focus. I will do that again.

Fellow woodworking teacher and author Gary Rogowski has a new book coming out called "Handmade: Creative Focus in the age of distraction" and I became interested in where the term "age of distraction" came from, as I'd been hearing it a lot lately.

Joseph Urgo published a book "In the Age of Distraction" in 2000, describing the adverse effects of technology. That may be the first use of the term, unless something earlier comes up. Do you believe that digital devices are eroding your memory and ability to concentrate for any long period of time? Unless you actually attempt to do real things in the world, that require patience and skill you may never know.

 I have a Clear Spring School board meeting today and will then resume work on a Viking chest in the afternoon. Working with the hands slows one down, and allows one to observe more closely. There is much to be said about being contemplative as an alternative to being distracted.

The hand forged lock shown above is one that I bought as a souvenir in Sweden, and one that would look great on a Viking tool chest.

Make, fix, create, and encourage others to learn lifewise.

Friday, October 13, 2017

hand forged hardware.

I received a hasp, hinges, handles and nails from blacksmith Bob Patrick, to fit on the oak Viking chest I started last week. Now it's up to me to finish the chest and take photos for a summer class.

Today I have high school students only, as my middle school and elementary school students are off and recovering from their camping trip. Teachers, too, are recovering with a day off.

I am studying the use of a router to cut scarf joints in plywood, in preparation for building Bevins skiffs. The material comes in 8 foot lengths, and 12 foot is required.

The photo shows the array of hand forged hardware items I received in yesterday's mail.

Make, fix, create, and extend to others the opportunity to learn lifewise.