Thursday, October 20, 2016


Yesterday at the Clear Spring School we began a toy making project that we do each year at this time, making toy cars and trucks to give to the local food bank for holiday distribution. I make wheels by the hundreds using this simple device on the drill press that holds the wheel blank centered on the table for drilling.

The centering clamp is made from a lathe chuck, and makes the process simple enough that the children can drill their own axle holes.

Today I will go back to my writing, and attempt to get two chapters of text complete for my box guitar book. I am also ready to apply a Danish oil finish to boxes.

Make, fix, create, offer others the encouragement to learn likewise.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

boxes again and again...

As you can see, I continue to make boxes, and will probably do so until I can make no more. These have been relatively unchanged since I introduced this design in the early 1980s. But they still gather questions from fellow craftsmen, "How'd you do that?"

Today in wood shop at school, I'll have students in first through 6th grades, and will attempt to interest them in toy making for others.

Make, fix, create, and suggest by your example, that others may love learning likewise.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Pedagogically correct...

The North East Association of Woodworking Teachers, NEAWT, has been meeting since 2001 and just had their biannual meeting from which has come a discussion (via email) of standard safety instruction that various members offer their kids. For many, it has been a practice to offer safety sheets to each student at the point at which various machines are introduced. The purpose, it is agreed, has less to do with the appropriate and effective theory of instruction, and much more to do with covering the school from a liability standpoint. If someone is severely injured using a power tool, parents and attorney's are automatically convinced that it has to be the teacher's fault, and by having evidence that each student has been instructed in the rules regarding each machine, has been effective in keeping the lawyers at bay, when various bad things have happened.

On the other hand, rules of instruction derived from Educational Sloyd and based on observation of how students actually learn would make it clear that starting out with safety sheets is not the best approach. Instruction should proceed from the easy to the more difficult, from the known to the unknown, from the simple to the complex and from concrete to the abstract. Safety sheets are abstract, particularly for students who've had no experience using a particular tool.

I have noticed among my own students, a growing aversion to paper. Sheets that are passed out are of little or no interest. Is that related to a growing sense that what's on-line and comes through magical digital devices is of superior significance? Who knows. But starting from the abstract form of something on paper is not the real deal and children know it, just as Pestalozzi's student wondered why they were looking at a picture of a ladder when there was a real one in the shed.

An approach that I liked best among those described by members of the NEAWT was to do an actual hands-on, and closely controlled and supervised use a a tool, followed by the safety sheet, safety test and signed contract with the student regarding safe tool use. For overly large classes, using power tools, this seems like the most reasonable approach to keeping children safe.

Today I'll be at work in my own shop making boxes. The photo above shows the work of a new 3rd grade student visiting the wood shop during yesterday's classes.

Make, fix, create and offer hope that others may love learning likewise.

Monday, October 17, 2016

a misinformed and unsophisticated sense of reality.

I awakened in the middle of the night concerned about the interconnection of all things. No thing exists in isolation from other things. And yet as a matter of convenience, we are taught to call certain things by certain words, and our communication with each other is eased by using correct terminology. But a hammer without a use, or a history of use, or a user, or a history of having been used or made would be a lifeless thing. A hammer, on the other hand, when its use (and power) is fully understood, when its use in human culture is known and accepted,  and most particularly when it is swung to hits its mark and do its work, is not a lifeless object, but rather, a point of interconnection in the whole of life, unbound.

Schools, too often, out of necessity due to their construction and constriction, treat children themselves as objects and as limitations, when in actual fact, they are far more boundless and interconnected than most teachers, administrators and educational policy makers might ever imagine.

In truth, there are no boundaries between things, or between people or between people and the natural world that surrounds us. Life is made rich and full when we are encouraged to witness the interconnections between things, that too many regard as empty space.

Today, I have grades 1-8 in wood shop at the Clear Spring School.

Each morning I go to our feral hog trap to check the game camera and see what showed up in the night. Very early this morning we had one boar that entered the trap, but due to the brightness of the moon, it was able to nibble corn right around the trigger without setting it off and closing the trap. As a sign of progress, this is the first time that particular boar was able to overcome its fear of entering the trap.

Make, fix, create and dwell upon the mysteries of learning likewise.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

thick and thin...

I have been storing woods in the barn which I built for that purpose. They've been in there for years, and I've been wondering what to do with all of it. Some may have not been worth my diligence in storing it, but nestled in are some treasures.

During the early part of the great recession, (2008) I was reminded of depression era furniture, which was made from bits and pieces of scrap wood that furniture makers would have ignored during more prosperous times. So I went to the barn and pulled from what I had and made tables, nearly all of which sold during those dark times for our economy. Depending on what comes of this election, the barn full of wood may come in handy again.

A friend wants a dining table, so I went to the barn to see what I have.  One lovely option would be to use some of 5 consecutively sawn 16 in. wide boards of spalted maple as a top. This was wood that I had arranged to be milled on site and that has air dried for over a dozen years.

Other material that I have, that would be interesting as a base for the table has a story attached.  It is walnut, and I bought it a dozen years ago from a man who just showed up with truck and trailer loaded and wanted to sell. It is in dimensions of up to 3 or 4 inches thick.  His story was that his father had milled the lumber and it was all that remained of his inheritance. He had worked with his father at what neighbors, had nicknamed “The Thick and Thin Lumber Company,” due to the fact that a single board might come out thick at one end and thin at the other. The good thing is that I have enough "thick and thin" wood to choose nice pieces that would work. Most of the lumber is much thicker than what I usually have in stock, and would make a massive base for a lovely table.

Yesterday, I mentioned having wood available to kids in various dimensions that would allow them to exercise their own creative inclinations. Having a barn with wood serves in that way for me.

In my wood shop I've been making boxes for an order from Appalachian Spring Galleries in Washington, DC.  The new wood studio at the Eureka Springs School of the Arts is coming along nicely. It will be in a lovely setting as you can plainly see.

Make, fix, create, and offer others the encouragement to learn likewise.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

what can you do with what you've got?

When I was a child, you could go to the grocery store and get most of what you needed for small woodworking projects from vegetable crates. They were made by the millions and provided materials that were just right for a child to make wonderful things. Of course, most went into the garbage or were burned, as that was considered to be an acceptable way of disposing of trash before plastic made the burning of trash ill advised.

Vegetable crates, for those who do not remember, were most often made of two thicknesses of wood. The ends were of solid stock about 1/2 in. thick, with the sides and bottom being thinner material. But what's a kid to do these days if no material is available?

One of my jobs at the Clear Spring School is to have materials available for kids to use for works from their own imaginations to emerge. The following is some excellent guidance from Jean Lee Hunt. “A Catalogue of Play Equipment.” 1918

“Choice of lumber must be determined partly by the viewpoint of the adult concerned, largely by the laboratory budget, and finally by the supply locally available. Excellent results have sometimes been achieved where only boxes from the grocery and left-over pieces from the carpenter shop have been provided. Such rough lumber affords good experience in manipulation, and its use may help to establish habits of adapting materials as we find them to the purposes we have in hand. This is the natural attack of childhood, and it should be fostered, for children can lose it and come to feel that specially prepared materials are essential, and a consequent limitation to ingenuity and initiative can thus be established.

On the other hand, some projects and certain stages of experience are best served by a supply of good regulation stock. Boards of soft pine, white wood, bass wood, or cypress in thicknesses of ¼", 3/8", ½" and 7/8" are especially well adapted for children's work, and "stock strips" ¼" and ½" thick and 2" and 3" wide lend themselves to many purposes.”

I have found that inexpensive grade 2 x 4 lumber when resawn into various widths and thicknesses provides and excellent source of supply and   I have placed a portion of the quote above in bold due to its great importance.

Today in the wood shop, I'll be making boxes. I am at the point of routing for inlay to fit the lids.

Make, fix, create, and provide an example for others to love learning likewise.

Friday, October 14, 2016

pigs and rivers

We continue to maintain our pig trap even though it seems the feral swine have become wary of it and careful to not go inside. Last night I went to a meeting with the Eureka Springs Parks Commission about developing an area wide strategy on our feral hog crisis. They demonstrated the boarbuster hog trap that can remove as many as fifty hogs at a time, but costs over $6000. I am hoping the city and county buy a few of them and thereby provide help that has not been forthcoming so far.

On a lighter side, but still weighted by unwanted swine, Still on the Hill performed in concert last night and gave away copies of a new CD, Still a River, that celebrates our Buffalo National River with the suggestion that the Hog Farm sate agencies allowed to be built should be removed without further damage to our nation's first national river. The Buffalo River National Park attracts millions of tourists and millions of tourist dollars, and yet because of the way federal agencies tiptoe around states rights, the concerns of the Department of the Interior are ignored.

Conservative Republicans in the state insist that corporations are overly burdened by regulations, and should be set free to do what they want, including polluting a national park. But the primary purpose of incorporation is to allow investors to avoid liability for what the corporation does wrong, and to the people and things it might hurt. When you invest in a corporation, the limit of your liability is the amount of money you put in. No more. So when corporations do really bad things, and are allowed to do really bad things, the costs are paid by either the taxpayer or the environment.

In my wood shop today I'll be making boxes. At school, my high school students will be working on their shaker boxes.

Make, fix, create, and offer others your example and encouragement that they may learn to love learning likewise.