Sunday, December 17, 2017

amazon review...

The following is one of two five star reviews from of my book Making Classic Toys that Teach. The book can be acquired from Amazon in 2-5 days, still leaving you time to make timeless heirloom educational gifts for your children and grandchildren, just as parents, grandparents, teachers and village craftsmen did over 100 years ago.
"Makes a great gift as an introductory guide to woodworking that, in turn, allows you to make great educational gifts for kiddos! Really interesting background on Froebel's teaching methods and the history of these blocks used by the likes of Frank Lloyd Wright. Thoughtful instruction, including how to make basic jigs needed to get started. Great illustrations, while holding enough instruction back that you have to figure it out by doing. Great educational tool on so many levels!"— posted by Will
Will got the point. Learn woodworking and be of service to your child's growth, while also learning about child development, how we learn best and a bit about the history of education at the same time. Use this link: to order your copy. The point is simple. Children and adults learn the same way, by doing real of things of real meaning. What could be more meaningful than making gifts that impart wisdom.

If you would like a flip book preview of my newest book, The Box Maker's Guitar Book, use this link:

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

Saturday, December 16, 2017

what's a deely bobber?

We have less than 10 days  before Christmas and the time is running out for big projects. But some things don't take as long as one might think. With just a few tools, some materials and inspiration, a simple gift can be simply made.

Yesterday was the last day of school before the Christmas holiday, so I asked my upper elementary school students to assist in cleaning the wood shop. Where there's lots of sawdust on things, cleaning can be a pleasurable task. They wanted to take turns with the vacuum cleaners. (I brought an extra from my home shop.) As a reward for their service, I had a gift drawing, allowing them to choose from some things I had done as demonstration projects (turned pens, fidget sticks and a turned object I identified only as a deely bobber.) The students drew numbers from a box and were able to choose in order of the number drawn. The student who got the deely bobber asked, "can I turn this into a candle stick?" "Of course."

At one time, deely bobber and doohicky were synonymous, meaning objects that had no apparent purpose or whose purpose could not be described. Then, in 1982 a company trademarked the term deely bobber to mean a headband with two balls attached on springs. I use the term in reference to its true and original meaning: An object with no apparent use.

Apart from doing progress reports on each student, I can now apply myself to other things. I have an order of boxes to do for the University of Arkansas, supplying them with gifts to give to visiting dignitaries. I will begin making those today.

Yesterday we got the keels installed on Bevins Skiffs, leaving me with the skeg, foredeck and quarter knees to complete on my own before painting.

Copies of my new book, The Box Maker's Guitar Book will arrive here on Monday and should be showing up at some day very shortly thereafter.

Make, fix, and create...

Friday, December 15, 2017

kids and boats...

Wendy, our art teacher at Clear Spring School, introduced a boat project using water colors and torn paper in the lower grades to collaborate with our high school boat building project. Students learned some nautical terminology, and learned a variety of things about art at the same time. The results are delightful and are what you get when a teaching staff has the opportunity for all to work in collaboration with each other. What you see in the photo is first grade art and first rate. No, those are not catamarans, or catboats. They are sailing cats.

All over the US, folks (outside of public education) are discovering the value and necessity of hands-on learning as in the link here:

Yesterday at ESSA I scarf joined the white oak to form the keels of the two Bevins Skiffs. My students finished installing the top rails. Today  I hope we can get the keels and skegs installed. This is my last day of school before the Holiday break.

Yesterday I asked my students to name a few specific things they were learning by building boats. One they mentioned was teamwork. Teamwork is a skill and resource they will use all their lives.

Yesterday we had a plumber here working on our propane line. I noticed that he was wearing a VICA jacket indicating his participation in the Skills USA national competition, so I asked about it. He told me about winning first place in the state competition in plumbing and having gone on to the national competition. He told me too, that without the shop class at Eureka Springs High School he would not have graduated from high school.

He told me that the problem with all his other classes was that they weren't doing anything real, and that when he was doing something real, the rest of it began to make sense. Can we fix things, please? Every student should be afforded the opportunity to learn by doing real things in service to family and community.

Make, fix and create...

Thursday, December 14, 2017

the power of the workbench

I ran across this wonderful article on the power of the workbench:

It is distressing that so many children are being controlled by gaming platforms and iPhones when in the past, kids were left somewhat to their own devices (of hand and mind) to discover their creative capacities.
“Clunk, clunk, zzzz-zzzzz—thunk!”
These are sounds of kids using tools at a woodworking bench. Sounds once familiar and pleasurable to me during my teaching days. I no longer hear those sounds during my visits to schools, nor do I see woodworking benches as part of the classroom environments. When I talk to teachers about the importance and value of woodworking for young children, they are astonished and incredulous that I would even suggest that young children use real tools such as hammers and saws. They often laugh at such an idea and say, “Do you know what little children are like?”

Oh, but I do know what little children are like.— Judith Pack
And all good teachers have known from the earliest days of education. The following is from Comenius:
Boys ever delight in being occupied in something for the youthful blood does not allow them to be at rest. Now as this is very useful, it ought not to be restrained, but provision made that they may always have something to do. Let them be like ants, continually occupied in doing something, carrying, drawing, construction and transporting, provided always that whatever they do be done prudently. They ought to be assisted by showing them the forms of all things, even of playthings; for they cannot yet be occupied in real work, and we should play with them.
Girls, too, need to be engaged in doing real things. Community Playthings is a company in New York that makes wooden furniture, fixtures and teaching supplies for schools and pre-schools. The workbench in the photo is one of their fine products.

Make, fix, create, and allow others to learn likewise.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

or no seats?

I intended to install the seats of the boats yesterday, but my students got started sanding. They like that part. We did begin installing the rails. The parts that remain are the foredeck, the quarter knees, the keel and skeg. We may leave the seats for last, giving us the opportunity to paint the insides without obstruction.

I will need to scarf join some white oak to form the keels.

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

Tuesday, December 12, 2017


Today we may get to the point of adding seats to the Bevins Skiffs being made by students at the Clear Spring School. This time period had originally been on the schedule as a fine arts block, but what is a finer art than building a boat? Boats express the integration of form and function and are to be assessed in both the look and the workings of their parts. The following quote was shared by Tim Holton at
Of all things, living or lifeless, upon this strange earth, there is but one which…I still regard with unmitigated amazement…and never pass without the renewed wonder of childhood,…and that is the bow of a Boat…The nails that fasten together the planks of the boat’s bow are the rivets of the fellowship of the world. Their iron does more than draw lightning out of heaven, it leads love round the earth. — John Ruskin.
John Ruskin was a critic of art and architecture whose writings inspired the golden age of arts, crafts, and craftsmanship. Today, if all goes right, we will install the seats in our Bevins Skiffs. Still to come will be the keels, skegs, foredecks, and quarter knees. I have students on my hands now who can hardly wait for the time when the boats hit water.

Make, fix and create...

Monday, December 11, 2017

scarf joints...

Yesterday I ripped catalpa wood for the balance of the parts for the Bevins Skiffs. I cut scarf joints on the table saw to extend sections of 8 foot stock to over 12 feet. I used epoxy glue thickened with wood flour to secure the joints. This stock, after being planed and cut to width and length will form the seat risers, and top rails. Today we can begin installing the frame pieces to which the seat risers and rails will be attached. The Incra (brand) miter gauge shown is perhaps the only table saw miter gauge that can be adjusted to such an acute angle (7.5°) to form a scarf joint in this manner.

My objective is to have most of the woodworking completed on both boats before the end of this week when students (and teachers) get out for the holiday break. There may be a few small details that I'll need to attend to when the students are not present. Painting will come later. I will need to turn some of my attention during break to getting the ESSA wood shop ready for classes in the spring.

The simple point is that students need to be engaged in doing real things. There must be real things offered in school for which they find pride in having done and through which skills of mind and hand are attained. Even if we were no longer a manufacturing nation — even if we were overrun with meaningless stuff (as we are) — being a human being requires that we create useful beauty in service to each other. To fail to do so may leave us short-handed, short-sighted, ill-tempered, anxious and depressed.

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