Wednesday, January 18, 2017

shaker boxes and guitars...

Yesterday morning my high school students worked on their Shaker boxes and are nearing the finish of the project. Their work is not perfect, but what is? It takes doing the same thing over again and sometimes again to refine one's work. Despite having made thousands of boxes, I've still room for growth.

I received a nice note from a gentleman in the UK dying of cancer, who asked that I send a signed photo to his caregiver friend who is a fan of my work and an avid box maker. I am sending a book instead. The note was so thoughtful, and I am choosing to live my life in a counter-trumpian universe, unfettered by xenophobia, racism and divisiveness, and in which people speak kindly of each other.

Donald trump, it appears, was elected at least in part by those seeking an unfettered right to be ugly in speech and deed toward those who may be slightly different in some way from themselves.

Where some build walls, you and I must build bridges instead. It's not a matter of being politically correct. It is a simply a matter of being purposefully kind and respectful toward each other in order to build a better nation.

I am also finishing my guitars so that they can be shipped to the publisher for taking cover photographs. I figure I'll have to ship about 12-15 of them in a very large box.

This morning, my middle school students will work on the lathe.

If you are on facebook, you can find me there, too. If you've not visited my new website, Check it out. 

Make, fix, create, and delight in helping others learn likewise.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Unseasonably warm

It is unseasonably warm here in Arkansas. We've had little in the way of winter. My supply of firewood for the wood stove is largely untouched. In the meantime, the incoming trump administration promises to limit the powers of the Environmental Protection Agency, dispense with clean energy regulations, and thereby promise much more of the global warming that threatens the whole world.

One of the basic purposes of incorporation is to limit liability to investors allowing the corporations in which they invest to do massive damage without the investors being held accountable beyond the value of their investments. So when corporations do bad things with enormous effect, the burden falls on the poor, the environment, and the tax payer. Despite what Republicans claim, governmental regulations are a very good and necessary thing that should be strengthened, not made lax.

My wife suggests that I keep the blog non-political. On the other hand, part of my mission here is to promote hands-on learning AND the protection of the natural environment in which trees play such a huge role in protecting life. Global warming has disastrous effects on our forests and deliberate efforts to lie about it, and reverse progress in combating it must be addressed.

I can not sit by while an illegitimately elected president pushes an agenda that is directly destructive of our forests and our trees. It appears to my friends outside the US that Americans went crazy in electing donald trump. I concur. A majority of persons in our nation oppose the man, and will continue to do so. A friend from Norway expressed his concern as follows: "Commiserations on your new president. What can I say, I am still 'gobsmacked' that he was elected, but then, was he, really?" And there's the rub. The man was elected by the slimmest of margins with the head of the FBI's thumb pressed on the scale, and with interference by Russia, a power hostile to the US.

And yet life goes on. Today at the Clear Spring School, my high school students will begin working to stabilize the garden fence under my instruction. Some will be finishing their Shaker boxes.

Make, fix, create, and extend toward others the proclivity to learn likewise.

Monday, January 16, 2017

holiday challenge...

Entry 1. Alan Johnson
This year at Marc Adams School of Woodworking I announced the second holiday challenge in which students were to attempt to earn prizes by submitting photos of boxes they made after the class and using what they had learned in the class.

Eighteen students were invited to compete, and three submitted entries. That's convenient, because there are three prizes, and each entry is a winner.

Entry 2. David Hoffman
We decided to make the contest this year a non-trumpian equal opportunity affair in which the winners would be selected by drawing. This helps me to avoid judgment and simply appreciate and reward those who carry on and use what they have learned. In any case, however, each did excellent work that each may be proud of, with or without external rewards.

David Hoffman (open)
Robin Mistry
Robin certainly deserves an award for most productive, if I were to award one.

The actual assignment of awards will be made by random number generator later in the day. The selection could be made by putting three numbers in a box.

Today I am off from school as we celebrate Martin Luther King Day, a federal holiday.

Make, fix, create, and delight in observing others learn likewise.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

we continue

Yesterday I stacked several hundred square feet of 3/8 in. thick cherry that a friend gave me for use at school. It is freshly cut but should dry quickly. The rule of thumb is to dry wood at least one year per inch, so in about 4 months it can be re-stacked and used to make who knows what.

What can one make from such thin wood? I have no idea yet. Boxes, perhaps? It will plane smooth on both sides at 1/4 in. if I can keep it drying flat. Wide thin boards tend to curl and cup.

The box above is one I just finished as a wedding gift.

I have been having regular visits from feral hogs, caught on camera but not in the trap. The boar shown in the photo above, taken last night, is about 32 inches high and would weigh about 250 lbs. I can tell the height by counting the squares in the fence each of which are 4 in. These creatures are incredibly destructive and reproduce at a frantic pace.

This is an unpleasant process and at this point we've trapped and killed 35. We will likely be forced to continue to trap hogs for years to come or allow them to overrun our home and destroy our forest.

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

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Home schooling...

I got a very nice letter from a home schooled boy, Benjamin, who showed me photos of his work on the lathe, and of him using a face mask as I suggested. He took a turn toward woodworking and because he has the support of his parents and grandparents is able to pursue his passion. In addition to turning he has also begun making his own inlay as I showed in one of my books.

While public schools obsess over test scores, what children really need is to be encouraged to follow their interests. This can be done in a simple way. First give them the tools necessary to learn. Then sustain a nurturing environment, in which children are questioned about what they have learned, observed to see that safe practices are followed, and are then encouraged to learn more. The questioning serves in three ways. It causes them to reflect. It shows your interest in their growth. And it provides assurance that they are moving in a direction fruitful to the student's growth, and meaningful to them.

So what's the point in woodworking in a world obsessed with other things?
  • It builds character. 
  • It builds intellect. 
  • It provides a concrete framework in which student learning can be witnessed and assessed both by that student and others. 
  • It connects the student in the real world, inviting an expanding range of additional interests. 
  • And more.

or this.
I saw a friend of mine yesterday morning that I’d not seen in a while. He’s about 10 years older than me but had been my “apprentice,” telling me all the while, that he dreamed of having a wood shop of his own. Finally he has what he had dreamed about, a small shop he built himself with every tool he ever wanted. He is proud of his work and of his tools and the pleasure the gets from making things and sharing them with others.

I’ve been telling my students at the Clear Spring School, that their practice of craftsmanship, the paying of attention, application of will, and care for the outcome of their work are the same skills required for being anything they want in future years, be they doctors, engineers, lawyers, scientists, inventors, mothers, fathers or whatever. Even politicians and religious leaders benefit from having the opportunity to work with wood and become grounded in reality by the process of creating useful and beautiful things.

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

Friday, January 13, 2017

My teaching calendar...

These are my teaching dates for 2017. Other dates may be added for woodworking clubs, or special events at the Eureka Springs School of the Arts.
Woodworking works for all ages. We each develop in both character and intellect when we learn hands-on. Plus, when our learning is driven by a personal interest in the subject area, there is pleasure as we move toward mastery that primes us to seek more.

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

Thursday, January 12, 2017

care and repair in the school woodshop

At Clear Spring School today, I tackled a situation that had come up when students were climbing on a picnic table and broke it. High school students have a way of testing limits and a student weighing 200 pounds jumping down from the top to the the seat was more that the picnic table could take. I gathered the materials needed to fix it, had one student rout the edges of the replacement board and the student who broke it spent the hour of wood shop with our maintenance man putting the table back together and strengthening it to be at least as good as new. Having take part in fixing it, he will surely now regard it with greater care. He may also have come to regard himself in a different manner.

Along with that, I was able to explain to the kids why taking care of things matters. Sure it is fun to fix things, but breaking things has real consequences and it may be best to exercise some judgement  and care in the first place. The great thing was that the incident brought us all closer together.

My high school students are finishing their Shaker boxes, and while not all express the same level of enthusiasm for woodworking, all seem to appreciate what they've made. One student screwed up his box today by not paying attention to the placement of the bottom in the sides as he drove tooth picks into place. I assured him that it takes less time to do make the bottom over and get it right than it took in the first place to screw up. And is that not the case with most things?

I plan to have talks with all students about the development of craftsmanship, the relationship between cause an effect through which we make the world a better place.

Make, fix, create, and extend toward others the love of learning likewise.