Monday, January 15, 2018

one way or the other...

One faction of society thinks that if anything is done for the poor, they will be stripped of incentive to do things for themselves, and they take that as their reason to do nothing for each other. Another faction of society thinks that if we have the power to be of service to each other we should use the gifts we have been given to make the world a better place.

We get to decide. We can act now through the creation of useful beauty. Then recognizing that the government is like a power tool, enabling us to apply collective force in the resolution of our nation's problems, we can choose how to vote in our next elections.

This is the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. national holiday, and he had learned that the problems facing our nation were not simply matters of race and racial discrimination but also of poverty. We have been held back not only by poverty of physical resources but also by poverty of will. Will we choose as a nation to be of use to each other?

When I was imagining myself, in the early days of my career as a woodworker, I understood the essential relationship between the craftsman and community. I thought of the village blacksmith, and the village carpenter as examples of how people and their lives are interwoven into community life. What I did not fully grasp at the time was the responsive effect. When we work in service to each other, we are transformed in consequence. We become better, more caring persons through our efforts to be of service to each other.

If you've been mistakenly taught, or failed to get the lessons of life and of love at an earlier time, you are probably not reading this blog and will be of that faction that's ideologically opposed to helping the poor. If you are on the fence about things, test matters in your own hands. Use this holiday to try being of greater use to one another.

Make, fix, create, and adjust education so that each student has the opportunity to learn lifewise.

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Up to my ears in guitars...

My publisher returned the guitars I had sent for photography but for one guitar which he bought  from me as a souvenir of the project. I now have more box guitars than I know what to do with. I will be trying to find homes for some. It will be difficult to decide which to sell or which to keep or whether to make a clean breast of things and clear the deck and mind for fresher work.

Yesterday in the ESSA wood shop, with volunteers we rebuilt an important part of the dust collection system, which had been hastily assembled last year to get us up and rolling for the first classes. We've learned a bit since those early days, as we will each year. We also installed pegboard and began arranging tools in the bench room with tool holders that I designed and that Dan assembled last week.

We expect to have a film crew in the ESSA wood shop on the 23rd. I'll be in Rochester, NY next weekend so this weekend is my best chance of getting the shop ready and in top shape.

I am grateful for my volunteers, Suzanne, Bill, Bob, Gilles, Steve, Becky and Cliff.

I am often surprised at how small a world this is. I was looking for plastic drums to use for gathering sawdust in the ESSA wood shop, and went looking for them on Criagslist. I tried to text a seller, and discovered that my phone recognized the phone number as belonging to a fellow ESSA board member. The plastic drums are now to be donated to the school and all I need to do is pick them up and get them ready for use.

My returned  guitars are shown in the photo.

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

Saturday, January 13, 2018

poverty and education.

An article from Associated Press by Maria Danilova in yesterday's Arkansas Democrat-Gazette points out the effects of poverty on education. This is not the first article to describe the effect. The number of years a child must spend in poverty has a well documented dramatic adverse effect on whether or not he or she graduates from high school or goes on to college. 

Forgive me for troubling you with all this, but education is an important issue and it's important that we get things right. I've written about the effects of poverty on education before:

An additional effect is that poor children often live in poor communities where educational resources just do not add up.
"Low income, black and Hispanic students often end up in schools with crumbling walls, old text books and unqualified teachers, according to a report released Thursday by the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights."
So education will not be fixed by hands alone. We must work together to solve the basic problems of poverty. We have economic poverty on the one hand, and moral poverty on the other in which some folks think that accumulating vast wealth at the expense of others in our communities is moral and right. Those impoverished notions lead those folks to demand  that taxes must be cut and cut again, to the point that the government is no longer able to serve the people or the noble ideals to which our nation has long aspired.

Let me set the record straight. Through craftsmanship we learn that what we do has real effect and that what we do is rightfully connected to all else and all others. In craftsmanship, unlike religion and politics you can't just make crap up and get away with it. The joint fits, or it does not. It is sanded smooth and finished well, or it is not. The work will not lie on your behalf.

I have come to the conclusion that higher taxes are a must. We must have the resources to serve those communities that have been impoverished and ignored by a heartless capitalism.

From today's article in the Democrat-Gazette:
'The reality is that the United States does not offer the educational opportunity that is consistent with our ideals." commission chairman Catherine Lhamon said, "That's dangerous and all of us need for it to change."
Educational Sloyd was developed with a noble purpose in mind. Not only was it to lead to growth of the individual child, it was offered to all children in the hope that they would develop an appreciation for all labor, understand the dignity and worth of all persons and thus grasp and conform to the spirit of democracy.

In the wood shop at Clear Spring School, I decided to make some canes with turned handles as shown in the photo.

Today I join with volunteers to work to get the ESSA wood shop ready for 2018 classes.

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

Friday, January 12, 2018

Quarter knees and deck supports.

Yesterday I did some complex cutting on deck supports and quarter knees for the Bevins Skiffs.  Fitting the quarter knees requires cutting  them at angles to fit both the transom and the sides of the boat if they are to set level in place.

I first cut the quarter knees to shape and then used the band saw and fence to make the required angle cuts.  This requires tilting and locking the band saw table to the required angle, as determined by using the sliding T bevel to measure the shape inside the boats.

It is good to have tools capable of such work, and to have enough familiarity with those tools to be able to quickly put them to work.

Fitting the quarter knees is a quickly done task if you know how, and a quick way to make a mess of things if you do not. Just a few more hours of work and the boats will be ready for paint.

I received word today that the Chancellor at the U of Arkansas is very pleased with the boxes I made for him to give as gifts to international guests.

Make, fix, create and encourage others in their efforts to learn likewise.

Thursday, January 11, 2018


Yesterday in the wood shop at The Clear Spring School lower elementary students began making banks to go with a project in which they will learn about saving money. The students wanted to take the banks home immediately, but will keep them in school until the lesson is complete.

Part of the process is to personalize each child's work. Markers are used to make the work colorful. Rainbows, hearts and and cats are favorite themes for illustration. Steel letter stamps are used to add names, or initials or to label the work as a "Bank." There were lots of bent nails, nails that went in the wrong spot and required removal, and a bit of learning, also. We used screws to attach the bottoms, so that when the banks have become full, money can be taken out.

My middle school students began working on canes.

I find it fascinating that the primary rationale for charter schools is the idea that public schools are "failing" and that charter schools are to shake things up and test new models for education. If that is truly the reason for charter schools, they would not be needed if the state and federal governments were to simply back off and allow local public school boards to righteously serve the children from their communities. If schools were allowed to serve all children as they all best learn, education would become hands-on, and we would abandon the teach to the test methodology that brought failing schools in the first place.

In Arkansas, and many other states, school boards are allowed  by law to do two things: Hire or fire a superintendent. The superintendent's job is to uphold state standards even when they drive education off the mark. If school boards were allowed to demand that the school's curriculum become more reflective of the needs and interests of their communities and each child, guess what? Sorry, but that's not allowed.

The point is that Charter schools would not be needed (based on their stated rationale) if schools and school boards were trusted, required  and inspired to meet the actual learning needs and interests of each and every child. If we are to ask anything reasonable of our state and federal governments it should be that local schools be given the necessary resources to meet the learning needs of each and every child. In return, for such trust, the local school boards, administration and teaching staff must respect the dignity of each child and to offer equal opportunity to education without regard to income, race, gender, sexual orientation or country of origin.

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

Wednesday, January 10, 2018


This morning at the Clear Spring School my middle schools children will begin making canes to give to folks at our local medical clinic. I was assured last night by one of our primary care physicians that they would be welcomed and useful. My students set a goal of making 10.

The idea comes from a request for a cane for my Aunt Wuzzie years ago made by her children. I made two thinking that my mother would (at some point) need one too.  That cane is  shown in the photo, and in the process of making that cane, I did an article for Woodwork Magazine called "A Bird in the Hand." As you can see in the photo, the shape of a bird in the hand provides a secure and comfortable grip.

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

Tuesday, January 09, 2018

the black game

Each day at the Clear Spring School, as weather permits, our children run and play in the woods. They do not mind the cold. They are given two rules. No child is to be excluded from play. All ages are involved in play at the same time and with each other. When the bell rings, they come back ready for class.

That may sound a bit like recess at other schools, but it is not. The play equipment is what they've been able to construct for themselves, mainly in the form of forts. The terrain is rugged, and well played from generations of forts having been built in the past, and yet in comparison with the well manicured school grounds (we have that, too),  the woods are where imagination (and children) can run wild.

The other day when the woods were opened for play (the cold has put predatory insects at bay) the children came back wanting to make spears and bows and arrows in wood shop. After I told them no, they decided they wanted to make hammers, as they needed those to build. And so they did.

Matti Bergström had said that children play (and must play) both the white game and the black game. (does this come from chess?) The white game is the game of society. It involves the rules set by authority. The black game is where children learn the mechanics of real life and where and how relationships work. Bergström had noted that civilization must arise anew with each generation, and the black game was the experience through which that happens.

Last night at a county organization meeting, it was noted that most of those involved are of a certain age. That rings a bell of alarm. And we wondered, how may we bring younger folks into the fold of community life.

For those of us who have learned to care for the things we can accomplish by working together in groups, meeting in the wilderness of ideas to hash things out is like play in the woods. Can it be that by overly scripting every aspect of a child's life  through schooling (neglecting time for the black game) that we've begun to breed out of their willingness, engagement in the shaping of human culture and community? We'll watch and see.

Make, fix and create.