Friday, August 18, 2017

my work returning to Crystal Bridges

Yesterday I delivered work to the Crystal Bridges Museum's Gift store, making it once again available for sale to museum guests. I'm pleased when my friends tell me they are pleased to find it there. I also met with staff at the Clear Spring School to begin planning for the coming year and continued preparing stock for making small boxes.

Sawstop, the safer saw manufacturer is once again in the news ( ) as the Consumer Products Safety Administration, once again considers a technology that makes table saws much safer and has a proven track record of protecting thousands of hands from tragic injury each year.

The technology is not perfect. I had my own sawstop saw triggered this last week, while cutting into the end of a basswood board, and with my hands safely positioned well back from the blade. I sent the cartridge and scrap of wood that the blade just barely touched to them for analysis, as the situation was clearly not the kind of cut the Sawstop saw was intended to prevent. My good ripping blade was destroyed. But still, the idea of preventing thousands of injuries and returning woodworking to schools, makes the occasional misfire well worth that small risk.

I would rather lose an occasional blade and cartridge due to the thing stopping at the wrong time, than have others face serious injuries to their hands.

In Connecticut, one of my students asked me whether I thought he should buy a sawstop saw. I suggested yes, but that he should also ask his wife. Sometime wives worry about their husbands spending money on their hobbies. But that seems to not be the case when it comes to safety. He learned that his wife fully supports the purchase of a Sawstop saw. The photo of the toy truck above is of the type he makes and assembles with a pre-kindergarten class. His new Sawstop saw will keep him productive even into his advanced years, even when he may not have so many wits about him.

The point is not that conventional saws cannot be operated safely, but that if all saws can be made safer, they should be. The point about safety is that not only the operator of a saw is affected by injury. The whole of society is harmed, including the wives and families of those injured.

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

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

returning to school

Yesterday we began staff meetings at the Clear Spring School and that gives me the opportunity to begin planning for the coming school year. Today we will go over Teacher Effectiveness Training as we do every year, and discuss conflict resolution, which is part of the educational agenda at Clear Spring School. It should play a larger part in American education at large. If it did, and students were taught to show love and respect for each other, and to resolve their differences with each other we would not be in the situation we are in.

We have a president who is utterly devoid of human compassion, and a ruling party that's cowardly when it comes to standing up for what's right. Those are not the qualities that one would learn at the Clear Spring School where children learn to work through their interpersonal problems.

In the meantime, I've students to teach and boxes to make.

The illustration is one I composed using some elements available in the sketchup parts warehouse. It shows a simple set-up for forming finger joints on the table saw. It uses a table saw miter gauge to carry the box sides through successive cuts.

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

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

catching up on production.

Yesterday I got an order from Appalachian Spring Galleries in Washington, DC and on Thursday I have a meeting with the regional craft buyer at Crystal Bridges Museum.

Those things set me in motion, checking inventory and beginning to mill stock for a fresh production run of boxes. My box making has been put on the back burner all summer as I've been teaching, working on the ESSA wood studios, and writing articles for Woodcraft and Fine Woodworking.

The first steps in making boxes is to mill stock to thickness and width. The steps are as follows:
  • Rip rough lumber to about 1/4 in. over desired width.
  • Resaw the rough width stock into thinner strips, roughly 3/16 in. over final dimension.
  • Plane resawn stock to finished thickness.
  • Square one edge of planed stock.
  • Rip stock to intended width.
Meetings at Clear Spring School for the beginning of the school year are also underway.

This afternoon I'll pick up a fresh supply of walnut lumber to make into boxes.

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

Monday, August 14, 2017

back to school, back to work.

Today I will go to Clear Spring School to clean shop and begin preparing for the school year. I am finished with my summer adult classes, except for occasional weekend visits to woodworking clubs during the coming school year.

My students are often interested in the barbed hinges I use on some of my boxes. These hinges are primarily intended for large production runs, and it takes some time and specialized equipment to set up for their use. While in Connecticut, I made the jig shown in the photo to cut grooves for their installation using the drill press.  The grooves must be cut using a tiny saw blade with a kerf of only 3/64 in. Someone with a milling machine can use these hinges, but they are not well suited to the every day wood shop.

This is the second one of these jigs that I've made with the first being made and tested at home. In any case, I've proven that they can be successfully used in a home shop if a craftsman is willing to make an investment in their use.

In addition to preparing for school, I am hoping to resume normal production in my wood shop, and I'm preparing for a visit by an editor from Fine Woodworking in September.

In the light of current events, I cannot stress enough, the moral dimension of craftsmanship. To make something lovely and useful in service to  community confers nobility, humility and humanity upon the wayward spirit. Those who create beauty know power and control without having to slap others to find it.

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

Sunday, August 13, 2017

building to teach

I am back from teaching in Connecticut and found a book from Joe Youcha waiting for me. Joe is the founder of the Building to Teach program through Alexandria Seaport Museum in Virginia that assists schools throughout the US in building boats to teach math.

Joe's new book, simply titled Framing Square Math addresses the common carpenter's square and just as one might discover and be surprised by new things google might do for you, the common framing or carpenter's square is a tool that demands a great deal of investigation.

Joe starts the book with an examination of the tool, leads the reader through exercises in its use, explores how it can perform calculations that one might not think possible, and then teaches you how to make your own. It is amazing that a tool as simple as this, can offer such power to the expansion of mind. Einstein had said that his pencil and he were smarter than he was, and so one must wonder about the lovely Framing Square.

Yesterday as I was waiting for my flight to Atlanta, a young couple was there with their toddler. The child had tiny headphones, on, mom's iPhone in hand, and the mother was trying to put almonds into her mouth to be consumed. My temptation (strongly resisted) was to say something about the destructive effects of technology. That children needed to be engaged in the real world, and that the introduction and sustained use of digital technologies can disrupt more natural and necessary development. Fortunately, the headphones kept falling off, and the mother's best efforts at keeping the child engaged and distracted by digital technologies were disrupted by gravity itself. And certainly, our concerns at this point should be grave.

The following is from Matt Crawford's book on the world outside your head, discussing the quote from me with which he opened his first book.
As Stowe's use of the word "undeserving" suggests, at the heart of education is the fact that we are evaluative beings. Our rational capacities are intimately tied into our emotional equipment of admiration and contempt, those evaluative responses that are inadmissible under the flattening. A young boy, let us say, admires the skill and courage of racecar drivers. This kind of human greatness may not be available to him realistically, but is perfectly intelligible to him. If he learns trigonometry, he can put himself in the service of it, for example by becoming a fabricator in the world of motor sports. He can at least imagine such a future for himself, and this is what keeps him going to school. At some point, the pleasures of pure mathematics may begin to make themselves felt and give his life a different shape. Or not. He may instead become enthralled with the beauty of a well-laid weld bead on a perfectly coped tubing joint‐like a stack of shiny dimes that has fallen over and draped itself around a curve‐and devote himself to this art.
The point here is that tools, in the concrete, even as simple as a carpenter's framing square, have a way of bringing education to hand, and where the hands are engaged, real learning and the engagement of hearts follow.

This is not rocket science, but it might lead to some. It is not what they discuss in the educational policy think tanks that are disrupting the natural learning lives of children throughout the US, and the world. But it is true. And it is real. When the hands and minds of children are put in real service to beauty, utility and community, excellence of learning follows.

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

Saturday, August 12, 2017

headed home...

My students at the Connecticut Valley School of Woodworking made a variety of boxes during the week.

Scott Bultman sent a link to a new Kindergarten trailer with a wood shop teacher at the 52 second mark.

I am headed home to Arkansas with an early morning flight.

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

Friday, August 11, 2017

day 5

I am wrapping up a five day class at the Connecticut Valley School of Woodworking. One of my students mentioned his grandchild's preschool warning parents that their children needed to be prepared for school by being given experience in the basics like scissors, drawing on real paper, play with real blocks and the other exercises common to the development of humanity. It seems that children playing with iPhones is preventing necessary developmental play in the real world, putting the future of our entire society at risk.

My friend Mario, right on cue, sent the following: Have Smartphones Destroyed a Generation?

Common sense may not be as common as it once was. I call urgently for all hands on deck. We may not be able to turn the whole tide of humanity, but we can make sure that the chidlren in our own lives have the creative and developmental experiences they must have.

In the meantime, my students have been doing very good work.

Make, fix, create, and increase the likelihood that others discover the joy of learning likewise.