Monday, January 22, 2018


Today in the Clear Spring School wood shop, my high school students will finalize boat color choices. My lower elementary school students will make model t-rex dinosaurs and my upper elementary school students will finish their travel journals and turn objects on the lathe.

A reader asked about an article I had published on-line through the Fine Woodworking website. It can be found here: along with a link to a page of plans you can download free.

The article for the t-rex dinosaur can be found there also: That too, contains a plan you can download free.

I want to thank the members of the Rochester Woodworking Society for a pleasant and productive weekend and for spending their time learning from me.

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

Sunday, January 21, 2018

on the way home

I am on my way home from Rochester, New York to northwest Arkansas through Charlotte, N.C. after an evening presentation and day long box making class with the Rochester Woodworker’s Society.  I was too busy the whole time to remember to take photos. My message is simple. The hands are instruments of mind. Through them the mind explores the universe. For the things further than arms length, we use the hands to develop instruments to solidify our mental reach. The hands are also instruments through which the mind creates that which it conceives and through which we learn to serve others and through which we create beauty.

One might also state with complete accuracy that the mind is the instrument of the hands. As described by author Frank Wilson, the hands and mind co-evolved at the same time an in intimate, inseparable relationship to each other as the system through which we navigate and manage our existence in relation to the world.

There are some particular problems when it comes to our perceptions. Thought gives the impression of itself as being isolated in the head, in the brain, in the mind.That’s the physiology of consciousness. It is an illusion. The hands must recede from the domination of consciousness in order to do their best work at their most efficient level. That level of seamless integration hand and mind allows musicians to perform fingering of the strings on the violin or guitar at a mesmerizing sensitivity and pace. That same seamless integration of hand, eye and mind, can allow a woodworker to cut a precise dovetail or other kind of joint with accuracy that can surprise even himself.

But if we continue to fail to understand the relationship between hand and mind, we’ve failed to grasp our most important educational resources and will have failed to give our children the humanity they deserve.

Members of the RWS asked what the first step must be to restore education as it must become. We must each arrive home to the understanding of the essential relationship of hand and mind. From that point, we will find the way forward.

Make, fix and create.

Saturday, January 20, 2018


Last night I made a presentation of my work to the Rochester Woodworker's Society at a meeting of about 70 members. Today I have a class with about 20 members to be held in a member's shop. I expect to present some information on design, will show how to make a sled and another small jig, and go through the process of making a box. I fly back to Arkansas tomorrow.

I am always made nervous by teaching a class to new students. Things never go exactly as planned. In order to be effective a class needs to be made responsive to the needs of the individual students involved. Knowing that, and as I prepare myself mentally for the start of today's lessons, I choose to relax.

One of the odd the odd things is how much time an effort we put into the attempt to create certainty, whereas uncertainty is what excites us. Today I will instruct my students in the value of surprise.

This picture of Anaxagoras, pre-Socratic philosopher who claimed that man is the wisest of all animals because he has hands.

Make, fix and create.

Friday, January 19, 2018

dust separator success

In the video, watch carefully for the spiral of material circulating to the bottom of the barrel. I expect this separator to capture 80-90 percent of planer chips before they reach the two stage dust collector. The point is to increase the capacity of the system and reduce maintenance.

I'll build a frame with legs to support the box, and the drums will be put on wheels so that during cleanup ESSA students can ready the system for the next class. The translucent barrels make it easy to observe when they are 3/4's full and need to be changed.

As a kid, I subscribed to Popular Science, read it enthusiastically and hoped to become an inventor. While this dust separator is not rocket science, it is a pleasure to have made that works exactly as I intended. Is it OK to brag about such things? You can see a wider view of the system in yesterday's blog post.

Today I am flying to Rochester New York and will meet with members of the Rochester Woodworker's Society this evening, where I've been invited to show slides of my work.

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

Thursday, January 18, 2018

dust collection box

The photo shows the latest ESSA woodworking studio development project. The planers fill the existing dust collector too quickly, so I'm using plastic 55 gallon drums as a first stage of a triple stage collection system. The larger shavings fall out first.

The dust collection hoses from the two planers at left and right enter on opposite corners causing a circular airflow and allow the larger chips to fall from the air stream before it is extracted from the top.

Part of the challenge of this project involved the three sizes of connections required. The planer on the left has a 4 inch outlet port. The larger planer on the right requires a 5 in. hose. The existing dust collector uses a 6 in. connector hose to go to the box. There are shut off slides to shut off one planer or the other when not in use, but I expect it to handle both at the same time.

This is experimental. I will learn quickly whether it works as I hope.

To finish the system, I'll build a support frame to hold the box up while the barrels are wheeled out from underneath.  The section of stove pipe from the top of the box will connect with the existing two stage dust collector. The barrels will each have wheels added so they can be quickly replaced and wheeled out of the shop. The shavings will be used in campus landscaping projects.

My bag is packed for travel to Rochester, New York on Friday.

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

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

mfg OMG

Yesterday in picking up 55 gallon plastic drums to use for sawdust in the ESSA wood shop, I visited a small manufacturing plant in Springdale, Arkansas where about 30 women were busy making and packaging scented bath salts. The pace of their work was mind boggling. It made me wonder how hands could  be trained to move so fast. The shop foreman said the women workers were like robots. He said that they were happy to develop their speed and expertise because if they got their quota done they got to go home early.

At the head of the operation, women were weighing ingredients and others were mixing them by hand with unrestrained vigor. Then, when thoroughly mixed, the materials were distributed to pairs of workers. One measured exact scoops into a die and another placed the die in a press, slapped two buttons (one with each hand) while the press dropped down to form a ball of bath salts. The woman operating the press lifted the die, and rolled the ball out into a tray, with each tray holding a precise number of balls.

From there the balls went into a drying room where the humidity and heat were carefully controlled for hardening. 46,000 balls a day. The balls upon hardening would bounce off a concrete floor if you were to throw them.

Packaging came next. From this small plant, packaged bath salt balls are distributed throughout the US, and with increasing production, the world.

What I could not describe from my visit would be the overwhelming scent of the fragrances added and the furious pace at which production takes place.

I was reminded of my own time operating a punch press in a manufacturing line. A shop manager in white shirt and tie watched me as he made notes on his clipboard. He commented on the speed of my work and noted that if all worked at that speed they'd do well. I informed him that it was my last day.

In the meantime, there are people who need to work are willing to develop skill and make money and are proud to serve their families. They deserve that we be proud of them.

Clear Spring School is out today due to severe cold and the icy road remnants of our winter storm. I will be preparing for my trip to Rochester, New York on Friday where I will make an evening presentation and teach a one day class. I am also building a new dust collection separation box for the planers at ESSA.

In Washington, DC, our legislators are about to shut down government because they failed to learn the basic lesson of Kindergarten: how to get along with each other and treat each other with respect. Some in one particular party think it is perfectly acceptable to disparage and demean large portions of our society and other nations and then lie about having done so. I wish they all had been able to attend the Clear Spring School where they might have learned more about character and integrity.

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

Tuesday, January 16, 2018


The United States, purporting to be the richest country in the world, has a reported literacy rate of 86%. Costa Rica has a literacy rate for men and women of 98%. In addition, the US spends more on education K-12 per child, than any other country on earth. In a listing of countries by educational performance, the US ranks 17th of 40 in the list.

So why are we getting such poor results? When my wife and daughter and I visited in Costa Rica a few years back, it was obvious that each and every small town had its own school, and each small school served as a center of community life.

In the US, we go for big stuff, big schooling in which students are isolated from community life, sequestered into discrete subjects, and pushed to read before ready. Reading alone can serve as an example. In Finland students in school are asked to begin reading at age 8, and by the time they are tested in the international PISA test, age 13, they far surpass American readers in 30 percent less time. Somewhere along the way, American educators became reading obsessed as though it was the only thing that mattered. And the pressure was applied. But you can't push a rope.

The push in the US is for school consolidation to gain economies of scale at the cost of community engagement. The schools and their administrations tend to be isolated from the needs of their communities. Local school boards have little power except to go through the motions prescribed by the state and federal governments.

But real education is about real life. It is not about statistics. It is not about test scores. It is about play, and it is about community, the engagement of the child within community, and the engagement of community within the life of each child.

Today I will be working on the dust collection system at ESSA, getting the wood shop ready for summer classes. Clear Spring School is closed today due to snow and severe cold.

Make, fix, create, and adjust schooling so that each child learns likewise.