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    "How did you learn all that?"





    After awhile, when you've been doing woodworking for some time and have learned a few things, people start to ask "How did you do that? It's a question you like to hear, as it is an opportunity to tell about your work.

    I began woodworking when my father and mother bought me a Shopsmith for my 14th birthday. It was a 1948 model and now, 48 years later I can still remember my father watching carefully over my shoulder the first time I turned wood on the lathe. Those things stick with you, and you may be of that age that you want to share your own interest in woodworking with your children or grandchildren. Or maybe you just want to get better at what you do and grabbing a kid off the street (just kidding) would be a good way to get into practice.  I teach woodworking to students at the Clear Spring School here in my home town of Eureka Springs, Arkansas to students grades one through 12, and if you really want to get good at something like "Fine" woodworking, there is no better way to learn than by accepting the responsibility to teach.  It gives you a third party perspective when you are in the position of explaining what you do and why. Teaching also helps a person to understand that everyone makes mistakes. None of us are immune to them, and once you understand that you can become more experimental and not fall all the way down flat on your face when the opportunity to do something stupid strikes.

    If you've been a table saw junkie, in love with the speed and power with which your monster saw can cut wood, but have been secretly feeling that maybe you've missed a bit of the sensitivity to materials that hand saws and planes can provide, take a kid to the work shop. It will provide all the excuse you've been needing to spend some time to become proficient with the quiet end of woodworking. The rationale is clear. Your son or grandaughter is too short for the table saw and not quite ready for the complexity of tablesaw dynamics (kickback), and so you spend some time with the basics and have fun at the same time. That's what I call win win.

    I've written an article about Educational Sloyd on the Fine Woodworking Website, which covers the idea of woodworking for kids. I also wrote an article for Wikipedia that tells a bit more about Sloyd here.

    There are some things you will want to remember to keep your kid safe. If you are a woodworker of any age, these apply to you, too. The hand that is most often injured is not the one that holds the tool, but the one that foolishly holds the wood in the way of what the tool hand is doing. Have vises and clamps ready to hold wood firmly to the bench so you or your child can avoid injuring the non-tool holding hand. Safely glasses are important to eyes, young and old. Tools must always be handled with respect. Power tools are more powerful and more dangerous, and even more rules apply, and that gives an even better excuse to enjoy hand tools while your daughter or grandson are in the woodshop.

    Here are the principles from Educational Sloyd that also apply to adult learning... Start with the interests of the child.

    Then proceed gradually from the known to the unknown, from the easy to the more difficult, from the simple to the complex and from the concrete to the abstract.  The title of this post is  "how did you learn all that?" After a while all these small things you've been learning step -by-small-step begin to add up. And these simple principles are how any adult or child learns whatever in the world he or she wants. You can follow my own teaching and give thought to hands on learning through my blog, Wisdom of the Hands.


    DougStowe