Tuesday, June 16, 2015

JP in the Shop, Kids in the Shop and What I Learned

Most would probably think after an event like Handworks is over you go home and everything settles down and goes back to normal, or  some semblance of normal. 

Not so. When you return you await the return shipments of everything that went to the event and then you have to re-distribute the items that returned. Some of the tools I showed at Handworks belonged to prior customers and I had to schedule to return those items and some items that were finished just in time for the event were tools that were  ordered by newer customers and those needed to be refreshed and forwarded to their new owners. 

Long story short, another week of returning, refreshing and shipping and then finally I could turn my attention back to the next items in my schedule. 
Last week my schedule was pre-empted due to a visit by my daughter and the two Paglia boys from Brooklyn.

Between daily excursions to playgrounds and our neighbor's swimming pool, Everett (aka Jimmy Pete), the oldest of the two, joined me in the shop to complete a project we had planned.

Rough cutting boards to length

Everett is still too young to possess enough muscle mass to control a full size carpentry type saw, however if I put my hands over his hands on the saw he still was able to experience the action of sawing and it enhanced the overall experience for him.

Learning to saw a bit closer to the line

Although JP was learning from his first experiences of working in the shop I learned a great deal as well. I knew initially that the scope of the project needed to be simple and if we surpassed his attention span we could always finish the project another day. 

Cleaning up the saw marks from the bevel surfaces of the seat stretchers

Fortunately kids are naturally a bit intimidated by machines and that's a good thing because they embrace hand tools as a result. Hand tools are quiet and much less imposing. They can still hurt themselves with hand tools but typically only in a minor way. Use common sense here. A plane is much less dangerous in the hand than a sharp chisel.

As you can see in the picture above at some point your fledgling woodworker may become more interested in being creative with the off cuts. Let Them. It gives them an attention span break from the project. As you progress to more interesting parts of the build their attention will come back to the project.

If your child woodworker is having fun and feels comfortable in the shop his sense of humor will soon emerge. See pic above.

Make certain the project includes task they can accomplish themselves. They enjoy it and it gives them a sense of ownership in the project. 5 year olds can get away with working in the shop in their shark print pj's. Adults, not so much.

At some point in the process Everett (JP) grabbed a board, a pencil and started marking lines onto the board. He asked me to cut the marked out parts from the board on the bandsaw. I didn't question him I just did it. He then marked a few more lines on the board and asked me to cut them as well. When I handed it back to him he pronounced that it was a pretend plane and he walked over to the board in the vise and proceeded to make a planing motion across the board. Give them a chance and their imagination will lead to creativity.

The Finished Project

 It's nice if the project is an object that can be used in a practical way by the participant. It lends credibility to the effort. I think this applies to the first project of a child or an adult.

If you're wondering why I sometimes refer to Everett as "Jimmy Pete"? All my grandchildren get a nickname and they seem to relish this idea. They have a name at home but when they come to Georgia they have a Georgia name. They enjoy this quirk and they also think I know the names of all the crows that frequent our yard. Please don't tell them differently. I'm trying hard to be the person they all think I am.


"I'm suspicious of people who don't like dogs, but I trust a dog when it doesn't like a person." - Bill Murray