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  • Doug Stowe

Wisdom of the Hands: On the Subject of Sloyd

I've sent pdf copies of my articles about Sloyd written for Woodwork Magazine a few years back to Quercus Magazine in

the UK. My idea is that the subject of Sloyd has the potential of revitalizing education by putting it on a firm foundation of how we learn and grow. My articles had helped to reawaken an interest among woodworkers in Sloyd, a subject nearly forgotten in the US.

One of the things that I consider most important was that the theory of Educational Sloyd as taught by Otto Salomon spelled out a philosophy of learning and teaching that's relevant to children and adults alike, and that philosophy should infuse all of education.

  1. Start with the interests of the child.

  2. Move from the known to the unknown as the known provides the foundation for subsequent learning.

  3. Move from the easy to more difficult as that provides a vector of development.

  4. Move from the simple to the more complex as that broadens the capacity of mind.

  5. Move from the concrete to the abstract, as the concrete provides relevance and provides a framework for reaching toward new notions and a basis for further testing and development which then requires a reinvestigation of the concrete.

This is not a difficult theory to understand, as it's a thing you can observe if you honestly observe how you learn and learn best.

Today I'll introduce my Kindergarten students to sawing wood.



Yesterday was sawing day with our Rainbow group at the Clear Spring School, with the students introduced to the use of a hand saw along with the following poem.

"Of all the saws I ever saw saw, I never saw a saw saw like this saw saws."

We made small note holders using 5/8 in. thick spruce and clothes pins hot melt glued in place. You can be sure parents will treasure these things that their children have made, and there's no better time to introduce woodworking in schools than in Kindergartens.

The process was as follows. I prepared stock in two different widths, 2 1/2 in. and 1 1/2 in. both 5/8 in. thick. I made enough parts for me to have one to demonstrate making it, and one to excite student interest and show what the finished product would look like and how it would be useful.

I made extra parts that the students could trace onto stock for cutting their own parts. They sawed and sawed, first one part, then the other. Next came sanding. To assemble the parts, I drilled pilot holes in the bases so that the nails would get a good start. We clamped the top part tightly in the vice to hold it for nailing. We applied glue on the one end and the students hammered the parts together while I and their teacher held the parts in place. With the hammering complete I used hot melt glue to attach the clothes pins. With the assembly complete the students used markers to decorate their note holders and then wrote notes on 3 x 5 cards so they could be carried home.

I've begun gathering high definition images for my publisher to use in the publication of my new book. At some point in the next few weeks we'll begin the discussions for finalizing the name of the book.


Almost done...

Yesterday I went through my personal library of old books, listing some by title, author, publisher and date for use in the bibliography of my new book. The list is long so I'll do some weeding and thinning before the book goes to press. The next step for the publisher will be to prepare the ARC, (Advanced Reader Copy) that will have a proposed cover design in place. The printed and bound ARC will be distributed to a number of reviewers and also to specialists in the publishing industry who will provide feedback aimed at bringing the book to a wide audience. The ARC should be ready for distribution in early September.

I began work on this book in 2001, as I had it in mind when I began teaching at the Clear Spring School. Its content has shifted and morphed through the years as my understanding and experience have morphed as well. I had begun looking for an agent to represent this book to publishers over a dozen years ago, and learned from them that the concept had not yet matured. I had given up several times.

Then in June 2020 (Just over a year ago) I got an email from the head of Linden Press noting that he'd read my comments on a book about mindfulness and wondered if I would consider writing a book for them. I have been surprised a number of times in my life to be led by forces unseen and unknowable (circumstances) to do just what I had in mind.

I want to sing high praise for editors. Throughout my woodworking/writing career, what I've been able to convey has become richer and more meaningful through the eyes and understandings that others have brought to bear. So in this case I thank Clare Jacobson who took my manuscript and moved many things to more fitting locations, challenged me to be less vague in some of my text, and made what I'd written more ready to be understood. Lot's of unneeded, distracting fluff got trimmed away making the book much better than it would have been without her help.

A friend had asked if I had a ideal book in mind that I hoped my book might emulate in some way. I suggested Aldo Leopold's Sand County Almanac for it being both practical and poetic. My editors, Clare Jacobson and Kent Sorsky have helped move it in that direction.

This type of book is so different from the books I've written in the past. I'm looking forward to February when it will be released. The image is of a sample cover design.

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


Doug Stowe


"Make, fix

and create. Assist others in learning likewise."

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