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Posted: Thursday, September 12, 2019 9:45:02 PM
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Another challenging project

Actual size

I'm always challenging the students to pick quality projects and to try something new. Pick something difficult when you are ready. Forget the path of least resistance! Work towards something of quality that is so cool that you can't wait to get into the wood shop each day. This small racer has created a huge wave of much needed inspiration in our class this year.

Here was my inspiration...

Maybe in the future I will add actual steering.
Posted: Friday, September 27, 2019 11:06:24 AM
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With strict instructions.... to wait!

I certainly have spilled the beans many times over the years while talking with parents, so I didn't want to violate Kairi's order to wait to post this. "My mom regularly keeps up with what I'm doing in school and I don't want her to see this yet," she says.

While making this special birthday gift for her mom...

You can see the pride and she liked this so much that she made another one for herself.

I unfortunately (later we changed that to fortunately) cut the board well over 2" short. You see... the piggy cutting board stretches across the entire 16" so students can choose to make one from the same cutting boards we normally produce.

Knowing this, Kairi decided to use a short piece in her board that the template would have easily gone around so it would have been cut away anyway. Silly me... I forgot and shortened the whole board to that length while trimming the irregular ends.

To make things right, I simply traced half the piggy, then slid it over to trace the other half. Still feeling a bit guilty, I also helped cut around the hardest parts so we could quickly see how well it would turn out. Kairi spent a ton of time sanding all those curvy edges to perfection and it came out so cool! This cute and more round piggy has become a new wood shop favorite. I know I like it and hope her mom feels the same way.

Good job Kairi and happy birthday to her mom!

Posted: Thursday, October 03, 2019 9:57:48 AM
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Another first...

8th grader Maggie, is a first time wood shop student and has done a remarkable job. Each project is of the highest caliber and when I accidentally flipped over the top of her slot drum, we had to cover some mistakes where the tablesaw leaves a couple of the earlier cuts.

Maggie shows off the slot drum.

After filling in those grooves, I thought she might like it better if we could somehow camouflage the patches, so I started showing her a few ideas. She decided to take a chance and go with this idea.

Can you find the errors now?

Not only did she choose two differing colors of wood that show off the corner joints... which she I might add... made all by herself (all the students cut their own finger joints), but she also chose this stunning laser cut leaf pattern to cover for my error. It works so well that the slots are even difficult to see in the photo.

Then when she found out that she would only get to make one drum stick because I was running out of donated rubber balls, she also brought in a bag of rubber balls and was able to have two drum sticks while still leaving us with more than a dozen extras.

Nicely done Maggie!
Posted: Tuesday, October 08, 2019 11:31:51 AM
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The "Whistle-Blower"

Sorry... This is not about national politics. It's fall break right now. Let's get down to something real that we recently did in our shop. The band teacher came to me with this video and ask if I thought we could make a train whistle for the Polar Express program he is doing in December.

Photo of the second train whistle.

I had to admit, it's a good train whistle. Much better than the simple one I already had. But can we build this from a video? He neglected to mention at the time that he also bought the plans. Good thing because it would be hard to imagine how the inside is constructed being shielded from view by the bellows.

The plan gives every detain about the build. Now everyone knows that I love a challenge and this sounds like a lot of fun to me. With mostly Home Depot materials he brought to the shop, I was able to produce two.

Picture inside the first train whistle.

This is a photo from the first build. The pipes are intentionally left long so they can be tuned. The band teacher later tuned them to fit with their musical score. It sounds terrific.

The plan calls for the bellows fabric to act as the hinge. I figured that it wouldn't hold up in a elementary/middle school over the long haul. One of my first changes to the plan was to add hinges to the back so it would last a lot longer.

The next change I made was to take out two of the springs and to shorten (about 1/2") the remaining two springs. The plan calls for four springs, but clearly they were not necessary. In fact, it might have been harder for the younger children.

The plan also calls for the springs to be placed on nibs. Nibs are a much harder way to mount the springs, so on the second whistle, I simply drilled 5/8" holes 3/8" deep using a forstner bit, so the springs have a secure place to mount and they also wouldn't have to be shortened.

So the bellows get enough quick air, 10 - 3/8" holes on the bottom allow for plenty of air intake. The same Naugahyde for the bellows is used as a flexible valve to let air pass in, but not back out. For better air movement, the outer edges of the holes have been slightly chamfered with the countersink bit, to give better air passage.

Lastly, I didn't feel right about gluing the Naugahyde around the top and bottom pieces. What will someone do if there is ever a need to get back in to make repairs in the future? It doesn't need to be glued and I did have to go back in when I wanted to use screws to attach the press pad on the first whistle.

On the second build, I also didn't add the extra reinforcement on the back bellows trim which on the first whistle, created a sort of squeak as the Naugahyde was squeezed tightly together as the bellows opened and closed.

Now the kids can't leave it alone so I'm going to have to get rid of this second one by giving it to the Sunnyslope school or maybe I should place it on one of the upper most shelves to keep busy hands from getting to it. Don't get me wrong.... I like the sound it makes. It's a good solid train whistle. But to hear Woo Woo... multiple times over and over again all day long. You get the idea.

***UPDATE*** 10-26-19 This turned out to be so popular that our shop now has to complete four more of these and will be made by our eighth graders. One for the Bradshaw Mountain High School drama department, one for our choir teacher(personally), another one for the band teacher (personally)... and another that I can't remember what it's for... maybe me(?). This should be fun!

This 8th grader has taken on the responsibility of helping to produce the extra train whistles through the entire complicated process.

Here she is covering the air intake so air will only go one way through the bellows.

Usually working with a big wide grin, Mikayla happily helps with almost every aspect of train whistle construction. Mr. Rutt stepped in to give us the tuning lengths for the remaining pipes once classes were over for the Thanksgiving break. On Monday we got right on them and finished them up, cutting each pipe to length. I can't wait to find out how the high school likes them.

Posted: Friday, October 18, 2019 9:20:04 AM
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A project idea from inception to fruition

I'm at the thrift store rummaging through shop stuff and come across a Hello fresh box. This hello is a different font from our other hello, so I ask for the empty box and they were glad to give it to me. I proceed to cut along the lines as best I could. This is the result.

The school has some old aluminum trays which I sometimes use for templates when it looks as if they can easily break when made from 1/4" plywood. I traced around the cardboard and came up with this.

Of course I have to also be able to make it from wood to gauge the difficulty and to also have a display for the shop. I cut it from MDF. The art teacher was kind enough to paint it for me.

The kids really like it and some of them tell me they would like to make it from aluminum. No.... that's just too hard! Although it wasn't too bad cutting it from the MDF, it will still be hard enough for most of them.
Posted: Wednesday, October 23, 2019 9:14:09 AM
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7th grade creativity

Usually reserved for 8th graders, some 7th grade students want to use their new woodworking skills to do something out of the ordinary. This would be one of those times and this student really hit it out of the park. In fact, she hit it so far out that the project had to be completed after the quarter ended.

Made from a single 2" X 6" from Home Depot (or maybe dad's job site) this design is usually made from a single block of wood using the bandsaw. To save on materials, we instead chose this method.

We did get the drawers shaped and assembled.

Why the crate look for the drawers? First, I really like the way these came out, and second, it's a great way to make it easy for a 7th grader to accomplish curved drawers. We did try cutting curved drawer sides, but they didn't look nearly as good as this.

It took a while to see the final results, but WOW don't the colors make it POP! This photo was sent by her mom over e-mail. How delightful can you get... both curvy and colorful!

What a great project. Good job Laurynn. I bet you will remember this experience long into the future.

***UPDATE*** 12-8-19 I have to add another 7th grade quarter 2 project that unfortunately doesn't have as many photos since it moved pretty quickly. Nice concept with a little planning and a lot of effort. Good job Harrison!

And when the legs failed, it was in need of a little hip, knee and leg replacement surgery. With a little cosmetic makeover by Harrison, it is ready to go out the door.

Posted: Sunday, October 27, 2019 10:06:22 AM
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8th grade creativity 1

Creativity abounds even as a new quarter is underway. It's hard to tell why that is happening more now than at other times. Some of these projects definitely fall under fine art. It's not like I haven't been encouraging creativity all along, especially with 8th graders, many whom have been in my class multiple times and know their way around the wood shop.

Who could have known that this school year would ring in so many artful ideas... like this soon to be pencil holder. This student has asked for a little help on how to best approach a porcupine shape.

Well... let's first look up some photos on the Internet. Now take a piece of cottonwood and start with a basic oval body shape. This is the cottonwood we seasoned after cutting down some on-campus trees. It is a softer hardwood that is easy to work.

Mount the cottonwood on the lathe to help round out the edges. Next, start making the head leaving a tenon so it can easily be mounted onto the body.

The face plate is left attached so the porcupine is easier to work by clamping it in the vice. After a little hand sanding it is really beginning to look good. I've only seen a couple of these critters live, and knew enough to not get too close, but I can't remember exactly how they were shaped looking down from above. This seems right.

Going back to the lathe, make a string of four leg shapes leaving tenons for mounting them. Sand them and cut them apart. Don't worry too much about being an exact length because it's easy to make them all the same once they are mounted.

After sanding them to length, the pencil holes are drilled while the project is back in the vise.

After returning from the art room, Malakai has painted it. Let's give it a test run by adding pencils. I'd say it looks a little treacherous, doesn't it?

Here's a "TIP"... watch how you take pencils from it when they are point up.

Great job Malakai!

Posted: Wednesday, November 27, 2019 11:40:57 AM
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8th grade creativity 2

Another creative project made by one of our eighth graders. This happens to be from one of my students who has been taking wood shop since the 4th grade.

As eighth graders, I often times encourage them to reach a little higher, and even go off script (no plan/ no drawing) and come up with their own project ideas, like the porcupine.

When I started to see this one come together, I was impressed with how much care he took in details.

After getting to a final point, Clayton goes to the art room to add color.

How cool is that, to show off his skills by making a unique product completely to his own specifications.
Posted: Sunday, December 22, 2019 12:01:19 PM
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Most images borrowed from the Internet.

I had a chance to watch the WISH MAN movie on Netflix which I accidentally found out about in the Golden Corridor Living magazine I was reading in an office waiting room. I found the movie to be enjoyable especially since I am proud to have actually met the Wishman himself... Frank Shankwitz, the founder of the "Make a Wish" foundation. I didn't know he was the founder of Make a Wish at the time though because he humbly presents himself in western attire. (Frank Shankwitz)

I was still teaching at Prescott High School when this casually dressed cowboy comes in with a request. He had seen our program featured in the local newspaper many times for unusual community projects. "I'm from the class of 1961 he says. Can you make a wishing well for an upcoming Make a Wish event? Something that will help draw people in." I said, "Sure, how big we make this will depend on how large a bucket you bring to me." Now I was expecting one of those small buckets you find in the craft stores, but he brought me one from the local casino. It was large enough (maybe 7") that I worried about how we were going to accomplish the task of this large wishing well. It was suppose to mimic the wishing well by Thomas Kincade and be ready by the event date 2-28-04.

As usual I got the art teacher involved by having his students paint the project to match the photo.

Only when Frank Shankwitz came back with NBC in tow, and after watching it on the nightly news... did we find out who he actually was. He presented me with signed artwork by the wish recipient, a very young boy. Frank also gave me photos of the event. An unassuming man not looking for glory, Frank dresses humbly and speaks softly to get things done. The movie captures the Make a Wish story. I highly recommend seeing it.

I'm sorry I can't remember much more details about the recipient/boy except the artwork was framed in a laser engraved frame and it stayed on my wall for almost 8 years before the new Principal unbelievably chose to close the program in 2012. That made little sense as total school enrollment slid even further. The artwork is currently somewhere in storage.

After that Principal was asked to leave the school the following year, the new Principal tried to get me to come back, but with their still declining enrollment, they had to come up with a way to downsize twelve more staff members. Due to Charter schools, the high school became a shell of what it once was program wise and was reduced to a B school.

I can't say if keeping my program would have kept their numbers up, but other staff members thought so or they wouldn't have asked me to come back.

I know I've said this before, but this might be my last year. More health issues have shown up and I'm not sure I will want to go on after this. It could even be sooner than I think. Sad. I'm hoping to say more to you about this in the near future and like I said, this has been said before and here I still am today.

***UPDATE*** I'm on medical leave right now and have had both good and bad news. The good far outweighs the bad and I may be able to continue for a while longer after all, but not without first taking some more time off to deal with the bad. In another week or so I'll be able to return with a hopefully brighter future.
Posted: Tuesday, February 11, 2020 8:17:31 AM
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While combing through old magazines

It has been a rough month or two, but things are looking up. In fact, I'm planning to stay a little bit longer after all.

While I was on medical leave and things seemed bleak, I needed something to stay busy to keep my mind off the topic, so among other things, I managed to find 1940's era Popular Mechanics on-line where there are many fantastic projects and shop ideas. While I have most copies of these in my home shed, it takes time to scan them. At google books, that is done, except many of them came from a collection where the person often wrote in the columns. Mine are clean library discards.

I'm working my way through a decade of wonderful ideas, when materials were scarce and everyone seemed to be pulling together for the common good. Some of these shop ideas are priceless. I've been clipping examples to save in a file where it will be easier to access without remembering which issue it came from.

I might even go forward into the 50's and back into the 30's a few more issues, at least until the ideas seem to not seem as relevant. It's already difficult to find some of the auto parts they used to make some of their small machines. And... the radio, photography, use of asbestos, and white lead stuff almost seems ridicules when you look at them today, but those shop ideas... now there we can still find relevance.

A lot of the ideas I am after center around not only the wood shop, but also metalworking. If you would like a zip folder of what I have clipped, drop me an e-mail.

It's kind of funny that this thread started as a way to share project ideas only to end up being a running log of activity on building a school wood shop at a school that doesn't really have the money to do what we are doing. I hope you are enjoying seeing what we have been working towards, even as I begin to think it's almost time for me to retire again. Physical things as you get older can really bog you down and that's what is happening to me.

If you haven't taken the time to look back at some of the updates I have been making to each post, then you are missing out on some really great stuff. I figured out how to make links within this site, that will go directly to each post. Slow connections or Internet speeds might require a little patience to load, but using the back browser arrow brings you directly back to where you left off reading. For example.... here is a direct link to the crankyman automata post and the back arrow brings you back here.

These links help clarify or point out ideas without a lot of fumbling around on your part. Now this makes me wish I would have made the posts smaller, concentrating on a single concept/issue/project, but doing that creates more pages. However, I could further direct teachers to these concepts in greater detail... so maybe some day I will be able to break it up into smaller sections. Doing this as an after thought would not keep them in chronological order. That order is part of what I think makes it more fascinating.... to watch a budding program thrive from day to day, week to week, etc... and work within the constraints of the times.

It's also too bad that DivShare has messed up their site. If any of you have been trying to get material on the broken links, let me know. I found my stash of material on one of my external hard drives, so I should be able to send them over e-mail. As I have time in the future, I would have uploaded this material to photobucket and remake the links, however, photobucket changed the free user agreement and I'm unsure as to what will work and what won't. Contact me so I can send material directly over e-mail.

Here are some general page short cuts for you...

Go to page 1 ... 2 ... 3 ... 4 ... 5... 6 ... 7... 8... 9...10... 11...12...13

A message to new wood shop teachers who may have stumbled onto this site!

Because of spam... this site has been closed for quite some time now, but if you would like to join, we could use some new blood. The older guys have been retiring and thinning out the ranks. I didn't ask permission to post this, but I found out from a new member that he did this to gain access.... Send an e-mail to I have noticed that this is helping new members get into the site while keeping the spammers out.

I've seen at least thirteen new members have signed up since making this notice.
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