Thursday, November 5, 2009

How do You Teach Kids Woodworking?

I was asked to help the cub scouts in our church to build tool boxes. It didn't seem that hard of a thing to do so I agreed. This project was to review the safety rules and basic use of hand tools. I pre-cut all the lumber for safety and speed reasons and even dry fitted them together. everything went together great in the garage. My grandfather taught me how to use hand tools and the first lesson I had was pounding nails into a block of wood. At the meeting I had one hour to teach every one (seven cub scouts) the basics.
I started with safety: safety glasses and hearing protection. I had enough glasses for everyone to wear so I felt pretty good about that. Then I had everyone pound four nails into a block of wood. This is when I knew I had a problem. None of the scouts were able to drive any of their nails in straight. They were all able to start them and then bent them. So we moved on to the tool boxes - I only had an hour.
I started by nailing the sides onto the bottom. I instructed the scouts that it is easier to start the nails in the side until the just started to protrude on the other side. This way it was easier to finish the hitting in the nail. Sure enough every single scout drove at least one nail all the way through and into the table. after the sides were put on I realized I made one small miscalculation. I was only using 1" wire nails on 3/4" material. The nails were not long enough. Lucky for me I had 1 1/2" nails in my car. These were a little bit thicker but they did the job, sort of. The thicker nails presented a new problem, they split the wood when they were used close to the ends. I didn't worry too much about it.
On to the sides of the tool box. At this point I was trying to hurry because time was running out. I did a huge disservice to the scouts by pounding in the nails with 3/8's of an inch remaining so they can pound it in the rest of the way. two philosophies emerged:
1. Aggressive: Beat the nail in and continue beating it until the wood cracks, gives way, and eventually spits in two.
2. Passive: Not finish beating in the nail and flip it over so that I can put on the other side and not have to beat in any nails.
The last part was cutting a dowel to size for a handle. They did all right with a box saw and a miter box.
I think there were more bent nails then there were nails that were driven in correctly. Overall the tool boxes looked like they made them because they did. Next time this will have to be a two meeting project. First to learn how to beat in nails. Then we will move onto a project.

If any one has any suggestions on how to teach kids wood working I am anxious to hear.

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