Warning to parents: If your child becomes interested in working with wood, this may result in a variety of physical, social, and mental health consequences.

Your child will develop hand-to-eye co-ordination, learn manual skills, grow in self confidence, find expression for their natural creativity, develop problem solving skills, develop a greater appreciation for trees, reduce their dependence on electronic entertainment, build muscle strength, increase dexterity with their hands, become handy around the house in future years, and may even develop a lifelong passion for woodworking.

If this scares you, please leave this site now!!

Click here to view my other blog: The Joy of Wood.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Which hammer is best to use?

There are many hammers to chose from ... but which ones are best for kids to use?
Lets have a look at some of the main options:

A hammer consists of two main parts: the handle and the head. Both vary in sizes and lengths, and the heads vary in weight. However the head is made up of two parts opposite each other: The Face or main striking end and the other end, which is usually a pein or claw. It is that other end which tends to determine the name and use of the hammer.

1. Claw Hammer.
Claw Hammers
This is the type of hammer most people associate with carpentry.
The claw is used to remove nails and provide leverage at other times.

The picture of claw hammers shows three different sizes (and weights), from a child's size one on the left to a very heavy one on the right. The one in the middle is the one I use for most big joinery work around the workshop. The one on the right is my heaviest hammer, which I use for heavy carpentry jobs, like building flooring structures, wall frames, etc.

2. Engineers Ball Pein Hammer.
Engineers Ball Pein Hammers
A metal worker's hammer, the rounded pein was originally used by blacksmiths and metalworkers for "peining over" the ends of solid rivets and other functions.

Both of the ball pein hammers in the picture are relatively small, as they are ones I have use with kids at times. Most mechanics would have a much heavier one amongst their tools.

3. Warrington Cross Pein Hammer.
Warrington Cross Pein Hammers
A traditional cabinetmakers hammer, the cross-pein is used for starting very small brads held between the fingers, and for nailing in tight spaces.

The five pictured display a wide range of head sizes and handle sizes. The thinest and lightest head has a long thin handle. The heaviest one in the top centre has a heavier handle. That makes sense. The one with the shortest handle I had made shorter, as it is a great one for smaller kids. Too much handle gets in the way. That handle got even shorter still when someone broke the handle behind the head! Having re-affixed the head to the handle, I reckon the handle length is now just right for the small head - as an excellent hammer for smaller kids. 

Which one of these is best for kids to use?
I usually avoid claw hammers with children. The claws are sharp and tend to be a distraction. While it is possible to get small child-sized claw hammers, I do not recommend them for kids.
Ball Pein and Cross Pein hammers tend to be better balanced than claw hammers in the hands of a child, and are easier to find in a lighter weight. While ball pein hammers are OK, I strongly recommend cross pein hammers as the best hammers for kids to use. The ball peins have no use in nailing. However, when using small brads and panel pins, kids can quickly learn to use the cross pein for getting those smaller nails started between the fingers. 

So my recommendation? Get your child a Warrington Cross Pein Hammer of a suitable weight.  In fact, having a couple of these hammers of different weights will enable your child to select the hammer which is most comfortable for them to use.

The hammer shown to the right is the hammer I use most of all for fine furniture making and for smaller joinery jobs. It normally is found tucked into my apron strings at my waist. We have built a lot of stuff together. I picked it up at a garage sale a few years ago, and we've struck up a great friendship. The blue head is quite distinctive - and helps to distinguish it from the rest!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Welcome aboard!!

Welcome! This little piece of cyberspace is a resource relating specifically to woodworking with kids. I hope that the information and pictures will inspire you and help guide you as you encourage any of the children in your life to discover the joy of wood. I will periodically post information and photos about tools, projects, and how to get kids started playing with wood.
It will be great if this is an interactive process too. If you have questions or comments about tools and techniques suitable for kids, then please post a question or comment in "Comments" below, and I will be very happy to respond. These discussions may be of benefit to others too.

Getting Started.
How young can kids be to start working with wood? In my experience children from around age 3 can enjoy hitting nails into pieces of wood. It is a great place to start - so long as the hammer is not too heavy for them, the work surface is a comfortable height, the timber is soft enough for them to drive the nails into, and the nails are small enough and suitable for them to manage. These few variable outline some of the ways we can encourage and facilitate the process. It is all too easy for us to dampen any glimmer of interest shown by a child if we fail to address a few simple principles. That is exactly what this blog is all about!