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.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Planter boxes - a great project for kids.

I confess. As a committed wood recycler, I can always see lots of potential in discarded wooden packing crates, pallets, other timber needing to be rescued from the waste stream.Consequently I will often stop to pick up some treasures from the side of the road or the verge in front of an industrial unit.

Not far from where I live, there is a big glazing business. They import glass from several countries, and the crates the sheets come in get stacked up alongside the building until the pile gets too big. When it gets big, the pile is gathered up and it is all taken off  to landfill. A crazy waste. I have permission to raid the pile as much as I want. The best stuff in the pile is the glazing boxes.
That's a glazing box, about 2.5m long, with foam rubber padding and steel strapping.
This stuff makes great projects - or you can pull them apart to get the timber from them, which is what I tend to do with them most of the time. However, there is one project to which they are ideally suited - making garden planter boxes.
A lousy picture, but the IPSM 15 Mark tells us the pine packaging was debarked and heat treated in Indonesia.
How to make the planter boxes from the glazing boxes.

1. The tools and things you'll need:
  • Tin snips, to remove any metal strapping.
  • 50mm (2") galvanised nails, for connecting new ends and feet.
  • Hammer, for driving the nails.
  • Pencil, for marking where to apply the saw cuts.
  • Hand saw, for cutting the glazing box into sections.
  • some builders plastic, to line the inside of the planter box.
  • a brace and bit or hand drill, to drill some drainage holes in the base of the planter box.
  • a few scraps of pine, to make any new ends and the feet.

2. Start out by dividing the long glazing box into sections (planter box lengths) and mark where to cut the box. I commonly cut these 2.5m boxes into 3 sections. The two ends will just need one end added each, the centre section will need two ends added. Use a hand saw to make the cuts right through the glazing box.
Use a panel saw to cut the glazing box into the planter box sections.
3. Cut some pieces from scrap to make the new ends as needed. Use the nails to fix the ends in place.
Nailing on an end.
4. From the scrap, cut some feet and nail these in place, to lift the box off the ground. This will aid drainage and help stop the base from rotting.
Nailing the feet onto the base of the planter box. 
5. Drill a couple of holes in the bottom for drainage.
Here a brace and bit being used to drill a couple of 3/8" holes.
6. Line the insides of the planter box with builders plastic or similar. Use a nail or screwdriver to poke holes in the plastic where the drainage holes are in the wood below. Your planter box is now ready for planting - unless you are going to paint it first!

One planter box, completed and ready to fill with soil.
7. Fill the planter box with nice soil, and plant out with seeds or seedlings.

Soil in and seedlings planted.
8. Place the planter box in a suitable location. Here in Perth, Western Australia, termites will enjoy the pine planter box. Placing on a concrete path, verandah or porch will help slow down the termites. Placing the planter box directly on the soil in the garden may prove too tempting for them! Don't for get to water regularly and apply some worm castings or chook poo to give the plants a boost.

A few weeks later, and the family can keep harvesting goodies from the planter box!
It's amazing how much food can be grown in a planter box like this. If you plant leafy vegetables, like lettuce, bok choy, silver beet, etc, you can continually harvest leaves as you need them from the plants, and they will keep producing for many weeks or even months.

Kids will love harvesting food from the plants they have planted in the planter boxes they have made themselves!

All you need is a few very basic tools and materials and a glazing box. Raid your local glazier now!

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Kids woodwork at the Perth CIty Farm holiday program.

It was a pleasure to be part of the Perth City Farm's Holiday Program in January. For a whole week a heap of kids aged 6 - 10 rotated between cooking, ceramics, woodworking, junk art, circus skills, and more. My task was to provide the woodworking opportunities, with a different project each day. Day 1, it was kitchen spatulas; Day 2, wooden whistles; Day 3, Cheese Boards; Day 4, Tool Boxes, and Day 5 it was Garden Benches for Perth City Farm.  All the material I provided had been salvaged from the waste stream. Recycled timber from packing creates, furniture industry waste, and the rubbish tip. All very consistent with the ethos of Perth City Farm. Each woodworking session commenced with some "free creative play" - benches with vices, hammers and nails, saws, and a big pile of pieces of wood. The kids always make an amazing array of stuff. Heaps of fun and a great chance to build some skills.
Some of the crew with their Cheese Boards and other creations. Day 3.
Kitchen Spatulas.
After warming up on some free creative play, we knuckled down to making spatulas. The kids could choose from a range of hardwood pieces about 350mm (14") long by 60mm wide (2 3/8 ") wide by 7mm (5/16") thick. This material was all waste from industry - including my own - and was all predominantly West Australian timbers. After a discussion about spatula design, laying out the design around grain direction and imperfections, I drew my shape and did a demo for the kids on how to cut out the shape. Coping saws for the curved cuts down past the transition points, then small panel/rip saws to do the long straight cuts. All done using vices to hold the work. I then demo'd how to use a spokeshave and rasp to clean up the edges, and the block plane to bevel the chisel point on the end. The kids got into it quickly.
Using a spokeshave to clean up the edges and the curve from the big end to the handle.
Using a small panel saw to rip down the sides of a straight handle.
A couple of spatula designs, like the kids made.
Cheese Boards.
The Cheese Boards started out as pieces of pine about 250mm (10") long by 140mm (5 1/2 ") wide by 16mm (5/8") thick being available to the kids. This timber all came from a packaging crate from Mexico. The ISPM 15 Mark  gave me this information, before I had earlier machined the material down to the sizes above. Each kid got to choose a piece from the pile of pre-cut pieces, after I explained a bit about the wood and the project ahead. I then did the demo on how to draw the shape and get started on the cutting.  Coping saws on the curves, followed by a spokeshave to clean up the edges. A great opportunity to learn about working with the grain direction! Block planes for removing arrises, brace and bit for drilling the hole, a bit of hand sanding to clean it up, and a coat of orange oil to bring it up like a million dollars.

Spokeshaving to clean up the curved edge. Nice technique!

Practising boring a hole in a piece of waste. Note the block behind, to avoid tear-out.

Example of a completed cheeseboard in use.
Tool Boxes. The tool boxes are also suitable for holding DVDs, CDs, toys, and other goodies. Versatile in use, but also great fun to make. I did a post about these last time. Most of these were made primarily from plywood or piece of pine. The ends provided as rectangles with the angled cut lines marked on them ready, and the kids did the diagonal cuts with tenon saws and cleaned up the edges with block planes. The bases were supplied ready cut to size, but the kids had to cut the sides to length and the handle to length again with tenon saws - as well as round over the handle for comfort before fitting, usually with a block plane or the spokeshave. The plywood was retrieved from the tip, and the pine was retrieved from the bins at a furniture factory. I had machined it all to size in preparation for the project.
Nail selection is an important skill to learn.

One of the few times we used glue - to help fix the sides onto the end and base edges.

Driving the nails part way into the sides makes for an easier assembly when holding things in place and nailing.

Using a block plane to round over the top edges of the box sides before assembly.

Using a spiral ratchet screwdriver to drive screws in to fix the handles in place.He has his foot inside the box to keep it stable. The kids loved using this tool!
Apologies for the lousy pictures... the iphone camera does not like low light conditions or movement - but at least they give a bit of an idea of what was going on!

The toolboxes the kids made were similar to this one..

The Garden Benches.
After 4 days of making things for themselves, the 5th day we were going to make something for Perth City Farm. They were keen on the idea of some portable bench seating, so that was the project for the day. Lots of kids contributed to these during the day, but in the afternoon I had the keenest woodworkers of the group on board to bring them to completion. They all did a fantastic job.
Some 60 x 40 jarrah was used for the legs, with each end being a cross-housing joint. I cut most of the housings for these - a tricky job for the kids, anyway. The kids drilled and fitted the three bolts in each leg end assembly. The 4 boards on top and the spreader underneath were all made from recycled jarrah floor boards. The kids used planes to remove all the tongues and grooves, then block planes to remove the arrisses. Dirty, hard work, they did a brilliant job and did it all.  They did 10 sticks in this way. Why jarrah? ...because it is such a durable material in the weather, it was available on hand in the racks at Perth City Farm, and those sticks were just begging to be given to a new life.   

Nice job, gang! They were very proud of their work.
Having made the benches, I gave the kids the opportunity to carve some text onto the seat tops. I don't normally use carving V-tool chisels with kids, but these kids were fantastic, competent, and very keen. I gave them a demo and a chance to have a practice, then gave them mallets and V-tools. After discussing what we'd write on the benches, I wrote the letters and the kids set to work.

Busy at it, carving the lettering on the benches.

Benches made by kids and embellished by kids too!

No finish applied to the benches yet. That is old paint and plaster spots on the floorboards, echoing their past usage.
It was a very successful holiday program, and the woodworking activities were a real hit with the
kids. It was also a great opportunity for me to test out some new ideas and tool use with kids through the week. Kids always like to make stuff with hammers and nails and tenon saws. It was great in addition to see how quickly and enthusiastically they also took to the spokeshaves, block planes, coping saws, brace and bits, and spiral ratchet screwdrivers.

Yes, I am looking forward to the next Holiday Program at Perth City Farm.