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.

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.