Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Kids Working Wood at Perth City Farm.

Perth City Farm is a great place. It was a pleasure to be involved once again in their April school holiday program for kids aged 6 - 12 years. Over five days, a heap of kids did cooking, woodwork, circus skills, garden sculpture, art & craft, and tasks around the farm and gardens. I ran the woodwork activities each day.

As well as free creative play with hammers, nails, saws, and lots of wood,  I offered different projects for the kids each day. These included kitchen spatulas, cheeseboards, message boards, garden planter beds, and Cajun drums.
Greg showing the kids different woods and where it comes from
Talking to some kids about the wood we are using. Photo courtesy Perth City Farm.
All the material we used was recycled timber, rescued from the waste stream - predominantly from packing crates and other packaging materials, etc. Much of this I had previously docked up ready for the kids to use.

Benches and space set up at the start of the program, with the "sawing station" on the front right.

Tool use.
The kids utilised a wonderful range of traditional hand tools, including hammers, spokeshaves, rasps, coping saws, tenon saws, hand saws, blockplanes, other hand planes, hand drills, and brace & bits.
The sawing station always gets a workout. Nice technique!
Nice stance! The sawing station makes it easy for kids to use tenon saws.
The "sawing station" is an important place. I have a rule with kids that Tenon saws are not used at the benches, but are only used at the sawing station. Cramped onto a pair of saw horses, there is a wide board each side. These each have two wooden stops screwed to them, creating two sawing positions each side which can be used either right of left handed. It is essentially like having 4 bench hooks in action simultaneously. The boy in the picture above is holding the piece he is cutting against the stop. I also have cramps for the kids to use if they want in odder to hold the work securely.  It is important that kids also learn correct technique for saw use, which makes sawing easier for them.

Pirate-mania. Zoe nails together a hilt for her pirate sword. Nice hammering technique!
A range of hammer sizes plus a range of bench heights help make it easier for the kids.
I have a range of hammer sizes available to the kids, and I encourage them to use hammers suitable for them and the nailing task they are undertaking. I also teach the "index-finger-on-top" technique for holding the hammer, as shown by the kids in the pics above. The hammers are all Warrington Cross Pein pattern - nicely balanced, and the best for kids to learn hammer use. No distracting claws. If nails need to be removed we use pincers.

Zoe pauses to closely check the bevel she is making on her sword edge with a block plane.
Using a small hand saw to cut out the sound hole on side of a Cajun Drum.
Using a brace and bit to drill drainage holes in the base of a planter box.
Using a rasp to shape the handle on a pirate sword, held in a vice.
I find kids are quick to learn how to use new tools and techniques, once they have a few basic tools under their belt. I continue to expand the array of tools I am using with kids...  

Project: Hardwood Salad Servers.
The kids mostly used coping saws and spokeshaves to make these. Finished with orange oil.  

Project: Garden Planter Boxes.
Garden planter box, made from recycling a glazing packing crate.
A completed planter box, lined with plastic and planted out from the Perth City Farm Nursery.

Project: Message Boards.
These were made from off-cuts of white faced Masonite cabinet backing, onto which the kids attached wooden frames. Ideal for whiteboard markers.
Nailing the frame and the border components together.
Time to test the completed message board.
Who made this message board?

Project: Cajun Drums.
Made mostly from plywood derived from packing crates from the USA, this was the first time I had done this project with kids. It was a real hit. Some of the components were pre-cut, and others were cut to size and planed to fit by the kids. Most of the boxes were made from 1/2inch ply, with the playing face made from 1/8inch (3mm) ply. Glued and nailed together.

The kids designed and cut their own sound holes in the side of their drum.  
Zoe leads the drumming. Cajun drums are sat on to play. They sounded fantastic!
Another shot of the drummers in action. They were doing a performance for the rest of the kids.

Such a great program. The kids rotated through the activities during the week, in smaller groups. However, we all came together to eat together each day for lunch, enjoying the food cooked for us by the morning's cooking group.
Enjoying lunch together. Great cooking, kids!

This guy wasn't the only one smiling at the Perth City Farm Holiday Program!

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Three gigs, three locations, three days. Why?

A recent weekend I had was pretty hectic. Unusually, I was doing woodwork with kids in 3 different events over 3 days. Keeping an eye on 25 kids at a time using hammers, nails and saws is hectic enough, but the setting up, cleaning up, packing up, and moving it all to the next location is physically hard yakka.

Yeah, but the looks of delight on the faces of the kids as they created their masterpieces was worth all the sweat and tiredness...

Friday 30 March - Bentley Primary School Harmony Day Fair.
The School Fair was an event under Harmony Week. So appropriate for such a wonderfully multicultural school. Heaps of kids had a wonderful time making stuff with hammers, nails and saws.

Here I'm mostly set up and ready for the arrival of the kids. My small kids benches.
Parents love seeing their kids creating things with wood.
Being a Harmony Week event, many kids were wearing their national dress.
Kids quickly learn to use the bench vices to help hold their work...
Saturday 31 March - Hilton Harvest Twilight Festival.
This bunch of Community Gardeners in Hilton turn on a great event for the public which morphs into Earth Hour in the evening. Heaps of great family fun, including stalls, music, games and activities, and of course this year my woodworking area for kids...

He's too young to have known the KonTiki! His two pontoon raft has a sail and a hut on board.
This young fella was very proud of his recreation of the Titanic.

Sunday 1 April - Perth Sun Fair.
An annual event held at the University of Western Australia, the Perth Sun Fair is a renewable energy and sustainable living fair. I was in the thick of it all doing woodwork with kids, using only recycled timber, which had been rescued from the waste stream. My benches are all made from recycled timber too. Despite the odd shower of rain coming through, my woodworking area was hugely popular. I was really flat out once again, so have few photos to show for it all. 
I managed to get a photo of my area during a quite break in the crowd.
A couple of older kids made salad servers. Nice piece of New Guinea Rosewood.
Nice robot!

 So why do I like to go to Fairs and Festivals offering woodworking activities to kids?
It's pretty simple really, though multi-faceted:
  • On a mission to bring back basic woodworking hand skills as life skills, I love to introduce kids to the delights of using hammers, nails and saws to create stuff.
  • Public events like this give me access to parents too. They love to see their kids using tools, mostly for the first time. We need parents to encourage kids interest in wood working.  When a kid afterwards asks their parent "Do we have a hammer?" - I reckon I've had a win. I also talk to parents about how they can encourage their kids, by supplying appropriate tools, etc.
  • Publicity. Teachers are often in the crowd. I hope to get approached by teachers about coming to their schools after they have seen the fantastic engagement of the kids at my benches. Adults also ask me about opportunities for them to have a go at woodworking. This exposure to the public also can lead to me running other woodworking programs.
  • Promoting wood recycling. I am also on a mission to communicate the importance of wood recycling. The Western Australian context here is our continued wastage of wood. Too much wood goes into land fill, or goes into low grade uses for landscaping wood chips. Perfectly good timber framed houses are smashed up by excavators every day, with little attempts to salvage the wonderful timber in them. It mostly ends up in landfill. Native hardwood trees with valuable timber are bulldozed and burnt each day to make way for mining operations and housing developments, with little or no attempt utilise this wonderful  and diminishing resource. In fact, small sawmillers are blocked from accessing this resource through red tape and a lack of vision by authorities. Successive governments, the building industry, developers and the general public are all complacent and complicit in this unsustainable waste of our limited timber resource.  A small voice I am, but as they say: "It's the slow drip that wears away the stone". So many people are unaware of the importance of wood and trees for carbon sequestration, and of the importance of timber as a re-newable, recyclable, low energy and sustainable building material. All the material kids use in my activities is wood rescued from the waste stream, including softwood packaging crates and pallets from all over the world. 
  • People. A youth and community worker by trade as well as a woodworker, I love seeing people blossom and thrive through the benefits of being creative, making stuff together, learning and using news skills, and using their hands. There is something therapeutic for the soul when we are creative with our hands. Wood is such a wonderful medium.

In a nutshell? ... It's all about introducing people to the importance of trees and the wonderful wood they give us, and the joy of wood working as a healthy, sustainable, positive, and live-giving thing to do...

Incidentally, this note appears at the top of my other blog, The Joy of Wood for Kids:

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.