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WOODSHOP FOR KIDS

Is woodworking safe for kids?
Do I need to be a woodworker to teach woodworking to kids?
I'm already a woodworker why do I need Woodshop for Kids?
Can kids really build anything?
What about power tools?
What tools will I need?
BUILDER BOARDS

What tools are required to construct a set of Builder Boards?
What sort of materials are necessary and how much do they cost?
How long does it take to construct a set of Build Boards?
Do you need to be a woodworker to construct a set of Builder Boards?



Woodshop for Kids Go to Builder Boards
Is woodworking safe for kids?
      Is riding a bike safe? It depends. If you give a kid a bike and say go to it then its not really very safe. Kids have to be taught where to ride, to walk across the streets at first, to look out for pedestrians etc. Same with woodworking. If you give tools to kids with no instruction and supervision and say go to it then I would say its not so safe. But if you choose the right tools, show kids how to use them, and watch them carefully, then woodworking is safe. Much safer than riding a bike or playing baseball, I think.
      Woodshop for Kids has a full chapter devoted to safety (
read it on-line), more than any other woodworking with kids book. It tells exactly what kinds of mistakes kids will make and how to teach them not to make those mistakes. For example: How to carry tools (point them down towards the floor), how to keep fingers away from the saw teeth (put the wood in the vice), how to protect their eyes (wear eye protection), and more.

Do I need to be a woodworker to teach woodworking to kids?
      No, you don't need to be a woodworker. We're not talking fine woodworking. Any interested adult who is willing to spend some time setting up and then practicing using a few tools can help kids build nifty projects from wood. Don't think about "WOODWORKING." Think about the project in front of you. Build a few easy projects first. After a few projects, almost like magic, skills develop, patterns emerge, and you're thinking of alterations and projects of your own. Many student in my workshops ask, "Is this all there is to it?" Build projects by yourself first. After you've built a few tops (or whatever), to the kids you'll be a top making expert.

I'm already a woodworker; why do I need Woodshop for Kids?
      Certainly any interested woodworker can teach kids woodworking. But, I think, the value of Woodshop is that it lets woodworkers know what to expect from kids and gives project details so you don't have to reinvent the wheel, so to speak.
      One of the big things for woodworkers to learn is to forget much of what you know. Forget power tools. Forget fine woodworking. Forget being in a hurry. In one of the first woodworking classes I taught, there was a little girl who spent forever, it seemed to me, cutting through a branch. It was all I could do not to run over there and "help," thereby taking over. I had to practically sit on my hands. The job is to set kids up so they can do it themselves.

Can kids really build anything?
      Kids can build much more than we give them credit for. Just look through the
table of contents. Every project has been built over and over and over. In addition, I've helped sixth graders build real boats, elementary kids the cardboard dome, and eighth graders a set of Builder Boards.

What about power tools?
      I don't use power tools with kids, but I do use them for the preparation of the projects when kids aren't around. Woodshop is a book about how to use hand tools with preschool and elementary age children. Hand tools are perfect for kids. They are safe if used properly, user friendly, easy to find, and, when compared to power tools, inexpensive. They are quiet (sort of) and allow kids to exchange ideas as they work. Useful hand-tool skills can be acquired quickly and used throughout a lifetime. Nevertheless, people ask about using power tools with kids.
      I can't imagine anyone would think of letting young children use high speed cutting tools like a table saw, circular saw, or router. Would you give them the keys to the car? But what about a battery drill or hand orbital sander? My advice is to help kids develop competence with hand tools before attempting any power tool.
      For the projects in this book, there is no reason to use power tools. The purpose of using a power tool is to do repetitive jobs faster. If you have lots of holes to drill, screws to put in, or boards to sand, power tools are definitely handy. For a few holes or screws or boards, they aren't much help, not worth the added danger and hassle. It would be like letting a child ride a bike from one end of the house to the other just to get there faster.
      Even battery drills can be quite powerful. It's quite easy to drill a hole in your hand (I've done it more than once) or twist a wrist or finger, or get hair caught in the chuck. They are serious tools. The orbital sander is noisy and produces a lot of airborne sawdust. For small jobs, hand sanding is easier.
      When kids are in middle school you can consider the battery drill and orbital sanders. But in my opinion, there should be a good reason or a real advantage for using them. Here are two examples:
      Several adults, including myself, helped 24 kids build six boats. We let kids use battery drills because there were hundreds of holes to drill. We dealt with the increased danger issue by having one adult supervising each boat (four kids). We didn't use the orbital sanders on the boats because there was plenty of labor; that is, there was no good reason for using it. If we had introduced sanders there would have been one kid working and three standing around talking about who was to do the work. Even though there was quite a bit of sanding, with four kids hand sanding, the work was finished quickly and everyone was part of it.
      I helped set up a project where 8th graders constructed a set of
Builder Boards. I had the kids use hand orbital sanders for sanding. There was an incredible amount of sanding and lots of other jobs too, so we had to think about efficiency. A dust collection system was in place, so we didn't have to worry about breathing sawdust.

What tools will I need?
      You can get started with a small woodworking vice, a fine tooth hand saw, a home made workbench, hammer, nails, screw drivers, a small hand drill and a few bits. Woodshop for Kids has a list of the tools necessary for a complete kids shop. The cost for the complete set is about $200.

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Builder Boards Go to Woodshop for Kids
What tools are required to construct a set of Builder Boards?
      Constructing Builder Boards requires a table saw, a router, a hand sander and all the standard hand tools. A circular saw is also handy.

What sort of materials are necessary and how much do they cost?
      Materials cost will be between $250-$400 depending on the size of the set and the quality of the plywood. A small set takes 3 1/2 sheets of plywood; a large set (all the pieces shown on the order page) requires 5 sheets of plywood. I recommend good quality plywood. Even marine plywood is not too good for an outdoor set. Builder Boards will last for a long, long time so it doesn't make sense to scrimp on materials. Other materials needed include aluminum for a pattern, the proper carbide router bit, oil finish and hook and loop fastener.

How long does it take to construct a set of Builder Boards?
      My first set (a small one) took between 60 and 70 hours to construct. Since then I've learned some tricks and reduced construction time by half. Half of the construction time (cutting the plywood into strips, making the pattern and cutting the notches) requires a skilled woodworker familiar with power tools. The other half of the labor involves rounding the corners of the boards, sanding and finishing and can be done by any interested adult.

Do you need to be a woodworker to construct a set of Builder Boards?
      No, but it sure helps. If you have, and know how to use, a table saw and a router construction should be relatively smooth. In a sense it's and easy project (woodworker or not) because each board must go through the same steps. Once you've completed one board, it's a matter of repeating the same operations with all the other boards.
      Many sets have been built by the unskilled, but you'll need help from a woodworker. A young lady in my hometown constructed a set as an Eagle Scout project with help from her father. He taught her how to use the table saw and cut the plywood into strips. He helped her build the pattern for cutting the notches. Then he showed her how to use the router to cut the notches. Friends helped with the sanding and finishing. As another example, I helped nine eighth graders construct a set (using only hand tools) for the Women Care Shelter as part of a
community service project. This project is covered in Chapter IV of my book.


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