Sunday, November 8, 2015

Working with Wood

Rooted deep, reaching high, trees live and breathe and bridge the elemental world with the animal world. They are integral to the cycle of respiration and hence, to life itself. With conscious purpose, we cut a mature tree to serve us in other ways. Our ingenuity and need for survival and comfort lead us to transform wood to meet our everyday needs. A house, a table, chair, ladder, crate, barrel.

Working with wood is a communion with the tree. It is acknowledging that the wood, once a living organism, is a material rich in beauty, strength, and function. Craftspeople have long discovered the art of woodworking. For those whose livelihoods depend on a close relationship with wood, they understand that the process of transforming the wood is a meditation as satisfying as the product rendered from their handiwork.

When children work with wood, they too experience the process of transformation. And as they develop their senses of self-worth and self-esteem, working with wood is really working with the will. Developing will in the right way with children is brought about in how we present and model for them our relationship with things around us. Woodworking is respecting what the tree brings and our use of the wood must be economical, meaningful, and beautiful.

In a twelve week program with Wholistic Learning Resources, I guided homeschool students in the process of crafting wood. They cut, drilled, filed, rasped, sanded, assembled, hammered, glued, decorated, and stained. Wood became objects of purpose that serve us. A pencil holder, signage, flower press, and hand loom, among other items we built, demonstrate for the children how their will forces transform the rough and raw wood into functional and beautiful things.

The work itself is a means unto itself. The motion of the arms in sanding, the use of the fingertips to determine the smoothness of the wood's surface, the visual analysis of angles and planes - all teach something to the child. Whether it is in a woodworking class or an opportunity to cut firewood or even a chance to help assemble an IKEA cabinet, working with wood is a learning experience.

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