Afterschool Woodworking

Rich Kramer, Handyman & Woodworker
Licensed and Insured

How can I help you? I would love to create a unique piece for you, or help you get started (or finished) with a project. Email me or call me at 978-838-2439

As many of you know, preschool teaching was my first career for 13 years. After taking 2 1/2 years off from teaching, to start my business, I’ve returned to teaching with an afterschool woodworking class at the Jewish Community Day School in Watertown, MA. Its been great to be back working with young people again. As an added bonus, two girls in this woodworking class were in my Gimmel class 5 years ago! And I taught them woodworking there as well. As I set up my tools and walk around the halls of the school, I see other children who have stretched taller, but still say “hi” and remember me as their teacher at Alef-Bet.

OK, enough reminiscing. What is like to teach woodworking to 10 children at a time? What about the sharp tools? Relax, the children are very aware that 1) the tools are sharp and 2) it’s a privilege to be trusted with real woodworking tools. We started off slow, using only glue to put together sculptures made from scrap wood rescued from my woodshop.

Once the initial hubbub of having snack and starting the class dies down, the children get focused on their woodworking and the group quiets down. The second week I introduced hand drills. We started with only 2 small and one large drill. That was the most difficult part! Now that we have enough drills and drill bits to go around, the children are pretty self sufficient. You can see a picture of the kind of drill we use here:

It takes a little practice for the children to find how much pressure to apply, but then most of them are off drilling pilot holes in their wood so that they can then screw the pieces together. One girl has already completed a box with a handle, another is making a chanukiah. The boy pictured in my newsletter made a small table.

Initially I thought I would have to provide plans and directions for the children’s projects, but every child has a clear picture in their mind of what they want to build. My job is to provide tools, wood scraps, instructions and some organization. Making racks for all the clamps and drills proved to be an important step in calming the class and helping everyone work more efficiently. Sometimes I do need to help a child be more practical in their design. Most of my job is providing technical assistance for attaching pieces of wood together.

Last week I introduced the hand saw. It is nestled in a special guide, which is much easier to start with. Most children can easily cut a piece of wood in half. One girl wanted to saw a round dowel in half. The trick was, how to clamp it down so it wouldn’t roll around while she was using the saw. This is surprisingly difficult to do as I have learned over the years. Next week I will bring the proper supplies so she can make her cut.

More later!