Engaging the Children

I’ve always welcomed families with and without children to my workshop, alongside individuals too. We have had hundreds if not thousands passing through each year and it’s here that we are able to connect with the upcoming generations. I always like the way kids somehow sponge-up things they’ve never seen and are fascinated with the simplicity hand tools bring to the real world. I say real world because fantasy dominates most of their young lives these days, but then, handing them a spokeshave, they never fail to respond and somehow a simple act like this knocks the tablets and smart bits and bytes off their pedestal and even into oblivion if only for a short time. This all began back in 1988 when at craft shows I saw the children’s abject fascination as they watch a slow- DSC_0106 mo in their mind’s eye of shavings emerging as if from nowhere at all and spill noiselessly to the ground of my brush arbor. This seems now a long time ago when I worked out entertaining and engaging ways to break the ice with the kids. I felt then as I do now that it was important for me to pass on the working knowledge of my work. Wrist bands and book marks came from my plane for an individual or a classful of kids. The schools were lining up to bring kids into the shop for a visit back then. Here is a glimpse of how I did it:

DSC_0106 DSC_0107 DSC_0108 A shaving 24″ long from a fairly heavy set makes a head band. Take the shaving after writing the name onto the edge with a heavy sharpie. I only had black to show you and colour is so much brighter. Start at on end but make certain to have taken a clear shaving before this point, otherwise you might be planing out irregularities. The headband works with littler ones. DSC_0116 DSC_0117 DSC_0118 You can make individual name tags like this and then you can also make wood bookmarks too. These can have names and messages and you could use a wood burning pen for this as well.  DSC_0120

When you have more than one child, write out the names as shown, saw a shallow kerf between the names and then whisk of the shavings and pass to the teacher or parent for giving out.Time permitting you can run saw kerfs between names and let them write their own name or message in.

Oh, because the shavings curl the name is inside the curl. By pulling them carefully over the corner you can reverse the curling effect from planing. This way you can reverse the curl or make the shaving straight and flat. DSC_0121

For name tags on Christmas presents drill a hole at one end and the take several passes with a spokeshave. It takes only a few seconds to make ten tags.  DSC_0124 A bevel-up spokeshave will take a heavy shaving for a thicker book mark. DSC_0125 They can be coiled and looped for chains on the tree.

Here is what I mean.

DSC_0127 DSC_0129 Here are the name tags. Nail clippers give nicely rounded corners too. Get the kids involved with magic markers for this.




  1. Paul, I have never left a comment but thought you would like to know that this is how I write a note for the next teacher when one of my woodwork students needs to stay back in my class for a few more minutes. I also write notes home to mums and dads like this too or just write encouraging words for my students. If the note needs to travel far I make a little square block with a 1″ hole drilled through it to store the rolled up message. I have even glued bases and made lids that swing from a corner pin. Thanks for all your encouragement! Blessings, Steve

  2. Very nice tip! Also, there is a really good video on kids in the shop at a page called offcenterharbor -dot – com. Just looked at it and it shows a kid shaping his boat in wood, all happy and enthusiastic!

  3. Paul,

    As you say. “They will remember.” I’m sure you remember Thanksgiving from your time here. I give thanks for what I have vs. what I don’t and the remembering of good times vs. the bad. Hey I used a back saw instead of a power saw. Felt good and it was just as quick. Thought of you as I cut the planks on my hand made stool.



  4. Paul, iv been following your blog and binge Watching you on YouTube. Once iv got all of that content our of the way I plan to get my paid subscription to your woodworking masterclass!

    I thought I’d stop by to say thanks for resparking my love of wood working. I currently sit here in my kitchin with a bit of pine and my plough plane iv just received from eBay. Shavings everywhere because I couldn’t wait till I went to my workshop!

    This Xmas my 5year old son gets his first tool set, the same set I received 20 years ago! I can’t wait for him to join me in the workshop with his own tools!!

    Question: what do you recommend, a kids size bench(he is growing so fast though I’m concerned he will outgrow it too fast) Or a wooden box for him to stand on to reach my bench?

    Keep posting and recording!

    (might be a little early but I will prob never get another chance to say it!) and have a fab Xmas!!

    1. My boys worked at my benches at 38″ no matter their size or age. I just made a box to get them up there and then cut 2″ off every few months.

  5. Brilliant! My daughter will love this. She already loves “making shavings” (kids always seem more interested in the shavings than the workpiece), so actually having a purpose for the shavings will make it even better!

  6. Hi, this is lovely. My five year old daughter has been all too keen to operate a rip saw (which she did 🙂 )

    I have a question which is a bit off topic: would you be able to point me to a tool which would produce as straight a shaving as possible? I’m after making my own veneer strips (to experiment with)

    thank you


  7. Paul this is another idea and tip. My 8 year old Grandson mentioned last night that he bought all of Christmas presents at his school’s Holiday Shop for everyone in the Family. We are very fortunate my Daughter and Family live next door to us and our Son and his Wife built a new home in our Subdivision so we share Dinners together. Yes I am bragging a little sorry about that, but we are a very close family.

    Thank You again Paul for what you do and share you are a inspiration for me.


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