Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Tools for Asgers sloyd class

I talked to Asger on the phone today, and he told me enthusiastic that he had had his first lessons in sloyd.
He told me that they had to choose between 3 different projects which was OK, but what he didn't think was OK was the tools that were available to them.

It is not that Asger is a tool snob who can only use a Lie Nielsen plane or a Two Lawyers backsaw etc.
But he expects that a chisel is sharp, a plane is sharp and a saw should surprisingly also be sharp in his opinion.
He was really frustrated discovering that the tools were all dull.

I know that the budget for classes such as sloyd is so limited that it is hard to do anything. The allowance per student doesn't really leave room for investment in any new tools.
And the teachers are only given a bare minimum of hours for preparation, and those are not nearly enough to cover a sharpening of all the chisels or planes etc.
It annoys me, because I know that most schools will still spend an enormous amount of money each year on IT equipment such as new computers or printers etc. And no one expect a computer to hold up for as long as a chisel in matter of years.

I told Asger that if he wanted to, I would be happy to find some tools that he could bring with him to use in the sloyd class. A couple of chisels, a small plane and a saw that actually is sharp.
He wasn't sure about it, but he thought that he would ask the teacher if she was OK with it.

He was worried that the other kids might suddenly become aware of how crappy the tools of the school were, if they suddenly tried a sharp chisel, and then they would perhaps prefer to borrow his tools instead.
A sad thing about crappy tools in such a place is that it might cause some of the kids to become disappointed with woodworking, because the result in no way resembles the effort put into the project by them.
If they try really hard, but are held back due to dull tools, the final result might not be as fine as they would have liked it to be, and that could potentially keep them from thinking that woodworking or any other handmade activity is fun.

I would hate if the teacher felt that sending tools with Asger was a critique of her job, because that is not my intention.

I know that in regular class each kid is expected to bring his/her own tools like pencils and rulers etc. And in physical education it is the same, each kid brings their own clothes and shoes etc.
But could it be viewed upon as being the same for sloyd? and how about needlework or home economics etc.?

So what do you think, would it be OK to bring your own tools to school, or is it a bad idea?




25 comments:

  1. You gotta do what you gotta do. Dull tools are neither good nor safe. You're right, Jonas. The kid needs sharp tools.

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    1. Hi Joshua

      Thanks for commenting, I know from myself that it can be a challenge to have to work with hacksaws etc. for woodworking, but I chose to do it for the fun (and not to get bored), but when you are just starting on woodworking, I hate the idea that the kids have to fight with bad tools.
      I'll try to hear what the teacher says when Asger has talked to her.
      I am at sea right now, so I can't talk to her in person, though I suppose that I could send her an email and ask her if she had a problem with it.

      The safety aspect is actually one that I have often discussed with the kids at home, So they are well aware that a dull knife will require a much greater force to be applied in order to cut in some wood, and that will make it hard to control.

      Brgds
      Jonas

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  2. Yes, I remember the crappy tools from nearly 50 years ago; and, yes, it very definitely impacts long term interest in wood working. My teacher actually agreed with me and helped. I sharpened my assigned tool every time I used it, since they were shared with others.

    Send a note with the tools explaining Asgers home situation. Can you offer to sharpen tools, to help. Note, they won't stay sharp.

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    1. Hi Bruce

      Thanks for commenting.
      My dad was a sloyd teacher, andI remember as a kid, that we would often go to the school in the weekend, where he would get stuff ready for a class in the following week, sharpening gouges etc.

      I like the idea of offering to help sharpening the tools. I guess that I could do that when I get home.

      When Gustav had sloyd, I made a small project with his class, and I brought along probably 5 planes of my own, because I wanted to be sure that they had sharp tools.

      I am afraid that the current education of teachers in Sloyd doesn't put much emphasis on sharpening tools, so it might be that the teacher herself doesn't really know that the tools are so dull.

      A good thing about all this is that apparently Asger does recognize that there is a difference in using sharp vs. dull tools. That is a comfort to me.

      Brgds
      Jonas

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  3. Or get him a pair of oilstones and a saw file and teach him how to use them!

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    1. Hi Sparks

      Thanks for commenting.
      Now that was also a possibility :-)
      I doubt that the saws at the school are the type that can be sharpened. It is most likely some induction hardened small panel saws from the home center.
      The chisels however could be sharpened, but haven't taught him how to do that yet, so I guess it might not be the best solution.

      Brgds
      Jonas

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  4. Hey Jonas,

    Things probably aren't as uptight in Denmark as in the U.S. at the moment, but I wouldn't be surprised. Check with the teacher before sending any tools to school with Asger, as the school might not be so crazy about him walking around the other kids with razor sharp weapons. The sloyd teacher might have you bring them to the school yourself.

    What would really be useful to the sloyd teacher and the kids is if you volunteered to do a sharpening clinic at the school, and taught the kids (and the sloyd teacher) how to sharpen, and what sharp is.

    OTOH, how sharp does a chisel need to be if it is only used to open a paint can or break down a pallet? :)

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    1. Hi Brian
      I guess that you might be on to something regarding delivering the tools myself. Though I know that Asger will be capable of handling the tools in a safe manner.

      I could help them with sharpening, but I don't know how much they use e.g. a plane or a chisel - so it might be a bit waste of energy to sharpen all planes etc. But it could also be that they use those tools very little, because none of them are sharp.

      It is funny, but I remember using a gouge a lot more frequently than a chisel while in school. Probably because making a bowl was fun.

      I don't even think they use pallets in woodworking class :-)

      Brgds
      Jonas

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  5. I remember in 1987/88, when I was in 8th grade I had my last year of woodshop (in Portugal kids don't have that anymore). We made a stool. The only handplane in the shop was dull and the teacher didn't knew how to sharpen.
    My grandfather gave me his woodplane smoother, wich was dull but not as much as the school stanley, and every kid wanted to use mine.
    That same wood plane is now my favorite smoother, after I learned how to sharpen 5 years ago.

    Chisels are diferent, they are much more dangerous than a hand plane. I think it would be polite if you speak with the teacher before send chisels to school.

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    1. Hi Nuno.

      I think that you are correct that a dull chisel is much more dangerous than a dull hand plane.
      Our shift on board is half way, so I will go home in 2 weeks time. I can speak to the teacher once I am home. I find that a bit more informal compared to writing a note to her.

      I think that Asger is right in assuming that if he brings his own tools, then all the other children wants to use those. He might be afraid that some of them don't know how to behave around sharp tools though.

      Brgds
      Jonas

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  6. I was thinking along the lines of Brian, that this is the case of giving a man a fish vs teaching a man to fish. If you can volunteer to come to class and teach a little sharpening and offer a side by side comparison of dull vs sharp, that could go a long way in shaping these young minds for the rest of their lives. Even if the only sharp tools they use again are kitchen knives, it'll be useful learning that many would not otherwise get. Then if the tools are still unusable, I see nothing wrong or elitist about bringing in better tools.

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    1. Hi Jeremy
      Thanks for commenting.
      I like your reasoning a lot. It hadn't occurred to me to make the kids do a side by side comparison - and I think that just that might be a real eye opener to them.

      I think I'll have to try to talk to the teacher about that approach.

      Brgds
      Jonas

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  7. Jonas,

    First, Asger is pretty sharp to recognize the tools are bad, of course that should be expected because he is around good tools.

    Second, I would teach him to do the sharpening, if what I understand is correct that he doesn't know how just now, even if the teacher does not allow either sharpening or bringing tools from home.

    And third, if he is stuck with bad tools I would set him up to repeat the day's lesson at home with sharp tools. Not the best solution but at least it would not allow the class to go to waste.

    I hope it works out,

    ken

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    1. Hi Ken

      Thanks for the nice comment.
      I guess that I should try to teach him and Gustav too by the way, how to sharpen.
      It has never really crossed my mind to do that, since they just use my tools most of the time, and I haven't got a dedicated sharpening day or time etc. I just sharpen whenever I think a tool needs to be sharpened.

      I doubt that he would want to repeat the day's lesson at home, since they aren't really training in any techniques as I have understood.
      the project he has chosen is to make a sword that has to be within a certain size, and has to feature some sort of ornamentation.

      He had asked the teacher if he could bring a project of his own from home that he would like to finish, but she didn't allow that. Which I can easily understand.
      That project is a copy of an old Soviet sub machine gun (PPSh41).

      I am sure it will all work out in the end.
      Brgds
      Jonas

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  8. In my opinion bringing in your own tools should be something that is acceptable, if not encouraged. I can understand that some of the kids may not have tools at home, but that is not necessarily a bad thing. Perhaps some of the parents will purchase a few tools if they see that their children have shown interest, and if they possibly cannot afford tools of their own, it would be a good lesson for the kids to learn to sharpen and take care of the tools in class.
    Good luck,
    Bill

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    1. Hi Bill,
      Thanks for commenting.
      I like the idea of raising the children's awareness toward taking care of tools. But I am afraid that such an approach is no longer a part of the education plan.

      The class sloyd was converted to "handicraft and design" a couple of years ago, which was a bad thing from my point of view. As it moved the focus from the educational part of using your hands as a mean to gain knowledge over to the more theoretical idea of designing something.

      A lot of the old type sloyd teachers have retired, and the classes are as I understand it no longer offered to the older classes. So it might take a couple of years for the new type of class to really "find its own feet"

      I think that a lot of parent's never use tools together with their children , so the children haven't really got a chance of knowing what a tool should feel like. So they just assume that the tool they use in shop class is behaving exactly like it is supposed to do.

      I guess it would be the same if all your life you had only played football or soccer with an un-inflated ball. How were you supposed to know that it was not the way it was intended to feel?

      And if the teachers don't know any better either, then we are really in for some trouble.

      Brgds
      Jonas

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  9. They bring their own shoes for footbal, why not their own tools for sloyd? Is there any sense in teaching sloyd with dull tools?

    Cheers
    Pedder

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    1. Hi Pedder.

      I personally think that it is a bad idea to teach sloyd with dull tools, but my guess is that the teachers might not really know the difference from sharp to dull.

      I am afraid that the Danish mentality might get in the way of bringing own tools.
      A general idea about the Danish way of living is that NO ONE must be perceived as better than any other. And bringing your own tools could easily be seen as an attempt to be better than some of the other pupils. (I know it sounds stupid, but that is the way it is).

      Everyone is expected to have a set of clothes for gymnastics or football, but not everyone is expected to have tools at home. And if not everyone is expected to have that, well - then those who do have aren't supposed to bring it and possibly make others feel bad for not having tools.
      There is a code of law that is called "Janteloven" that sort of lays down the rules for how to behave in the society. It is not an official governed law, but it is still very real.
      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Law_of_Jante

      Brgds
      Jonas

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    2. Hi Jonas,

      This law may be a reason why denmark is on of the happiest nations in the world. But on the other hand wouldn't it be even happier with sharp tools. I've to think about that.

      Thanks for letting us take part in that.

      Cheers
      Pedder

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    3. Hi Pedder.
      I have never thought that Janteloven is what makes Danes happy. Personally I think it is because we have such a great neighboring country to the south :-)
      But I think that sharp tools would definitely increase the happiness in the population.

      Cheers
      Jonas

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    4. Now I think it's the kindness and generosity that makes danish people happy! :o)

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  10. I read this situation to be that the teacher might not even know how to sharpen tools nor evaluate them. You suggest in your description that this Sloyd teacher is short on funds and hours to devote to the course. I conclude that it's not her priority and possibly not her main field of study. I can relate with a joke that amply describes my high school woodworking experience.
    Q:What is the most common nickname for a high school woodshop teacher?
    A: coach

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    1. Hi Potomacker

      Thanks for the comment and the very fitting joke :-)

      It is not the same teacher that Gustav had he attended the same school, so you might be on to something about it not being her main field of study.

      Our of curiosity, I read a couple of entries about the subject on the Danish teachers' associations page.
      Apparently there is a huge problem in that very few (97 if I remember correctly) were given the required course needed to be allowed to use the machines in the shop. Such as band saw, table saw and jointer /planer. So a large number of newly educated teachers doesn't have the qualifications needed to operate machinery, and that in turn means that they often lack the ability to help pupils with requests for pieces of wood that are not 100% standard.
      And that is bad because the idea of the subject nowadays it that it should focus heavily on the design phase. And as one teacher put it in a comment, the individual design teds to be a bit challenged, if they can only use the same piece of 12"x12" flat board of plywood.

      According to another one of those entries, the funding varied a bit from school to school, but it was not unheard of to have a funding of 30 US cent per student per lesson. That should include materials, tools, and maintenance of machinery.
      So this teacher stated that she was sick of it all, and hated that she had to build everything from garbage and twigs.

      So all in all I am afraid that there isn't much future for the subject in the Danish school system anymore - which I think is a shame.

      Brgds
      Jonas

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  11. Read all the comments and agreed with them. Its a shame that Sloyd is allowed to morph into something far removed from its intent, and in its country of origins no less... :-(

    Bob

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  12. Hi Bob

    Thanks for commenting.
    You are completely correct about the part that it is a shame that the class has been morphed into something so very far from the basic idea.

    I remember when the secretary of education explained why the subject should be changed.
    She showed an impressive amount of ignorance concerning what the original idea behind Sloyd was.
    She claimed that Sloyd was originally intended to teach the pupils how to repair stuff at home, and that was not much needed anymore!
    But what can a poor citizen do about a politician?
    With stupidity the gods themselves struggle in vain.

    Brgds
    Jonas

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