The summer heat in the mountains was very hot today but not so miserable that we were going to miss any carving time. This afternoon I had a two hour class with a group of kids who just returned from a canoe trip and they've been playing a lot of chess during lag time traveling on the van and while in campsites along the river.
Therefore one of my more aspiring students asked if I could help him get started on making a chess set while holding up a rook playing piece. "Sure", I told him as I inspected the plastic piece, then sent him into the nearby woods to collect a dry poplar limb off the forest floor of the approximate size. I told him that this was an ambitious project that would take a lot of commitment to complete but that I'd guide him along with his goal if he wanted to give it a go.
In a few minutes he came walking up with a fine poplar branch that would work just fine. As you can see in the pictures to the left he had excellent focus on his cuts and is using both hands with a nicely controlled push cut. At first he was having a bit of trouble getting his knife to make clean cuts so after I demonstrated how to incorporate a "slicing" motion with the blade as he pushed it through the wood, he did much better. "Just one sliced layer at a time until you get the desired depth", I would tell him and this kid listened well. Yes, it will take a lot of practice before carving becomes comfortable and second-nature, but I assured him that if he sticks with it then his hand muscles will develop along with better hand-eye coordination and with time his skill would increase.
Before the class was over my new carver had completed two rook pieces for which he was very proud. Before I left he was already thinking out loud about how he was going to design and carve his next piece. Now he knows how I feel at the end of my day... thinking and dreaming about my next project.
Living in the mountains of North Carolina I have spent almost 30 very
rewarding years working with at-risk kids in a wilderness camping program as a counselor, outdoor educator, and woodshop teacher. To learn more about what my blog is all about, just scroll down this sidebar to "About my blog..."
1. Woodcarving/Woodwork: Working wood has been a lifetime obsession for me and I enjoy sharing what I know. It is my belief that hands-on and experiential learning has a direct and profound effect on the development of a child's intellect, confidence, and character. Projects of mine (and my students) will be posted as they progress and I will occasionally include a video tutorial. All of my videos can be found here .
2. Bushcraft/Primitive Living Skills: Finding ways to live closer to the land has always fascinated me. Whether it's building a shelter, fire starting, animal tracking, or just making rustic furniture... you'll eventually see some of it here.
3. Long Distance backpacking, canoeing, & bicycling: Some of my long distance adventures include thru-hiking the 2,600 mile Pacific Crest Trail, Mexico to Canada and I solo paddled the 1,800 mile Yukon river across northwest Canada and Alaska to the Bering sea. More detailed accounts of these and many other adventures can be found here
4. Sustainable Living: I'm always looking for better ways to do more by using less. It's not so much an "environmental" thing to me as it is a quest for personal independence from material things and finding a path to more substantive living .
5. Scouting Activity: As a scoutmaster of 6 years (and currently assistant scoutmaster) I'm actively involved with the troop and "Order of the Arrow" where it is a joy to volunteer hundreds of hours each year because investing in the next generation insures a better tomorrow for everyone. In an era when most schools don't value hands-on learning, outdoor education, and the arts... scouting soars in meeting these critical experiences for boys.
6. Profiles: Behind everyone's success you can usually find a trail of some very significant mentors and teachers along the way. And sometimes you don't completely understand how someone affected your life for the better until many years later. You'll find some of those stories here.