Woodworking with the kids #1: First Projects

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Blog entry by David Craig posted 03-15-2010 03:27 PM 3464 reads 3 times favorited 20 comments Add to Favorites Watch
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This weekend, my boys uttered the words most Woodworking adults want to hear from the younger generation “We want to make something!”

My sons have always been supportive in my endeavors to work on things. They like seeing the things I made and will often ask me if I can make this or that for them. When I started this hobby, one of my goals was to reduce dependency on the cheap goods at the stores and reduce the mentality that one needs to buy instead of making what is needed. (I will admit to the irony that this non-materialistic attitude revolves around a shop with a couple grand invested in tools :) While they were supportive though, their interest in being downstairs just was never there. I would talk to them about woodworking but I never pushed. I just didn’t want them to do something because I wanted them to, but wanted the interest to spring from their own desire.

On Saturday, during our visit, they expressed the interest, so I went downstairs and set up shop for them. I had a light half pallet that I recently cleared and I straddled it over a fold out workbench. Because of the double layers, I could let them drill, hammer, paint, glue, whatever, without being a paranoid shop rat worrying about the condition of my workspace while they were working. I have a large box of pine scraps so I pulled out a number of pieces and set it out for them. Tools consisted of a Fiskar hand drill, a Stanley miter box and backsaw, a couple of 10 oz. hammers, glue, and clamps. My boys are almost polar opposites of one another. My oldest, Sam, has Aspergers Syndrome (similar to high functioning Autism. Smart, sweet, lovable kid but has his quirks from time to time.) He requires a little more hand holding and encouragement for these types of things. My youngest, Gabe, is more aggressive, curious, but likes to act first and think later. So I had to make sure I could pull the reigns on one while attempting to gallop the other.

I divided the work period in sessions. The boys drew out what they wanted to make and cut the parts during session one. Session two consisted of assembly, and I put wheels on their parts after they went to bed. Sam wanted to make a little train he could put on his dresser and Gabe wanted a jeep type thing for his action figures. I had them draw out what they wanted so that they could get a little used to the idea of working with plans. I helped them with proportion and estimating sizes of the blocks. No real measurements, just using the pieces to size each other. I set up the miter box and marked the pieces for cutting. Aside from some quickie wheels made from a hole saw, they did all the cutting, drilling, hammering, and assembly. They only did enough sanding to remove splintering that could potentially make the toy harmful to hold.

The following are pics of the activities -


Here Sam and Gabe (respectively) are concentrating on their cuts with the miter box. The box worked well because it kept their hands free from the blade and helped them make parallel cuts -

Sam with the miter box

Gabe using the miter box


Sam needed to put a little smokestack on his train and Gabe wanted to do some hammering of his parts so I had him pre-drill some holes. The glue would have been more than strong enough to hold his parts in place but I could tell he really wanted the experience of hammering nails. I found it better to not discourage him and he enjoyed using the hand drill as well.

Sam using the hand drill

Gabe pre-drilling holes


Sam was comfortable with just using glue, but Gabe wanted to use his hammer. I picked up 10oz. hammers for both of them. They take awhile to get the nails in there, but it goes much faster, easier, and straighter with the pre-drilled holes. This reduced frustration and impatience because he got to use two tools instead of one (good thing in a kid’s eyes) and we didn’t have to deal with splits and broken parts.

Gabe hammering

All in all, the time was spaced out nicely, neither one of them got too bored, I let them use the tools without taking over, and they were proud of what they made -

Progress so far

My thanks to the lumberjocks who posted the time they spent with their young family members. It helped me organize and make a much more successful session then if I tried to wing it completely on my own.

-- There is little that is simple when it comes to making a simple box.

20 comments so far

View Alonso's profile


949 posts in 4015 days

#1 posted 03-15-2010 03:39 PM

Looks like a great experience for them, seems like they will follow dad’s love for woodworking. I need to organize something similar for my oldest (7). Great Job David


-- The things I make may be for others, but how I make them is for me.

View rsmith71's profile


269 posts in 3819 days

#2 posted 03-15-2010 04:26 PM

It’s great to see other dads spending the time to teach their kids in the shop. My son is 16 now and although he still enjoys seeing what I’ve done in the shop, he’s too “busy” to be interested in spending time working out there anymore. My youngest daughter is 11 and is a Daddy’s Girl. She shows the most interest of all(5) of my kids right now of learning about woodworking. So I try to find time around projects of my own to find projects for her to help with. For Christmas gifts I’ve helped her with birdhouses and crosses the last couple years and I nearly teared up over how proud she was to give them to family.

-- Robert - Haven Wood Crafts

View PurpLev's profile


8574 posts in 4425 days

#3 posted 03-15-2010 04:50 PM

now THATS awesome! nice builds for the kids, and a nicer build of family time.

-- ㊍ When in doubt - There is no doubt - Go the safer route.

View Beginningwoodworker's profile


13345 posts in 4449 days

#4 posted 03-15-2010 05:08 PM

Thats a great, those are future woodworkers! :)

View Rustic's profile


3256 posts in 4373 days

#5 posted 03-15-2010 06:16 PM

Wish I had kids to work with

--, Rick Kruse, Grand Rapids, MI

View patron's profile (online now)


13704 posts in 4118 days

#6 posted 03-15-2010 06:44 PM

excellent !
all three projects are wonderful .
great approach to teaching , david .

sam and gabe :

your toys are AWESOME !
much better than i was doing ,
at your age .
welcome to LJ’s ,
come back soon and show us more !

-- david - only thru kindness can this world be whole . If we don't succeed we run the risk of failure. Dan Quayle

View Thomas Keefe's profile

Thomas Keefe

131 posts in 4185 days

#7 posted 03-15-2010 07:55 PM

Thanks David for the great story.

My kids (6 and 4 yrs) sometime come out to my shop when I am there. Mostly they just grab scraps of wood
and beat on things. Although my son occasionally goes for something sharp and I have to drop what I am
doing to stop him.

This weekend my daughter had to build a “Leprechaun trap” for school. She drew a picture of what she
wanted and I helped her build it. I got out my dovetail saw so that she could help cut out a tiny table.
But she got nervous and stood outside. She did hang out with me while I did most of the work. It was
a start.


View SPalm's profile


5336 posts in 4658 days

#8 posted 03-15-2010 07:59 PM

Sweet. My kids are all grown up, but a grandchild just arrived. So maybe in a few years.


-- -- I'm no rocket surgeon

View clieb91's profile


3922 posts in 4711 days

#9 posted 03-15-2010 09:26 PM

Looks like a great weekend. Both toys turned out looking awesome.
My daughter is 3 and has already helped with a few projects and I am looking forward to more. Will have to look for one of those hand drills.


-- Chris L. "Don't Dream it, Be it."- (Purveyors of Portable Fun and Fidgets)

View David Craig's profile

David Craig

2137 posts in 3885 days

#10 posted 03-15-2010 10:07 PM

Thanks all for the kind and encouraging comments. The boys will enjoy reading them when I have them next time. I am like many folks out here and am self taught on a number of items so I really had to think about what I can really teach and what they can use. Kids get bored real quick if they don’t get to be the ones handling the tools, so I left power tools out of the equation as much as possible. Our time is limited so I have to try and not let the time be overly dominant for the weekend. They usually want to do a number of different things. In the future, if there are any larger boards to cut, I will precut them in advance so they don’t have to wait for me to get the pieces together. I don’t know how much interest they will keep in doing these thing. I believe my youngest will be into it as he loves using tools. My oldest, not so much, but I am encouraged that he wanted to indulge and he enjoyed himself while doing it.

As far as teaching, what I observed from the other LJs who spend time with kids and based on what I observed with this little activity are the following -

1. Set up the environment so you don’t get paranoid about the workplace. Create a little area where the kids can work safely and use a work surface in which accidental hammer blows, over enthused drilling, sloppy paint, etc. will not concern you. You will spend less time critiquing the technique that way. Kids need the freedom to make mistakes, messes, etc. without worrying about creating tension in the adult.

2. Set some rules before starting. I am firm but not ornery or overly aggressive in the shop, but I established certain rules when they were down in the basement since I started working with wood. There is no running in the shop, no touching the tools if I am not in a position to observe and watch them. Anything with blades is to be handled the proper way, etc. And one of the biggest rules is that the shop is dedicated for shop time. I make it like church. If you are in church, you are there for the purposes of worshiping, praying, etc. The shop is for working, not playing. The focus is on the project and if the focus isn’t on the project, that is ok, we can talk upstairs, or play video games, or go for a walk, whatever. It is ok to want to do something else, but if we want to make a project, then that is where our concentration lies. This helps set the tone and helps keep the concentration on safety and the project. When that mindset drifts, take a break.

3. Keep the projects simple. Especially in the beginning. If the kid wants a car, think about the simplest way to make a vehicle. If you start wanting to embellish, the project starts becoming yours and not the kids. Try to incorporate tool use that is repetitious but not monotonous. And try to have tools around that the kids can use. Hand Drills, Miter boxes, 10-12 oz. hammers are all rather inexpensive and fairly kid friendly. Pine is a great wood to use because it is soft, much easier to cut, drill, and nail without power tools. I loved the little hand drill. Good size for smaller hands and the handle could be turned without a huge effort as long as the pressure was not overly aggressive. Using the drill, the hammer, and the saw are kind of fun, sandpapering for an hour is not. I gave them sanding pads and they had to sand the ends of the boards after cutting, but only to the level of better safety, not to create a stainable surface.

And most importantly, HAVE FUN!

Thank you all for your encouragement and support.


-- There is little that is simple when it comes to making a simple box.

View Dennisgrosen's profile


10880 posts in 3892 days

#11 posted 03-16-2010 12:49 AM

thank´s for sharing this with us David
I love to see those post/blogs where
you and other L Js share your kvali time
with the kids

Sam and Gabe the toy looks great
you can deffently learn the old man
something :—)
just don´t push him too hard
when you try to learn him the how to :-)

than´k´s once more David for the reminder


View David Craig's profile

David Craig

2137 posts in 3885 days

#12 posted 03-16-2010 05:27 AM

Thanks Dennis, I will let them know that they are not the only ones that think they are smarter than me :)

More truth to that than I probably care to admit. I will use a notebook next time I watch them work ;)

Thanks for reading Dennis,


-- There is little that is simple when it comes to making a simple box.

View janice's profile


1122 posts in 4202 days

#13 posted 03-21-2010 04:41 AM

Oh my gosh, this is one of the best stories I’ve seen on this site! Your kids are awesome and so is dad! Great projects! And a great weekend for you and your boys. I still have several things my son made on his own back when he was very young. Before I would let him use tools, he would find a way and take my wood out of the trash can and glue things on it and paint it. He would take biscuits and cut them into shapes, how, I don’t know, and glue them on a piece of wood. Shapes of a fish, fllower pot or whatever. Paint it and write a poem. He is now 22 and I still have to check on him if he is using my table saw. Not that he’s not capable but only because I’m a mom. If he wants something built out of wood, he does it, but he’s more into sheet metal now and cars.

-- Janice

View David Craig's profile

David Craig

2137 posts in 3885 days

#14 posted 03-21-2010 03:39 PM

Thanks for the kind words Janice. It is always a pleasure to see some creativity from our children. Sounds like your son was a real joy to watch growing up. Thank you for reading.


-- There is little that is simple when it comes to making a simple box.

View swirt's profile


5249 posts in 3748 days

#15 posted 07-01-2010 04:51 AM

Thanks for pointing to this from the other thread (things get buried here so fast) I enjoyed reading it.

What is the little hand drill they are using and where’d you find it? I have a couple of old Millers Falls hand drills that I use, but yours looks somehow more manageable for kid hands.

-- Galootish log blog,

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