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Morning Tom,

I think it is great that you are working on getting your daughter involved in woodworking. I hope you might find the following helpful. I had a woodworking session with my boys that I blogged about here. The blog shows some of the tools I used to keep them safe and to keep them interested.

Awhile back, I looked at the Jr. kits and found them very cutesy but not very practical. The tools usually are undersized, not very strong, and sometimes more of a danger because the saws are not very sharp, the hammers too small, which results in too much frustration for the kids and the temptation to over compensate by forcing the tool rather than letting the tool work.

If I were to recommend a tool list for young woodworkers, I would go with the following -

Hand Drill - Try to find an old working egg beater style drill. If one is not available used, look for a Fiskar hand drill. They are inexpensive, work good for small hands, and are much safer than electric or battery pack drills.

Miter box with back saw - A Stanley back saw and miter box combo works pretty good for small pine pieces. I can tell you that kids do get bored very easily when you attempt to cut the pieces for them. With the miter box, you can teach them how to mark the length and saw a board and a real back saw can cut rather quickly without too much effort. The miter box helps hold the piece and keep their hands away from the blade of the saw.

10-12 oz hammers - The Jr. Kits have hammers that are way too light weight for pounding the nails. I do see hammers in this size range at the big box stores. With a pre-drilled hole, kids can hammer rather quickly without going nuts banging on the hammer. I saw a kid's project in Wood magazine once where the author would have kids draw out their names on a board and hammer brads along the lines until their first name was filled in with silver brads. I did this with my youngest (8 at the time) and it worked rather well. The board was a little beat up, but it taught him how to hammer a nail in no time. No pre-drilled holes for this project and it worked rather well as a start.

Coping Saw - Don't skimp, look for a good one online and keep sharp blades on it. When you mention woodworking projects in the beginning, don't be surprised if you get responses like "I want to make a man" or a horse, or some barn yard animal. The coping saw allows them to cut circles or other shapes and you can use dowels to make a neck for the head, or arms and legs. Again, the temptation is to use duller tools but they create more accidents than sharp ones. Good cutting blades, when taught to use the tool in a way to keep the hands free, will reduce accidents rather than create them

Past that, your basic glues and sandpaper. Let the kids tell you what they want to make and use your imagination to figure out how they can do it. You will get much further if you let them decide rather than decide for them. Lesson learned from experience. Keep the sessions at about 1-2 hours, unless they are really into it. Long sessions without breaks will cause them to start concentrating on just getting the thing over with, rather than enjoying each step.

And when they say they are done, they are done. Encourage them to sand until the project is safe to use, but don't get too picky about their finishing and sanding jobs. As long as there is little risk of splinters and other unsafe aspects of the project, they are good.

Hope this helps,

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