woodworking for kids?

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Forum topic by fussy posted 06-30-2010 09:34 AM 2421 views 3 times favorited 20 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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980 posts in 4107 days

06-30-2010 09:34 AM

Ok boys and girls, I once again have need of your wise council. I am blessed with a wonderful, energetic, curious, EXTREMELY bright 3 1/2 year old grandson. When he comes over (often), his first request (after schmoozing Granma for p’nutbutter and milk) is to “Go to Granpa’s SHOP!” I’m trying to find useful ways to keep him interested,safe, and actually begin to teach him our wonderful craft. I don’t see turning him loose on the table saw just yet, but believe it or not he can drive nails, use a screw driver, wrenches, nuts and bolts, and he’s trying to use pliers. I bought a small coping saw, and have an old egg-beater drill. Maybe a simple bird house/bird feeder? Maybe puzzles cut out using a pattern, thin stock and coping saw? Painting would be part of it too. What are your thoughts. Am I getting ahead of myself here? He IS VERY smart, and not just because he’s my grandson. He speaks English and Portugese, understands everything he sees on PBS, asks real questions, is beginning to read and wants to go to the shop.

Anyone with more experience or ideas, please chime in. He wants to learn, I want to teach him, but I don’t want to be too simple, too high-flying, and I DON’T want to scare his mother or get him hurt. Is he too young? If not where do I go for ideas/guidence except here with y’all? Any suggestions appreciated. We need to make sure that ours is not the last generation that can rub sticks together and get something besides
a fire. Help, Please.


-- Steve in KY. 44 years so far with my lovely bride. Think I'll keep her.

20 replies so far

View Kathy's profile


210 posts in 3977 days

#1 posted 06-30-2010 01:08 PM

If it were my grandson, I would do all the cutting and he surely can do the hammering, screwing, sanding, staining, etc. How fun. My grandson is 13 and is not really interested in learning. Darn kid!

-- curious woodworker

View rance's profile


4278 posts in 4216 days

#2 posted 06-30-2010 02:23 PM


I say they are NEVER too young. There’s something at every level, and every age. In the earliest stages, you do more prep. work, and let them finish. As they get older, the more they do and the less prep. work you do for them.

The biggest problem I see with teaching that young is they begin to believe that since they’ve worked in the shop with you, then ALL tools are available to them. Make sure you can lock out tools they aren’t yet ready for so when you’re away, they can’t turn a power tool on or get into a cabinet full of bloody sharp chisels.

At his age, I’d also introduce him to sanding, gluing, and clamps. This will continue to teach him, and also keep him interested. With your assistance, I believe you could even hold his hands and help him with a small, stationary belt sander. This might be a good first power tool to boost his confidence. A word of caution though, even a belt sander can be very dangerous so initially, maybe a jig to hold his pieces & parts might be in order.

When I teach a kids class one of the most recent, and successful, has been a puzzle I found here on LJ ( ). I modified it so each of the two puzzle pieces are made up of a glue-up of 3 pieces of the 3/4” stock. I prepare the 3/4” stock beforehand. Older kids could cut them to length on a power saw. Yours could possibly use his coping saw. The short pieces could be set up in a vise to be drilled on a drill press. Your young one could ‘participate’ by helping you pull the spindle handle down.

Maybe I’m getting too detailed here. The point here is that the younger they are, the more prep. you’ll have to do. And there’s some operations you will have to assist with. And you may have to build a couple of jigs to keep them safer. As they grow, they’ll learn to do more themselves, and to do it safely. HTH.

-- Backer boards, stop blocks, build oversized, and never buy a hand plane--

View noknot's profile


548 posts in 4497 days

#3 posted 06-30-2010 02:53 PM

You can do just about any project get a miterbox with saw clamp everything so he doesnt have to hold the wood and teach him how to measure using a wooden ruler. lots of glue and tape with crayons dont forget goggles and my youngest loves to have ear muffs. A shop vac + kid =hours of fun and random clean areas in your shop.


View Dennisgrosen's profile


10880 posts in 4171 days

#4 posted 06-30-2010 03:05 PM

the first power tool they shuold learn to know
is the wacumclearner period!

teach him what he can do with handtools =everything he doesn´t need powertools

and keep the tools as sharp as possiple = then he can consentrate on the cut instead
of consentrate on using his muscles
my daughter learned to handle a knife when she was four years

always have one arm on the back (cheisels either both on the handle or one on the handle
and one on the mallet or on the back)
the wood he works on has to be hold fast so it can´t move
I hope my point come across (damm english)
what I´m trying to say is make it safe as possiple and give him respect for the tools
then you won´t have to worry he will use something his not allow to use in respect of you
believe me it is not that difficult to build things with kid and learn them one or two things
along the way :—)
and it will give you ten times back

take care


View Gregn's profile


1642 posts in 4039 days

#5 posted 06-30-2010 04:04 PM

Starting out using hand tools is the best intro to using tools. Learning to use hand tools teaches him to pay attention to what he is doing. As for any power type tools one to teach him to use is a hot glue gun, kids love them and they are relatively safe to use. Yes there is a hot end and hot glue to deal with but it doesn’t take much for them to learn to use. Another power tool I would start him with would be a palm sander, another relatively safe tool for his age. One other tool I would recommend and I know there might be some flack on this one, is to teach him to use the scroll saw. A variable speed set low will allow him to get use to how fast to feed material and not panic when the blade breaks. I say this because kids his age can have a difficult time with a coping saw and the table on the scroll saw will give him the stability he needs to cut curves with. Getting him use to the noise these tools make and how they feel in his hand will help him to understand the power in power tools. Teach him safety, teach him right and you will have a shop buddy the rest of your life. It doesn’t get any better than that. Oh ya one more thing he’ll love the air hose!

-- I don't make mistakes, I have great learning lessons, Greg

View swirt's profile


6115 posts in 4028 days

#6 posted 06-30-2010 04:33 PM

My son has been working in the workbop (he has trouble with sh) with me since he was 9 or ten months old and is 20 months now. I have an old toolbox on the floor that his tools go into. We started with plastic toy tools but he wanted Daddy’s tools more than anything…if I was using it, he wanted it. So I try as often as possible to give him tools that look as close to mine as possible. His cordless drill is an old dead one that I ripped the motor out of to make it lighter, the drill bit is an old nut driver. If I grab my drill, he goes and gets his. His coping saw has a blade made of 12 ga copper wire strung from one end to the other. He also has a workbench that doubles as my sawbench ( So he does a lot of pretend woodworking while I am doing real working. All the big power tools are unplugged and I don’t use them when he is around. The drill is the only one he sees me using. The rest is done with non-electric tools.

When it comes to actual woodworking, he helps me cut (he holds the hand saw and I move him back and forth. It helps that I do a lot of it down on his workbench. Actually a great first project with your grandson could be building a workbench/sawbench, the joinery is simple and all you need are a couple of 2×8.

I have also found that good eyeprotection can help. I’ve got a couple of the “little kid” goggles they give out at the home depot birdhouse classes. They are not very fun to wear. If they are on tight enough, they dig into his face and they steam up. I ran into these little wrap around safety glasses and that has been a big help
They look like mine (only without the bifocal line :( ) and they are comfortable … not to mention really inexpensive. I bought a dozen because he is a little rough on them. He isn’t perfect at keeping them on all the time, but he is much better about it than the goggles. So far he has only scratched one set by tossing them on the ground but he has not managed to break any.

And of course I highly recommend books

As Dennis wisely mentioned, securing the workpiece is essential for safety. I have been trying to model for my son the method of sawing with one hand behind my back (keeps the free hand out of harms way) It seems a little awkward at first, but I am finding it is actually making me a much better sawyer. It makes me saw less aggressively and allows the saw to work much more efficiently and accurately.

As far as other projects, bird houses, bug houses, paddles, rubber band guitars, puzzles … go where his interest lie.

The only other thing I caution (and may be different with a 3 yr old than my almost 2yr old) Keep the doses of time small. Their attention spans are pretty short. My son and I get roughly a half hour a day in the shop and that includes sweeping up, putting the tools away, me moving stuff that he has figured out how to get into … It really comes down to about 5-10 minutes of actual woodworking … but it is so cool. They absorb stuff like a sponge.

-- Galootish log blog,

View swirt's profile


6115 posts in 4028 days

#7 posted 06-30-2010 04:37 PM

Ooh got carried away (sorry for the long answer above), but I forgot to say that a coping saw can be a real pain to use for a kid. Takes a lot of fine control. Even I struggle with them from time to time. One saw I found that works well for a little kid is a hack saw with a blade that has been used for a while. With the teeth worn down a little is still cuts through pine in any direction without too much trouble and they can handle it without risk of getting more than a scratch or two.

-- Galootish log blog,

View rance's profile


4278 posts in 4216 days

#8 posted 06-30-2010 04:53 PM

I agree on the scroll saw, a good first “Power Tool” for him to start with. I’ve heard it said “Yeah, its possible to cut your finger off with a scroll saw, but you’d have to change the blade a couple of times.”.

-- Backer boards, stop blocks, build oversized, and never buy a hand plane--

View swirt's profile


6115 posts in 4028 days

#9 posted 06-30-2010 04:55 PM

misposted. ignore this

-- Galootish log blog,

View CryptKeeper's profile


132 posts in 4006 days

#10 posted 06-30-2010 05:41 PM

My dad started me out with real tools and wood when I was between 18 months and 2 years old. For the wood he gave me hardwood flooring strips. The strips came loose in a box and measured about 1/4” x 1” x 6 ” and a bottle of Elmers white glue. He gave me an old folding ruler, most of the numbers were worn off, which was perfect because he taught me to make a mark on the ruler and transfer it to my blocks.

My first saw was a hacksaw mounted in a homemade miter box. He enclosed the hacksaw with rails that attached to the box so the saw could not be removed without taking the blade out but it would move freely back and forth. In the bottom he cut two dados a hair larger than the blocks one for 90 degree cut and one for 45 degree cut. You raise the saw up, slide the block in and make your cut – (by the way these were oak strips it took a while for 2 year old to cut through them.)

I was probably around 4 when I got to use my first POWER tool – the mighty drill, followed by squiggy the jigsaw. This is about the time we built our first big boy project a the big yellow birdhouse.

I was a little older 5’ish going on 6 before he turned me loose with the circular saw but he was able to find one that had, I guess, a 3 or 4 inch blade that and it was really lite. That summer we built a canoe.

Now, my all time favorite tool from that time frame it my life was the hand plane and those cool curly shavings.

I can go on and on but if you can’t tell this time with my dad created life long memories for me that are as vivid today as if they occurred yesterday.

My dad never said this but I think the key to me enjoying the experience was his approach. He looked at it from my point of view (literally down on his hands and knees) not an adult looking down to child.

Good luck,

-- Ron - Any day that I don't learn something new is a wasted day.

View swirt's profile


6115 posts in 4028 days

#11 posted 06-30-2010 07:36 PM

@Cryptkeeper – Brilliant idea with the miterbox and the trapped hacksaw. I’ve got to make one. Glad to hear you have good memories of your early shop days. I often wonder if I am starting too early with my son and fear he’ll be completely sick of it by the time he is old enough to really do something with it.

-- Galootish log blog,

View MrsN's profile


988 posts in 4582 days

#12 posted 06-30-2010 08:22 PM

My son is your grandson’s age, and loves being in my shop.
The above are all great ideas on tool uses. It is important to pay lots of attention when kids of any age are in the shop. Also remember that you can change your mind at any time, so if you start using something and decide that maybe it isn’t as safe or working as well as it could be, stop and try something else.
My son doesn’t always have the attention span for a full cut-sand-assemble-paint project. Lots of time he needs a project that is just one of those things. He can wait longer if he is well rested and the project interests him. He will spend twice as long working on a truck then a puzzle. So think about what your grandson’s other interests are and it might help. He just recently decided that sanding and glueing can be fun. I let him loose with some scraps and a regular gluestick.

View CryptKeeper's profile


132 posts in 4006 days

#13 posted 06-30-2010 09:26 PM

@Swirt – My dad always seemed to have little projects lined up for when ever I wanted to ‘help’ and really for that matter my mom did as well in the kitchen.

After thinking about my experience in my mom’s kitchen I can do a direct comparison between the way I was raised and my wife was raised.

My wife’s mother always told her “If I can’t do it, you can’t do it.” My wife grew up pretty much without any life skills in the kitchen when we got married (21 years ago) if it didn’t come in a box she wouldn’t even try.

It took me forever to convince her that the worse thing that can happen is you throw it out and start over; Well, almost the worst thing she did set the oven on fire for our second Thanksgiving but she did learn how to use baking soda to put a fire out.

Now that we are expecting our first child in August I am already thinking of projects we can do together at all ages whether it is a boy or girl just in case they develop an interest in ‘helping’.

-- Ron - Any day that I don't learn something new is a wasted day.

View tyskkvinna's profile


1310 posts in 4042 days

#14 posted 06-30-2010 09:28 PM

Sounds like you should help him make a little toolbox/chest.. which he can then stock with HIS tools.. to help the idea of what he can and can’t use yet. :-) And of course, who doesn’t want to make their own toolbox! I’m sure he’d be very proud of it forever. (Omitting a few years that begin with “1”, perhaps)

-- Lis - Michigan - -

View darryl's profile


1795 posts in 5382 days

#15 posted 07-01-2010 12:41 AM

I’ve made bird houses, keepsake boxes and pens with my daughters… starting when they were four. the only power tool used by them was the lathe when turning her pen.
have fun and enjoy it!

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