Saturday, November 1, 2014

The Joy of Sawing for Kids.

We did a lot of school incursions last Term.
Taking the Joy of Wood to kids in primary schools around Perth, Western Australia, we have mostly been working with Kindergarten, Pre-Primary and Year 1 students - kids aged 4 -7, and they love to be creative and make things with their hands.

Sadly, working with tools is not something many kids get to do these days. I reckon that is why kids find it so empowering to use hammers, nails and saws - which is what we do so well.

Sawing is an empowering thing!
It is fantastic how quickly the kids take to the sawing, in order to modify the size and shape of pieces they are assembling as they make their creations.  The sawing station is always very busy. Funnily enough, in every class, there is at least one kid who spends most of their time sawing wood rather than nailing things together! It is always fun to see which one it will be. Sometimes this title will be shared by a couple of kids. There is no gender divide here. The happy sawyer can be girl or boy. They just love the satisfaction of successfully using the saw as they create a mountain of small pieces!
Good stance!
So how do you help kids to get sawing?
A few simple things will make a difference:

1. Provide an appropriate saw. The saws used for these activities are mostly members of the Backsaw family - commonly known these days as Tenon Saws. The saws I used with kids are nice old saws - preferably made before WWII, and even better if they were made before WWI - as ideally they will have nicely shaped and small handles. None of the plastic handled saws in your local hardware store are any good. Get a real saw. The two best saws of the many I have kids using are well over 100 years old. Beautiful and a joy to hold!
Nice action, Kiddo.
2. Teach kids how to hold the saw correctly. Holding the saw with the "three-one-thumb" technique has been taught for generations, for good reason. That index finger pointing forward helps to keep the wrist straight, which makes for better sawing. Kids pick it up pretty quickly, though some may need to be reminded every now and then. Just help them to create a good habit.  The other part of this is helping the kids to adopt a good stance, where the body is balanced and the eye, saw, hand, elbow and shoulder are all on the same plane, enabling a nice straight relaxed sawing motion.
Beautiful saws. Heavy brass backs, small shapely handles, English (Buck), and over a century old.
My best saws for kids to use.
3. The wood must be held still. Not only do we provide the equivalent of a "bench hook" style of sawing position for each saw available to the kids, but we also provide a cramp which is easy for kids to use as an additional aid - as well as coaching the kids how to best hold the timber still.

This one forgot the index finger position, but work nicely cramped still.
4. Provide a sawing bench height which is appropriate to the height of the kids. This one is a no-brainer. I have saw horses of different heights onto which the long double bench hooks are attached. If your body is over the saw, it will be easier to provide the power and nice straight sawing action. As a safety strategy for our big groups of small kids, we have a rule that no tenon saws are to be used on individual benches - they stay at the "Sawing Station". Take your wood to the saws, then take your pieces back to your bench. It's simple, safer, and easier to manage.

Using a sawing station. We have these at diferent heights for different sized kids. 
5. Give kids softwoods to use! This will include most plywoods and pines. For us in Western Australia, the best source of beautiful softwoods is from packing crates out of Europe and North America. Packing crates from North America and Europe are made from various wonderful pine species as well as plywoods, OSB and other. While these timbers are very nice, it's also good to rescue these marvelous packing crates from land fill.By providing softwoods for kids to use, it is more readily nailed and sawn. Reduce the opportunities for frustration, and you increase the likelihood of joy and satisfaction.
So many pieces to choose from...
As well as Tenon saws, there are times we also use Coping saws and Panel saws for some projects. Regardless of the type of saw used, the principles above remain the same.

It's great to watch kids experiencing the joy of sawing wood!

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