Coping: Where Can Women “Take Shop?”

Housing:  Last week, a female reader was asking where can a woman (or any gender) go to learn shop skills, if they didn’t pick it up in school…

The answer to this is both simple and hard (a Zen thing) because there are tons of ways to learn.

First, though, a little background on why the American shop classes have been disappeared, largely at the hands of lawyers.  I know it ain’t nice to stick it to the legal profession, but there is risk to working with shop tools.  And in the “newly arrived hormones” zone (of middle  and high school), all classes are risky business.  Unless the shop instructor rules with an iron fist.  Problem is, that flies in the face of the “molly-coddle my little darlings or we’ll sue” crowd who want to raise a pile of snowflake offal so useless (and dependent) that they can’t even figure out what sex they are without counseling.

(Continues below)


While this isn’t about the “permissive and stupid” level of society, exactly, it is an article about being a Maker of Things.  Being a Maker shakes off being a Sheep.

MAKING is a high art form in a world of group-thought, non-making, namby-pamby’s who live off the work of others.  I won’t mention the young man who told me “If I’d only known life was really this hard, I wish my parents had been tougher on me when I was younger...”

Rule 1:  Making Stuff is Hard

By “hard” I don’t mean you will come down with migraines from the headwork involved.  No way.  In fact, actually making things is easy because there are only four basic operations in shop practice:

  • Measure (& mark)
  • Cut  (the material, not you)
  • Join (the pieces together)
  • Finish (with paint or whatever)

It gets dresses up with layers of gobbledygook but them’s are the facts. In fine woodworking, sometimes you finish then assemble, but it’s still four main steps, regardless of the dance.

HARD means this (and it’s like martial arts):

When you are Making, you have to be in charge of the workpiece and tools, TRIPLE ESPECIALLY POWER TOOLS at all times, or you can break things and get injured.  You never forget your first saw bite.

Loose the soft mindset, all the crap about “nice” and “sharing” and “gentle” and “caring.” Makers are powerful people. They are controllers and builders of a future.  Hands-on so nothing moves without your permission.  You’re the boss or bossette.

If you are a MAKER, then by God, you’re running the show and that show will run safely and to (or ahead) of schedule.

Over the course of us rebuilding our home in the woods, Elaine’s become “harder” in the shop.  She doesn’t…

  1. Run the table saw without constantly expecting kick-back.  This is where the wood is ripped out of your hand and flies out the back of the saw at warp speed.
  2. She doesn’t have her hands in front of the blade EVER and she sets a rip fence, stands to the side, wears protective eyewear…ear plugs, all that stuff that matters.
  3. Loosely held drill press work?  Hell no.  Clamps it, vices it.  Again, after having workpieces ripped from your hands enough times, you figure out that the Big, Painful events come from being namby-pamby.  No! Get tough.  Get in charge. Bolt that work down, use jigs  – guides, clamps and tack welds if necessary.  That’s how you get quality and an  accident free shop…
  4. Even something as benign as the belt sanding station is a ‘gotcha’ done wrong.  Free-hand sanding is a wonderful art.  Just so long as you learn the “secret sauce” is NEVER have the workpiece  contact the belt in front of your hand.  Always keep your hands in position so if the workpiece moves, you don’t get pushed into the machine.
  5. Loose hair and clothing must never come near machinery.

This all seems like SIMPLE stuff, OBVIOUS as hell, but these kinds of mistakes (and offshoring jobs to China et al) is why we don’t have shop class anymore.  People are stupid.  So, we took away one of the routes to real creativity, thus sealing our fate as pond scum.

Not saying it’s all bad…dumb people, like cattle, are easier to manipulate.

There’s a term in flying airplanes that gets to the idea I’m grinding on here:  Many an accident report includes the phrase “Failed to maintain positive control...”  You don’t land in a 20 knot crosswind kindly, gently, slowly, group-love effectively.  You slam the controls and never show fear as you horse an aircraft around the sky, beating it so it lands on the dime.  

This is true in the shop, as well. 

Nice is for date night.  Not high speed driving, flying, or a shop full of power tools.

I can not emphasize enough that there’s a reason that you’ll find a lot of craftsmen, pilots, offshore sailors, code-warriors, and so forth, are total control freaks.  The bottom line is control is what ensures a workmanlike outcome.

You don’t really think Oilman2, for example, would tolerate nice, gentle, well-intentioned sloppy work on a rig, do you?  Hell no. To make first-class money, you do first class work.  Or you won’t make the money for long.

MAKING is NOT gender specific.  It is, however, not for the weak willed, indecisive, or wimpy.  SJW’s aren’t welcome.  Cowgirl (or Cowboy) up and keep that “Let’s git ‘er done” ‘tude on at all times. If you Make, don’t be Weak.  Dare to be great….and magically, it is so.

Rule #2:  Have a Purpose, Learn the Tools

Pappy and an uncle of mine framed up a house one summer (back in the day) over the course of two or three weeks using ONLY three hand saws.  Disston 8 point and 10 point crosscuts and a 5-1/2 point rip saw.  Crosscut saws cut across the grain of the wood.  Rip saws cut with the grain.  They manually nailed the whole thing.  Pappy always said there was something especially rewarding from framing-in a house…he thought of it as “capturing space for our use” and I have to say it’s right.  I get the same joy out of deck building.

Materializing “things” out of “nothings” is Alchemy of the highest order.  Your own little church of creation.

When you Make, have a defined outcome in mind.  Once you have the outcome, pick the right tools for the job.  You would never frame a house with a jig saw, but you’d never do a small arty-curvy thing on a 12″ chop saw, either.  (I might, but I am a chop saw wizard.)   Start small.  Make some simple things.  Try with and without plans. Inspect the results.  Be critical of your own  work so others won’t have to be.

Rule #3:  Watch Videos

You can find a video for every power tool on the planet on YouTube.

Here’s a good table saw intro with lots of safety discussion.  And here’s a bit more for you.

Most important, though is probably this video which gets into what causes blade binding and kickback, in turn.  You are plenty bright to find 5 Basic Cuts and other skill builders.

Here is a shop task I will resort to YT for:  I have one of those Harbor Freight power band saws for cutting steel and other metals.  Fine, but lately is has gotten wonky – and won’t cut straight.

Reading language that might make sense to a Chinese machinist is one approach, but here’s an almost identical saw and video showing how it gets tuned up.  In a 14 minute video, I can find the 5-minutes that will save me an hour.

You’ve got the idea, though:  Hit YouTube and look for the tool you’re going to use.  Buy a jig saw?  See Woodworking Basics  GRAND jigsaw video here.

Believe it or not, confidence comes from doing and making mistakes.  The craftsman has made every mistake in the book already.  You haven’t.  But give yourself time…we all do.

Start small.  A Jigsaw is fine.  Get one with a laser-guide.  No point making life unnecessarily hard, is there?

Rule #4:  Find Classes

A lot of the bigger retailers have classes., for example, not only has stores, but they also have some great classes.

Also don’t overlook media sources like DIY Network.

Check with your local home center (like Home Depot here) and see if they have classes you might find interesting.

Fine Woodworking has a directory of some woodworking clubs and websites over here.

And let’s not overlook the Woodworkers Guild of America which also has both free and advanced material from their site.

At first you’ll want to “color inside the lines” and deal with suggested projects.  But, after a while, you’ll be able to do things like the picture below from back when I cobbled up the UrbanSurvival office on one end of the shop building…

To this day, there is not a single plan for this.  Just a Peoplenomics article describing what a dream office would be like.  Construction is magic:  You take an IDEA and condense it into some two-by-fours, glass, wiring, and some dimensional wood and OMG…an Office!

Part of UrbanSurvival digs came from  “Hmmm… I have this old piece of glass from a storm door…bet I could turn it into a horizontal window…”  Immediately, things took on a life of their own.

One mistake I made was not putting down more permanent flooring.  Since I decked with 3/4 birch ply, it was given a few coats of Diamond Flooring Varathane and I told myself “Some day I will put down a real floor…

Well, that was, uh, 11years ago.  Which brings us to the final rule:

Rule #5:  Do it Right the First Time

I had no idea 10-years could get by so quick!  Now, the idea of taking the room down to walls for a second generation office makeover seems a foolish use of time  & resources.

Stick to it…your membership in the Home Handybastard’s has been approved.

In the Immortal Name of our idol Dewalt Skil-Decker, welcome to the Order of Makers.  Do.  There is no TRY.

Write when you get rich, or finish that spec house..,.

44 thoughts on “Coping: Where Can Women “Take Shop?””

  1. Buy the best tools you can’t afford, even simple things like screwdrivers, you will never regret it.

    • A Phillips head screwdriver is a good example of just one tool you should purchase the very best. The simple task of putting in a screw with the worn head of a cheap screwdriver will remind you of these words: “Cheap tools are worth just what you paid for them”


      • Living in the “Great White North”, great to have Robertson square head screws for building, ’cause to can take most things apart and reuse the lumber! and when its too small, off to the kindling pile, Rarely use a hammer now.
        Built a great 8’x8′ green house addition to the back shed from old glass patio door panels as well. Us old guys can reuse most anything…

      • There’s a place for cheap tools(think “lump hammer”), and a place for expensive ones, such as a PEX ring crimper. The Phillips head design puts an incredible stress on a very small steel section and its use today exceeds its design limitations. That’s why we’re having Torx, Square-Drive, and other specialty designs for where large driving forces are required in a small cross-section. IMHO, a three inch Phillips head construction screw cannot be driven successfully without pre-drilling. Doing so will usually destroy the head before seating it completely.

      • Well said, buy once for the things you’ll keep using. But also consider the things where you can buy “just good enough”; no reason to spend big $$$ for a task tool you’ll only use a few times.

        During my RE coursework I purchased a swagging/flaring set from ebay to use in class. It wasn’t the best but it did allow me to use something that worked correctly instead of trying to ‘make do’ with the wornout shop set. Learning is much easier when the tools work as expected and you’re not having to fight the tool in addition to learning a new skill, IMHO.

      • Re Phillips screwdrivers. I’ve bought 2 for a dollar (on sale ) drivers at Menards. Chinese. but with hardened tips. The grip isn’t the best, but 50 cents.
        I have about 10 disston and craftsman handsaws. I use the free, or cheap with instore rebate coupon handsaws that menards sells with hardened teeth. Average cost, less than $5. I can’t sharpen a saw for $5.

      • Something Mark Z said reminds me of an infuriating aspect of ‘modern’ life – I have a habit of keeping stuff that is still usable (if not currently used) – whereas my sister (only ten years younger) has it in her head that you can just go out and buy something new if the ‘old’ thing isn’t suitable (and she has trashed it.)

        ‘Why are you keeping THAT?’ seems to be her mantra . . .

        Can’t always get something – either literally or mentally . . .

  2. George

    You wrote:

    “Materializing “things” out of “nothings” is Alchemy of the highest order. Your own little church of creation.”

    How true, but there is a step before that and it is called DESIGN.

    This is where the creation starts and I have had the privilege of performing design work hundreds of times.

    In those design efforts to a very small degree I felt as the Creator of All must feel as Creation unfolds!

    You get a touch of the devine when you design! (Especially when it’s on someone else’s dime.)

    Happy New Year!

    • What about faith.
      You have to have faith that there was something to design everything before there was anything.
      Now I believe and have faith. I believe in guardian angels as well.
      Some that only view with logic don’t.. Yet there has to be a chicken before an egg to begin the process

    • Design can be as simple or complex as appropriate for the job. Some of us can visualize or conceptualize without drawings, but for more complexity, design becomes essential. The next skill to learn is layout – being able to measure accurately and lay out precisely what you wish for before cutting or drilling. THAT is a truly under-appreciated skill.

  3. Local community colleges also offer construction, welding, and mechanics, classes in some locations.

    • I am looking into a plumbing class.. in our area you can’t hire a plumber to do repairs. They all only want new construction. Same thing with appliance repairs. We bought the name brand most expensive dishwasher. During manufacturing the installed the wrong two dollar seal. Because it was under warranty the couldn’t locate anyone under contract in our area ended up sending someone from 350 miles away they didn’t have one so they ordered it and made a return trip. Eventually because there’s a lack of repair service here they just gave us our money back.

  4. George, nice article and to the point. One must ‘do’ to learn and some of the lessons are difficult. My son cut off 4 fingers on a table saw by being in a hurry. Good surgeon put them back on and they work, mostly.
    The helpers just showed up so I am off to the Project House as the Jefe. Finishing trim on the T&G ceiling.
    Read. Watch. Try. Start with something simple that you can use. Maybe a garden or porch bench?
    Not rich in an overabundance of cash, but in live’s experiences and Friends. Cheers.

  5. Great article for the beginner! You also may want to search around your area for woodworking clubs, I have found out there are a couple here in AZ and had them do some work for me they have a common shop and very nice equipment, stuff the weekender might not buy (like a 24″ surface planer and belt sander)you join and pay dues and have use of the equipment Community Collages have workshops and or classes for adults. Mesa Art Center in Phoenix for example has some really cool classes!

  6. “You never forget your first saw bite.”

    Never show off to impress someone else..
    One of my many hats was building in a shop. One day I was put in charge of training a group of beautiful young ladies. In the process of being brilliant I accidentally stapled my sack to my leg..( thankfully not hitting the strategic area)
    Years later I was on the safety committee and so was one of the beautiful ladies during the conversation on plant injuries she started laughing and said to me.. remember when you nailed your nuts to your leg.. the plant manager said you should have reported it.. sure like I wanted a big sheet of paper on the bulletin board with my injury.
    Watch videos.. when I built our first home I bought a video showing a cute blonde building a house. She skipped over the hard parts. Remember it’s one board. If you look at one board the project isn’t as big, its easier to put a large endeavor on the back burner than a small one.

  7. Here in N.Y. we have BOCES where a student can take up what ever trade they wish,from CNC to welding to wood working to mechanics hell they even have a course for getting qualified/license to drive the big rigs, think they run from noon to 3:30.Lol probably one of the few good things you can say about N.Y.

  8. George,

    Enjoyed your article about being a “Maker of things”. When I studied Engineering in college, we still had practical classes in machine shop, welding, pattern making, foundry, etc. Of course at that time “long hair” was the style, and most people who have worked around a lathe know that the two don’t mix well. Our shop instructor was a retired Navy Chief who had a low tolerance for stupidity. One day in metal shop lab, a guy in our class was running a metal cutting lathe using a “dog” to turn the piece instead of a chuck. Did not tie his hair back and as result lost hair and a nickel sized piece of scalp. Needless to say Chief had no sympathy for him, but did use the incident as a good object lesson. Although the injury looked horrible at the time, the guy learned a painful lesson, as did the rest of the class. At 66 I still run a row crop farming operation, by myself ( no man Friday to help). I do all my repair work, if at all possible. I have several safety rules of my own.
    1. Never get under anything you cannot lift yourself, unless you have it securely blocked where it cannot fall on you.
    2. Take the extra time to make sure the machine is turn off and all motion is stopped before working on anything.
    3. Never attempt a two man job alone, even if it is just someone there to observe and summon assistance if needed.
    4. And lastly, don’t get in a hurry and do something stupid. Time may be money, but money isn’t life.

    Keep up the good articles.

    Lloyd Snider
    Gleason, TN

  9. Nothing like taking a first aid class in grade school and the instructor is ‘an old guy’ whose missing fingers, and impresses upon us all the facts of not only first aid but shop safety . . . fast forward forty years and I’m working in a phone center with a guy who types with not his finger tips but rather the first joints on his hands. No putting those back on, he said – lost in ‘the wood chipper at the plant’. And we both agree that workmans’ comp is ‘crap’.

  10. I don’t know about the rest of the country, but most high schools out west from Washington to Arizona offer a new kind of shop class and it is 60/40 boys to girls. It is a hybrid called Maker class. It combines good old fashioned shop and mechanics class with a twist of robotics and code. My sister teaches a class in Utah. It’s huge in Seattle, Portland, San Francisco,Phoenix, Salt Lake City and L.A. A lot of school districts have robotics competitions that revolve around the class. It’s the perfect evolution of shop. Does anyone else have that in their Area?

  11. Just feeding the ‘content kitty’ a little.

    “Rule #4: Find Classes”

    There are a lot of ‘helpless’ (read lazy and stupid) in the world looking for free handouts.

    If the person asking for training has free time, they can donate it to Habitat for Humanity. Volunteering at the Hab not only will make the person feel good helping the ‘helpless’, but could also assist in learning valuable skills.

  12. I think following Chip & Joanna Gaines is the way to go. The woman is the creative designer (and boss) and the man does the labor.

  13. My next door neighbor has been building houses since he was a kid which is nearly 40 years. His best bit of advice to me when I was remodeling my house (alone) was that when you do something for the first time, like flooring or tiling, start in the closet. It gives you a place to practice without mistakes being so noticable.

  14. Where Can Women “Take Shop?”
    Local “maker space” if your city has one. Or find a local shop that does interesting work; maybe they’ll let you work part time and look over the pro’s shoulder.

    Stay away from the television building shows, they edit out the screw-ups, cuss-fests, lame technique and do-overs to make it look simple and enjoyable to watch.

  15. There are a couple of other processes involved in making. There’s casting, which could loosely be called joining, I suppose; and transforming, as in smelting or hardening/tempering of metals. Pouring concrete could presumably be both of the above processes.

  16. Hi George, for people who are 16-24, the Job Corps program offers all sorts of free trade/vocational programs. There are some really good students there. However, it can be a challenge. It’s a no nonsense program, which it should be, but for those people who have not had a lot of structure in their life or lack manners it can be very difficult. The program provides ‘free’ housing/meals/clothing etc. They paid a stipend and when one completes the program they get a bonus; and assistance with job placement. According to the Government the programs are equivalent of $30,000 worth of education. My son graduated as a certified welder, a friend’s son graduate from their heavy equipment operator program, another one went through the carpentry program and went into specialized finish work, and my son’s girlfriend graduated from their carpenter program and went back into their the electrician’s course and plans on going to their advance course for Solar! Job Corps also offers a program for Machinsts – gotta love them. But really, if We are gonna MAGA, we need to put back the vocational programs that were in high schools. It’s a horrible that the PTB painted a picture that one has to have a debt burden college degree to get a good paying job, that may or may not be there.

  17. Framing with handsaws takes me back 30 yrs or so when I was a framer with the standard skill saws, but we hand bopped the nails.

    Driving around the subdivision that was being built we saw framing crews that varied from using hand saws, to using chain saws, to using the air nailers / staplers.

    1800 sq/ft house we could frame up every 5 days with skill saws, hand bopped nails, and air stapled sheets.

    Happy New Year

  18. REALLY? I’ve got a box of tools I’d be happy to let go of for what I paid. What’s your address? You’re the high bidder.

  19. A few years ago a young couple bought the house across the street. After a couple days I looked over and could see a couple legs on a step ladder in the garage. Thought I would mosey over and introduce myself. As I got closer those 2 legs ended up belonging to the cutest young wife you could imagine. She had some tools stuck into her back jeans pockets but I don’t know how since those jeans were as tight as they could get. She had a schematic of the garage door opener laid out on the ladder top and had the unit disassembled. She was taking out the control board and already had another ready to install. This little lady is a rock star. Makers don’t know genders.

    • Yes the other half is our motivation for being and Repro creating populating and anyway I’m sure you’re going to have a beautiful future wow

  20. I live near hundreds of Amish families. Manual labor is in the air around here daily. And yet, my wife gets freaked if I go up a five step ladder to trim some apple trees. I lost the ability to be a maker years ago based on this. Thanks for the article. Inspiring for those who are allowed to build things.

    • Your house as an Amish person does have an underground shelter right where you keep all your food and in that underground shelter keeps things from freezing so yeah you’re working on the right Basics there.

  21. George,

    Thanks very much for taking me seriously and writing this article. I’m not at a stage of life or health where I can really take you up on these instructions, but an earlier me thanks you immensely.

    “Materializing “things” out of “nothings” is Alchemy of the highest order. Your own little church of creation.”

    I really felt this way as well.

    Like ROCKET MIKE says, there is a ‘divine’ step before that which I also had the privilege of performing hundreds of times (on someone else’s dime) – custom kitchens and baths – and long before computer generated plans and illustrations. I would often be out in the mud of a job site at a framed up and dried in house doing site measurements and hand drawn quick illustrations of what my employer’s company could provide. I really enjoyed it.

    @Prepperdaddy and Standfreeman — yes I learned about buying good tools. I know they are not commercial grade, but I always bought Sears Craftsman. I don’t regret it.

    Thanks again to all.

    • You still can. If you have two working limbs, you can build bird houses and feeders, artsy clocks, and the other gimcracks and gewgaws commonly found in country stores. “Building stuff” doesn’t have to mean buildings, or shelving, or anything “major.” It is not the size of the project but just the “doing” that’s important.

      Ain’t nuthin’ wrong with Craftsman, except the new, Chinese made tools are overpriced. The hand tools used to be made in the same forge as S-K and Snap-On…

      • Thanks Ray,

        I’m actually very good at numerous types of satisfying artsy craftsy stuff. Quality design, color and execution.

        I just can’t let myself get into it because I need major money to survive and the artsy craftsy won’t cut it. Yes I know about Etsy and Amazon Handmade.

        I’m in a cramped space in daily survival mode. No messy place workspace for crafts here.

  22. Seriously thinking about building a house. Out forever dream house but I am scared. The new tax bill has put the brakes on real estate here. All the new spec builders have pulled in their horns and homes that used to sell in 4 days are just sitting. I am on the fence literally. t this age I can’t afford a mistake
    This is a waterfront formerly. Hot market it’s also a second home market. I can’t decide.

  23. American shop classes have been disappeared, largely at the hands of lawyers.

    Datum point: “local” high school (as in 45 miles away) HAD a principal who was in charge for a decade. Claimed there was no need for shop classes and what the world needed was the higher income from college grads so he was shifting resources away from shop classes with 2 shop classrooms converted into 6 ‘regular’ classrooms.

    So not ALL lawyers fault. Other than perhaps a desire to have students go to college and some of them be lawyers.

  24. Lots of commenters reference “going to school” in one form or another, to learn stuff. This makes me wonder: Do people want to invest years of their lives to “learn how to do stuff,” or do they just want to “do stuff?” The difference between the two sounds tiny, but in actuality, it’s enormous. One doesn’t need “school” to do stuff. They just need to DO stuff…

    Since I “retired,” I’ve been playing the “salvage game.” Schools are my favorite feeding ground. I’ve been to over 50 different high, tech, trade, and adult-ed schools from Minnesota to Oklahoma to Georgia to Connecticut, bought tools, machinery, and sundry steampunk esoterica. I’ve talked to a lot of school administrators and asked them, among other things, WHY? Their top three answers:

    1. Kids aren’t interested in working with their hands.
    2. Parents don’t want their college-bound kids to take shop.
    3. The Administration believes we can make better use of the space.

    It bakes my cookies to see a 7000 pound South Bend, Bullard, or Cincinnati shop machine, which [with maintenance could run nearly forever], and which couldn’t be replaced for $200k, sell for $100 to some scrapper. Not only don’t WE build these machines any more, NOBODY ELSE builds them either. The Mitsus, Hitachis, and Fujis are better, new, than these old American hunks of iron, but they don’t hold tolerance as well, and are damn’ near impossible to repair or maintain.

    This is the “hidden” loss. With people no-longer learning to use machine tools, the tools are disappearing too, along with the manufacturers which made them. Cincinnati Milacron is no more; South Bend was bought by overseas interests and is now Chinese junk.

    To learn how to be a “Maker,” you need to learn a few universal rules, most of which are safety or common-sense related, then you will need to learn a few (very few, actually) processes which are specific to the skill you wish to acquire.

    Universal rules for machinery are as follows:

    1. No rings, watches, pendants, or other jewelry, EVER.
    2. No loose clothing, EVER, and no long sleeves.*
    3. No long hair. If you have it, wear a snug stocking cap.
    4. Murphy is a bastard. His Law functions on steroids in any shop environment.
    5. Murphy’s Law is also understood to be rewritten, thus: “Anything which can go wrong, will; ANYTHING WHICH CAN’T GO WRONG, ALSO WILL.
    6. If a machine has a rotating or reciprocating function, NEVER place any part of your body where it can touch, OR BE PULLED IN to the machine.
    7. If a machine uses heat or electric arc, NEVER let your attention lapse.
    *Long sleeves are okay for welding or chainsaw work. The shirt should be cotton or wool, and snug.

    These are not complete rules, they are an addendum to the rules George and his commenters will give. EVERYONE who’s ever worked in a shop will emphasize safety rules, because it is impossible to be too safe, when one is working around tools that can maim or kill in an instant.

    Examples of processes are:

    1. When assembling plastic pipe, twist the joint as you push the pieces together
    2. When installing an outlet, the black wire goes on the gold contact, the white on the silver
    3. Dull the nail point before you hammer it, to avoid splitting the wood

    My suggestion for anyone is to build a birdhouse — not a fancy one, but a basic nailed-together box with a hole in it. Once one actually builds something, anything, they realize a project neither has to be grand, nor difficult, to be satisfying. The satisfaction is self-feeding and self-sustaining. The process will plant a seed of (I REALLY hate cliches, but…) “empowerment” in one’s fertile mind that they CAN accomplish whatever they wish.

    BTW, the bird that moves in won’t care what it looks like or how well the nails are driven.

    For NotG: You know how to sketch plans, so you’re half-way there already. 99% of builds don’t require a design or even a mechanical drawing. A rough sketch is sufficient…

  25. I have attended the John C Campbell folk school many times. The instructors are world class and the number and depth of classes you can take is huge. It is also a great social experience and nice place for a vacation. Their website is

  26. Those ‘Phillips’ Drive Screw bits and why they don’t last, slip, and wear out.
    It’s all in the tip angle, too ‘pointy’ and they are making most contact near the center, not good for transmitting torque. If the bit rocks in the screw head the angle is too acute and it’s ‘not cute’!
    Making the tip angle wider so the contact is at the periphery of the slots fixes the problem and save buying more defective bits!
    So simple and the manufacturers just don’t get it right.

    • But we KNOW they can make better tools – but they wouldn’t sell as maybe don’t you know…

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