Workshop #4: Woodworking with kids.

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Blog entry by Woodcanuck posted 07-22-2010 05:15 PM 2380 reads 0 times favorited 8 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 3: Finally posting my workshop Part 4 of Workshop series no next part

I’ve noticed lately a few discussions about woodworking with kids. Lots of discussions about safety and the concerns about workshops being the least safe place in the home for a child to be. In addition, there were lots of great stories reminiscing about spending time in Dad/Grandpa’s workshop, Grandparents sneaking their grandkids out to the workshop to have some fun. Last friday produced an opportunity test out some of these discussion points and help me find ways to bond with my daughter on woodworking activities.

Summer hours are great, I get friday afternoons off and with my wife and daughter at home we’ve been trying to make good use of the extended weekends. I normally try to spend saturday’s doing some woodworking or home renovations, but with the nice weather we’re also trying to get out of the city and spend time up north, so it was awesome to hear my wife suggest that I go out to the workshop friday afternoon. I opened the invitation to my daughter (just turned 10) to join me and help me out with the Marble Tower project.

Typically my daughter groans at the idea of a trip to the big box hardware store or Lee Valley or much much worse, a lumber mill so I was delighted when she decided to trail out after me.

I thought about the discussions that have been going on online and decided to test them out a bit, starting with safety equipment:
Eyes: Getting eye protection on is easy enough and we even have kid sized safety goggles…but keeping them on is a challenge, they come off quickly and tend to stay off. So, this means I try to avoid any power tools.
Ears: Kids have much better hearing that us oldsters do, and the sensitivity to machine noises is obvious. Hands go to ears quickly at loud noises, so getting the big earmuff hearing protection on was easy and it was something she was willing to keep wearing as long as there was any noise. Even the drill press running was reason enough to throw them back on.
Lungs: Getting a dust mask that fits well and stays on…big challenge. This is a big problem. Even if a kid is willing to wear a paper mask or proper dust mask or respirator, they don’t fit well enough to be really effective. So, anything dusty has to be locked down with really good dust collection at the source and avoided if possible. The ambient dust extractor goes on and stays on in hopes of keeping the fine dust to a minimum.

Based on this, and the obvious fear/caution around using any power tools (though she kind of likes the drill press) I decided to focus on how to introduce hand tools into the equation.

I’m personally fearful of shoving a nice sharp chisel (or worse yet a dull rusty one) into the palm of my hand, and I was equally concerned that a child would do this much more easily. I decided to try out a block plane. I didn’t see too much risk in using this and to my surprise, she picked it up remarkably fast. After a few swipes across an old strip of cedar, she actually reached for my old jack plane and with a gleam in her eye, she set to work making bigger shavings. She attacked the board with gusto making long thin shavings and building up a pile on the workbench.

Here’s what that ended up looking like: video link
After a few minutes of this she had removed close to 3/4″ of material and made a rather large pile of shavings, which of course we have to save to use as tinder for the campfire on camping trips.

I never really expected my daughter to get that into woodworking, but I can see the spark of interest and think I will have to fan the flames a little and see where it gets us.

Epilogue: Since this happened, we’ve had a couple of trips to the workshop where my daughter has helped out with tidying, sorting, cleaning and once the bench was to her satisfaction, back to more planing. We’ve even ventured to try using a carving gouge (two handed approach only to keep things in tact). An added benefit of this is that as I am explaining the safest way of doing something and the ‘correct’ way to hold a tool, I’m realizing that over time I have allowed myself to get sloppy with my own safety, so we’re both learning.

-- Ian - Life's a game, if you don't play, you can't win.

8 comments so far

View Gregn's profile


1642 posts in 3012 days

#1 posted 07-22-2010 07:46 PM

I am so happy for you!!!

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

View Dennisgrosen's profile


10880 posts in 3143 days

#2 posted 07-22-2010 08:26 PM

hello there Ian
what a great story and thank´s for sharing your thoughts/consern
about bringing chidren into the workshop
but the bigest thank´s is going to you for showing the little vidio clip
of your lovely daughter work with the plane :—-)

but let her build a project she choose and I´m sure you will see not a sparkle
but the hole sun in her face both when she make it but allso when she finished it

if she use the drillpress or other rotating tools then let her use hair net
so the hair don´t get court in the drill

about the cheisels show her how to use it wih a mallet
and tell her ” two hands on the cheisel, one on the cheisel and one on the mallet”
and if she ever use a tool singlehandlet the is the other on the back
and always have the piece you work on clamped down so it doesn´t moove

well enoff from me , we have both followed the discussions very tight nothing new here

by the way didn´t you forget to tell us her name :-)
have a great summer all of you
and I´m looking forward to see her first project :—)


View Woodcanuck's profile


128 posts in 3029 days

#3 posted 07-22-2010 08:41 PM

Thanks Dennis,

Good point on the hair net…btw, her name is Elizabeth.

You reminded me of some things my old shop teacher did to teach us.

Lesson 1: He dropped a mop head onto a running lathe….which broke the mop, ripped it apart….”this is what happens to your head if your hair gets into the lathe…tie it back!”

Lesson 2: When he demonstrated how to use a tool, we were told to keep our hands off the workbench or they belonged to him. He kept a wooden yardstick on the bench and only once did it get used. One classmate was bored and leaned on the bench….”CRACK”...the yardstick came down across his knuckles. No one did that again.

-- Ian - Life's a game, if you don't play, you can't win.

View swirt's profile


2786 posts in 3000 days

#4 posted 07-22-2010 08:57 PM

Great story. You can often find a Stanley Handyman ( a little narrower than a number 4) for dirt cheap. She may enjoy planing with that even more than a block plane. It is also a bit safer. Having two hands on a tool means you stand less chance of injuring your free hand with it.

Here is one … this one needs a bit of de-rusting
so maybe this is not the best one, but I see them pop up all the time. It is a pretty good starter plane for kids … and if she happens to drop it on the floor it won’t be a huge loss.

added: found this one seems to be in better shape

-- Galootish log blog,

View Dennisgrosen's profile


10880 posts in 3143 days

#5 posted 07-22-2010 09:43 PM

lesson nr. 1 I like very much :-) but tooo scary and dangerus to perform infront of kids
after all we shuold buid confidens in them , they shuold not be scared of any tool at all
but have desent respect for them so they have an idea how they shuold operate them safty

lesson nr. 2 I can relate to that (don´t ask why I know it haerts like hell) :-)
no I don´t think hidding kids with anything unless you have been/are in a lifetreathning situation
where they did know how dangerus they behave
but I think it was quet common in the olddays not so long ago

when it comes to what size of a plan there is good for her to handle well
consider either a nr. 3 or the veritas blockplane with the exsta backhandle and front knop
then it can be handlet with two hands
and for cheisels consider some of the buttsized they are just right for children

in the name of safty :-) introdused to handtools first
and then the vacumclearner as the first powertool and then the sander/drillpress
is the way I will do it

I will try to remember Elisabeth´s name but I´m afraid you have to give us a reminder
can´t remember names sorry but that´s the true


View ChuckV's profile


3124 posts in 3555 days

#6 posted 07-23-2010 12:08 AM

Great blog Ian.

I have been meaning to write up something about my experiences the past few months with my six and eight year-old boys. I did post the workbench that we made together. I have since added a small vice.

My boys started out with an old cross-cut saw that I got from my Dad. This was a good way to start introducing the importance of safety. They also really enjoy sanding, so they each have a small sanding block and some paper. I have an inexpensive block plane that they are getting good at using – again, here is a great opportunity to teach about safety.

They do a lot of nailing and screwing. I taught them to use a hand drill, the egg-beater type, to drill pilot holes. It is amazing what they come up with. They have built little benches, boxes, ladders, bridges and robots. Oh, and weapons, lots and lots of weapons!

-- “Big man, pig man, ha ha, charade you are.” ― R. Waters

View MNWOODWORKER's profile


105 posts in 3613 days

#7 posted 07-26-2010 06:40 AM

I too love having my kids building in the shop as well, safely of course. They have always been out there with me and we have just grown together in what we build together and they build themselves under my watchful eye. I had to laugh when she was making sure she looked good and smiled for the video, my daughter who is 7 is the same way, my son who is 9 could care less!

View WestcottMitch's profile


4 posts in 2693 days

#8 posted 03-05-2011 11:42 PM

Sounds great fun! I am truly an amateur but enjoy messing about in my garage. I have two boys, 7 & 8 years old so now is a great time to show them how things work and how to do it safely! The attached pictures are of Alex, who is 7 helping me screw together the base for their new garden playhouse, looks like the dog is interested in helping too…

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