Woodworking is Good for the mind...?

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Forum topic by azwoodman posted 04-11-2010 05:20 AM 2230 views 0 times favorited 38 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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132 posts in 3374 days

04-11-2010 05:20 AM

Topic tags/keywords: woodworking education skills resource question

Hey there fellow lumberjocks!

I am writing a college research paper about the IMPORTANCE OF WOODSHOP in the high school curriculum. As I’m sure most are aware, many of the high school shop classes throughout the country are disappearing. There has been a steady decline in the number of schools that offer them and I’m trying to find out why we should keep them.

First off, I have to address a matter of definition. “WOODWORKING is ART!” (I don’t think many lumberjocks would refute that statement…) Just check out some of the amazing work that this community has shared with each other!

I have been looking for credible sources that illustrate how the art of woodworking helps teach valuable lessons that can help reinforce lessons taught in the classroom and can be applied to other aspects of life.

Here is a link to an article that I found on the Boston Globe about the importance of Art in the classroom.

If any of you know where I can find newspaper articles, websites, published scientific studies, or other reference sources that can back up my claim that WOODWORKING can teach valuable lessons, please post a link here as a comment or send me an email to let me know where to find the info.

Another thing… If any of you would like to share your story about how woodworking has taught you lessons that apply to your “non-woodworking” career, please post it here as a comment or send me an email. (some lessons that I can think of are: problem-solving skills, simple mathematics, perseverance, project planning, materials cost calculations, etc.)

Thanks everybody for helping to keep the craft alive and kickin!

-- Spencer, Gilbert Az (

38 replies so far

View Wintersedge's profile


83 posts in 2967 days

#1 posted 04-11-2010 05:32 AM

Wow Spencer… there are so many areas that woodworking would benefit the mind.. many that would parallel any other study and not need direct scientific testing…
1. hand eye coordination.. no different from the benefits gained from playing a video game.. you are immersed in the sounds of machinery being turned on, constant hum of multiple machines… table saw, dust collector, air cleaner.. then you have a series of steps you have to complete, measure, line things up. You have to keep your concentration to ensure you are safe, the work is guided in straight, and you constantly check for errors and compensate as you do any task.
2. Building any plan is just as detailed as any painting or architecture planning. From the raw creative design, laying out measurements, calculating board feet, creating a cut list, mapping the cut list to raw lumber to get the best yield and least amount of waste.
3. Using hand tools, I break out a sweat when planeing. It is not less than going to the Y or a good game of pickup bball. Surely the same benefits of any exercise that releases endorphines would apply here as well.
4. And finance.. you are as sharp as the best accountant as you try to figure out how you can squeeze more tools out of your meager budget. yes, 4 is a joke.. I will sit and think about some more and toss this out to my wife who works with adult education.

This would also be a good topic to ask the folks over at popular woodworking.. they seem to love the research/academic side of woodworking.


-- Motivation alone is not enough. If you have an idiot and you motivate him, now you have a motivated idiot.

View azwoodman's profile


132 posts in 3374 days

#2 posted 04-11-2010 05:45 AM

I like your list! #4 is definitely true even if it was a joke! :) Good advice about asking the Pop-woodworking folks… I’ll have to do that…

-- Spencer, Gilbert Az (

View azwoodman's profile


132 posts in 3374 days

#3 posted 04-11-2010 06:23 AM


I totally understand what you mean by, “I don’t need expensive surveys and data collection to tell me these things.” Unfortunately, it seems that the “powers that be” need solid, irrefutable evidence before they consider taking any action to preserve what seems obvious to us.

Long live the craft!

-- Spencer, Gilbert Az (

View Misesfan's profile


11 posts in 2991 days

#4 posted 04-11-2010 06:54 AM

As Wintersedge states in point 2 – the building plan and architectural development of a project requires the development of spatial geometry. In fact, I would argue that woodworking requires knowledge that advances and develops basic Euclidean geometry taught in High School. That is what first drew me into woodworking, since I was a mathematics major in college. Woodworking also develops and expands upon other basic courses currently taught – physics with the expansion and contraction of solids, chemistry with reactions of different finishes and how it affects our stock, any science course with precise measurement skills. I could go on, but I think everyone gets the idea.

Personally, I missed out in high school, and never took woodworking, although it was offered. I kick myself in the pants all the time for waiting so long in life to become as passionate as I have this last year about woodworking. Wasted time that I am trying to make up.

View mike85215's profile


127 posts in 3138 days

#5 posted 04-11-2010 07:03 AM

Spencer, I agree that woodworking definitely is an education in and of itself. But I think that one of the things that it has helped me with the most and maybe it is also the reason why so few younger people are interested in it today as in comparison to times past is that it definitely requires patience. I doubt that anyone would argue the fact that we live (at least in America) in an era of “I want it now!”. That usually does not work with woodworking, anyone that has ever built a piece of furniture knows that it takes time. In particular generally the more time that is spent (invested) in sanding the better the results. Unfortunately the kids today are losing that perspective when the industrial arts classes are cut for budget reasons. Just my two cents worth.

View azwoodman's profile


132 posts in 3374 days

#6 posted 04-11-2010 07:48 AM

I hear ya Mike! It is a tragedy that the focus of primary education is almost entirely diverted away from any sort of “art” classes (industrial arts, music, theater, or other “non-academic” classes…). Standardized testing in each state is only required to cover the subjects of math, reading/language arts, and science… Students aren’t even required to be tested on history! (according to the US Department of Education)

-- Spencer, Gilbert Az (

View JasonIndy's profile


187 posts in 3429 days

#7 posted 04-11-2010 08:44 AM

Ditto on the patience. I used to put together model airplanes when I was younger and it appeals to that same part of my mind. I think I speak for a fair # of woodworkers when I say that I don’t have an artistic bone in my body, and that woodworking is the ONLY way that I have found to think crtically and creatively at the same time. It definitely appeals to a unique niche, and as for me I’ve never found anything else that satisfies in a similar manner.

View live4ever's profile


983 posts in 3003 days

#8 posted 04-11-2010 10:56 AM

If you haven’t found Matthew Crawford’s writing already, I highly recommend it. Here is an excerpt that appeared in the NY Times. It made a profound impression on me.

I thought I read his book as well but I think it was a similar book by a different author. His book is due out in a few weeks.

EDIT: Yes, I did read it – it’s called Shop Class as Soulcraft. Got confused as the paperback is due out in a few weeks. Hardcover and other editions are available now. While not woodworking specific, it contains a lot of interesting concepts, ideas, and research that may be helpful for your paper.

-- Optimists are usually disappointed. Pessimists are either right or pleasantly surprised. I tend to be a disappointed pessimist.

View azwoodman's profile


132 posts in 3374 days

#9 posted 04-11-2010 11:35 AM

Yup. Already read it! Although Matthew Crawford used a lot of “big words”, the message that he conveyed through his writing really spoke to me. He definitely gave me a lot to use for my paper!

-- Spencer, Gilbert Az (

View rhett's profile


742 posts in 3661 days

#10 posted 04-11-2010 02:07 PM

I think the bigger issue is that schools are continually defunding all programs that teach children to actually learn and think. Under the current “system of education” the ability to regurgitate information is the way we measure how smart a child is, quite sad really. It’s so much bigger than just a one class issue.

-- Doubt kills more dreams than failure.

View richgreer's profile


4541 posts in 3068 days

#11 posted 04-11-2010 02:48 PM

I’m somewhat mathematically inclined. I was a math major in college and I spent my entire professional career working in a highly mathematical field. I was an actuary. I’m now retired.

I like to design my own furniture and other woodworking items. I find that I am frequently using basic trigonometry to determine what angle to set my blade tilt and/or miter angle at to get the perfect fit whenever I am doing some complex joinery (which I do a lot). There are several other situations in which I use trigonometry to solve a woodworking problem.

For many of us, mathematics does not “come alive” until you have a direct application where you use the math to solve a problem.

-- Rich, Cedar Rapids, IA - I'm a woodworker. I don't create beauty, I reveal it.

View Gene Howe's profile

Gene Howe

10473 posts in 3422 days

#12 posted 04-11-2010 04:20 PM

If you can spare the time, email or call Rod Horn of the Flagstaff School District in AZ.
Rod has single handedly resurrected a industrial arts program and turned it into one of the finest in the state, if not the entire southwest. I’m sure he can broaden your information search parameters and may have access to unpublished papers.
He is also an accomplished artist in several mediums. A living testimony to the fact that spatial thinking transcends and enhances other mental endeavors and their end products.
Highly recommend your contacting him.

Rod's contact info and job description

Best of luck with your project. You are doing a great thing.

-- Gene 'The true soldier fights not because he hates what is in front of him, but because he loves what is behind him.' G. K. Chesterton

View pawpawsteve's profile


16 posts in 2983 days

#13 posted 04-11-2010 09:51 PM

Doug Stowe, the box maker, is a strong advocate of woodcrafts as part of education. Check out his blogsite at
I think his work demonstrates that he is also an artist!

By the way, thanks to all of for the welcomes when I joined LJ.

-- Steve ... determined to die working and believing that God is good!

View JuniorJoiner's profile


486 posts in 3433 days

#14 posted 04-11-2010 10:40 PM

with baby boomers retiring, the amount of growth hobby woodworking is going to see in the next decade may be mind blowing. I think that HS children having some basic knowledge of woodworking will help with communication between generations.
I think it is also important to note how much success can influence and shape young personalities. A student who creates a project, start to finish, that is useful and appreciated. is more likely to try again. most school successes produce grades, not tangible items, as in woodworking.

-- Junior -Quality is never an accident-it is the reward for the effort involved.

View Sawdust4Blood's profile


404 posts in 3015 days

#15 posted 04-11-2010 11:52 PM

One of the rare practical applications of my high school algebra class. Try looking at a piece of furniture you want to replicate and figure out out how many board feet of each type of lumber so that you neither find yourself 90% done and run out of lumber or buying too much of that expensive imported hardwood.

-- Greg, Severn MD

showing 1 through 15 of 38 replies

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