It would be easy to say I am just a shop teacher and then to just teach shop. What’s the fun in that? Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate efficiency, elegance, and minimalism but those things are rarely easy. Beyond that, the skills I am introducing to students are just a very small part of their unique and complex lives. I see this in my own life quite often.
For example, in this age of accessible 3D printing and home manufacturing we can begin to see how interconnected our knowledge is. We may be well versed, even have mastery, of one subject but that doesn’t do us any good if we can utilize skills and knowledge from other subjects and areas. I needed a shelf bracket and found myself in Sketchup looking at things like length of sides, supplemental and complementary angles, and all kinds of stuff form my high school geometry and trig. days. Needless to say, I had to go back and reference a few tables and do some searches to fix some gaps in what I remember. When I sent that bracket to the 3D printer there was a solid sense of achievement and confidence that comes from taking on a task and figuring it out from the ground up. I would never in a million years want to go back and sit in those classes again, but they sure made what I needed to do a possibility.
I guess that’s why I feel its important to help students do more than just follow their instincts and make something from scraps of wood. I like to see them make connections between the math they did in Jr. High and the box they are currently crafting. I like to see when they are able to put names and labels on things that they feel intuitively and then being able to communicate the intuitive feelings in concrete and tangible ways.
That leads us to scarfing. That’s not the sound your cat is making over there on the throw pillow. Its a method of joining two short pieces end to end to create a long solid piece using a strong joint. Scarf joints are simple, effective, and have been used in a number of applications for as long as we have been building with wood. Look hard and I am pretty sure you can find one within 10 yards of where you are sitting right now.
Because the boat is at that point where the bones are in place we need to focus in on getting a skin on it. Its a 10′ canoe and I can tell you that finding lengths of cedar that are longer then 10′, clear of knots, and easily obtainable is an expensive proposition. Even UPS cant ship them in their standard trucks. This means we have a lot of scarf joints to make and we started out by trying to figure out the math involved and figure out ways to use that math successfully.
That way every time a student puts that very specific angle at the end of the pieces they can think about SOHCAHTOA and apply its glorious information in a very real situation. More then one student has quipped, “So we really will use this again in our lifetime.” referring back to the hard time they had given their math teacher.