With the holidays just around the corner, many of us have a couple of things in our immediate future: a little extra time to spend with our families, and a long, long list of holiday gifts to procure. This time around, with money in historically scant supply, most of us are looking for ways to stretch our holiday budget without having to skimp or compromise on the fun. For a woodworker, the gift part of the equation is easy: just head to the shop and start cranking out those beautiful, one-of-a-kind projects.
The weeks leading up to the holiday season are also a great time to share the woodworking experience. Helping a young member of the family get started with their first projects is a great opportunity to spend time together doing something you both enjoy. As a bonus, it can help an aspiring woodworker fill out a holiday gift list with wonderful stuff on a very modest budget. And it’s easy to do, even if you have limited experience and very few tools. Here are a couple of excellent resources to help you get underway.
In Woodworking for Kids: 40 Fabulous, Fun and Useful Things for Kids to Make, Kevin McGuire lays out a complete first course on woodworking for young people. The book covers everything from the basic properties of wood and practical woodworking skills to building shop furniture and a range of other woodworking projects. In language designed to be understood by kids, McGuire takes the reader in great detail through every step in constructing a workbench, a miter box, simple pieces of furniture, toys, folk sculpture, pet toys, and other interesting stuff.
None of the projects require the use of power tools, and most can be built with pieces of scrap wood, dowels and other materials available at any DIY store. As an example, a simple trivet project could be put together and finished in a couple of hours by anyone who can operate a drill and make a few basic cuts with a hand saw. The materials list consists of a 48” x 3/8” wood dowel, a 1 x 2 x 18” piece of lumber and wood glue. The tools required involve nothing more exotic than a coping saw and, a crosscut hand saw, a drill, a hammer and a clamp. Like the trivet project, even the more involve projects in the book steer clear of complicated joinery, difficult cuts, and all but the most readily available materials.
Carving for Kids, by Robin Edward Trudel, is another excellent starting point for young woodworkers. Beginning with projects safe and easy enough for very young children, the book covers a range of basic carving skills. Most of the projects can be completed with a single carving knife, sandpaper and small pieces of carving stock. Parents should be aware that some of the “roughing in” will require a coping saw and a clamp or vise, and may be too difficult for very young hands. Still, sticking with soft, easy to saw woods – such as basswood – will keep the preparation phase of nearly all the projects down to less than half an hour for nearly any adult.
Craft kits are another option, and often the best choice for kids and parents with no woodworking experience whatsoever. The Clock Making for Kids Craft Kit comes with everything necessary to complete the project in ready-to-assemble form, including the clock’s moving parts, a wooden clock face, self-stick numbers, traceable decorative patterns, and colored markers. In less than an hour, kids as young as ten can have the satisfaction of completing an entire project, and a handsome gift to show for their efforts.
Wood burning craft kits offer and easy introduction to the art of pyrography. Best for kids 12 to 14 and up, wood burning is easy to master and because the kits come with transferable patterns, don’t require a tremendous amount artistic experience or skill. Both the Woodburning for Kids Craft Kit and the Deluxe Woodburning Kit come with everything you need to complete projects, including two ready to use basswood plaques. The Deluxe Kit also includes four burning points for a variety of effects, and six colored pencils for added decoration.
Nearly all of the projects mentioned here require some degree of adult involvement, but that’s really the best part. Working together with an aspiring young woodworker is a great way to spend an afternoon and an opportunity to collaborate on useful, gift-able projects, each one invested with a personal touch that money just can’t buy.