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Woodworking Review by Tony Silva

John Kelsey
Fox Chapel Publishing
1970 Broad Street
East Petersburg, PA 17520

Woodworking ($12.95) bills itself as a book of kid-tested woodworking projects. To drive that point home, most of the illustrations feature an 11-year-old who completed all of the projects in the book. Woodworking is designed to appeal to children between 9 and 12, but dads looking for a fun review of their junior high shop class will enjoy it too. This book is part of the Kid Crafts series from Fox Chapel Publishing. A visit to their website at is a good time investment; be forewarned: dad may want to make an investment in several of their books.

Author John Kelsey makes it easy to learn the use of basic hand tools for woodworking, and the book emphasizes skills appropriate to the age range. Parents are encouraged to teach the skills through demonstration--and patience. Kelsey advises parents to demonstrate each skill and then supervise the child as he attempts it himself. The recommendation to "let them try new things and make their own mistakes; they can always cut another piece of wood" sets a theme for making a child's first woodworking experience enjoyable.

Before getting into the supplies, tools, and skills for woodworking, the author addresses the most basic material required: the wood itself. In the first chapter, you get a clear and well-illustrated explanation of where wood for woodworking comes from, how wood is formed, and what defects to beware of when selecting boards. This is one of the most concise yet detailed explanations of its kind you're likely to find in a craft book.

As supplies and tools are introduced in the next chapter, new skills are also introduced. Although the book is fun to read with colorful illustrations and lively explanations of the skills and projects, it really is a "working book"; taking the time to stop and practice each new skill and work through each project in order can make for an enjoyable and memorable first shop class for a homeschooling dad and his kids. Still, it's a good idea to read through the book completely before beginning the skills and projects.

Some explanations of the tools needed for the projects are thin on detail. For example, the section on hammers shows a variety of hammers and then recommends a carpenter's hammer over a framing hammer without a lot of discussion of the differences and purposes of each. On the other hand, speed squares are clearly explained. That is not a problem for this level. However, this may not be the book to choose if you're looking for an in-depth shop curriculum or an advanced industrial arts class at the high-school level.

The projects themselves are very basic at the beginning and progress through more challenging projects, including a rubber band powered paddleboat, a catapult, and an "exploding marble target." Mom need not worry about the latter as it is a break-apart toy castle--perfectly safe unless one of my kids gets hold of it. The tool tote is not the first actual project. This is not a major issue; you can choose to build the projects in any order. In years gone by, it was almost a tradition for youngsters to build a tool tote as their first woodworking project. Each project is introduced with a brief explanation, the tools and materials needed, and pictures of all the tools needed to build it. The projects also include a list of skills needed and page numbers where explanations of the skills can be found.

Homeschoolers enjoy an advantage over other educators in their ability to see books as launching pads for a great learning experience. If you're one who can make any well-written and informative book into curriculum, Woodworking may be a perfect fit. However, for an in-depth study of woodworking, you will want to go beyond the skills and projects offered in this book. A great first place to start is the publisher's website mentioned above.

Product review by Tony Silva, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, September 2010