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How best to teach kids woodworking

clouts69's picture


I have been asked by my local library director to come up with something to teach kids woodworking. She suggested something using a scroll saw but I am not sure that is the best tool to get kids involved to make something. She wants them to come away from the session with something they made. I am not sure how old these kids will be but they will most likely be 6-12 or so.

Has anyone been involved in something like this? If so, what did you do? I am sure there are insurance issues I need to be aware of as well so tool selection will need to be carefully considered.

I've done a bit of research and there are some articles out there but I'd like to hear from people who have actually been involved and what they encountered.

Thank you

KiddervilleAcres's picture

(post #88816, reply #1 of 17)

Since you may not have any idea what skill levels you'll be dealing with I would suggest you make the parts for simple project like making a birdhouse.  Precut all the parts for them (all the same) and show them how to assemble it.  I would think you'll quickly get an idea of interest level and maybe a semse of skill levels in the process.

I wouldn't introduce tools to them at first but rather explain how you made the parts.  I think this will tell you a lot and then go from there.

Just my 2¢,

Bob @ Kidderville Acres

A Woodworkers mind should be the sharpest tool in the shop!

Bob @ Kidderville Acres

A Woodworkers mind should be the sharpest tool in the shop!

GRW's picture

(post #88816, reply #2 of 17)

I'm looking into the same thing now.  A friend and I are evaluating starting a children's woodworking school in our area. We're just getting started, but have learned a little in a short time. I once taught kids for a local craft school years ago. My opinion is to stay away from the scroll saw. Start the kids on basic hand tools which they are physically able to use. (don't give a jointer plane to a 5 year old) Start with basic assemblies, then get them going with a coping saw, hand drills, block planes, back saw with wooden miter box. Start them on knot free softwoods that are no more than 3/4 inch thick. And don't ask them to saw anything wider than about 5 inches. They will often break small drill bits, so use finish nails for small drill bits after cutting the head off the nail.

One good basic project is for them to make a bench hook. It's easy to make, and when they're done they will have their own woodworking tool to start their collection.,RNWE:2005-19,RNWE:en&q=bench+hook&um=1&ie=UTF-8&ei=jyTfSdLSBOHqlQf1svDfDg&sa=X&oi=image_result_group&resnum=7&ct=title

Also check here for other ideas...



clouts69's picture

(post #88816, reply #6 of 17)

Thanks. I had no idea such programs existed. Great idea.

bones's picture

(post #88816, reply #3 of 17)

If you have a local Home Depot go by and speak to them.  They (at least the ones in my area).  Have a monthly build it day on a saturday in the month.  I use to take my scouts to it.  It was free and it was fun.  We did bird houses a wooden periscope and some other things.  Home depot provided the tools basic stuff and the materials.  use them as a reference on how to do it.  These boys were in the 8-11 range so it had to be simple.  Big focus was safety.  Eveybody received about 15-20 minutes of safe practices with hand tools and were issued safety glasses.  It did not include power tools and the parts were precut.  If you get any size class at all cutting the parts there is a challenge and time consuming.  As someone who has done a lot of pinewood derbys and had car cutting sessions, trust me on this one.  If the audience is older 11 - 15, then I would maybe trust some powertools.  If you want to do a scroll saw project, a night light box kit is a good one.  It requires basic skills and you could pre dimension most of the pieces and have some different patterns to choose from and a light kit from a craft store like a michaels would finish it off.  Show them how to do a finish that would be easy and they would have something to keep.  Heres one I did years ago and it was easy and fast to build.  They did ok at craft shows.

I'm for anything that promotes woodworking.



Government's view of the economy could be summed up in a few short phrases:
If it moves, tax it. If it keeps moving, regulate it.
And if it stops moving, subsidize it.

...For that old machine lovers:

clouts69's picture

(post #88816, reply #7 of 17)

Bones, thanks for the idea.

WillGeorge's picture

(post #88816, reply #4 of 17)

Times are strange I would think. AND THEN SOME.

If a child gets hurt.. Who is responsible? The Library or YOU?

Then again I go for the other poster that said CUT all the parts for them and let them do .. whatever.. With GLUE.. What a loss of a child talents...

No way to learn for a child.. I had MANY cut fingers doing it as a child and I thought my blood on the wood added a bit of CLASS.. As in PART OF ME!

NOT NOW.. Many folks want to make a dollar or MANY from you..

What a shame! And all the child wanted to do is learn something they liked! I'd think the parents are STUPID! OK, so you have to keep your child safe!

Why are THEY.. As in Parents, NOT there to watch, AND Clap for the child, OR Yell out.. MY BABY IS IN DANGER! They seem to never care for the child BUT.. IF YOU seem to be at fault.. YOU ARE THE BLAME!


I only posted because I was THE child that wanted to cut stuff, I knew how to glue things...

And then again the Parent may go to Jail or loose the child for not protecting it from Her/His.. SO CALLED stupid decision to let a Child do woodworking..

I will leave it at that..

All I remembered is I loved wood! I once hammered a nail into a finger as a child.. GradPa that loved me smacked me upside the head and yelled. Stupid child.. I understood him!

He save me from the nail and gave me a BIG HUG. He hardly hugged me before that!


What a shame! And all the child wanted to do is learn something they liked! I'd think the parents are STUPID! OK, so you have to keep your child safe! BUT A Parent to be there to yell out!

Edited 4/10/2009 9:15 am by WillGeorge

Have a great day.. Life is wonderful even if you are having a bad day!

clouts69's picture

(post #88816, reply #5 of 17)

Yes, times have changed and so we adapt. I was just talking to my wife the other day about how things have changed so much since I was a kid of 10 (30 years ago). We had metal wings with chains, "jungle gyms" of steel pipe and a playground surface of dirt. Now you have plastic climbing structures, don't see swings anymore and soft plastic surfaces to fall on.

There is a safety element to it but no one wants a lawsuit either. we adapt.

WillGeorge's picture

(post #88816, reply #12 of 17) we adapt.

Like.. I and my brother Or is that My brother an I?.. No rocket or explosive chemicals from the back of a comic book!

I hear you and have no answer to having fun except a woman that likes you ALOT...

Have a great day.. Life is wonderful even if you are having a bad day!

tom_ryan's picture

(post #88816, reply #8 of 17)

There are some really good articles by Doug Stowe about teaching woodworking to kids (in a slightly different context). To get started, look at

and other articles by Doug on the American Woodworker site, originally in Woodwork magazine. I seem to remember some articles by him on the Fine Woodworking site.

Also, I like the book "Woodworking" by John Kelsey, in the "Kid Crafts" series, available on

Tom in SE Pennsylvania

tom_ryan's picture

(post #88816, reply #9 of 17)

Another article by Doug Stowe *on the Fine Woodworking site):

I also like doing some skill-specific projects. Have them pound some nails into the flat side of a short piece of 2x4 (with nails shorter than 1 1/2"). Then write their first name or nickname on the 2x4, and have them pound in nails to form their name in nails.

oldusty's picture

(post #88816, reply #10 of 17)

    I spent a few weeks with Cub Scouts at day camp wood shop , I can still hear the little hammers hammering . I think we had about 150 campers that came through each period in groups .

         From my own experience working with youths my advice would be to keep the classes short or with breaks as needed .

     The projects were already cut out , pretty much assembly and some staining . The time spent doing one thing for a kid may be shorter then a wood work project takes , at least to start then with confidence teach more skills measuring , marking and cutting .

      regards     dusty

RalphBarker's picture

(post #88816, reply #11 of 17)

I agree with those suggesting the use of simple hand tools, assuming the ages of the kids are appropriate.

I would, however, want a hold harmless from the parents of any kids attending, and an indemnity agreement from the library, co-signed by the city attorney. There is no up-side to a dozen or so million-dollar law suits.

just wanted to know's picture

(post #88816, reply #13 of 17)

There are so many roads you can go down but you have to be passionate and patient. My advice would be to have a a few projects that each kids could customize a bit. That way you can control what is done but allow creativity and exploration to flourish. I have had success with bending and carving projects. Bottom line keep it safe and simple.

SawdustSteve's picture

(post #88816, reply #14 of 17)

See if you can get your hands on a book titled "Woodworking with Kids by Richard Starr. It is (was) published by The Taunton Press back in the early 1980's.
Ask your librarian to search for ISBN0-918804-14-0

Or... if it's still available from Taunton, get yourself a copy.

I've had 'small kids', 7 10 years old use miter boxes, battery powered drills, brace & bits and scroll saws. The biggest factor is to find out how many kids will be in the 'class' AT ONE TIME.
Is it a continuing program or a 'one-shot'??
Bird houses, small step-stools, napkin holders, and even some wooden toys are all within these kids ability. The marble drop, a series of chutes and guides is also fun.
SawdustSteve Long Island, NY (E of NYC)

EdHarrow's picture

(post #88816, reply #15 of 17)

I'm about to run out the door, but I've done woodworking classes for kids, at least ten of them (classes) at this point, and I do have some suggestions for you, but they'll have to wait until I get back from today's class (robots).

It's fun, I make money, and get to buy tools.  What more could I possibly want!  :-)

EdHarrow's picture

(post #88816, reply #16 of 17)

OK, where to start...

Safety glasses (kid size - Lee Valley, others I'm sure)!   

I do all my programs under the auspices of a town or the YMCA.  They provide the insurance.

Class duration - 90 minutes, not much longer, and certainly not less.  Some places think in terms of 60 minutes - not sufficient time to get organized, cleaned up, and something accomplished in between. 

Hand tools.  Lee Valley is a good source of kid-sized tools, but there are others.  10 - 12 oz hammers work OK for kids.  I have one 8 oz hammer, but it is really small.

If hammer practice is needed I use either roofing nails (Big heads!) or duplex nails, and a big hunk of rough-cut 2x4.  (It's really cool for kids to plane (without nails, of course!).

Speaking of planes, I have two LV blockplanes fitted with the wooden knob, just about perfect for kids.  Oh, and they are sharp.  About the time I was demoing just how sharp, and to never, ever, run a finger along the edge, you know what happened.  Keep some bandaids handy, and make certain all know there will be the occasional blood donation.  I've never had an issue with a parent.

As was mentioned, little twist drills break, so I buy lots.  Actually, for kids in the 6-9ish range, I pre-drill all the holes.  Saves lots of broken bits, and improves the final product and minimizes whacked fingers.

I have two primary projects, both of which are completed in ~ 8 hrs by the younger set (all pre drilled and pre cut), and one of which (by choice) is completed in the same time by the older set as they have more prep work to do.  The projects are step stool, patterned after an antique at my mothers.  (Sorry, I don't have a picture, but will post one if you'd like.  The ends are trapezoidal, there's stringers at the base on either side (ripped to match the angle of the ends) and three pieces across the top.  It's all 3/4" pine, the ends from 1x8, the other pieces are ~1x3.  

For older kids I supply the two ends in one piece, so they have to make one angled cut to make two trapezoids out of one parallelogram, and the two base stringers will need to be cut to size, as well as the one pice for the top that will need to be cut into three pieces.  This involves measuring, use of squares, bevel gauge, etc.  

The other project is the classic 'toolbox' tho I call it a 'tote' so as to perhaps appeal to both genders.  Same thing, for the younger set it's all cut to size, and holes drilled.  The older kids have to cut the pieces to size, drill holes, etc.  The one big caution is to be certain your dowel stock for the handle matches up with your drill bit.  I'm finding more and more that dowels are undersized.  

Other tools in my kit:

Bench hooks as most places I'm doing classes aren't set up to be a wood shop.  I actually have big ones that are good for the projects, as well as smaller ones that are suitable for the individual pieces.

Planes, saws, nail sets (I like the japanese ones Lee Valley sells as it keeps kids fingers out of the line of fire) files, the 'cheese grater' two handled, two-sided gizmo the name of which I can't remember right now, bar clamps (I bought a bunch from someplace, pretty cheap, I think it was Garret Wade), sandpaper, measuring devices, flush cut saw, combi squares, bevel gauge, egg-beater drills, pencils (they don't last long, especially if there is an electric pencil sharpener in the room!)

There are some good books- I'll collect my collection in a bit and let you know names, authors, etc.              


clouts69's picture

(post #88816, reply #17 of 17)

Thanks Ed, this is great!