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Book Review - Woodshop for Kids by Jack McKee

Book Review

Woodshop for Kids by Jack McKee, illustrated by Rusty Keeler (Hands On Books, 2005)


Sometimes you open a book and say, "This is it! This is the book I've been looking for!" That's what happened to me when I opened Woodshop for Kids. I'm pretty much a rank beginner with woodworking, and I'm still a little scared of power tools. But woodworking is a true Big Learning experience - full of math, science, art, history, and more - and therefore irresistible.

So this book tells you exactly what hand tools to get and how to use them. If you have stood at the hardware store wondering if you wanted a coping saw or a keyhole saw, this is the book for you.

It also explains wood selection (and where to get it cheap or free) and basic building techniques. It explains how to set up clamps, what a jig is and how to make one. It explains how to teach proper tool use to kids, and how to keep kids safe without doing every thing for them. I love his sample speech for kids about using a low-temperature hot glue gun. "Hot glue is HOT and if you get it on your finger it will burn you...If you accidentally get glue on your finger wipe it off quickly and you will not get burned. If you do get burned it does hurt but not for long and you'll probably survive."

The book also has 52 projects that run from very easy (a two-piece spinning top) to moderately complicated (a tool caddy). I think the projects would all be fun to make. Where the book falls down is in the photos. The black-and-white photos of rough-looking kid-made projects are never going to make your child jump up and down and say, "Please can we make that one?" But, I bet if you set them up and started making them, your kids would jump right in.

I also love McKee's Big Learning attitude. He encourages a lot of creativity with the projects rather than defining everything step-by-step. The projects also offer kids opportunities to craft a project until it works - how to add weights to a top until it spins evenly, for example.

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