mz woodworking 600x100 Skill Set: Teaching Kids to Saw
safesawing Skill Set: Teaching Kids to Saw
In response to our woodworking skills theme, a shop teacher, Mr. Patrick, aka the WorkshopCowboy, sent us a link to this article he did on his blog about teaching safe sawing to young people.

The one-handed technique is great for students to gain a “feel” for cutting the wood correctly. A saw should glide through the wood with minimal downward pressure for the user – the saw does the work. Long strokes produce cleaner and faster cuts than short strokes. Move your body so your arm swings in a straight line in the direction of the cut (similar to a proper stroke of a pool cue actually). I will (once I re-teach the safe way to saw during this cut!) ask the kids to try a one-handed approach to reinforce proper technique. Then the students will switch to a two-handed approach to gain speed. Also, remember to teach how to re-adjust the placing of wood in the vise to minimize board movement, the original reason the second hand got involved in the first place.

So, a few things to remember when teaching woodworking to young students:

  • Different cuts, different set-ups must be taught as separate units. Young people don’t gain adult-like abstraction skills until fifteen or so. Young people’s brains haven’t developed those brain cells yet. If you change the pattern, you must re-teach the technique.
  • Watch yourself first because monkey see, monkey do. In this case, my habits in one environment (and the habits I ingrained in my students) did not translate to a successful skill when the situation changed. Look at your habits and think about how those habits might affect the students’ thought patterns.
  • Re-evaluate and research your own skills – this is why I blog here, why I’m working on a Master’s in Ed, why I play in the woodshop on the weekends. I can’t expect my students to be satisfied with the projects and level of production I see now. I must plan for the future and improve my teaching toolkit.

How To: Teach Sawing to a Young Student


Gareth Branwyn

Gareth Branwyn is a freelancer writer and the former Editorial Director of Maker Media. He is the author or editor of a dozen books on technology, DIY, and geek culture, including the first book about the web (Mosaic Quick Tour) and the Absolute Beginner’s Guide to Building Robots. He is currently working on a best-of collection of his writing, called Borg Like Me.

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