Skill Set: Teaching Kids to Saw

Education Woodworking
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


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Gareth Branwyn is a freelance writer and the former Editorial Director of Maker Media. He is the author or editor of over a dozen books on technology, DIY, and geek culture. He is currently a contributor to Boing Boing, Wink Books, and Wink Fun. His free weekly-ish maker tips newsletter can be found at

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