This Book is Not Sloyd

The acknowledgments mentioned the influence of Sloyd teaching. This book is in many ways inspired by Otto Salomon's The Theory of Educational Sloyd and Gustaf Larsson's Elementary Sloyd and Whittling.

Both books focus squarely on teaching hand tool woodworking through a sequence of projects. Both writers firmly believe that working through that sequence of projects will help students’ skills and imaginations grow to the point where they can build their own great things, developing their brains by working with their hands. (Sloyd teaching continues today in Scandinavian schools, but not so much in the United States.)

This book shares those aspirations, but there are some key differences that make this book very much not Sloyd.

You might be in school, but you might be retired

Sloyd is an approach used in schools to teach children. While it was wonderful that the students would learn to make things, and have them, the point wasn’t to make them experts at woodworking. It was to make them better people, smarter in ways that you couldn’t get from other academic disciplines.

You’re here to learn the craft

Sloyd focused on teaching through the senses. Craft was the path to doing that, not the destination. Although I certainly think hand tool woodworking will make you a better person, the path of this book is designed to help you learn and focus on the craft. When you’re done with it, hopefully you will continue in woodworking rather than return to other fields of study.

You don’t have a fully-equipped shop (at the start)

Sloyd teachers, at least those with the resources described in the books, started out with a complete set of tools, workbenches, sharpeners, wood, and so on. That freed the Sloyd method to focus on developing a set of skills without wondering which tools would be available. If you’re working at home and just getting started, you probably don’t have those advantages.

You don’t (necessarily) have the support of teachers and fellow students

This is, for better or worse, a book rather than a live interactive class. The only "educational tact" I can display, to use Otto Salomon’s great term for the skills of a good teacher, is in trying to make this book work well enough for a lot of people. I can’t customize it to your particular needs and interests. Similarly, you probably don’t have fellow students working at the same bench who can help, inspire, or make you laugh at the right moment.

Sloyd is wonderful stuff. I first encountered it through some articles by Doug Stowe in Woodworking magazine, and his website Wisdom of the Hands has constant reminders of its value. I hope to see it return to schools, and will see if I can encourage my own kids to try it out.