Over the last six years of fatherhood, I have discovered some ways to share my passion for woodworking with my children.

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Steve Schuler intentionally turned his shop into a kid-friendly environment. All hand-tool work happens at this shared bench inside the house, while the machines are in a separate location.

Like most woodworkers, I love escaping to the quiet solitude of my shop. I consider it my sacred space. But I also want to pass on my skills to the next generation of woodworkers. Over the last six years of fatherhood, I have discovered some ways to share my passion for woodworking with my children.

Let them watch

Children learn by imitation. Seat them on chairs or stools where they have a clear view of your hands. Allow them to rummage through your toolbox. Let them play in the sawdust and shavings, and give them the freedom to explore your shop while you work in it. Children learn far more from what we do than from what we say. Even so...

Talk as you work

Name the tools you are using, and explain what they do. Children who are willing to watch you work will ask questions naturally, so be willing to pause your work to answer questions in detail. While they may not understand everything you say, they will understand more than you expect.

Let them putter

Build a small toolchest and fill it with kid-friendly hand tools. Then encourage children to try out the tools on pieces of scrap. Demonstrate the rules of correct use, and observe the child using the tool. Gently correct technique when necessary, but as much as you can, just stand back and watch.

Children learning woodworking
With your supervision, small children can handle egg-beater drills, braces, spokeshaves, and small hammers. Older children can use small hand planes, screwdrivers, carving gouges, and handsaws.

Emphasize practice over projects

Be content to let children fill a board with holes or whittle a stick down to dust. They are not building projects; they are building skill.

When a child does suggest a project, go along with it. Dimension the stock ahead of time for a first project, but leave simple joinery and assembly for both of you to do. Seeing a project come together is as exciting for the child as it is for you.

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It seems counterintuitive, but never give a child a dull or shoddy tool. It frustrates them as much as it does you. And, increased danger results from the increased pressure required to make a cut.

Build relationships

It can be inconvenient to let a child into your shop. My kids mess up my workspace, and have even broken a few tools. But it is easier to repair a tool than a family tie.

Even if your children never pick up a tool again, they will forever know that they were honored guests in your sacred space, and that you took time to share what was valuable to you. The most important thing you will ever build in your shop is a relationship.