Morgan in the Woodshop, The Sawmill, and Root Beer

This is my youngest daughter, Morgan, at the disk-belt sander shaping a rocket-propelled wire-guided vehicle. (Sounds military, doesn’t it?) Note this seven-year-old’s obvious competence with the tool. Look at the intensity of her focus. Notice that she is wearing the proper safety goggles. She was half the girls in an in-town winter session of WindWalkerCamp two-thirds of her life ago. Till she moved out a couple of months ago, she was my Shop Assistant helping hundreds of Cub Scouts and their parents build their Pinewood Derby cars.

There are families who have built their cars here who would rather work with Morgan than with me because she is obviously capable and competent and comfortable guiding them through the building process. She didn’t learn those skills in school. She learned them in the woodshop. She learned to mold the very fabric of the universe into something she wanted it to be. She figured out how to give it an elementary shape, to bring it to its final form, and to tweak it for maximum performance in its operating envelope.

She never took a written test in the shop. There was no formal homework. There was only “this is how you safely operate this machine”, “these are some of the qualities of the wood you are looking for”, “do you think that will be strong enough?” When something broke, she either modified her design or started over with a new piece of wood or repaired it. There was never a failing grade.

WindWalkerCamp is not school. It’s a STEM camp . . . Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math. As in experiential science, appropriate technology, hands-on engineering , and check-your-work math. Does it work? Great! It doesn’t work? Why not, do you figure? Can you fix it? What are your data? OK, try it again. It works? Great!

Oh, Lord, you should see the smiles . . . and the grins . . . and the sets of the shoulders.

There are different technologies pulling a bow from a wooden billet and assembling a bot from a pile of components or adding a new super to a beehive.

One of the steps in the development of the Camp is to install a sawmill. Envision this process: A friend out there logs his woods with a team of horses. He has agreed to come over to fell one of our larger trees and skid the log out of our wood with his team of horses. (We have oaks and walnuts and hickory and blackjack and sycamore). When the log is out of the trees and on the flat, his guys will cut it into eight- or ten-foot cants, and the horses will then skid those over to the mill for cutting. We will saw one cant into lumber each camp session.

The mill will be laid out so the saw is in the middle and there will be roofed shed areas on either side. Each year, as we cut the green lumber it will be “stickered” on one side to dry. The following year we will use the dried wood from that side for our projects. And we will bring in another log and sticker it up to dry on the other side. Each year’s campers use the wood last year’s gang milled, and they prepare the raw material for next year’s projects.

I think that’s exciting.

I have three daughters and four sons. I can hardly wait for them to send their kids to WindWalkerCamp so I can send home photos like the one I have of Morgan.

P.S. The equipment came today for brewing root beer. Now I’m waiting for the bottles.
I can hardly wait!

Check out the website at for dates and rates and discounts.

Thanks for reading.

Uncle Pat

What the hands learn the mind cannot forget.