Grandkids In The Workshop

A Gathering Place For The Grandkids

Future American Craftsmen & Artists in the making.The shop is becoming a regular gathering place for the grandkids when they visit. I always go through the emotions and thoughts of, "Not now - I have to get this project done."

But once again, I relent and tell the kids, "You know where the stuff is, get it out. And you can set up over there on that end of the bench." I shouldn't be working on Sunday anyways - right? 

The "stuff" includes the hammers, nails, glue gun, markers and what ever else they fancy to be a part of their project.

Don't Be So Stingy

While the kids were getting their supplies out, I was picking through the materials and came to a realization - Don't Be So Stingy.

Recently, I went through a big shop organizational effort and had given away or burnt years of scraps that I had hoarded, each piece had been earmarked with the thought "I can use this someday..." 

Some of it was highly figured wood, but to be honest, most of it was ordinary. Just like any other piece that I could find sitting on top of the bunk at my local wood supplier. So what was I holding on to it for? 

I don't have to go out of my way to accumulate scraps of wood in the shop, it is a naturally occurring phenomenon. Allowing the kids to come into the shop is a great way to cull out some of the material that tends to build up over time. I decided to override the hoarding instinct and let the kids use those pieces that, in reality, would be there 2 years from now if I did not share them.

The Empty Box Effect

You guys know what the empty box effect is right? It's when you give the kids a gift and they find the empty box more fascinating than the toy itself.

Call me lazy, but I call it smart parenting (or grandparenting in my case) to take advantage of this. I don't plan out anything that the kids have to build. I just provide the various shapes of wood and let the kids' imagination take over.

A shark's fin project.There is plenty of skill and coordination being developed while they work on their project. And I like to think that by allowing them free expression, I am encouraging the next generation to be more creative and think outside the box. Perhaps I am raising the next generation of studio furniture artisans:)

Ultimately, I don't really care if it is woodworking that they enjoy. For kids it is just about being creative, no matter what the medium is, and the shop is just one great big, ultimate craft room.

When I decided to let go of a piece of plywood, that had a curved shape on one edge, my grandson found a shark's fin hiding within it. Now what good would it have done if I had kept that piece on the shelf?

That's all for now.

Your friend in the shop - Todd A. Clippinger

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Stacking Clamps


Stacking clamps on base.When I was working in Ohio a few years ago, I had ready access to the WoodCraft store in Columbus.

While shopping there I came across some stacking clamps called the "New Stacking Clamp" by R&R Clamp, Inc. They were displayed as cabinet door clamps. I have used them for gluing up cabinet doors and just about every other project that will fit in them. 

Tightening with a 3/4" socket and a drill driver or ratchet.


They have a 24" capacity and they are placed onto a set of rails that have to be installed on a base.They are tightened with a 3/4" socket and the kit includes a driver that installs in your drill for power driving, but I recommend final tightening with a ratchet.



Stacking clamps protected with visqueen. 

To protect the clamps I like using a heavy visqueen plastic. I have been using the same pieces of plastic for years because it is durable and the glue pops right off when dry. All I have to do is snap the plastic a few times like a towel and the wood glue pops right off.

This is much more effective than using rolls of wax paper which could not be used over and over for years like the plastic.


Multiple panels in glue up.

The Stacker Clamps are great because I can have more than one item in glue up at a time, but it all fits within the same footprint. This saves valuable space in the small shop.

The panels being glued up don't even have to be the same size. You will need to place the largest item on the bottom and smaller glue ups on top. The bottom clamps will need to be located in a position considerate of the clamps to follow on top of it to accommodate the panels being glued up.


Protective sleeves on metal clamp faces.The metal clamp faces have a protective vinyl or plastic sleeve on them. But a word of warning here, as any pliable clamp face will do, they leave a dark stain on the edge where they make contact. I believe it is the petroleum products or oils in the plastic that transfer to the wood which cause this. 

The solution is simple, I use scrap strips of wood or mdf between the project and clamp face. Or, I glue the panel oversize and mill it down to the perfect width on the tablesaw and jointer to remove the stained edge. 


Here is a short video that shows the basics of the clamps in operation. It only shows using them one layer high but you will get the idea. Run time :57 seconds.


You may be wondering if it was necessary to use that many clamps. The simple answer is "No, I just got carried away."

I could not find the clamps on WoodCraft's site. But I called the store today in Columbus, OH and they still carry them. The corporate catalog and website does not always have everything listed that the stores carry. I was informed that the stores have some autonomy in what they can decide to carry and so it may vary by location and from the corporate listing online.

This is interesting to know so you might find them in the local WoodCraft Store if you are near one. 

I was able to locate them at the Grizzly site under H9487 Stacking Clamp Starter Kit. 5 panels in glue up.

As I recall, I purchased a couple of the starter kits and extra parts. I currently have a total of 22 clamps. I like the clamps and could soundly recommend them. They work well and frequently I have multiple panels in glue up at one time. The "New Stacking Clamps" definitely fall into my list of "tools that really work."

Your friend in the shop - Todd A. Clippinger

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Sometimes You Just Need To Stop

I am a very task oriented person and I work a lot because I have my own business. When the grandkids come to visit, this situation makes it feel like they are getting in the way of production.

But the solution to this personal problem of perception is not to shoo them out of the shop, the solution is to stop what I am working on and spend time with them. The kids will always seem to be in the way in the shop, unless I make them a part of the shop. 

Jaiven & Khoen working on a project.

A situation that starts out feeling like the kids are in the way, changes to a fulfillment that can't fully be explained. It is something that has to be experienced to be understood.

It occurs to me that so often the solution we seek is the one that we reject. My nature is to point the kids out the door, but I realize after they go, the opportunity has passed to spend time with them and the shop feels empty.

Project Partners 

I recently shared a an audio post for Matt Vanderlist at his Spoken Wood Podcast. One of the points that I was trying to share was that passing the torch is not that complicated, it just requires you to stop what you are doing and share your time.

Khoen working a glue up.

There does not need to be any structure to sharing time in the shop, especially with kids. Kids are a creative group on their own and so I take advantage of this. As it turns out, this is easy parenting (or grandparenting in my case) and it works well for the kids because they get to be kids and just express themselves.

Jaiven, Khoen, & Todd

I don't tell the kids what to make, I let them figure it out themselves. I use the "empty box effect" to my advantage. You know what that is, on Christmas day when you buy them all kinds of toys yet they are more captivated by the empty box. With kids in the shop all you have to do is provide a stack of wood blocks in various sizes. 

There is problem solving and creativity involved. Coordination to use the tools is developed and this is also where you teach them to use the tools. At the end of the project, they learn to be responsible and put things back where they belong. That is enough structure. 

Through this experience, better relationships are built and the torch is being passed to the new generation because they are having such a great time. And most importantly, I have adjusted my priorities to the proper position.

Your friend in the shop - Todd A. Clippinger

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