If your kids show a desire to learn about the tools in your shop, it’s a great idea to get them involved. Not only will they learn about tools and how to use them, but it will only strengthen the bond between you and your kids. Obviously safety is a big part of the instruction, no matter which tool they’re learning about.
Screws can assist in securing many beginner joints, and learning the differences between screws will allow a child to be able to take many things apart. I’ve found taking things apart – which screwdrivers excel at – is a great step in learning how things are made.
Depending on their age, kids are familiar with numbers and like using this new skill. Measuring items around the house is a great way to learn how to read a tape measure, and extra addition and subtraction practice never hurts.
A small block plane isn’t going to be a shop workhorse for a child, but they will really enjoy using one. Making shavings is something adults love, and kids are no different. With the plane grasped with two hands, chamfering sharp corners and just planing boards to create shavings are fun tasks.
From securing a piece a child is working on, to assembling a newly formed joint, clamps are as helpful to kids as they are to adults. Knowing which type and size of clamp to reach for, as well as how to use it, is a good skill to learn.
Like clamps, a vise is invaluable to properly securing a workpiece while it’s being worked on. Little hands aren’t strong, and a vise makes a tough operation much easier.
Even though your child has probably used writing utensils for years, do they know how to use it accurately? Learning how to mark an accurate line, as well as how crucial a sharp pencil is, are important skills. I much prefer a mechanical pencil.
Even though they won’t be hand cutting advanced joints soon, kids should learn how to handle a square and what it does. It can also lead to discussions about geometry – perpendicular, parallel, etc., are all a part of woodworking and life in general.
The first power tool, a low-powered, small drill is helpful in drilling pilot holes, countersinking, using dowels and driving screws. This isn’t the first tool I would teach my kids to use, but adding power to the equation sure opens their eyes. Added respect must be used.
A hammer is a simple tool, and it can be used with nails, assembly, tapping in dowels and much more. A small hammer is best, and can be found at many hardware stores.
I use mainly Japanese saws in my shop, and that’s what I will teach my kids with. I find that unless you have enough strength in your upper body and are confident with the operation, a western-style saw poses problems for people. On the other hand, a western-style saw is a bit more robust and forgiving.
Rob is a studio furniture maker and the editor at Canadian Woodworking & Home Improvement.