As a fresh faced novice teacher my first teaching jobs were in the trade area. It was often referred to as Crafts in Education. During these years an assistant that worked in the area taught me a lot about Austrian craftsmanship. Alfred Bach is or was a true gentleman with exceptional skills and a wonderful disposition. To watch Alf work was like watching poetry in motion, never a wasted movement.

A Mark of Alfred Bachs' skill was, he could hand craft fingered dovetail joints to extreme precision in the time it took for me to find the router and the cutters needed to do halving joints and then set up the jigs to cut joints with a machine.

Another indication of his skill was his kitchen dining furniture where he made the chairs out of green timber. He cut all the joints and then kept all the dowel holes in plastic bags to keep them damp while he chairs made with no glue or fastenings.dried out all the timbers with pins. When the furniture was assembled the timbers all found their natural state of contraction by drying and expansion as the artificially dried timbers absorbed the moisture content in the air. The result was chairs made with no glue or fastenings  and were rock solid when I viewed them after 10 years of family use. 


Grades 7 and often grade 8 would start with lateral thinking with design ideas as per the articles Creative Thinking and Design

A typical theme would be; I want you to design a product that has at least 2 angled joints, is not bigger than what will fit inside a box 350x350x400 and contains 3 different materials. These criteria would be written up as a design brief.

For grade 7 we would talk about different ways of achieving these goals  and sometimes we would make the first project purely a skills project where they did one of the small picture frames or another small exercise as practice.

All of the projects regardless of grade, started with a designing session where the projects had to have a drawing, with projects priced and materials worked out as we worked in many different materials often in the one project.


If a student wanted to create something different they had to present drawings with a justification as to why their projects were relevant to education or the stated design brief. (This excluded cones and other items that a small group of students would want to make).

The range of students was from the very best abilities to very low skills so the range of drawings also varied. My main criteria for any drawing regardless of student ability was that it had to convey the ideas that were inside the students head I had to see evidence of thinking and communication. They also had to have costing and measurements. Obviously the better quality the higher assessments at the students developmental assessment according to the official criteria.

Class Organization

For the few students who tried to use the drawing and planning as an excuse to not do anything in class, I always had a project being made such as an exercise machine I was building or school outdoor furniture that needed repairing, and at one stage we built all the exercise machines for an exercise room.


As the teacher I would say to the student sometimes your best ideas come to you when you are not trying to think. Tap these threads for me and cut this shape and while you are doing something think of another project you would like to do. Rarely did this fail in that the students would happily work on another project and within 2 or 3 lessons would come up with an idea for themselves. The busy work was never seen as a punishment, it was viewed more as me helping them to give them time. I had a good working relationship with my students and they were happy to do my projects but often not school ones.

They were also assessed on these skills the same as any project.

Design Challenges.

When there was enough offcuts from the saws in the woodwork rooms I would stop all projects for two weeks of lessons. We would have some lessons and demonstrations of bridge design and triangles and then give every student a measure of timber by weight and some string for them to make a bridge that would span our jig. At the end of the two weeks we would measure and test each bridges strength to destruction. We used hot glue guns and the students appeared to enjoy this break.

We did another competition to see who could support 1kg of water the highest off the ground with 300gms of timber offcuts.