Last Friday saw the end of an incredible week for six students at my summer Woodworking camp. This is the 6th year that I’ve held this camp and each year end up being a highlight of the summer for the kids.
Our projects this year were Cigar Box Guitars and Infinity Mirrors. The camp is always structured where we start with a warm up project that allows the boys to make simple cuts on a few different tools. Then we move to the more intricate project, in this case a three string cigar box guitar with our own homemade beer bottle slide.
The parts for our Cigar Box Guitars were purchased from C. B. Gitty supply company and I would highly recommend them. Fast service and quality product (C. B. Gitty)
Each day of camp starts with a morning meeting where we lay out goals for the day and I get input from the campers about how their projects are going, ideas they have, and we can discuss bigger issues like the importance of craft, how they can continue to draw from these skills even when camp is over, and ideas for future camps. Then we head out to the wood shop and get things set up for the day.
The infinity mirror is a cool optical illusion that was once featured on the original Star Trek tv series. The boys made oak boxes with routed slots to hold a mirror on one side, and a one way mirrored plastic on the other. Then they learned some basic soldering to connect a strip of blue LED lights to a power adapter. Once mounted inside the box, the blue LED reflection bounces between the mirrored surfaces to create depth. One camper, after turning his box on said, “I think I’m just going to stare at this forever.” Take that YouTube!
Our main project was the Cigar Box Guitar. Starting with hand selected Red Oak, the kids looked at guitar headstock images and picked the shape that they wanted to make. They cut out templates from clear plastic (so I’ll have them on hand for future years!) and mae the cuts on a band saw. On the first day, they also began the process of getting the necks to fit into the cigar boxes with a coping saw as the main tool of choice.
Day two was used to glue up the infinity mirror boxes and shape the guitar necks. I try to impart to the campers that the joy of woodworking is found in the process as much as the product and that one main goal for the camp is to find the patient person that lives inside themselves. This is an emphasis of the camp that I come back to. Often a student will come to show me their work and I’ll see a bit of a visible scratch on the wood and I’ll mention gently “Let’s see if you can get this last scratch out, you’ll be glad you did.” They always go back and take that little bit more time for a better result.
Making the beer bottle slides was fun! After emptying out the beer bottles…into the sink, the kids learned to use a glass scoring tool to mark the neck where they wanted their slide to begin. Then, wearing thick leather gloves and using a large clamp, they alternated holding the bottle in boiling water and then ice water until the neck popped off the bottle. A heavy dose of sanding created perfect slides to use with the blues!
My favorite part of this camp is that the learning goes beyond just woodworking. First, the kids learn to help each other and share information on how to accomplish different tasks. With this set of projects, the kids also became more interested in blues music, homemade instruments and their history (we watched a documentary on the history of making your own instruments). They also left with a much better understanding of how guitars work, soldering (as I mentioned) and just a whole host of other skills.
There’s such a need in this world to bring back the art of building something for yourself, basic skills of woodworking, and the freedom to design something creatively within a set of instructions. I can’t wait until next summer to run this camp again!
Previous summer woodworking camps have included the following projects: Scroll saw ornaments, ping-pong ball guns, bass tongue drums, cajon box drums, rapid fire rubber-band machine guns, returning boomerangs, and more!
If you’re interested in your child (age 13-18) attending a future camp, please email me at MyDrumLesson@hotmail.com