a workshop for Tigerlily preschool


Over the holidays, my sister Marie asked me if I could help her build a workshop for her lovely preschool, Tigerlily. She was inspired to try building a child-sized workshop after reading Jack McGee's book, Woodshop for Kids.  I had done some woodworking experiments with the Tinkering Studio a while back, where I quickly discovered that woodworking tools aren't designed for kids. Hand drills are too big and heavy, worktables are too tall, and handsaws are designed to be help with one hand, which is really hard for someone small.  I really believe that real tools build real skills, but most tools are not designed with kids in mind. Jack McGee's book is full of ideas for customing real tools for kids. 

Marie and I started with his instrucions for a child-sized workbench that really works. 


The workbench is 2 feet tall, but weighted with concrete blocks to keep it stable. This is a great design, because when you scale things down they can get flimsy, and the last thing you want is a wiggly workbench!

I felt like a giant while I was building it . . . 


We added a woodworking vise, which really helps kids (and Nicoles) hold onto their work while they are sawing. C-clamps are really helpful, too, but it can be tricky to figure out where to clamp a piece to make it stable. The vise is already attached to the workbench, so the kids will have a stable way to hold onto their work while they focus on sawing.


Jack McGee's book has a lot of really great tips, and you can tell they are things he learned from experience. One of my favorites is making a sanding station by cutting a sanding belt into small sections, and gluing them down to a block of wood that is attached to the table.

Sanding belts are a lot tougher than sandpaper, and will last a lot longer. This also frees up both of your hands to hold onto your workpiece. 

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He also suggests using old tree stumps of sections of firewood for kids to practice hammering in nails. Luckily, my step-father has a chainsaw.

By the end of the week, we had a pretty sweet little workshop, complete with child-sized safety goggles, and a tool box full of japanese saws and 12 oz hammers. 

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School starts back today, and I am looking forward to seeing what Marie and her kiddos get up to in their brand new child-sized workshop!

nicole, i can't thank you enough. my son nayan is a student at tigerlily and the work you did is nothing short of amazing! i am inspired and grateful to you.

It was my pleasure! I'm looking forward to seeing what they make!

Haha, you are a giant compared to that table!

Daphne talked about using the Japanese saw all afternoon! Thanks!

It really is such a good setup. Today four year olds are selecting wood, adjusting the vise, and making great progress with the japanese saw. Our new workbench is SOLID and I can see how having that stability is really important to safe and effective work.

Also japanese saw might be our most favorite word ever.

I love these ideas. Can you recommend a particular vise? A clamp on or one you drill into the table ? A 3" or 4"?
Also where can I find Japanese hand saws? Thanks so much!

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