A few years back, I ran an after school program for children in the inner city. Local companies often made contributions of snacks, juices, paper and craft supplies. Easily my favorite contribution of all came from a local cabinetmaker. Every two to three months, one of his guys would show up at our door with an entire barrel full of odd pieces of wooden dowel, wood turnings, tenons, biscuits and more wooden dowel products.
A barrel full of wooden dowel products and turnings may not sound very exciting – but the projects that came out of that barrel were nothing short of amazing. Even more amazing was what those lengths of wooden dowel, wooden turnings, biscuits and other wood tidbits brought out in a ragtag group of kids from the poorest section of the city.
These were kids who’d been discounted all their lives – called ghetto brats and hood rats, tolerated by teachers, and overlooked by the system. In their eyes, a barrel full of leftover lengths of wooden dowel was a treasure chest, a bucket full of pieces from which they could assemble dreams. A wooden dowel may be a functional thing in the hands of an adult, but it becomes a magic wand in the hands of a child.
They couldn’t focus long enough to finish a homework assignment – but they could spend two hours patiently sorting out the pieces of wooden dowel by length and diameter. They couldn’t sit at a table without fighting – but they could pick through hundreds of wooden turnings and biscuits to find just the right one to finish someone else’s project.
They couldn’t conceive of any world but the one around them – yet they took a barrel full of wooden dowels and rods and leftover wood turnings and turned them into magical castles, practical napkin holders, even a wooden stool with legs and back made of lengths of wooden dowel. They wouldn’t speak up for themselves to teachers – but they braved the corporate world to ask for a contribution of tools to cut and work the wood so that they could create the things that they imagined.
A wooden dowel can become a broomstick, a hat rack, a chair back. It can be used to hang a painting, support a collectible doll or separate books or plates as dividers in a piece of fine furniture. It is second only to 2×4 planks of wood and 4×8 sheets of plywood in do-it-yourself projects. Wooden dowels are available in diameters from 1/16 of an inch to 2 inches, and any length that you can cut. They can be cut to make wood plugs for hiding screws and nail heads, turned on a lathe to create decorative wood turnings to make furniture backs, crib rails, chair legs and more.
You can purchase wooden dowels in bulk online through many merchants. With a little careful shopping, you can give your own kids a bucket full of magic wands.
Dowel Australia are happy to provide offcuts of dowel for use in schools and preschools. However, we are unable to deliver offcuts so you will need to have someone pick up supplies.
|Article provided by Abe Gardea|