A while back we visited the grandbabies and I was delighted to find that both of my granddaughters were interested in learning to use an axe and carving knife. I wasn’t sure how to start, so I began with the basics of showing them how to use an axe, how to hold it, how to stand, how to swing the axe, and the safety involved in each step. I took each step relatively slowly and quickly found that I needed to vary the speed of my instruction between the two. For my oldest granddaughter, this seemed to be more of a curiosity, a new thing for her to try, learn, and then store away for later use. On the other hand, my younger granddaughter was eager to soak up everything about the axe, the knives, the wood, safety, how to hold each tool correctly, and how to position the tools and wood. She was also the one who used the tools with either hand, just like I do. I have learned to use my hand tools with either hand out of necessity because I have arthritis in my shoulders and need to be able to switch up as needed. To see my grandbaby do the same thing, and to be such a quick study at it was very exciting and I was eager to continue to teach her in this fashion.
Even though their hands are much smaller, they both surprised me by being able to handle the axe very well. This helped me to realize something I had been very wrong about; that children can use some potentially dangerous tools under proper supervision. I had watched and read about other woodworkers teaching their children/grandchildren how to use power tools and hand tools and my reaction had always ranged from, “interesting” to “I don’t think so“, so when I got back home after our visit I realized that my view on this had changed. Not significantly, but enough that I could see the value in teaching younger people how to safely use tools. I think it dates me when I say that when I grew up, I learned how to use tools by hurting myself and then not doing that again. I have a responsibility to make sure that my grandbabies do not have to learn in this inefficient and unnecessarily dangerous way.
Plus, it’s fun and a wonderful way for us to spend time together.