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Reflections Of A 4H Leather Class Leader

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Patience needs work. Last night I gave my first actual leather tooling class to my 4H kids. They all took to it quickly enough and most, even the youngest one, was able to pick up the concept of how the swivel knive was used. Every one of them needs to practice using it, as well as the other tools. I started with a demonstration of how the swivel knife is used. I explained about under cutting, angle, stropping, sharpening and depth of cut. Scrap leather was given out for practice and after several cuts, they all jumped right into doing thier first project in Unit 2. Most of them cut too shallow, but I feel that in time they will get the hang of it. Curved lines caused some problems for some of them, but most of them, with a little help from me, were able to overcome this.Next came the cammo tool. All had a tendency to hold the tool straight up when working on the inside curve of a leaf. One person, on their second attempt, did tilt the tool and give the proper impression, unfortunetely they tilted the tool the wrong way. I think that she will be the one person who will need the most instruction as she is unable to see spacial relations, at least not at this time.The pear shader and the beveler gave all of the kids trouble. I didn't realize at the time what their problem was, but after thinking about it I came to the conclussion that they are trying too hard and hitting the tool the same way. They used the mallet like it was a hammer, even after proper instruction. At the next class I'll have to correct this and tell them to tap the tool, not smack it. Let the tool do the work, not the arm. But part of the problem is that a couple of them were using the wrong type of mallet. They were using the wood one and there is no weight to the head; but that wasn't their fault as when the parents bought the tool, it was the only one left in the store.We started the use of the veiner, but after two hours and 15 minutes, the kids were wearing out, as was I. I have a sneaking hunch that most of the kids will finish their first three projects at home. I gave them some extra leather scraps that I had laying around the house to practice on and told them all to practice the use of all the tools. At the next meeting I think the time will be used to fine tune the use of all the tools that the kids have. I have to be sure that the proper use of the mallet is shown again and that with just a little tap, they can get the same, if not better impression than what they were doing. Mean while, I am currently using the heat pad on my lower back and have popped four aspirin to help kill the pain.All of these kids have the potential to be good leather craft workers. They all have the support of their parents, and even they learned something at the meeting. I did stress that what the kids were working with were just the basic tools and they are the building block that needs to be expanded upon. The ability to branch out to other and better designs all reflect on the tools that will be added to this group. I also talked to the parents about future projects and how they should be geared towards the age of their child as well as the experience that they currently have.I have looked back into my past at the all the projects that I did when I first started learning leather crafting. It wasn't until about the seventh or eighth project that I noticed a big difference in my work. Bevel lines were smoother, cuts were deeper and the over all look of the design had really improved. I guess that it will be the same way with these kids. Time will tell.I think all of the kids had fun. I do know that one was not happy with the results, but she was told that this was only her first attept at this and with more practice she will get better. I hoped that she beleived that. I had all the parents thank me for doing this and I even had a couple of the kids tell me the same thing. I just hope that I can survive this experience.

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I am a 4-H leader and have done very basic leathercraft with my club for a few years now. It sounds like you are doing a great job. Thank you for volunteering!!!!!

One thing to remember, the skills learned by kids doing projects are great, but they are not the most important benefit. For kids to have another adult in their lives that has taken time out to share things with them and spend a little time with them and encourage them makes a HUGE difference in their lives. IT's hard to see at the time, but it's true...

I first got into leatherwork with my son through 4-H. It sounded like a fun project. We invited the Tandy people (from a shop 75 miles away) and they came down and did a basic stamping class. The kids had a great time. We bought some tools and started messing around. We did lots of simple projects and my son and I made a terrific knife sheath and we were hooked. He has a real gift for leatherwork. For the next several years we would invite the Tandy folks back to our meeting once a year and the kids again did stamping and started with swivel knives. One of the oldest boys in our club always attempted projects that were beyond his skill level. I would try to get him to practice more before working on his main project, but he didn't want to. He would end up discouraged. Finally, this year, I convinced him to sit down with me while the rest of the group was working with the other leader, to practice, practice, practice with the swivel knife. He finally got it!!! My point is you never know what these kids will end up doing with leatherwork down the road. Enjoy the time you have with them. Stay encouraging. Help them to see their progress, no matter how small.

Who knows - maybe one of the parents will get hooked too - I did - I now own a saddle shop and am making saddles and boots!!!

Again - THANK YOU!!!!!!

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