Tuesday 15 February 2011

Otto Salomon The teachers handbook of Slöjd

After watching Roy Underhill in the Woodwrights Shop, I did a little bit of research on the Teachers handbook as mentioned in episode 3007.
I found the whole book on the internet you can read it all here. If you are newish to woodwork, there is some interesting stuff you can learn. If you teach it is also a worthwhile read.

Below is a short article on Otto Salomon

The following text was originally published in Prospects:the quarterly review of comparative education (Paris,
UNESCO: International Bureau of Education), vol. XXIV, no. 3/4, 1994, p. 471–485.
©UNESCO:International Bureau of Education, 2000
This document may be reproduced free of charge as long as acknowledgement is made of the source.

Hans Thorbjörnsson1
Otto Salomon was born in Göteborg, Sweden, to fairly wealthy Jewish parents. After grammar
school (matriculation, 1868), he spent four months at the Technological Institute in Stockholm and
eight months at Ultuna Agricultural Institute near Uppsala; he did not complete either course of
As a teacher and educator, Salomon was self-taught; he acquired teaching experience at the
vocational school for boys at Nääs, a manor about twenty miles east of Göteborg. There Salomon’s
uncle, the rich businessman August Abrahamson, owned a large estate. Together, these two men
founded a vocational school for boys in 1872, a vocational school for girls in 1874 and a teachertraining
school for slöjd (craftwork) teachers in 1875. From 1882 onwards Salomon concentrated
his activities on the teacher-training school, lecturing and organizing for the further training of
elementary school-teachers. This training scheme was designed so that serving teachers could
obtain handicraft teaching skills, in addition to the ability to teach theoretical or academic subjects.
What is slöjd?
Salomon coined the following definition: Slöjd is an old Scandinavian word having as its origin the
adjective slög that means ‘handy’. Slöjd means ‘craft’ or ‘manual skill’.
Up until the end of the nineteenth century, country dwellers in Sweden very often spent
their evenings spinning, weaving or working in wood, making rakes, hammer handles, benches,
tables, spoons, etc.—appliances needed in everyday household and farm activities. This domestic
activity was called ‘home crafts’ or ‘handicrafts’. Selling these products provided an important
supplement to the family income.
About 1885, Salomon used the expression pedagogisk slöjd (educational sloyd or craft),
defining it in the school and educational context in the sense described above. Nowadays, it is more
appropriate to say skolslöjd (schoolcraft).
Sloyd or handicrafts is the non-professional production of small objects made of wood or
metal. There are important differences between such handicrafts and trades such as, for example,
carpentry. In Salomon’s time no machines were used in handicrafts. The craftsman or woman,
when making their products, used different tools and a different approach to the work compared to
that of a carpenter (i.e. while the craftsman uses a knife, the carpenter prefers the chisel). In
commercial carpentry there is a division of labour; in handicrafts, none whatever.
Contemporary Swedish society
The Swedish State in the period 1870–1910 was remarkably conservative and dominated by
farmers, who held a privileged position since they had been granted the right to vote. King Oskar
II—a very conservative ruler—held a strong position and played a dominant role in politics. The
government of the country was not controlled by the parliamentary system until 1917—a change
connected with the introduction of universal suffrage for men in 1909, and for women in 1918.
The farmers dominated local communities. The priest invariably held the position of
chairman on the local school board. The farmers, as well as the rest of the board, were not in the
least interested in change, especially if innovations were expensive, and they often had to be
persuaded by teachers if it was desired, for example, to introduce handicrafts as an additional
subject. For this purpose, the best arguments were to call attention to the results of school work,
that is to say to display the handicraft products made by the pupils themselves.
If the Swedish Parliament adopted measures to improve (or not to improve) the elementary
school, the directives were given final shape by the elementary school office in the Ministry of
Ecclesiastical Affairs and Public Instruction. The leading officials in that office were conservative
and dogmatic Lutheran-Christians.
Otto Salomon had conservative leanings in politics, but as an educator he was progressive,
even radical. He did not display this radicalism publicly, yet, even so, the leading officials in the
elementary school office looked upon him and his work with suspicion.
This background is of significance in view of Salomon’s and Abrahamson’s roles in society
and their achievements in education. These two Swedish Jews gave an important boost to inservice
training at a time when no other further education was available for teachers. This occurred
in a society that was dominated by the Lutheran church and its clergy, which, by controlling the
elementary school system, looked upon it as a means of building up the realm in the Christian faith.
Handicrafts became the focus of attention. Salomon convinced the teachers who studied at
Nääs that handicrafts were a crucial medium to transform the elementary school and to move away
from mass education, that tended to place too much emphasis on superficial knowledge. He aimed
at individualized education adapted to the needs and interests of every child. Abrahamson
maintained good relations with the king and had many other influential friends; this undoubtedly
prevented the most conservative and religiously prejudiced groups from frustrating his activities in
the field of education. Abrahamson and Salomon were sincere royalists and patriots, very anxious
to demonstrate that they were good Swedish citizens. Both had ancestors who had been forced to
migrate to Sweden seventy or eighty years earlier. Salomon’s method of educational instruction
could be interpreted in some respects as undermining the ruling conservative view of the
elementary school’s purpose. He taught the course participants to think and act independently, to
develop their own lessons and their self-confidence. These partly concealed intentions on
Salomon’s part were soon discovered, however, especially by educators abroad; and therefore it
was no mere coincidence that the museum of education in Fribourg, Switzerland, wrote to
Salomon after having received a set of handcrafted objects:
It seems to us that nothing could be more persuasive than to be able to show our numerous visitors—with a view to
influencing the teaching of manual work in Swiss schools—the complete collection of Swedish handicraft models
executed at Nääs, the very centre of this movement that is transforming the popular school of both the Old and New
Salomon’s basic educational ideas
Otto Salomon was able to read in their own languages the works of the great educators and
philosophers who had approved of physical activity as a means of formative education. He drew his
basic ideas from Comenius, Locke, Rousseau, Salzman, Pestalozzi, Fröbel, Cygneus and Spencer.
Their essential ideas were gradually blended with Salomon’s own experiences and adapted to the
needs of his own time. Converting their theoretical ideas into educational practice, Salomon built
up a system of efficient educational crafts that has been recognized as an important contribution to
Salomon looked upon the contemporary elementary school as being too theoretical—and
even that in a most insubstantial way since factual knowledge was learned by heart and repeated.
This rote learning of pure facts led to the children adopting negative attitudes towards the school
and towards each another: vanity, arrogance and bullying behaviour were commonplace. The
children also suffered from being seated for long periods without any physical activity.
A child has a desire for both knowledge and activity. These needs are met when manual
work is introduced into the conventional school curriculum.
If practical manual work is introduced, the matter is changed, for many who are dull when the head works without
the hand, excel when the use of the hand is required as well as that of the head, as in handicrafts. Children who are
naturally skilful and dexterous when hand and head work together, although slow when the head works alone, have
often more self-respect after discovering their power and skill; and if only one in 500 be so affected, even then the
course would be worth introducing.3
It is crucial for the child to enjoy such labour. This educational aim can be achieved if the
instruction is made interesting and varied. The child is improved by this activity and is motivated by
the esteem of work done well. For small children, playing and working should develop together
but, in the higher classes at school, handicraft activity should assume the character of real work.
Salomon was intrigued by the idea of making physical work an element in general
education. He considered any person who did not have a sound training in general dexterity as only
half-educated. We learn most effectively by activity—by doing things with our hands—and this
knowledge should be acquired through self-education. Manual labour at school should provide an
all-round education to everybody. Man is born with a number of undeveloped latent powers,
aptitudes and qualities, that should be nurtured in a comprehensive and systematic way. As
Salomon pointed out:
Education consists of the development of the powers and capabilities (psychical and physical) that have been given to
man . . . The best educated man is he who has the greatest possible range of these powers (but especially the most
essential and important among them) harmoniously developed to their utmost extent.4
According to Salomon, the will is more important than memory; moral and religious feelings are
more important than muscular strength. The teacher must pay attention to achieving an appropriate
balance between these powers in any individual’s development. This balance changes from one
phase of development to another.
The core of education is not limited to learning as such, but rather consists of developing
the child through his or her own learning.
Salomon separated material education from formative education. The former can be
acquired by knowledge and skills learned during the teaching of a school subject. The latter implies
developing mental and physical powers, with the student receiving material instruction in a
utilitarian way.
Real cultivation of the mind has nothing to do with learning vast amounts of facts.
‘Education, cultivation of the mind, means what is left when we have forgotten what we learned in
As a logical consequence of this, Salomon wanted to reduce the number of subjects taught
at school—he used the expression ‘concentration of teaching’. His idea was that competence or
profound knowledge is much more important than learning large quantities of facts and figures.
What he sought to attain was development of the will, of morality and of interests. Development
implies that the child is capable of solving problems at higher and more complex levels. If the child
only learns large quantities of facts at school, he/she will be left with the same level of skills as
The teacher who concentrates on large amounts of factual knowledge during lessons will
become neither an educator nor a teacher, but merely an instructor, filling up memories with facts
like stuffing meat into sausages. Salomon tried to express what the child should become: ‘For the
cultivation of your mind, it is more important what you are than how much you know.’6
The training college at Nääs
Between 1880 and 1907 Salomon held courses in further education that were attended by about
4,000 Swedish teachers and 1,500 teachers from forty other countries. Each course lasted six
weeks and four courses were arranged during the year. In the daily programme, there were six to
seven hours of practical handicraft work and one or two hours of theoretical lectures and
discussions. According to Salomon, the theory was more important than the craftwork. He lectured
on educational history, crafts and handicraft teaching methods, but also on psychology, morals,
hygiene and other subjects.
The remainder of a course-day was filled up with folk dancing, games and singing. There
were cheerful parties and excursions. The combination of hard work and pleasant distractions,
together with the beautiful scenery of the surroundings and the kind hospitality, formed the ‘Nääs
spirit’ and often left happy memories of that event that remained with participants for the rest of
their lives.
Salomon created what he called Swedish educational sloyd or Nääs-slöjd. Most important
was the system—a number of principles or aims that should not to be changed.
The system of educational handicrafts included the following aims (numbers 1 to 8 are of a
formative character, numbers 9 and 10 can be classified as utilitarian):
1. To instil a taste for and an appreciation of work in general.
2. To create a respect for hard, honest, physical labour;
3. To develop independence and self-reliance.
4. To provide training in the habits of order, accuracy, cleanliness and neatness.
5. To train the eye to see accurately and to appreciate the sense of beauty in form.
6. To develop the sense of touch and to give general dexterity to the hands.
7. To inculcate the habits of attention, industry, perseverance and patience.
8. To promote the development of the body’s physical powers.
9. To acquire dexterity in the use of tools.
10. To execute precise work and to produce useful products.
Many, perhaps most, people never get an opportunity to do dovetailing, but every human being, man or woman, may
acquire from it the habit of doing well whatever he/she is called upon to do.7
Salomon looked upon a ‘method’ as a regular and rational process for attaining a certain end.
Because educational handicrafts should be a voluntary subject for both pupils and teachers, it was
considered very important that both teachers and pupils should approve the method. The pupil
must be attracted by the work. He/she must recognize that the objects being made serve a purpose
and should be able to carry out all the steps to complete the activity, methodically and exactly—of
course, each in accordance with his/her capabilities. Therefore, each person had to learn the
exercises in a progressive order, starting from the easy stages and then going on to the more
difficult ones, from simple to complex, and from the known to the unknown. Each child must be
allowed to work at his/her own speed, proceeding from one activity to another, not being forced to
hurry by faster workers and not being obliged to wait for slower ones. This means strictly
individualized instruction, adjusted to the pupil’s capabilities.
The teacher must be well-trained and should be capable of teaching both crafts and the
‘theoretical’ subjects in elementary school, so as to be able to have an overall view of each pupil’s
mental, physical and moral development. He/she must show tact when estimating the ability of any
child, and the amount of accuracy and precision that can be expected of that child.
If we do not teach handicrafts individually, it is not a means of education in its truest sense, since it has not been
based on the nature of the child; and unless handicrafts be so based, they will soon lose their potent educational
The teacher must give each individual the appropriate amount of instruction—not too much and
not too little. He/she should guide, superintend and control the pupil in performing a task, but
should guard against interfering with the working process.
This tact is the measure not only of how much he shall demand from the children, but of how much he shall tell them,
and how much he shall not tell them. The best teacher is the one that teaches least.9
For the further development of self-reliance, the methods adopted by the teacher during the
progress of the work may be arranged in three stages:
1. The early models should be subjected to the scrutiny of the teacher both as regards
measurement and general form, with the pupils observing the methods and standards of
exactness employed by the teacher, for by doing so they acquire knowledge of the degree
of order, accuracy, neatness and precision required of them, at the same time finding out
their own level of ability as they work on the models.
2. Having acquired this knowledge, the children should then rely upon themselves to carry out
the measurements, and the teacher should confine his remarks to criticisms of the general
form of the model . . . Measurement should be the first element upon which children learn
to be self-reliant, by making a final and accurate decision on them themselves.
3. Children should determine everything for themselves, even determining when the model is
completed with accuracy, order, precision and finish.10
The task must not be mechanical. At every stage in the process, the thinking powers of the pupil
must be encouraged; craftwork requires total concentration and attention for its successful
completion. ‘The true stimulus to attention, we have said, is interest; the greater the interest, the
greater the attention.’11 The work must develop and strengthen bodily skills, and must develop the
sense and appreciation of form.
In elementary schools, children should receive the elements of an aesthetic education; until we have given these we
must not try to advance. Objects badly made or badly proportioned, and yet nicely ornamented, are really exceedingly
ugly. It is far more important that children should be able to judge when models are well-designed than to be able to
decorate them.12
To make the pupil appreciate the work there must be variety—in the use of tools, in the practical
working exercises, in the sizes and shapes of designs, and in the uses to which objects are put.
Merely carrying out preparatory exercises will kill the pupil’s interest; he/she should only perform
exercises that result in the completion of useful objects.
It is not recommended that children should be carrying out work on different projects
simultaneously since this would be counter-productive to the educational purpose and distract the
pupil’s attention. Salomon made a comparative study between metal-working, basket-making,
straw-plaiting, book-binding, wood-working and other kinds of handiwork. From this analysis he
came to the conclusion that wood-working (carpentry) was the most suitable craft to be taught in
school to a boy or girl between the ages of 11 and 14.
The knife is the most important tool in educational sloyd. A carpenter almost never uses a
knife—but the knife is the basic instrument of handicrafts. ‘Again we begin with the knife because
we consider it the easiest tool for children to employ, since they have already been in the habit of
using it.’13
Sandpaper must be used as little as possible, because the dust can be dangerous to health.
Otherwise it is useful to give a smooth finish and to remove the rough edges left by other tools. The
children should use normal-sized tools in order to become used to working with them.
The exercises
Otto Salomon scrutinized craftwork and examined the production of objects in order to identify the
‘more or less often recurring typical manners of working the material. A particular way of working
the material with a certain aim in view is what in handicrafts is called an exercise.’14 These exercises
were arranged in a graded succession—from easy to more difficult. Among the first exercises were
cutting, sawing, filing, planing and drilling. In the middle of the range we find fastening with screws,
dovetailing and oblique chiselling. Finally, the exercise series was completed with techniques such
as concealed tenoning.15 In 1902, the number of exercises was reduced from eighty-seven to sixtyeight.
Salomon considered the term ‘exercise’ to be sufficient for heuristic purposes, but they
were not the true elements of handicrafts:
They themselves are only results and expressions of what may be called the fundamental manifestations of the work,
physical and physiological conditions; this is to say that the achievement of a given exercise calls into play certain
mental and physical powers.16
The child should manufacture a number of useful and serviceable objects—called models—
arranged in a fixed series. These objects must not be so-called ‘knick-knacks’ or articles of luxury.
In 1894 the number of models was reduced from fifty to forty. The children were supposed to
complete this series of models in three school years.
Working with ‘Model Number 1’ (a brush handle), the pupil learned to apply the
techniques in ‘Exercises Numbers 1 and 2’ (cutting along the grain and across the grain). Working
with ‘Model Number 2’ (a pen holder), the pupil revised ‘Exercises 1 and 2’ and learned ‘Numbers
3 and 4’ (sawing and filing). And so on, until in making the last model—‘Number 40’ (a table)—
the pupil recapitulated twenty-four different exercises and learned the three last.
To many teachers, making the models in the series was the whole purpose. They may have
taught their pupils to handle the tools and to make good and beautiful objects, but ‘they didn’t
see’—they overlooked that the main purpose of the system was the development of the child, that
was far more important than any actual craft skill or surface design.
The objects that the child makes are as useful as those made by the carpenter; but, unlike the work of the carpenter,
the value of the child’s work does not exist in them, but in the child that made them.17
Because of this misunderstanding, Salomon started each course at Nääs by telling the participants
that they could teach in accordance with the system without using a single Nääs model or they
could, on the contrary, slavishly follow the model series in their instruction while knowing
absolutely nothing about the system.18 For the same reasons, Salomon was anxious to change the
model series at frequent intervals.
The exercises, then, form the foundation for the models, and not the models for the exercises. The models are but
expressions of the principles, and in themselves are not handicrafts; and we shall do well if we can abstract the
models in thought, and regard the series merely as a list of exercises.19
Salomon’s influence
At the age of 25 Salomon wrote his first magazine articles on handicrafts: the subject was the
programme for the vocational schools and the handicrafts training college at Nääs. Between 1876
and 1884, he published a series of small books called Slöjdskolan och Folkskolan I-V [Handicrafts
School and Primary School, I-V]. Some of them were translated into English, German and French.
He described what had taken place earlier in manual skill training, and published his interpretation
of the ideas he found in books written by Comenius, Rousseau, Pestalozzi, Fröbel and others. He
described his first attempts at creating educational sloyd and emphasized that physical labour was
an important means of educating in schools.
In the following books, Om slöjden såsom uppfostringsmedel [Woodworking as an
Educational Method] (1884) and Der Slöjd im Dienste der Schule [Woodwork in the Service of
the School] (Berlin, 1886), Salomon developed his message on formative education.
The most widely known books by Salomon are Handbok i pedagogisk snickerslöjd
[Handbook on Educational Woodwork] (1890) and The Theory of Educational Sloyd (1891).
Both have been translated into other languages. Together they give a complete picture of Swedish
educational handicrafts at their peak, the golden decades of manual training in school.
From a social point of view, if we could get rid of the antagonism between different classes of the community and
bring about mutual understanding between them, it is absolutely necessary that each should respect and appreciate the
work of the other; and that everybody alike should understand that all work, mental or manual, confers dignity on all
who engage intelligently and properly therein. All work, rightly so called, is good, honourable and valuable.20
Sloyd, then, belongs to formative education. It is an instrument whose sole use is the development
of the mental, moral and physical strength of the child.
We cannot, however, provide training in habits of respect and love of labour, of attention,
order and the like, without at the same time giving a knowledge of, and a dexterity in, the use of
tools; but this is accidental rather than essential.
Handicrafts, properly taught, will be found to supply an educational value not furnished by
the subjects usually taught in schools, and in that sense we regard its introduction as necessary.21 It
belongs purely to general education, and should find its place in the secondary and elementary
schools of the land. It is equally good and useful for everybody.22 A method might be compared to
a sequence of harmonies, of which the consonance with reality must constantly be tested by the
tuning fork of experience.23
To teach for life and not for school means that qualities valuable in life and not only in
school are thoroughly learned.24
The 1890s were the most creative and productive years in Salomon’s life. He published two
selections of speeches, Tankar om slöjd, uppfostran och lärarebildning [Thoughts about
Woodwork, Education and Teacher Training] (1893) and Tal och föredrag [Speeches and
Lectures] (1899). Neither of them has ever been translated into other languages.
This general lack of translation may be the origin of negative criticisms. Salomon published
his best and most penetrating articles in his own monthly paper, Slöjdundervisningsblad från Nääs
[Nääs Woodwork Instruction Sheet] (1885-1902). Later on, he made a selection of articles in
Pedagogiska frågor [Educational Questions] (1905), but most of these articles were inaccessible to
readers abroad. Despite these facts, the educational sloyd system was introduced or described in
many countries and in different languages, while the underlying ideas and explanations were not
available to readers outside Sweden.
August Abrahamson and his nephew Otto Salomon worked very conscientiously and
energetically to spread the Nääs system of handicrafts to other countries. Abrahamson had the
money required and the international contacts with his colleagues and friends—businessmen and
Jews. Both of them could speak and write in German, English and French; both travelled abroad
for one or two months every year—either working or on vacation.
The training college at Nääs was founded in 1875. Three years later Abrahamson and
Salomon began to send model series made at Nääs to Germany, Switzerland and Brazil, and some
years later to the United Kingdom and the United States. Supported by Swedish embassies in
almost every European country, they invited civil servants from education authorities, politicians,
professors and teachers to visit Nääs or to attend a course there. At the great world exhibitions
Nääs had a showcase of its own: Philadelphia in 1876; Paris in 1878; Chicago in 1893; Paris again
in 1900; St. Louis in 1904. Models, pictures and drawings from Nääs were shown at yet other
international exhibitions: in Greece, Chile, Algeria and so on.
Invitations were accepted. Official delegations arrived at Nääs and were received in a most
hospitable way: from Germany in 1880; France in 1882; Belgium in 1883; Russia in 1884; Chile in
1885; Italy in 1887; Japan in 1888; and from Argentina, Brazil, Bulgaria, Croatia, Hungary, Ireland,
Romania, South Africa, Spain and Uruguay in the 1890s. These official delegations were followed
by visits from teachers. Very often, interested teachers attended courses without preliminary official
contacts. In this way about forty nations had been represented at Nääs by 1907, the year Salomon
Some of the course participants became so interested in educational sloyd that they
translated the main principles into their own languages and published articles or books written by
Salomon. Others were asked or persuaded by Salomon to do translations for him. In some cases,
Salomon arranged for the texts to be composed—in Sweden or abroad—and paid for the printing.
A lot of the foreigners became devoted followers of Salomon, lecturing and writing articles on
educational handicrafts in their own countries and, of course, they introduced such instruction in
their schools.
Salomon maintained an enormous correspondence, with many thousands of letters going to
and coming from interested persons on all continents. The influence of Salomon and educational
handicrafts manifested itself in many European countries, especially the United Kingdom, as well as
in North and South America, whereas teachers in Germany, France and Denmark had their own
variants of manual training and were not so interested in Salomon’s ideas and accomplishments.
Salomon criticized
Salomon and the Nääs system were criticized in Sweden and abroad for the over-simplified design
of the models and the selection of objects to be made. It was for this reason that Salomon advised
British teachers to design models of their own that would be more common and applicable in their
own country. Russia and Germany already had strong traditions in wood-carving that were not
influenced at all by Nääs.
In some countries, authorities and craftsmen objected to the danger to children of using the
tools recommended for educational handicrafts. Some British crafts teachers did not allow their
pupils to work with knives. In Romania the crafts teachers could not purchase the correct knives;
they had to order them from Nääs. The use of sandpaper drew adverse comments from many
members of school boards for health reasons; they considered inhaling the dust to be a health
In the United States opponents asked for more draughtsmanship in handicrafts instruction.
They also demanded a series of lessons with fewer models and more rapidity in the learning of
But most fateful for the educational handicrafts movement was the critique that set in
motion its decline in the United States, the United Kingdom and other countries at the turn of the
century. Professor Stanley Hall and Colonel Francis Parker characterized the slöjd system as
hypermethodic and tyrannic, with its rigid course of models. They and others asked for creativity
and training in the powers of imagination, for co-ordination between manual training and art, and
for instruction based on projects for the children.
Some conclusions
Analyzing the handicrafts taught at Nääs enables us to reach certain conclusions:
· The sloyd method of educational handicrafts required individual teaching. If we look upon
handicrafts as a formative means of education, it cannot be applied in class teaching.
· The teacher must pay attention to the child’s reactions, behaviour and development. The
child must be the focus of attention, and not the tools, the techniques or the products. What
is happening to the child during the work process should be the principal interest.
· While Salomon placed high demands on the teacher, who had always to focus on the
behaviour and development of the child, he was, at the same time, optimistic and
encouraging. One of his aims was to strengthen the self-confidence of teachers.
· Many of Salomon’s ideas were very common in the nineteenth century, for example the
theory of formative education. But Salomon put his ideas in a structure of his own and gave
them complex new ingredients. He and other handicrafts teachers turned rough labour into
a means of formative education. He transformed educational ideas into working
In the 1880s, manual training was introduced in elementary schools (and even in secondary
schools) in the United States, the United Kingdom, Germany and in other countries that were
among the first to be industrialized. Pioneer countries with compulsory manual training in schools
were Finland (1866) and France (1882). Over a period of two decades, from 1885 to 1905,
Swedish educational handicrafts were very influential all over the world. But when Salomon died in
1907 manual training in school was already being influenced by new ideas. Nevertheless, his name
and theories are remembered in countries like the United States, Japan, Germany and the United
Kingdom. Thus, it could be said that an international Salomon heritage does exist.
In Sweden the situation developed in its own peculiar way. At the Nääs training college
another 5,000 to 7,000 teachers received instruction until 1966, when the activity was transferred
to Linköping. But Salomon was forgotten. His name and ideas are now hardly ever mentioned in
the training of crafts teachers. However, it is perhaps possible to note a change that has taken place
since 1990; interest in Salomon is now increasing. Swedish handicrafts and Swedish elementary
schools owe him a lot!
Otto Salomon already realized what was going to happen. In 1903 he wrote the following
about the Nääs system of educational handicrafts:
I see such a system as a casting mould—necessary during the process of casting, but that ought to be thrown away and
dismantled when the work-of-art has been cast. I believe that the so-called ‘Nääs-system’ has had its day; it lies in the
past, not in the present, still less in the future. While most of the principles have become so universal that they are
stated to be self-evident, even by persons who certainly would not like to promote anything that comes out of Nääs,
there is no further need for a ‘Nääs-system’ in the domain of manual training.
May it die and may it rest in peace! I will not be found among the mourners. I have long ago lost my belief
in systems within the Art of Education, and believe now only in personalities.25
1. Hans Thorbjörnsson (Sweden). Master of Arts. Author of numerous textbooks on the Swedish language and
social science. Has been conducting research on Otto Salomon’s work and handicrafts education in Sweden
since 1985 and has published Nääs och Otto Salomon:slöjden och leken [Nääs and Otto Salomon:
handicrafts and games] (1990)and Slöjd och lek på Nääs [Handicrafts and games at Nääs] (1992)
2. Letter of 24 October 1900. Archives of A. Abrahamson Foundation, EIII:28, Göteborgs landsarkiv.
3. Otto Salomon, The Theory of Educational Slöjd, Rev. and Ed. by Charles Neville, London, 1892, p. 47.
4. Otto Salomon, ‘Manual training’. An Address to the National Union of Teachers, London, 1890, p. 6.
5. Otto Salomon, Pedagogiska frågor [Educational Questions], 1905, p. 10. [Author’s translation.]
6. Ibid., p. 10. [Author’s translation.]
7. Hand and Eye (London, Newmann), July 1895, p. 252.
8. The Theory of Educational Slöjd, op. cit., p. 63.
9. Ibid., p. 14.
10. Ibid., p. 32–33.
11. Ibid., p. 45.
12. Ibid., p. 38.
13. Ibid., p. 11.
14. Hand and Eye, August 1894, p. 254–55.
15. Charles Bennett, History of Manual and Industrial Education, vol. 2, 1870 to 1917, Peoria, IL, 1937, p. 72,
16. Hand and Eye, August 1894, p. 255.
17. The Theory of Educational Slöjd, op. cit., p. 2.
18. Slöjdundervisningsblad från Nääs [Nääs Woodwork Instruction Sheet]. 1888, no. 6.
19. The Theory of Educational Slöjd, op. cit., p. 26.
20. Ibid., p. 28.
21. Ibid., p. 3–4.
22. Ibid., p. 5.
23. Hand and Eye, May 1894, p. 172.
24. Hand and Eye, July 1895, p. 252.
25. Otto Salomon, The ‘Nääs System’ and the Nääs Models, Conference Handbook, London, 1903, p. 75–76.
Works by Otto Salomon
In chronological order
Archives of August Abrahamson Foundation. Göteborgs Landsarkiv.
1876–84. Slöjdskolan och Folkskolan I-V [Handicrafts School and Primary School]. Göteborg.
1884. Om slöjden såsom uppfostringsmedel [Woodwork as an Educational Method]. Ur Vår tids forskning
(Stockholm), no. 33. [Translated into Czech: ‘Vyueova ruêni praci jako formalnê vzdêla’vajici prostrêdek’.
Paedagogium Sèsit. no. 7, 1886; into German: Die Handfertigkeit als formales Bildungsmittel. Osnabrück,
1885. Slöjdundervisningsblad från Nääs [Nääs Woodwork Instruction Sheet]. Ed. by Otto Salomon. Göteborg, 1885-
1902. [Monthly paper.]
1886. Der Slöjd im Dienste der Schule [Woodwork in the Service of the School]. Zeitschrift: Der Arbeiterfreund
(Berlin), Heft 3. [Translated into English: The Slöjd in the Service of the School. Industrial Education
Association (New York), vol. I, no. 6, 1888. Translated into Dutch: Slôjd ten dienste der school. 1893.]
1890. Handbok i pedagogisk snickerislöjd [Handbook on Educational Woodwork]. Stockholm. [Translated into
English: The Teacher’s Handbook of Slöjd. London, 1891. Boston, 1891. Translated into Spanish: Manual
de slöjd en madera. Leipzig, 1893. Translated into Russian: Stoljarnyj rucnoj trud. Moscow, 1908.]
- ‘Manual training: Evolution, Not Revolution’. Address to the National Union of Teachers, London.
- ‘Manual Training’. An Address to the National Union of Teachers, London.
- ‘The Progressive Steps Taken by the Swedish Slöjd Instruction’. College for the Training of Teachers. New
York, November 15 1890. [Leaflet.]
1891. Något om Nääs och dess läroanstalter [About Nääs and Its Educational Centres]. Göteborg.
1892. The Theory of Educational Slöjd. Rev. and ed. by Charles Neville. London. [Translated into German: Die
Theorie des pädagogischen Slöjd. Berlin, 1899.]
1893. Tankar om slöjd, uppfostran och lärarebildning [Thoughts about Handicrafts, Education and Teachers
Training]. Stockholm.
1893. Principi Fondamentali del Lavoro Manuale Educativo. Editor: Eugenio Pàroli. Palermo.
1894–95. ‘Some Views Concerning the Arrangement of a Series of Models’. Hand and Eye (London, Newmann).
[Translated into Spanish: Boletin de Ensenanza Primaria (Montevideo), 1894.]
1897. ‘Teoria de Slöjd’. La Ensenanza Argentina. Buenos Aires, no. 11–13;
1898. ‘Slöjd-Instruction in Sweden’. Pratt Institute Monthly (New York), April.
1899. Tal och föredrag [Speeches and Lectures]. Göteborg.
1900. ‘Institution d’August Abrahamson: Nääs’ [August Abrahamson’s Institution at Nääs]. Göteborg. [Description
prepared for the Universal Exhibition at Paris, 1900.]
1903. ‘The "Nääs System" and the Nääs Models’. Conference Handbook of sixth Annual Conference of Manual
Training Teachers. London.
1905. Pedagogiska frågor [Educational Questions]. Spridda uppsatser, Göteborg.
Works about Otto Salomon
Bennett, C.A. History of Manual and Industrial Education, vol. 2. 1870–1917. Peoria, IL, 1937.
Blachford, G. A History of Handicraft Teaching. London, 1961.
Borgna, G. Lo slöjd o lavoro manuale educativo [Slöjd and Educational Manual Work]. Torino, 1887.
Brixy, I. Obuku u Slöjdu [Teaching on Slöjd]. Zagreb, 1895.
Frasao, M. O ensino publico primario na Italia & Suissa, Suecia... [Public Primary Education in Italy, Switzerland,
Sweden, etc.]. Rio de Janeiro, 1893.
Hodson, G. Educational Slöyd. London, 1901.
Ishihara, H. ‘Scandinavian Handicraft Education in the Nineteenth Century’. The Bulletin of Hirosaki University
(Hirosaki, Japan), 1971, p. 25.
Knoll, M. ‘Das “russische System”, “Slöjd” und die Entwicklung der Projektmethode in Amerika’ [The Russian
System, Sloyd and the Development of the Project Method in America]. Zeitschrift für Berufs- und
Wirtschaftspädagogik (Stuttgart), vol. 90, no. 1, 1994.
Larsson, G. Sloyd for American schools. Boston, 1894.
——. Sloyd. Boston, 1902.
Lord, E. Slöjd as a Means of Teaching the Essential Elements of Education. London, 1888.
Marton, F. Tanulmány ut. Jelenstes a Nääsi Slojd-Tanfolyamrôl [The Teaching Methods of Jelenstes and Nääs-
Slöjd]. Pécsett, Hungary, 1895.
Meulen, A.T. van der. ‘Over Sloyd en Nääs’ [On Slöjd and Nääs]. Het Onderwijs (Batavia, Java), 1896, p. 1–2.
Moian, G. Lucrul manual educativ [Education for Manual Work]. Bucarest, 1896.
Nielsen, A. Haandbog for Skoleslöjd efter Askov-Nääs Systemet [Handbook for School Crafts according to the
Askov-Nääs System]. Copenhagen, 1914.
‘Notes on Sloyd’. The Educational News of South Africa (Cape Town), 1893, no. 6–9.
Przanowski, W. Urzadzenie pracowni do robot... [The Installation of Craft Workshops]. Warsaw, 1921.
Reincke, H.J. Slöjd: die schwedische Arbeitserziehung in der internationalen Reformpädagogik [Slöjd: Swedish
Work Education in the International Educational Reform]. University of Oldenburg, Germany. [Doctoral
Sluys, M.A. L’enseignement des travaux dans les écoles primaires de garçon en Suéde [Work Education in Boys’
Primary Schools in Sweden]. Brussels, 1884.
Solana, D.E. El trabajo manual [Manual Work]. Madrid, 1902.
Stam, J. De slöjdmethode van O. Salomon te Nääs beoordeeld [An Evaluation of O. Salomon’s Slöjd Method in
Nääs.] Amsterdam, 1892.
Sulgustowska, M.D. Slöjd. Warsaw, 1909.
‘Swedish sloyd’. Egyptian Gazette, 25 May 1898.
Tegon, C. Relazione sul lavoro manuale alla scuola di Nääs [The Conduct of Manual Work at the Nääs School].
Rome, 1887.
Thorbjörnsson, H. Nääs och Otto Salomon, slöjden och leken [Nääs and Otto Salomon: Handicrafts and Games].
Helsingborg, Sweden, 1990.
——. Slöjd och lek på Nääs [Handicrafts and Games at Nääs]. Helsingborg, 1992.
Zirul, C. Nääskaja utjitelskaja Seminarie Rutnogo truda v’Schwetzii [Teachers’ Seminars on Work at Nääs in
Sweden]. St. Petersburg, 1896.

Monday 14 February 2011

Shrink pot made from birch and willow

I was inspired to make this shrink pot from the coopered pot in my last post. It was interesting playing around with a different shape. This one is oval and smaller at the bottom tapering to a large top.

The lid is fiddleback willow, cut from a solid plank. The pot is birch and the bottom is willow with an oak peg.

The pot is still in its raw state and will need a finish. I am think of painting the birch on the outside and just beeswaxing the inside and lid.

The pot is 11 cm high and 13 long and 8.5cm deep at he top, so only a small pot.

Saturday 12 February 2011


Swedish coopered pot and shrink pots

A friend who came to use my workshop to cut out some wooden parts for puppets, bought along this coopered pot. This is a lovely little pot held together with willow bindings. He bought it second hand in Sweden. I especially like the way the lid is held in with a fixed peg on one side of the handle and a removable peg on the other side. The loose peg has defiantly been sawn out with a band saw, and then whittled.

 and with the lid off

I have not done any coopering and I use a different method to make small boxes. I take a log and hollow it out. A groove is made around the bottom and a disc of wood is cut to the size of the hole and fitted into the groove. As the pot dries it shrinks around the disc, holding it firmly.

and again with the lids off

My lids are tight fitting and so need a gentle pull to take them off. I will use the two peg technique on a few shrink boxes, especially those that go travelling in bags, to picnics etc. This way the contents will not be able to spill.
I would be very interested to find out more about shrink pots, in history or links to modern makers. If you have any information then do please let me know.

Above, made from birch.

 Above, willow

Sunday 6 February 2011

Whitehouse side axe

New handle for a rusty axe

A client asked me to re-handle this axe so he could sell it on. It came very rusty, but luckily only newish surface rust and not the decades old deep rust. It went into my electrolysis barrel. By passing a small electric current from a battery charger through the rusty tool the rust is lifted off.

The axe is a C Whitehouse and Sons 3lb side axe, now weighing in at 2.5lb. The handle was made from a seasoned log of ash which has a bend in. The log was split and axed into shape.

You can just see the compression figure in the grain of the wood just above the eye. The wooden block with the black markings on is a measure in inches and centimetres. Please note: I have not sharpened the axe, I have just ground it down ready for the final sharpening and honing.

Below is the axe in use to show that there is plenty of room for the hand. The last thing you want is to graze your knuckles when swinging a heavy axe

This is a lovely side axe, one which I would like to use. The weight is just right for me, but alas I am already regretting not buying the head for £40 when my client offered to sell it to me.

Thursday 3 February 2011

Quality tools - cheap axe

I love my Gransfor Bruks carving axe, as I love my Whitehouse and Gilpin kentish pattern axes. These are known as top quality tools by anyone in the know, and sometimes they can cost an arm and a leg. Gransfor Bruks has been doing outstanding business for some years now. I have seen people selling the axes at markets to passers by, and at £50 minimum each. That is something I thought that I would never see.

I am a great believer in using and renovating old tools that others throw away, and have written articles for magazines describing the processes involved. If you are starting out on your greenwood or bushcraft journey and can not afford a GB axe, or have not yet learnt the techniques of making, fitting and sharpening old tools then there is another option.

The old adage of buy the most expensive tool you can afford is still generally true, but to make my point about renovtion, I went out and bought the cheapest axe I could find. How much? £3.25 for a "Rolson Quality tools".
It was the gold colour that drew me in, a gold coloured axe, cool. Five minutes on the grinder, or you could easily use a file as the metal in axes is quite soft. Then onto the bench stones where I got the original angle of 60+ degrees down to 32 degrees and slightly sided. Siding means that the bevels on each side of the axe are not even, and being right handed, I need the left hand bevel to be longer and flatter and the right needs a more obtuse bevel. This is so I can use the axe in a more upright or vertical position, just what I like for green wood working.
The handle was a nightmare, far to big for my hand. I often hold the axe up near the head for greater control, so out came the knife and I whittled the handle down.

Above is the end result: it is sharp and can slice a sheet of newspaper easily. It worked a treat on green wood. On seasoned fast-grown ash I struck a problem as the edge rolled or bent over slightly, so out came the diamond stone and I resharpened it. The same happened again, cheap axes, I was thinking good for splitting wood only. This time I resharpened again and took the bevel to just over 35 degrees and I have had no problems with it since, and have hacked through a fair bit of wood with it.
I like the shape of the head and the toe is perfect for getting into the wood, especially when doing spoons. I still do not particularly like the handle, and would like to replace it with one I have made. The steel feels just a bit softer than my other named brand axes, but since getting the edge geometry right, this is not much of an issue.
The thing is, that if I sanded the handle smooth and removed all paint etc, blacken the head, and asked you to use it, would you be able to tell this was a cheap £3.25 axe?
This would not be my first choice when selecting an axe to use in my workshop, but then again I do have over 20 to choose from. With a little modification it works and works well. When I first got my GB wildlife axe I still had to grind the edge to the geometry I needed for the work I do.