In the Elementary Sloyd described in the first part of this book, whittling is not practised. As a general rule, children under twelve years of age have not sufficient strength or control of the hand to use the knife correctly. Whittling is recommended only when it is not possible to have the Elementary Sloyd, which requires a special room fitted up with benches and a variety of tools. Such an outfit is more effective educationally, but economically it is more expensive. Whittling can be done in the regular schoolroom by the regular teacher and with a comparatively inexpensive outfit.
By a skilful, experienced, and tactful teacher a whole class of the usual size in the public schools may be instructed simultaneously, but as in any work of motor training, or whenever the hands are employed to give expression to thought, the difference in individuals reveals itself so plainly that it is evident that the best educational results can be obtained only when free scope is given to individual abilities. Consequently, the number of children in the class should be limited. Drill, mass instruction, and various means of keeping children together may be employed and some fairly good visible results obtained, but in nine cases out of ten the educational effect on the child is very little, and in some cases more injurious than helpful. Hence, it is important that in this work a regular class be divided whenever it is possible.
The children should be taught to make sketches and working drawings of the simple models and should also learn to read printed drawings or such as are made by some one else.
The model and the drawing should at first be presented together by the teacher, and enlarged blackboard drawings may be made for the whole class to read. The aim of drawing is to give the pupil a correct mental picture of what he is expected to make, consequently it should always precede manual work.
The knife is the least mechanical and the most familiar of tools, and if correctly used teaches the pupil to think before he acts, because of its simultaneous demand upon the mind and the muscles of the arm, wrist, hand, and fingers.
The knife, however, is only one among the half hundred cutting tools used in sloyd. The value of Whittling alone as a means of education may not be very great, but it is believed that it may supply an educational need when practised under the following conditions:
1. The child should have sufficient strength to handle the knife correctly.
2. The whittling should be taught preferably by the regular teacher, who must be possessed of sufficient technical skill.
3. The position of the body and the movements used in the various exercises must be such as not to retard physical growth.
4. The work should as much as possible be done in erect standing position and the material should be large enough to permit freedom of movement.
5. The exercises should be carefully graded from the easy to the difficult and should be applied on objects useful to the worker and of artistic merit.
6. The knife should be of correct size and construction.
7. Wood suitable to the objects should be carefully selected and properly prepared.