The Fifth Grader’s Secret


From time to time, simply by virtue of our chosen hobby, we will be asked to show someone how we do what we do and to explain why we do it a certain way. Somewhere, way back during the last century, I was taught a very effective technique, I still use today, which is the subject of this week’s newsletter.

“If you were asked to explain how and why you do something to a fifth grader in terms that they could understand, what would you say?” This stems from the understanding that the fifth grader is starting from scratch with no preconceived ideas about what you are showing them. A fifth graders brain is very capable of understanding fairly complex ideas, but they usually don’t have the technical vocabulary that we use every day. If you understand how to explain a concept, method, or technique well enough to describe it so that a fifth grader will be able to understand it, then you can explain it to everyone regardless of their age.

I am reminded of this all day every day during show season. Sweet Janice and I are immersed in all things turning, the tools, the equipment, the accessories, and the language so it becomes second nature to us. When we are trying to help a customer solve a problem they are having, we have trained ourselves not to assume that the customer automatically understands what is needed, or how to use it or even the terms used to describe it. We chose our words carefully until we understand their skill level; beginner to advanced. This is different than condescension, or just having a superior attitude. Sometimes our customers do understand without us explaining, but very frequently, they come to us for direction. A common example is their response to my question when I ask “What is the swing of your lathe?” The most common answer is the deer-in-the-headlights look. To us, that is a very basic question. For the customer, not so much. (Swing = the diameter of the largest item the lathe can turn over the bed ways: typically 10, 12, 16, 20 inches)

We don’t assume that the customer is familiar with all of the turning jargon we use so we are careful to explain things in terms that they will understand including jargon when appropriate. Think about your Doctor communicating with his Nurse. What I’m saying is that to effectively communicate with someone, you can’t assume that they have the same level of understanding that you do. They might, but if you are the instructor, or teacher, they probably don’t. This applies to virtually all areas of our lives including our children, grandchildren, our friends and neighbors. Besides just turning wood, I personally encounter this situation when I am trying to share a life principle from the scriptures with folks. If you can break it down and make it simple, you will have far better results, because wherever you go, there you are.

Here is my inspiration for this week’s message:

1 Corinthians 1:17 MSG
God didn't send me out to collect a following for myself, but to preach the Message of what he has done, collecting a following for him. And he didn't send me to do it with a lot of fancy rhetoric of my own, lest the powerful action at the center - Christ on the Cross - be trivialized into mere words.

Matthew 19:14 MSG
But Jesus intervened: "Let the children alone, don't prevent them from coming to me. God's kingdom is made up of people like these."



We will also be in the Peachtree Woodworking Supply booth again this year at SWAT in Waco, Texas on August 26-28, 2016.

Peach State Woodturners in Oxford, Ga. Thursday evening meeting Sept 1st, 2016 More info here: I will be explaining the assembly process we use to successfully glue up the laser cut inlay Christmas Ornament Kits.

Notice: Due to our travel schedule, orders received after Saturday Aug 20, 2016, will ship the following week when we return to the office. We are sorry for the delay, but we can't be in two places at the same time. Staff will be in the office, but are not able to process orders.

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