Chapter 1 1900 and Before - Education Programs that Support the Growth of Amateur Woodworking:--

Part E - The First Real Instructional Woodworking -- The Sloyd System

"The training of special teachers of manual arts is of comparatively recent origin...."

Albert F. Siepert, 1918, page 5. See Sources

The Swedish "Sloyd" system was another woodworking movement introduced to America's woodworking education programs. (This is a link to a brief wikipedia entry on sloyd.) Like America's eduCation system in general, slowly, step by step, woodworking instruction shifted from an instructor-centered focus to student-centered courses. Its novelty: a focus on the student's interest in the project, or, in effect, hints of the "student-centered" theory of the Progressive Education Movement. For background, check out the following sources: Ray Stombaugh, A Survey Of The Movements Culminating In Industrial Arts Education In Secondary Schools New YorK: Teachers College, Columbia University, 1936 (This book is not online full-text.); Parts 1 and 2 of Lawerence A Cremin, The Transformation of the School: Progressivism in American Education, 1876-1957 New York: Knopf, 1962 (This book is not online full-text, but I adapted Stombaugh's Chapter VII, and uploaded it); and also by Cremin, "Progressive School Movements", Chapter 5 in American Education: The Metropolitan Experience, 1876-1980 New York: Harper and Row, 1988, pages 212-272 (This book is not online full-text.) .


These images come from the 1893 Report of the [Massachussetts] Commission Appointed to Investigate the Existing Systems of Manual Training and Industrial Education

Sloyd Anticipates the Project Movement and the Home Workshop Movement Boston: Weight and Potter Printing Co., State Printers, 1893

The box below reprints a fragment from Verne C Fryklund's article on the success of introducing instruction sheets into woodworking courses in the 1920s:

    ... [T]he newer philosophy of education ... [was] the shifting of the emphasis from class instruction supplemented by individual instruction to individual instruction supplemented by class instruction. Attempts were made at first to solve the problems of class instruction by means of individual oral instruction, but the method imposed considerably more work upon an already busy teacher. Since the period of the World War many forms of written instruction sheets have appeared in an effort to improve the efficiency of instruction.

    Source: Verne C. Fryklund, "Instruction Sheets and Principles of Teaching," Industrial Arts Magazine 16, no. 2 February 1927, pages 41-44.

The Sloyd system thus anticipates some of the motives that drove both the project movement and the home workshop movement , early in the 20th century. Of the two "movements" mentioned, the Home Workshop movement had the most impact on helping to fix woodworking as a pastime for many hundreds of thousands of Americans, beginning in the 1920s, when the first wave of scaled-down benchtop woodworking machines appeared on the market. Read more here


As Klein notes, when Sloyd was introduced, no books dealt with this system. Instruction depended upon models and charts. Wood-working tools -- how to use them: A manual -- by the Industrial School Association, Boston, and Bench Work in Wood, by W F M Goss, printed in 1882 and 1887, show this type of work. The University of Chicago shops have a collection of the work done under this system, inherited by them from the old Chicago Manual Training School.


America's first glimpse of this system was in 1885, at the Cotton Centennial Exhibition in New Orleans. Exhibited was the teaching and learning developed by Otto Salomon (1849-1907) at Naas, Sweden. klein_1927-2

The first Sloyd school was opened in 1888.

The characteristics of the "Sloyd" system may be summed up by stating that the system employs one-on-one instruction.

Sloyd, essentially, creates a setting where students learn by doing "projects", and "doing projects" breaks down into a sequence of steps :

At first, preliminary to work on projects, exercises are conducted; the work, mainly in wood, stresses physical exercise, hence-- as Klein notes -- the sequence of positions and movements made while the student works with tools is carefully worked out.

(For typical Sloyd projects, see Plate 2 right, from Paul E Klein's article in 1927; these images actually a composite of numerous images from throughout Otto Salomon's Teacher's Handbook of Sloyd.)


Image on left shows a class taught by Mr. B. F. Eddy at the North Bennett School (Boston) 1893. Students are assembled for a "drawing" demonstration.

Equipment for Swedish Sloyd.

The equipment used in the educational Sloyd developed by Salomon was quite different from that employed by Della Vos, because Salomon's system was (1) for individual instruction and (2) for children from ten to fifteen years of age. (For details on differences in equipment for, respectively, Della Vos and Salomon, see pages 18-19 and 68 and following of Bennett, History of Manual and Industrial Education 1870 to 1917.)

Salomon considered that under usual conditions fifteen pupils constituted a class large enough for one teacher.

He thought six or eight enough for a beginning teacher and that under favorable conditions an experienced teacher might be successful in teaching a class of "fifteen, eighteen, or at most, twenty pupils".

Method of Teaching.

An outstanding characteristic of Salomon's educational sloyd was that all instruction must be given through one-on-one teaching. His treatise, The Theory of Educational Sloyd, devotes a chapter to "class teaching versus individual teaching".

Salomon recommended a single fixed course as desirable for every student

To enrich the course for certain individual students by introducing supplementary models, he argued, is a waste of time, merely distracting attention from the real work of the course.

To meet the problem of individual differences in children, he encouraged each class member to go as rapidly as possible within the prescribed limits of the series of models, but he would not allow a member to do work outside of these.

Salomon believed in a fixed series of models -- a rigid course of instruction.

This naturally led him to contrast class and individual teaching in their extreme forms:

    Class teaching comprises the teaching of two or more children.

    Individual teaching comprises the teaching of one or more children.

    The aims of the teacher are not the same in the two cases.

    They differ materially.

    In class teaching, the teacher is apt to regard the class as a unit. It is not the development of the individual scholar, but of the individual class, that is aimed at.

    The minds of the scholars composing it are at various stages of intelligence;

    they differ also in ability.

    The efforts of the teacher are directed to assimilating these differences, and to securing a uniform rate of progress among all the members of the class.

    On the other hand, in individual teaching, the development of each child is the aim kept prominently in view.

    No effort is made to harmonize differences in ability, nor to advance the children with equal paces. The best teachers will make their methods approximate as much as possible to those employed in individual teaching.

In summarizing the principles which should be given in the teaching of Sloyd, Salomon gives the following list:

    (1) The instruction must go from easy to difficult.

    (2) The instruction must go from simple to complex.

    (3) The instruction must go from known to unknown.

    (4) The teaching must lay a good foundation.

    (5) The teacher should possess educational tact.

    (6) The teaching should be interesting in character.


    (7) The instruction should be given as far as possible through the senses, especially touch and sight.

    (8) The teaching should be individual in character.

    (9) The instructor should be a teacher and not a mere craftsman.

Educators of the day welcomed Sloyd, primarily because the system contains three components they valued for student learning:--

1) interest

2) utility

3) physical development

The aim of "Sloyd," following Salomon's leadership, was

Pleasure in bodily labor, and respect for it.

Habits of independence, order,


attention, and


Increase in physical strength,

development of the power of observation in the eye, and

of execution in the hand ...

development of mental power.

In other words, programmatically, the intent of Sloyd is disciplinary. "Disciplinary" in the sense that, as courses taught in schools of all levels, Sloyd comprises an accumulating body of knowledge -- about teaching practices, student exercises, grading standards, that it falls under the broader category of pedagogy called the Project Method, and so forth -- that can be passed on to others to apply in other situations. Evidence of the truth of the accumulating body of knowledge exists in the numbers of books listed in the Worldcat database.

As they said, "the objects (are) chosen with special reference to the interests of the boy."

    Elementary Sloyd and Whittling. By Gustaf Larsson. Mr. Larsson is the acknowledged leader in all matters that pertain to sloyd in this country, having been the first to introduce it into America, and having steadily employed himself in teaching it not only in grade schools, but to teachers, conducting a normal class that turns out every year many instructors in sloyd. His latest book (he has written several on the subject) is an exposition of bench work in wood in two dimensions, adapted to children from eight to twelve years of age. In this newer set of models Mr. Larsson has wisely selected larger objects than those commonly given to young children, to the end that while there is training of eye and hand there shall also be vigorous muscular activity and exercise. The objections brought against giving sloyd to young children are here met and surmounted. The models are such as may be easily handled by boys of eight years of age, are chosen with reference to the interests of a child of this age, and are different from those which have been suggested for the three upper grammar grades. This course is adapted for use in the fifth and sixth grades, also for special classes, and for home use. With each model there are drawings and directions for working; every step in making the model is presented with the name of the tool used. The second part of the book presents the subject of whittling, which may be used in schools when it is not possible to have the elementary sloyd, which requires a special room fitted up with benches and a variety of tools. Whittling can be done in the regular schoolroom by the regular teacher and with a comparatively inexpensive outfit. Twenty models to be whittled are given, with working drawings and full directions. The directions are so explicit that the teacher without previous training may teach whittling to her class with full confidence of satisfactory results. Mr. Larsson's book is the completest manual for teachers published, and presents sloyd for American schools in the best and most workable manner. Every teacher of sloyd must secure a copy. Silver, Burdett & Co.

    Manu et Mente: A Textbook of Working Drawings of Models in Sloyd Boston: Sloyd Training School, 1893. Adapted to American schools, this handbook contains forty-six progressively arranged illustrations of models as adapted to pupils from nine to fifteen years. It also brings concise but clear descriptions of the exercises and tools, as well as kinds of wood employed; also illustrations of the most prominent working positions. This latter is of great importance to the quality of work, as well as development of students. The author of this book is Mr. Gustav Larsson, principal of the sloyd training school located on Appleton street, Boston. Mr. Larsson was a student in Naas, Sweden, after investigating and maturing several special lines of this work, including cabinetmaking, wood carving, and general wood turning. Through his own experience Mr. Larsson is prepared to distinguish most closely between hand work which supplies shops at the expense of men, and that handicraft by which the individual evolves himself. He expresses himself more fully in the article on page 113 of this number. The price of the text-book is $1.50, and it can be supplied direct by the Kindergarten Literature Co.; also, by the same author, the "Portfolio of Working Drawings," and "Whittling in the School Room.

    Source: Thomas William Bicknell, Project Innovation (Organization), William Augustus Mowry, Frank Hatch Kasson, Herbert Francis Blair, Frank Herbert Palmer, Raymond P. Palmer, "Book Notices: Elementary Sloyd and Whittling, by Larsson" Education 27 1907, page 247.

In its manner of presentation, at first, Sloyd was a bit formal, there were 88 exercises and models, and these were presented in a very inflexible order and manner. Gustaf Larsson, the great exponent of Sloyd in this country, deserves much credit for his modification of this rather formal, but very fine, work. Plates 3 and 4 illustrate some of his projects and ideas. We have many books and publications on sloyd, as:


Click here for a critique of "The Sloyd Movement", including a comparison of the Sloyd and Russian Systems

Some Sloyd Publications

    2. Preliminary Sloyd by Gustaf Larsson, 1893. (not online full-text)

    3. "Elementary Sloyd and Whittling," by Gustaf Larsson, 1906.

    4. "Sloyd Correct Position Charts" which were hung on the wall of the classroom.


Sources: Otto Salomon Teacher's Handbook of Sloyd 1891; Albert F. Siepert, "Courses of study for the preparation of teachers of manual arts" Washington, DC: Dept. of the Interior, 1918, page 5 (United States Bureau of Education, Bulletin no. 37.) 30 pages; Paul E. Klein, "Fifty Years of Woodworking in the Ameican Schools", The Industrial Arts Magazine 16, no. 1, January 1927, pages 1-5; Verne C. Fryklund, "Instruction Sheets and Principles of Teaching," Industrial Arts Magazine 16, no. 2 February 1927, pages 41-44; Ray Stombaugh, A Survey Of The Movements Culminating In Industrial Arts Education In Secondary Schools New YorK: Teachers College, Columbia University, 1936 (This book is not online full-text.); (Contributions To Education. No. 670), pages 90-102; Charles Bennett, History of Manual and Industrial Education, vol. 2, 1870 to 1917, Peoria, IL, 1937, pages 53-105; Parts 1 and 2 of Lawerence A Cremin, The Transformation of the School: Progressivism in American Education, 1876-1957 New York: Knopf, 1962 (This book is not online full-text.); and also by Cremin, "Progressive School Movements", Chapter 5 in American Education: The Metropolitan Experience, 1876-1980 New York: Harper and Row, 1988, pages 212-272 (This book is not online full-text.); see also this UNESCO source by Hans Thorbjörnsson, 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..