John Moorhead
2 years ago
Last Updated
3 months ago

The arc of this lesson group has students creating a “Project Based Learning” Steam Bent Wood Back Scratcher over a course of four lessons. The group of lessons instruct students on visually identifying trees and lumber, learning about grain orientation and figure, hardwoods, softwoods, lumber milling and steam bending. Here’s an abstract of the series of lessons:

Lesson 1 – “Which Wood?” This lesson introduces students to the wide range of trees and lumber out there. Students will learn to identify trees by their physical characteristics; shape, leaves, flowers, nuts or fruits and lumber. The lesson itself has three of the more popular project woods – Oak, Maple and Pine, but there are seven other commercial species of trees featured in the resource collection for this lesson.

Lesson 2 – “Identify Species and Grain” Students take the knowledge they’ve picked up in the first lesson and play “mix and match” to identify the species of different samples of hardwoods and softwoods. Grain and figure are also illuminated in this lesson.

Lesson 3 – “Steam Bending!” In this lesson, students practice heating kabob skewers in a hot water bath (this is safer than actual steam work) and testing the limits of bending to fracture, and how much the skewers spring back after they’ve cooled. Once they get a feel for this, they will do the actual work on their back scratcher blanks after the instructor demonstrates the exercise. Speed, focus and accuracy are watchwords for this shop-intensive lesson.

Lesson 4 – “Forming and Finishing” The final lesson in this series teaches students the ins and outs of sanding, different abrasives, proper sanding technique and using the Bandsaw for final forming of the hand and handle of the back scratcher. Students will do final finish sanding, get their scratchers inspected, and apply a simple beeswax, mineral oil or orange oil.

All lessons have a variety of resources in their respective lesson collections; more than are found within each lesson proper. The instructor may pick and choose, or use these as a jumping off point for lesson modification. All lessons also include a quiz and answer key as well. A copy of the quiz in MS Word is also included so that questions may be edited if desired.

This unit is brought to you by John Moorhead (CTE) with support from the CTE Online curriculum leadership team and detailed coordination provided by Team Lead Gayle Nicholls-Ali.


Industries / Pathways
  • Agriculture & Natural Resources Agriculture & Natural Resources
    • Forestry and Natural Resources
  • Building and Construction Trades Building and Construction Trades
    • Cabinetry, Millwork, and Woodworking
K-12 Subjects
  • Technology Education
Grade Levels
  • 9
  • 10
  • 11
  • 12
  • Adult

Building a Better Back Scratcher - "Which Wood?"

Building a Better Back Scratcher - Identify Species and Grain

Building a Better Back Scratcher/PBL - Steam Bending!

Building a Better Back Scratcher - Forming and Finishing