- The Washington Times - Saturday, September 17, 2005

Hammers and hot-glue guns abounded at the National Building Museum yesterday, where the annual Festival of the Building Arts laid the groundwork for future handymen and handywomen.

Thousands visited the museum to learn about such crafts as bricklaying, blacksmithing, woodworking and log-cabin building. More than 20 master craftspeople were on hand to give hands-on demonstrations of their trades.

James Blackmore, a 3-year-old from Silver Spring, looked as if he had just put in a 12-hour workday with a construction team — outfitted in a plastic yellow hard hat, arms and hands stained with drywall plaster.

“He likes working with his hands,” said his father, Bill Blackmore, as James placed decorative stones in quick-drying cement for a cup-sized photo stand he was making.

“His favorite event was probably working with the plaster,” said Mr. Blackmore, who came with his brother, Mark. “He definitely had a lot of fun there.”

He and his son frequent the museum and found out about the festival on a chance visit three years ago, and have been coming ever since.

“He’s not at the age where he remembers, but when I tell him that we’re going, he definitely gets excited about coming,” Mr. Blackmore said. “It’ll be a yearly event for us now.”

Edmund H. Worthy Jr., the museum’s vice president for education, said thousands routinely attend the festival, which has been held intermittently since the early 1980s and became an annual event five years ago.

“There are some people who come back year after year,” Mr. Worthy said. “We’re teaching people of all ages about the building arts and crafts, trying to get people to understand the processes.

“You can only learn so much in trying out some of the crafts, but it sparks interest … people come away with some degree of excitement and awareness of things they may not have experienced before, things they hire people to do for them.”

One popular activity was “Box City” — where participants made miniature buildings to put together into an imaginary city.

After getting faux building permits, children and parents constructed buildings from recycled materials such as cereal boxes, egg cartons, pipe cleaners and oatmeal canisters.

Bob Smith and John Davis, members of the Washington Woodworking Guild, taught festival-goers how to shape and smooth wood using handsaws, brace-and-bits and similar tools.

“What we do is a dying art,” said Mr. Davis, the coordinator for the guild’s display booth. “We want to promote using early hand tools and methods to continue the woodworking craft.”

The response from participants has been positive, Mr. Smith said.

“Some of the children have gotten back in line to do it again,” he said. “We’re trying to get kids interested in craftsmanship and to use their hands and heads instead of sitting in front of the television.”

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