By Accident?


When a design idea gets stuck in my head, I need to build it so it doesn’t interfere with other (sometimes better) ideas knocking around in my skull.

This is one such crazy idea.

It came to me one morning this week as I was thinking about the Crisscross mechanism on my leg vise. I love how the Crisscross applies forces in predictable but still surprising ways. In fact, I still get letters about this mechanism, which I featured in my 2007 book on workbenches, from people who claim it’s a hoax and doesn’t work.

This table looks unstable to my eye. Like it would tip over if you merely pressed on a corner of the tabletop. But if you think about it (and then try it) it’s remarkably stable. There’s a foot below every corner, which is what you need to prevent it from tipping over.

Aesthetically, I have work to do. This isn’t bad for a rough draft, but the whole thing is chunkier than it needs to be.

What I like about it is how it changes constantly as you move around it. The legs can look like Xs. The top can look like it’s cantilevered over nothing. Two of the legs can look dead vertical.

Oh, and it’s simple to make. This one took less than a day and was made from maple scraps leftover from the worktable in “The Anarchist’s Design Book.”

Because the forces exerted by the tenons mortised into the top, I don’t think I’d use this as the undercarriage of a chair. The seat might split. But for an occasional table? I think it has potential.

FYI, The top is 3” x 14-1/2” x 14-1/2”. The legs are 1-5/8” x 1-5/8” x 22”. The legs are at a 60° angle to the underside of the top and taper to an inch square at the floor.

When I dry-assembled the table I sent a snapshot to a friend.

“Look what I made this morning.”

His response: “By accident?”

Designing furniture is not a profession for the thin-skinned.

— Christopher Schwarz

About Lost Art Press

Publisher of woodworking books and videos specializing in hand tool techniques.
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23 Responses to By Accident?

  1. That’s wonderful… I love objects that work in unexpected ways, and have ever since I encountered my first Möbius strip. 🙂 Well done.

  2. Cool!
    Would love to see a 3-legged version though – maybe staked in some form? Totally different animal, but still.
    Or maybe this one with 4 legs and steam bent legs with sashes tennoned into them?

  3. saucyindexer says:

    Very Cubist of you. I like it.

  4. Deniseg says:

    I love the by accident comment – keep that friend 😉

  5. greenebelly says:

    It is in the “whimsical” realm. I would opine that you could turn it into a checkers/chess board and have whimsical characters as the chess pieces. It would be a great children’s piece.

  6. Love it. Really interesting study.

  7. toolnut says:

    Market it as a drinking table. I get kind of dizzy just looking at it. Especially the Instagram view in the leg vise.

  8. polliwogge says:

    Just because you can doesn’t always mean you should.


  9. parks2167 says:

    My wife bought a side table once that had legs like that. They were not supposed to be like that but they were. Your table is really fun. Build more.

  10. I like it very much. But it reminds me of the cripple crab at Boxwell reservation. I think you did a really great job of pointing out design don’t have to be straight and conform to the main steam crowd. What’s next I cannot wait !!!!! Grab a jug and hold on for the ride of your life time….

  11. kendewitt608 says:

    I really like it, kind of like thinking outside of the legs sted of the box. Stuff that generates comments
    has more thought in it than a square box.

  12. schmidtwj says:

    Cool, but I think you need turned crisscross stretchers between the legs because the customer needs them…
    This could be the start of a good guitar stool/chair, because of the possibility for leg clearance. There would have to be rightly and lefty versions. Your chair is a lefty as built.

  13. Quercus Robur says:

    Thick skin, huh? It doesn’t work IMO, downright ugly. Maybe with a round top?

  14. Tenwinkle says:

    I’ll take your word for stability but it doesn’t look especially strong. I wouldn’t put anything breakable on it, lest it collapses. I suggest you stack bricks on it until it fails and report back,

  15. gruntlen says:

    I very much like this piece and it is by far my favorite of the newer things you have been making, Christopher. I think it is a hugely important moment in your recent explorations, with implications that have nothing to do with mannerism, which is what most people will incorrectly think at first.

    I like the top as it is: if it were to become too harmonized the strange balance and crazy energy of the legs will be lost. They need the strong contrast to help their “wrongness” become right. They need to challenge people, to make their brains work overtime to get them over the humps between what they think they know and what the legs are proving otherwise about the truths in the crisscross mechanism. I think they do not look as unstable as you think and they need to go more in that direction, perhaps only slightly but with additional emphasis on desynchronizing their rhythms. The delightful parallels that emerge at certain angles will still read because our brains instinctively push more in the direction of ordering than actually perceiving what is.

    Working in any creative endeavor is not for the thin-skinned because most people are not only unable and/or unwilling to open themselves to different things, they are hostile to change on a barely repressed level. And even when they are willing to change horses midstream they want to “normalize” the new horse and erase the strange beauty that was difficult (but so deeply attractive) for them at first, to deny its independant existence, to use extrinsic forces to create a false sense of their intrinsic value. As in the comments proposing changes that try to push your new table back toward what they want to consider intrinsically pure. Too upsetting to register that there are other vantages because then the universe becomes too vast and “cold” and they know their god is not strong enough to keep them unscared at bedtime, at the scale they know they inhabit, again at a barely repressed level.

    At the same time, it can be good to be thin-skinned, and use that hot button feeling as a geiger counter for black matter (and productive mixed metaphors), as a way to know which directions of aesthetic experience have potential energy and need manifesting because it will be good for us. We all need wrenching, and that it one of the highest purposes of the arts. Right up there with deeply sensitive extensions of tradition, as a genuine anchor, and expression of the beauty and order and warmth that can exist within the vast and cold, when these expressions are not motivated by fear or negating the Other.

  16. Mark Fisher says:

    My first thought was legs walking…..anthropomorphic table……if you don’t build a table with walking legs, I will!

  17. yrmh1 says:

    I’ve never seen a table dance the two-step before!

  18. abtuser says:

    Well doggonit, I’m going to have to throw my nicely in-progress ‘hoax’ on the burnpile. Too bad, it’s coming together so well.

  19. neitsdelf says:

    Reminds me of our old wooden card table with legs that fold up into the table top, if each leg were unfolded to the same 60° angle.

  20. Alex A. says:

    Makes me anxious just looking at it but it’s got potential

  21. martinlith says:

    Hi! I really like the design! If you want to see something similar visit (site in english).
    It has some similarities in the angle of the legs but I really like the idea of the shape of your legs.


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