Who’s driving this bus? (with bonus features)

Making Things Work


For the past few days I’ve been working on a hayrake table, and I’ve been fascinated by how differently the process is unfolding from the last time I built a table of this design. The vaguely passive voice in that last sentence–“the process is unfolding” makes it sound as though I’m not so much in charge as a participant–gets at one of the things I relish about building things.

Each time you build a piece based on a familiar form, you bring insights from previous experiences. But these insights don’t always result from intentional analysis; sometimes they bubble up from the subconscious. My sharpest insights come in the wee hours–sometimes in dreams, sometimes as a consolation prize for the lack of dreams (a.k.a. insomnia). Similarly, when I’m fully engaged in building a piece, I’m part of the process. It feels like the process itself is in charge. I love the weirdness…

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About nrhiller

cabinetmaker and author
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3 Responses to Who’s driving this bus? (with bonus features)

  1. Lex says:

    I always like to see the process that master craftspeople use to complete items, but this time it’s personal. Without getting into whether Arts and Crafts is a single school of design, etc. I like the term because it brings together both aspects of something like a chair or a table. The art cannot exist without the craft to realize it.

    Maybe some people want to believe that their items are immaculately composed from thin air without blemish or frustration. That’s not me. Since this is my table(!!!), it makes it a great deal more real and significant to know of the mallet marks from dry fitting that tenon a frustrating number of times. I obviously don’t want this to be a horrible task for its maker, but at the same time there’s something profound in knowing the work that went into it.

    Objects take on significance from their use. An old blanket chest may be knocked together from pine, but if it was used by a great grandmother and handed down, there’s much more to it than a simple pine chest. Likely objects take on significance from their maker too … except that we’re often divorced from that significance. I think i’m almost as excited about have a good idea of that significance in this case as i am of having a piece of furniture made by Nancy Hiller. And it’s a really pretty table too.


    • nrhiller says:

      Lex, rest assured that this is anything but a horrible task for the maker. Quite the opposite. (Just don’t call me a master craftsperson. That term freaks me out.) 😉


  2. Steve C says:

    Maybe they could start painting buses red……


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