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


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 of it.

Here’s an example. Because the hayrake stretcher is the biggest challenge of the piece, I started with it this time, instead of the legs. The joinery is a puzzle; the layout proceeds in a methodical order.  The last time I cut the short stretcher rails to length before diving into the joinery. This time it occurred to me there was no need to cut them to length right off the bat. In fact, leaving them long would allow me to redo a tenon if I messed one up. I cut them to length after I’d glued up the stretcher, basing the length on the full-scale layout and checking the diagonals to make sure the whole would be square. Ratchet down the stress level.


The stretcher assembled and pegged, with short rails still over-length

It’s a small change but an obvious improvement in method.


High stakes. Exposed tenons join the center rail to the curved rails. I faired the curve after this final check of the fit. The black marks are from the rubber mallet; I lost track of how many times I had to put this thing together and take it apart while checking the fit of the tenon, not to mention its shoulders, which are scribed to the inside radius.

Easy tapered pegs

I’m building this table in hard maple. When I drilled the tenons for drawboring, I realized I might have spaced them more appropriately for sassafras, which is soft; I was worried the oak pegs might just stop at the tenon instead of pulling it tight at the shoulder. Taking my cue from the drawbore pins, I made tapered pegs from 1/4″ oak dowel rod with a pencil sharpener to make sure the pegs would go through the holes and do their work. (With thanks to community radio station WFHB for the sounds. You can stream it from anywhere.)

Zingy cilantro pesto for pizza or pasta

One of my favorite pizzas comes from Aver’s in Bloomington and is made with cilantro pesto. The closest branch of Aver’s is several miles away from us, and they don’t deliver. So the other night I concocted a cilantro pesto of my own. So good! Here’s the recipe for my fellow garlic lovers.

1 bunch fresh cilantro

juice of 2 lemons

1 tsp. salt

2 Tbsp. olive oil

2 medium cloves of garlic

1/3 cup parmesan, grated

Mix ingredients in a food processor and enjoy. We added sliced onions on top for the pizza.

8 responses to “Who’s driving this bus? (with bonus features)

  1. Hayrake tables are just plain good old fun to build.

  2. We want to see the finished table, please. Cool project.

  3. John Kunstman

    After attending your book release at Lost Art Press, I felt drawn to the hayrake table. I read your book several times and the chapters over the table several more. I found myself thinking about the building process while working on other projects, or when trying to do other tasks around the house or shop.

    Then one day about 2 months later, just long enough to be fully infected by the hayrake virus. A client came to me asking for a writing table. Coincidence? I thought. After showing him and his wife your book and the pictures within they too fell in love with the design. A few material changes, (milk painted poplar base, and bread boarded curly cherry top) And I was able to put my infection in remission. Although now I think I am feeling a bit feverish!


  4. Finally a woodworking blog post with something I will make! (I’m not a woodworker.)

  5. So much fun and incredibly interesting to watch this particular table come to life! I know the mallet marks from dry fitting will be gone by the time i see it, but i like knowing that they were there.

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