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