Chris Schwarz's Blog

Tomorrow, I Want to Hear that Snake Hiss


During the first three hours of my my class on building a trestle table, here are the statements I heard the students say the most.

I cannot design.

I can’t draw.

I can’t come up with original ideas.

I will just copy an existing design.

Today is Tuesday. It’s only the second day of the class, but most of the students are finishing up the joinery on the bases of their trestle tables. Yup. They each designed a table on Monday morning and are getting ready for assembly on Tuesday evening.

It’s not that I’m a good teacher. I suck, and I know I suck, and I’m OK with that sucking. But I also know that the students are natural designers. We all are. In fact, the less we worry about “design,” the more creative the results.

So I just give them no choice. Design it. Here’s your paper. Design it.

That works wonders.

So the best part of the day was watching a 19-year-old student work on his table. It is going to be two carved cobras supporting a glass tabletop. The naysayers said he’d never get to the carving.

Dudes, he finished joining the end assemblies after lunch (sloppy joes) at the Marc Adams School of Woodworking, and was roughing out one of the heads when I left at 6 p.m.

So here’s my advice: Stop typing and start chopping. You can build a cobra-headed trestle table in a week and win the hearts of every chick on your block. Promise.

— Christopher Schwarz

18 thoughts on “Tomorrow, I Want to Hear that Snake Hiss

    1. Christopher SchwarzChristopher Schwarz Post author

      He completed the snake table. The carving was about 90 percent done on Friday . The joinery was 100 percent done. It looked great.

      I don’t have photos. I was too busy teaching the students the basics of woodworking…..

    1. Christopher Hawkins

      I’ve been lucky enough to attend three 5 day classes and one 1 day class. Each class was wonderful. Be prepared to work hard and meet some great people.

  1. arturo.watson

    Well if he does fail, it won’t be for lack of clamps. Nicely appointed shop I say!

  2. fltckr

    “Just as he loves the arrow that is true, so does he love the bow that is steady….” (or something like that). You are doing good works, Chris.

  3. 7-Thumbs

    Hmm, just wondering where you’ve ever met chicks that would like a cobra-headed trestle table; guys yes, chicks I’m just not really sure about that one.

  4. peppersvnv

    When you’re young you haven’t yet learned that “I can’t do that.” This reminds me of the fact (myth?) that according to engineers bumble bees can’t fly. Bees are too young to have learned that. My favorite furniture styles are early American and Federalist. If those designers and the designers before them believed that “I can’t design, I can only follow” we’d all be sitting on chairs designed by Joseph of Nazareth. In a few years we’ll be reading books on furniture design by this very creative 19 year old. I congratulate him on his freedom!!

    1. griffithpark

      The actual backstory on the bumble bee is a good lesson in and of itself.

      Given the laws of aerodynamics and assumptions engineers were making, bumble bees can’t fly.
      The engineers were assuming the bumble bee has a rigid airframe (exoskeleton).
      It turns out the bumble bee’s exoskeleton flexes (sp?) during flight, allowing just enough additional
      wing movement for flight to take place.

      Beware one’s assumptions: which ties perfectly to the blog as well.

  5. Jim McCoy

    Excellent! If you can’t tell me I can, then don’t tell me I can’t! More power to that kid. I bet it turns out great and that class will be a highlight for the rest of his life. Great post. Thanks.

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