The Table-ness of a Table
Making things is always interesting. Figuring out just how a design works also reminds us of the planned functionality in everyday items that evades us. We have no idea what makes things go. Something like a car, we see the shiny exterior or the wax job but very few have any idea what is going on under the hood.
A seemingly simple thing can require a lot of complexity to work properly. Case in point, a small Shaker drop-leaf table I made. The table is not meant to be rocket science, but it is certainly meant to work. There is such a thing that determines this, that I will call the “table-ness of a table”. If your table does not excel in its table-ness, it is nothing more than an oversized paper weight.
Small tables… they are built to fit into small spaces and often to do double duty. They are meant to set up larger in the event of a meal, then fold out of the way afterwards. And so it is that somebody invented drop leaves, where the side of a table drops down and reduces the footprint of the item. It means you can tuck it out of the way when not in hard use. It was a good idea.
The joint is called a knuckle joint. When folded it looks like a knuckle. This way of doing things is neat and it looks good. It is however difficult to execute well because you must offset the hinge which involves a bit of math and careful measurement, hence easier methods are generally employed. The joint can be done in clumsy and amateurish ways per below.
The other complex and hidden thing on this table, is how the drop leaf extends into place, and is made to stay there. This one uses an unusual mechanism, a swing arm. A false top allows for the 3/4" space above the drawer to accommodate the arms to flip into place. The arms are offset and cantilevered, which must be done accurately. They only swing in one direction. Once extended, they meet a tiny wedge glued to the underside of the table which locks the open position with a bit of friction.
As you can see, there is some necessary table-ness to this table. It was (I hope) planned with some intelligence, certainly with intention, some thought, and beyond mere blind hope.
Some might call this intelligent design. I hope so. If it took this much “table-ness” to get a small table to work, how much more a human being? There is much human-ness to a human being, at least one who functions according to plan. Intelligent design is not just a matter of functionality, there is also beyond this the hope for beauty. Now that takes a little bit of work all on its own, otherwise you might be not much more than an oversized paper weight. That’s the plan it seems. Hard to visualize, and sometimes harder to execute. What is hidden has to work well, for the human-ness of a human being to blossom into full beauty. It was God’s attempt I think, at something beyond mere blind hope... and maybe a little bit of love in the making.
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