Stickley’s #603 Taboret

There are many things I should be doing other than meticulously constructing my own copy of Gustav Stickley’s #603 Tabouret.  I could be writing a new book or magazine article, replying to emails, paying bills, lining up contractors for overdue home repair projects or filing the stack of papers growing around my computer.

Tabouret in progress awaiting sanding, glue-up and finish.

Instead, I’m taking a tip I learned from some of the creative people I’ve worked for and known in the past. Their work habits, if you call them “work” or “habits” seemed to consist of letting all the “important stuff” go to hell while pursuing some arcane, overly complex and silly project. While the Stickley’s #603 Tabouret is not really complex, it has occupied way too much of my time in the past two weeks and I haven’t even gotten to all the possible confusing finishing options.

By way of excuse let me suggest that with screen time averaging 10 hours a day for the average American, perhaps 2018 is the year we all might consider taking up a few arcane, overly complex and silly projects. It could be sewing, gardening or any other activity that takes us away from our phones and slows us down.

Now I’ve got to get away from this screen and start cracking on that finish . . .

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  1. Good for you. And in the highly unlikely event that you and Kelly ever find yourselves in the Syracuse, NY area, do visit the little Stickley Museum ( on the top floor of the Fayetteville Free Library, which occupies the old L. and J. G. Stickley factory in Fayetteville. Several pieces by Gustav are there too.

  2. I feel better now. I always let go of everything but a creative project or sewing. Sometimes, they were one and the same. I did feed hungry babies and children and changed diapers and gave them hugs. Of course, there were many things to do that were not housework that had to be done. Housework waited.

    • Thank you for bringing up hours spent caring for children (I’d add caring for elderly relatives). Generally speaking, of course, these responsibilities tend to fall on women more than men. Economists, being mostly men, tend not to count these hours. So, let me amend my post by saying we need to both find time away from screens and place greater value time spent caring for people.

  3. It looks very nice, but I don’t know why you are bothering to make it. Heck, you could just buy one from Stickley for $3.75!

    • Good point. Inflation adjusted it would be about $275 today. The Ikea equivalent of this table is $69 ( which should give you some idea why Stickley went out of business. Or I could buy an antique for somewhere between $500 and $900 at auction. The antique would be a bargain if you consider the hours I’ve put into this silly little table.

  4. I so agree – all that “important stuff” will eventually suck your spirit dry if you don’t make time to pursue the arcane, overly complex and silly projects.

  5. I love it! I’ve been letting the “important” stuff go for years, and I’m not bankrupt yet! (yet.) I have been finding lately that doing a certain amount of “grown-up” stuff (probably still a horrifyingly small amount to most people) does help with mental noise and lets me get on with the silly projects. Next project: how to water the garden this summer without any plastic. I already feel the pull of the rabbit hole . . . Onwards!

  6. As Sonja Lyubomirsky puts it in The How of Happiness (see Notes): “In 1932, weighed down by the sorrows and agonies of his self-absorbed and aimless clients, an Australian psychiatrist named W. Béran Wolfe summed up his philosophy like this: ‘If you observe a really happy man you will find him building a boat, writing a symphony, educating his son, growing double dahlias in his garden, or looking for dinosaur eggs in the Gobi Desert.’ He was right. People who strive for something personally significant, whether it’s learning a new craft, changing careers, or raising moral children, are far happier than those who don’t have strong dreams or aspirations. Find a happy person, and you will find a project.”

  7. I think you might really enjoy Alex Langland’s book, “Cræft”. It’s a wonderful celebration of traditional British crafts and the knowledge, skill, and local sense that went into creating these objects. There’s also lots of interesting history, because Langlands is an archaeologist (you’ll recognize him from the British “Farm” series). In addition to being an excellent read, it’ll make you feel very righteous about whatever hand craft you happen to be doing.

    Absolutely gorgeous woodworking you’ve done! I hope you post a lovely picture when you’ve got the finish on.

    • You’ll find the chapter on beekeeping in traditional skeps to be quite the revelation, a completely different take on humble straw homes for bees.

  8. Thank you so much for this post and to all the commenters. Lately I have been doing all the ‘should’ things and not having any enjoyment or fun. Nor have I felt any sense of accomplishment! Time to bring out my projects and finish them, saying, “To h… with all the other stuff.” At least for awhile.

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