Hillbilly Hat Rack: Design Rules

Bullet Legs

Rules often exist for good reason. They help keep us safe and promote order. But some of them are subjective—like running with scissors. There isn’t a law against running with scissors (that I know of), but you would be wise to follow this advice. Design rules are like that. You’re not going to be subjected to a jury of twelve if you break them but following them is good practice. Normally, I would take my own advice, but on my current project I disregarded the design rules and found that some are worth rejecting and others are essential.

I’ve mentioned my hunting obsessed step father before but let me paint you a better picture. Imagine Clint Eastwood and Willie Robertson having a baby and building a nursery– that would be an adequate image of my step father’s “man cave,” “hunting room,” “trophy room,” “closet,” “ammo manufacturing plant.” Within this room is a collection of ball caps. Camouflage ball caps. Hundreds of them that seem to multiply faster than a Hollywood sex scandal.

Well over a year ago he asked if I would make him a rack for the hats and showed me a picture of something he had seen at a gun show. It looked like an old-fashioned gun rack that someone had marketed as a hat rack because it didn’t sell as a gun rack. No sweat I thought. His birthday came and went; I was too busy to build a simple hat rack. Father’s Day came and went; I was still too busy to build a simple hat rack. With Christmas approaching I am determined to build a hat rack fitting for the space it will occupy but nothing like the picture he showed me. Oh no, I’m going all Orange County on this thing with a hunting theme.

And that is where I break the first design rule—less is more. The plan (which is really just a foggy idea in my head) is to include as many hunting themed elements as I can. Bullet legs? That sounds good. Antler handles? Sure. Camouflage OSB? Absolutely! Even though I’m going through with it, I already know that this thing is going to be too busy. And that he will love it.

The material is where I break the second design rule—use the best. I’m pretty sure that isn’t a rule, but it feels like one. I’ve done several remodels this year where the customer wanted to change the trim in the house. All that red oak stained to “golden” oak is filling dumpsters across the land simply because it isn’t in vogue. I can’t say that I have a moral mission to make stuff out of reclaimed materials, but I wasn’t going to toss perfectly good wood either. I’m using it to make a hat rack, nail holes and all. (The ironic thing is that the oak isn’t the “in” thing but making stuff out of reclaimed materials is.)

The most obvious design rule I’m tossing is the essence of design–have a plan. I made a few prototypes of the parts that will hold the hats but other than that I’m winging it. And it is a horrible way to build a piece of furniture. Instead of working smoothly through the project, I find myself staring at it in an attempt to figure out the next move. Instead of confidently making something, I feel as though I’m building a prototype where changes are more difficult.

I admire those nomadic folks who live their lives day-by-day; that let life happen to them. But I’m not one of them. I like to have a plan. Without one I tend to live my life in neutral. While standing around processing the next step on this project, I’ve also been thinking about this coming year. What do I want to do differently? How am I going to get the most out of it? What projects do I want to make? What new things can I learn?

Some rules are meant to be broken. Other rules exist to make life better. Knowing the difference is the battle.


2 Comments Add yours

  1. Joe says:

    I like these. Any chance we can see your father in law’s fortress of solitude? I’m kind of excited by what it may look like.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Eric Key says:

      I think I can make that happen. I’ll get some pictures when I get the project finished and in place.


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