Michael Hatfield
5 min readMay 4, 2023


Imagine if a teacher’s job was to make table legs. Some teachers are asked to make plain, sturdy table legs for plain sturdy tables. Others are asked to make fancy carved table legs for more elaborate tables. But over all the basic process is the same. We table makers are all highly trained in making these table legs and we get ongoing training regularly to make sure we know the latest table leg making methodology. We regularly get observed by other table leg making authorities and judged accordingly.

We have others who help us do our job making table legs. Some people help gather the wood from the nearby woods and get the trees to our table leg making facility. Some work with the wood to make it more inclined to want to be a table leg. Others support us by helping make sure the table legs remain in the facility long enough to become legs and not just kindling. And yet others help us by maintaining the equipment and facility in general.

It takes a lot to make a decent table leg.

Occasionally, the G.O.T.L.P. (government office of table leg production) stops by to test out the current batch of table legs. They do not care what kinds of tables the legs will support so they use the same test for all of the table legs; the Elephant Test. This test involves having a large elephant stand atop a table with our table legs supporting it and we alone, the leg makers, are judged based on the results.

Regardless of how good we are at making table legs, there are several problems with the table leg making system. First, we cannot always control the quality of forest the saplings come from. We are required to take any and all saplings that come to us, but only from a small area around where our facility is located. Maybe the soil is fertile and the surrounding environment is very nurturing — which usually produces very good trees. Or, in a lot of cases, the surrounding area is sparse and produces little, spindly saplings that will struggle to even grow. Yet, we, the leg makers, do our best.

The wood is completely rotten and could never even support its own weight? Too bad. The wood refuses to be a table leg? Sorry leg maker — that’s your fault. The table leg makers must work with what they are given and still be held accountable to the Elephant Test.

Not all young trees want to be table legs. Some want to be table tops and have grand dreams of supporting multiple elephants some day, but we must hold them back. Some want to be chair legs, or lamp posts. Some do not want to be anything but a stick and no amount of showing them furniture catalogs helps. Most trees would like to be table legs and they give their best. Some of those, upon seeing that others get to be table legs even if they can never pass the Elephant Test, give up and blend in with the failed table legs no longer caring that the Elephant crushed their table to dust and losing their dreams of being a table top. And still we, the table makers, are the ones held accountable.

We spend extra time working on the struggling table legs, we use special techniques and bring in table leg making experts, but yet again, the table leg makers are held accountable if they fail the Elephant Test, not the table legs itself. Sometimes we are forced to work with wood that is too soft or rotted to ever pass the Elephant Test — not always at the fault of the tree — and still, we, the leg makers, are held accountable. We know that even with all of our table leg making knowledge and experience we could have never forced that tree to become a functioning table leg. Even so, it is still subjected to the Elephant Test and judged accordingly.

In addition, table leg makers are faced with a wide range of facilities and working conditions in which to make their table legs. Some have the finest lathing equipment and produce table legs with perfectly smooth surfaces and shiny polish. Others are given only a dull butter knife and a small room in which to work. The lucky table leg makers have fewer table legs to make each day while others have so many to make that quality suffers dramatically, giving the table legs very little chance of passing the Elephant Test, yet the number of legs to make each day steadily increases.

Even with all of this, the G.O.T.L.P. demands we make them into table legs regardless.

Table leg makers knew going into the table leg making business that they would never make as much as other professionals with the same amount of schooling, but they wanted to make table legs because they felt that sturdy tables were important. But it drains them knowing that society only sees the sturdy table tops and not the foundation the table legs makers have created. They DO notice the legs that fail the Elephant Test and always blame the maker and not the table leg regardless of the circumstances for the legs failure.

After years of seeing your work and love for your students get dismissed so easily takes its toll. Leg makers eventually move on to other things taking their skill and knowledge with them. It does not take much for a table leg maker to make other things, things that are made with much less pressure and are more valued by our current society.

We need to keep the leg makers happy. We need to support them more and make sure they are equally compensated for their contributions to a working society of sturdy furniture. We need to realize that all table legs are not the same. Some can support only a small table with a flower vase while others can become table legs for more sturdy tables.

A table leg that knows it will fail the Elephant Test will never even try to support that elephant or any other elephant. But a table leg that can support a simple flower vase will do so happily. We need all types of table legs in modern society. If we force them all to be one certain kind then we will never have enough of the other kinds of table legs we desperately need.

It’s time to ditch the Elephant Test and let the table leg makers make table legs.