Why is it called the Hillbilly Tansu?

Someone asked me today why I’m calling my current project the Hillbilly Tansu.  In short, it’s a Japanese inspired cabinet/chest being built by a hillbilly.

According to Merriam Webster a hillbilly is defined as:

a person who lives in the country far away from cities and who is often regarded as someone who lacks education, who is stupid, etc.

Not exactly a flattering definition.  I was born, raised and currently reside in West Virginia.  I hold three college degrees, I do live in the country, and I’m a little rough around the edges.  I’ve also been known to wear bib overalls on a regular basis.  To me a hillbilly is a self reliant individual who makes the best of what he has available to him.  Creative ingenuity, fueled by 1 or 3 beers, is often employed in problem solving.  Guinness works best for me.

Therefore, I chose to apply a label to this project so that if anyone stumbled on my blog in search of true tansu construction, they would realize what I’m doing has nothing to do with historically accurate construction.  I view what I’m doing more along the lines of Chris Schwarz much rumored upcoming book on vernacular furniture, “Furniture of Necessity“.  I’m trying to replicate a furniture form within the limits of my knowledge and access to materials.

So that should cover the whole name thing.  Now if you want to have a look at a real deal tansu built by someone who knows how to do it, have a look here.

Greg Merritt

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11 Responses to Why is it called the Hillbilly Tansu?

  1. Jason says:

    Will your version have hidden compartments?

    • gman3555 says:

      Maybe in future builds. There will be several possibilities with design. Although I’m not sure I have anything worth hiding. Besides, I would probably forget that I hid something in there. Hidden compartments is very traditional in Japanese tansu. Another method the Japanese employed for security was to build in multiple steps to get to a compartment. The thinking was that it would take too long for a thief to get to the compartment.


      • Jason says:

        To be a true hillbilly tansu, perhaps a compartment mason jar sized for your moonshine. 😉 Since I’m throwing stereotypes around, I’m in Texas. Feel free to comment about my guns, horse, boots, hat, etc.

        • gman3555 says:

          LOL. I use mason jars for everything. Plus, I could really use a quart of corn liquor tonight. When I was really little we used to go visit my great grandparents. They lived way out in the country. Great Grandpa had an outbuilding that was “off limits” to us kids. There was always a fire in the wood stove in that building. Even in the summer. It wasn’t until years later that I understood why? 🙂


      • joemcglynn says:

        “Although I’m not sure I have anything worth hiding”

        I heard mention of a Guinness..

  2. Mike Hamilton says:

    Then you know who Arnout Hyde and Jim Comstock are.
    Where in God’s Country are you?

    Mike (expat eastern panhandler)

    • gman3555 says:

      You bet. Photography, books, publishing and the West Virginia Hillbilly. I’m down around Parkersburg.


      • Mike Hamilton says:

        My parents came from your side of the state and not far from you. Mom is from Middlebourne and Dad was from up Purgatory Run Rd. about halfway between Pennsboro and Middlebourne. Truly God’s Country.

        Feeling homesick,

        • gman3555 says:

          I used to drive to Pennsborro every day for work. Most of my people are from the Spencer area. Be homesick in the fall. It’s hazy, hot and humid here now.


  3. Mike Hamilton says:

    … who they were….not are…

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