"We call it the Sperryville drive-by," said Brian Irvin as a light-colored sedan pulled to the shoulder of Route 211, a few miles east of the entrance to Skyline Drive in Rappahannock County, Va. The car stopped for a moment, then sped off.

It happens 10 to 20 times a day: people stopping to take a look or snap a picture of the sign that says, "Antique Tables Made Daily."

Sometimes they peek inside the sawdust-filled workshop and ask a question, said Brian's colleague, Eric Jenkins: "Now just how do you make antique tables daily?"

Like this: Four craftsmen get wood -- from lumber mills, from old barns and other tumbledown structures -- and set to work with a hand plane. They lean into a piece of pine or cherry or tiger maple and send up curls of thin wood from the plane's sharp blade.

They join the planks with wooden pegs, then peg them to legs that have been fashioned by hand on a lathe. They make drawers whose corners are joined by mortise and tenon. And when they have a nice, sturdy, brand-new table, they make it look old.

They use chisels to pockmark the edges. They drop the blade on the plane and rough up a knot. They artfully gouge with a draw knife.

"Perfect ain't gonna work around here," said Brian, 47. "It has to look old."

One of the last things they do is throw rocks at the tables to make them look more distressed.

Any special kind of rocks you have to use? I asked. Special antique-distressing rocks?

"Your tires are sitting on some of 'em right now," said Eric, 24, nodding toward the gravel in the parking lot.

"There's lots of skill at throwing rocks just right," said Brian with a smile.

"It can't look like you dumped a truck on it or nothing," said Eric.

Since they don't use very many power tools, it's pretty physical work for Eric, Brian, Noah Waggener, a pierced and dreadlocked 32-year-old, and Eddie Putnam, 23, a Marine reservist who spent seven months in Iraq as a light armored vehicle mechanic.

"You can't mess it up but so bad," said Eric. "The more you mess it up, the better it is for the customer."

That is, as long as you're not trying too hard. "The last thing you want to do is think about what you're doing," said Eric. "You'll find yourself putting things in the same place, and it'll look like a factory table."

After they are built, the tables are taken across the street to Sharon Franks, 40, who stains and lacquers them.

The tables may look like antiques, but they -- Brian, Eric and the others -- aren't trying to fool anyone. Each table is branded underneath with the company's logo, then signed by the craftsman who built it.

I mentioned that the tables look so much like something you'd find in an old country farmhouse that the only thing they're missing are a few dog chew marks on the legs.

"I wouldn't say that," said Eric. "Tom'll have me out here gnawing on them."

That would be Tom Von Fange, who quit his job as a high school shop teacher in 1982 when he decided he could earn more making little wooden knickknacks to sell at cider stands. He started out with coat racks and candleholders. Then a married couple from D.C. who used to stay on the weekends in a log cabin next to Tom's house asked if he could make a farm table for them.

"To be perfectly honest, I'd never heard of a farm table," said Tom. "I said, 'Tell me what it is.' She said, 'Just nail three wide boards down onto a primitive-looking base, and we'll buy it.' "

But they didn't buy it. "They said it didn't even look close to what they wanted."

Now Tom was mad. He'd counted on the $75 they'd promised him. So he put the table in front of his shop with a "For Sale" sign on it.

"And a lady from Richmond bought it and went on and on about how if I could build tables like that, people from Richmond would come buy them. She inspired me, whoever that lady was. I thought, 'Shoot, I'll build another one.' " So he did.

As for the name, Tom used to call his business Von Fange and Son, even though his kid was just a toddler. "It sounded kind of old-fashioned."

"One day this real snooty hunt country lady came in with her full horse attire -- tall boots, red jacket, little button hat. . . . She said, 'I see you sell antiques.' I said, 'No, actually we build these.' She said, 'These are antiques. I can tell. What you mean is you refinish antiques.' "

Tom was happy to see her leave in a snit, but it made him think a name change might be in order, one that reflected both his sense of humor and the reality of his product. Antique Tables Made Daily was born.

"I went over to Luray, got a sign made, put it up and from that moment on just about every person who walks in comes in smiling and laughing. . . . We've sold over 10,000 tables since that day."

And eventually every last one of them will be an antique.

Doors Closing

Don't forget, I want your neologistical suggestions for words that define exasperating Metro experiences.

These are to complement the treacly "sniglets" campaign that Metro has started, which has brought us such things as "conseaterate: (ken-set-er-it) adj. thoughtful toward others who are more in need of a Metrorail or Metrobus seat."

Send your entries by Nov. 21 (with "Metro Words" in the subject line) to kellyj@washpost.com or John Kelly, The Washington Post, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071. I'll print my favorites in an upcoming column and treat a grand-prize winner to lunch.