Sunday, 8 March 2015

Finding Focus

Jack of all trades master of non, a common enough expression.  Mastering a trade will take you very far in the construction industry, but to take yourself far in your own business you need focus as well.  Without focus you end up running all over the place and getting, ultimately, no where.  Admittedly this focus is something I lack; I just have way too many interests that are all slightly related.  Building furniture is not so different then building custom millwork, and trim carpentry is in the same ballpark home building.  Isn't it?

This lack of focus has plagued me for sometime now, and it is no where more apparent then when people ask me what I do.
"What do you do?" 

 "O know I build...stuff, O and I renovate...and make custom furniture...and do some traditional woodworking know other stuff...I yea make things"

 "Right" (silent slow head nods follow)

"you know I build...stuff" is not a great opener especially if it is a potential customer or business relation you are meeting for the first time.  Also not so great on a first date either.

Recently though I have been spending time trying to reconcile this problem and gain some much needed focus.  I know what I like to do, and I know what I don't like to do, I know what I want my business to accomplish and what I don't want it to venture into.  Knowing this is going to help me narrow down my focus, so now I am not running all over the map, more like ,maybe, two soccer fields and a baseball diamond instead.

I would love nothing more to work in my shop or in someones home building wonderful wooden "Things".  I would love to never have to answer phone calls, or read emails or deal with stupid people.

I do however want to own a successful business, and I want that business to renovate old homes and bring them up to modern standards.

So what is my focus.  Broadly speaking I want to run a renovation business that specializes in updating
older homes (preferably in the 100 year plus range).  The hope is this will combine my love of building with my love of traditional woodwork (old homes are full of traditional woodwork ,usually), and if I am lucky this will be successful so I can gain free time to spend on my other passions.

Hans Christopher

Saturday, 28 February 2015

Speaking about Woodworking

I had the privilege to speak to the Kingston Woodworkers Association today.  The KWA put together a great symposium to discuss woodworking joinery.  I was included in a great line up of talented Ontario based makers and felt honoured to be asked to join them to speak.  If I can make one complaint is that I had way too much to saw and way too little to speak.

This was my first time speaking to a group of people this size, nearly sixty faces staring at me, and they were a great group.  Everything went off without a hitch.  I even got a few laughs during both of my talks.

With this presentation finished and behind me now there is one last thing to think about and devote attention.  Now I can focus on paying jobs, and get some work on my house done (notably my shower plumbing).

Hans Christopher

Friday, 20 February 2015

Getting On Track

Things are getting back on track finally.  Yesterday the electricians finished their work in the Shop, the walls are drywalled and I even have heat on in the shop.  I moved in the machinery and all my tools which means I am finally where I wanted to be several weeks ago, now I can focus my attention on completing paying jobs I've had to postpone.

The shop does need more work, all the drywall need to be plastered, cabinets and proper storage needs to be built, and the exterior still needs several inches of rigid foam installed and new siding over top of that, but all of that work will have to wait till warmer weather comes around.  Big step today though was moving in my toolchest it feels great to see that sitting in my new shop.

Yesterday I started a new job, a custom stair railing, for a new customer.  A few weeks ago I began the job by signing a contract with the homeowners and doing the design work for the stair rail.

I got started with the on site work by protecting the existing carpet.  The carpet is not to be replaced so I have to make sure not to damage it, so I nailed on some canvas tarps to the stairs using 1x3 and 2" brads.  The nails will pull out easily after work is finished and will leave no sign of being there.

The majority of the work will be done in the shop, making the posts and railing, and then installed on site.  The next step is to purchase the materials and get them in the shop to start building the posts.

Follow along to see how work progresses on both this stair rail and on the shop.

Hans Christopher

Friday, 30 January 2015

Shit Happens

I am finally in my new place full time and that is a great feeling.  For my first time moving it went smoothly, but it did take a long time, and I did learn a lot during the process.  Chief lesson is do not rush your move but do as much of the move in a single shot as possible.  I spent several weeks and many round trips between Perth and Kingston moving my belongings to my new home, and in the end I still had to rent a 14' truck to move the last of my things before I had to be out of the old apartment.  Lesson learnt, I should have rented the truck at the beginning and done the move at once; this would have saved time and in the end money.

Simultaneous to the move work on the house has begun.  First step was to get the house livable.  Prior to my taking possession the house had been vacant for half a year, doors and windows closed and no one cleaning, which resulted in lots of dirt building up and a funky smell developing.  So for me this means spending lots of time cleaning and painting (and cleaning) just to feel comfortable in the house.

With the cleaning taken care of the first big project for the house is to get the garage converted into a workshop, a place to work on paying jobs as well as a place to work on the house.

The original plan was to rip out the existing wall board, pull out the insulation, run new electrical, reinsulate with better quality insulation, install new new drywall, put down a floor and then move in the machinery and get working.

However, the moment after the bin was delivered and I started pulling out drywall things went sideways.  There is a double layer of drywall, making it harder to rip out, taking more time and creating more waste: meaning I need a bigger bin, and then the shit really hit the fan.  After the drywall came off the south wall I found I was missing 30feet of sil plate.  Missing is the wrong word stolen is more appropriate.  Ants and water damaged completed devastated the wall framing and now I have to fix it.

On to plan B.


Hans Christopher

Sunday, 11 January 2015

A New Year, A New City, An Old House

2014 is over and so is my time at Rosewood Studio.  I started as a student at Rosewood in January of 2013.  For three months, Ron Barter the owner and full time instructor, showed me the ropes of building wood furniture.  After finishing the 12 Week Craftsmen Program I was shocked and honored to be asked to stay on at the school as the Resident Craftsmen, a position previously held by the talented maker and (now) great personal friend Nick Moore.

In the twenty one months after completing my program I was able to: build many wonderful pieces of  furniture which you can see here, help teach new students along side Ron, acquire commissions, attend exhibitions and conferences, meet amazing teachers (Garret HackAdrian FerrazzuttiMichael Fortune, Chris Shwarz just to name a few) and continue my own education.

Thank you to everyone I meet during my time in Perth, you all helped make this beautiful small town my home for two years.

Now I begin a new phase of my life and it is a big step.  I am moving to Kingston Ontario where I have bought a house.  I will be renovating the house while simultaneously trying to make my business H3 Design & Construction my full time employment.

I hope that you my readers new and old will continue to follow along as I do the renovations.

Just before Christmas I completed a hall bench for a new costumer.  I would have posted during the actual construction of the piece except the piece was a surprise.  Now that is has been delivered to a very excited customer I will be posting about the build in the next couple of weeks.

Finally you can now follow H3 Design & Construction on Facebook click here to get to the page.  I am new to Facebook so be patient as I get started using the page.

Best wishes to everyone in 2015.

Hans Christopher Mueller