Monday, April 27, 2015


We had to do some work on the roof,
 It's wedding season and our building hosts many events. The prime event space is the roof deck and it's stunning views of the Chicago skyline.
 There is cedar seating up there and Chicago weather puts a hurtin' on that sort of thing, so we had to repair the seating so nobody get's impaled or has there Sunday bests torn to shreds.
 Now the building itself takes up 2 city blocks, and when we were done working, we went on a little rooftop adventure.
 At some point, they had started to disassemble the elevator shaft. We went to check it out to see what kind of elevator parts we could use for our little operation.
 There are all these giant gears and steel cables, and for me and Zack, it's like being a kid and seeing all your Christmas presents before they're wrapped.
 There were 3 giant beams next to that shaft, and Zack and myself lugged that son of a bitch an entire city block down to our shop.
 Somewhere between the roof and our shop I envisioned exactly what I wanted to do with it.
I wasn't sure how I was going to make it work, but I had a clear vision, and I assumed I would just figure it out along the way.
 At some point while working on the roof seating I had started to go on a tirade about how what determines our success is our willingness to do things "the hard way". I was going on and on about how no matter what it takes to complete our vision of a piece, if we stay the course and muscle through the laborious bullshit, our pieces will outshine whatever else is out there.
 Zack has a gift for pretending he's interested in what my mouth is projectile vomiting out, and I'm pretty sure that after about 10 seconds into my lecture, his brain automatically went to trying to figure out if he was going to have chicken salad or roast beef for lunch.
 Once I cut the beam to accommodate the piece of glass that we had laying around, I had to figure out a way to make the 2 beam sections appear to float.
 In the spirit of "doing things the hard way", I mortised in 2 pieces of 1 1/2" steel square stock in the bottom of the beams. You don't just run it through a machine that will mortise it to that depth, in my case I used a hammer and a beat up Dewalt $10 chisel.
 You can make wood and steel do whatever you want, if you're willing to go to battle.
I've put a ton of physical work into pieces that either totally flop, or come out amazing. It's always a crap shoot, but you'll never win if you don't toss the dice.
 Don't let me mislead you, the hard way sucks.
The willingness to accept the difficult is the backbone of success. Look at people who run marathons, I don't like DRIVING 27.5 miles much less do that shit on foot. I look at my buddy Zace Meyers who makes clothing. He lives in an Amish area of Ohio and employs Amish family's to sew for him, but guess what? The Amish don't use that wonderful luxury that we call electricity, so he had to rig all his machines to run on line shafts and they sew by kerosene lamps. Talk about doing things the hard way?
 So my advice is to embrace the difficult instead of fear it. The only thing you lose if you fail at the difficult things is time, and lets not fool ourselves, we've all mastered the art of WASTING time.
 People love to say "you're wasting your time!", really? I guess I could be applying that time to more important things like, watching TV, or painting my entire body blue and go to a sporting event, or sitting in a bar, or playing X BOX or here's the newest use of time that I've seen recently...staring into my fucking phone.
 No thanks, I'm good. I'm gonna waste my time just like this.

Monday, April 20, 2015


We had an extra beam left over from the stair project we were working on.
 Last Saturday I woke up with the idea of using that beam for a bench.
I'm very proud of the stair project me and Zack did. Joined beams with steel inlays, every stair was hand planed, the fire door landing, faux beam on beam trim, steel railings with glass, sheet metal patch work, and the kicker drawing, no real plan, 100% design on the fly.
 Me and Zack work well together for a couple of reasons. Neither really questions the others ideas. It doesn't matter who's idea it is, or who is gonna execute it or how it's gonna get done. If the idea is just gets done. We also want the same thing...we want to create in an environment that we're comfortable in, we want to build for people who put faith in our design and skill, and we want to have fun doing what we love.
 With the bench, I wanted to ride the line of rustic and clean.
Sometimes rustic is too rustic, but going full on rustic is supposed to push the boundary of being really cool and being a piece of shit.
 Going clean/modern is cool to briefly look at, but sometimes it's just too sterile for my taste and there's not a lot of soul in super modern pieces.
 When you get those two styles to go out on a date, one of two things  are gonna happen...someone is gonna excuse themselves from the table to use the restroom and never come back, or there's gonna be a condom floating in the toilet in the morning.
 About a year ago, I had made a similar style bench.
I had used an Adze (a bowl carvers tool) and a scoop draw knife to carve out the swoop.
 This time, I used a chainsaw.
I'm a city boy. Born and raised in Chicago. That being said, I'm not too familiar with chainsaws.
I drew my radius on the beam, and proceeded to cut notches to the depth of my line, and then chiseled the material between each notch. I can honestly say that about 40% of that beam ended up in my ears. Zack was at the shop, and he was welding up the base while I was playing Texas chainsaw massacre.
 Can I tell you something? Using an Adze and scoop draw knife is cleaner and faster and you have way more control, but using a chainsaw....that's a helluva lotta fun.
 If you have anger issues or are having a bad day or whatever....go get yourself a $60 electric chainsaw from Home Depot and go hack up a log or a beam. You'll feel a lot better.
 Once the beam was shaped, cleaned, and resting in it's base, I stared at it for a couple of days.
I felt a need to add "something" to it.
 Zack actually stopped me and said "just leave it alone, it's how it's supposed to be." He was right. It was exactly what I originally saw in my head, and I had to accept the fact that the party was over.
 I had absolutely no intention of spewing my "life lessons" in this blog post, but it dawned on me about the power of "walking away" from something.
 In my craft, walking away from a piece is a make or break moment. It always determines the success of a piece. A piece can be over done or under done, and finding that sweet spot is what makes a piece.
 In life, walking away from something has the exact same result.
I could loosen all the lug nuts on that guys car who owes me a shit ton of money, and see him on the news when all 4 of his tires vacate his vehicle when he gets on the highway,or I can walk away and focus my energy on moving forward.
 It applies to all aspects of life. Knowing when to walk away when something is done. A job, a relationship, business deal, a purchase...whatever. Knowing when to walk away is a way to find peace in a restless situation.
 Before I get too deep and wordy, I'm gonna walk away from this post.

Monday, April 13, 2015


There came a moment at the shop where everything was in a state of "wait".
 Waiting for stain to dry, waiting for glue to dry, waiting for a deposit.
For a brief moment, me and Zack were standing there like, "ok, what the fuck do we do now?"
 I had an idea for a desk, and it was close enough to lunch time, so we grabbed some material and a sandwich and decided to facilitate my idea.
 I really wanted to use one of those giant turnbuckle things that you see holding tension on bridges.
Home Depot had one that is about 1/100th of the size I was looking for, and I google'd it in the hardware aisle, only to discover that it would set me back about $300.
 Immediately Zack said "fuck that, we'll make our own.".
It wouldn't be the first time that we had to fabricate parts that weren't available, so when we got back to the shop, Zack worked on the turnbuckle and I started on the base.
 When I  have a vision for something, I try to dissect it before I even start. I know what I want it to look like, and I know where I'm ready to sacrifice form for function or vice versa. If I wanted to build off a set of plans, I'd go frame houses. I find no joy in being rigid in my design, I mean, all the fun happens when shit doesn't work and you have to either make it work or come up with a plan B real quick.
 Between lunch and quitting time the desk was built and the stain was drying. That's what happens with a clear vision.
 I got a message from my friend Mark Thill from Streamline Craftsman.
He had just moved to Austin and had been offered 2 jobs. One was a foreman position for a remodeling company and the other was for a smaller shop that builds creative type furniture. The remodel company paid well and the furniture company paid half, and he was torn on which position to take.
 My advice was to go where he could be free and happy in his work.
Money....if you're happy doing what your doing, the money will come.
 I wasted a lot of time either being bored to death at a job or outright hated going to work.
What good is money if you're miserable?
 Think about how many hours that you spend at work. You spend more time at work during the week then you do at home, so why be miserable? For MONEY? That shit just doesn't make any sense.
 That's probably why we are a society of alcoholics and pill poppers. If your job is so awful that you need to self medicate just to go back to the place that made you self medicate to make MONEY, well, it's really time to re evaluate some things.
 If me and Zack did things differently we could probably be pulling up to the shop in new Benz's, but the fact is that neither of us are willing to give up our creative freedom or build some dumb shit just for a check.
 We take on what we want, when we want, we choose. WE choose.
Even a hooker chooses who she's gonna blow, so why wouldn't we? Not that we're in the blowjob business, but we definitely exercise our "choice" skills.
 If you have a skill you can always make money, if you don't have a're fucked. Period. No hope for you. Move to the back of the line.
 Most people have a skill. They might not be sure what that skill is, and to be honest, once you discover exactly what your skill is, you can cross out a huge portion of that whole "meaning of life" question.
 I'm gonna offend some people, but what else is new....The other day I overheard a conversation and a woman proclaimed that she would just put her issue "in gods hands'.
 God doesn't want that shit in his hands, he's busy making solar systems collapse on themselves, and tinkering with different dimensions, and blowing stars up.
 I'm thinking to myself  "you self centered bitch, do you really think that you're that special that God is going to magically slip your Resume' to the top of the pile?"
 God won't help you. He put you here for YOU to help YOU. He did all the hard work you lazy fuck, the least you can do is figure your own shit out and give the guy a break.


Monday, April 6, 2015


Some weeks are just a tornado of creative energy.
 I don't know if it's a full moon thing or what, but sometimes things in life just happen so fluidly that when it comes time to reflect upon the past week and write about it, even I'm kind of taken aback.
 We managed to complete a giant timber stair project for a lobby entrance, complete with mortised steel and timber stairs, a fire door landing, steel railings inset with glass, faux beam accents, and sheet metal cladding (pictures will be posted once we're able to get a good shot). My buddy had brought back a copper top bar cart that I did a couple of years ago, and I got a chance to re work a couple of things on that, like adding a towel bar/handle and cleaning up the casters.
 He had intended on selling my stuff at a local street market in Chicago, but just never got around to it. In the spirit of doing the right thing, he brought it back....that's a hell of a "stand up" thing to do, because I had completely forgot about it.
 We had also been knocking out a slew of desks and conference tables which were based around a design I did for my kitchen table.
 We ran with the design because it was simple, effective, and appealing.
There's a point when assembling these pieces that they have to be inverted to work on them.
 Last Saturday me and my partner Zack Knowles had gone to the shop to wrap up a desk for a Monday delivery.
 We finished the customers desk and decided to make an extra one for the next person that walks in the shop looking for a desk.
 We got to the part where the desk is inverted, and while I'm cleaning up the shop, I notice Zack staring at the inverted table base. He was staring for an unusually long time to which I blurted out some ignorant comment like "hey, it's not gonna assemble itself".
 He kind of slithers out of the shop, and by this time it's almost noon, and i gotta cut out because my girl has to go to work and me and my son had something planned, so just as I'm about to make my escape, Zack walks in carrying a glass backboard and a big ol' smile.
 It is a really beautiful thing to witness another persons creativity. To witness the thought process and watch them become consumed by an idea.
 I've had many of those moments myself, but with no one around to witness it, so I knew where he was and I knew where he was going with all this, and that moment was perfectly timed for my exit.
 "You're not going anywhere are you?", is what I said upon my exit, and all I got was a shrug and a smile.
 What you see in the second photo is what Zack came up with.
I had my chance to add my 2 cents, and on Friday it was pretty much wrapped up.
 I was proud of him, like I would be watching my son ride a bike for the first time or wipe his own ass. Don't get me wrong, Zack has made plenty of cool shit, I just got a chance to see the thought process and see the passion to create.
 It's rare for most to FEEL that, it's extremely rare to witness someone else FEEL that.
To sum it all up, in the last week, my partner and myself managed to bang out more shit in one week then most people bang out in 4 months and we did so in a state of constant laughter.
 That's all we and laugh. I've worked my whole life to be in that situation.
Even when money is thin, or there is bizarre drama, or stress, we build and laugh.
 I have to have a tooth pulled and I was in constant pain all week, and all we did is build and laugh.
"Hey look, I'm on fire!" (build and laugh) "I spilled hot coffee in my lap!" (build and laugh) "they've owed us $8500 for 4 months!" (build and laugh) "I just broke a $75 mallet" (build and laugh).
Sometimes the universe throws you a bone, and when it does, don't be a good dog and bury it...devour it.