On the only cold, rainy day of the month so far, I made the trip “across the line” to Bellingham, Washington to attend a Katz Roadshow event at a local builder supply store, Builder’s Alliance. I spent the better part of the day in an outdoor makeshift meeting room, surrounded by lifts of plywood and lumber stacked twenty feet high. It was cold, but we were covered and somewhat protected from the wind—you see, I had my Kilt on, and that meant bare legs, brrrr. Fortunately, the show more than made up for the chilly weather.
Of course, I was not alone. There were about 100 builders, architects, and apprentice students in attendance to watch Gary Katz razzle and dazzle us with tricks and tips that were well worth the long drive.
The Katz Roadshow is a traveling educational trade show. Gary has been teaching, lecturing, and writing articles and books for over ten years. This was not a “pitch fest”—nothing was for outright sale. The show’s partners had representatives at information booths to discuss their products, but there was no pressure. And it soon became quite obvious that Gary believes in every product he uses.
The theme of this show was finish carpentry, and the presentations were arranged in four one-hour sessions, book-ended by a hot breakfast and a box sandwich lunch. The first hour was the most technical—Gary talked about moisture content, its effect on wood, and how to deal with it in relation to exterior wood trim. The reason miter joints open up is due to normal wood movement. Gary explained that for exterior trim, the problem is that the trim is shipped and installed at 8% to 10% MC (Moisture Content), but the wood acclimates within a few months to 12% or 14%, causing joints to open up, which leads to problems, like buckling in beadboard ceilings. Simple solutions solve the problem: let the material acclimate before installation, use butt joints instead of miters, and glue-seal or prime all cuts and end grain. These were some really valuable tips, especially for carpenters who work in places where humidity is constantly fluctuating.
The second session was about integrating windows with the weather resistive barrier (housewrap)—how to penetrate the housewrap and how to flash it properly. Gary also built an elegant Greek Revival window surround, from scratch, mitering the crown up and down a pediment. He demonstrated how Andersen Windows’ new A-Series windows are a dream to install and trim. Andersen has developed a simple snap-on trim that is quick to install and looks pretty good. The biggest benefit is that no nails are needed, so there are no penetrations through the trim or the window flashing.
The third session covered how to hang a new door in an old frame without removing the jamb, and getting it perfect the first time. This session alone was worth the trip. Here were the basic steps: scribe the door to the opening, plane the door to fit the opening, mark the hinge gains, install the hinges and adjust them. Gary also showed us a neat trick for bending hinges: the hinge leaves can be spread or squeezed for a small final adjustment to fit the door perfectly to the jamb.
The fourth session, on how to conquer crown molding, included tricks and tips that Gary learned from a lifetime in the trenches. What Gary teaches is old-school work habits with new-school tools and materials, including a lot of Festool tools and WindsorONE moldings. I know that the next time I need to install crown moldings it will be easier and faster because of some very simple tricks that I learned during this session. Here are just a couple: Always work from left to right on your miter saw (do not flip the wood, only change the saw angle); and assemble the small pieces on an assembly board before they are installed on the wall. Here’s one more: Create a cut list of the room with all the angles and corners marked to save trips up and down the ladder and to the saw. These tricks speed up installation, and boost your bottom line.
The Katz Roadshow has many partners, but the one that really impressed me was Festool. I have seen their products and watched demos, but it wasn’t until I saw them in the hands of an expert, working on a real project, that I got a sense of their value. How have I been able to live without them?
The overriding theme of the show was not directly related to finish carpentry, but was more about the realities of surviving and excelling as a builder: how to stand out from the rest of the crowd with superior workmanship. How to help educate clients so they can identify superior workmanship and appreciate higher value, so they will be willing—and even happy—to pay more. Sounds simple, but I know that not many woodworkers are doing that. Do it, and you will stand out from the crowd!
Wesley Bevan is a High School Shop teacher in British Columbia, Canada, and the owner of Ask the WoodShop Teacher. He started woodworking when he was a 4-year-old using wooden Orange boxes to make a camper for his Tonka dump truck, and has the scars to provide it. First project, first band-aid.
He was a theater technician (set construction), lumber salesperson, tool sales person at Lee Valley Tools, and taught adult continuing education (night school) classes for many years before he become a certified teacher. He is always building or fixing something. He has discovered a love for teaching people about anything wood-related, watching them grow and increase their skill set. This passion for teaching can be seen in Ask the Woodshop Teacher, a monthly newsletter.