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rick-arnold-2Rick Arnold has over thirty years of experience in hands-on, residential and light commercial contracting in New England. His experience includes remodeling, framing, Energy Star construction, and concrete work. Rick is a contributing editor for Fine Homebuilding. He has also authored numerous articles and books on home construction and remodeling. Rick travels around the country, presenting seminars and workshops at trade shows and events such as JLC Live, the International Builders Show, Affordable Comfort, The Remodeler’s Show, and the Katz Roadshow.

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author-picture-Sim-Ayers_1Sim Ayers is the owner of SBE Builders, a commercial and residential framing company, located in the San Francisco Bay Area, which was established in 1988. He uses empirical knowledge, gained by means of observation, experience or experiment, to frame buildings from the ground line (Z1), to roof axis (A1), to the bring-back line for scribing (B1). Sim is a second generation carpenter. He is passing on the family tradition to his two sons Brian and Erik. As a typical California production roof cutter and stacker in the 1970s and 1980s, Sim keeps a sharp eye out for new information on roof framing geometry, or for writing online scripts that use a tetrahedron to show the relationship of geometric framing angles for use with the carpenter’s steel framing square. His online tools can be found on the web at www.sbebuilders.com/tools.

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Jim-baldwin-bio-pic-e1296510233213Jim Baldwin has worked for 35 years in the “stair business,” and continues to do so. For 15 years he was the owner of a small Southern California stair company which specialized in high-end, custom residential staircases; but, for the last 20 years, he’s been a supplier and consultant for custom “sculptural handrail parts.” Jim’s been able to “carve” out a niche for himself by recreating the curved and “wreathed” handrail components that were once commonplace in colonial America but are rarely seen in today’s mass-produced industry. Jim and his wife Roxanne (also of 35 years) divide their time between their home among the red rock canyons of Southern Utah and their 40-foot sailboat, docked in Long Beach, California. Jim says that he and Roxanne also got off to a pretty good start by eloping and sailing away on a 17-foot sloop. “We were only 21 when we sailed that little boat 26 nautical miles from Long Beach, California to Catalina Island and got married…but that’s another story.” They have four grown children (and a few grandkids, too).

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Ken-Barone-bio-pic-2Ken Barone studied Architecture in the late ’80s. Upon graduating, couldn’t find a decent-paying job, and ended up in consumer electronics. More than 10 years passed, and after losing his father to Lou Gehrig’s disease, Ken realized something was truly missing from his life. His passion for building, designing, and working with his hands full-time, wasn’t being satisfied. After working with several “high-end” carpenters, Ken founded “Spotless Contracting Services” (http://www.spotlessgc.com/), which specializes in interior and exterior renovations. Ken truly enjoys working with molding and trim work. His company’s tag line is: “Paying attention to every last detail,” and it shows. A true believer in education, Ken takes every opportunity to educate himself and his clients on new trends and techniques.

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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.

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Mike Boden is a re-recording mixer at 20th Century Fox, where he has worked since 2005. With over twenty years of experience in the film industry, Mike has also held positions at Universal Pictures, Sony Entertainment, and several other smaller studios. After college, Mike noticed that his mother’s home was in need of some serious repairs. Mike decided to tackle them himself, which served as a great entry point into the craft of woodworking and construction. From there he bought his first home in 2001 and embraced the opportunity to build many upgrades himself, which included a laundry room remodel, French doors, skylight, cedar closets, interior doors, landscaping, pergola, and much more. Woodworking and construction offer Mike a gratifying counterpoint to sitting in a dark studio, mixing audio. Mike dreams of someday having his own dedicated woodshop instead of a shared garage. When not working at the studio or on the house, Mike enjoys traveling with his wife, cooking, playing with his three dogs, and photography. His photography portfolio can be viewed at www.mikeboden.com.

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Tom Brewer lives and tries to work in Northeastern Pennsylvania, but, unfortunately, he’s not home much, and has yet to set up his new shop! Tom travels about seven months out of every year as Road Manager for the Katz Roadshow. Still, all that traveling has a few rewards. Steady work; touring historic homes and locations; and, occasionally, some real fun.

 

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Howard Brickman has operated Brickman Consulting, a consulting and wood floor contracting business in the Boston area, since 1984. Though his background is wood science—he spent three years as the graduate teaching assistant in the Wood Anatomy Lab at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst—Howard has always preferred the hands-on part of the business—installing wood floors and helping the industry understand wood-floor failures. Howard designed and manufactures the Slab-Safe concrete moisture meter. When he’s not working on a floor, Howard is particularly fond of Speyside Scotches and Welsh Corgis.

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Dan Broadbelt has spent all of his adult life building and fixing things. He joined the Army in 1980 and spent the next 25 years in C/E (communications electronics) Maintenance, fixing everything from AM/SSB radios, FM radios, Microwave radios, Teletype equipment, mine detector sets, multiplexers…ad infinitum. This career wasn’t really a choice, it just kind of happened. During this time he also began to build furniture and cabinets as a hobby, reading every book or magazine on woodworking that he could get his hands on. After retiring from the Army, Dan spent time as a carpenter, cabinetmaker, and then handyman. As a handyman he found a new calling. It was an opportunity to put his knowledge of all types of work and trades to good use, helping others, and working for himself. Alas, starting a new business in your 50s leaves precious little time to do the things he used to enjoy, such as competitive swimming and running. He hopes he’ll have more time for these activities in the future. Dan’s handyman service is called “In a Fix Property Maintenance.” He currently resides in the Reading, Pennsylvania area.

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Greg Burnet: Given a choice between white collar and blue collar work, Greg chose tools some 25+ years ago and has never looked back. He is still fascinated by the craft, and continues to learn more every day by visiting historic homes, reading and researching books on architecture, and practicing carpentry and millwork skills. Greg and his wife Sue own and operate Manor Redevelopment, a design/build remodeling and carpentry contracting firm based in Chicago. His projects have run from whole-house remodels, frame-to finish-room additions and custom interiors, to a specialization in challenging window replacement work. Greg is a Certified Installer of Marvin Windows and Doors. A contributor to JLC, Professional Deck Builder, and the LBM Journal, Greg also shares his experience and passion for carpentry as a presenter with JLC Live and the Katz Roadshow. When not on the job, Greg can be found in front of a computer, shopping for the latest tool bargains, reading one of his hundreds of trade magazines, or wrestling with his Old English Sheepdog, Lola. Someday Greg hopes to find more time to devote to his main hobby—trains. He’s both a model railroader (though the layout has yet to be built), and is hoping to one day be able to combine his passions and restore and renovate old train cars.

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John Butler is the foreman of a small construction company. He works with two other carpenters doing mostly new construction and general contracting, along with the occasional remodel thrown in. He’s feeling the shortage of new homes to build, but still continues to work 40+ hours a week. John’s homes are generally much smaller than the 6000 sq. ft. beast discussed in this article; most of them are three bedroom, single story and 2300 sq. ft. They sell for 300K, including the lot. John enjoys chainsawing and having the family over for a wienie roast. He’d also like to install an outdoor wood burner, if he can ever find a home in the country for sale.

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dylan-1500-1Dylan Chagnon lives and works in southern New Hampshire. He started his company, Chagnon Construction, 6 1/2 years ago, shortly after graduating college. During college summer vacations, Dylan worked in the construction industry, learning framing, roofing, and a little finish work. He grew up very involved with his father’s commercial floor-cleaning company, which planted the seeds of pride in work, business ownership, task management, and quality expectations. Dylan’s persistence and willingness to take on jobs he’s never done before has allowed him to develop and maintain a good client base, while continuing to broaden the services he can provide. When he is able to find some free time, he enjoys playing guitar, going to concerts, and when the weather is nice, cruising around in his 1959 Chevy Bel-Air.

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Stephen Christopher got into the game later than most. Four years of painting jets for Uncle Sam in the Air Force after high school turned into—after being discharged—12 years of painting cars in body shops. Steve’s wife, a nurse, kept after him to give up all that painting because of the fumes. Small remodeling jobs on nights and weekends led to “Steve Christopher Home Improvements” in 1985. Decks, and kitchen and bath remodels were the main focus, but he also did trim, windows, and doors. 26 years later, now subbing out the demo and drywall, the business is still going strong. Steve holds a State of NJ Construction Official license, a Building Sub code license and a HHS Inspector license. “Steve Christopher Home Improvements” is a NJ Registered Home Improvement contractor, and an EPA-registered RRP contractor. Steve and his wife, Mary Lou, have two kids: a daughter, who has her own house in Lake Hiawatha NJ, and a son who lives in Chicago. Steve and Mary Lou are currently in the process of purchasing a vacation lake house in lower NY.

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Brian Cinski Jr. started his career as a carpenter later in life than most people. After graduating from Duquesne University in Pittsburgh at the age of twenty-five he enrolled in a graduate program to get his teaching certificate. But after his first semester he knew he wanted to be working the trade, not teaching it. He took a job with a local cabinetmaker his uncle knew while waiting for a spot in the local apprenticeship program of the Carpenters Union. But finish work was always his first love. Brian started his own company, Cinski Interiors, Ltd., focusing on finish carpentry and custom cabinetry. He approaches the trade with an old-school attitude. “I can’t dumb my work down. Take a look at homes that were built at the turn of the century. The millwork in some homes I’ve worked in is unreal. I understand that this is a different age, but look at new homes they’re building now. They have no identity. Everything is cookie-cutter. Junk is the new quality. I use traditional and modern woodworking techniques, try to maximize our natural resources, and give clients a great product at a fair price.” When he’s not working, Brian spends his time remodeling his own home and cleaning up the office, which never seems to stay uncluttered. His portfolio can be seen at www.cinski-interior.com.

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David Collins has been making stuff all his life. At age seven, he carved swords, canoes, and all sorts of things with his own pocket knives. At age eight, he made popsicle-stick fences to go around the Christmas tree — he painted them silver. David’s first entrepreneurial endeavor was trying to sell those silver fences. His 81-year-old mother still keeps some of those things in her cedar chest. David’s first construction jobs were in the summers of his 14th and 15th years, working for a roofer. Eventually, and after years of working in the field, he produced what is now called the Collins Coping Foot. That thing worked so well that he figured everyone would want one. He spent a lot of borrowed money on lawyers and tool and die makers and started the Collins Tool Company. David hasn’t done any finish carpentry for-hire since 2006. He spends his early mornings with the Good Book, and writing music at his music work station. The rest of the day is spent in tool production, and tooling up for a new product called Mitertite.

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Al Constan is a former precision sheet metal worker with 19 years experience in the trade. Since retiring in the mid-1990s, Al has been a licensed home maintenance contractor, a fencing contractor, and until recently, he has specialized in hanging doors. Al currently owns and operates Multi-blades, manufacturing aftermarket blades for oscillating tools. His website is www.multiblades.com

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Jesper Cook was born in Stockholm, Sweden in 1977. He grew up in family homes in both Sweden and Denmark until the age of 18, when he moved to Los Angeles, CA.  He has worked in the construction trade for over 10 years, gaining experience in everything from movie sets to tile installation. More recently, he has focused on high-end finish carpentry. He is currently a Project Manager at Millworks By Design, a finish carpentry company located in Agoura Hills, CA. Jesper enjoys SCUBA diving, mountain biking, and especially photography, which he practices in his free time. Recently married, he and his wife, Julia, spend their vacations traveling Europe and visiting castles, museums, and other historical sites. He often draws inspiration for his finish carpentry work from classical architectural details that he has photographed in cities throughout Europe, such as Paris, Rome, and Seville.

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Chris Cooper is a licensed builder in East Lansing, MI, and owner of Omega Design & Build. He started his business later in life, at age 57, when the company he worked for as a draftsman/designer moved out of state. Prior to that he was a machinist and mold fabricator, but he’s always loved building and fixing things. As a boy, he helped his father add a family room to their home, and moved on to old classic cars and TVs (remember Heathkits?). The precision and design aspects of his previous jobs really help him now. Early on he started working with a crew of very skilled trim carpenters and discovered that his true passion lies in the details of woodworking. Chris is a true believer in lifelong learning, and attends classes and seminars whenever he can to learn the latest techniques and trends. He always has a stack of home building magazines near his favorite chair! In his spare time, Chris enjoys trap shooting, flyfishing, diving, reading, and working on his own home improvements.

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RJ Davisson started building and carpentry when he was just 4 or 5 years old. Back then he swung a full-size hammer, but had to choke up a little, and he wore white work boots — what’s up with that! He learned his strong work ethic from his parents, independence and self-reliance from his farmer-grandfather, and carpentry from his uncle, “Donk,” who was a master carpenter, cabinetmaker, finish carpenter of the old school. By age 15, RJ had built three houses — from foundation hole and home-made concrete forms, to hand-cut rafters, hand-nailed strap- ping and toenailed studs — No nail guns, no… Well, you get the idea. RJ’s love of wood has helped him make a career doing what he likes — making beautiful things that draw on the wisdom of the past and that stand the test of time. When he isn’t working with wood, RJ loves to cook — plain, simple, exotic and complicated, BBQ or gourmet — he has tried cooking just about every cuisine from every country. RJ is a licensed general contractor, and his company, Davisson + Associates in Sterling, MA, specializes in finish carpentry, remodeling, restoration, and renovation.

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Stephen DeMetrick: After my first design/build project—a toolbox completed at the ripe old age of six—I took a leave of absence from the trades to explore other avenues. It wasn’t until after college—four years at Georgetown—that I rediscovered the urge to build. My Jesuit education, with its emphasis on serving those in need, pushed me towards Americorps, building houses with Habitat for Humanity in the inner city of Washington, DC. After two years, I moved back home to southern Rhode Island and began my journey in the construction trades. I worked for several years building entire houses in a development, learning about all the phases of frame-to-finish residential construction. An affinity for finish carpentry led me on the path to custom building, where I am today, 17 years later. I am currently a partner in DeMetrick and Borge Housewrights, a residential contracting company specializing in high-end remodeling. I also run a full-service cabinet shop specializing in furniture grade cabinetry and meticulous interior millwork. I am also a closet building scientist, and I just earned my BPI analyst certification. I’m always looking for an opportunity to spread the good word about air sealing and the proper use of vapor barriers. Outside of work, I am devoted to my lovely wife and spending time with our four great kids. When the kids are sleeping, I can be found fishing for striped bass along the Rhode Island shoreline. Life is good.

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Jed Dixon designs, builds, and restores stairs and stair parts in historic New England homes. A sometime-Luddite, Jed uses power tools in his shop to make everything from treads to turned balusters to hand-carved volutes and railings. And while he orders the occasional custom part from a local CNC operator, and he’d never part with his Macintosh, I-Phone, or Ipod. Jed and his wife Helen raised their three kids in a 19th century farm house on their rural Rhode Island farm. Kip, their working sheep dog, lets visitors know that stair building may be Jed’s profession, but the farm is his passion.

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Sal Donato is a fourth generation craftsman. He has been practicing carpentry ever since his grandfather allowed him into the workshop—when Sal was still in single digits. Sal was bit by the “Carpentry Bug” around age ten, and it has been a major part of his life ever since. Sal graduated from college with a degree in Business Administration and founded BSA Renovations in 2004. His business is his passion and allows him to design and create custom projects to aid homeowners in transforming their house into a home. Sal regularly contributes to the JLC online forum, is a founding member and part of the site staff for TheContractorsClub.com, and he frequently adds to the discussion on ContractorTalk.com. Sal believes in Internet collaboration between craftsmen: Sal says, “the internet is perhaps our best tool for solving some of the most challenging remodels. By sharing ideas with other like-minded contractors across the country, we are able to think out of the box and utilize new techniques and materials,…which helps to get your project done more efficiently.”

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Joshua Farrand, of Eight Inch Nails Construction LLC, is based in Portland, OR. He is always in search of new approaches and techniques, and ways to improve the trade that he enjoys. Someday, he hopes to build furniture, and teach others the wonderful craft that is carpentry.

 

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Erica Fischer, an Engineer at Murray Engineering PC’s New York office, has worked as a structural engineer in New York City for three years. Born and raised in Pound Ridge, NY, Erica grew up a Yankees and Giants fan. Not wanting to venture far from her New York roots, she attended Cornell University, graduating with a Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering. After moving to New York City, her work has focused on high-end cultural renovations and new residential buildings. Erica’s renovation experience concentrates on residential and theater renovations. She is currently chair of several committees for the Structural Engineers Association of New York (SEAoNY) including the Programs Committee Co-Chair, University Outreach Committee Chair, and the Sponsorship Committee Chair. Through these roles she helps plan the SEAoNY monthly lecture series at the Center for Architecture in New York as well as full day seminars for SEAoNY. Erica will be attending Purdue University this fall for her Masters of Science in Civil Engineering.

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Matt Follett has participated in many aspects of construction: designing/building custom furniture, installing custom interiors on $10 mil+ luxury yachts, owning a small finish carpentry business, and working as a project manager/lead carpenter; not to mention fixing leaky faucets and rotten siding for little old ladies. Matt is committed to constantly learning about our ever-changing profession and how to share his knowledge with others. He has been fortunate to have met and worked with many craftsmen in the field who have been generous enough to share their insight with up-and-coming carpenters. Matt feels it’s only fair that he try to do the same, now that he’s in a position to do so. Matt occupies his spare time with two things. One, he has a budding carpenter who, although only 3, has helped Matt out on more than a few jobsites; and two, his helper’s 2-month-old baby brother, who already owns a custom-turned, maple baby rattle. Budding woodworkers? Time will tell.

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Tom Gensmer lives in Minnetonka, Minnesota and has been a carpenter for nine years. He’s in the process of being certified by NARI as a Certified Lead Carpenter and is emplyed by Roncor Custom Rebuilders, where he works as a Lead Carpenter. Tom lives with his wife Beth and spends a great deal of his free time researching his craft through workshops, trade shows, online articles and forums.

 

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David Getts has been an architectural woodworker since 1979. He started his career building one-of-a-kind furniture pieces while studying under famed furniture maker, Tage Frid. Not enjoying the starving artist scene, he moved on to building commercial cabinetry and designing high-rise architectural woodwork. Corporate downsizing left him without a job, so in 1991 he started his own company, David Getts Design. His work day involves remodeling houses in the Seattle area, designing beautiful woodwork, and writing for several trade magazines. In his spare time David enjoys hiking and watching cheesy “B” movies. For information about his company and work, visit his website at davidgettsdesign.com.

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Leo Graywacz is the owner of LRG WoodCraftingin Windsor Locks, CT. He started the company in 1997, and has worked by himself, for himself, since that time. Leo’s company specializes in custom woodworking, especially interior architecture and cabinets. He moderates on three forums that deal with construction: Contractor Talk, Remodel Crazy, and Woodworking Talk. He is a member of several others forums, where he tries to help others in the field by talking about his experiences. Leo has a wife, who has been with him for 25 years, and two boys. The oldest is in college and likes bowling—he enters tournaments, and has an average of 250. The younger son is still in grade school, and, like most young boys, enjoys playing computer games. Leo’s wife is very supportive of his business and is understanding of the time it takes to do it alone. Which is a good thing, because he puts in a lot of hours!

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Gary Goldblum left architecture to go to trade school and become a carpenter. He went on to be a superintendent and building inspector, and returned to architecture decades later after becoming wheelchair-bound. He now works as a senior project architect and specifications writer for Harley Ellis Devereaux in Los Angeles. He has written about energy efficiency and photovoltaic design for Home Energy, Solar Today, and The Construction Specifier, and is passionate about wood construction and reforestation.

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IMG_0115_2Carl Hagstrom graduated from Williamson Trade School in 1974, and he has been involved in residential construction-related activities ever since. In 1982, he and his wife, Bev, moved to Montrose, PA, where he continued to run his own construction business. Carl started writing for the Journal of Light Construction in the late 80s, and is now a contributing editor at the magazine. In 1994, he became certified as a professional building designer member of the American Institute of Building Design, and in the same year he started WOODWEB.com with his business partner, Michael Poster.

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Larry Haun: I was born in the early ’30s, in an uninsulated rural farmhouse without central heating, wool socks, or goose-down comforters. Three feet away from that iron kitchen stove and you were freezing. Whatever the temperature was outside, that was the temperature in our bedrooms, even when mother warmed the sheets with her flat iron. For the eighteen years I lived there, my strongest memory is that I was always cold. Sure, we had those summer days. I would huddle on the lee side of our house and try to warm my deepest parts. The chill never left. So I headed out the day high school ended without bothering to attend graduation. The old ones said: “Go south.” I went south. And south was a dreamland where the sun shone almost every day. Some years we saw morning frost two or three times. Snow was something you could go visit, miles away, if you wanted. I could feel myself thawing, partially. I started at the university. I became a carpenter, a navy man, a teacher, a husband, a father, a gardener, a writer. But the cold was always there, peering from its home base, waiting for its chance to inhabit me again and again. Even as I sit here writing, I can feel the chill in my feet. Long, lean, and hungry-looking I am, not much natural insulation on these bones, growing older daily. By the time blood is pumped from my heart down through my long body to my toes it has cooled considerably. Take the guard down for a minute and there will be icicles on my nose. So that’s what came to me in the gap. I realized that all my efforts, all my struggles, the reason for my existence, has been to do whatever was necessary to keep myself warm. As an old one, I tell this to you.

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Sangeet Henry: Looking back, I see where the word “journeyman” comes from. I was in junior high school shop class when I first fell in love with wood—the colors and grains of different woods joined, shaped, and polished. A mix of teenage-jobs later, and a year and a half as a gravedigger in Monterey, at 20 years young I became a fireman. My schedule left 20 days off a month, so I was really able to get back into making beautiful things from wood. An early gift was to learn from a Swiss master carver, Fritz Abplanap, who first came to America in the 1920s to carve a convent chapel with full-size saints and angels, all in black walnut. With him, I first experienced grace in the sweep of a gouge. I discovered stone carving and spent years in a realm of sensuous forms and smooth polished surfaces of alabaster and marble. I carved by hand, hammer on point, tooth chisel, rasps and sanding, and more sanding, polishing and more polishing. Through a series of dramatic impulses and events in 1977 I was now called Sangeet and spent four years in an Indian ashram, on my path to enlightenment . . . but while meditating on that elusive carrot, I spent a good part of my time doing some wonderful woodworking under very simple hand tool conditions. There is nothing quite like getting teak and rosewood delivered by bullock cart and cutting dovetails by hand. The ’80s brought several tsunamis of change that swept me through some carving jobs and body surfing in Hawaii, and onto the mainland US for more time in a spiritual community. From there, I took a woodworking job in Munich, Germany, but ultimately washed ashore just north of San Francisco, where I continue to roam to this day. It is here that I fused my love of geometry with woodworking. From my well-equipped shop in San Rafael, I keep looking for better ways to meet the challenges that come my way. And I am always open to that next wild project! Feel free to email me at circularwoodwork@gmail.com.

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Phil Herzegovitch is owner of Daedalus Design LLC in Danbury, CT. Working on his 3rd and 4th full-time careers (remodeling contractor and Dad) he’s come to the realization that life is one long (hopefully very long) learning experience. After leaving engineering school, Phil became a Master Automobile Technician and a Graphic Designer. He stuck with those professions, concurrently, until he lost the passion for both. Having been a cabinetmaker’s apprentice in high school, and a woodworking counselor at a summer day camp, Phil still had a love of creating things he saw in his mind, and translating that vision into 3D with his hands. So, after a year managing a body shop, he decided to park his toolbox and switch gears into the remodeling industry. As a design/build remodeler, Phil still gets a thrill out of creating a vision and translating it into something that will last for many years. All of his past experiences contribute to an ability to come up with novel ideas to solve so many of the problems we run across in the building industry. When not working or completing items on the honey-do list, Phil enjoys spending time with his kids, swimming with his daughter, or wrestling (and chasing) his twin toddler boys.

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Bill Hillman is the owner of William Hillman Carpentry LLC in suburban Philadelphia. His company specializes in both major and minor home renovations, and custom finish carpentry. Bill is a fourth generation carpenter who likes to joke that he bleeds saw dust. “As a baby, I didn’t have a rattle, I had a hammer; and it wasn’t a toy hammer!” After graduating from Penn State University in 1991, with a degree in Labor and Industrial Relations, he worked for a political consulting firm running political campaigns. It didn’t take long before the smell of wood pulled him back to his roots and he reformed the company he began in college. Bill’s work has won several awards from his area NARI (National Association of the Remodeling Industry), and has been recognized by the local newspaper’s annual awards. He has also been a guest on the local Fox TV News affiliate, discussing home renovation projects. Bill lives in Ardmore, Pennsylvania, with his wife Teresa, their boys, Billy and Jack, and their dog and cat. In addition to his work, and being a husband and father (and T-ball coach), Bill enjoys fishing, biking, and grilling.

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Russell Hudson is the owner of Hudson Cabinetmaking, Inc. He began his career in television advertising and switched to woodworking because of his love of design and building things. His father had a shop in the basement and, he suspects, that’s where the seed was planted. Hudson Cabinetmaking specializes in high-end cabinetry and furniture. Both of Russell’s sons (Russ and Brian) have become highly skilled cabinetmakers, and share their father’s desire to make it an art form. Through photographing, video taping, and writing (in blogs and articles) about the projects for their website, Russell finds himself in advertising once again. Apparently, “no acquired skill goes to waste.” Besides filmmaking and woodwork, Russell plays guitar and piano, loves fishing (he makes his own rods, and ties his own trout flies), loves the wilderness and indigenous cultures, has rebuilt every square inch of their home, is still crazy about his wife, and doubts he’ll ever find enough time to do all the things he’s interested in. He is also, perhaps, clinically insane, but doesn’t consider it a drawback.

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Brent Hull is one of the country’s leading experts on moldings, millwork and historic design. His company, Hull Historical, produces fine architectural millwork for commercial and residential all over the country. Brent strives for authenticity in materials as well as methods, to bring the best qualities of the past to millwork today. He has a small custom building company in Fort Worth and speaks and teaches frequently on fine craftsmanship, and historic design.

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Michael Inskeep is a foreman at Millworks By Design in southern California. As a young man he realized he had a talent for creating things, which grew into a love for building furniture, painting, drawing, and making music. As a professional carpenter, he cut his teeth building stairs. From there he made the transition to other aspects of finish carpentry. Along the way Michael had the fortune to work with some exceptional carpenters who taught him a few “tricks of the trade.” He also enjoys passing those “tricks” on to others who are willing to learn. His attention to detail, and ability to learn quickly, have led him to work on some of the largest and best projects in southern California. But, at the end of the day, his true passions are his two baby boys. The smiles on their faces make all the stress of deadlines and dust worthwhile!

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Gary Katz has been a frequent contributor, for more than two decades, to Fine Homebuilding, the Journal of Light ConstructionFine Woodworking, and other leading trade magazines, in addition to moderating JLC’s online finish carpentry forum. Gary’s books include The Doorhanger’s Handbook (Taunton), Finish Carpentry: Efficient Techniques for Custom Interiors (JLC/Craftsman), and Trim Made Simple (Taunton 2009). His DVD series, Mastering Finish Carpentry, sets the standard for professional video instruction in the construction trades. In 2003, Gary founded the Katz Roadshow, a strategic partnership of leading manufacturers and installation specialists, providing hands-on training clinics for professionals at lumberyards across America.

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Nick Katz is a carpenter by genetic and financial default. Almost every male in his family is a contractor, a carpenter, or works somehow in construction (including a few women!). There are a lot of things he’d rather be doing, like riding dirt bikes in the desert near the Colorado River, or racing motocross, or lying on the beach with a beer and a…but everyone has to make a living, right? He makes a pretty good one as an accomplished carpenter, working on high-end residential and challenging commercial jobs through the Los Angeles area.

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Mike Kennedy lives in the rural town of Foster, RI with his wife and their two teenage offspring. When not carving handrail, he enjoys art, sculpture, and playing music on his own handmade guitars. He also enjoys gardening, bow hunting, horseback riding, and generally running around in the forest. Mike Kennedy: Woodworker, Sculptor, Luthier, Musician, Wildman.

 

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Dixon Kerr is a partner in Old House Authority, a Virginia-based business that promotes historically appropriate renovations. A long-time woodworker, Dixon manages Old House Authority Window Restoration. In addition to restoring windows and salvaging carelessly discarded historic sash and glass, he shares his knowledge through teaching and writing in the hope of promoting the preservation of original windows. Having been involved in restoration for 20 years, Dixon co-founded The Alliance to Conserve Old Richmond Neighborhoods in 1999 to help preserve vacant and abandoned buildings in the city’s oldest neighborhoods. Dixon’s love of woodworking developed in the 1970s, when carpentry was experiencing a renaissance. He is a fan of styles ranging from Shaker to James Krenov’s modern. Soon after the publication of “A Cabinetmaker’s Notebook,” Krenov visited the woodworking school Dixon attended, which taught 18th century hand joinery. Classmates showed Krenov a box Dixon had made—a knock-off of one of Krenov’s pieces—which pleased the master craftsman. Window restoration turned out to be the perfect combination of Dixon’s interests in woodworking, preservation, and discovering things off the beaten path.

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Chris Knighton‘s interest in carpentry started as a young boy, working with his father building fences, gates, and sheds at their family home. Years later, Chris spent some time working with a seasoned carpenter, learning to build porches and decks. His real interest is in finish work, but that didn’t come until being forced to renovate his own home. Though not currently in the profession, Chris’ passion for finish work has fueled a constant study and learning process. Recently, Chris has learned to design built-ins, mantlepieces, and other projects using SketchUp. Chris, his wife, and their four children live in Northwest Louisiana.

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Chuck Kiser got his start in the trades in high school in Arizona. During school and the four years that followed Chuck learned a lot about the carpet and tile trade from his brother-in-law, and some residential plumbing skills working for a new construction builder in Phoenix. An offer from Uncle Sam put an eight-year gap in the trades while he played around with submarines and other forms of military transportation. After the Navy, Chuck entered into the Aerospace and Defense field, working in R&D for Advanced Composite materials. During this time Chuck returned to school to get his Undergraduate and Graduate degrees in Business and Management. Ten years went by very quickly and, not wanting to live out of a suitcase for the rest of his life, Chuck re-entered the trades in the mid ’90s. Starting your own business is a challenge, but it was well worth it. Long hours of research paid off, and even after more than a few mistakes, it actually makes money—sometimes. These days Chuck focuses on frame-to-finish residential carpentry, with the occasional remodel thrown in to keep things interesting. When not working, Chuck surfs the web trying to keep up with the changing construction industry, and the tools and technology that support it. Chuck and his wife Joan live in Palos Park, IL.

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JIM MAILEY-1Jim Mailey is the Midwest, Northeast and Mid-Atlantic market-training manager for Simpson Strong-Tie–a company that, for more than 56 years, has developed structural products to help people build safer and stronger homes, buildings, and decks. Jim joined Simpson Strong-Tie in 1992 and he has given hundreds of presentations to more than 25,000 design professionals, building officials, builders, contractors and dealers. He has developed numerous programs designed to educate industry professionals about how to install Simpson Strong-Tie products, as well as how these products meet various building code requirements. Jim is considered an expert in safe, outdoor wood deck construction and he provides economical product solutions to satisfy structural code requirements. He has written articles about deck safety and has been quoted in deck contractor and home inspector publications. His programs, entitled “Deck and Porch Framing Connections” and “Continuous Load Path-Wood Framed Structures,” review the correct and incorrect structural methods for building a deck or home, show why commonly accepted practices should not be used, and provide informative tips that anyone (from the novice to the most experienced student) will find useful. Jim earned a B.A. from Bloomsburg University in Bloomsburg, Pennsylvania, in 1980. Simpson Strong-Tie is committed to helping customers succeed by providing exceptional products, full-service engineering and field support, product testing and training. For more information, visit the company’s website at www.strongtie.com.

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Keith Mathewson started working in the construction industry in the late 1970s as a summer job during college. He stayed in construction for another five years, then took a different career path for ten years. In the early 1990s, Keith got back into construction in a much bigger way. He opened a shop, and taught furniture-making after-hours. In 2004, he transitioned out of furniture-making and teaching back to finish carpentry, where he specialized in high-end custom homes. Since 2007, he has focused on stair-building.

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABlake McKay: When I first started doing trim, I literally “cowboyed” my way into it. I was working odd jobs for renovators, restoration companies, general contractors, etc. I always enjoyed getting into the carpentry side of things, and tried to get as many opportunities doing so as possible. At first I wanted to be a framer, but I soon learned that getting rained out and working winters would be a tough way to make a living. I came across an ad on Kijiji looking for finish carpenters with their own WCB, licensed business, tools, vehicle, and experience. Luckily I already had the tools and vehicle, but I had to go out and get myself set up legit. The major thing I was lacking in was experience! At that point I had never worked on a new house doing trim. I had generally done repairs or hung the odd door or window casing, usually with minimal gear and a lot of wood putty. I had read a ton of articles on templates, jigs and specialty tools, but literally didn’t know where to start. Luckily, my boss at this time was an older guy; he was fast, efficient and knew how to get things done and done well. Once I picked up enough experience, I assembled my own crew, and I began doing private projects for homeowners and homebuilders alike. I now own and operate Celtic Finishing, and I find that our methods and systems are contributing to the cultivation of a good reputation. In my spare time, I work on the renovation of my 100-year-old Cape Cod home, and hike in the Alberta Rockies.

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Kreg McMahon was born in 1954, when real woodshop was still taught in high school. And that’s where he got his first taste of woodworking, that and playing in the new post-war housing tracts in the San Fernando Valley. His father’s side of the family was in sales, and his mother’s side was in construction, so it’s not surprising that’s Kreg spent the first half of his life in sales. From the age of 12, Kreg has knocked on people’s doors to ask if they had any small jobs to do: weeding, cleaning, trash removal. Kreg has sold Amway, insurance, and advertisements in the Yellow Pages. But he’s now in the second half of his life — working as a carpenter and running a one-man business: “Honey-Do Handyman and Carpentry Service.” For inspiration and new tips, Kreg turns to the HGTV Network and the New Yankee Workshop. He likes to say: “There’s always something to learn.”

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photos for  Bio 006-1Tom Mehan started helping his father install tile at the age of ten on weekends and in the summer. Not only did this help his father to have an extra hand, it also helped his mom to have one less kid in the house. Years ago, when one became a tile apprentice, they had to grout, clean, and cut tiles for the first three or four years. Tom was a full-fledged tile installer by the age of nineteen. In 1991, Tom started writing articles for Fine Homebuilding. Tom and his wife, Lane, co-authored Working with Tile, which was published by the Taunton Press, and from time to time Tom speaks around the country at major tile and building shows. Tom credits his success to his father, Don, who taught him the “old world way” of installing tile, which almost doesn’t exist today. The combination of that old world way and modern day technology have allowed for Tom to find solutions to most problems, creating different methods that make his work exciting almost every day.

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Dan Miller photo_1Dan Miller: I started woodworking as a twelve-year-old, in the 60s—I made an automotive creeper as a 4-H project. I made the rails from oak, and when I cut them on my father’s table saw it filled the room with smoke and left burn marks on the wood. I thought it was because oak was so hard. It took me hours to sand off the burn marks. I have since learned the importance of sharp tools. I retired from teaching in 2005 and started an architectural woodworking business. I have done a terrific amount of old house woodworking as a volunteer for Habitat for Humanity and for our neighborhood organization’s house rehabs. My wife and I also bought a foreclosed 1870s home to rehab. I spent a winter and a summer making an appropriate porch for it. The challenge of putting back round-topped pocket doors was my first exposure to making curved moldings. It was very satisfying work.

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Wm. Todd Murdock is a fourth-generation carpenter/woodworker who is currently employed as a corporate pilot. His schedule alternates between a week “on the road,” flying all over North America and the Caribbean, and a week at home in Northern Virginia. While at home he enjoys spending time with his wife Jennifer and their three children. The time at home also allows him to “escape” to his shop where he builds custom furniture and cabinets. Most of his work is for pleasure these days, doing only one or two paying jobs a year. He began learning SketchUp as a way to kill time on layovers and quickly discovered he could use it to continue progress on projects back home. Having a detailed model completed ahead of time also makes his limited time in the shop more efficient, since all the details have already been worked out in a “virtual” prototype. During college, while working for a local contractor, Todd vividly remembers shingling a roof one VERY hot summer day. He paused for a moment to watch a jet flying high over head and thought to himself, “Boy, I wish I were up there flying.” Ironically, he now finds himself occasionally looking out the cockpit window from 35,000 feet and thinking, “I wish I were down there making sawdust.”

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Robert “Robby” Myer is 42 years old, married with two children and calls Pleasant Hill, CA home. Robby literally grew up in the building industry as the son of the owner of a Northern California chain of lumberyards, Piedmont Lumber.  Robby worked for Piedmont for 23 years, heading up the Architectural Millwork Division before a tragic fire destroyed his location and showroom.  Ever ambitious, Robby purchased the surviving door shop operation away from his father’s company and decided the time was right for him to finally take on the industry himself, folding the door shop operation into his existing architectural millwork design and installation firm, Craftsman Collective Inc.  As such, Robby created a custom woodworking operation specializing in building, finishing, and installation of custom doors and millwork. Robby is currently expanding the new operation to add a 10,000 square foot showroom and retail store focused solely on finish carpentry. This store, set to open doors in March 2011, promises to be the destination for all things finish carpentry, featuring Festool brand tools, Kolbe windows, Robbys first line of signature doors, over 400 profiles of molding, and tools and accessories for carpenters by carpenters.

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Ben O’Connell landed in carpentry when, at the age of 24, he realized he’d better hurry up and learn a useful trade. After four years of production trim work in upstate NY, he headed for Portland, Maine, where he knew he wanted to be. He soon bought a fixed upper, found the woman of his dreams, and started his own business. Sounds like a perfect story, but then the bubble burst, and carpentry became less awesome and more stressful. After some soul searching, Ben decided to call it a day and move on to the next interesting career. Ben and his wife, Ana, recently opened a catering business featuring Ana’s recipes from Spain and the Basque country. As a final project in his carpentry education, Ben built a food cart, which he operates on the streets of Portland. When he isn’t schmoozing on the streets, Ben enjoys carpentry, golf, and hangin’ with the band.

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Roe Osborn‘s love of carpentry began as a kid building tree forts in the woods of southern Rhode Island. After receiving a degree in Fine Arts and English from Georgetown University, Roe began work as a carpenter and contractor, gaining experience in all aspects of home building from foundation to finish work. In addition Roe built boats on Narragansett Bay for four years and later plied his carpentry skills as a caretaker of an island off the Massachusetts coast. From 1994 to 2005 Roe worked for Fine Homebuilding magazine, where he edited or wrote over 180 articles on homes and home-building techniques, most of which he photographed as well. But the smell of salt water eventually lured him back to the New England shore. Now based on Cape Cod, Roe is an architectural and commercial photographer, as well as a freelance writer. In 2010 Taunton Press is publishing a book that he wrote on basic house framing. Roe’s photography work can be seen at his website. In his spare time, Roe is a bass player and songwriter, and he does abstract sculpture as well. But he’s been known to drop everything at a moment’s notice to race sailboats.

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John Pace has more than 20 years of experience in the design, development, production and installation of rigid and cellular vinyl building products for residential and light commercial applications. He is a founder of Wolfpac Technologies, Inc., an extruder of cellular PVC sheet and board materials that has been serving the building products industry since 2003. He is also the President and Chief Operating Officer of VERSATEX Trimboard, a subsidiary of Wolfpac Technologies, Inc. While many companies have recently implemented environmentally responsible strategies, John has been a driving force in the implementation of green practices for decades. The company was recently awarded the Green Seal of Approval from the NAHB for meeting the requirements of certain mandated practices specified in the National Green Building Standard. John regularly collaborates with customers and designers in the field, and maintains strong associations with the Vinyl Siding Institute, the Moulding & Millwork Producers Association, the National Wholesale Lumber Association and the National Coil Coaters Association. John holds a BS in Civil Engineering from Lehigh University, as well as a Professional Engineers License.

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Dan Parish has been working in the architectural millwork industry since he was 17. He started as a green apprentice with Gary Katz’s crew and is now owner of Millworks By Design, a company that specializes in high-end finish carpentry and architectural millwork installations. The road between apprenticeship and becoming the boss has been dotted with all sorts of experiences including working as a finish carpenter with several companies, a stair building apprenticeship with Jed Dixon, travel and speaking engagements with Gary Katz, the writing of various articles for Journal of Light Construction and Fine Homebuilding, and the startup and management of a finish carpentry division in local stair building company. In 2007, Dan started Millworks By Design and soon realized that the “school of hard knocks” was not far from over, but rather, just gaining momentum. Since then, Dan’s focus has been on building Millworks By Design into a leading provider and installer of fine millwork in the Los Angeles area. Dan, his wife Kendra and their three daughters live in Simi Valley, CA.

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Dave Parker has worked in the building trades for most of his career, with a focus on trim carpentry and architectural woodworking. At work he enjoys nothing more than a technically challenging project. At home he enjoys time spent with his family at the beach or in the snow. A graduate of The College of the Redwoods Fine Woodworking program, he currently produces millwork and high end furniture from his shop in southeast Michigan.

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Ron Paulk started his company, Paulk Homes (www.paulkhomes.com), in 1990 alongside his wife, Chris. Together, they have built over 150 homes, and completed uncounted remodels. Ron never rests, thinking he knows it all. Keeping his mind open, always looking for a better way, he devours many monthly publications, and now many more online, plus attending every trade show and seminar around. Somewhere along the way, he picked up CAD skills, and began designing homes with a strong interest in designing and building for minimum environment impact—it is so much more than insulated windows and an efficient furnace. Now, Ron wants to help other builders and carpenters by sharing his knowledge. That is, when he is not behind the camera, or playing with his grandchildren.

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Svend Peulicke immigrated from Denmark to California in June of 1958. During the latter part of a three-plus year stint in the army, he worked part-time for a general contractor in northern California. The job turned full-time after he completed his time in the service. After moving to the Palm Springs area, he worked in several different trades, starting a Masonry and Concrete business with a partner in 1975. He obtained his general contractor’s license in 1979, and in 1980 changed the business model to pre-cast concrete, commercial, and industrial general contracting. When the partnership dissolved in 1995, Svend had an opportunity to build a high-end custom home for a friend. That job led to building more custom homes in the same country club, which lasted for twelve years, until his recent retirement. Svend enjoys woodworking, metalworking, and all projects that involve creating something with his hands. He also enjoys a tennis game once or twice a week.

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Harvey Raufman is a carpenter and cabinetmaker from Old Chatham, NY. Harvey writes: I was on my way to college and a major in biology, when a furniture-making course in high school changed all that. I learned to sharpen and use hand tools, cut dovetails…I was hooked. I went on to one year of trade school, and have been in the trades ever since. I have worked in production house framing, architectural millwork (miles of plastic laminate), a couple of years with a construction company doing urban renovations, and finally went out on my own in 1985 as H Raufman Woodworking. My first job was renovating a 200-year-old house. I learned firsthand the meaning of “wattle & daub”! I opened my first shop a few years later. At one time I thought about making furniture full-time, but being a starving artist was not for me. Over the years, I have taken on projects with other solo contractors, and worked on several high-end millwork projects. The mainstays of my work have been renovations, additions, kitchens, lots of built-ins, and the occasional furniture commission. I have had a lifelong interest in architecture, design, and furniture. When I’m not working, I enjoy dancing, hiking, and getting out on the water in my homemade canoe (yes, it actually floats!).

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BR_bio_photoBill Robinson: When I started working construction in Santa Barbara (for a fraction of my previous pay as a diver), I worked on a framing crew building a 12,000 square foot home in Montecito. I was surprised at the hectic jobsite, the lack of organization, of leadership, of expertise. No one seemed “in the know;” no one seemed in charge. What a difference from diving, where for fifteen years I often worked 400-500 feet below the surface. Not much room for error down there; someone in the know was in charge all the time — or people died. Not so in residential construction. People think that anyone with a circular saw, a hammer, and a hundred foot power cord can be a carpenter or a contractor. But what are the guidelines? Where can you learn more? One day while working for a contractor on a basement remodel, everyone seemed to suddenly disappear and I found myself in the middle of the slab on knee-boards with a steel trowel in each hand. I didn’t have clue what to do. At that moment I decided I was going to find out how all of this construction stuff worked — and share it with anyone else who would listen. I felt helpless out on that wet concrete and knew there was no reason to. No one should feel helpless in this industry.

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c-silvaCarter Silva is eight years old and is in the third grade. He has two brothers (Zachary—16, and Corey—5) who he loves playing with. When he’s not helping his dad fix the house on the weekends, he is busy playing hockey, doing tricks on his bike, throwing footballs with his friends, and playing with construction trucks. He was bitten by the carpentry bug when he started to walk, at about nine-months old. Carter is very ambitious. When his father noticed that Carter liked playing with hand tools (plastic toy tools), he began to teach Carter how they were used. Carter started by going around his home with a small level, checking any molding detail he could reach to see if it was level or plumb. He even checked his dad’s work just to make sure it was right. Carter would also accompany his dad on estimates, after daycare, and he’d help pick up stock for the next day and do contract signings. He really enjoys the trade that his father has welcomed him into, and he’s appreciated the educational opportunities he’s attended with his father, like the JLC LIVE show and Katz Roadshows. Carter is like an old soul that has been here before. He continues to amaze his mother and father in the passion he has for this trade.

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Emanuel Silva has always had a love for carpentry. At the age of three, his mother heard an unusual noise coming from the living room where Emanuel was playing. She went in to see what was going on, and found Emanuel with a butter knife and spoon trying to cut the end table. She asked him what he was doing and why. His response was, “I’m try to cut these small spindles off and attach them to the bottom of the table so the table won’t shake anymore.” As Emanuel grew up, he would get involved in anything that required manual labor. Whenever it snowed, he would be out there shoveling, and in the spring when his father would prep the garden for vegetables, he would help turn the dirt over with a shovel. When Emanuel went to high school, he also enrolled in a local carpentry program. He graduated high school and completed the carpentry program, for which he was given an award for “Outstanding Tradesman.” Emanuel then attended the North Bennet Street School, for a nine month carpentry program. After graduating, he went to work as a carpenter’s helper. He then got his carpenter’s license and struck out on his own. Emanuel now owns and operates Silva Lightning Builders. No, it’s not an electrical company. In high school, he and a friend had always talked about going into business together, and they came up with that name—they’d been thinking of the image of a silver lighting bolt, and came up with the name Silva Lightning Builders. (Those not from New England might not get the play on words.) His company does complete renovation work, from rough to finish.

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Doug Simmons got started doing small projects as a teenager, having always been interested in tools. His grandparents owned an old hardware store near Muncie, Indiana—the kind with 16-foot ceilings that had rolling ladders on each side, a wood floor, a hand-operated freight elevator, and a penny peanut machine! When Doug got out of the Air Force in 1978, he took a job as a laborer for a framer, then did handyman work, then a stint with a sauna company (which is where he first learned to hang doors). His next major move was to a larger builder who put him on the finish crew, where he had the opportunity to supervise some commercial projects. Next, Doug and his wife started a retail portable spa store. That lasted for about eight years, during which time he got his contractor license in order to be able to do installations (decks, gazebos, etc.) for their customers. Doug continues doing various finish work, both for himself and other contractors.

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Mike Sloggatt is a frequent contributor to the Journal of Light Construction magazine and writes for Fine Homebuilding and Tools of the Trade, in addition to moderating the JLC Rough Carpentry Forum. For the past four years, Mike has been the Frame-to-Finish (Rough) Carpentry presenter for the Katz Roadshow. Mike also teaches seminars and clinics in all aspects of carpentry and remodeling, and is a regular presenter at JLC Live, The Remodeling Show, and the International Builders’ Show. He takes education seriously, especially for the construction industry, and appears frequently at association meetings, including NARI and other regional builder and material groups and lumber yards. Mike has more than thirty years of experience, and he specializes in high-end, challenging remodels near his home on Long Island.

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Dave Sochar-1Dave Sochar: I wanted to learn furniture making—fabrication and design—in college, but nothing was offered, and serious wood programs were hard to find. That being the 60s, I set off to find myself and had the good fortune of finding my own way to woodworking. I was lucky to get hired at an aging stair shop in 1972 that made curved stairs, doors, louvers, mantles and such—all out of solid wood—mostly residential, in Indianapolis, Indiana. As time passed, I got more exposure, and pretty soon I was the crew’s second hand on stairs. Being one of only two guys under 60, I quickly ended up doing the stairs and other complex work. When the stair shop failed to survive a transfer from one generation to the next, I moved on to several other shops, but I was always trying to concentrate on solid wood fabrication. Eventually I was hired to start a shop for someone else. I helped the staff grow to 12 hands, and I had the fun of buying all the equipment and tooling for a profitable run of five years. Over time, the owners decided to get into panelized wall systems, and shrink down the mill. They wanted me to join them. And that is when I started Acorn Woodworks, with a penchant for better design and solid wood. Doors—exterior and interior—became about half of the work, and we spent a lot of time and energy developing both the practical and aesthetic offerings in custom door fabrication. The shop grew and moved several times, peaking with the economy in 2007 with ten employees. Acorn always did nice work: curved stairs, large doors, round wine cellars, and lots of other interesting things. But, with the recession, the shop reversed those many years of growth, and I am now back in my original small shop with one employee, sawdust in my pockets, and even a few splinters every now and then.

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John Spier started in construction thirty-some years ago, working first for a renovation company, and then as a production framer in the southwest. He worked in a variety of jobs and places as an itinerant carpenter, and along the way picked up a bachelor’s degree in architectural engineering. John’s wife, Kerri, became a carpenter because it paid her way through college much better than waitressing and bartending. Together they spent most of twenty years building a construction business, before deciding that life should have other priorities, too. For the past five years, they have spent 7-8 months of each year sailing their boat around the world with their children, on the installment plan. John did the first edit of this article in Maldives. The final edit was done in Oman. In a few more years, the world will be circled, the kids will be off to college, and full-time work will beckon. When that time comes, they hope to focus on smaller, more interesting projects; John perhaps on smaller houses, and Kerri on furniture, art, and musical instruments. Meanwhile, they write the occasional article, to keep their minds alive, and because the keyboard is mightier than the hammer.

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Kerri Spier may be slight in stature, but she more than makes up for that in her personality. Born and raised on Block Island, Kerri graduated from Brown University in 1989. After college Kerri returned to the island, where she and her husband, John have run Spier Construction for the past 22 years. Four years ago Kerri, John and their three kids decided to follow a dream. They packed themselves up and sailed off on their 45-ft. catamaran, Aldora. The first year, they explored the East Coast and the Bahamas. They followed this with a trip down the eastern Caribbean to Curacao. Next, they took the boat through the Panama Canal and sailed as far as Australia with countless stops along the way. Last winter they worked their way up to Malaysia. Each year they return to Block Island and keep their hands in the building business, working for a few months before heading out again. On board Kerri and John boat school their kids with the ocean as their classroom. They hope to complete their circumnavigation in the next couple years before their oldest graduates from high school. And for the record, Kerri keeps her best tool belt on the boat for those rare trips up the mast.

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Lewis Taliaferro is a custom home builder in Lone Grove, Oklahoma. He comes from three generations of builders. Nearly every member of his family has some experience in building homes, mostly rental properties. So, it was no surprise that, shortly after graduating high school in 1999, Lewis went and did the same thing. He learned a lot building those rental houses, learning from his own mistakes, and meeting sub-contractors and suppliers along the way. After about two years, his uncle, who had been building custom homes for over thirty years, gave Lewis the opportunity to build some spec homes in a nearby development he had started. It took off! Lewis built spec homes for the next three or four years. He gained a lot of great experience in that time, but one of the greatest things he learned was trim carpentry. Lewis has always had a love for finish work. Now that he was building spec homes, it gave him the opportunity to do more detailed work. He found out that he could dress up his homes a little more than other spec homes by giving the houses a more custom feel with moldings, and nicer cabinetry. He has been building custom homes now for about the last six or seven years. Lewis doesn’t have many hobbies, but during his free time he enjoys boating, taking trips, and spending time with his wife, Stephanie, and his kids Raynee, Wyatt, and Nolan, who are his inspiration and motivation.

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Aaron Telian is a lead carpenter for Andrews Construction & Remodeling in Knoxville, TN. He and his wife, Jessica, have two children—Cedar (2) and Genoa (1). When he’s not out on a job or organizing tools, Aaron enjoys reading, building simple furniture for his family, and endurance hiking (followed by a good beer, of course).

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William ( Bill ) Thomas is owner/operator of Dominica Remodeling, specializing in all types of finish carpentry, especially kitchens. Bill likes to read—anything. He gets “lost” reading novels, especially a good adventure or mystery. His favorite author of late is Lee Child. Bill has a hard time doing nothing, and even when he sits and watches TV with his wife, he will have a magazine open or be working on a Sudoku puzzle. Bill is constantly amazed by other people’s talents. Bill enjoys and appreciates the JLC forums, and he often feels humbled seeing what people can build. His own wife, Louise, a recently retired Methodist minister, is a talented wood carver. Bill likes to visit historic houses—with that great old woodwork—just to marvel at the craftsmanship. When Bill isn’t working—which is rare—he likes to make wood puzzles and toys, to putz around in the garage and to organize his truck, always trying to make it more efficient. He also likes to do yard work—even mowing the lawn and pulling weeds. Bill and Louise would like to do some traveling and see more of this great country. Of course, they would take their three Yorkies with them.

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Sean Titmas: “Getting up each morning and spending the day in my shop working with my two hands on a beautiful species of wood is the closest thing to a love affair I can imagine,” Sean Titmas says with a wide smile. A full time carpenter since 1986 when he went to work with his father building custom homes and commercial interiors on the Jersey Shore, Sean has worked almost every phase of construction, from residential building and remodeling to commercial and retail interiors, through the course of his career. Now, 23 years after strapping on his first tool belt and practicing production carpentry, he’s decided to do something different. He’s opened his own shop and is building furniture and cabinetry.

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Chris Tomasi Bio-1Chris Tomasi is the owner of Tomasi Design in Tiburon, CA. His company specializes in custom cabinetry, furniture, and finish carpentry services for residential and commercial clients. Chris began his career as an apprentice carpenter in the early 90s, learning the fundamentals of residential building from the ground up. It quickly became evident that his interest was in the finished products in these homes—the interior architectural elements and furniture. Chris moved from rough to finish carpentry to cabinetmaking in short order while working for various builders in California, New Hampshire, New York, and North Carolina. It was in North Carolina that he made the leap to self-employment, building mainly studio furniture with a partner. Chris’s ancestry inspired him to move to Sienna, Italy, at the age of 30, and then Hamburg, Germany (His father is Italian, and his mother is German.). Living in Europe, Chris was able to pursue his interest in European culture and woodwork (and it gave him the added opportunity to be closer to his family). In Hamburg, he worked with several master carpenters and woodworkers in a shop in the middle of the city. After nearly five years in the cold and dark north, he moved back to where he was raised: sunny California. He remains rooted in the San Francisco Bay Area, living with his wife and five-year-old daughter.

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Raymond Valois’s career as a carpenter began over a decade ago after being in the world of advertising photography for almost ten years. He started off by doing small handyman jobs that naturally evolved into more complex remodeling jobs. It became apparent that Ray’s creative side set him apart from other contractors as clients asked for more complex projects, built-ins, or fireplace mantles. He soon learned that his attention to detail and creative eye for the architectural esthetics of client’s homes helped bring a unique perspective to his projects. Ray’s passion for his craft is evident in all that he does. From small projects, to the fine finish carpentry and remodeling projects, he has had a number of loyal clients for many years. Raymond founded Valois Home Improvements back in 2000 and lives in Shrewsbury, Massachusetts with his wife and two kids. When he’s not making area homes more beautiful, you will probably find him golfing, riding his motorcycle, or having fun with family and friends. You can see more of Raymond’s work at Valois Home Improvements.

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scottScott Wells discovered carpentry in 1996 after a few years in college and too many random jobs to list. He had decided to take a summer position with a remodel contractor in order to pass the time until the next ski season job started. That summer, Scott realized his interests and talents lied in the challenges of home improvement. He continued to work in the industry for several contractors, performing all facets of wood framing, exterior trim and siding, window and door installation, and even the occasional interior trim package. In 2006, he formed Scott Wells Construction Company; as a general contractor based in Southern Oregon, his company handles residential remodel work, new construction, and commercial tenant improvement. When Scott isn’t on the job site or in his office, he can often be found chasing his young children around the yard, or maybe at the local golf course looking for his ball.

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Sonny Wiehe: I began my building career apprenticing for a master carpenter at age 14. This was after school hours, remodeling homes in historic Clifton, Va. I can still remember my first project—a lattice surround for an air conditioning condenser. Not the most glamorous project; but a nice start. I think my mentor, Louis McFatridge, thought it was a good (and safe) idea to test me on something outside, and seemingly inconsequential. However, since the condenser was on the home’s approach (thus the lattice), I knew all guests would see it. So I took the opportunity (and my mentor’s best chisels) and set out to make it the best lattice surround I could fabricate with my limited skills and knowledge. It was not a masterpiece, but it must’ve turned out pretty darn well because I stayed on with him during the next four summers, up until college. Even during college I got on with any framing or trim crew I could find that would hire me, during holiday breaks and summer recesses. As a designer, this early, and regular, hands-on experience proved invaluable. I love the design-and-build process, and never consider anything completely perfect. It can always be better. In fact, I earned my bachelors of Architecture degree at Virginia Tech specifically to become a better builder. I started my own design/build company, Vice Versa Builders, in 1993. We specialize in residential remodeling.

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ed-williamsEd Williams has been the owner/operator of The Great American Carpentry Co. Inc. in Dallas, Texas since he founded the business in 1989. Starting professionally in residential carpentry in 1974, Ed had the pleasure of learning the finer points of wood framing, trim carpentry, and cabinet making from old school woodworkers who started learning their trades long before he was born. Today, he and his crews practice those skills in some of the finest homes in Texas. They offer subcontracting services as carpenters and cabinetmakers. With a specialization in remodeling, Ed also serves as a general contractor for select Dallas clients. There isn’t much they can’t do with a full-service 7,000-sq. ft. woodshop!

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Gene-1Gene Wills acquired his passion for construction out of necessity after buying a house that needed a lot of work. His interest in construction and woodworking continued to grow as he rebuilt his “fixer upper.” Eight years later, when the house remodel was completed, lightning struck the house and caused severe fire damage. The second remodel only took two years! His day job in Information Systems didn’t leave a lot of time for home repair projects. Each new project created a need for more tools and more “how to” books—Gene has read his stacks of Fine WoodWorking, Fine HomeBuilding and JLC magazines all cover-to-cover; he somehow even found the time to read Gary Katz’s book on trim carpentry. Gene retired in 2011 and now works full-time on a converted stone bank barn that was built in the 1800s. He loves to innovate and find new ways to solve problems that combine knowledge from multiple disciplines. On the rare occasions when he takes a break, he also enjoys skiing and photography.

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Jesse Wright: Life has changed a lot for Jesse Wright. Not long ago he spent his free time skateboarding, snowboarding, and scuba diving—a passion both he and his wife enjoyed along the California coast. And then there was the paintball team—serious stuff on military bases with military friends. But all that changed when Olive arrived. Now fifteen months old, Jesse’s daughter consumes most of his free time, and what remains he spends working on the home he bought last year, his first. You can tell it’s Jesse’s house from the street, and from all the great photographs he’s published and shared on the JLC Finish Carpentry forum. He’s remodeled the house one room at a time, and outside, one wall at a time, from Craftsman-style tapered casing to eave brackets. Jesse’s work continues to improve as his study and understanding of architectureal styles broadens. Always hungry for new ideas, Jesse prowls the internet for good books and haunts historic homes, from Pasadena to the Bay Area.

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Norm Yeager: After graduating as a carpentry major from Williamson Free School in 1969, Norm spent 13 years working as an architectural draftsman, framer, finish carpenter, framing foreman, and superintendent for a production homebuilder. For the next 13 years he was self-employed in residential and light commercial construction, building additions, homes and whatever came along. They did everything from the footings to the roof, excluding the utilities. Norm had a great partner, and they worked together for 25 years. In 1996 Norm moved to SC to teach drafting and carpentry for 3 years at Bob Jones University. In 1999 he started working part-time as a construction inspector, and full-time as a commercial superintendent for a contractor building churches, retail spaces, multi-family dwellings, and schools. Looking for a change of pace, in August 2010 Norm went into business at age 61. The first project of the new business was to completely finish his present house. It’s the 8th house he’s built and lived in, not including the 3 renovations before the first house. He has the ambition and energy to do one more, but Sherry, his wife of 38 years, has given him a choice of another house or another wife—facetiously, he hopes! For enjoyment, Norm works on his home, does smaller construction jobs, serves in his local church, reads, and works on the homes of his three daughters.