The best/most rewarding Thanksgiving I can recall is the year I took the family to volunteer at the local diner that was preparing meals for the homeless. Everyone there was like family, well not really, because there was no fighting, but there were a lot of laughs and plenty of thankful people. I highly recommend taking the kids to a church or shelter and letting them participate in cooking or serving the meal to truly thankful people who really need and appreciate it. I guarantee no matter how much they kick and scream in the beginning about not wanting to go they will come away with some great memories.
Are you thinking of doing a timber frame addition, but you’re afraid all of the timber frame companies won’t want to talk to you because it’s only a small project? Here at Vermont Timber Works we do small project as well as the large ones. This bus shelter is a perfect example.
Give us a call. We would be happy to help you with your project no matter what size it is.
When building a house, how many contractors should you get bids from? Is it really a good idea to put your home out to bid with seven different general contractors, or plumbers, or electricians, or any trades really? You certainly want to get the most for your money but you also have to ask yourself what kind of corners get cut as the cost goes down. Does the company that has the lowest bid have the knowledge and resources to do the job correctly? What kind of materials are they buying? Are they the lowest price because they don’t have the proper tools to do the job? Or because they are buying the lowest end, twisted, wet, and warped materials they can get their hands on? Do you want a contractor building your new home that pays his crew the minimum amount of money he can get away with and they just don’t care what kind of job they do or do want a contractor that pays his crew well and they have pride in their work? Is saving a few dollars now actually going to cost you more money down the road in repairs? When I first entered the workforce in my late teens, I (very briefly) worked for a man that said if the studs in a wall fit tight then we don’t need to waste nails on them. We were building condominiums then. Needless to say he ended up going back and doing a lot of repairs. Did he care? Certainly not, he was making money on the repairs that he did not frame correctly in the first place. It’s quite sad really that he was allowed to get away with it, but, he was the lowest bidder so it only stands to reason he would get the job right? Now, I’m not saying that every contractor would act this way but they are certainly out there. I recommend doing your homework, spend some time researching the companies you are getting bids from, and not putting your project out to bid with more than two or three companies. You want to know if the company you are choosing has happy employees that have pride in their work? Just ask if you can talk to a couple of their employees. You might learn a lot about the company you are thinking about hiring. Are you really looking for the lowest price or are you looking for the best value for your money?
Since we don’t have one of those fancy CNC machines (and we don’t want one) we cut all of our joints by hand using skilled craftsmen instead of a skilled computer. (Those CNC machines are nice but they don’t raise frames, you need skilled craftsmen for that.)We use the Makita 16 inch saw for cutting the timbers to length and for cutting some of the joinery. These saws are an awesome piece of machinery. They typically cut about 6 inches deep (depending on how many times the blade has been sharpened.) While it looks quite easy to use they do take some getting used to before you can make a good straight cut. When using this saw you want to make sure you hold on tight, cause if you hit a pitch pocket, knot or if it binds for some reason it is very possible that you’ll end up with a black eye, bloody nose, or worse, so hang on.
Our crew is on a barn raising in New York this week. Sometimes things happen beyond our control and the crane cannot make it and the guys find themselves with nothing to do. That is where the Hercules and a forklift come in. The Hercules is basically a telescoping boom with a hook on it and when it is mounted to the forklift you can use it as a crane. It does have it’s limitations but when you find yourself without a crane it is a very nice tool to have in the arsenal.
We use a Makita mortise machine to cut most of our mortises.
The Makita cuts a 11/16 or 13/16 wide mortise depending on the chain you have on it and will cut 7″ deep, while the HolzHer cuts in the opposite direction and cuts a 2″ wide Mortise and will cut up to 12″ deep. I think the Makita is a better all around machine due to it’s versatility, and you can clamp the Makita to your work piece. The HolzHer sits on the timber but does not clamp down to the piece you are working on.
So, I have worked for or with Vermont Timber Works for about 12 years now (Almost 1/4 of my life). Most of those years have been out in the shop and in the field. Only the last 18 months or so have been here in the office. While my computer experience is limited (I feel bad for Sandy and Julie who are trying to teach me more), the powers that be have asked that I post on this blog. If this is going to happen then I need to post about things that I know (This shouldn’t take long) so I have to start posting about things that happen on the other side of the wall in the shop. Start looking for posts about timber framing tools, methods of cutting, and the habits and techniques of the guys in the shop. Chances are there will be a fair amount of sarcasm in here so I hope I don’t offend. I look forward to your interaction and feedback.
All to often we hear “I am really looking for for the lowest price.” So I ask you, “What does the lowest price mean and is the lowest price always the best value?” Let me explain, If you get a quote from companies A, B, & C do you really look at them to see if they are all including the same scope of work? If companies A & B look at your prints and quote the job as drawn and do not include any stain or urethane and they don’t have it reviewed by an engineer, but company C does include a coat of stain or urethane and their engineer sees that something is out of place and will not pass engineering and they change it so it will pass all codes and engineering of course their price will be higher. Now you have the three quotes in front of you and the one that will pass all codes and engineering is the highest, so, you automatically throw that one away because the cost is higher than the other two. You pick Company B and then decide to use that company. After you sign a contract and they start the shop drawing process they call and say “Oh, well, after reviewing you drawings again we see that they will not pass local codes so we will have to make some changes and issue a change order.” Of course you want the job done right so you agree and they send you change order #1 and now you have that added cost that you (most likely) did not budget for. As the process continues company B then calls and says ” Well, we did not notice this before but our engineer says some of these timber sizes do not work so we will have to use larger timbers.” You guessed it, change order #2 is now on it’s way. Now your frustrated and are wondering why you did not look at all of the proposals a little more closely. As things settle down and you realize you have time invested in this company and you might as well work it out instead of starting all over again. Time goes by and you make a call to company B to find out what color stain options you have for your new home. Company B says ” Oh, we did not include any finish in our proposal because you wanted the lowest price possible. We would be happy to add a coat of stain but we will have to send you another change order adding that cost.” Now your project is over budget and your frustrated. So, if you were to go back to the beginning and look at all of your proposals again and you add in all of the change orders you received from company B and you add them to your original proposal were they really the lowest price after all? In the end you have to ask yourself “Was the lowest price really the best value? Even if company C had been a couple of thousand dollars higher would the honesty in the beginning and not having the added frustration been worth it?” In short please take the time in the beginning to look at the scope of work each company is offering and then make the best decision for you and remember, the lowest price may NOT be the best value.”
Which of these two items would you think is more powerful? The Lull right? Actually, it is the all mighty muffin. The Lull may be able to hold up this truss, carry 20,000 lbs or boom out 40 feet, but, a muffin bet is capable of stopping all production in the company until a winner is determined. Muffin bets are a constant theme around here and have, on more than one occasion, stopped all work just to see who the winner will be. At times there is even a jury set up to determine a winner. The bet could be for anything, “I can pound in this peg faster than you”, “How many metal straps did we use on that job”, I can cut this faster than you, the bet could be on a job that was done weeks or months ago or for something that is coming up, you just never know. Bets are made on what clothes people will wear, if they will be in on time on a given day, or really for any reason at all. The bakery down the street loves us. The bet could involve everyone in the company, sometimes it’s just two people, or it could involve someone who doesn’t even know there is a bet. It certainly is an entertaining place to work. We have a great crew (office included) and everyone gets along so well. The moral of the story is, everything is not as it seems. Some things are very powerful though you wouldn’t know it to look at them.