HP Construction
We often read something that provides food for thought - sometimes in a book or a magazine article, or just a post on the internet.  This page is dedicated to quotes we find interesting.  Hope you enjoy them, and maybe add some to your collection.  Some are edited slightly for spelling and readability.  We'll be posting more as we encounter them.

On craftsmanship and lowest bid:

...sometimes people get exactly what they "ordered" and are disappointed with the results.

rest assured...the corner cutting isn't going to happen at the level of overhead and profit.

Being a craftsman and being a businessman are two very different things. Those two personalities in me often fight each other. Balance is the key with all things in life and this sort of thing is no exception. - Dieselpig

To me, the entire subject of "craftsmanship" boils down to a person's values. As tradesmen, we all know it when we fail to perform up to our ability, even if the client is unaware of it. From my own perspective, I will not sell subpar work to a client. If (when) I make a mistake, I fix it. Trying to get away with or otherwise hide mistakes is, in my opinion, tantamount to fraud.

Unfortunately, there have always been plenty of people in the world who do not have a problem with fraud or theft. Those are the people who do not struggle with the "craftmanship/conscience issue". Honest people do. - Ragnar17

We in Western society have largely become “observers” rather than “doers”... I believe that the decline in appreciation of Craftsmanship is at the root of this trend, and that this trend must be reversed for us to survive.

I also believe that we all innately share a love and appreciation of fine craftsmanship, but most do not have a reference point or access to examples of it… the Internet…has drawn so many away from “making things’ to vicariously experiencing what others have chosen for us in lieu of us identifying and pursuing a unique personal journey.

- The Internet Craftsmanship Museum Presents: An Essay on Craftsmanship, by William L. (Bill) Gould

Craftsmanship has gone with the times.......carpenters are mechanics now......you buy everything made up in the mill and just put it on.

The only craftsmanship left is how well you cut your miters.

I used to show off (when I made furniture) my hand cut dovetails and all the other stuff I did to create a really nice desk or something.......but nobody really cared and few knew the difference.

It all boiled down to price........"Well, that's nice, but I can get the same thing at wallmart for a lot less".......how many time have I heard that one?...lots.......till I gave up and saved my craftsmanship for my self.

There are fast carpenters who care..... there are slow carpenters who care more.....there are half fast carpenters who could care less... - jjwalters

To some people, a meal is good ingredients prepared in a thoughtful way to bring out the best within those ingredients. The meal is then presented in a way to so the recipient will not only be satisfied by the aroma and the taste, but the visual as well.

To others, a meal is a box of Hamburger Helper. Sometimes it's even prepared in accordance with the directions on the box.

To some people, construction is a profession. To others, it's simply a job. - Mongo

I just cannot for the life of me understand what it is that prevents the consumer from understanding the true value of the work we do. - EricPaulson 

On framing:

As a framer, I can tell you, building at break-neck speed is not what I call a good time.  But answer the phone for a framing call and 9 out of 10 times the first thing they ask is, "how much?" followed shortly thereafter by, "how fast".  Blame the framers if you want, but trust me when I tell you that 'fast and cheap' was never our idea.  If you don't think I'd rather take my time and put together a quality product then you're worse off than I thought. 

The real problem now is that there's crews out there who have never seen it any different.  They don't even know that their mistakes and oversights are a problem.  They think that building junk and missing the details is par for the course.  Therefore they are bidding on an entirely different product than what I'm bidding on.  We are looking at the same set of plans and seeing two different jobs.  As long as builders find this acceptable, it's not going to change any time soon.  There isn't any motivation for the hacks to change.  The only way I've found to combat this is to break down my bids in finite detail to try to highlight the difference. - dieselpig

Greene and Greene:

100 years ago a team of gifted craftsmen labored for 11 months to create The Gamble House, designed by architects Greene & Greene.

Led by general contractor Peter Hall, and his brother, John, Scandinavian craftsman woodworkers, they turned, joined, carved, and rubbed 17 species of wood into the house and furnishings that today are recognized as one of the greatest achievements in American architecture and craftsmanship. - gamblehouse.org


You know everybody is ignorant, only on different subjects. - Will Rogers

Most people are bothered by those passages of Scripture they do not understand, but the passages that bother me are those I do understand. - Mark Twain

On contracting in the bad economy:

I really think this is a field in transition.  I mean if you are already established (as I was) I wouldn't give it up but I don't know that I would start over and do it all over the same way.  Our professions, IMO, are simply being dumbed down and priced out. 

...Where building trades were once considered a skill and being able to build a whole house was looked upon in awe we now see one foreman and a mexican crew who are working for $10-12 an hour and no benefits handling 70% of the job.  That means people like us are really often times bidding on the 30% left over.  I don't think that will get better.

A buddy of mine just told me the other day that he was on a construction job of a small hotel (Holiday Inn express size) and the General Contractor had an entirely immigrant crew that worked 10 hour days, six days a week and camped out in the parking lot sleeping in the back of pickup trucks with a blue tarp stretched over it.  Now compete with that while trying to pay worker's comp, health insurance, etc. 

Our society is becoming more and more of a Wal Mart driven society.  Low bid wins on everything.  Fewer and fewer people just call and get work done.  Now let me say this is not across the board, but it is becoming more and more common. 

As far as recovery.  My thoughts were pretty simple.  Our local Whirlpool plant just laid off 700 employees for the first time in 20 or so years.  These are my clients and they now have no money. I think it might recover by June or so, but it doesn't mean recovery will happen right away.  It might take a year or so to really get going again.  I would starve by then.  Not that I couldn't use a little weight loss, lol.  - DanT

Some Thoughts On Handcraftmanship from guitar builder zachary at  www.zacharyguitars.com:

Machines Aid Quantity, Not Quality Or Creativity

The reason for the introduction of machinery in the 20th century and the creation of guitar factories was to speed up production. Electric power tools, and now computer programmed machines have take over and have made mass production in guitar building possible. No longer can an individual craftsman build instruments one by one and be able to make a modest living since building instruments by hand is time consuming and labor intensive.

Most of today's major guitar companies do not care much about design and quality unless it affects sales. Quantity is the main criterion. "How we can make more profit?" they ask. Unskilled people domestically and in third world countries can be trained to work a single operation in days. Often these workers have no interest in their work and do the job for what money they can get.

The motivation for the independent instrument craftsman is entirely different. A luthier never builds guitars only for money, they pursue the craft because they love it. They enjoy working with wood and they get great satisfaction form building an instrument from start to finish and seeing and playing a well-finished instrument. An instrument starts from raw wood and when finished is played for the first time by the craftsman. Luthiers try their hardest to achieve perfection in aesthetics and playability to produce a piece of art which is highly functional as well.

In factories that use computer aided machines the technology is the star not the humans. The humans are only there to load the raw materials into the machines and to finish off the instrument. As technology becomes even more powerful the human element will diminish even further and I believe that one day we will have guitars which are entirely machine made from start out finish without any human contact at all.

What is a difference between a guitar that is handmade and one that is made by a computer? The handmade instrument has life. This phenomena is not easily evident to the novice player. One has to be an intelligent and experienced guitarist to discern this obvious fact. A handmade instrument will look different, feel different and consequently sound different. It will have a certain aura about it which inexperience skeptics will dismiss all too quickly since they are unable to perceive the nuances.

Experienced musicians often speak of how their beloved instrument "speaks" to them. Its a two way relationship between the instrument and the player. This can only happen if one plays an instrument which is imbued with the spirit and the character of the maker. The craftsman will leave his mark on the raw materials and will give it character.

Where does character come from you ask. It comes from pride. Pride in work, pride in creativity, pride in achievement and pride in a fine set of tools. Tools talk to a craftsman. What a computerized machine does by a program, the craftsman does by feel. A craftsman puts his feelings into his work a computer simply regurgitates a series of commands. Hand work is between man and his God. Whenever true creativity takes place God is present. God guides the hand in success and in failure and God approves of good work.

Computers have made it possible that anyone can become a "guitar builder". This type of guitar building has greatly diminished the true art of instrument building. Building guitars by hand is very difficult and needs a lot of practice. It is a neverending learning experience. For a guitar builder after decades of guitar building there still remains a tremendous amount to learn. The wonder and joy as each hurdle is leaped has to be experienced to be believed.

Guitar building is not necessarily a pleasurable experience. The craftsmen is always on the edge. One wrong move of the hand, one bad thought or one small distraction and disaster happens. Wood is not uniform. It is moody, it can be deceptive, sometimes hiding faults until the very last moment of finishing and you have to start all over again. Handwork can torment and it can elate.

No matter how hard the craftsman tries or how experience he is he knows that perfection can never be achieve for the simple reason that humans were not created to be perfect. Our natural condition is that of error and mistakes. The kind of accuracy that a craftsman can achieve can not be measured in "thous". It is not necessary.

We have all heard the boasting of computer controlled machine operators that micrometers can be used to demonstrate the precision of their products. Frankly, I find this ridiculous. Precision can not speak, character and soul can. Instead what these machine programmers achieve is good engineering skills - precision engineering in wood. They feel that the most important aspect of their work is the absence of machine marks, not realizing that a toolmark is the signature of the craftsman.

This guitar was made by a person
Handmade guitars have soul, they have character, a sparkle that a machine can not produce. The apparent "perfection" of some machine made guitars has trapped many novice players in believing that this is the way it should be. Characteristically an inexperienced player can only judge an instrument visually. He has not developed his guitar skills to the point where he can truly "feel" the instrument and evaluate it accordingly.

You often see people inspecting guitars minutely to see if the finish is mirror perfect, the frets are shinny, the grain just the right look. This annoys me. Do these people do the same to a painting in an art gallery? Many expensive guitars I pick up to play are impeccable in fit and finish. The companies which produced these guitars have the latest high tech machines. Yet their guitars are "dead", unimaginative, unatractive, dull sounding, poorly playing and without any character.

In this age of high tech it is glamorous to program machines to do all the work. Man no longer has a direct connection to his work. Instead the machine does all the operations which a human should be doing. The intimate connection between man and his creation is lost. This is analogous to programing a robot to play ones guitar instead of the person doing it directly.

Guitar playing is a sensual experience, mainly because ones flesh touches the strings producing the sound through touch. In guitar building also, this "human touch is essential", it will be reflected in the product. What a thrill it is to see a finished guitar with the character of the builder clearly evident in the way it looks and feels.

A handmade guitar is organic. By definition, to be organic is to have flaws. Natural flaws in the wood and inevidable flaws in the work. Nature creates flaws. Flaws are the diferentiating factor between humans and all creation. Flaws are beautiful, flaws give character, flaws give a human vibe, flaws give individuality and flaws make things feel real. Imperfection is life.

Modern economics, competition, the increasing demand for inexpensive goods will make a truly handcrafted guitar a thing of the past. Guitar building by humans will become an anomaly. The glamor of high tech will make it unfashionable to make anything by hand. The demand for absolute perfection and speed of manufacture will create an artificial machine-made society totally and absolutely dependent on technology. Before long humans will cease to be human themselves.

How Much of the Construction Industry Works Today 

I worked for a roofing company for a short time as an installer/crew leader and I can describe the structure of the company from my point of view.

First the "money man" incorporates, as ABC roofing.

Then the owner "money man" ran ads in newspapers, flyers, TV commercials, etc. I know the advertising was big time.

Then the owner rented an office and hired sales people who were paid strictly on commision, no risk there, with a couple of support people on salary, secretary/bookeeper.

All of the installations were performed by another corporation that is headed by a friend of the owner, DEF enterprises. This insulates the company selling the roofs from the company installing the roofs. He also has one support person/secretary on salary.

Very low overhead, They are in the back room of the rented office where the salespeople are. No tools, no trucks, no ladders, no insurance (they dont perform the installs, just paperwork) just a coupla computers & phone lines in a rented office in a strip mall somewhere, which are begging for tenants these days.

Further, DEF enterprises subcontracts all of its installations to roofing crews. They require that all of their subcontractors have insurance and the relationship is very much one job at a time. If the installers do a bad job they won't get any more installations.

Nobody ever watched us work, when new installer crews were hired they were lined out by an installer crew leader that had been there for a few months, its not rocket science... the company I worked for had quality/callback issues, but all were sold at retail so there was plenty of money to go back and make things right.

As I said I didn't stay long but I figured it out pretty quick and the reason I didn't stay was that they squeezed both sides against the middle, They got as much as they could from the homeowners and paid as little as they could to the installers. The owner and his buddy got the lions share, with the sales people making a huge chunk. There was incredible turnover of the installation crews, but there was always a steady stream of new hires ready to give it a shot. The only way to make good money as an installer was to employ "cheap" help.

If they would have paid the install crews and support people top wages and stressed quality and customer service and built a good reputation, instead of trying to squeeze every nickel out of both sides while doing al little as possible themselves it would have been a tough business model to compete with.  Imagine if you had the best install crews, and they had a vested interest in doing the best job they could because what they paid to get the job (the collective cost of the strip mall office, support people, and advertising) was less than what it would cost them to do it themselves.

Of course that won't happen because thats not how business is structured in this country, the people that perform the work are on the bottom rungs, the guy that rents the strip mall office in his corporate name and his buddy who fronts the dummy corporation and the salespeople make all the money, thats why they have to get illegal immigrants from poor countries to do the work, with one relatively new legal immigrant who speaks the language to get insurance in his name and pays all the taxes under his social security number and pays the illegal help cash.

- inD47

This is almost exactly how the drywall trade is run in my area.  Owner has several vacation homes.  Workers live about six to a rented house trailer and ride to work together. They are paid per sq. ft. They also own the call backs if they want to keep working.  Honestly, I believe if one of them got hurt on the job, he would just disappear.  Sad but true.  - doug

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