The Maker's Quest

A Podcast exploring the journey of making things and living a creative life

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Turning Points in our Makers Journey – Pricing Work Better & Increase Skills & Output EP2

Turning Points in our Makers Journey – Pricing Work Better & Increase Skills & Output EP2

In this episode we talk about turning points in our journey as makers, touching on several topics about how to price your work better, stop doing bids for free, and invest in yourself to increase your skills and shop infrastructure.

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Highlights From The Show

 

Greg talks about his screen printing experience for the new product he is launching for his guitar tool business.

Skyscraper Guitars radius neck sanding block

 

Brian Talks about his 3d printing experience and how he printed a prototype for a drying rack for his spray booth as well as a nightstand he just completed.

Drying rack for spray finishing

Video of how Brian built the Nightstand

Transcript of the Show

00:00:00:02 – 00:00:03:02

Brian Benham

You’re listening to the Maker’s Quest podcast. I’m Brian Benham.

 

00:00:03:07 – 00:00:26:15

Greg Porter

And I’m Greg Porter. And today, we’re going to talk about turning points in our businesses, turning points in our maker journeys and turning points in our career. And so I’m going to start with you, Brian, if that’s all right. All right. So just asking basically what we all experience those turning points is as we’re learning new skill sets, as we’re getting into new territory.

 

00:00:26:22 – 00:00:42:15

Greg Porter

But as it relates to making things, what are you thinking were maybe some big turning points or milestones that you can see in your career or in your making that made a huge difference that maybe even still affect you today?

 

00:00:42:16 – 00:01:03:16

Brian Benham

Yeah, I think probably the biggest turning point was when I came to the realization I wasn’t charging enough for my work. I had a interior design client. Well, she wasn’t a client. I was trying to get her to be a client, and I was working up a bit for her. And I sent her the bid. And this was when I was first starting out, so I didn’t have a lot of income coming in.

 

00:01:03:16 – 00:01:23:08

Brian Benham

So I was like desperate to get any job I could. So I sharpen my pencil up really sharp to get the tightest bid I could over to her because I didn’t want her to walk on price. Right. I just wanted her to accept my bed and so I could build this thing. And I sent it over and she emails me back and she’s like, I’m sorry, I don’t think I have the right guy.

 

00:01:23:09 – 00:01:43:12

Brian Benham

I look at your website and you have some really beautiful work with joints that are penned with wood nails type of thing. And and this this bid doesn’t reflect that. And I was like, What do you mean? She’s like, Well, it’s too low. And I was like, Okay. So I didn’t know where to go from there. I was like, Do I send another bid and add another $1,000 on it or what?

 

00:01:43:13 – 00:02:02:14

Brian Benham

And she says, required it. Just double check your numbers. And I was like, Okay. So I I, I sent her another bid and she’s like, Yeah, I don’t think I’m going to hire you. And so I was like, So it’s two. You don’t want to hire me because it’s too cheap. And she’s like, Yeah, you got to understand that this is going in $1,000,000 home.

 

00:02:02:20 – 00:02:27:12

Brian Benham

So if you walk in and you scratch the floor and you’ve barely made enough money to pay your own bills, how are you going to fix that floor? And how are you going to pay the insurance to fix the floor? And do you have insurance? And at the time, I didn’t have insurance and so then she’s like, and also if if you bring it in and the client says, oh, it’s too shiny, I don’t want it that shiny, like, how are you going to handle that?

 

00:02:27:12 – 00:02:48:12

Brian Benham

Do you have money in your bed to be like, No problem. I can just take it back to the shop and buff it out and and not have to get in an argument about money over a little thing like Shin. So that really just got me thinking about like, wow, there’s a lot of things that I’m not considering in my bed as far as liability and, and making sure I’m covered in my overhead and all of that.

 

00:02:48:12 – 00:03:10:22

Brian Benham

And so that was a really big turning point. And so I started raising my prices quite a bit and the quality of client came up as well as my price. As soon as I did that, I started attracting higher, higher quality clients. So there’s two different types of clients in this world. There’s clients that brag to their friends like, Hey, I just got this great deal.

 

00:03:10:22 – 00:03:30:05

Brian Benham

He was asked in 2004 and I talked him down to 1500. And then there’s clients that are like, Wow, I hired this great craftsman. He did this fantastic job. He wasn’t cheap, but he was totally worth it. And so once I raised my prices, I started to attract those clients that were really into hiring the craftsmen. And not the guys that were like, Cut me down on price.

 

00:03:30:17 – 00:03:58:15

Greg Porter

Well, it reminds me in a, in a very odd way, I want to say it was within the last decade, Kier had the high award winning luxury car, and I think it was Queer as either queer Hyundai, one of those two, and people couldn’t believe it because the car didn’t cost enough and it didn’t matter. The interior quality, the level of fit and finish, you know, all of the level of reliability, the service, none of that mattered because the price on the car wasn’t high enough.

 

00:03:58:15 – 00:04:29:13

Greg Porter

People didn’t believe it. And it’s amazing that if you have a very valuable product like what you’re you’re making it’s it’s a high end product, that the perception of value that people are getting is tied to how much they paid for it. And I think some of that might be a little bit of of the ego when they brag to their friends about how much they paid for something, you know, but but also, the more you charge, the more they’re going to look at it as a as an object of desire.

 

00:04:29:18 – 00:04:36:06

Brian Benham

Maybe the more they’re going to appreciate it. They’re going to be like, man, I paid a lot of money for this. It’s got to be be top notch.

 

00:04:36:08 – 00:04:55:20

Greg Porter

Yeah, Interestingly enough, too, I had a great conversation with a a guy who owns a company that that sells. I’m just going to say jigs for woodworking. That’s how I’ll put it because I can call him out. And I was talking about pricing with him in the retail market and all of those things. His background was in business.

 

00:04:55:20 – 00:05:13:19

Greg Porter

It wasn’t in manufacture string. His father had created the business and he took it over and he told his dad, he said, We’re not selling enough of these because we don’t charge enough for these people. Don’t perceive that there’s any value. And he said they kept raising their prices. And the more they raise their prices, the more people bought their product.

 

00:05:13:21 – 00:05:29:12

Greg Porter

And he said now there’s a threshold. There’s there’s an upper end to it. But there’s definitely a point where people look at it and they want to buy the best of the best. And if you’re not the highest priced in the market, they’re going to skip you over for the guy who is because his must be better because he’s charging more for it.

 

00:05:29:17 – 00:05:37:01

Greg Porter

That’s a really bizarre way to frame somebody’s vision of of what your product is worth. But it’s absolutely true.

 

00:05:37:04 – 00:06:11:18

Brian Benham

Yeah, that kind of happened recently in the woodworking world. The Wood Whisperer did a review on miter gauges and most expensive miter gauge. After he used it, he was like, I wouldn’t recommend this to anybody just because it’s it’s really just really a high price thing. But a whole bunch of people bought it. So, of course, I’m sure that he got some pushback from people defending their purchase of why they bought it, but they probably bought it thinking they were buying the best one because it was the best price when the one step down from that actually outperformed it in all his tests.

 

00:06:12:03 – 00:06:33:04

Greg Porter

Yeah, I watched that video and it was fascinating to me being somebody who’s in that manufacturing world and understanding, you know, the level of quality that you’ve got to now if you’re charging that kind of money, you better be able to back it up, right? Like, right. You can’t show up with something that has gapping joints that doesn’t fly.

 

00:06:33:08 – 00:06:51:20

Brian Benham

Yeah. When you’re charging, you kind of got a gauge your experience. Like when I first started out, I didn’t value my work as much as they should have. But at the same time, looking back at the quality of work that I did, then there’s no way I could charge what I charge now for what I was making then because people would be like, Nah, that’s not that’s not worth it.

 

00:06:51:20 – 00:07:07:13

Brian Benham

You know, my experience level then was an inch tall where now it’s a foot tall. And I hope next year, this time it’s two feet tall. So and hopefully I can command it even even better price for it or be more choosy about the clients I take on.

 

00:07:07:15 – 00:07:34:09

Greg Porter

Yeah. Well, so I think that’s a really interesting turning point. So as far as pricing goes, increasing your price obviously has has that perception of value, whether whether it’s real or not, it’s definitely that perception of value. Has there been anything else on the business side with regard to to how you charge for projects that has changed the way that you you approach your work?

 

00:07:34:16 – 00:07:56:01

Brian Benham

Oh, yeah, absolutely. I recently started charging to do bids or to do designs instead of doing the bid and then sending it off and hoping they buy it. Because like when someone asks for a custom thing, you can spend a lot of time drawing it out and to create a drawing to present to them to say Hey, this is what I’m thinking for your project and hope that they like.

 

00:07:56:01 – 00:08:13:09

Brian Benham

And if you produce a really cool drawing, there’s a good chance that they’re going to like it. But if they’re not a qualified client to understand what that’s going to cost, you just wasted all your time. So now when a client calls me and ask me to do a bid for them, I try to qualify them to see where they’re at.

 

00:08:13:16 – 00:08:35:24

Brian Benham

Is this a custom piece, or are you looking for me to be the artist to design something for you? Or are you looking for me just to build something out of a catalog? That you’ve seen? And if they’re looking for me to be the artist to design something for them, then I kind of have a conversation with them about what kind of project it is, how involved do you want it to get or involved do you want it to get?

 

00:08:35:24 – 00:08:59:18

Brian Benham

And then also the type of woods and what kind of budget they have and what so we’ll talk about budget, and I usually don’t ask them what their budget is because I feel like when someone asks me what my budget is, if I’m not sure about what their business and pricing structure is, and I say, Oh, it’s 5000 and they were taken 3000, and then they just charge me 5000 for their 3000 work.

 

00:09:00:04 – 00:09:21:06

Brian Benham

So I think it’s important to kind of have a feeling of what you value your work at so you can tell them what the budget is. So I will after our conversation of what they want us to kind of do a real quick calculation to see what I think it’s going to cost me. And if I think it’s going to be an eight to $10,000 project, I’ll just tell them, Okay, so we have a budget of $10,000 is that work?

 

00:09:21:06 – 00:09:38:14

Brian Benham

And if they say that works, then I tell them, okay, so I ask for a 10% deposit as a retainer to do the drawings in the design. And then from there I do a 50% deposit and that is really saved me a ton of time from sitting at my desk drawing for nothing for a client that never materializes.

 

00:09:38:16 – 00:10:03:01

Greg Porter

It’s interesting to you to look at how people value design versus the actual material thing. And I think, you know, on my side of the fence as an architect and as, as a designer, we look at clients and clients. A lot of times value the contractor so much more than the designer. And it’s because they have a physical thing that they leave behind.

 

00:10:03:01 – 00:10:36:23

Greg Porter

We just do drawings and pretty pictures that can’t cost any money, right? It’s just it’s a service. It’s not it’s not a physical thing. And getting educating clients on how valuable the designer’s time is because without the designer, there is no thing. Right. The contractor or the builder or whomever can’t execute if they don’t know what to do and is interesting when you actually educate the client on what design the real cost of design is, everybody thinks it’s just kind of free.

 

00:10:36:23 – 00:10:55:16

Greg Porter

It’s real fast. You can My wife is a graphic designer. You can just sketch a logo, right? Right. And no, no, you can’t. And, you know, people have no problem paying for stationery and business cards and other things, but to pay for the person to design the logo that goes on there, you know, people people have a hang-up about that a lot of times.

 

00:10:56:01 – 00:11:21:16

Brian Benham

Right. They that’s not the the work they see. It’s not a tangible thing that they see at the end. So they’re like the contractor building the thing. They can see the two-by-four, they can see that he worked 8 hours in the hot sun, sweating, framing that house. But they don’t see the the amount of work that it went to figure out all that good needed to go into to all the structural loads and all the design of the house and the layout of the floorplan and all that stuff.

 

00:11:21:17 – 00:11:22:03

Brian Benham

Yeah.

 

00:11:22:05 – 00:11:40:11

Greg Porter

Well, so kind of shifting a little bit from a technical skill standpoint. We’re there. Were there any things in the shop that, you know, when you finally got a hold of that high level skill set that you said, man, this is this is really changing the way I work or the quality of the work that I’m doing?

 

00:11:40:11 – 00:11:59:24

Brian Benham

Yeah. The point when I realized that I wasn’t sharpening properly, I wasn’t staying sharp I, I see it all the time in the woodworking forums that I belong to. Guys will post pictures of their TV in their shop and they’re like, all right, it’s game day. I’m going to sharpen all my chisels while I watch the game. And it’s like, I used to be that guy.

 

00:11:59:24 – 00:12:19:07

Brian Benham

And then I realized, like, why am I letting my tools get that dull? So when I’m in the flow state of getting something built and I realize that ten is too tight, I just need to take a quick swipe off of it. And I grab my shoulder playing and it’s dull, and then it turns up the ten, and now the tendons too loose because I ruined it, because my tool was dull.

 

00:12:19:07 – 00:12:38:24

Brian Benham

Or you spent all this time hand cleaning that tabletop, and as you’re halfway through, it starts to tear out and because I waited too long to sharpen. So now, no matter what, even if it’s still cutting good a quarter of the way through, I’ll stop and take that blade out and take a couple of swipes on the stone and keep sharpening.

 

00:12:38:24 – 00:12:58:10

Brian Benham

So that way it’s 100% always sharp. Every cut is beautiful, and it may seem like, Oh, you’re wasting so much time because you’re stopping and sharpening so often, but if you have some terror out, then that’s a huge problem. That’s huge amount of work because now you got a flattening entire table top to get rid of that one tear out dip.

 

00:12:58:10 – 00:13:12:24

Brian Benham

So yeah, and then everything just changed from that point just by staying sharp because I was always ready to go, no matter what problem I encountered while I was building something, I always had a sharp tool to execute the cut as perfectly as I could.

 

00:13:13:13 – 00:13:41:15

Greg Porter

That reminds me of one of the most influential days of design school for me. We had an instructor third year John Lee was his name, and he brought in a film called The Japanese Carpenter, and they talked about, you know, all the all the joints from the Japanese building trades and how they did them. And and they showed all the tools and everything else.

 

00:13:41:15 – 00:14:09:01

Greg Porter

But the thing that stuck with me was when a Japanese carpenter starts their apprenticeship, the first two years is spent sharpening everyone else’s tools. And the reason behind that is when you become the master carpenter, you you need to know how how to sharpen those tools, first off. But you also need to have that discipline to say, I need to stop right now and I need to sharpen my tools so that this cut is going to be exactly what it needs to be.

 

00:14:09:08 – 00:14:35:22

Greg Porter

And doing that for two straight years. It gets rid of all of the hesitation to stop and sharpen your tools. I’m sure you’ve seen videos of those guys. I don’t know what the tools called, but it’s it’s almost like a cheese slicer almost where they just they pull it along these huge logs and these ribbons just float off that are, you know, 12 foot long ribbons and you know, watching that, it was it was so mesmerizing, no one to watch it.

 

00:14:35:22 – 00:14:48:06

Greg Porter

But then to learn about the discipline of just keeping sharp tools. And you look at these intricate joints in the most important part of that joint was having a sharp enough tool to keep that joint tight.

 

00:14:48:06 – 00:15:10:23

Brian Benham

Yeah, for sure. Yeah. That that I can’t remember what it’s a good time or maybe I can’t remember what that’s called where they pull that in across the wood. But in Japan they have actual competitions to see who can get the thinnest. And they’re measuring down to like the, the thousands of a millimeter, you know, whatever paper, thin toilet paper, thin tissue paper, thin shavings.

 

00:15:11:00 – 00:15:11:18

Brian Benham

It’s crazy.

 

00:15:11:24 – 00:15:31:14

Greg Porter

Yeah. Well, I mean, you know, I would say, Brian, it’s, it’s always interesting to hear those turning points, but absolutely razor sharp tools. You can’t compromise in that department, whether it’s the blade on your table soar or whether it’s the plane that’s in your hand or the chisel that’s in your bag. They all have to be in tip top shape.

 

00:15:31:19 – 00:15:47:01

Greg Porter

It it’s it’s also interesting. I know you know this, you know, pulling a chisel out when it’s not quite dull yet and just hitting it on the strap a few turns sharpens it in an instant, like, yeah, your tool is so much stronger, so much longer.

 

00:15:47:02 – 00:16:10:18

Brian Benham

Yeah, yeah, yeah. So before we hit record, you’re telling me about how you wanted to start your guitar business and you didn’t want to think you could come out of the gate right at $20,000 compared to some other people or selling their custom guitars at $20,000. But you wanted to start somewhere and see where that goes. Was that kind of a turning point for you or to come to that realization or yeah.

 

00:16:10:18 – 00:16:40:02

Greg Porter

I mean, I think, I think everything we do when you see people do DIY projects, there’s always two outcomes that I see. Either one somebody comes in becomes incredibly frustrated because they don’t possess the level of skill to do the project with ease, like the person they saw do it, whether that was in a book or a YouTube video or someone at work telling them how they did, you know, hanging wallpaper or hanging shelves or building a piece of furniture or whatever that is.

 

00:16:40:23 – 00:17:00:05

Greg Porter

There’s that level of frustration because they thought those skills didn’t have to be acquired. They were just like, Yeah, I’ve seen somebody else do it. I can do it right. And the second outcome is somebody stands back and they’re incredibly impressed with themselves and they say, I never thought I could do that. And I approach things, whatever it is that I do.

 

00:17:00:15 – 00:17:26:10

Greg Porter

In design school, we did tons of mock ups in those mock ups or practice. You might build them out of cheap plywood or foam or some other material that’s not your finished material. But as you’re doing it, you’re walking through all those problems that exist with that design and you’re solving them slowly on a material that’s inconsequential because it’s either scrap or it’s very inexpensive.

 

00:17:26:10 – 00:17:48:03

Greg Porter

And you you approach it knowing, Hey, I’m going to make a few mistakes, and you have to make those mistakes to understand what to avoid. When, you know, asking about guitar building and those sort of things, you can’t come out of the gate expecting to make that museum or exhibition quality guitar your first round because the people who are making those have been doing it for 30 years.

 

00:17:48:08 – 00:18:10:13

Greg Porter

Yes, they make it look easy, like people on, on YouTube, hanging wallpaper and things like that. But, you know, so for me, I know there’s a part of me that understands to build my first set of acoustic guitars that I’m going to do it with lower grade materials. I’m going to expect to make mistakes and I’m, I’m going to make experiments out of them too.

 

00:18:10:13 – 00:18:33:06

Greg Porter

Hey, I know the book says Do it this way, but is there a possibility that I could do it this way and maybe change that process a little bit and question things and thinking about turning points and how that applies? I think early on in in my design education and my making, which when I was in design school, I had welders.

 

00:18:33:06 – 00:18:51:17

Greg Porter

I had a little bit of woodworking equipment. We had a shop in our studio and I was constantly in there making mistakes and making making junk. And one of my teachers put it really well. He said, Hey, don’t worry about making mistakes. We’re not making Christmas presents today. And it was a really interesting way to look at it.

 

00:18:51:17 – 00:19:08:07

Greg Porter

It sort of took that fear of failure away. And I’m going to approach my first guitars. This it doesn’t mean I’m going to approach them from a sloppy perspective. Like, I don’t care if I make mistakes, but I know that I’m going to make them. And the only way to get to the great example is Edison with the light bulb.

 

00:19:08:18 – 00:19:38:24

Greg Porter

Somebody once said, I don’t know if it’s him or if it’s somebody else that it’s the quote. He didn’t he didn’t make 200 or 300 failing light bulbs. He discovered the two or 300 ways that weren’t the right way to make a light bulb. And then finally he discovered the right way. So I think for me, a huge turning point was that an instructor in the shop who pointed out not every first crack is going to be that exhibition or Christmas level quality thing, you’ve got to work your way into that and you’ve got to do those mock ups.

 

00:19:38:24 – 00:19:57:00

Greg Porter

And so I fully expect the first guitars to be mockups. They’ll be Wal-Mart, and they probably won’t be as playable as I want them to be, but but we’ll get there. So that was definitely, I think, for me, a turning point in my education to understand you’ve got to go through those failures to get to the successes.

 

00:19:57:00 – 00:20:08:20

Brian Benham

So when you were building your karmic gear, the stakes were obviously higher because you want this. This is your your baby, your pride and joy is. So are there any like major turning points when you’re building that thing?

 

00:20:08:21 – 00:20:28:17

Greg Porter

Yeah. So I’ll say a few of them. And some of them might seem unrelated here, but when I when I started building that car, it was a complete wreck. My brother had hit it. It was rusted out from the bottom six inches down, needed all kinds of metal. And back then, yes, there was Internet. No, there was no YouTube.

 

00:20:28:17 – 00:20:49:04

Greg Porter

And I literally knocked on the door of a body shop and just asked him if I could watch. Can I just come into your shop and watch you do a repair? And the answer, you know, there was always an excuse, but but the real reason was, you know, people were protecting their livelihood. They didn’t want somebody who was potentially a customer to come in and watch them do the work and then go home and do it themselves.

 

00:20:49:04 – 00:21:10:07

Greg Porter

Right. Why would you why would you teach your competition? So there was a point at which I really got down on the project. I worked on that car for 18 years. That was how long the project took me. And the first almost decade of that project was me just getting frustrated because I didn’t know how to I didn’t have a place to learn.

 

00:21:10:07 – 00:21:28:05

Greg Porter

And part of that turning point was realizing it was interesting I know people who do projects all the time probably face this. I didn’t have any supporters, I didn’t have any cheerleaders, and my wife didn’t. She thought I was wasting my time. There’s no way you’re ever going to get this car done. And my friends were like, Why are you wasting your time on that car?

 

00:21:28:05 – 00:21:55:21

Greg Porter

It’s just a hunk of junk. And I knew in my head that it could be done and it could be drivable. It could be this really cool thing. But nobody else could see it. So a huge turning point for me was realizing at some point, if you work on something hard enough, you can acquire that skill and you wind up hitting this this break point where all the people who tell you that you’re wasting your time finally see that diamond through you through the rough, right?

 

00:21:55:21 – 00:22:17:10

Greg Porter

And they go, Oh, wow, you are doing something that’s positive and you’re improving this thing. And if you keep working on it, you will get done. And then all of a sudden you have these cheerleaders. What what really hit me was and this is this is my YouTube story in 2006, I started a YouTube channel. It proved probably the most true YouTube idiom of all time.

 

00:22:17:10 – 00:22:31:11

Greg Porter

If you want the answer to how to do something, don’t ask the question in a YouTube video of how would you do this? You put something out that’s the wrong answer and everyone will tell you you’re doing it wrong and how to do it right. Right. And I’m sure you’ve seen this, right?

 

00:22:31:15 – 00:22:33:13

Brian Benham

Oh, yeah. I’ve experienced it many times myself.

 

00:22:33:23 – 00:22:51:04

Greg Porter

And I got on and just started making videos of every single thing that I was doing. It was like a weekly thing. All of a sudden, these guys that were building quarter million and a half million dollar hot rods were turned tuning into my channel to watch me do it wrong, to tell me how to do it right.

 

00:22:51:11 – 00:23:12:20

Greg Porter

I, I gained some of the best mentors probably in the country through that effort. That was a huge turning point for me. I learned, you know, I had a guy saying that was back when you get direct message people on YouTube, but I had people saying, call me. I will talk you through this. I will tell you every step that you need to make because they became my cheerleader.

 

00:23:12:20 – 00:23:35:06

Greg Porter

They wanted to see me succeed because they had skin in the game. They had been helping and and they had a reason reason to do that. The same is true in the maker community. I think that’s why YouTube is such a great thing is because it’s a dialog. It’s not a one way street. When I make a video and I show, you know, how I make a piece of furniture or how I make a guitar or how I do some kind of a project on the car.

 

00:23:35:10 – 00:23:59:02

Greg Porter

Somebody may say, Hey, when I do that, I do this and it improves me. Or they may say, Hey, I tried that, but I had this really hard time doing X, Y, and Z, and somebody else jumps in and answers the question for him that that to me, I think not just in my personal career and kind of journey was a turning point, but I think in the world as a whole has benefited from all of that interaction.

 

00:23:59:02 – 00:24:09:02

Greg Porter

I, I just think it’s fascinating without that interaction, I wouldn’t be who I am today. I mean, 20, 16. That was, gosh, 15, 16 years ago. Seven years.

 

00:24:09:02 – 00:24:09:23

Brian Benham

A long time ago.

 

00:24:10:08 – 00:24:17:13

Greg Porter

So, so quite a few years ago you know, almost, you know, approaching two decades now that, that’s been a part of my career. Yeah.

 

00:24:17:13 – 00:24:36:11

Brian Benham

I think you made a really good point that the world benefits as a whole especially not just as people learning from you to how to create something, but also how to communicate it. Like when I get comments sometimes I’ll get comment says, Hey, that was a really cool way you did that. Have you ever tried it this way?

 

00:24:36:11 – 00:25:03:14

Brian Benham

And it makes me think, oh, now, now I’m learning something new. And then I get comments from people like, You’re an idiot. You should have used a faster instead of the speed bit, you know? And it’s like, well, that guy is kind of a jerk. So you kind of delete his comment, but you hope that that he’s going to learn, like maybe that’s not a good way to communicate because he deleted my comment now and, and so then hopefully next time, maybe I’ll come back with something more positive released I hope he hopes that he goes back with something more positive.

 

00:25:03:14 – 00:25:23:16

Brian Benham

Like, like there’s a way, better way to treat if someone comes at you as, as an attack, you’re of course already now you’re on the defensive and you’re like, well, screw you now. Now, neither one of us are learning anything. But if you come in, it’s like either I see what you did that you considered this then then that’s a whole that’s a whole new thing in me.

 

00:25:23:16 – 00:25:40:24

Greg Porter

Just that it’s that way in real life, too. You know, I’ve gone to a lot of car shows, and it’s it’s really interesting there’s there’s the group of people who who know it all, and there’s the other group of people who are just there to help. And you’ll see people go buy a car that looks fantastic. And they’ll just start picking on it.

 

00:25:41:00 – 00:25:46:05

Greg Porter

And I think it’s, it’s an internal thing, right? It makes them feel better because they’re picking on that guy’s work.

 

00:25:46:15 – 00:25:50:21

Brian Benham

And then they’re not showing their knowledge, like, check my ego out and all the stuff. I know.

 

00:25:51:06 – 00:26:10:21

Greg Porter

Yeah. And then there’s a different group of people that will stop. And if they if they see a deficiency, they’ll start asking like, hey, why did you do it? This way? And, you know, there’s a thousand reasons people do things. People are on tight budgets. Sometimes people are on tight timelines. Sometimes sometimes they didn’t do the work somebody else did and they bought it.

 

00:26:10:21 – 00:26:31:06

Greg Porter

And they’re slowly improving that car. And hey, I just haven’t gotten there yet, but it’s coming up and that’s the time for that interaction. Hey, I didn’t get to I didn’t get to repaint the firewall on this car because the engine was installed and I haven’t had a place to pull that engine out. But once I do, I’m going to I’m going to wet sand that Buffett do you have anything that can help me do that?

 

00:26:31:06 – 00:26:51:17

Greg Porter

And then all of a sudden, that exchange of information starts to happen. And it’s it’s just really cool to see to see that interaction. I think YouTube is is kind of that place in real time all the time. Now, back to back to the turning points, you know, I think one of one of the other things, I learn more when I have to teach someone a skill.

 

00:26:51:17 – 00:27:09:03

Greg Porter

Then when I just execute and I learn as much from teaching them as I do as I do any other way. YouTube has been a wonderful source of you know, I say some of some of the stuff I do is like, hey, it’s DIY. This is how I do it. I’m just going to bring in to my world and show you my process.

 

00:27:09:10 – 00:27:28:17

Greg Porter

But as you’re going through and rethinking that process, you’re kind of constantly questioning what you’re doing and why you’re doing it. And you learn so much from just doing those things. And so there’s a lot of value as a designer, as a builder, as a maker, to making videos to try and explain what it is you’re doing. You make yourself better in the process.

 

00:27:28:24 – 00:27:48:01

Brian Benham

Yeah, it just reminded me of something I one of my friends that watches my YouTube channel, he’s like, like why are you telling everybody your secrets and how you do this thing? Like in the desk video I did a little while ago, I showed how I made this jig to cut the curves on the handles for the band side.

 

00:27:48:01 – 00:28:07:08

Brian Benham

It’s not something you really see very often on YouTube. Just, I don’t know. I think it’s just kind of like the math is kind of complicated. For some people to wrap their heads around. And so I showed how I, I came up with the curve of that jig to do it, and he’s like, I don’t understand why your people are going to just be able to rip you off now.

 

00:28:07:08 – 00:28:25:19

Brian Benham

And, and I told him that the stuff that I’m doing now funds the stuff I want to do in the future. So if I look back ten years ago and I kept my secrets all secret and I never told anybody and never put it out there, I wouldn’t make any money from that secret and they wouldn’t have funded what I’m doing today.

 

00:28:25:19 – 00:28:47:00

Brian Benham

So I’m hoping that I’m always constantly learning and by teaching other people and I’m earning ad revenue and they’re taking my classes at the Wood Whisperer Guild or whatever so I’m earning revenue on the knowledge that I know now, and that’s allowing me to grow and invest that money in myself to learn new things, to build something new or create something new in the future.

 

00:28:47:00 – 00:28:56:20

Brian Benham

So yeah, YouTube has really helped, helped my knowledge just grow really rapidly, not necessarily just by watching other people build stuff, but by funding my builds.

 

00:28:56:24 – 00:29:14:09

Greg Porter

Well, and, and I’ve I hope I haven’t I’m not repeating myself, but I’ve always said you can give ten people the same box of cake mix and, and have them follow the recipe and you’ll get ten different cakes. I guarantee you there will be some that are good and there will be some that are ready for the trash.

 

00:29:14:24 – 00:29:37:14

Greg Porter

I’ve always thought through that lens about sharing the things that I know and I don’t feel like I know it all but the, the small amount of knowledge that I have in my head I will readily share with anyone. And if they’re going to be my competition and they can outdo me because they work harder or they practice harder, they have better ideas than they deserve to do to.

 

00:29:37:23 – 00:29:38:08

Brian Benham

A win.

 

00:29:38:12 – 00:29:55:24

Greg Porter

Win. If it’s if it’s truly a competition, I don’t think what we do is a competition I think there’s room for everyone. And I think a rising tide raises all ships. You know, we’re we’re all in this to make everybody better. And it just brings us all up and I know the more I give, the more I get back.

 

00:29:55:24 – 00:29:57:03

Greg Porter

There’s no doubt about it.

 

00:29:57:04 – 00:30:18:16

Brian Benham

Right. And the people that are driven to be really good at the craft that they’re have chosen, like being a master woodworker or whatever, and they might learn something from me. I don’t think that that person is going to necessarily copy me and rip off my design because that’s not in his nature. His nature is to find his own path.

 

00:30:18:16 – 00:30:42:05

Brian Benham

And that’s why he’s watching what I do and that’s why I watch what other people do. That are better than me. And it’s not because I want to rip off someone like Philip Morelli, who’s an amazing furniture maker, and I follow him religiously on everything he does because he’s because he’s so good. And it’s not because I want to build what he builds since I want to learn from him and then apply that to my own design so I can go off on my own path.

 

00:30:42:05 – 00:30:54:15

Brian Benham

So I don’t think once you get to a certain level, you’re going to be copying people. I think that’s the the people that are just looking to make the quick buck and then they’ll never have the skills to really copy the guys that are at the top anyways.

 

00:30:54:18 – 00:31:25:04

Greg Porter

Well, I think one of the the proofs there is when you look at I’m a little bit into impressionistic art, that’s one of my favorite things. Okay. And you look at at those modern masters that really birthed the Impressionist movement and they all worked together they all painted together, they all hung out together, they went to the coffee shops together, they exhibited together, they influenced one another’s work and they took, you know, if it would have been one individual the work with a leveled out at a certain point.

 

00:31:25:04 – 00:31:47:23

Greg Porter

But the fact that they all work together, it brought them up because they inspired one another and they pushed each other and one person, you know, say a Monet was staring over the shoulder of of a Renoir would be another example you know, 11 staring over the shoulder of the other saying, Oh, I hadn’t thought about approaching my work that way.

 

00:31:47:23 – 00:32:04:22

Greg Porter

And when he paints his next painting, it doesn’t look like that one over there. It looks like what he would do, just another level higher. And I think that’s definitely what’s happening for the most part on YouTube. You know, you could point out certain project types where people just copy, can’t be copy, paste, paste, paste, and that’s fine.

 

00:32:04:24 – 00:32:19:10

Greg Porter

You know, if that’s if that’s what you want to do, that’s what you want to do. But I can point out several creators who one up each other and every time it gets another layer better, everybody benefits from that. And it’s such a cool thing to see.

 

00:32:19:16 – 00:32:33:21

Brian Benham

So so other turning points that you may have had like from tooling standpoints, I the last time I was out at your shop, I was just fascinated with your building machine. I wanted you to leave so I could play with it. And you not know.

 

00:32:35:13 – 00:32:37:18

Greg Porter

You should ask me. I would have turned it on for now.

 

00:32:38:10 – 00:32:51:11

Brian Benham

I was intimidated because I have no idea how or anything about that world like. So adding new machines to your shop is that has increased any kind of creativity or anything like that. Yeah.

 

00:32:51:24 – 00:33:13:14

Greg Porter

It absolutely has. And I think for, for a couple reasons. Number one, there are certain things that you can’t you can’t die with all the toys, right? Like nobody has a shop with every tool in it, right? But at some point you’ve got to reach out and you’ve got to say, Wow, I’m probably never going to cut glass in my studio or in my workshop.

 

00:33:13:22 – 00:33:29:02

Greg Porter

I’m going to have to have somebody else do that. And when you do that, you’re on their dime, right? You’ve got you’ve got to pay them to do it. You’re also on their schedule. So sometimes there’s a gap between, I need this to complete my idea, but I can’t get it for four more weeks because.

 

00:33:29:02 – 00:33:44:09

Brian Benham

And so, yeah, and also on their skill set, if they if you’ve chosen the right maker that has that right skill set just because they cut glass, are you looking at like a glass blower skillset or just a guy in a glass shop with a with a will? Right. All right. Go ahead.

 

00:33:44:13 – 00:34:03:07

Greg Porter

Oh, no. And and so there there’s been a number of things over the years where I’ve acquired tools simply because that prototyping process was so long because I had to wait on other people to do it. You know, there’s a threshold to that. But the milling machine was definitely one of those things. I, I don’t really want to be a machinist.

 

00:34:03:07 – 00:34:24:20

Greg Porter

That’s not in, it is in my family history. My grandfather was a machinist. His son was a machinist and gun maker gunsmith, I guess is the right word for that. But he was also a tool and die maker. And so I have a little bit of that in my family history. My wife’s grandfather was a machinist for CWA doing work on rotating parts on jet engines.

 

00:34:25:08 – 00:34:44:07

Greg Porter

So I had a little bit of that by osmosis, but really no desire to machine things. Why I bought the milling machine was because it was taking so long to get prototypes done. And the machinist that I work with, he has a work load. He does all of my production work. And to sneak in a prototype was taking him a long time.

 

00:34:44:07 – 00:35:02:24

Greg Porter

And it’s not a dig. He was busy. Busy guy. Yeah. And to stop all production and say, Okay, I’m going to work on this thing that fits in the palm of my hand for two weeks to get it right, because of course you do the first prototype. And then as a designer, you look at it and go, Well, we need to change these five things and then make another one.

 

00:35:03:00 – 00:35:20:12

Greg Porter

Yeah. And now I can go out in the shop and you know, I’ve done it several times where I’ll wake up on a Saturday morning, I’ll draw for about 3 hours and then I’ll go check up a blank in the milling machine and make the part and then look at it, redesign it and buy, you know, 8:00 that night.

 

00:35:20:19 – 00:35:44:01

Greg Porter

I’ve done three or four iterations and it’s exactly what I want. And I would tell you, I’m not a great machinist. Those prototype parts are okay. They are high level. I don’t have that 20 years of experience to make the parts perfect, but they’re good enough for me. And that milling machine close the gap between the idea and the final product.

 

00:35:44:01 – 00:36:03:04

Greg Porter

Because once I get it made on my milling machine, my machinist has an identical machine in his shop. And so we just transfer files back and forth. He finds the little mistakes and errors that I made, whether that feeds and speeds or whether it’s the type of tool I use or the type of cut that I make. The approach to to that milling path.

 

00:36:03:13 – 00:36:31:16

Greg Porter

But but the pattern of the part is there, and that has close that gap from probably a three to six month process down to two weeks. And that in and of itself, huge turning point, especially if you’re like, I am. I’m in a you know, I manufacture the guitar tools and being able to put out new products by shortening that prototype process, I think is was a huge turning point for sure.

 

00:36:31:16 – 00:36:32:17

Greg Porter

In the business. Yeah.

 

00:36:32:17 – 00:37:01:11

Brian Benham

That’s kind of where I’m at with my 3D printing acquisition that I just got. I had no idea one of my friends just kept telling me, you just need to see the buy. Once you have it, your imagination will go. So I was like, Okay. So I bought one and I didn’t really know what to do with it right at first, but so this thing is my prototype for a drying rack that I’m building in my finishing room so that there will be pulls that come out of here, out of both sides.

 

00:37:01:11 – 00:37:26:05

Brian Benham

And so your board will lay flat on this. So for those of you that are listening to the podcast about seeing the YouTube video, we do publish on YouTube, but it’s basically a mechanism that has a cross brace that opens and closes to spread the main pulls out back and forth. And so I can accommodate different size boards depending on how wide I have it to dry out as I’m working.

 

00:37:26:05 – 00:37:35:06

Brian Benham

That’s just going to be a huge production saver in my shop. So that’s my first thing that I printed on my 3D printer took me like six iterations to figure out how to do that.

 

00:37:35:06 – 00:37:43:07

Greg Porter

But so how long did it take you from the first drawing you did to the first iteration of that design?

 

00:37:43:08 – 00:37:54:10

Brian Benham

Well, the that’s a downside of 3D printing, that this just one pull of this thing took like 6 hours to print.

 

00:37:54:14 – 00:38:02:18

Greg Porter

So I guess maybe I should ask that a different way from the time you started drawing to the time the printer started to print was about how long?

 

00:38:03:00 – 00:38:20:23

Brian Benham

Oh, an hour. Yeah, yeah. And I drew it in SketchUp and then exported it out and sent it to the printer and then that was that’s a whole nother thing, trying to get plastic to stick to a glass plate. It took me a day I had to call my friend up is like, did you need to come over because I’m struggling here?

 

00:38:21:02 – 00:38:44:20

Brian Benham

But he helped me get it, get it, go and show me some good tips on beginning 3D printing one on one and yeah. And then the second I realized that my brackets were backwards so the cross braces wasn’t attached to the other side because they were in the way of each other. So it wouldn’t swing. So I was like, Well, good thing I printed it before I went and built it.

 

00:38:45:00 – 00:38:49:01

Brian Benham

But yeah, so it took me six iterations to get it working.

 

00:38:49:06 – 00:39:17:21

Greg Porter

One, I I visited with a, an architecture firm called Morpheus This out in Los Angeles when I was on sabbatical a few years back. And they they are an incredibly innovative firm. And Tom Mayne, the managing partner, there has been one of my architectural idols since I was in school. And every night they have three powder printers, which were the first 3D printers that were made.

 

00:39:18:03 – 00:39:40:04

Greg Porter

Wow. I’m trying to remember it starts with it. The name of it is a Z something, and they have three of them that have been putting out 3D printers for like 20 years. The guy who invented 3D printing at MIT it was his design, and so it was like design number one 3D printer. But every night the way that their studio works, they all work on designs all day long.

 

00:39:40:04 – 00:40:00:05

Greg Porter

And at 5:00 or 6:00 when it’s time to wrap up, everybody sends their designed to the 3D printer, and the 3D printer has all night to print whatever it is. The volume of that thing is one foot by one, foot by one foot. So it has all night to print their things. They come in in the morning, they turn the lights on, they pull the print out of the powder, and that’s what they start working on the next day.

 

00:40:00:05 – 00:40:06:10

Greg Porter

And it’s this fascinating routine because every day is an iteration of their design.

 

00:40:06:10 – 00:40:25:07

Brian Benham

Holy crap, no. Knowing how many failures I had, trying to get it to print and not turn it into a rat’s nest, I can only imagine how how crazy stressful that would be to leave at night and hope that you have something to work on the next day. But maybe the powder print is a more reliable thing.

 

00:40:25:19 – 00:40:55:24

Greg Porter

That’s what I was going to say. It is much more reliable so it’s more of a resin that prints and it works more like an inkjet printer than it does a plastic printer. Got it. But but that said I think it’s it’s that practice of iteration and daily. Like if you if you sort of resign yourself to, hey, I’m going to spend 8 hours designing something you know, in their case, but in our case, it might be, you know what, I’m just going to design for an hour in the morning and then I’m going to start my 3D printer going.

 

00:40:55:24 – 00:41:13:07

Greg Porter

And then I go out in the shop and I’m going to work for 6 hours or 8 hours or whatever the magic time is before you get hungry or tired and you come in and by golly, your part’s done and it’s either a rat’s nest of plastic or it’s awesome. And if it’s Erastus, that’s okay. You’ll you’ll do the next one tomorrow.

 

00:41:13:15 – 00:41:26:02

Greg Porter

And it’s that that repetition, you know, five or seven days a week however much you work in your shop. And do you think that you can, you can do and build on every day? It becomes a language that you start to speak.

 

00:41:26:03 – 00:42:00:12

Brian Benham

Yeah. So that kind of made me think back to when we were talking about when I started charging for bids that I said I wasted all this time doing designs that clients never bought and that kind of made me realize that maybe that wasn’t really a waste of time because I still went through the exercise to learn from the exercise to then because I wasn’t able back then just to be able to say, Okay, well, that that thing is going to be a $5,000 thing because I didn’t have the experience to I didn’t have big enough projects to know how much things cost and how much time went into it until I went through that process

 

00:42:00:12 – 00:42:10:04

Brian Benham

So maybe I shouldn’t have said that it was a total waste of time because there was a lot of learning happening to get me to the point to where I could charge for designs.

 

00:42:10:09 – 00:42:40:11

Greg Porter

I absolutely you know, one of the other things thinking about turning points again, I think we talked a little bit offline about this. There’s kind of two pieces to this. And one was when I was a young person, I realized at some point and I’m trying to remember the exact thing that made me realize that, and I think it was when I was building my first shop, we moved into this tiny little house and it had a single car garage and I knew I needed a two car garage to do what I needed to do.

 

00:42:40:11 – 00:42:59:06

Greg Porter

So I knocked down the garage. I built concrete forms, poured footings myself, I bought some old steel trusses from a scrap yard, and that was my roof structure. And I built this thing with the help of some family. I built this shop. You know, kind of with the bare hands. I didn’t hire anybody. I didn’t pay anybody because I didn’t have any money.

 

00:42:59:06 – 00:43:27:03

Greg Porter

I was a young architect not making jack squat in terms of salary. Those who don’t know architects don’t make a lot of money, and young architects really don’t make any money. You know, we were living off ramen and and I realized at some point in the middle of that project that I could have things that other people didn’t have if I just spent the time to get them the way my wife’s grandfather told me, he goes, sometimes you have more time than money, and that’s really valuable.

 

00:43:27:03 – 00:43:47:13

Greg Porter

Your time is extraordinarily valuable if you put it to work for you. And I put it to work building that garage. I built the garage for almost nothing. You know, so much stuff was just leftovers and scraps and whatever else. And I realized at that point I was holding myself back because I was looking at what everybody else was capable of doing.

 

00:43:47:21 – 00:44:07:08

Greg Porter

And I don’t mean from a skill perspective. I mean from a time perspective. Most people come home from work and they turn on the television or they do something and they relax. And that’s understandable. Everybody works hard. But I realize at some point, if you put in a small extra effort every day that most people aren’t putting in, you’re going to have something that those people don’t have.

 

00:44:07:16 – 00:44:35:16

Greg Porter

And that investment, that daily consistent investment pays off, and that can be building skills that can be building physical things, it can be building a business. And in that turning point for me, a buddy of mine who restores very high end hot rods is a wonderful body guy, paint guy, all of the above. And he he introduced me to this concept called the Power Hour and what his thing was like.

 

00:44:35:16 – 00:44:56:11

Greg Porter

He always had another car that he was working on. And since he was in a body shop, that car he could bring in a door he could bring in a hood, he could bring in something. And before he wrapped up his tools for the day, he would spend an hour working on his thing that he brought it and his materials his tools, his time, his everything just use in the shop.

 

00:44:56:11 – 00:45:20:03

Greg Porter

And in an hour a day, he was able to pick at these projects over time and build value in these hot rods at his house. And that mental turning point was understanding that every day you’ve got to invest. If you have a full time job, you’ve got to invest in our in yourself because that builds real value over time for you instead of your employer.

 

00:45:20:13 – 00:45:43:16

Greg Porter

It’s not bad to build wealth for your employer. That’s a good thing. Good thing to have a good resume and all those kind of things. But you need to you need to focus on consistently building value for yourself. And that was a huge turning point for me. Understanding that there was life after work and you didn’t have to look at your coworkers and say, I need to limit myself because of what they’re capable of doing or not capable of doing.

 

00:45:43:16 – 00:46:08:21

Brian Benham

Yeah, totally. And that works. Even if you’re self-employed, I don’t have a boss other than my clients. And every morning I spend an hour or so just working on my own little pet projects like this, this drying rack thing and designing that just because if I just went out in the shop I would never have any time for myself because I’m some crazy workaholic, like out of work.

 

00:46:08:24 – 00:46:25:23

Brian Benham

I get up to six 30 in the morning and take my kid to school, and then I just go to work and I work until ten, 1030 at night, and then I’ll watch the Mandalorian or what’s going on the bubble set right now. So there’s one more episode, the last episode waiting for me tonight to watch Boba Fett.

 

00:46:25:23 – 00:46:46:21

Brian Benham

So 1030 tonight after I’m done work, and then I’ll watch Boba Fett for an hour and then I go to bed and I six 30 next morning I start it all over again. And then on the weekends I still work on the weekends editing my YouTube videos and posts and that stuff, just because I really enjoy what I do and it’s just because I’ve set up my own.

 

00:46:47:09 – 00:46:55:07

Brian Benham

Maybe not necessarily power hour, but just I’m cognizant of making sure that I make time for my pet projects. That’s still for the business.

 

00:46:55:07 – 00:47:20:24

Greg Porter

Yeah, I mean, same, same exact concept. It’s, it’s, you know, if is an hour, if it’s half hour, if it’s 15 minutes, I mean, you, you look at, you know, 52 weeks a year and five times 50 is 200 and 250. Right? 250 hours if you do one a day, just five days a week. And you know, that’s, that’s what six weeks worth the time.

 

00:47:20:24 – 00:47:31:00

Greg Porter

Six weeks significant. That’s a month and a half working full time if you just pick off an hour a day. And it’s amazing, absolutely astounding what you can do in an hour a day.

 

00:47:31:01 – 00:47:37:18

Brian Benham

Yeah for sure. So speaking of time, we’ve been talking for probably a close to an hour now. Do you want to wrap this up?

 

00:47:38:00 – 00:48:08:22

Greg Porter

Yeah, I’ll kind of wrap up here, Brian. With what’s going on in in my shop. And interestingly enough, I did a little screen printing here over the last couple of weeks. We’ve been developing a fretboard radius sanding beam for the last year. It was a custom extrusion that I’ve been working on. Then it wound up having to go to the machine shop and get machine to the anodized there to get anodized, and now it’s back in my hands and we’re doing all of our logo’s screen printed on top of that part.

 

00:48:09:20 – 00:48:21:22

Greg Porter

And so I’ve done a little bit of screen printing in in my past, but not at this level. So I, I learned how to screen print on anodized aluminum. It’s been really kind of a fun little project to wrap up.

 

00:48:22:02 – 00:48:25:07

Brian Benham

And even though you could screen print on loan or I thought that was just like a t shirt.

 

00:48:25:24 – 00:48:38:07

Greg Porter

Yeah, technology, you can screen print on anything and there’s all kinds of just like you would expect, there’s all kinds of different types of inks and solvents and ways to make that happen depending on what you’re printing on top of.

 

00:48:38:07 – 00:48:39:08

Brian Benham

Well, very cool.

 

00:48:39:11 – 00:48:40:04

Greg Porter

What are you working.

 

00:48:40:04 – 00:49:03:06

Brian Benham

On, Brian? Well, I am just finishing up a mid-century modern nightstand for some clients and hopefully to have that video edited this Saturday and get that guy published. So by the time this podcast comes out, it’ll already be out. But yeah, it’s turning out really nice. Two-Tone Stain White White Oak with the black, dark, brownish black stain top.

 

00:49:03:07 – 00:49:04:08

Brian Benham

So yeah, pretty.

 

00:49:04:12 – 00:49:10:23

Greg Porter

I can’t wait to see it. That’s going to be awesome. Yeah. Thank you. We should probably wrap up then. So I’m Greg Porter.

 

00:49:11:07 – 00:49:14:18

Brian Benham

I’m Brian Brennan, and thanks for listening to the Maker’s Quest podcast.

 

 

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