by Steven D. Johnson
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Andrei The Excited
Click on any picture to see a larger version.
Andrei and Luk'yan (Andy and Luke are their "Americanized" names) are high-end remodelers specializing in those pricey condos in downtown Chicago. I get to see Andy and Luke only once a year at an event that includes people of many different cultures, ages, and interests, and it seems the three of us always wind up in a corner talking "shop" and avoiding the usual cocktail party jabber. This year the two were so animated and excited I could barely understand their progressively developing English. It seems that a while back, sometime between last year's event and this one, they discovered
Over the course of their last dozen or so jobs they have acquired almost thirty thousand dollars' worth of Festool equipment. That's right… $30,000. And they are making more money than ever. Yes, you read that correctly, too… they have already recouped their investment through time saving and the additional jobs that allowed. Plus they have virtually eliminated post-job cleanup, significantly enhanced customer satisfaction, have saved money in materials, and seen an overall improvement in their quality of work.
It started when they saw a guy (a competitor, but my Russian friends don't use that terminology) on another job using a
TS 55 Track Saw and Guide Rail
. They bought one. First time out, they used it to trim the bottom of a door and were amazed… and hooked. Andy was practically screaming at me. He said the edge of the door looked like he had planed it smooth. "No splinters… perfect!" he exclaimed. They bought another guide rail. Then they bought a
really long guide rail
. And they added a
CT 26 Dust Extractor
"No more clean up," Luke said. "No more sealing off the other rooms of the home! No more dust floating around! Customers are so happy!" They were soon both talking at the same time again.
"We got the
and the Kapex UG Cart. Miters are perfect!" Then they added the
HL 850 Planer
. Shortly thereafter came three drills and the
Centrotec Installer's Set
. I listened to a story about how the offset (eccentric) chuck saved frustration and time on a particular job. Then my younger and much more physically fit friends told me how they are "getting older" (making me, in the process, feel really old) and two
Sysroll Systainer Dollies
are saving them much back-breaking work every day. Soon they added another
HEPA Dust Extractor
, this time the CT36. Then they got the new
. And sanders… four that I recall them mentioning, maybe more. I lost track of the equipment they were listing… three Festool routers, router table, both Domino machines… but I paid attention to how they were using the stuff and how they justified the expense.
Trips back to the shop to fabricate a part are no longer necessary. They can make almost anything right on the job site. Andy said their shop's table saw is mostly just an extra workbench now. They have plans to sell their band saw.
In the past if a customer wanted built-ins, they took measurements, pictures, and more measurements, then built the units in the shop. After the units were finished, they carefully transported them to the customer's home, did a final fitting, and installed them. Now they build the built-ins right in the customer's condo, eliminating the need for extra trips. No more lugging heavy pieces of furniture around, potential damage, and still more time for the final custom fitting of the pieces into place. They build everything right on site, fitting as they go, and the project goes more quickly and looks better.
On a recent job they subcontracted the finishing of a hardwood floor to another contractor, but they decided to finish the wood on the circular staircase they had built. Same wood, same finish, but the homeowner immediately noticed the significantly better finish on the stairs. Of course the
had made that possible.
When doing a heavy remodeling job involving tear-outs and rebuilding, it used to take a lot of time just to get set up in the workspace. That set-up time has been reduced by two-thirds according to Andy and Luke. Instead of countless trips to the truck, they roll in all the nested and packaged tools they need in minimal trips. And the Systainer packaging, they add, protects the tools in such a way that they should last much longer than any other tools… a future savings they cannot begin to quantify.
For a couple of guys that grew up in Russia, they caught on to capitalism pretty fast. Festool excels on job sites, especially for professionals for whom time is money. As a shop-bound woodworker, I might view a Kapex UG Cart or the CMS portable router table as "expensive" and perhaps "unjustified." But for a couple of craftsmen sending kids through college and working in a hyper competitive market, they say "Festool is cheap." Actually, cost-effective is a more accurate and appropriate term, but I'm still trying to coach them to a more American pronunciation of "voodvorking."
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