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rockstar.esq

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  1. Another aspect that hasn't been mentioned is moisture. Wet hands get blisters much faster than dry ones.
  2. In the construction industry, it's fairly common for commercial buildings with a parapet roof to have said parapet capped with bent sheet metal. I worked with/for a guy that had a decade of experience who referred to it as "break metal" in our estimates. I quietly corrected what I assumed to be a typo for about a year before he caught on and challenged me. I had to print out a photo of a bending brake being used to make cap flashing before he would consider the possibility that he was wrong. Even then, he felt the bending process was "like breaking something over your knee". At that point I asked him if he'd ever seen sheet metal being bent... The worst part of all of this, was that there were roofing contractors who would send in estimates with it spelled "break metal". Going off onto a completely different tangent, I knew a guy who collected a kind of pottery called Cloisonne. He found that he could often find seriously discounted Cloisonne pottery for sale on ebay if he misspelled it. Cloysonay, Cloiseney, etc.
  3. Chris, I believe Frosty is suggesting round stock to be used as a wire wrapped handle on a stubby flatter like you might see in use under power hammers. Another idea that hasn't been presented yet is to drill three holes in line in the eye area of your stock to start with. Splitting the connecting bits will go much, much, faster, and a properly shaped hot-cutting chisel will self-register against the sides of the holes so the result is straight. From there, you could use a sequence of drifts to shape it. I forget where I saw it, but there was a smith who focused on making hammers, axes, etc, who would make a sequence of drifts for shaping the eye. Everything starts with one long piece of stock, which is tapered down to a point. From there, they sawed that long tapered tool into 2" or 3" long segments. A bit of grinding to round over the edges on each segment, and they ended up with four to five drifts that were used sequentially to get to the finished shape. As memory serves, this smith went to the trouble of doing that twice so they'd have a pair of matching drifts for each incremental size. It doesn't get mentioned much, but heavy top tooling works against the solo smith. Extra tool mass just adds inertia to overcome. A solo smith using stubby top tooling will get more done. The sequential drifts basically "drop in" and self-align on the slot. When I first started out, I tried to make a tool that started as a slitting punch, and tapered up to an eye shape. Dang thing was probably two pounds, and a foot long. I made it out of an old Jackhammer bit. It took me the better part of a day to punch/drift the hole. I didn't have a bottom bolster, so I tried using my hardie hole for the drifting. It took forever, and the darn drift was constantly getting stuck. Worst of all was the way it'd wick heat out of the stock. I gave myself a terrible case of blacksmiths elbow doing things the hard/wrong way. A small drift will move faster when you hit it, which means you'll be able to knock it out sooner. That smith I watched, had a quench bucket under their hardie hole, and a matched pair for each size of drift. They'd knock the drift in with two blows, flip it over, and knock it through the hardie hole with it's reciprocal. The whole process picks up speed as they progressed through the drifts. One of the hardest lessons for me in Blacksmithing, is that it's often faster to spend time making proper tools, so the work turns out. I blew out my elbow making stuff that I'm not happy with.
  4. George, your reply reminds me of a science class assignment in middle school. We were supposed to write down all the necessary steps to make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Almost all of us forgot to begin with instructions on how to obtain peanut butter, jelly, and bread. I don't think anybody recommended a particular type. To teach us a lesson, the teacher went out and bought the worst looking options that technically followed the most detailed instructions. The end product was unappealing.
  5. George, Thank you for your suggestion. I think you're right, and I'll apply your advice where I can. Sadly, I suspect this is the natural outcome of a cost-cutting effort throughout my industry. Senior people are getting laid off and their responsibilities are being spread among several inexperienced workers who prioritize participation over production.
  6. The volume of email at work has become unmanageable. I have always sorted emails into job specific folders. Two years ago, a project would go from beginning to end with 30 emails on smaller jobs, and perhaps 100 on bigger ones. Today, my job folders overflow with over 2,000 emails apiece. The jobs aren't bigger or more complicated. There seem to be two main causes of this increase. The first is that companies have shifted away from having a single point of contact in favor of "collaborative" teams. This has become the standard since the stay-at-home orders pushed people into telecommuting. The second cause, is that every message is treated like a forum to discuss anything tangentially related to the job. Everyone uses "reply", so I end up with a folder filled with dozens of emails that share the same subject heading. It's gotten to the point where I can't ask rep A to send me document B, without half a dozen mostly irrelevant email exchanges popping up before I get the requested document. It's like an echo chamber. Some jobs/teams are better than others, but it's getting to where I'm averaging 100 emails per hour on a bad day. I can't just "tune out" my emails, because I'm always up against a deadline to deliver things pertaining to documents that are typically emailed to me. Any ideas?
  7. Cas037 By now, you're well aware that the answer to your first question is "it's complicated". To get correct answers to your current question, I would recommend that you visit the closest equivalents of a City Hall or chamber of commerce in your area. It has been my experience that police and tradesmen are seldom experts in business regulations. You're clearly trying to do things properly, so I want to encourage you to be thorough, and patient as you sort out whatever regulations apply to you. Depending on where you live, there may be regulations that make it very difficult to comply with the law. This arrangement is often intentional, as it serves to block businesses, and business arrangements that have caused problems for the society making the rules. There's an old saying attributed to G.K. Chesterton that applies here. "Don't ever tear a fence down until you know the reason it was put up."
  8. Steve, I think this is a failure of engineering on all sides. Several years back, I was bidding on a modest middle school remodel in Denver. There was a bit of work in the school's theater. One key-note on a single page of the plans referred to some kind of dimmer. I ran the make and model to ground, eventually working my way from the manufacturer, to reps, to vendors, etc. My search ended with a theatrical lighting rep working in Las Vegas. Her proposal was over $200K, and really didn't make any sense at all. To look at the construction documents, you'd think this thing was a 2' square box. Turns out it's a five ton theatrical dimming monstrosity that requires dedicated cooling, sound proofing, and a reinforced concrete foundation! Naturally, the design team didn't bother to consider any of that when they stuck it in a broom closet. According to the Rep, "someone from Denver" reached out to her six months prior to ask a few questions, then disappeared. As far as I can tell, nobody on the design team spent any effort beyond throwing a "gotcha" note where no reasonable person would looking for it. I'm guessing that one of the General Contractors made a special effort to line-item that cost just so the Denver Schools people couldn't pretend to overlook a $200K difference in bid amounts. Three months after that deadline, it was back out to bid. Out of morbid curiosity, I downloaded the plans to see what they updated. This time, there were twenty five pages of plans showing how the theatrical lighting comes together! Along with all of that was an addendum from the school system basically asking the bidders to make suggestions to get the job back in budget.
  9. pnut, Thank you for sharing those terms. "gobo" for go between is exactly the sort of wordplay nobody outside of that industry would know! I seem to recall the shaping apparatus on the end of a theatrical light being called a "snoot". There's an absolutely enormous chasm separating theatrical lighting and "normal" lighting from the perspective of an electrician. The people involved with making, selling, and controlling theatrical lighting operate as though they've never even considered the possibility that they might need to work with an electrical contractor to build a theater. In my area, they certainly don't comprehend fussy details like deadlines, or understandable proposals.
  10. Frosty, your comments remind me of a number of imaginary "rights" that clients believe they have. I've had clients who imagined they had a "right" to demand that change order work be undertaken before the paperwork was completed. I've encountered quite a few who imagined they had a "right" to demand that I furnish all requisite information for them to purchase the material themselves, AFTER they had me price furnish and install. Then there's the time-wasters who never stop asking questions about the pricing. Nothing can ever be detailed enough to satisfy them. There's this perverse working relationship where they demand more detail in hopes that they can trust what they're looking at, but they don't trust you to tell them the truth.
  11. I spend a fair amount of my time trying to track down viable manufacturers of weird stuff that Architects stick in their designs. It's generally a two to three phase process. The first phase is trying to identify the correct term for whatever the weird thing is. The second phase is trying to identify the market that the weird thing is directed towards. The third phase is often a long slow process of trying to get the maker(s) of weird things to answer two very simple questions. #1 How much does it cost? #2 How long does it take to get? In 99 out of 100 cases, if the Architect used the correct terms to describe the weird thing, or it's intended market, it would be instantly found. Here's a good example. We have a project where we're installing a lot of pole lighting at a mall. There are couple of poles with these weird projector heads on them pointing at an amphitheater. They're not theatrical lighting fixtures, and they're not your typical pole lights. The Architect asked for an accessory to these projectors and the only description was arbor something or other. The arbor people don't have a thing to do with pole lights, or stage lighting. They make these cast metal discs that have cut outs shaped like a tree. All sorts of tree species. They're generally installed in front of windows and skylights where they cast a tree shaped shadow on your floor. It turns out that the Architect didn't intend for the projector heads to hit the stage, they wanted them pointed at the ground in front of the stage! I suspect that the arbor people used a similar setup at a trade show to illustrate the effect of their discs. With all that said, if the Architect had used the term "Shadow Art" we would have found these things rather quickly.
  12. Thomas, I can see how you came to that conclusion. I had to look up Sturgeon's law which cracked me up. I think you've got a good list there which might benefit from including the Pareto Principle. George, You're making excellent points as always. I think your comments about valuing intangible work are a perfect illustration of how people fail to understand the principles of estimating. You're absolutely correct that there's no way to prove a negative. That doesn't mean that the only way to effectively measure your value is to assume that paying the "going rate" will equate to a fair return on that compensation. Why have a lawyer? The simple answer is to mitigate risk. People buy insurance policies even though the majority never make a claim. They do this, because the cost to mitigate the risk is lower than the potential cost of the risk itself. Insurance companies can "prove" their value by pointing to the claims they paid out to policy holders. If a lawyer is lucky enough to never have a client in need of their services, they might advertise themselves as a talisman! Everyone else will have plenty of work experience to cite where they did their job to protect a client from risk. Since everyone's portfolio of work experience will be different, it follows that their value to the client will be different. The market rate for the services will therefore make a lawyer with a better portfolio fit a better deal to the client. Ultimately, this all goes to show that price pointing professional labor to market rates is an excellent way to disconnect an individuals actual value from reality. The effect on the whole is to reward the individuals working at low end of the professional spectrum with wage increases deprived of the professionals working at the high end of the spectrum. This happens in collective bargaining agreements all the time. The most skilled and valuable employees in a given agreement are paid exactly the same as the least skilled and valuable employees.
  13. Marc, I appreciate your effort to explain your point of view. I think I have a better understanding of where you're coming from. When I was a teenager, I was certain of a lot things that I don't know now. I've learned to spot situations where neither the "either", nor the "or" offered sufficient explanation of what happens. Fairly often, the perceived options don't fit because the situation is misunderstood. Let's say we have a situation where people are skittish about naming their price. Sure, it could be that people are morally constipated on the topic, or they're bound by taboo. Assuming that people aren't getting what they want, this situation represents a real obstacle to ambition. Now let's say we have a situation where people identify themselves with a brand, a movement, a trend, a trade, or a scholastic achievement. That creates a super handy way to price-point their rate, which bypasses the taboos and moral constipation. So far, everything stacks up and it sorta makes sense. Except for all the situations where people get higher compensation and better working conditions than they would have asked for. Price pointing labor converts the individual's work into a commodity that is no better or worse than all the people working at that price point. That practice trades the arguing over your value for the security of your position. I've seen industry adapt to this approach and it has a lot of down-sides. "Black box" engineering is an easy example. Your job is to take a range of inputs, and do whatever is necessary to generate a set of outputs. If you become a problem to the firm, they'll un-socket you from your cubicle/workstation and plug in an equally credential colleague. Over time, it's a simple matter to apply this process to designing replacements for all the colleagues. This is why factories replaced blacksmiths. It's my humble opinion that the real reason that people resort to convolutions over wages is not due to any of the above. I think it's a far more simple problem than that. I think the problem is that we don't teach or practice estimating. Nobody knows what a good value is. We see arguments framing it in terms of owning a home, or paying your way out of college debt. The concrete concepts of a market rate, or actual utility to society, are completely ignored in favor of pretending that all value judgments are stymied with the lazy reply; "it depends". YES, it depends on the factors that matter. Measure those, and you'll get your value for that situation, in that market, for that point in time. The hard truth for many people, is that they just aren't that good at what they do. If they actually focused on what generates value, the world would be a better place. Just yesterday I put up a post about how "mystery stuff" is always free and easy. Whenever people don't understand the underpinnings of a value proposition, they tend to assume that all value is attributed to the things they do understand. Stuff costs a lot. Seems like a bag of "stuff" is easy to come by, must be greed. Superficial understandings lead to resentment. Sure, you could just demand a higher wage. Basic economics dictate that if everybody got a higher wage, everything would cost more. Is that better? My point is that modern businesses overwhelmingly assess the value of human labor using proxies, price points, social capital, and inertia. Lazy process-driven approaches developed and administered by H.R. Applicable skills testing is virtually non-existent. In many markets everyone is a commodity. Virtually all construction work is awarded by competitive bid. It's silly to pretend that all bidders would deliver an equal value of work. They're not a commodity, but they're evaluated that way. Incredibly stupid fallacies take hold because the people making decisions, don't know what they're looking at. We have people who assume that "lowest bidder" means they're incompetent, yet the entire industry uses competition to identify market leadership. There are people who genuinely believe that cost is an accurate indicator of quality, who made decisions without bothering to measure the quality. Few take the time to consider how difficult it truly is, to make a good thing cheap. I meet a lot of clients who have an adversarial relationship with reality. It's a terrible model to follow.
  14. I recently bid to a gent from out of state and as we were going over the work we got to comparing notes about how things are done in Chicago versus Denver. As we chatted about the project, he was making notes to present to the client. He kept saying that he wanted to "over explain" things to avoid misunderstandings with his client. He kept struggling to find ways to "dumb it down" without minimizing the impact a decision could have on the client's satisfaction. Eventually I joked that most client's default condition is to assume that mystery stuff is always free and easy. The average client doesn't place much value in the things they don't understand. So it's generally good practice as a bidder to consider your proposal from your clients point of view. Ask yourself what "mystery stuff" is expensive and difficult. Those are the things you should take pains to explain. I recommend pricing breakouts based on functional elements rather than rattling off labor, material, overhead, profit, tax, etc. If they didn't know about the mystery stuff, they're not going to know what the correct amount of labor to install it should be. That being said, I would encourage bidders to be cautious about providing too many breakouts. Prices are seldom remembered with appropriate context.
  15. Marc1, It's difficult to square your perspective. One the one hand you posit that there is a moral obligation for a business to profit, then you undermine the practical approaches to cooperatively achieve that end with a Nihilistic exercise. I don't think Nihilism is an intellectual exercise, it's just feeding a parasitic host of depression until the lights go out. I think the whole class conflict theory is for the birds as well, for mostly the same reasons, but especially because it inexorably leads to stealing. That's working against human nature, which is why systems built on this thought consistently fail. Even great apes object to stealing. I'm sorry if you've lost faith in humanity. Maybe it would help to look for things that mysteriously work out. It's been my experience that truly excellent leadership is often confused with being lucky, or possessed of a great team. This is due in no small part to the tendency of great leaders to encourage and motivate their staff. History is full of examples to illustrate excellent leadership. As high-minded as we might pretend this concept is, the majority of questions resolved in leadership come down to fairly obvious alignments with the core mission. All the confusion comes in because of human nature. Reward human nature, and the obvious problems tend to resolve themselves.
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