About eight years ago during the recession I was busy framing a multi-family apartment building in Missoula, Montana. I can still remember the day and the exact spot on the job I was standing when I asked my partners to come over and have a difficult conversation with me.
First of all, we all knew that things were getting harder. It’s not difficult to sense that in our industry. You feel it when you realize that you have three employees making more than you. I told them that we no longer had the money to make our own personal payroll and were going to be about $4,000 short of what we needed for the next thirty days.
These were the days that made me think, “What the hell am I doing running my own business? And why the hell didn’t I go into plumbing?”
So with these thoughts in mind, we decided to test our luck in the North Dakota oil and construction boom. We had heard about the oil boom for about six months but at that point we had no connections to any work.
With the last of our remaining money and only a potential job we found online, we took our trailers, tools, and crews to Stanley, North Dakota. The general contractor who hired us had a 15,000 sq ft pole barn that had been partially built, then blown down, and had been left by a sketchy crew. They had come in to build but found the local environment hostile and unaccommodating. I suppose they expected there to be restaurants, motels, and showers, none of which North Dakota had when we showed up. What we did have was a dirt parking lot and a wall tent with our sleeping bags. Looking back, it was a pretty tough situation to live and work in but we knew it was our only work.
We started untangling trusses, throwing away broken lumber and rebuilding the barn. Well with ten guys and nothing to do but work, we ended up finishing in less than three weeks. The general said thank you and handed me a check for $64,000 the minute we finished. It was the most money we had seen for a few years.
For any of you that have been on the edge of disaster and finally tasted success, there is only one way to describe it....addiction.
Yeah, we all wanted more. The feeling that the North Dakota boom gave was amazing like getting your first birdie on the golf course. If you were lucky enough to be a part of it you know what I am talking about. It was the wild west!
People drew things on napkins in standing room only bars and asked, “Can you build this for me?” There was an endless supply of work and energy. It was in this environment that my mind became obsessed with efficiency and how we could run the crew faster and safer. I was taking new employees over with me that had no experience framing let alone operating a skill saw. I knew I had to do something to safely train my new guys without sacrificing speed.
So as I gazed upon Ol’ Betsy one day. (This was the endearing term we gave to our 300 lb pile of wood we had turned into a makeshift miter saw stand. Anyone reading this has probably made one themselves. Don't worry, I won’t tell the general contractor why you ended up three pieces of plywood and floor joist short.) I thought to myself there has to be a better way to cut and build than this. And don’t tell me a $200 stand from the hardware store is the better way. If so, I’ve got five old ones you can have just pay shipping and handling.
I knew I needed a portable stand that would be able to move through my cuts safely and efficiently. It had to have a sliding lock-down stop with a ruler so I could move fast between repeatable cuts and move measurements easily. I wanted the miter saw table to be on the same level as the table and it needed to be fast. Not only fast for me but I needed it to be fast for my least experienced employees. I looked around at the available products and realized nothing was quite what I wanted it to be and it was rare to find a product that combines safety and speed. They are almost opposed to each other. I knew if I could combine those two elements I would have winner.
So I called my brother in Salt Lake City who runs a multi-billion dollar dental business and told him about my idea to build a better system. He told me that there must be something like that on the market and he was pretty sure he had one in his garage. I told him “You go out to your garage and then to the hardware store and when you realize how stupid the stands on the market are call me back.” Well about an hour later I got a call from my brother and he said, ”Wow those stands really do suck, you have to build this!” And that’s how the idea of CutHub was born.
After 25 years I’m about as good as you’re ever going to get with a skill saw. I still use it in certain situations but if you want to drastically decrease the learning curve for your employees, than this is for you. If you’re sick of bending over for every single cut, than this is for you. However, if you feel like your back is going to last forever and if you don’t mind putting the most dangerous tool in your hands and your employees hands all day then keep using the skill saw. But my crew will never work without this again.
We work a dangerous job. I care for my crews but at the end of the day the bottom line is I have to produce and we have to get the job done to provide for our families. If my number one concern was safety I wouldn't be in construction. But with that being said, my crew is my family and I still deeply care about their safety. The CutHub allows me to take the skill saw out my hands and my employees hands. I found a way to be safe and produce at the same time.
I am old enough to remember hauling around penny nails in my bag and not being the lucky guy to use the one nail gun on the jobsite. The nail gun changed the industry, the laser changed the industry. This is the next tool that will revolutionize the way we do construction.