I’ve been lucky enough to work with Gary Katz as an author for more than 20 years, and during that time, Katz’s passion for teaching and demystifying the craft of home building has been unwavering. JLC Live has been called the mecca of hands-on training for folks in the building trades, and Katz “brings the mountain to Mohammed” by going to lumberyards all over the country and giving hands-on training to small, concentrated groups of carpenters and craftsmen.
The Perfect Venue
Since moving to Cape Cod in 2005, I’d been encouraging Katz to bring his show out here. When I met Tony Shepley, owner and founder of Shepley Wood Products, through the local builders association, it seemed that Shepley’s would be a perfect fit for the Roadshow. The target market for Shepley’s company is professional contractors, and he believes that his best customers are educated and engaged professionals. Shepley also has a wonderful facility in Hyannis with rooms specifically set up for training and product seminars.
The show took place on a hot, muggy morning in early September, and after a hot breakfast, the crowd of 130-plus filed into the training room for the show. The crowd consisted of contractors, some of whom brought their entire crew, as well as individual craftspeople and even a sizable contingent from Upper Cape Cod Regional Technical High School.
The New Professionalism
Working with his assistant, Scott Wells, Katz started off with a quick demo on coping with a Collins Coping Foot. Katz wasn’t advertising, but rather he wanted to emphasize just how far tool technology has advanced in the last few decades, and how much more today’s contractors are required to know to be successful. He also discussed how wood itself has changed in recent decades, and how with synthetic material on the market, today’s contractors must be learning constantly to keep up with the latest technologies. Shows like his help keep contractors informed and up to date on how best to work with new products and tools.
Katz quipped that doctors and lawyers get their licenses after 10 or 15 years of school, but a contractor has to be learning constantly to gain the knowledge and experience to keep up with advances in tools and materials in today’s market. With that knowledge, respect should follow. One of Katz’s mantras is that contractors should work and act in a way that demands respect from clients. Ultimately that leads to more income and better work for everyone in the industry. This was a topic that Katz continued to drive home throughout the entire show.
This part was a bit of a misnomer—how could such a large number of people get actual hands-on training in the 6 hours allotted for the show? The audience may not have gotten sawdust on their clothes, but they were able to watch Katz and Wells get plenty of sawdust on themselves. As they worked and demonstrated techniques, a video camera captured all the action live and broadcast it on a big screen at the front of the room for everyone to see.
All the techniques Katz explains are production oriented. He wants contractors to use what they learn at the Roadshow to be more productive and successful in their businesses. When he explains how to install baseboard or crown molding, he walks the audience through the process step by step, explaining things in a very accessible manner. And he constantly reminds the audience that working smarter brings honor to their craft. Attendees proudly walk away with a “Hey, I can do that!” attitude.
For those at the show just looking to learn new techniques, Katz and Wells also walked through window and door installations in a variety of wall configurations. But the real takeaway from the show is much greater than the how-to. Katz infuses his demonstrations with pep talks, reminding attendees to take pride in their work and to demand respect for their craft from both clients and peers.
For those contractors who needed CEUs, attending the Roadshow counted toward maintaining their state licenses, and many local contractors took advantage of the opportunity. But more importantly, they also came away from the show feeling better about themselves and the work that they do every day—which is crucial as the industry scrambles to recruit young people.
Katz’s experience as a presenter is unparalleled. His self-effacing delivery and passion for sharing his knowledge put everyone at ease and kept everyone’s attention throughout. At the end of the day, very few attendees had left. At a meeting of the local builders association that I attended the following week, people were still buzzing about the show.
Katz also shares his knowledge and that of other like-minded craftspeople through his online magazine, ThisIsCarpentry.com. Katz maintains a grueling schedule, traveling throughout the country with the Roadshow. It always has takeaways for attendees regardless of age or experience, so look to attend a Roadshow in your area. It is a training opportunity not to be missed.
Photos by Roe Osborn