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Shift Build

August 8, 2011

Hello again Monday. We are starting another week for another awesome interview with a talented designer and builder. Jesse of Shift Build came by reader recommendation (by the way, I love getting recommendations, so keep ’em coming!) The photographs of his house made with salvaged materials stopped me in my tracks. There’s a lot of energy in his work served with a side plate of wit and cleverness.

So, a summer apprenticeship with Fred Gore started it all…the quest to find extraordinary solutions to ordinary problems. Can you tell me more about that experience?

Fred Gore is a master carpenter in Virginia. During High school I would work for him as a helper on his projects. Besides doing residential remodel work , he was in the process of developing a commercially sell-able portable saw mill.  The design is based on the ability for 1 person to move this mill into the woods and be able to mill the tree into usable lumber right there. He was an inventor so that approach translated to all of our projects. I was only a teenager at the time and my skills were limited, but that experience did give me the desire to continue in his foot steps.

What came after the apprenticeship? How did Shift Build get started?

I was young, I attended college for a few years and just played around. I didn’t return to the building trade until I was older.  I have no  formal construction schooling but I don’t know anybody who does. I just started working for various builder companies and learned from there. I started what is now Shift Build at a point where I was no longer stimulated by working for other builders. Around this time many of my friends were just starting to purchase their first time homes and they were wrecks. So I just started working for myself. 

What came first the house or the business? 

I was working independently prior to building my home. I think of my home as a reaction to my frustrations of the construction industry. The majority of my house is salvaged materials, but I definitely made plenty of trips to the lumber yard.


Trampoline Tent

Where do you source materials and what do you look for? Do you have any interesting materials that you’re holding onto for the right project?

My favorite place to find material is at metal recycling plants. Although my favorite one quit selling their scrap back to the public. I also rummage through the endless waste from saw mills. Sometimes the most dynamic pieces of wood are tossed out just because they have natural blemishes. I have a crate of trampoline springs that I have been saving for a special occasion But that crate is amongst many a container of various do-dads.  

What’s it like working at Shift Build? What is your workday like?

Well that’s hard to say right now. I have wound down many of our operations due to the crazy heat.  We are running 104 degrees today. I am not trying to endure true misery.  I live in Austin Texas. When ever possible I hire my friends for jobs. So its a bunch of artists and musicians working.

I’m pretty impressed by that bicycle/dish rack! What made you think to use that?

I was probably stoned.

Bicycle Dish Rack

Whats your favorite project that you’ve worked on and why?

Very hard to say. I might have to go with my own home. I get full creative freedom with no time constraints. There is also room for experimentation and failure that comes with working on personal projects.

Do you have anything that you’d consider heirloom? Something that you’re holding on to pass down to the next generation? 

My furniture mantra is “make last forever” so I hope that I can pass down some of my furniture.

Well said, sir. Thanks to Miriam for recommending Shift Build and to Jesse participating in this interview. 
Images via Shift Build

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