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CHCC Renovation: Tech Desks

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I’ve been posting a few pictures of the progress of my new tech booth desks on Twitter and they seem to have generated quite a bit of interest. So here’s a quick post on how I designed and built them. 

Designed in Sketchup

I typically use Trimble Sketchup for my design work. While there is a pretty good learning curve, it’s not terribly hard to use, at least as far as 3D programs go. It’s easy to draw in scale, which is critical for visualizing how everything is going to work. Plus, there is a huge library of previously built models that you can drop into the plan. I have iMacs, monitors, speakers and keyboards all over my model, which helps me figure out how big thing need to be.

If It Ain’t Over Built…

My dad and I used to joke that we should start a construction company, and if we did, our motto would be, “If it ain’t over built, we didn’t build it.” In that vein, I used 4x4 Douglass Fir lumber for the legs and all cross pieces. Each piece is joined to the other with a half-lap joint and glued together with Gorilla glue. Gorilla glue is crazy strong, and it expands as cures to fill in any gaps. 

We cut the laps first on a sliding compound miter saw, then finished them with a router. With the saw, we set the depth to just under half the thickness of the wood and made repeated cuts to remove a bunch material. After knocking out the remaining slices of wood, I used a plunge router and spiral cutting bit to finish the cut to the right depth. Cutting the ones in the middle of the wood was easy. But the ones on the ends required a piece of 4x4 clamped to the work table near the end of the piece I was milling to hold the router up. 

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Mid-Span Support

One of my biggest issues with most tech tables is there is always something to smash your knees or thighs underneath the desk table. I didn’t want that problem with these. So I located the mid-span cross brace below the table top 12” back from the front edge. I figured this would be far enough that you could comfortably raise the chair up enough to get as high as you want to to mix without hitting anything. 

Most of the tables are under 6’ long, so I wasn’t worried about sagging; especially with two 4x4s holding up the top. But FOH is 10’ long, and that’s a long span for a desk, particularly one with so much weight on it. To fasten the top to the base, I used PL Premium adhesive and 4 1/2” Timberlock screws. Now, for this assembly to sag, the entire thing has to deform, which should be hard.

The top is made of two piece of 3/4” 8-ply plywood, that are fully glued together. I spread Titebond glue over the entire surface, and screwed them together every 12”. As FOH is 10’ long, and it’s hard to find 10’ plywood, I had to join a few pieces. I used a full 8’ piece on the bottom with a 2’ end, and two 5’ pieces for the top. Putting the seam right in the middle will hide it almost completely as the console will be sitting right there. Looking back on it, I should have used plate joints (also know as biscuits) for those seams. Next time…

They’re Strong & Mobile

Overall, the desks are pretty tough. I’ve sat on all of them, and there is very little deflection. Even the FOH desk hardly moves, and as the SD8 is 51” long, most of the weight will be about 3’ from each leg. So I think we’ll be OK. 

I put 3” locking casters on each desk as well. I have always hated having to climb behind the desk to work on the I/O of the consoles. So I decided to put casters on them, so it’s easier to pull the desk out and get back there and work. You can’t skimp on casters, and I found these for about $8 each at Home Depot. The desks roll very nicely and should last a long time. 

Here is the Sketchup file if anyone wants to see the actual design. I’m not going to post construction drawings for them because they take a lot of time to generate, and are only useful if your tech booth is the same size as mine. Grab Sketchup and modify the sizes to suit your booth if you want.

Roland

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CHCC Renovation: Working with Architects

It’s been a little while since I updated you on the renovation at Coast Hills. As I write this, I’m one day away from the final week of install. As we work through this week, I’ll update you on some of the technical things we did, but in this post, I wanted to offer some advice on something I almost never hear anyone talking about; how to work with the architect and builder during your renovation. 

They Don’t Really Know What We Do

I had a revelation a few weeks back. Now that I work as an AVL integrator in an architecture firm, I realized that my aggravation with the architects who designed the buildings I worked in was misplaced. After having many discussions with the guys in our firm, I’ve come to realize that they are not tech guys. This may have been obvious, but it really hit me one day. The reason they don’t know how to design with the needs of production in mind is that they’ve never done production. 

This is not their fault, but it does put the onus on us as production guys and gals to clearly define our needs and make sure that those needs are incorporated into the plan. To be sure, some architects are more knowledgable than others, but it’s a mistake to assume they will know how to design a stage, tech booth or video control room that will meet your every need without any of your input. 

Communicate Clearly, Follow Up and Follow Up Again

I sent many, many emails to the architect on our project. I followed up with most of them. But the ones that I didn’t follow up on ended up being things that were missed. Even after I received confirmation that my curtain batten plan was to be included in the plans, I never actually checked the plans to be sure they made it. It wasn’t until I asked about it that everyone said, “Curtain battens? What curtain battens?” What followed was a tragically comedic email discussion about what materials should be used for the battens. 

Again, we can’t assume the architect or builder know what we need from a production standpoint. Chances are, they’ve never actually built a production stage. We all have heard the stories about trying to explain to the electrician that yes, we actually do really need all that conduit. And yes, dedicated power really is important. It is up to us as the experts in production to communicate, communicate and communicate again. And don’t assume that because you specify Schedule 40 black steel pipe for battens that someone won’t think Schedule 40 PVC is acceptable. Trust me on this.

Choose Wisely

I’ve had conversations in the past with church leaders about choosing a builder. Many years ago, I was on the building committee at my church, and they wanted to hire an architect who had never designed a church before, and a builder who had only built one very traditional church building. Both were bad ideas. 

Make sure the architect and builder have actually built similar buildings to what you want. If they haven’t, they must express an extreme desire to learn about the needs of modern church production. If they think a church AVL system is a gooseneck mic on the chancel and a few speakers in the nave, and you’re looking to create a Hillsong-like experience every weekend, run away. Not that there is anything wrong with a chancel and a nave, but that is a whole different ballgame. 

This is a Big Deal

When we start talking about renovations or new buildings, we’re talking about dollar amounts in the hundreds of thousands to millions of dollars. This is money given sacrificially by the members of your congregation with the idea that it would go to advance the ministry. When bad decisions are made and money is wasted, it’s bad stewardship, plain and simple. It is up to us as experts in production to stay on top of this stuff. Never assume, over communicate, follow up and follow up again. If you have a good building team, the end result will be a good one.

“Gear

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Leaving Well—Bad Times

Last time, we talked about how to leave well when things are good. You landed a great new job, or just felt God calling you to a new adventure. Those are good reasons to leave. But sometimes, you have to get out of an organization that is unhealthy, is not good for you, or perhaps you were let go. In those cases, it’s really easy to toss your keys across the table, slam the door on the way out and flip the bird in the rearview mirror. 

Don’t do it!

Remember, this is a small industry, and word gets around. While it’s important to leave well under good circumstances, it’s even more important to leave well under bad ones. 

Do Good When You Can

Again, I haven’t always followed this advice, but when I have, it’s always been better. When I was downsized a few years back, I could have shifted into neutral and coasted all the way to my last day while watching the thing crash and burn around me. But I didn’t, thankfully. And I’m pretty sure I could get a great recommendation from anyone who I worked with back then. 

I built a 3-ring binder of all the processes, procedures, passwords and accounts that they would need when I was gone. They weren’t going to re-hire, so that all had to be documented carefully. It was my choice to leave them in a good situation, and I’m glad I did. 

Yes, I got the short straw; I had only been there 18 months and had moved my family away from our friends, family and a pretty good environment to work there. I could have been pissed and made life miserable for them. Instead, I tried to bless them as much as I could. I believe God honored that attitude and He blessed me in return. 

Avoid the Temptation to Sew Discord

If you’re leaving under bad circumstances, it’s easy to stir up trouble with co-workers or others. Again, don’t do it. And again, I’ve not always been good at this. But nothing good comes out of tearing others down, so there’s just no point. Sure it feels good to let everyone know what an idiot that person is for letting you go, but ultimately, it makes you look petty. Take the high road and leave well. I promise you will not regret it. 

This is especially important with your team. Whether you are leaving because you can’t take it any more or because you are being kicked out, don’t turn the team against the leadership. I know it feels good to do it, but it’s not right. And it does you no favors in the long run. 

If you can leave a bad situation with integrity, not only can you feel good about how you left, but it sets an example for others to follow. You will have more respect from your team, future employers and maybe even the leadership when you leave well. 

Leaving a church can be hard under good circumstances. Leaving under bad ones can be really hard. The temptation is to go nuclear—I get that. But trust me, when you bless those who curse you and leave them in a better situation than they deserve, you are acting more like Christ than almost any other time. This is a great opportunity to show the world what we are really made of. 

Don’t miss it because you’re hurt.

Leaving Well—Good Times

By now, most of you know that I’ve recently left my position at Coast Hills. That transition was something that God had in the works for some time, and it was very clear this is the path He’s called me to. However, while it was clearly God’s call, there was still the opportunity for me to mess it up. I could have ignored it, or potentially worse, left poorly. 

Why You Leave

There are plenty of reasons to leave a job. Some are good reasons; you received another, amazing offer; you outgrew this position; you won the lottery. Other times, the circumstances are less than optimal. Perhaps the job is just not a good fit; or you really don’t get along with your boss or other superiors; or maybe there is something really wrong in the organization. Perhaps you were fired or “released to a new ministry…”

In today’s post, I’m going to focus on the good side of leaving—those times when it’s just time to move on to a new adventure. Looking back, this is not the first time I’ve left a job. I’ve actually left eight over the course of my career (not counting the three business I started and eventually shut down). So I do have a little experience here. Here are some suggestions on how to leave well under good circumstances, though I’ll give you the caveat up front that I have not always followed this advice.

Set Your Successor Up for Success

Chances are, after you leave, you will be replaced. When I left Coast, I tried to document as much as possible, to complete as many tasks as I could and leave a healthy team in place. Heck, I even designed and installed a completely new AVL system. You probably won’t always be able to do that, but make sure whoever comes after you doesn’t have to clean up your mess. 

It’s easy to spend the last few weeks coasting toward the finish line. Hey, you’re leaving anyway, what are they going to do, fire you? Don’t do it. I worked a 10 hour day on my last day because I wanted to make sure I finished what I said I would. My last weeks there were some of the busiest in the previous six months. I was cranking out documentation as fast as I could, training others to do my tasks and finishing up a few last minute projects. Some of that was noticed, most of it was not. But it doesn’t matter. I know I left as well as I could, and God sees what we do in secret. It doesn’t matter as much what humans see.

Stay In Touch

It’s easy to move on to your new adventure and forget all about the people you left behind. You get busy making new friends, working on new projects and maybe enjoying the new location you’re in. But don’t forget those you left. I have not always been good at this, and it’s to my own detriment. I have left a few jobs better than others, and the ones I feel the best about are the ones where I’ve kept in touch with my former co-workers. 

This is a pretty small industry, and I can tell you if people have good memories of you and will say good things about you, it will benefit you for a long time. But if you blow them off, leave them hanging or otherwise ignore them, it will come back to haunt you. The last impression is the one people tend to remember. Keep that in mind. 

When it Goes Badly

Like I said, leaving is not always a great new adventure. Sometimes it’s a desperate leap from a moving train headed toward a cliff. I’ve been there, too, and how we leave will either set us up for success for failure in our next position. More on that next time.

“Gear