A Tribute to one of my best clients

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Project by NoLongerHere posted 02-01-2014 06:56 PM 2611 views 0 times favorited 15 comments Add to Favorites Watch
A Tribute to one of my best clients
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I’m sure if we all look back, there is someone you can name that made a difference in your life.

For me, that would have to be Mike and Suzy Hoch.

I was maybe 24 yrs. old when I first met them. I had just moved to Lake Forest Illinois and was trying
to promote my first short lived business name, The House Doctors, with a flyer that I drew myself.

It was a bit cartoonish, like something the lawn boy would pass out to the neighbors

But, .... it worked. I got several jobs from it and had to hire more people.

One day, while having lunch in town, I spotted a Real Estate office next door and thought,

Why not drop off some flyers there for the new home owners looking for a handy man? … what a great idea!

I walked in the front door which was propped wide open. It was a beautiful warm summer day and I can remember the sun coming through the door and shining on Mrs. Hoch’s desk like a beacon of light from the Almighty.

And there she was, hand extended, smiling at me with an air of genuine kindness.

When I look back, I think to myself….surely she must have thought I was just a dumb kid without a clue.

I wasn’t the typical Lake Forest type, well groomed and dressed in polo shirts and khakis, highly educated and surrounded by wealth.

I was a ski bum who’d just arrived from California on a skate board and had long curly hair and an earring.
(left side – not gay)

But for some reason, she liked me enough to hire me to do some work on their house.

30 years later, I’ve built sunrooms and additions and decks, remodeled their kitchens, basements,
bathrooms and built entertainment centers, mantles and furniture for them.

The second floor bathroom and bedroom addition with TV cabinet – back in the 90s.

The Hoch’s moved four times but stayed in the same town.
Each time, they asked me to come in and help remodel their new home.

I wish I had half the pictures of all the projects we did together. Here are a few more.

Basement remodeling and cabinetry


Here is the last kitchen we remodeled

new cabinets, granite C tops, appliances, under mount sink and faucet, tile back splash and hood



I also built this simple little maple bookcase for her cook books.

We took the fridge and old kitchen cabinets and re arranged them in the remodeled basement.



Here is the last Master Bath remodel

New tile, plumbing fixtures, counter tops, heated floors, heat lamp



We worked for several of their friends as well. The references spread out from them like the roots of an old oak tree and made me who I am today. I am truly grateful to have them as friends and clients.

I stopped by one day for a visit and he asked me what I was up to lately. I told him all about my latest hobby – collecting and refurbishing antiques tools and hand planes.

He took me down to the work bench area in the basement and pulled out his grandfather’s hand planes.

A Stanley # 5 type 15
a Stanley # 4 1/2 with a SW blade
and a sweet little Stanley SW # 18

I asked him if he would like me to refurbish them. At first, he said he didn’t use them so it wasn’t necessary.
I shared what I had learned about them and he was surprised when I told him what I thought they were worth.

We talked some more about the planes and then, he told me all about his German grandfather, Adolf Stauber.

He was a piano builder for the Starr Piano Company back in the early 1900s. The company also had the first recording studio and made pianos for several famous blues and jazz musicians like Louie Armstrong.

It was a great story that needed a great ending.

So, I brought the planes home to refurbish and went online and found the history of the company and their logos.

Note: Back then, you could buy a house for less than 950.00!

Now, I am in the process of building a nice walnut storage box for the 4 1/2 and the #18.

I haven’t done it yet – not sure which method – but I want to put the company logo on the lid
and his grandfather’s name on a small plate on the base inside.


I plan to draw up a one page letter on nice paper with the original Starr Company letterhead and a short paragraph about the tools and his grandfather. The planes sit on a base that can be removed. That’s where the letter in an envelope would be stored.

It will be a small way for me to show my appreciation for all they’ve done for me

.... and the planes will be saved from a dusty tool box drawer to be admired once again.

15 comments so far

View ex-member's profile


186 posts in 2658 days

#1 posted 02-01-2014 07:55 PM

Damn I do love stories like this….Nice that you made a difference in their lives, too.

View SPalm's profile


5336 posts in 4765 days

#2 posted 02-01-2014 09:13 PM

What a cool story. I have a few people in my life that have helped, and let me help them.

Good for you both,

-- -- I'm no rocket surgeon

View JonBikeRacer's profile


70 posts in 2486 days

#3 posted 02-01-2014 09:30 PM

What an inspiring story! The quality of your work is amazing, and the old flyer is fantastic. One day I hope to have the time (and skill) to be able to make things that are that nice. Nice YJ, by the way. I had a CJ, and a TJ, I call my “wood-hauler.”

-- Jon "That's about as close as I can eyeball it"

View LeTurbo's profile


234 posts in 2469 days

#4 posted 02-01-2014 10:38 PM

That’s an awesome story, reedwood. Still, we can see that the Hoch’s trust was not unfounded. Your gesture with the planes is wonderful. Maybe those three planes will travel together for a few more generations of woodworkers – and I guess you’ll use them on all the Hoch’s future jobs.

View CL810's profile


4063 posts in 3871 days

#5 posted 02-02-2014 01:37 AM

A wonderful story – thanks for sharing.

-- "The only limits to our realization of tomorrow will be our doubts of today." - FDR

View TopamaxSurvivor's profile


19697 posts in 4559 days

#6 posted 02-02-2014 02:06 AM

Interesting story.

-- Bob in WW ~ "some old things are lovely, warm still with life ... of the forgotten men who made them." - D.H. Lawrence

View lightweightladylefty's profile


3584 posts in 4596 days

#7 posted 02-02-2014 05:45 AM


That really is a wonderful story. You do terrific work and it’s good to see your appreciation for your clients. Thanks for posting.

I’ll have to look at this post again another day when I’m at a hot spot where I can admire all the photos. (This dial-up timed-out before they all opened and I don’t have time now to wait on each one individually!)


-- “Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.” Benjamin Franklin -- Jesus is the ONLY reason for ANY season.

View Schoffleine's profile


47 posts in 3793 days

#8 posted 02-02-2014 02:41 PM

Refurbish those planes? They look spic and span already! Wish my planes looked that good!

View Garry's profile


103 posts in 2599 days

#9 posted 02-02-2014 03:01 PM

It’s great when you can work with homeowners as partners rather than adversaries. Both sides get a better deal and it forms the basis for a good relationship. Good for you and for them!

-- Garry, North Carolina woodworker and engineer - The journey you're preparing for has already begun.

View garysharp's profile


119 posts in 4363 days

#10 posted 02-02-2014 05:05 PM

Both you and them have gained a lot more than just more work or a new remodel house, both have gained a lifetime of friendship. That is worth more than ether a new shop full of tools or a newly remodeled house. You both have been blessed. What a great story that we all could do well to try to duplicate in our daily lifes.
Thanks for shairing

-- Garysharp "When sharpening woodworking tools, good enough,...isn't" “Your life’s complete only when your knowledge passes on”.

View NoLongerHere's profile


893 posts in 3559 days

#11 posted 02-03-2014 01:02 AM

Hey everyone, thanks for the nice comments!

I worked on the box in the shop this afternoon and made some progress. I’m considering having the Starr round label laser scribed on to the box lid…. or maybe a hand carved relief cut.

What about an inlay with 3 different wood grains? Yea, that would look cool.

Jon – that was my weekend toy. I have a 2000 TJ now. 4” lift, 33” MTs, Dana 44s, 5 spd. disc brakes, etc…....

Shoffleine – that is a picture of the planes after I refurbished them. here is what they looked like before.

View 489tad's profile


3901 posts in 3895 days

#12 posted 02-04-2014 05:00 PM

Great story Mark.

-- Dan, Naperville IL, I.G.N.

View JonBikeRacer's profile


70 posts in 2486 days

#13 posted 02-08-2014 07:22 PM

Nice TJ! Mine is an ‘04, but I hardly drive it anymore. I would like to upgrade to the exact same set up you have on yours… when budget allows.

I also like the restoration you did on the planes! Excellent work.

-- Jon "That's about as close as I can eyeball it"

View Rob Drown's profile

Rob Drown

823 posts in 4716 days

#14 posted 11-09-2014 06:27 AM

Good Lord blessed you both. Thanks A L O T for sharing. Very cool.

-- The expectations of life depend upon diligence; the mechanic that would perfect his work must first sharpen his tools. Confucius, 经过艰苦的努力的梦想可以成真

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