Dusty Baker, Stone-Crete Artistry - Complex Mold Making, Pricing, and Advice for Starting
Brandon and Jon discuss artisans eating onions (topical sealers), with tears streaming down their faces swearing it’s an apple. Then Dusty Baker joins the conversation and talks about pricing, complex mold-making, what plasticizers don’t work with Maker Mix (spoiler: don’t use Buddy Rhodes 310, 420, Trinic, or ADVA 555), and advice for someone wanting to make a living in high-end concrete sinks and countertops.
You can reach Dusty at:
Brandon: Hello, Jon.
Jon: Hey Brandon.
Brandon: So today we're going to chat with Dusty Baker of Stone-Crete in, he was in Dickson, Tennessee, I'm not sure exactly where he's located now, per se because he moved, he built a new shop and it's pretty amazing, but we're going to talk to Dusty, big topic of conversation that we want to cover. Dusty's a great success story of somebody that started off, didn't have immediate success, was kind of using a low price to attract clientele, but that wasn't working out and then he made the jump to price himself accordingly. But more than that, developing a very unique high-end aesthetic that he's built his entire business on and now he's one of, if not the most successful concrete companies I know of.
Jon: Yes, he's doing great. I mean, yes, he is, from my point of view, he is a great success story, however someone defines success. I remember meeting Dusty at an Epic, when he came out, I didn't even know who Dusty Baker was and he's got that accent going. We had a great time with Dusty and I remember it was that Epic, he won an award or something. I can't even remember what it was for, but I don't know, he was the kind of guy that made you smile, just knowing who he was and watching him.
Brandon: Was that the corn hole one? Was the corn hole that Epic or what was that another Epic?
Jon: Honestly, I don't remember. I don't remember.
Brandon: But I remember they were carrying him around on their shoulders, like he had his arms up in the air and it was a great photo of him.
Jon: Yes, yes and he was so excited, but what I remember about that whole situation was those were some of the defining moments. I remember talking to a guy named Dusty Baker who, do you remember at the time we had those kinds of, I don't know, round discussions, eight or ten of us in the evening sat around with various topics and I just met this guy, Dusty Baker. I knew per the conversation we had he was struggling and when I say struggle, he was like most of us starting a business, had enough to do just amount and was struggling financially. So watching him grow beyond that, it's a neat story. It's a pretty cool story.
Brandon: It's a great story and Dusty is a great guy. He's been teaching with Concrete Design School since, I want to say 2014 was this first class. So seven years, almost eight years now he's been training classes with us and he is such a personable guy. He's the epitome of a true Southern person. He'll give his shirt off his back to somebody and he's just so nice to everybody and I love having him in our classes. He brings a great energy, but more than that, he's just a phenomenal craftsman. At that Epic that you're talking about. I went there that year, me and my wife, we were dating, but we weren't married yet. But she went with me that year and Dusty was doing a demonstration on how to do, he didn't call it Dusty-Crete at that point but it was this stone-like look he was doing. He'd been playing around with kind of refining it to some point and he was doing a demonstration and Erin, my wife was watching and she came over and said, “hey, did have you seen what Dusty's doing over there?” And I said, yes, I like Dusty, he's a cool guy, but I do smooth cast upside down GFRC, he does a much more rustic look. It's just apples and oranges, he's doing something completely different than I do and she's like, well, and she worked in a really high-end tile industry and she said, “you should really go take a look at this because I'm telling you it is very refined and a very high-end finish.” I was like, okay. So I went over and looked at it and she was right, I'd always seen it from 20 feet away, but I'd never really got up close to it and looked at it. But when I got up close to it and looked at it, and when I say close I'm talking like six inches away, it was phenomenal. He had had so much detail in it that I had never seen because I'd seen that kind of look, quote, unquote, look before. You go to a World of Concrete in Las Vegas and there are guys doing demonstrations with that kind of look but when you looked at it, when you actually walked up to and looked at it, it looked like, I call it Mickey Mouse. So it looks like, just fake, it's just fake. It doesn't look real. It doesn't look authentic. It looks like stamped or kind of carved into a stone look and then you just kind of slapped color on it and it just looks messy. It doesn't have refinement, it doesn't have detail, but Dusty's piece at that event was really, really, really nice. So that was 2011 or 2012, I'm not sure what year that was, a few years later is when we did a class with him and by then he'd taken it to a whole nother level and I was blown away then and what he was doing and since then, every year since when we do classes of Dusty, he's continued to refine it and evolve the technique and Dusty-Crete today versus Dusty-Crete from two or three years ago is completely different. He just keeps making these big jumps on refinement.
It used to be very heavy-handed, carved edges that didn't look real per se. They were nice, but they didn't have authenticity to them. What he's doing now, he's gotten really good at cutting out everything that isn't a necessity. I mean, he's removing all the stuff that he did before to do it, but now he's doing things with purpose and he's not doing things that don't need to be done and he's got it extremely dialed and it's an extremely high-end look. Of all the different aesthetics in this industry, I really feel that Dusty Baker's Dusty-Crete look has the widest appeal to the market over anything versus upright cast or what I do, upside-down modern. Those are all great, but those are smaller demographics. Dusty-Crete really kind of resonates with the modern segment to the modern farmhouse, to rustic, to traditional, I mean, it fits in every style of home you can imagine. So he really has kind of the widest reach from a look out of the three different types of looks that we train.
Jon: True and interestingly enough, as he's continued to refine. So, even the last class, he was doing something different than I was used to seeing him do but the interesting, or to me a little bit laughable and although I do understand it is you and I have seen other companies, I can't even remember, well, I'm going to paraphrase the words, yes, but that's what people are looking for. So they were even starting to do knockoffs, Dusty-Crete knockoffs, and training courses, remember that?
Brandon: Yes, yes, I get it. I mean, that's what people want to learn, but if you want to learn, you should go to the source and learn how to do it from the guy that developed that look and has really refined it over the last 10 years versus somebody that, I mean, I want to say that some of the people out there teaching stuff came to a class with Dusty and now they're teaching it, but that's like the game of telephone where it goes around the room and what started off this ends up that when it gets to the end, unfortunately, a lot of the information that they picked up in the class when they go to teach it to somebody else it's been morphed, it's changed and the information isn't as clear and as distilled and as precise as had it come from Dusty because Dusty knows what he's talking about. So if you want to learn how to do it the right way, go to the source, go to the guys that do this for a living, go to the guys that developed the techniques they're teaching, like you have really pioneered and refined upright casting. That's been your passion and you've taken it to whole new levels through tooling and through materials and through placement and through finishing, there are all these different steps that you've brought to the table for upright casting. I taught the first class on GFRC in 2005, I taught the first class on fabric forming. These are techniques that we have developed. These aren't things that we picked up somewhere else and now we're regurgitating, these are things that we developed and so the information is as pure and as precise as you'll get from anywhere.
Jon: The other thing which hits a little more home with me personally, the thing I love about Dusty, and I'm just going ask him this question again when we talk to him, because sometimes it even seems overwhelming to me, he's been using ICT for years. I still remember way back when he and I had a great conversation based on what he's trying to use at the time, his business was suffering, the callbacks, he was having a lot of difficulties and I'm not going to say, ooh, I showed him the way. But since that point, I don't even know thousands, maybe tens of thousands of square feet. I don't know what he's put out, to me he's a great success story for materials as well, to take a guy with some amazing finishes, been successful with these finishes. So I'm actually going to put him on the spot, I'm just kind of curious because I'm sure there are people using other products that are questioning now that even now partnered up with Kodiak, does he have problems? I don't know. I mean, I'm going to put that straight out there. Does he have problems? Because I know he's used a lot of sealer on what he does, I'm going to ask him, let's just see what he has to say, it'd be interesting.
Brandon: Yes. Well, I mean, it says on our website that the guys that have found success with ICT are a testament to the materials you've developed, go to our team page on kodiakpro.com, you can read all about it, but it's true. Dusty's one of those guys, he's a company that's extremely successful, has a massive amount of countertops, sinks, whatever, out in the world for 10 years now. In the classes, at least as of the last class, he said he’s had no callbacks. I mean the only callback that I've ever heard him talk about was the callback that somebody did. It was for a TV show, he was out for a countertop, he told them, please protect these countertops, I just sealed them and this was back when he was doing really heavy staining on top of the concrete and then sealing it, he said, please protect these and they took on the countertops with gravel underneath them. *static* Because they set them on the ground, they put them on the countertops and they're dragging them back and forth across the countertops just grinding the gravel and the sand into the surface and they scuffed the surface up and they called him back and they said, hey, we need you to come out here and fix these countertops and he showed up on a job site and saw what they'd done and told them like, guys, I told you don't do this. These are fresh, I just put these in and you guys have destroyed them.
In the classes, that's an example of a quote, unquote callback, but that's not a callback. I mean like the example we always use is if you buy a brand new car and you do something to that car, drive through paint, take a key and scratch the paint up and you take it back to the dealer and say, I want this fixed under warranty they're going to be like, bro, are you crazy? This isn't a failure, you just jacked up your car, that's on you, that's on you, that has nothing to do with us. So same thing with these guys, this film crew, this whatever TV show on HGTV, they did exactly what he told them not to do and then they wanted him to come out and fix it. And I think he told them like, I'm not going to fix it. You can pay me and I'll fix it but this is on you guys, you destroyed this countertop.
Jon: He never called me on that one. The only one I remember...
Brandon: Because it wasn't a failure. It wasn't a failure. It was somebody destroying it. And so I've had the same thing happened with clients, a couple over the years where they did something that it's not malicious, but they knowingly hurt the concrete. They did something that they know they weren't supposed to do but then they try to say, oh yes, no, I got this stain, I don't know what caused it and it turns out it was hair dye and acetone they poured on the surface and let it dry and then they wondered what happened here? So anyway, so it's one of the things that people do that, and I get it, they're trying to get it fixed for free, but Dusty's essentially told them, you can pay me, but I'm not fixing that, that's not a me problem, that's a you problem. You destroyed your countertop, it's yours to destroy if you want to do it, but that's not a sealer failure, that's not a material failure.
Jon: Yes, that's not a product failure.
Brandon: Yes, exactly.
Jon: Well, and that's a whole nother discussion we'll have to talk about once I, what is, I don't know if our industry has ever defined, what do we consider failures? Do you remember some time ago, wasn't there, wasn't a group of people, because I know I was there trying to put together like a concrete countertop council or something like that? Do you remember that?
Brandon: Yes, a guild, we met in Nashville, I want to say or Chattanooga, Chattanooga.
Jon: Something like that.
Brandon: Bob Harris, we went to Bob Harris's shop.
Jon: Bob Harris', I do remember going out to Bob Harris'.
Brandon: There was a bunch of people there and it had kind of this momentum for a minute of creating in a Guild that would certify people and set standards of like, this is good, this is bad. But what it always comes down to is money and who's going to pay to put all that together and fund it? And unfortunately, there's never any funding to make that happen, and I think about the concrete industry is it's a bunch of vagabonds, cowboys, whatever, everybody wants to do their own thing. What I consider to be a good sealer to somebody else they might not like that, they might want to use this sealer and what I consider it to be whatever the right way to pigment concrete, this guy says, no, no, no, I only do topical, I don't do integral pigments and so I think that's always going to be, we'll never get out of box...
Jon: That's true. I remember that was one of the other Achilles heel is once we started talking about standards, this goes back to just the other day I was talking to a guy from Canada, he just couldn't believe it. He was like Jon, how come I've never heard about you and I've never heard about ICT.
Brandon: It had to have to hurt your ego so bad.
Jon: It did, I'm like, what are you talking about, man?
Brandon: I'm the most famous man on my island!
Jon: I'm the most famous! As him and I started talking, where he even read about ICT was like in the last sentence of somebody's post on one of the forum groups and where ICT Reactive was listed with a bunch of other sealers and stuff and he's like, wait, hey man, he's heard of these other, but I've never heard of those ones. He ended up giving me a call and he and I had this conversation and this is where it comes full circle back to the whole Guild idea. As I was talking to him, I was like, well, here's my analogy why, if there are 20 other manufacturers out there, hell even 20 other training courses out there, of those 20, 19 of them have very similar philosophies. They have a concrete of some sort, maybe they're trying to sell you a mix of some sort and ultimately they have a sealer of some sort that's usually either a single component or most likely a 2K component, meaning a two-part, an A and a B, they're using urethanes of some sort and so that's a path he's always followed, that's a path he's always heard about. So out of 20 people, only one has a different philosophy, one and that one different philosophy, at least from my point of view over the years has always been shunned by the other 19 philosophies that have very similar philosophies.
So it's taken him this long to find, come down this path and to me, that's where the Guild went sideways, along the same idea is nobody could agree on what standards should be because oftentimes I'm just going to say my philosophy and I'm not here to tell people what products they should be using and why, but I can tell people that I have a philosophy that has helped myself and a lot of people become very successful in what they do with a philosophy. Meaning the concrete, the sealer, the whole curing technique and et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. But that doesn't, with the other people who didn't support those kinds of things, then it became about money, pure and simple.
Brandon: Agreed, and the other 19 companies in that example, the truth of the matter is they are taking products made for other industries and repackaging those products to be applied to concrete. They were never developed for concrete, they're developed to coat wood or metal and they said, hey, this catalyzed epoxy or this catalyzed urethane or whatever it is, we can put that on concrete, it'll stick, it'll create a barrier. Yes, of course, it will, it'll create a barrier, but it's not made for that product and on a long enough timeline, that's going to fail. So Kodiak and ICT it's products that are developed from the ground up specifically for high-end concrete
Jon: And specifically by the people that over years of experience have noticed their own needs and developed products around it. So that in of itself makes it completely different, which maybe not everybody agrees but the reality is that makes it a whole different category of product.
Brandon: That reminds me of something that you and I talked about, I don't know, a week ago, and that is, there was this great video of this kid, it's a little girl actually and she has an onion and she says, it's an apple and the mom, you can find it on YouTube, the mom's laughing and telling her don't bite into that, that's not an apple, that's an onion and she's like, no, it's an onion. It's some little British girl and the mom's like, that's not an apple, that's an onion, I'm telling you do not take a bite of that and the girl takes a bite of it and keeps chewing, tears around on her face and she's like gagging and coughing like she got sprayed with mace, but she just keeps taking a bite of that onion. She refuses to admit that she took a bite of an onion, she's sticking with it. I don't care. I'm going to eat this onion and I'm going to say it's an apple, I'm just going to go down this path.
Jon: She's got no point of reference, so in her eyes it probably was an apple.
Brandon: No, the second she took a bite she knew it was an onion, she knew, she knew that wasn't an apple, she's had an apple, she knows what an apple is. She took a bite of it, she knew at that moment she bit into an onion, but she would not relent that that was an onion. And what I've seen within the industry per se, the concrete industry is a lot of people get stuck in their ways. They have used, I don't know, let's say an epoxy and they know of ICT, they've heard of the sealer from guys like Dusty and other successful companies who are having great success with it and they know that what they're using is an onion, but they continue, they just keep taking that bite, tears running down their face. They're getting callbacks, it's peeling up, it's turning yellow, all of these things. They're just going to keep eating that onion when there is an apple sitting right over here, they can have it. It's right there, buddy. It's right there. Why that is? I don't know.
Jon: I don't know, I think they get scared off because that's the other side, back to my analogy of 19 to 1, when 99%, I guess that wouldn't be quite 99%, about 90% of the information that you hear about success or their version of success from 19 other manufacturers that are selling you a product and a product by way, I don't want to get stinky with it, but a product that is not coming directly from the chemist that was not developed directly by your use, by the experience of your use. They're selling it, they're down-packing and I'm not saying any of that's wrong, I'm not, but when you have 19 other people saying one thing or several things that sound very similar and then one that says, here's this philosophy, let me introduce you to. I think sometimes you have to hit a whole lot of failure before you look at that one and give it the opportunity, as you say, there's no point of reference, you got 19 point of references and I guarantee you all those 19 are telling you that ones wrong and I think that's what finally takes people to finally come around is deciding when they've had enough, because I do get those calls when they've had enough. Then when that happens, by the way, and then they think, oh, it's all about just the individual parts. Like, oh, well I just need the sealer and then I can keep doing all these things I'm used to and then when I tell them, no, to make this successful, you need to make these steps of change in what you're doing, then it becomes difficult for them again, because they like, wait a minute. I only wanted success in this one thing. Why are you telling me these other three things need to be successful as well. So I don't know, it's an interesting niche market in the way people think.
Brandon: Well, to be honest with you, that's how I came to use ICT. I'd known you before I made the switch. I'd known you for a long time and you'd always talk about ICT.
Jon: I still remember sitting down with you and you're like, it doesn't work for me. I'm like, okay.
Brandon: I remember me and you were traveling, I think it was from World of Concrete. We ended up at the Las Vegas airport at the same time and I used to have an American Express card that would get me into the first class lounge just by having this card. So me and you went in there and we're waiting for our flights and we're having some drinks and I said, explain to me how ICT works and it was like two hours of my life that I'll never get back, but it was like two hours of my life where you're just throwing out all this craziness about electrons and charging particles and it's an onion and you open up this and dah dah, and I'm like, oh my God, it's craziness, like total mad scientist. It sounded amazing but yes, it didn't work for me. But what finally brought me to making the switch was, and I'm hesitant to tell the entire story on a podcast because it could come off as, I don't know, petty is not the right word, but we don't want to make things negative on this podcast. But the truth of the matter is there was a sealer that was being sold to the concrete industry by a certain company. The sealer was a coating, and it was as a coating goes a pretty good coating but this company, this distributor of the sealer was diluting the sealer with the solvent and they're continuing to sell the sealer as full-strength sealer, but increasingly diluting it with solvent. So over the course of six months, it went from a hundred percent sealer to 80% to 50% to 40% to who knows what, but towards the end, it was pretty much all solvent, but it happened so gradually you never picked up on it. But the point of the matter is that distributor that was selling the sealer nearly bankrupted the entire industry at that point in time.
Jon: Yes, you had some projects go pretty sideways on you, I remember that.
Brandon: Oh I did, it was like 2000… I want to say 2008, 2009, somewhere around there. Somewhere in that range, I can't remember exact date I'd have to look, but it was a good while ago. It was such an eye-opening experience for me because the sealer could not be repaired, you couldn't apply more to it. I had some pretty catastrophic failures that were really scary and what I was really scared of was not the three or four failures that I knew about but the hundreds that I didn't know about that I was anticipating, that's what really kept me up at night is I know about these, but I've used a sealer for hundreds of projects. When am I going to start getting those calls? When's this avalanche of clients going to come and it did come for a lot of people and a lot of companies did go out of business. The point of that whole story is that happened and that experience is when I called you and I called another person at the time, that was in the industry that was testing your sealer with GFRC and you guys had been kind of working out a way to make GFRC respond better to ICT because it wasn't responding well.
I called you guys and you're like, hey, we're like 90% there. We're getting really good results. I said, I want to learn, I'm going to fly up, I'm going to see you guys, please show me what you're doing and I flew up and we all met and the test that we did over that three days, blew my mind, blew my mind at how good it was. It was insane. It was so much better than any coating I'd ever used. It was only three days old and this was the early ICT version. So ICT at that point was really like 30 days before we had good resistance, minimum 7 days before you really want to even start to test it. But hey, give it a month and this was 3 days in and it was performing better than any coating I'd ever used and that's when I made the switch.
Jon: I wouldn't say you were over the top, but you were appearing happier than I was because I remember I kept trying to tell you, hey, it's only a few days old, it's only a few days old.
Brandon: Yes, we can't test this, we can't test this. I'm like, dude, I get on a plane tomorrow, we're testing this today. I didn't fly all the way out here to just take your word for it that it's going to work. We have to test it. But what I was going to say is I made the switch, after seeing that with my own eyes, see it perform at three days old, I made the switch and I have not regretted that decision once ever since. That was 11, 12 years ago, maybe a little bit longer that I made the switch. It's been one of the best things I ever did as a business because the worst thing you can have as a concrete business is sealer failure. That will murder you. I mean, you will go out of business if you're constantly going back and recasting pieces because a sealer is failing. ICT as a sealer technology is proven. It works, it works from guys that have no vested interest in promoting ICT. They'll tell you, this is all I use. I've tried all these other topicals. They didn't work, so this is what I use.
Jon: Also something interesting to talk to Dusty about it because for someone who done as much work and how much square foot, I'm interested to hear from him. So let's get him on here.
Brandon: Let's do it. Hey, Dusty.
Dusty: What's happening, Bud?
Jon: Living the dream man.
Dusty: Hey, I heard that, ain't nothing better than that.
Jon: That's right.
Brandon: So what are you up to Dusty?
Dusty: Oh man, I've been in the fields all day, spraying the fields, trying to get them ready to plant next weekend. So that's pretty much what I've been doing all day.
Jon: Plant? What are you planting?
Dusty: Man, I got some food plots. I got some turnip greens, some oats, some wheat and stuff like that. I like to put in the ground in the fall this time of year.
Jon: I didn't know you're doing farming, that's awesome.
Brandon: Dusty used to grow tobacco back in the day.
Dusty: Yes, I did. I'll never forget when 9/11 hit, man, I was cutting and spiking tobacco and had my truck out in the middle of the field and hearing that crap come over the radio. Yes, it'll be a memory I'll never forget.
Brandon: You're already out of the Marines when that happened, right?
Dusty: Yes, I just got out. I got out in '99, the day I got out, my grandfather passed away. We've got a big family farm. Before I went into the Marines my idea was to, I was going to to go to the farm and he was going to pay for an education and I was going to go get an ag degree and I don't know why, but I mean that farming and the cattle and that lifestyle and hell, I'm not scared to work, that's what I always wanted to do. So when I got out, my grandfather passed away, he ran the farm, and then I had my uncle there and he says, man, I need you on the farm if you're still willing. So yes, man, I got out and come home. I worked with my dad a little bit, building a few houses and found out real quick that me and him are just better beer-drinking buddies than we are working together. So I went to the farm and come to find out, yes, I think I worked for three years on that farm and never worked seven days a week, 24, not 24 hours, but I mean, it was pretty much your whole life is dedicated to that. Yes man, using the credit card to go to the grocery store after working your ass off like that, it sort of sucked, you know what I mean? So after three years of it decided I have to retaliate here. Let me try to figure out what else I need to be doing. So I went back to my roots of what I've always done my whole life was build.
Brandon: And then you went into tile, right?
Dusty: Yes, I got back. Well, after I got out of the farm, I went back to working with my dad, and obviously, that didn't work again. And I started doing a little tile work on the side and next thing you know, man, that blew up for me. I went full-blown on that for about eight or ten years. I guess I got involved with some very high-end contractors doing some very high-end tile work, very elaborate tile work. I learned how to mud, that's where I learned about concrete was doing tile work. So I had this very high-end contractor I used to work for and he says, hey, I need you to mud the shower and mud these walls and actually, he had a floor in there, it was about 4,000 square foot in the living room. He says, man, it needs to be about two and a half inches of dry pack, can you do that? Man, I've never done that, I just set the daggum Durarock and laid tile over top of it. And of course, you know me, ‘ole Dusty, he's like, hell yeah, I know how to do it, I didn't know shit about it. So yes, that's where it began. So I had to reach down deep and pull something outta the hat and luckily for me, I figured it out and pulled it off and man my tile career just took off after that as a premier tile and stone setter. So I went with that for a while, but really it wasn't what I wanted to do. I didn't know it, but it wasn't what I wanted to do.
Jon: I mean, you got pretty successful for that and then you left, if you will, or started putting to the side to pick up concrete and kind of start from the bottom again, right? Or did you get real successful real fast there too?
Dusty: Yeah, I had some people moving in, in Nashville, man, we get everybody from all these other states moving in here. So had some people from California years ago, God, a long time ago and they said, hey, you're so good with all that concrete mud, can you make me some concrete countertops? You know me, shit yes I can. Well, I found out real quick, no, I couldn't. I went in, formed them up, did some cast in place, packed that shit in there like I would a tile floor with like three parts sand, one part Portland and fricking made it really pasty and packed it in, screeded it off and I said, well, those are your countertops. Yeah, that really wasn't a very nice countertop, least to say so, but it did spark something there that I had to drive for and I went after it and luckily I found the way to do it.
Jon: So when did you actually, I mean, from a timeframe, how long ago did you start this path? Are we talking five years, ten years? What are you looking at?
Dusty: Oh, man, this was probably 2006, seven probably, I started playing with the concrete. I mean, I was already mudding the walls and all that kind of stuff and I would say 2006, I started playing with the countertops a little bit. In 2007, I finally figured out, man, I, I needed a little help. So I found a class, something that interested me and I went to a class, learned a little bit about it, I learned what not to do because honestly, I don't think the man's been in it long enough to be training anybody and I did everything he said, bought his materials and every countertop I was doing. Within three months I was getting callbacks, you need to come take a look at this, take a look at that and I was like, well, shit man. So I did that for a few years off and on, I wasn't full blown in the concrete at that time, I was sort of doing it, I don't know I was getting one project every three months and then I was still doing tile work and then all of a sudden I got down where I was doing one a month and then and then I almost threw my hands up in there and quit because every project I had about 10 to 12 jobs that were bad, they're sitting there giving me hell, I'm doing this stuff at $50 a foot back then just trying to get my name out there.
Jon: The snowball, the good old snowball.
Dusty: Yes, I think we've all gone through that. And I'll never forget my dad, I'm sitting there and I'm telling him about all this concrete and he tells me, you're a dumb son-of-a-bitch. Heck damn, what the hell you doing, boy? And I'm like, man, I'm going to figure it out and he's like, everything you're doing is going wrong and you know what, I'm fixing to prove you wrong again, buddy. So yes, man, I almost give it up. I think I met Jon a while back and the main problems I was having besides just pouring freaking Sackcrete, two inches thick welded up rebar. It was the sealers man. The sealers were taking me down. So I met Jon and I was already about ready to tap out, but I met Jon and Jon was like, man, I just started with this new ICT thing, blah, blah, blah and I was like, well, you know what? I ain't got nothing else to lose, buddy. I'm with you. I said, show me what you got. Sure enough, man, that's when it's amazing but that's when things turned around for me, when I started another approach and another route to this concrete thing and the sealing technique.
Jon: You have longevity. How did you go about developing your style? Your look, that's really kind of...
Dusty: Well, the whole thing started because when I got into it the GFRC was big. I love that marbleized, I love movement in the concrete. I love some concrete, to me that's got character. When you look at it, it's not like looking like it's been spray-painted or it's the same thing from one end to the other. I love it when you look into a piece of concrete, your eyeballs follow it and you just, I mean, you just get lost in the piece looking at it. I mean, that's what I wanted. But when I got in, I did the ICT and I retaliated from what I was doing. So I went back, I was spraying pieces and trying to do the GFRC thing and one of my first pieces, I put out, a nice spray finish. It was nice, but I had one bug hole. It was about the size of a pencil eraser on it. Obviously, we slurry the holes up and I'll never forget delivering that piece and that lady she went straight to it and she started like rubbing on that little spot that I slurried. And obviously, it looked different than the rest of the piece and she says, is that the best you can do with that? And I'm like, what the hell are you talking about? I have worked my ass off trying to make this thing perfect for you and you're asking me, is that the best I can do that?
So boy that was like a knife in the side, man, that stuck in me hard. So man, when I left there, I went back to the shop. She was still pleased, paid me for the project and it was all good. But man, what she said to me just really bugged me a lot. Went back to the shop and I just started playing with different materials and tried to see what I can get reactions with and how I can create some movement in the concrete. Actually, I started developing something and actually it turned out a little lighter than what the client wanted. And she says, can you make that piece a little bit darker? I was like, okay. So I went back and I had some glaze, I think glaze just come out, glaze or whatever the crap it was called back then. So I went back to the shop and tried to figure out how to use this glaze, to like darken it a little bit and man, when I rubbed this glaze over it, all this imperfection and all this character, just I mean it just comes out of this concrete. That's where it all began, it was a mistake trying to fix a mistake and then man, I took off running from there and I hadn't looked back since.
Brandon: And you've continued to refine it because we taught the first class with you maybe in 2014 or 2015, somewhere around then, that first class versus what you teach today is night and day difference. So over the last six, seven years, you've continued to refine it and dial it in, make it better and better.
Dusty: Exactly, man from, I guess I started playing with that finish in 2012, 2011, 2012 and man I've just learned so much and I'm the type man, I'm never satisfied. I'm always looking for something better. I'm always looking for a better way. I'm always looking for the next level. You know what I mean? So yes, even today, man, what I was doing two years ago to now is night and day difference. Other people may not see it, but if you saw it with your own two eyes and you touched it and you felt the surface and you looked at the two, you would notice. I mean it just, it’s continuously improving. I mean I'm still taking it to other levels. I mean, I think that's what all of us have to do to keep it fresh and to find success, man is keep digging and keep grinding and see what else you can pull out of the hat. You know what I mean?
Brandon: Me and Jon are talking and there are Dusty clones, whether it's other training or what have you. In photos from 10 feet away, they don't look bad but when you see them in person, I've seen them in person. Jon's seen them in person, when you see these other products in person, when you get up close to them, they lack all the detail and that's what really sets your look apart, Dusty-Crete, from all the other clones is the level of detail because the closer you get, if you're a foot away, six inches away, two inches away, a millimeter away, there's infinite detail. It just gets more and more and more, it just expands, it's like a fractal almost and that's what makes it so different than the ones that look good from afar but when you get up close, they just look like a mess.
Jon: Along the same lines, as you just said about continuing to work your craft, getting better and better and what you're doing today is clearly generations ahead of what you may have done back in 2012 and so forth and so on. I think that's one of the things that lacks with some people, or one of the frustrations I'd say is I talk to many people starting their businesses, they may look at your business or Brandon's business or mine, and be like, man, these guys are so successful. I mean, it must have just came easy to them and to realize it didn't come easy and it still doesn't come easy. I still remember myself starting with nothing more than a credit card and that's all I had, whether I was buying an Omni cart or another bag of mix or whatever the case, I mean, that's all you had and that's just one part of it. Then the other part of it is continuing to refine your craft to keep yourself successful and I don't even mean financially, part of it's the emotional side, continuing that success so that you continue to aspire and happy with what you're doing.
Dusty: That's why I have to keep it interesting, man. You have to keep finding that next-level product. I mean, you all are introducing products and I'm working with that and man, this stuff is what I'm doing now, this year, since I've been totally using a new mix now this year, man, I'm telling you what this stuff is over the top. I mean, over the top.
Brandon: You're using a new mix?
Dusty: Yes, sir.
Jon: What mix are you using?
Dusty: The Makers Mix.
Jon: What? You don't say, you're using Makers Mix?
Jon: Who makes that? Is that a Kodiak product?
Brandon: I've been hearing all kinds of good stuff about Maker Mix?
Dusty: Yeah, man. But yes, so I've started with this new mix, man. I used to pour my stuff a little more stiff. You could pick it up with your hands out of a bucket and place it in the forms. That's what I've always sort of been accustomed to. I don't know, man, I'm getting older and shits working me to death, 600, 900 pounds, 1200 pound mix, you're taking a fricking handful at a time out of a bucket and placed it in the form, doing it all by yourself. I mean, man, it'll kick your ass. So I was like, you know what? I'm fixing to start really getting this shit wet and let's see what happens. So man, ever since I started getting it wet with this, I'm able to do this with this new Maker's Mix and since I've been getting it nice and wet and juicy, man, I'm pouring it in and damn these finishes are getting extremely tight, dense and I'm not getting bug holes and pin holes where I don't want them, you know what I mean? And I'm just isolating my character in areas that I'm wanting it to pop out and the rest of it is nice, subtle, smooth, nice looking concrete with a little kicker in there. I have found out over time less is better than more.
Brandon: I like juicy, juicy is good.
Dusty: I like it juicy baby.
Brandon: Juicy, moist. I like moist, moist concrete.
Dusty: I’m ‘bout to go over and mix some up now, man, you keep talking about it.
Brandon: We're going to get Dusty, some of those short shorts that say JUICY on the butt.
Dusty: That's right. You know I'd wear it.
Jon: The bedazzled JUICY.
Dusty: That's right, baby. We can make a big giffy with Dusty on there. You just search and all these things have come up. That's right.
Jon: We've been having the conversation, and I know we're focusing on the Makers, but the TBP, because you've used other plasticizers in the past so how's that fitting in with what you're doing?
Dusty: I've used everything you can think of, man. I've even, the shit that comes from the store I've squirted in there trying to get it and I had suds come up off my shit, but man, I've tried everything and The Best Plasticizer was really, really, really kicking this concrete off really nice.
Brandon: Well, you've tried using some other plasticizers with Maker Mix initially, didn't you? Like when you first got Maker Mix you tried using, I don't know some, whatever it is.
Dusty: Yes, I used to use the 420 or the 310 or whatever it's called, it's a Buddy Rhodes product that I've used for years. So when the Maker's Mix, when it started being distributed, I had a pallet of it and obviously had all these other materials on the shelf and that's what I started with putting into the mix. I mean, I thought it was working well until I actually I told you to send me a big bag of The Best Plasticizer, the Kodiak plasticizer and oh man, I was like man, that's a big difference there. I haven't looked back.
Brandon: We had a guy hit up Jon a few days ago that's he using 310 and thought it was the same. He's like, it's the same color, it looks the same. There are so many things, I always use baking as a good example of, you have flour and you have sugar or salt and if a cake recipe calls for a pound of sugar and you put a pound of salt in, because they're both white, that cake is going to taste like shit and that's true with concrete. You can have products that look very similar, but they're completely different. So TBP is not repackaged 310 or repackaged 420 or any of those things, it's a completely different product. Anybody that actually tests it for themselves like you did, will see the difference.
Dusty: Well, take it from me, man. I mean, I'm pounding out hundreds of pounds every week in this shop. So I know what I'm talking about and this stuff is legit.
Jon: I know I take a lot of the tech calls and I had someone call just the other day who was using a product, one that, same thing, this is the one I get. Well, I've had so much of this stuff, so Jon, what's the problem? Well, tell me the problem. Well, this amount I'm using, which would be a low amount, since they never used the TBP, it seemed as good as, as goods going to be. But he was trying to move to a self-consolidating mix instead of using the 20 grams, he was trying to use 80 grams and he couldn't figure out for the life of him and he thought it was the mix that as he kept adding plasticizer, the mix just got more, he called it like jelly and kept getting thicker and thicker and stickier and stickier, no matter how much more plasticizer he kept adding.
Brandon: When you say plasticizer, you mean 310, right? It was 310?
Jon: No, no. This was actually another product from another company out there.
Brandon: What was it? I think we should say what it is so guys that have it don't waste their time or money using it with Maker's Mix.
Jon: Alright, it was Trinic Plasticizer.
Brandon: Trinic plasticizer isn't a bad product, it just doesn't work with Maker Mix. If you're using another mix, it might work fine. It just doesn't work with Maker Mix.
Jon: Now we get into a whole another category because or conversation, because if you read the way it reads for this particular product, of course, it says ideal for UHPC and GFRC and as a product, boy, I'm going to say less than half the cost of TBP, maybe even more than that, it's comparatively pretty inexpensive and he had a whole crud load of this. So, well, Jon, this is used for UHPC concrete and that was his first defense. So it has to be something wrong with the concrete, not with the plasticizer and like, no I'm telling you, it's just not going to work and then I explained to him, why, which based on what was happening, I already know what's in the product, it's not going to work. I don't care what the label says or what the other manufacturer's telling you. The fact that you're seeing what's happening tells you that that particular plasticizer based on, in this case, he's trying to do a self consolidating mix is never going to pull it off. Then I asked him, hey, go back to my, I think I have it on Instagram, look at my Instagram page where I was just got done casting a couple of vanities with self-consolidating mix based on the mix ratios given for Kodiak Maker Mix and you'll see in a five-gallon bucket, it's basically pouring out like a milkshake. That's the way it should be with the very low water we recommend, with the kind of plasticizer that's recommended and that type of mix. So if you're not getting that and you're using the water and you're using the mix, that only leaves one ingredient that's not working properly and so that's what it was.
Brandon: I think at some point it wouldn't be bad for us to do videos showing other plasticizers with Maker Mix and like I said, these plasticizers, there's nothing wrong with them. ADVA 555 in certain mixes is a great plasticizer, it just doesn't work in Maker Mix. Trinic’s plasticizer in a lot of different mixes is perfectly fine, it just doesn't work with Maker Mix. So if you're wanting to make the switch, make the jump to this really high-performance UHPC you have to use a plasticizer that's compatible with that type of mix.
Jon: Yes, that’s into design to begin with, yes.
Jon: Which I'm sure Dusty, you've run into the same thing as you already said in this podcast. So that now the kind of workability's that you're looking for, comparatively speaking to where you've been, you're achieving a new end of what you are trying to do, your business, your looks, the whole nine yards. So to me, that's part of success.
Dusty: I mean, along with that, I mean, using these plasticizers a lot of other things go into play also. The temperature of your mix, that's got a lot to do with some things, Your fibers, what type of fibers are using? What's your fiber loading, how are you mixing this? I mean, all that stuff goes into play also.
Brandon: Yes, if they're dispersing. That was one of the keys I remember you and I talked a minute ago.
Dusty: Yes, because I get it with The Best Plasticizer. I mean, it's great, but it reacts differently whether it's in an Imer being just shoved around, twisted around, or you've got, I use the double paddle, hell I use the cheap ones, the Northern tool, double paddle bit. If you're mixing with that, man, I mean, it's going to get a little bit tighter because you're dispersing in fibers out a whole lot more and it's grabbing the mix a little bit better. I'm still getting a very nice wet mix even with the hand mixing but I don't hand mix often. Every now and then, like you and I've discussed, I pour it out and hit it a few times just getting some stuff, the fiber's dispersed out. But yes, I mean that's got a lot do with it also.
Jon: See, I have to pick up one of those double paddles, because when you've brought them to the workshops, I have to admit man. I mean, first of all, I'm going to be straight up without the little ring at the bottom of those paddles, that double paddle man that scares me because I'm used to hitting the side of the buckets, it jumps around.
Dusty: It will chew it up for sure, man.
Jon: But I'll say having that thing in my hands and using that double paddle, I'm like, oh man, I'm a man!
Dusty: That's right. That's right. It's like you're driving a bus, man, that sucker digs and chews and you just turn it man, just to steer it. But screw the paddles that's got the ring at the bottom, that'll kill you. I have to have something that's going to dig and chew and get down in it. I'll never forget back when we did a class out when you were still out in Phoenix and man, it was the old ECC and oh man, you know how it is in a class, there's so much crap going on and anyways man, we were mixing it up. It's hotter than Hades in your shop out there, good God and we're trying to mix up this little batch of concrete. We've got this little table we're going to pour and fiber was all mixed up and I think Joseph threw the fiber in, and it started mixing it in. So it's already getting pretty damn tight and I remember Brandon Browning was there also and he was like, man, does this go in it? And I didn't see Joseph throw it in the mix. So Brandon Browning threw the, I mean he doubled the fiber loading in this mix, like in the middle of class here and next thing I remember Brandon saying, hey man, we have problems. I turn around and looking and that was twisted up, good God about killed this man trying to mix that. I'm surprised we didn't burn your mixer up that day trying to get that crap mixed up.
Brandon: Probably did. A week later I went to go turn it on and it just smoked.
Dusty: It probably did, man. Well you can thank us for that because we did that, but good God.
Brandon: Well, I'll tell you what, those double blade mixers work great for PVA mixes, but they are horrible for AR fiber mixes GFRC because they shred the fibers, they shred the glass. So economics Dusty, economics, when you started, you were selling based on price. You're $50 a square foot, it kept you busy, you had work, but the work wasn't profitable, it was a slow death, death of a thousand cuts. You're just bleeding out. You're losing more than you're making on those projects at that price point. If anything happened, you had to recast something, whatever, you're way upside down. But then over time and we've told the story before about saying you can kiss my ass and like I said, I still wait every time I see you, I keep hoping that's the day. But you've brought your price up dramatically and in doing so your workload hasn't gone down, it's gone up. So what's your viewpoint on price and concrete and price as a selling point? Should it be a selling point or should what you make be what you're selling and price is secondary?
Dusty: Let what you make speak for itself, I learned that. But no, I was doing concrete $50, $60 a square foot and do a job and I'd pay myself, pay the materials, do your expenses but there was nothing going back into the company. My company could not grow and if you had any type of recast or anything like that, I mean, you might as well, you're done, you're just going to have to eat that. So I did that for quite some time and man, I just could not, I couldn't like drum up any money to buy a mixer. I didn't have any extra money to, I didn't have anything left over to better my business. That's when I met you back a while back and basically, you said I'll tell you what, when you go home, you start putting a hundred bucks of foot on everything and don't look back.
Brandon: That was 2012.
Dusty: Yes, I think so, yes, about 2012.
Brandon: Yes. You had just started doing Dusty-Crete, just started doing it because you came to Epic in Georgia and you showed, you did demonstrate like, hey guys, this is how I do it and my wife was there and she saw it and she said, hey, you should come check this out and I said, hey, I like Dusty, but my thing is GFRC, like modern and his thing is rustic and she's like, no, no, no. She's like, this is a really, really nice finish, you should come take a look at it and I went over and looked at it and I'm like, oh yeah. I mean, it's really detailed. I never really looked at it, I just kind of thought, yes, that's a cool thing, that's not what I do and that's when I met you and it was at that Epic that we did a round table and you said that in your market, you couldn't get over $50 a square foot where you are.
Dusty: So yes, after we had our conversation and I was like, you know I'm going to go back and I'm going to put, I mean a hundred bucks a foot, if you want it, you want it, if not, oh, well. Well man, it started working, believe it or not, I actually started getting a little bit more work out of it and what I learned at that time was it don't matter if you're $50 or a $100, you've got a product it'll sell itself and if they want it, they want it, if they don't, they don't. It doesn't matter if you're $50, $60 or whatever, I mean, let the product; I learned a while back, quit trying to sell your damn product, just put some badass shit out there and man, it'll speak for self and if they want it, they want it and if they want it, that's the client you need to work for. Don't try to sell it. I haven't looked back since and damn, how it's changed my life. I'm telling you.
Jon: Here's my question because I know we've had this conversation many times. People listening or people in that current, because there are lots of them. I mean, I talked to quite a few people around the country and maybe they're at $85 or maybe they're $75 or whatever the case may be. So I just want to, legitimately did you go home from $55 to a $100 or did you stair step it up based on comfort zone? I mean, how did that really work for you?
Dusty: To be honest. I come home with a mindset that my minimum, no matter what was going to be $85 a foot but that was pretty much the basic, most simple things that I could possibly do. But pretty much everything was at a hundred dollars a square foot and that's where I stood my ground and stuck the pole in the ground and that's where it landed, man.
Jon: Oh, that's awesome.
Dusty: That's where I'm at now and confidence having the confidence in your product and everything, that's the number one thing. It ain't just that you're more expensive, man, it's you putting out a nice product and you're confident in what you can do and you can execute and blow somebody's mind with what you're doing. People feel that confidence and read it. I guess they work off of you and it works, man. It really does
Jon: Well, that's a whole nother side of it, as you just said confidence. So recently I was talking to a really good guy and he's getting ready to bid one of the biggest projects he's ever been a part of. Which I think TrueForm, TrueForm has their names out on a lot of spec. And so him and I got to talking and I mean, it made me feel really good, but his first comeback to me, he goes, you know what, Jon, he goes, the fact that I could do this and moving into something bigger than I've ever done before, but with a confidence of knowing that what I do put out there, I'm not worried about any of the other problems that you hear people who may still be on the hamster wheel of various blankety blanks of the month clubs and so forth and so on. So I mean, is that what, and to develop that confidence for you, was it based on feedback coming from previous work or just the idea that just hey, I've made the right decisions, I'm using the right mix, the materials, the temperatures, blah, blah, the sealer. I mean, what if you don't mind me asking, I know it isn't just one thing, but what's brought you that kind of confidence along this path?
Dusty: Understanding your material, number one. I don't care what material it is, as long as you understand what's going on and what's taking place, you have to understand what I mean, you understand the concrete and what it's doing, that's how I developed my powder. You have to understand step by step what's taking place. You have to understand your forming completely. You've got to understand, I mean, you have to understand everything about it. Once you understand it and you've started, if you've got some experience in this and you're getting pretty consecutive results out of it, and then you're starting to blow people's mind, then yes man, your confidence is going to start going up. But I can't say I come to a class, I did one job and boom, my balls are dragging the ground. No, it's not like that, you're going to just get in there and do the dirty work and do the legwork and understand the material. Knowledge man, knowledge is everything. But once you understand it and man, it starts showing, it shows itself off and you understand exactly how you did it, how you accomplished it and everything about it then that's when that snowball starts building.
Brandon: You're saying two things that I think are important to what we're trying to do with Kodiak and Concrete Design School. What I always try to get across in my class is people don't buy concrete, they buy what you make with concrete and I think that's missed by so many guys. They think, oh, I'm going to make concrete sinks and concrete countertops, that's going to sell. It doesn't sell, it depends on your concrete sink and your concrete countertop that you make, that's what somebody is going to buy. So step number one is know how to make those things and develop your own unique designs, which when people come to our classes, we focus a lot on that. We focus a lot on how to get that skillset so you can go and come up with your own sink design, your own chair design, your own whatever it is. But then the second part of that equation is the materials because the materials we used to use, so many things we make today and so many of the looks we create, whether it's upright cast with Jon Schuler or it's Dusty-Crete, or it's a thin-shell concrete chair, like I make, the materials have to be able to do that. So the Kodiak Pro, what we've done with that is we have materials now that can accomplish the designs we're trying to create. So it's a two-pronged approach, but it takes both to be successful.
Dusty: At our classes, that's what we demonstrate. I mean the best products and you have the best hands-on and boom, there you go!
Brandon: The other thing I wanted to hit on when you're talking about pricing is perceived value and it's something that a lot of guys again, miss the boat on. They focus on price as their selling point, so like you did, and it's a natural way to try to grow your business is, hey, everybody around me is a hundred bucks a square foot, I'll be $50 and I'll get more work, but you're attracting the wrong client because the client that's attracted to that is a client that's going to run you to death, what is this, and take you to task on every little thing. Where if you're the most expensive guy in your market, and you have to be able to back it up, you can't just raise your price and do crappy work, you have to do legit good work. But if you're the most expensive guy in your market, there's a certain clientele that says, hey, we got three quotes, this guy is $50, this guy's $75 and this guy's $200, why is this guy $200? He has to be the best, this product has to be the best and there's a part of that. So today look, today I went grocery shopping this morning, when I'm at the grocery store, when there's three different brands on the shelf or whatever it is, pasta or tomato sauce or whatever, you look at price and that factors into the quality of the product, the higher priced items, you in your mind perceive as being a higher quality product on anything, whether it's a car or airlines or whatever it is, the higher the cost, the higher the quality.
So same thing with what we do. So it's one of the things that you have to be able to do it. You have to be able to have the skillset to execute and you have to deliver. You can't slap on some crappy epoxy on concrete and charge $200 a square foot because it's going to fail and the client's not going to be happy. But if you deliver a high-quality product and you're charging $200 a square foot, you might actually get more work than the guy who's charging $50 a square foot and you're four times more profitable for the same amount of work.
Dusty: Or he's doing four projects and you're doing one and still making more money. You know what I mean?
Jon: That's what I was just going to say too, is then you've got the quality of life to go with quality of product, but that's a balance too. Because you're busy as heck, right Dusty?
Dusty: Crazy, man. I've never mixed so much damn mud as I have this year, it's crazy.
Jon: How are you finding the balance between being that busy and still family and I mean, I don't even know. Do you have hobbies?
Dusty: To answer your question, I have a skid steer and a tractor and that is my balance there. I go get on that thing and go play in the fields or I get on my skid steer and clean up the land out here, that's sort of how I find balance, but honestly, man, I need to start taking a little more. In fact, I'm fixing to start cutting off. I'm not taking on anything else more this year. If I quit now and I bust my ass, I think I could finish it all up by Thanksgiving. I have had about enough, man. I have mixed a lot of concrete this year and honestly, I mean, I've got one full-time and he ain't even full time, he's just graduated high school and he's in college. So I have him part-time so, I mean, I don't even really have employees and I'm turning out thousands and thousands of feet. Now with that said, I have some guys like Edgar and Tommy and some other guys that come and apprentice with me and help me out when I get some very large scale jobs, they come in, I've got a cabin beside the shop, they stay here, Tommy just lives right down the road and they come in and help me knock this stuff out and then when I get down to just a couple of sinks or something, then I'm usually in here by myself cranking this out and my project board this year, I'm telling you, I've had at least 10 projects on my board in front of me all year long. It's crazy with a couple of them, they're over six-figure jobs. So I mean, they're not just a little $3,000 sinks, you know what I mean? There are like seven sinks at a time going in each one of these places.
Jon: You just got done with a pretty complicated bar here recently, right?
Dusty: Yeah, man. Yeah, that one there, it was about the death of me. I'm telling you shitfire. We pulled it off, Edgar came down from Indiana and helped me out and we knocked that dude out of the park. I mean just been releasing some final photographs, that bar project was one of a kind. To do something like that without machines or sending it off to have something made for me. We made the whole thing completely by hand. I was determined to do it and by golly, we did it, we really did it and I'm proud of that. I really didn't want the project at first because it was like more than I wanted to handle as a sort of a one-man show here. But I've sent out so many of these projects, from this price point. I have quoted so many projects over the years of that scale and nobody ever raises their hand and said let's do it and these people finally said, let's do it and I'm like, oh shit. Fixing to get for real man, what are we going to do here? I'll go ahead and tell you it was many sleepless nights, wake up in the middle of the night and my head is wrapped around designing how in the hell am I going to pull this off and our first attempt at this bar failed. So the first attempt did not work and that's basically what I priced the whole project on. So I had to back up and come up with another direction and the last thing I'm going to do is Dusty is going to go to somebody saying, I can't create that for you, that shit ain't going to happen. If I give you my word and my name, I'm going to do it, hold my beer son, we're going to knock it out and that's what we did. I'm proud of that. I really am.
Jon: Yes, for guys haven't seen this project. What do you mean by it failed? Because I mean, I saw the end of it, and of course I didn't see the steps along the way, but you were pulling plaster at one point for the molds.
Dusty: Well, that was the optional plan was to go to that. The original plan was I was going to; the pedestal on this bar, the front face was the problem. Doing the bar tops that was no problem there, but that front profile had all these curves and just weird shapes in it to form that, that's something that was out of my comfort zone is what I'm saying. So I envisioned jigsawing it out, that profile, jigsaw that shape out and connect all the lines and boom, you got the shape there, but that didn't work. So plan B was, I had cut out a piece of sheet metal and I was like, the shit I've pulled a little plaster in the past, let's see if we can pull a plaster one like that and it worked. And then we poured some rubber against the plaster, threw the plaster away and boom, we had a live mold that we casted almost 70 lineal feet of this pedestal on and it worked out great.
Brandon: Shout out to a Buddy Rhodes, the kind of the OG plaster puller that brought that to this industry. It's been around for centuries. I mean, that's how plaster molding has been made for all these Victorian mansions and that's how he came to learn it in San Francisco was he had a guy working for him or working in his shop that remade plaster pieces for these Victorian houses. And Buddy learned the process and then started using that to make molds for concrete and so now the guys like you have taken that same kind of ancient, well, not ancient, but this really kind of old-school way of creating complex shapes and use that to make concrete. If you're going to give one piece of advice that somebody's interested in getting into concrete, high-end concrete, what would be your advice?
Dusty: Find somebody that knows what they're doing. Find somebody that does this every day, find somebody that knows what they're talking about and try to shadow them and learn. Experience is the number one most valuable thing you can get. For so many years I tried doing this before I ever, hell I never really did do a class. The only class I ever did was one that failed. That was back when we had the concrete countertop forums and on the pages and I was following everything that everybody was saying and a lot of these guys made something for their aunt and uncle or their friends and took a million pictures of it and preached the gossip and that was an experience to me, man, somebody that does this day in and day out and can execute these type projects, man, try to shadow them and find one and see what they're doing and then develop your own way and your own twist of doing it. But back to what we were talking about earlier, understanding the material and understanding the product, not only just the mud, the concrete, and the plaster, understand your mold making, understand everything about it. You've got to understand it. If I do this, what's the counterbalance, what's going to happen there, you have to understand everything about it and once you understand it, and you're not just going to understand it before you do it, you're going to have to understand it and then do it and see that it actually is working then you really understand it. Then you started getting that confidence we were talking about, find somebody that legitimately knows they're talking about, that does this every day, you're probably going to get some good information.
Brandon: That sounds like a Pinnacle Concrete Camp ad if I ever heard one!
Dusty: Man, I'm telling you what, that's coming up. I'm looking forward to doing something new, man. Well, number one my process has changed a lot from, I guess, the Spring. I'm using a new mix, using well, we used this mix last time, but I hadn’t really had a lot of experience with it.
Brandon: The first time we were using it was in the last class.
Jon: Yes, it was the first time, yes.
Dusty: It was the first time using it. Some learning curves, but I mean, man, I think I'm 11 pallets into it now. So do the math at 56 bags a pallet. I mean, I've got some experience in it now. So yeah, man, I'm going to be demonstrating some new stuff at this next workshop, I'm looking forward to it. The last one I think we actually, instead of making some little tables, I think I made that arrowhead and man, you wouldn't believe how many people want an arrowhead now, it's crazy. Just something we just shot off the hip with and man, I wanted to be in a little different and we've made so many cool looking tables, but man, that arrowhead was just killer.
Brandon: It was, and that sink you made was amazing.
Dusty: Yes, that sink and yeah man. So I am really excited. I'm always excited about the classes. We always get to meet new people and learn new things from these people using the new way I'm sort of doing this with this Maker's Mix and pouring wet and it's going to be interesting. It's going to be some cool looking stuff. I can't wait for you to actually lay your eyes on this stuff, man.
Jon: Yes, I want to see it. I'm looking forward to it.
Brandon: All training is good. There are other training classes out there, take our class first, please, I think it'll set you up because what makes our class different than our competitors' is experience, what Dusty is saying here. Experience matters, experience is everything. So I do this for a living, it's all I've done for almost 20 years. Jon does this for a living, it's all he's done and Dusty does this and every project we stake our reputation on it and that makes all the difference in the relevance of what we share with the attendees of our workshops. So what we're telling you, we know for a fact works because it's what we do, it’s how we feed our families. So other classes are out there, all information is good information, all information is valuable information. So after you come to our class, go take another class. You're going to pick up stuff in that class that's good information. If you're wanting to run a successful business, doing this for a living, not as a hobby or not just making countertops for your house, if you want to do this for actually a career, Concrete Design School is where you want to go, because this is what we do, this is all we do.
Dusty: This is it, man, this is my life. This is everything. This is what I do.
Jon: I mean, just from a, I don't know, I'll just pick a number, from a square foot of surfaces point of view, I mean, just as a guesstimate, I mean, what have you been pumping out for the last, let's say in the last five years?
Dusty: Oh, lord man. Thousands of feet, thousands and thousands of feet. I mean thousands of feet.
Jon: And since following your path, your steps, your processes from start to finish, from powder material to something that you're sealing, what's your failure rate, Dusty? I mean, in all honesty, what's your failure rate? Like callbacks, like, hey, this didn't work? Yeah. I mean, you're talking thousands, if not tens, maybe even hundreds of thousands of square feet following your processes.
Dusty: Honestly, I don't have any callbacks, none. I rarely have a callback, rarely. If I do, it's something that I set the expectation with upfront and that's a whole nother thing is setting expectations and that's something we really talk about in class, as far as product failures or anything, none. I don't have any, I honestly don't know.
Jon: That's great. I think one of the biggest fears that you constantly hear from people out there now, I'm going to say the sealer of the month club that does exist, I think we all realize it does exist. I'm in the same boat and sometimes now I'm on a different side, because it is my technology. People like, ah, Jon, whatever and I'm like, no, I really don't get callbacks. I just don't have the issues. So for a person which, in all honesty, you're pumping out a lot more work than me anymore. Yes, I think that's good for people to know, if you follow your process, as you said, learn your materials, know what you're doing, and while you're doing it, you become successful as your success is, but it didn't come overnight.
Dusty: No, it did not come overnight. Back to the sealer thing, I've used every type of sealer. I don't care what you label it as, what the name of it is, whatever, blah, blah, blah, it's still this, you know what I mean? And I've learned what to shy away from and what worked for me and with the ICT and that type of sealing technology, I've had nothing but success. So I mean, I'm not changing it, never will. I mean, I've had success with it. So if it's not broke, I'm not going another direction. That's just what I do, man and if you want my product, that's just what you're getting. My history and my record, I mean, 99.9%, you're going to get a very, very nice product.
Brandon: I know for a fact you got tens of thousands, if not, I think it's in the hundreds of thousands of square feet of product, whether it's commercial or residential out in the market, sealed with ICT over the course of, I mean, I think you started using ICT around 2012. So that's nine years now, almost 10 years you've been using it almost a decade and so that's, I think that's a long enough test to tell people like this works, this isn't just like, hey, I did three projects in the last month and I haven't had a call back yet. You have a decade of work and tens up to hundreds of thousands of square feet out there that's still performing at a very high level.
Dusty: And not only residential, commercial, I mean commercial bars. I mean, this stuff is grounded and pounded every day. I've got a lot of product out there. I've had a lot of success. Honestly. I think over the last, this many years, I've had maybe two, maybe three callbacks. One was being from, I didn't know that unfinished, ceramic pottery could draw moisture out of that concrete and leave a little burn spot. So made some adjustments on that and that was five years ago I think when that happened and besides that, man, it's just minimal crap, just minimal stuff. It's nothing that wasn't the expectation already set there. So yes, I mean, I've had great success.
Brandon: Well guys, we've gone on now for an hour, exactly. I think it's a good stopping point. Dusty, we look forward, me, you and Jon, we look forward to doing the Pinnacle Concrete Camp November 1st through 6th in Eureka Springs, Arkansas. Go to concretedesignschool.com to register. Anything else you want to say Dusty?
Dusty: Hey man, we're going to be doing some cool stuff. I look forward to showing some of my new techniques and again, over the years when I first started the Dusty-Crete I've constantly changed. I got guys that come to the class in 2014 and they were like, you're not doing that anymore. I'm like, no, man, when they leave the class, I tell them like, find your own, find different things. I'm giving you a baseline to go off of, but find your own way of doing it. So yes, I've got guys from several years ago and they're like, you've changed that up and I'm like, man, I've changed a lot of stuff up. I am constantly changing, but I've really made some big changes going into this class here. So I'm excited to demonstrate that.
Brandon: Jon, what have you got?
Jon: Well, I'm getting back to the farming. What are you growing? Because I love some fresh vegetables, Dusty.
Dusty: I got some turnips going in but I got about, I don't know, probably about four or five acres I'm going to plant just food plots out here. I got a little bit of land here and I got some little fields throughout the woods and yes, man, I love planting some stuff. Bring the deer in and I mean, I like to hunt a little bit. My wife and my daughter usually are the biggest hunters and I just like drive around on a four wheeler drink beer and just go watch, watch the wildlife man. That's sort of my disconnect from the shop. Really blessed to be able to do that. Y'all be out here for long. We're going to have a class here before long and we're going to have a ball here in this holler. I promise you.
Jon: But hopefully post-COVID we're talking about and the three of us are talking about, I don't know, I'm going to refer to it as a launch party or something, but I think that would be amazing to get a group together again and like-minded individuals or new, old, whatever the case may be and just spending some time together and having a good time.
Dusty: We're going to have a blast, man. I got about 300 acres here. So if you want to come camp, hang out, we'll have a ball. It's not your normal class setting. So we're out in the country. We can shit blow up, ain't nobody going to bother us. Do we want to do, tear the ground up with four-wheelers and just don't leave your camper awning out and I'm mowing the grass. We won't go there, but somebody is listening and he's probably laughing his off right now. But camper awnings, if you come, leave your damn awning up, man. I don't want to see it.
Brandon: All right. We'll see you in November.
Jon: All right, Dusty. Good talking to you.