What Has Maker Faire Got to Do with Steel Doors?

makers fair. Ed Page.

Interesting that you should ask (even though it is just me talking to myself at the moment).  The connection is not so direct, but for me it is exactly the kind of thing that created the 2Fold® product and every other thing I have invented in the past.  Namely, I am always looking for the next technology, material or process to use in a new and different way.

When I discovered the fact that the large NYC Maker Faire was scheduled I just had to jump on the train, pay my $38 and snoop around even though I wasn’t sure I was going to find anything new and exciting.  The road to discovery is not a direct path, but if you are curious and inventive by nature, you are driven to keep looking.  I did just that.

If you have never been to a Maker Faire or don’t know what the “maker” movement is, I can help you out.  The maker movement is a community of creative types that use things like 3D printers, customizable electronic parts and other computer-oriented CNC gadgets to make things for themselves.  They create in their own homes or shared maker spaces with homemade equipment or equipment purchased from other makers that become cheaper and more powerful every year.  Small, independent developers are the heart and soul of American innovation, and I love to keep in tune with what they are working on.

One of the things that is common at the faire is a lot of me too entries with one or two added features of what showed up two years ago.  Each of these inventors ran into something that they couldn’t do with what was available and figured out a way to have their cake and eat it too.  This newfound opportunity was a way for them to bring a newer widget or software to drive a widget or accessory to the market on their own and share it with the community.  Sharing is driving factor more than commercial success for most of these folks.  Their pitches are not polished, but the cleverest of them have hoards standing around their open-air booths trying to take a peek, ask a question, or touch the examples of output.  The atmosphere is electric with inspiration everywhere.

3D printing has been a big interest of mine for several years, but I still have not taken the plunge and bought one even though great output can be had on a machine for less than $1,000.  The fine detail from newer machines could only be had on machines 2-3 times the cost a couple of years ago.  Being able to prototype hardware parts to test them out in plastic prior to building them in stainless steel in a matter of minutes or a few hours is very appealing.  However, I get some of the same benefits by doing all of the development work in SolidWorks with real moving 3D models on the computer screen.  Touching and feeling how the gears interact is just another confirming element that 3D printing can offer.  We’ll get one soon based on what I saw at the fair.

My biggest mission was to explore CNC machining.  There were several systems on hand that gave me some great ideas on how to automate some of our wood processing.  Now the decision is to take an existing system and modify it to our needs or buy components and build a machine custom to our needs.  The itch that I have needed to scratch for some time is to build a custom machine.  The show introduced me to some new resources who can help me accomplish for a few thousand dollars what it would take a $90,000 store-bought machine to do.

This machine is how I will spend some cold dark winter nights working on and 2Fold will take another leap into the computer-driven processing world with faster, more flexible, and better products available to the architectural and construction communities.  I’m so glad I spent the time going . . . thank you, Maker Faire.

Great Views With Steel Windows.

Window walls by 2Fold. Under construction.

Steel windows are by far the best choice for openings that highlight a great view.  The thin and elegant frames allow for large expanses of glass with minimal interruptions.  No framing material other than steel can get the result you want and deserve.  Wood, aluminum, and plastics can be used to make windows and doors, but they don’t have the finesse of steel.  Getting steel windows built, delivered, and performing in an energy conserving manner can also be difficult.

Steel windows are hand built one-at-a-time by craftsmen which makes them not only expensive, but the limited number of skilled craftsmen can lead to long delays in manufacture.  Very few steel door and window manufacturers incorporate state-of-the-art engineering and manufacturing techniques.  They tend to be smaller companies with a few craftsman or small divisions of larger companies.  The primary steel components that they use almost all come from Europe which means ocean freight, large inventories or long waits.

At 2Fold®, we developed all of our window and door products around steel.  Our steel is locally sourced flat panels that are laser cut and bent into profiles one job at a time with precision and timeliness.  You can’t do better than that.  And since the accuracy of all of the hardware hole preparations is controlled by engineering software that connects directly to the laser and bender, the only shop skill that remains is a good welder, which we have.

We just completed a project in Edwards, Colorado, which is very close to Vail.  The opening was 17 feet wide and 12 feet high built like a tic-tac-toe board of nine holes with the center hole being a massive 9 feet by almost 7 feet.  The lower left and right corners contain awning windows for ventilation.  This feature window in the Great Room has an awesome view except on the day that the materials arrived when a freak snowstorm created blinding fog and freezing temperatures.

Fortunately, the rest of the week was sunny with warm temperatures so the inexperienced contractor installing the window system on site was able to learn and install the system with ease.  For an opening this large to ship in one piece, it would require site delivery and installation using a very powerful helicopter.  It was easier and much cheaper to build the wall in parts and deliver them in a truck

The first pieces to be installed were the two 12 feet long vertical steel mullions into which the nine steel framed windows were installed.  In each of the three vertical bays, starting at the bottom it is window, horizontal mullion, window, horizontal mullion, and window.  Did I mention earlier that the top row of windows was trapezoidal and the center unit looked like a homeplate.  While each of the nine windows could have been factory glazed, it was decided to field glaze making the site installation easier to control with the inexperienced crew.  There were a couple of experienced 2Fold® hands-on site to show them what to do, and the installers performed magnificently.

All of this material was built and delivered to the site within the 6-8 week promise and the installation only took about 3-4 actual work days to complete, not counting the snow day.  So far we have only talked about the steel frames that make the window wall strong and slender maximizing the view.

What about thermal performance?  Well, the second most valuable part of the 2Fold® framing system is the Accoya® wood interior that stops the heat transfer and offers an unmatched combination of beauty and efficiency.  The thermal performance of the wall was less than 0.30 BTU/hr./ft2/˚F (the NFRC, Energy Star, & Local requirement for thermal performance) without the use of argon, triple glazing, or 4th surface double low-E coating.

I can’t wait for the house to be completed and final photography to show off this stunning project.  We don’t just build the world’s thinnest bi-fold system, we create equally beautiful and efficient window walls for large openings that contain with doors and operable windows anywhere you want them.

What is the Best Alternative to Hope’s and Crittall Hot-rolled Steel Windows & Doors

Hope’s and Crittall have been around since the earliest parts of last century.  Their histories are intertwined and go back to the Henry Hope Company in the early 19th century.  During the 1990’s there was quite a squabble between Hope’s Architectural (predecessor to Hope’s Windows) of Jamestown, NY and Crittall of the UK because of Hope’s claim “since 1818.”  The end result was that Hope’s had to stop making the claim since Crittall had the direct corporate history dating back to Henry Hope and “Hope’s” of NY descended through International Windows which was a sales arm of “Hope’s England”.

Legal squabbling aside, the history of both companies dates back to the development of hot-rolled steel as an alternative to cast iron for the making of train tracks needed to move coal which was essential to the industrial revolution.  Cast iron was very brittle and prone to cracking while hot-rolled steel was more ductile and resistant to cracking.  Once this technology was discovered, the process of using progressive rolling dies to form red-hot steel into intricate shapes found its way to the making of window sash profiles.

Hot-rolled steel windows can be found throughout castles and estates of England and the US.  From the 1930’s through the 1950’s, steel windows were manufactured in both the US and England and then shipped in standard sizes to warehouses for fast delivery.  They were either unpainted or sprayed with a simple primer with no surface preparation which lead to a reputation for rusting.  These windows and doors can be found on many tract houses, high-rise apartment buildings and commercial buildings all over both countries.  In their day, they were considered commodity windows.

Starting in the 1960’s, steel windows and doors were overtaken in the market by aluminum, wood and later thermally broken aluminum windows and doors, the hot-rolled steel window and door market faced extinction due to increased cost, poor thermal performance and maintenance issues.  In the late 1980’s and 1990’s Crittall and Hope’s began to make significant headway in the modern architecture market because of their thin sightlines and technological improvements in their systems.  They were no longer what had become prison or “factory windows”.

Weatherstripping, zinc based undercoating, snap on glazing beads, and insulated glass became the way for modern steel windows to compete against other window systems, and these two players kept forcing one another to continue innovating.  Up until the early 90’s almost all hot-rolled steel window bars were made in low-tech factories in Birmingham, England.  That is when Montanstahl of Switzerland entered the picture based on processes developed by Wolfgang Stumm, the genius son of the founder.  The new profiles were rolled from rods rather than slabs and came out of the rolling mills straight and without most of the imperfections of the British steel.  They still dominate the market for hot-rolled steel bars.

In the late 1980’s Harry Framback of Skyline Windows developed a thermally broken aluminum window system called Designline 90 that simulated the dimensions and “look” of historical hot-rolled steel windows.  At the time, I was the Director of Special Projects for Skyline during this development, and since Harry was my partner, we spent countless hours brainstorming solutions to the design issues that came up.  This was a fun time and Skyline prospered from the development.  This alternative is still being manufactured by Skyline and can be found throughout New York City where they are based.  Other manufacturers have knocked off the design and many alternatives to the Designline alternative to real hot-rolled steel windows are available.

Soon after, a number of German, Swiss and Italian cold-rollers began to make similar profiles out of very thin steel (about the thickness of Tonka toys, if you are old enough to remember) bent and folded while cold into intricate, tubular shapes.  These products are still produced as lower cost alternatives to true, hot-rolled steel windows and doors.

One of the biggest criticisms of hot-rolled steel windows and doors is thermal performance.  It had always been preached by Hope’s and Crittall that steel does not conduct heat and cold as much as aluminum and consequently did not need thermal breaks.  The truth of the matter is that they had no idea how to thermally break the hot-rolled bars so that was a convenient truth to promote.  The cold-rolled counterparts came up with double sections and plastic separators to solve the problem, but true hot-rolled profiles were left without a solution until the early 2010’s.

Wolfgang Stumm of Montanstahl once again entered the picture and developed a technology of laser welding receptor channels onto laser cut steel flats and joining them with stiff fiberglass insulators to mimic traditional hot-rolled steel bars.  I was very fortunate to have been invited into this development and the resulting product was called Thermal Steel which I coined.  While my joint venture with them came to an end, they are still manufacturing bars using this technology.  Several US and European companies are producing windows and doors using this technology.

Hope’s in the last few years, having rejected the Montanstahl technology in the early 2010’s, developed their own thermally broken system using plastic shapes to cover hot-rolled steel bars to have an offering in this category.  I could expound on this system for hours, but needless to say, I am not fond of this approach.

Thermally responsible steel windows and doors are now available from many, many companies using hot-rolled or cold-rolled methods to produce their windows and doors.  Having been intimately involved with the development of both aluminum and hot-rolled thermally improved window and door systems, I set out to take a radical departure from both methods and created 2Fold® which is currently patent pending.

2Fold® utilizes hot-rolled steel sheet, laser cut and bent into structural shapes to form the basis of the system.  The sashes (moving door part) are fully welded into strong frames and have a visual sightline of only 1”, smaller than any of the alternative systems available today.  Thermal performance and a more pleasing interior finish is provided through the use of Accoya® the most stable and responsibly grown wood in the world.  I am very proud of this development and hope that you and your colleagues soon discover the benefits of 2Fold®

What is the Best Alternative to NanaWall Bi-folding Doors?

In every segment of every product category, there is an 800-pound gorilla.  In the folding or bi-folding door market that product would be NanaWall.  I can’t tell you how many times I talk to savvy architects and contractors that tell me about their “NanaWall” only to find out that what they are considering or even have already used is a bi-folding door from another manufacturer.  This must drive the owner of NanaWall nuts that the door function that he popularized in the U.S. is using his brand name as a generic term.

This happens in all kinds of markets for products like Kleenex which is a facial tissue generically, but we gladly accept one made by Scott Paper or even a store brand.  I had a young programmer working for me from Texas who called all soft drinks “Coke”.  To him, it was an orange coke, root beer coke, and even a Pepsi coke.  How insulting to the company who build the product type awareness.

I discovered bi-folding doors over 10 years ago at the Fensterbau in Germany which is probably the largest window and door industry tradeshow in the world.  It fascinated me and I inquired, but the product distribution rights had already been contracted to NanaWall.  The best window and door technology, like tilt & turn windows and lift/slide doors, all seem to come from Germany, and still today, Nana imports many of these products.

Two excellent Australian hardware companies, with an inter-connected past, found their way to the U.S. market.  Both Centor and Brio make terrific stainless steel hardware.  Their distribution model has made bi-folding door technology available to many different door manufacturers.  Fabricators learned that all they had to do was make some accommodations to the sash and frame components, and with the help of their careful hardware directions, they too were in the bi-folding door business.

Today almost every major player in the window and door industry offers a bi-folding door in their product mix.  When your sales guy is trying to sell a large estate window/door package and the architect is nuts about including a “NanaWall” in the living room, you don’t want to have to say, “Sorry, you’ll have to buy that from NanaWall.  Not many of these same companies promote their bi-folds, but they feel they need it in their mix to be complete.

The thing about all of these newcomers to the market is that they are not bringing anything new to the category.  They are taking their old-school way of building door sashes out of wood, aluminum or vinyl and adding nifty hardware, but the elements are much the same from company-to-company.  And, all the new players have created a fragmented market by taking gnat-like bites out of old granddaddy NanaWall.

2Fold® is a bi-folding door that was created to bring a creative and inventive twist to this old tune.  Instead of just adding some hardware to old door building techniques, 2Fold® was built, from the ground up, just to be a bi-folding door company — well, actually, to be the best bi-folding door in the world.

The 2Fold® goal was to provide unparalleled frame thinness and create the best-looking window wall in the open position and the closed position.  My experience taught me that the only way to enhance the view through the closed door panels was to maximize glass and minimize frame. I knew that steel could make that happen, but I also the steel option created a thermal challenge.  Enter Accoya® — the world’s most environmentally friendly and stable wood, with terrific insulating properties.  The 2Fold® unique design could now offer the best of all possible worlds.

The new solution led to the next problem.  We needed to invent a new multi-point locking system that would operate within a super small 3/8” hardware slot within the 1” wide sash profile.  The result was clever and slick enough to warrant a patent application which is currently pending.  It covers the hardware solution in conjunction with framing material combination.  For the hinge and track system, we chose Brio because in my experience it offers superior function and adjustability.

Ok, so you want a NanaWall who gets some of their doors completely fabricated in Europe. But how long do you think it would take for it to be made in Germany and shipped to you here in the U.S.  Well, many people have discovered that the wait is just too long and that overseas manufacturing offers many other risks and uncertainties.  That is why 2Fold® is made right here in the good ole’ U.S of A. in Tucson, Arizona.  Americans built it, Americans engineer it, and Americans can get it to you quickly – within 6-8 weeks. If you are in even more of a hurry, we should talk.  We can also talk about the exact way you want it put together for your special project.  Fixed window walls; awning and casement windows; single and French doors; all are being introduced using the same technology and all will be built in America.  Yes, there are lots of alternatives to NanaWall, but there is only one 2Fold®.

Now Architects Can Get Bi-fold Doors With Thin Contemporary Frames!

Contemporary architecture features large expanses of glass with minimal framing to support it.  Glass by itself can offer outstanding views of the great outdoors, but unless it is mounted in frames that can move the engagement is a passive one of “look, but don’t touch.”

Physical engagement with the outside world can only be accomplished through operable doors from single and French ones up to the most outstanding choice of bi-folding doors that easily fold open to turn what might appear like a fixed window wall into a full opening joining the indoor space with all that is beyond it with no obstructions at all.  The problem with this wonderful idea was the limitation of the doors that were provided by just about every “mostly glass” door system in the world.  The frames were chunky, bulky, or stout.  I use these euphemisms for fat as a chunky, broad-beamed guy myself.  Massive frames blatantly express power and dominance, but not beauty and elegance.  Doing more with less is magical.

Glass doors made to carry insulating and security glazing systems need to be strong to handle the weight and windloads.  Normal manufactures who are totally invested in traditional door framing materials like wood, aluminum, and vinyl are cursed by the need to use large sections to make them work.  It works for them, but it doesn’t work for architect’s who want to express a modern architectural aesthetic and provide both visual and physical engagement with the world outside the home.  Architects would hear from every door manufacturer rep he heard from that you can have an operable function, but you can’t have it with thin, almost invisible frames.

That WAS the truth until 2Fold® crashed the party and invented a glass and steel door system with 1” wide sash members that are thermally enhanced with Accoya® wood glazing bead frames.  This is a system for fans of traditional steel window and doors dating back to the Bauhaus movement which is at the beginning of the modern movement.  The elegance of thinness can only be achieved with steel, but now it is thermally and visually improved on the inside through wood glazing beads.  The thermal part of the improvement is covered by its pending patent, and the visual improvement is due to the “glazing bead” with miter joints and mortised keys locking it into a rigid frame that covers the entire inside visible part of the sash.  NO ugly joints like traditional metal windows.  Wood lovers can have wood and steel lovers can have the glazing beads painted to match the steel components of in a color complementary to the interior finishes.  Steel windows and doors have aluminum glazing beads in most cases anyway, and paint is paint.

Dear Architect, you don’t have to settle for fat bi-folding frames that don’t complement your otherwise contemporary design anymore.  Steel is strength.  Steel is thinness.  Accoya® is warmth without compromise.  2Fold® has just introduced you to a real solution, not a design compromise.  You are a visionary, not a mediator.  2Fold® steel and glass doors enhanced with Accoya® are the future.  Find out how easy it is to have your cake and eat it too.  The only thing better than our doors is our service.

What Does “Decks Becoming Living Rooms” Have to Do with Great Doors?

Decks are thought to be wooden platforms built off the backs of houses to hold a grill, a table, and some chairs.  Well, that is what they used to be back in the 70’s, but the trend is for decks to be architecturally designed with lighting and aesthetic appeal to make them as important to a house as the living room.  In fact, they are becoming an extension of the living room, it not its replacement in moderate climates.

I recently read a great article in Pro Remodeler (http://ow.ly/rlK230b1f9Z) by Jim Cory that talks about the modern interpretation and use of decks in the modern era.  They are no longer simple rectangles tacked onto structures to provide simple utility.  Homeowners want them to be sculptural elements that make a statement about who they are and how they live and engage with the great outdoors.

The materials available to build decks have expanded beyond simple pressure treated pine boards to the use of more exotic hardwoods like teak and redwood as well as sustainable marvels like Accoya®.  While some clients and designers might turn their noses down at synthetic composites like Trex® and its lookalikes, these materials are available in a myriad of colors and offer complete accessory systems to tie the whole project together.

Shapes, sizes, multiple levels, and curves have entered the decking bag of design tools.  Built in seating, fire pits, and entire outdoor kitchens are also regular parts of modern deck design. While outdoor showers are also available, I don’t think we are ready for a complete water closet facility outdoors yet.  To continue bringing inside conveniences to the outdoor living rooms we need to consider bringing a complete lighting plan into the design to create the mood and add to safety while moving about the space.

OK, so what about doors?  Although doors are not considered part of the deck, the joining of the indoor space to the outdoor space you might be prepared to spend up to six figures for are an important part of the success of the deck project.  If the deck is not easy to access from inside the house it might not get used too often.  In perfect weather, the opening might best be completely open to allow a free flow between the inside kitchen and living spaces to create an enormous party space.  Also, let’s not forget bad weather times when you are stuck inside but would like to enjoy the beautiful design of the gorgeous deck sculpture that you created with its landscaping and subtle lighting.  That’s right, you need not just doors, but glazing areas to visually share the outside from the inside when you might not want to physically be out there.

Fixed window walls with single or French glass doors offer the simplest solution while sliding doors might be the most commonly used to join the inside with the outside.  Bi-fold doors with their amazing hardware design achievements are probably the best solution in this case because along with providing a minimally obstructed view when closed they can fully open when it is beautiful outside.  I’d like to think that our 2Fold®®® door products offer the best of the best alternatives because of the simple operation of a fully openable glass opening, but we accomplish it with the world’s thinnest framing components.  Yes, up to 35% more glass area than other bi-folding doors.

Everything You Need to Know About Pivot Doors.

Almost 20 years ago I designed a pivot door that was 8 feet x 8 feet.  It was painted bright red and was installed on a small interesting house designed with all corrugated paneling on the exterior.  This all glass door with very thin frame was the only color.  At the time, people thought I was crazy, but the door was loved by everyone involved with the project.

The great thing about pivot doors is that the pivot can be located nearer the center of the door, left and right.  When a door gets over 42” wide with traditional hinges, it can become a sail that the wind catches and is hard to control.  The closer the pivot gets to the center, the better pressure equalization occurs when opening or closing and its resistance or tendency to be controlled by the wind diminishes to almost zero.  This what allows very, very wide doors to exist . . . and the only way for them to exist safely.

All this love for pivot doors comes with some challenges, compromises, and downsides.  First, there is the issue of air and water tightness.  You will find that most knowledgeable architects use large pivot doors as entrances that are set well back from the building faces under an overhang to help with the water part of the problem.  The inherent problem with leakage is that part of the door swings out and part swings in.  This discontinuity means that the weatherstripping and weapage of the door need to be both in and out at the same time and that is a problem.  This problem comes to a head at the pivot area where in the best of circumstances the protection changes from inside to outside and a void is created roughly equal to the thickness of the door.  There are several ways of approaching this design problem, but none are foolproof.

The worst solution is usually replacing more reliable compression gaskets with wiper gaskets at the head.  The large size of the of the door and close tolerances of fit make it difficult to maintain a consistent gap between the sash and frame.  If the gap is too small there is a rub or resistance to movement.  If the gap is too large, the weatherstrip might not even touch.  At the sill, there is not much choice other than wiper type gaskets.  Compression gaskets at the sill would create a considerable step over hazard and still have the discontinuity problem at the pivot area.

Locking is another issue.  With all pivot doors, there is one side of the door that carries the locking device and handles like any other door.  This handle usually just engages a strike about 40” off the floor and sometimes engages top and bottom bolts or other multi-point locks along the active jamb.  What almost no pivot door does is lock or hold tight the other (non-active) jamb of the door.  The can be a secondary lock on this jamb, but it cannot be engaged if it is inside only operated because you would never be able to get in with a key at the active jamb only.  Given that huge doors and frames are difficult to keep flat during their entire lives, the inability to latch or hold tight the non-active jamb of the door can become a big problem.

Not all doors are created equal.  Pivot doors can be great so long as special consideration is paid to the design, location, and use of the door.  An alternative to pivot doors can be french or bi-folding doors that allow for a large opening, are easier to operate, and fully seal with compression gaskets without any discontinuity.  2Fold® makes both french and bi-folding doors, but I’m also inspired to design a pivot door that eliminates their shortcomings.  Stay tuned, maybe next year . . . or the one after that . . . or the one after that.

How Do You Define the Perfect Window or Door Product?

Perfection is in the eye of the buyer and the companies trying to sell to them.  No matter how you slice it, perfection is most easily defined as Better, Faster, Cheaper!  The cruel truth of the matter is that all three of these factors fight one another and compromise is the only way to get to the “perfect” solution.

If you want the best it most certainly will not be the cheapest and most likely won’t be the fastest.  If you raise fastest to the top of the podium it will not likely be the cheapest or best.  Ok, you see how this is going.  Let’s break down these three pinnacles and see what makes them tick.

Better is usually defined as the most feature laden product that outperforms the competition with more options with convenient operation and made from the most aesthetically pleasing materials that outlast all others with little or no maintenance cost.  This is a tall order for any single product and better is the operable word for only some of the features, not best as in winning in all areas of analysis.  A car that can go from zero to 60mph is 2 seconds, has rich leather interior, and seats that mold to your individual butt would not expected to be the cheapest and neither should it be true in windows and doors.

Cheaper can only be obtained by using less expensive materials with lower labor costs by a company that doesn’t spend as much on customer service in most likelihood.  The cost can be reduced by efficiency of manufacture which is only economically feasible through high volume production which does not lend itself to customization.  You can’t get something for nothing, and if a sales person  is trying to sell you on this possibility, they also must distract you from some hidden truth deep inside the product.  We all want to believe in a “good deal”, but you are usually “paying” for the deal in some other manner.  The fine print is a killer.

Faster is relative, and it is paid for by accepting fewer options, less customization to your specific needs, and/or higher cost to deliver.  Standard products with few options are available at the local store or from regional warehouses.  Customization and fast can only be accomplished with local fabrication, incredible software systems, knowledgeable professionals all the way down to the local level, fast shipment in less than truckload quantities and other cost drivers.  You can get it fast, but again, at a price.

Better, faster, cheaper is a myth.  A friend of mine tells customers that you can have one of the three or maybe two with a little compromise, but you can’t get all three . . . sorry . . . no way.  Anyone who tells you otherwise is lying to you.  It’s that simple.

My suggestion is that you rate each of the three factors on a scale of 1-10 so that you understand what your priorities are.  Also, you need to set features within each as thresholds.  You might say I can’t spend more than $4,000 for this opening and can’t wait more than 10 weeks for it to deliver and need for it to have a specific thermal performance.  The more you can identify your buy or fly limits, the easier to stay on track.

2Fold® is a custom door system that makes doors quickly that fit your exact circumstances.  As you might expect, this comes at a cost.  We are not the cheapest alternative, but if you want an incredible glass door built to your needs in a short amount of time check us out.

Why Are Three-Legged Stools So Important?

Animals float, swim, slither and stand on all fours.  The more developed of us can stand on our own two legs.  This two leg thing is more like a parlor trick because we can’t do it without a lot of mental resources and countless twitcher muscle contractions constantly working together to adjust our balance.  These adjustments are necessary because we are top heavy, and even “at rest” isn’t totally a thing, because with the movement of even the smallest appendage our center or gravity shifts and a muscle correction is necessary.

Inanimate objects like tables and chairs don’t have the luxury of having brains and muscles to make adjustments.  They rely on geometry and configuration to determine their stability.  An object with no legs has either a large flat surface that is permanently in a stable position or is round like a ball that is stable in that by definition it can’t fall over.  The ball, however, can’t stay in one place when acted upon by even the slightest side force.  A one-legged object is like a pogo stick.  It cannot stand still on its own but with forces acting on it directly through its axis can be maneuvered.  That’s right, it needs a smart operator to stay upright and must remain in motion. Three or more legs are required for an object to be stable at rest.  By deduction, the three-legged stool is the simplest of all stable fixed objects.

Any one or two legs of the stool can be raised or lowered without destabilizing the stool until the center of gravity it moved outside the remaining one or two legs at which point it topples over.  This why organizations often create dynamics of responsibility centered around three legs at a minimum.

Manufacturing companies can best be explained by the three pillars of strength: sales, engineering, and production.  When these three points of view work together the organization is stable.  If Sales, for example, pushes too hard it can topple engineering and production by pushing the company beyond its natural stability base.  Engineering and production can do the same thing if they push the others beyond their existing limits.

The interconnectedness of the three legs is what is key.  There is a natural tension between them and they must always adjust to each other to stay in balance.  The tension in a manufacturing company can be seen in that Sales will always push for faster production times and lower costs to make it easier to sell while production will push back by claiming it needs to pay overtime to reach the sales expectations which in turn will raise the price.  Sales and Engineering will push against each other when sales wants features that have not already been engineered, and they want them at no additional cost, with no time delay, and guaranteed to work perfectly right out of the gate.  This tension is a good thing because it forces a mutual respect for the balance that is necessary for organizational success.

Even on a hilly or uneven surface, the three-legged stool is stable.  Unlike the tables at your local Italian restaurant, no folded napkins need to be stuffed under one of the legs to keep it from rocking. 2Fold® is a simple company built on this principle.  Our sales people have directed the engineering software that drives the company.  It will only allow options and sizes that have proven to work, and the contractors who cut the steel, make the glass and supply the hardware are all wired into this system.  We are built for success with the most streamlined process possible, but with each door customized to your specific needs.  Give us a call and kick the tires of this well-oiled machine . . . you’ll love the experience.


Is Failure Such a Bad Thing?

Failure almost always ends in pain and injury (either physical or psychological), but seldom ends in death.  When faced with a calamity of any proportion, my first response is always, “well, nobody died.”  Ok, a hammer fell out of a window during an installation and struck the windshield of a rare Rolls Royce on the street.  It will surely cost some money, but money can be re-earned, life NEVER gets a do-over.  If your assessment starts at the worst possible outcome and you walk it back from the edge of the abyss, every step brings encouragement.

No human endeavor goes exactly as planned although during the planning phase every effort is made to prepare for every possible contingency.  Chaos theory takes over and but for the flapping of a butterfly’s wings in the Philippines, a gust of wind causes the mechanic to drop the hammer.  Without a supercomputer and the time to calculate all possible factors, you will occasionally be surprised.

Fear of failure is paralyzing . . . the proverbial deer in headlights.  The adult condition requires you to set limits of risk that are acceptable.  Every time we walk out on the street there is a risk of something horrible happening.  By definition, you left the house to walk to the store for a container of milk which is one of the safest of things you can do, but for some random acts like a bus running a stop sign can snuff you out.  The answer is not to stay home and never go out because there are plenty of everyday risks at home as well.  The state of death is probably the only safe place, and Sister Mary Margaret has filled your head will all sorts of horrible images of how that can end up.  There is no avoiding risk and consequently failure.  The key to success is taking reasonable risks and you need to learn how to do that.

Now that we have come to understand that failure is inevitable, we need to set those thresholds of acceptable risk.  We start as very small children pushing the boundaries, testing the limits of what our parents tell us.  If they say the stove is hot, the curious mind is driven to find our exactly what hot means.  This brings us to experience.  Benjamin Franklin has perhaps put it best, “Experience is the best teacher, but a fool will learn from no other.”  I find it odd that only the first phrase of the quote is most often quoted.  The important part of it is the second half.  If you can learn from the experience of others some of the time, you can reduce your “failure education pain” to a bare minimum.

Success is the opposite of failure and as with all continua, they mark the ends of the spectrum.  You cannot know success without some failure.  Without failure, you are probably not trying hard enough.  I have had the pleasure and occasional frustration of working with perfectionists.  I find that they come in two varieties: those who continue to make improvements always moving forward toward the mythical goal of success, and the egocentric lune who spends his free time conjuring up why HE, in fact, did not fail.  This last one is very frustrating because they never get better.  They are always trying to redefine the past.  Failure requires learning from it, setting or revising thresholds, and moving on.  The ego that cannot accept failure as a teaching tool, doesn’t go too far down the road to success.

The more ambitious the mission you set out on, the more complex, and the more gremlins that line the path.  2Fold™ is the most carefully planned product development I have ever been involved with in my 45-year professional career, but even with two years of preparation, there are still surprises every day.  I never think about quitting; this is too much fun.  I’ll be back in the testing lab for the fourth-time next week to solve a nagging problem . . . a failure.  Oh well, no one died.