There's glass half full people and glass half empty people – I'm just happy I've got a glass
“This job’s about being honest and respectful,” says Dave. “I treat people how I wish to be treated and I say it how it is. Customers don’t want you to say you'll do a job just to get the money. I'll tell someone if they're better off going another way.
“I don't want to take a job and mess it up – I want longevity.”
As a fourth generation carpenter, the Chamberlain name certainly has longevity. Dave worked with his hands from an early age, learning the craft from his father: a cabinetmaker who made backdrops for film sets including Star Wars.
Aside from a bit of local advertising, Dave’s business survives and thrives thanks to regulars and their referrals. By Dave’s calculations, 90 percent of his work is localised in Stoke Newington - a neighbourhood in the London Borough of Hackney.
“I can probably earn a full day starting at eight and finishing at two,” says Dave. “I’ll spend the rest of the day getting supplies and going to spec out other jobs. I call my little jobs ‘jammers’, as in ‘can I jam you in?’ With Jammers I can earn another few quid and cross another job off the list.
“For me, work is like food: some people want a big main meal but I'm happy with lots of starters. I can probably earn as much, or more, in less time doing little jobs.
“My grandfather used to say: ‘you'll never be a millionaire being a carpenter, but you'll always have food on the table’.
“I'm not a millionaire, but I've got a nice fat belly and I get to say I enjoy going to work. I’m not punching in at the sausage factory to make sausages all day. Every day is different: you turn up in someone's life, you go into different environments at different times. It’s nice.”
Dave’s day-to-day work life is a mixture of what he calls “normal stuff” - fitting wardrobes and planing doors. And “gifts”, creating bespoke pieces from scratch. Although the gifts make him feel like a “giddy kid with a box of Lego”, Dave is someone who enjoys his work, no matter the job at hand.
“How great is it that I make stuff, I stand back and I think I enjoyed making that? Then when I’m happy and packing away my tools I get paid,” says Dave. “It’s a great deal.”
Designer Barnaby Reynolds recommended Building BloQs to Dave when the two met on a job. Twelve months on, Dave has become what he calls “a hardcore BloQs believer”. He even turns up on days off to finish paperwork, chat with fellows, and refuel at the Building BloQs cafe.
“It's the best referral someone's ever done for me. I came here and I thought, yeah this is it,” says Dave. “I wanted to get a workshop but when I'm out working I’m paying for a space I’m not using.
“Here you pay for what you use - and you work alongside like-minded people. I've got all the machines I need and space to use them rather than working in a matchbox. If you're not sure about something there's always someone to ask. There's lots of knowledge here.
“The food is the bollocks too. I'm not upset spending money on food here, everything is delicious. I enjoy popping in to deliver firewood, use the WiFi and have chat with the guys. It’s important to build a rapport with people, especially new people, rather than me just being some oik working over there!”
Given his experience and the fact he has carved out a successful living for two decades, Dave Chamberlain is someone Building BloQs members know they can turn to for advice, whether it’s professional advice or something a little more spiritual.
“I try to get myself into a position where I enjoy what I do, whether it’s putting a door up or making a lovely wardrobe. We're only here for five minutes, so why not enjoy it? There's glass half full people and glass half empty people – I'm just happy I've got a glass. If you’re optimistic and dynamic in what you do then the rest will follow.
“I've made mistakes and I had to learn the hard way, so when I work with someone I let them make small mistakes. But with the big ones I'll stop them and ask why have I stopped you?”
“My son Billy likes it here and I enjoy coming: the people, the food. It's a great vibe and pretty chilled. Everyone's willing to help because we're all in the same boat in what we're doing – it's a godsend. I want a BloQs t-shirt.”
See more of DWC’s work on the BloQs Directory.