Sunday, July 13, 2014

A passion for craftsmanship

January 17. 2014 4:46PM


• Noon Jan. 25

• 3 p.m. Jan. 25

• Noon Jan. 26

• 2:30 p.m. Jan. 26

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Jeff Devlin sets up a saw and a piece of wood.

“Are you ready to do the cutting for the inner workings of that wine rack?” he asks a woman who doesn’t seem to have much woodworking experience.

The woman nods. She cuts. She smiles.

It appears Devlin has made her day as he congratulates her and slides a pencil behind her ear — a sign she has made her mark as a carpenter.

Actually, Devlin is the real carpenter. But, if you’ve seen him in action on HGTV’s show “Spice Up My Kitchen” or “I Hate My Bath” on the DIY Network, you know part of his charm is getting people involved as he transforms their kitchens and bathrooms.

“Our job today is cabinets,” he told one man as they proceeded to install wooden cabinetry with an impact driver, which incidentally has three times the power of a cordless drill.

Oh, the things you can learn from watching a master in action.

The personable Devlin will be a featured speaker at the 13th annual Northeastern Pennsylvania Home & Garden Show, set for Jan. 24, 25 and 26 at the Mohegan Sun Arena in Wilkes-Barre Township.

“I love doing home shows,” he said earlier this month as he was about to board a plane for a show in Austin, Texas. “It’s just fun to be able to answer people’s questions.”

People interested in remodeling are welcome to bring their questions and even photos of the problem areas of their homes to the Mohegan Sun Arena to show him, Devlin said.

Don’t worry. You won’t be able to shock him, said Devlin, who has encountered plenty of carpentry challenges over the years, including some that involve creatures you don’t want to find in your house.

“We pulled up a toilet once and found cockroaches underneath, some still alive, some not. We’ve found mice underneath cabinets. If a house isn’t sealed properly, they can get in. Once we found a whole entire ant colony inside a wall. They had eaten all the plywood and left just sawdust at the bottom of the wall.”

According to his online biography, Devlin grew up in the Philadelphia area — borrowing tools from his dad — and entered the field of professional carpentry more than 15 years ago as an apprentice to a remodeler of historic homes. His early experiences led him to appreciate the craftsmanship, beauty and challenges of older structures.

During his six seasons with HGTV’s popular “Spice Up My Kitchen,” he said, “We saw every kind of kitchen, in every kind of stage you can imagine. And I can honestly say that renovating the kitchen absolutely transforms a home and the way people live.”

Later, he could be seen repairing the home damages caused by fire, flood or an overzealous do-it-yourself project gone sour on the A&E Network’s “Drill Team.”

Nowadays he keeps busy renovating “some of the most challenging bathrooms in the country” on “I Hate My Bath,” which airs at 10 p.m. Tuesdays on the DIY Network. He also helps homeowners make major decisions about designs, materials and budget on the show “Good, Better … Best,” which airs at 11 p.m. Fridays on the DIY Network.

Devlin enjoys encouraging people to tackle projects in their homes, always stressing three topics: planning, inspiration and budget.

“If you only have $10,000 to renovate your bathroom, that’s what you have,” he said. “Be honest. Don’t be ashamed. When I renovated my bathroom, I said I’m not spending a dime over $5,000, and I didn’t.”

The Internet is filled with potentially valuable advice for renovations, Devlin said, and “hopefully our shows are, too.”

“If you take the time and educate yourself from the get-go, I definitely think the DIYer can accomplish something.”

Where would such an avid carpenter live? In a historic Pennsylvania farmhouse, of course. He enjoys living in this “labor of love with his patient wife, Christine,” two children, Reese and Aidan, and a host of pets.

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