Sam McCanless/Zane McCanless, Paint Shop
Assistant Foreman Sam McCanless instructs his son, Zane, a mechanic, in the shipyard paint shop – but he’s not necessarily the painting patriarch of the family.
“Bill Ibsen is my uncle,” he explained. “Jeff and Ben are my cousins.”
Sam was hired by Bill Ibsen in 1989 at the age of 19.
“I was working in a wood shop, a custom-furniture shop. I kind of always had a job. I was a dishwasher and then a cook at a restaurant for four years starting when I was 14. Since I was 14, I had a job. I moved out of the house when I was 15 and always had my own place.”
In 1999, after 10 years with Foss, Sam McCanless left to start his own business, a “high-end painting company.”
“I did that for eight years,” he said. “When I came back to Foss, we were finishing a $140,000 interior paint of a single family home. It was a 7,500-square-foot house with a four-stop elevator. When I came back, I worked three days and then decided to go to swing shift because I had 11 men working that painting job and I needed to be there with them.”
When asked why he gave up the business, Sam spoke of practicality.
“That was just about the time the economy was turning, and the jobs were harder to come by. I have four kids. I needed to look at what was more important to me: to be my own boss, or to knuckle down and make sure I had an income.”
In the shipyard, Sam has a critical eye born from years of intricate painting.
“It’s very down and dirty here,” he said. “Even with the new construction, nothing is perfect. In a custom home, everything has to be perfect. If it catches your eye, it needs to be fixed. I have a very critical eye. I’m not a perfectionist – I can let things go – but I see everything.”
Sam’s son Zane, meanwhile, decided he wasn’t quite ready for the expensive years ahead of him as a student at Washington State University. After heading to school in September of 2013 with a summer’s worth of shipyard wages, he was back in a matter of weeks – and back on the job at Foss less than two months after returning home.
“I came back to do community college,” he said. “I started in January, and I’m going to school, working on my AA. I want to transfer to UW. Right now, I’m looking at civil engineering, construction…”
“Marine engineering,” Sam added, smiling.
When asked how his friends would describe him, Zane didn’t hesitate:
“Dedicated. Because I’m working here, and I’m going to school. My friends either work or go to school, but they don’t do both. They think I’m crazy because I’m going for engineering.”
Zane’s quite sure he won’t be building his career in the shipyard.
“I’ve watched my dad my whole life,” he said. “You have to work really hard for your money. Your hands are always sore, your feet are always sore. It’s intense.”
Well-versed in running a business, the family now stays busy with their award-winning hot sauce company named for Sam’s first two sons: Zane and Zack’s World Famous Honey Co.
“I was keeping bees and had some surplus honey,” Sam said. “It’s a honey-based hot sauce.”
And don’t worry – Zane’s younger brothers Hans and Max are also in the mix.
“Hans has a honey mustard named after him,” said Sam. “We get a lot of good press with the hot sauce company. We’ve been on with Jesse Jones. We burned him up,” he laughed.
“I like it,” Zane said of working with his father, both in business and at the shipyard. “It kind of motivates you to work hard to make your family look good. I’ve learned a lot of things from my dad. There’s more of a personal connection there, rather than some random guy barking orders at you.”
“Zane works hard, he does a good job. I still have to get him a little bit, but I get on everyone. It’s nice when other people work with him and they tell me that he’s doing a good job.”