The Birth of Arrow Timber Framing
BY BERT SARKKINEN
The official story starts when a customer asked me to do some authentic Timber Framing on his "shome" (shop and home combo)
But the actual roots go much deeper than that. The love and fascination for the aspects of building, of creating structures, started with forts and carving projects as a youngster.
When I was 16 I quit my job as a farm hand and began to work for my father, the owner of Scandia Construction, as a framing apprentice. I remember being quite concerned about how much work would be available to me if I started working as a carpenter.
I wondered if I should give up the steady income source I had for 3 years, shoveling sheep manure, digging fence holes, hauling grain and hay etc. In hindsight, my narrow, narrow perspective was very laughable, but that job had given me a $1,000 over 3 years and allowed me to purchase my first car.
I had to make a decision
In addition, my father was very much hands off in influencing my decision. He didn’t, for example, tell me what a dead-end job I had or that he would make sure I always had work.
When I had asked him how much work he had for me he responded that he had "x" amount of jobs in front of him and couldn’t promise any more than that. He told me to think about it and that he would gladly put me to work… but that it was a decision I would have to make.
Golden Opportunity to Learn How To make Judgment Calls
I have to say, that it was a golden opportunity to learn about the building industry from the skeleton up. For 6 years I learned all the nuances of real quality framing over other "good-enough" methods. (I was "thrown to the wolves." my father’s philosophy was that, mistakes while they should be minimized, can be fixed. And he was going to teach me how to turn out a building of fine quality without taking forever!)
Granted, some of the training was painful and perhaps a bit too fast, but I was not going to quit…I wanted to learn, and to request taking it slower felt like quitting, so I kept on learning logistics, quality control, visualization ,roof math, and all the requirements needed to make the subcontractors and general contractors life easy.
And perhaps the single most important aspect…That I was responsible for the functionality of the house… Door swings hitting toilets, code clearance for egress, room for cabinets, refrigerators, stairway room, (he always said to add an extra riser when possible because the stairway would be so much more comfortable) roof valleys hips, and tons of framing details. The list just never quit.
But the plans said...!
He would not accept the response "the print said__________" Whenever there was a mistake or a problem." You’ve got think son…the prints will never be perfect" (that was a tough concept to get as an apprentice, to make judgment calls and overrule the almighty blueprint, aka the instruction sheets.)
If there was a problem with the trusses, I was reminded that it was my job to communicate and understand just what we were going to be getting.
All in all they were great years. The fun and challenges far outweighed the pain and stress of making judgment calls and mistakes. It also taught me how to get up and to continue after big disappointments.
About the time that I got married, I went to work for a boss who had a pretty loose philosophy about life. When asked about the direction of his business, (He was a General contractor who did anything and everything) he responded" whatever the flip of the phone brings"
The time spent doing foundation, trim, painting, roofing, siding, decks, flatwork etc., was a lot of fun and that experience gave me much stronger data base of knowledge to make judgment calls and decisions.
New Start Up, Arrow Construction
I worked at that job for about 2 years before starting Arrow Construction that specialized in framing complicated High and Homes.
I really had the most fun when I had the challenge of complicated math and angles, modifications which improved the functionality and beauty of a home, and in the relationships which were established as I worked and served different people.
So with the background of quality and responsibility oriented training, the love for angles and math, plus an eye for balance and functionality, the step from conventional framing to Timber Framing was relatively easy(falling in love with the beauty and lore of the old world craftsmanship made it even easier)
Really? Timber Framing is easy?
I should clarify that… The decision to become proficient in the art of Timber framing was easy. And the hours spent learning the joinery was easy. And the hours spent designing and studying design was easy.
But Proving myself, finding jobs, investing in tools, investing in equipment, shop, trucks, trailer and all the other expenses needed to provide great timber products without taking forever, was tough.
And I have to say that the love of the craft was the anchor. Without that passion, there is no way I could have put in the time and worked for so little, for so long, to secure the right to call myself a truly qualified Timber Framer.
Seeing beyond the timbers
The latest chapter to my story has to do with helping you reach your goals. To help you figure out what you really want and work with you to achieve that.
Specifically I’m talking about the "Master Method Formula" This is a problem solving/goal achieving step by step system that I have developed, from pieces of other problem solving techniques, and simplified for my own use. The biggest contributing book was "The Goal" by Eliyahu Goldratt.
I'm sure you’ve all heard the adage, "Necessity is the mother of invention!"
I believe that the challenges I faced in becoming a timber framer (cash flow, investments, employee training and retention, etc.) helped produce this system to solve problems and achieve goals.
The epiphany moment happened the night before I had to present the idea to a networking group I belong to…
I had used a rough version of what became the "Master Method Formula" for challenges that had confronted me in business, and it was my turn to share something that helped me in business, with the networking group. It’s kind of odd or funny, but having to present or teach what I had been doing clarified and improved the system!
Inspiration at 2:00 a.m.
About 6 months later, probably about 2:00 a.m. one night where I was burning night oil, an inspiration struck… what if I were to help clients use the system that had helped me, for their personal gain?
I was instantly fired up! Of course! Everybody will appreciate enthusiasm and a can-do attitude.
My enthusiasm was re-enforced by a story about a big corporate company who made drill bits. At one board meeting, someone suggested that they were not in the drill bit business, but in the business of selling holes. That silenced the board. It put a whole new perspective on what their customers really wanted.
Likewise I have broadened my perspective of how we can help each other out. Why would we not do that? What would be the harm in being unselfish and offering to share what has helped me with potential clients?
I had doubts, I was afraid of rejection and failure… but in the end, I could no more quit or back off, than when I was under the gun, learning to make judgment calls, as an apprentice framer.
I have to say that putting this system together for my clients has been very rewarding and is a great way to have a win win relationship.
The Next Chapter.
There is the complete story… thank you for your interest in the craftsmanship, charm, and lore of Timber Framing.
I hope you will become a chapter in my story. Namely, if I can earn your trust and deliver a product that has the little extra umph!... your personalized touch. This can be as easy as using our style preference mini guide or as in depth as creating your own 3 ring binder compilation of ideas. You can get me as involved as it makes sense... Little commitment (come visit our shop and talk over ideas), to lots of commitment, ("Here's a retainer Bert. Put together some dynamite options for me to choose from").
Another good starting point is to take advantage of the timber related info I put together for Arrow Members about once a month.
P.S. I really should mention, that my faith upon a living and resurrected lord Jesus is the bedrock of my story and my family, because everything else in my life, really and truly is secondary.