Author & Timber Framer Bert Sarkkinen
“The love for and fascination with building and creating structures started with building forts and carving projects as a youngster.”
When I was 16, I quit my job as a farm hand and went to work for my father, the owner of Scandia Construction, as a framing apprentice. It was my 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. My father’s philosophy was that mistakes, while they should be minimized, can be fixed. And, he taught me how to turn out a fine quality building without taking forever! While training was painful, I kept working on learning logistics, quality control, visualization, roof math, and all the requirements needed to make the subcontractors’ and general contractor’s lives easy.
“The most important lesson – I was responsible for the functionality of the house.”
My father taught me always to add an extra stairway riser when possible, because the stairs would be so much more comfortable. I learned to avoiding door swings hitting toilets, checking code clearance for egress, and leaving room for cabinets and refrigerators were of few of the pitfalls avoided. few. calculations for roof valleys, hips, and tons of framing details. The list just never quit.
“If there was a problem with the trusses, I was reminded that it was my job to communicate and understand just what we were getting.”
My father would not accept excuses. When there was a mistake or a problem, blaming it on the blueprint just didn’t work. “You’ve got to think, Son. The prints will never be perfect.” That was a tough concept to get as an apprentice: making judgment calls to overrule the almighty blueprint. 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 continue after big disappointments.
To further my education, I went to work fo a general contractor for two years where I gained an entirely new set of skills and grew a stronger knowledge base to make better judgement calls, which was a lot of fun. This included foundations, trim, painting, roofing, siding, decks and flatwork.
Also, it’s important to mention that my faith upon a living and resurrected Lord Jesus is the bedrock of my story and family. And everything else in my life is truly secondary.