Q and A with a Timber Framer featuring Pete O’Brien

Leaving the world of party tents, awnings, and rough construction behind, Pete O’Brien joined our timber frame group finding the craftsmanship and finer work of traditional mortise and tenon joinery much more to his liking. In his opinion, handcrafting is second only to raising a frame.

pete for profile

We seem to be inundated with folks who love the outdoors so we were not surprised to learn that this timber framer likes hiking, kayaking, and frequents the Adirondacks. However, Pete admitted that he’s a gamer with a passion for racing and marksmanship games (cat’s out of the bag, sorry Pete!). On occasion Pete puts his kayaking skills to the test, participating in our local white water Wild Water Derby. After sitting down for this rapid fire interview, he regaled us with a few stories from the derby. Read on to learn more on this young craftsman (with author comments in brackets):

Pete's favorite way to view the ADKs!

Pete’s favorite way to view the ADKs!

What’s your favorite word or phrase?
Awesome. (Pete’s fellow timber framer and long-time member of the team, Jake, piped in saying to me, “That is for sure his favorite word.” Based on the grin he and Pete exchanged I suspected differently but didn’t press.)

Pete with chainsaw


We think this photo of Pete applying a chain saw texture is pretty awesome.

What’s your favorite time of day?
Dinner. (Big smile from Pete with this answer.)

What’s your favorite truss or joint?
A scarf joint.

Scarf joint assembly.

Scarf joint assembly.

Favorite wood species?
Oak.

What sound or noise do you love?
(A long pause here was punctuated by a good-natured verbal jab from a fellow timber who suggested the high pitched whine of the drill he was operating nearby was the sound Pete loves. Shaking his head and smiling Pete offered a different answer…) Water.

What sound or noise do you hate?
Nails on a chalkboard (He couldn’t suppress a shudder and I grimaced with empathy for his reaction.)

Let’s move on…you travel to raise frames. What’s your favorite area of the nation?
The Blue Ridge in Virginia – the views are amazing. (“Better than the Adirondacks you visit so much?” I asked.) Different. Less populated…

Not quite the Blue Ridge, but plenty of blue water for this lake home raising. (From the left: Pete, John S, and Mike G)

Not quite the Blue Ridge, but plenty of blue water for this lake home raising Pete was a key member of this Spring. (From the left: Pete, John S, and Mike G.)

What’s best about your profession?
Crafting something unusual, something not many other people do.

All focus.

Speaking of unusual, here Pete’s working some new joinery for 100+ year-old reclaimed agricultural timbers salvaged by our sister company, Pioneer Millworks.

What profession would you not like to do?
Telemarketing. (Pete looked stricken by the very thought of having to cold call people.)

What’s your dog’s name?
No dog, I have a cat. His name is Porter and he’s…awesome. (Another grin spread across his features. I have to admit appreciation for Pete’s sense of humor and overall affable nature.)

(Follow the pink arrow to Pete)

(Follow the pink arrow to Pete)

How about the Wild Water Derby?
This was my first year participating. Bruce, Jason, Matt, and a few others – we formed a team using an old wooden raft some of the… (he paused, sending a quick glance at Jake) …more seasoned guys raced a few years back. Things were going well until we started taking on water. (“Really?!” I asked and Pete laughed.) Really. The rapids were splashing up and tossing us around. We were using our hands and a bucket we had in the boat to scoop it out between bouts of rowing. It was epic. We all made it out fine and we got a wooden oar award too! I’d like to do it again next year. 

Q & A with a Timber Framer Featuring Rick

Rick Vanwuyckhuyse can be a hard guy to catch, at least when he sees a camera headed his way. On a job-site, it’s harder for him to avoid the lens—and he’s a dynamic subject. We asked Rick a few rapid fire questions while he was crafting a trellis in the shop – of course, we left the camera in the office:

Gotcha! We managed to catch Rick at a raising on Cayuga Lake.

Gotcha! We managed to catch Rick at a raising on Cayuga Lake.

What’s your favorite phrase or word? You know what I mean?

What’s your favorite time of day? Afternoon.

What’s your favorite truss style or joint? Scarf joint.

Traditional scarf joint with a walnut key.

Traditional scarf joint with a walnut key.

A scarf joint on a curve.

A scarf joint (without a key) on a curve.

What’s your favorite wood species? Fir.

Douglas fir. Rick's favorite and our most commonly used timber species.

Douglas fir. Rick’s favorite and our most commonly used timber species.

What’s your favorite curse word?  Oh &#*%!

What sound do you love? Diesel motors.

What sound do you hate? The adze.

alexander with adze

The sound of the adze in action is not Rick’s favorite.

What’s your favorite region in the US? Not Michigan. That was brutal this winter. East Coast.

What’s best about being a timber framer? The unique craftsmanship.

What profession wouldn’t you want to do? Property management. 

What’s your dog’s name? Harlow (lab/pit rescue) and Jamison (Boston Terrier)

We tagged a mini-bio interview on after these questions and here’s what we learned: Rick’s been crafting frames with us for half a decade. By all estimates, he has been a part of over 150 of our raisings around the nation. With stints in C++ programming and property management, he is happy to be crafting with his hands, traveling, and finds much satisfaction in seeing a frame together. Rick’s another musician in our ranks, favoring blues, specializing in the harmonica and guitar. He plays locally here and there to the enjoyment of many, including his wife Brenda.