My background began in construction and building in 1972. I worked for Lone Star Industries, a concrete, sand, and gravel materials supplier, as a welder, rigger and burner. We replaced worn steel plates and fixed material conveyers. That job introduced me to heavy construction. While there, a crew of Ironworkers came and erected a new concrete batch plant. They were doing high dangerous work and getting paid very well. I was doing almost the same job as them but my pay was much less. I applied for the Ironworkers Apprenticeship at Local #79 Norfolk, VA. I was accepted. I went to school at nights and learned by doing on the job training in the area. I served a three-year apprenticeship. Upon completion I became a Journeyman Ironworker able to work at any local in the United States.
I belong to the International Association of Bridge, Structural, Ornamental and Reinforcing Ironworkers. Once you become an Ironworker you are forever and always an Ironworker. I worked in this trade for 22 years. We erected major high rise steel structures. did heavy rigging, and machinery moving. I worked a lot of different structural steel jobs during and after my apprenticeship in Virginia. I’d boom out to different jobs in West Virginia, Ohio, Kentucky, North Carolina and DC. I helped erect steel for the new route 17 draw-span bridge crossing the James River and the Chesapeake Bay Bridge. We erected two 200-foot-tall towers and set the draw-span at James River. I also worked for American Bridge Company and raised iron for the Interstate 275 twin truss span bridge on the Ohio river. In Ohio, I worked for Southern Ohio Fabricators and Erectors, there I helped build the new addition to the Cincinnati Library. During that time I worked on three coal fired boiler houses along the Ohio river. In West Virginia, I worked on a large coal fired boiler house.
My family and I moved back to Maine, my birth place. I still did Ironwork here at one of the many paper mills. I helped build International Paper in Jay, Maine. The Number 8 Boiler house, chip conveyer, and A frame at Bucksport, Maine. The new coated paper machine building, and paper machine rolls at Hinckley, Maine. The polar gantry crane in the containment building at Seabrook, NH. The Great Northern Paper rebuild at East Millinocket, Maine. Sometimes work would be slack so I would pick up a carpentry job close to home. Basically the same job as Ironwork, just a little lighter. Measure, cut and fit.
In 1981, I purchased land in the area and wanted to build the best house I could with the limited amount of money I had. I became interested in timber framing because it seemed like it would provide me with the most value for my effort. The aesthetics of my home is also important to me. I liked the visual impact a timber frame home provides. I built my home by myself, with help from my family, Dad, Brother, Wife and 11-year-old son. My Grandfather Henry Sweet was a dairy farmer in Hulls Cove, Maine. My brother and I played in his barn for hours. I believe his barn was a subconscious directive for building my timber frame home.
After completing my home, another local person saw my efforts. He liked it enough to ask me to build one identical for him. That was my beginning. Reading the available timber frame books, asking questions to the old-timers, looking at the old, but still straight barns and Grange Halls still standing. That was what influenced me. I have been building timber frames now for 35 years.