Theory and practice must have a healthy relationship. I've followed an education which balances in-classroom teaching with on-the-job experience, from my beginnings as an apprentice carpenter in Canada, through to a German Masters program for Structural Timber Engineering and Energy Efficiency. Here I will go into some detail about this journey and what lessons I took with me.
Carpentry apprenticeship, british columbia, 2005-2010
Some of the best carpenters never set foot inside a classroom, perhaps following a family tradition. Being the first tradesman in my family, my journey started at the very beginning. The four-year carpentry program is harmonized across Canada and encompasses basic skills such as site preparation and structural framework, advancing towards interpretation of building codes and municipal bylaws, business administration and bid preparation. After completion of the some 7200 hours of practical and theoretical work, I was nominated to receive both the Canadian Red Seal in Carpentry- an inter-provincial provision allowing me to work anywhere in Canada- and to carry the title of Journeyman.
More information on this apprenticeship can be found on the Industry Training Authority's website here.
2010/2011: Work as a journeyman on the vancouver island mountain sports center
This project, deep in the heart of British Columbia's oldest provincial park, was a logistical challenge from start to finish. With construction starting in September, the building's framing, truss package and Timber-frame package were assembled during the winter months, when the park lies under a blanket of snow. With an average snowfall of 9.7m (32 feet), keeping a construction project free of snow and on schedule was a real challenge. When the road to access the site was blocked by snow, the only access was by cross-country ski. The project was completed by the time the snow had melted the following spring. On remote projects such as these, you need to be able to react quickly to unforeseen circumstances to keep the project moving. Problem solving at its best.
More information about the Center can be found here.
2011/2012: Transition to germany
After completion of the VI Sports Center, I moved to Dresden, Germany. Although I wanted to continue work as a journeyman carpenter, I needed to learn German as quickly as possible. I spent my first winter attending language courses, and found work the following spring working in a shipbuilder's yard on the Baltic sea. Some of the boats I worked on here were working fish cutters, others were ships of historical significance, destined for display at maritime museums. In this type of work, shortcuts can be disastrous, and any material must be carefully chosen for its exact purpose. A single plank could be a day's work; steaming, bending, planing..., boatbuilding is a labour of love.