“What do honey, Scottish Highland Cattle and Timberframes have in common?”
The answer? Sigi Liebmann, apiarist, farmer, but best known as a Timberframer.
Sigi’s company, International Timberframes, is turning 10 years old on March 20, 2013.
Sigi came to Golden in 1999 to help train other Timberframing companies in the area on new technology. He worked on the design of iconic Golden buildings and structures such as the Pedestrian Bridge and the raising of the Eagle’s Eye at Kicking Horse.
“My plan was to be here for three months, but I guess like so many others, I came to love Golden, so here I am 14 years later!”
In 2003 Sigi began to realize his passion lay not with hi-tech machine cutting, but with the traditional craft of hand-cutting the wood.
“I feel that so many skills are going to be lost forever unless we work to keep them alive, and hand-cutting timber structures is one of them. Hand-cutting also allows for the uniqueness of each and every beam to be displayed. People really appreciate the beauty and skill involved in hand-cutting. I think they’re also amazed that it’s not as expensive or as slow as imagined. That’s the beauty of Timberframe experts, a machine can only cut one beam at a time, whereas each pair of hands are working on something.”
One of Sigi’s goals is to develop the skill of Timberframing in B.C.
“In Europe Timberframing is a unique craft with its own Apprenticeship program. The output of which are Master Timberframers, trained in hand and machine cutting and design. In Canada Timberframing plays only a small part of the Carpentry Apprenticeship so it’s difficult to find trained and qualified local Timberframers.”
Sigi is working with the BC Log and Timber Association to lobby for a BC Apprenticeship, and he works closely with the College of the Rockies campus in Cranbrook where a 12-week Timberframing course takes place. From these courses he looks to recruit one or two Canadians every year and, offers them work experience and training to develop their Timberframing skiils.
“I love watching people learning about Timberframing. It was a pleasure to work here in Golden on the walkway at the College of the Rockies with the students on the Introduction to Trades program.”
Sigi sees more and more of his work evolving to a more modern style.
“We are being asked to design, cut and raise much more modern buildings. People no longer associate Timberframing with old traditional heavy wood homes. Today people are using wood in homes with clean lines, open spaces, and a much more contemporary style, which ironically is much more of what I was doing in Europe.”
Outside of Timberframing Sigi has been a honey-bee keeper for five years, with eight hives. With his girlfriend, he also owns a small fold of Scottish Highland Cattle.
“My animals are my de-stress from a day’s work. I completely relax when I spend time with them. The bees and the cows are very quick to pick up on my mood. If I go there wound up and feeling negative they let me know that they don’t appreciate it,” he said. “My bees are a completely organic and natural product, and that’s how my cows are being raised too, only grass and hay. Maybe that’s what the common theme with wood is. Wood is the most natural, organic and renewable building resource to work with.
“I’ve worked with wonderful clients over the last 10 years and I thank them for recommending International Timberframes to other clients: personal recommendations and that word of mouth promotion of my integrity and workmanship are the most effective marketing tool I have. I look forward to serving people in the area for another 10 years.”