Made in the USA

Made In USA

“Timber Framers take great pride in creating and restoring historically significant structure’s to reflect their original heritage while preparing them for their next century. It is a discipline we approach with pride, integrity, and admiration of our forefather’s tenacity, expertise, and perseverance.” ~Jimmy Vogt, Field Manager, TFU~

As an iconic emblem of American ingenuity and perseverance, the Made in USA label appears to be destined for a perch on a dusty shelf at the Smithsonian. Along with early automobiles, TVs, washing machines, and my 1985 Tandy 1000 computer, they are preserved for posterity in nostalgic tableaus. As for my Tandy 1000, if not for that miraculous device, it’s possible I would still be in Oxford, MS, pecking away, with ever shortening index fingers in an attempt to type an error free resume to 300 nationwide construction companies on my Royal portable typewriter.

It didn’t occur to me then, that this new device which allowed easy editing, duplication and merge mail was an example of the burgeoning partnership between American manufacturers and foreign labor resources. By 1985 that horse was fully out of the barn and at a full gallop toward everything which we used to manufacture. When asked how we lost our manufacturing base, my response is generally that it wasn’t lost at all. It was traded away by companies who could send the parts overseas and reimport them, assembled and packaged at a lower net cost and higher profit.

Like the rest of the worker bees in this country, I was born a capitalist. Anyone who has a job or owns a business is a participant in that system. Capitalism is good. Unemployment is bad…and under-employment is also bad, albeit a growing reality. Once secure jobs are lost to off shore labor, they are rarely regained here. In recent times there are reports that some of those jobs are returning due to substandard quality, but the numbers are too small to matter.

Unfortunately, many of the companies engaging off-shore assembly and manufacturing bare the name of long time and trusted brands for everything from shirts to chain saws. It was jarring to me the first time I experienced the utter lack of availability of formerly familiar tools with a Made in USA label. Surely we could have held on to the screwdriver franchise; even if the screws we were driving came from Eastern Europe?

However…what remains virtually intact and has a good chance of surviving because of its very nature, are Timber Framed homes. If we have been a growing niche market for the past 35 or so years, it seems likely we’ll continue to be so. Whether hand or machine crafted (or a combination of both , ours is not a skill easily
accommodated. Buying a used pick up truck and a box of chisels doesn’t make you a hand crafter. An investment in a K2 and facility to house it is not a path for the underfinanced and uninitiated or faint of heart; and then there’s all that programming…YIKES!

Expatriate computer programmers who become Home Depot handy men, and even seasoned conventional carpenters are not likely to step lightly into Timber Framing. Although I believe the craft and industry would welcome and mentor willing apprentices; the time and focused dedication required may be a path not easily affordable by the newly unemployed. Mortgage payments don’t disappear when a job does.

This does not mean to say that the same number of crafters are employed as there were even two years ago. It’s no secret that membership renewals in both national organizations (TFG & TFBC) are down; but we’re seeing some comeback of those who are able. They are steadfast and committed to the well crafted blood which flows in their veins. Timber Framing is not a disposable pursuit. Although there is an ebb and flow of activity, based on this extraordinarily unique downturn in the national economy, Timber Framers in the USA and Canada along with our colleagues in other parts of the world…will continue to cause the chips to fly…no matter where they land. In the main…they will land on native soil.

No small factor in this certainty are our dedicated and determined homeowners. If the craft is represented by organic, eco-conscious practitioners, our owners understand the need for more durable, less wasteful, energy efficient homes. The fact that they’re also beautiful certainly helps. But…there are very nice conventional homes also. The level of determination of our homeowners is as amazing as they are themselves. They will not be disuaded by forces which wilt the enthusiasm of other mere mortal home buyers. They love the idea of a TF home, and we do our best to love them back with a satisfying building experience and permanently embracing space in which to live, raise families and grow.

So…my guess is…as far as Timber Framers are concerned…other than as a display to demonstrate a still practiced and thriving craft…the Smithsonian can reserve future tableau space for things like Blackberrys, iPhones and Plasma/Hi-Def/3D TVs. Although our homes will no doubt be accessorized by off-shore content from micro-waves to mattresses, Timber Framed structures will continue to be the domain of a special cadre of homegrown, dedicated and proud carpenter/builder/workerbee/artisans. A niche worth having…and sharing.

~Jack Costantino~

“Timber Framers take great pride in creating and restoring historically significant structure’s to reflect their original heritage while preparing them for their next century. It is a discipline we approach with pride, integrity, and admiration of our forefather’s tenacity, expertise, and perseverance.”
Jimmy Vogt, Field Manager, TFU

Well said Jimmy…JC

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