Schwaller, aka Timber King Beat, is one of the log cabin builders from the HGTV show Timber Kings.
The show consists of Beat and others constructing custom log homes at their site in Williams Lake.
“There’s hundreds of logs stacked up around us, and there’s two log cabins set up now. All the walls are up, and the roof system, which we will be putting up next week,” Lafferty told Cabin Radio from the job site over the din of chainsaws in the background.
“And with our crew, we have guys from Germany, guys from Norway, England. Like, there’s students from all over the world here.”
But for Lafferty, the course means a lot more than being able to build a cabin.
He says he’s hoping to take his knowledge home and start building durable homes for his community in Behchokǫ̀ – which, like many areas of the Northwest Territories, faces a housing crisis.
“Most of the guys, they’re into this kind of work already. But they just need some training to actually build a log home, and I plan to bring training there,” Lafferty said.
Lafferty, who has worked as a carpenter since he was a teenager, said he grew up working on the land with his family.
“All our lives we’ve been hauling firewood, cutting trees, and never had a furnace in our home,” he said.
“I’ve been working with timber basically all my life.”
Now, at 33, he decided to develop his passion for log homes when he found the course online and was able to acquire some funding from the Tłįchǫ Government.
“Something I always wanted to do is to be working with the Timber King,” said Lafferty, who added he had watched some of the HGTV show “here and there.”
Building homes, creating jobs
Students at the Unbeatable School of Log Construction work on log homes for clients of Schwaller.
Lafferty is also planning on building some log cabins himself. His crew in Behchokǫ̀ has been harvesting logs in preparation for the first log home build. He plans to team up with his uncle, Tony Lafferty, who has owned a sawmill for the past 23 years.
Ultimately, he imagines people without adequate homes being able to harvest logs and build something of their own, “and have a sense of ownership, too, and move into a house that they could actually maintain.”
In Behchokǫ̀, Lafferty’s uncle says he’s excited to start working with his nephew once he gets back.
“So we’ll get into building log homes for the North, built in the North. Everything we’re going to get from the North,” said Tony, who described creating northern jobs through building log homes as his dream.
“You can build log homes, you can create jobs forever,” he said. “As long as the tree is standing there, the tree’s not going to run away from you. And the leftover from the tree, you use it for firewood.”
Schwaller said he is proud of his previous and current students, telling Cabin Radio “When I look what they can do now compared when they came here, it’s like day and night.”
He says other former students have taken their knowledge to build log homes in their communities.
“I support Steven 150 percent,” said Schwaller. Log home building is a very physical job, but very rewarding, he added. “If it gets young people stoked on the job, then why not?”
Schwaller says if there is the interest, he would bring his course up to Yellowknife. “Maybe I pack up a bunch of logs and come up there, and bring my two-trailer, and I’ll teach a course up there for a couple of weeks.”
Tony Lafferty says built-in-the-NWT log homes could one day be built for people around the world.
“You could put them together, or sell it as-is,” he said. “You could have it in a package, like a Timber King.”