Nathan Adkins’ start to timber framing came unexpectedly. Prior to becoming the founder and owner of Pioneer Timber Framing, his profession was quite the opposite of what he finds himself doing today.
“I worked for GE Aviation, and I was a registered nurse,” Adkins says.
After working those jobs, he found his passion for timber framing.
“Fifteen years ago, I went with my wife for a business meeting she had in Louisville, Kentucky. I bought a book on timber framing and was really interested in it,” Adkins says.
Timber framing is a unique craft different from traditional lumber building and framing. According to the Timber Framers Guild, timber framing uses heavy timbers as the frame of a structure, as opposed to smaller pieces of wood. Additionally, timber framing uses pegs to hold the structure together, not nuts, bolts or screws.
From then on, an interest discovered in a book sparked a hobby, which sparked a business. Upon returning to Ohio, Adkins bought a sawmill and went to work. He started with small cabins and other types of frames. His first major work was for his sister.
In 2010, Adkins made the decision to change his career.
“I decided to quit my nursing job and go into this [timber framing] full time,” he says. But, just like any decision about leaving a stable job, Adkins had his doubts.
“It took a leap of faith for me to leave my job,” he says. “It was a really good job that paid me well, and it was low stress.”
Despite these reservations, Adkins dove headfirst. One major factor that motivated him to start a timber framing business was the lack of competition.
“I’m still one of the only people in southern Ohio that does the kind of work that I do,” Adkins says.
BUSINESS KEEPS ON BOOMING
There are perks to being one of the only timber framing businesses in southern Ohio. It allows Adkins to stay busy and creative.
“I always love turning nothing into something,” he says. “For most of the projects, I always do everything, from drawing the layout to construction.”
Adkins only works on two projects per year, which allows for meticulousness and perfection. While he enjoys the process of building his timber framed homes, he does deal with problems.
“I should probably cut back on a lot of what I do, but it’s difficult because it’s hard to find the people that know how to help me build a timber frame,” Adkins says.
The biggest reason is because timber framing requires more traditional materials, whereas most carpenters use modern materials. Adkins’ competition, businesses that make log homes, have a different structure and plan into making them.
Timber framing is a complex craft, which is why it’s difficult for Adkins to find people to help him with his processes. Nonetheless, Adkins doesn’t let that deter him from completing his work.
The entire process of acquiring a customer, understanding what the customer wants and building the structure is time consuming.
When rebuilding the cabins, fireplaces or homes, Adkins uses a lot of salvaged material.
“There’s all kind of things that people are interested in that I can provide,” Adkins says. “You can’t get that anywhere else.”
THE BEGINNING OF A NEW BUSINESS
Adkins also runs a side business renting out two log cabins. BEHM Cabin Rental runs from April to November, giving customers “a getaway within a restored 1800s log cabin with modern amenities.”
“Six years ago, I built a cabin for a man from Cincinnati who had property in Adams County,” Adkins says. “He already had two rental houses, and I knew he was renting them out a lot, so I thought that this would be an opportunity for myself.”
Serpell Adkins, his wife, helps run the business and is responsible for keeping the cabins up to date.
“I do it full time now between taking care of everything in the home,” she says. “I don’t go to the job sites often, but I help take care of everything else. I’m the one who helps take care of cleaning the cabins and the outside landscaping.”
With the success the Adkins’ have had from BEHM Mountain Cabin Rental, they plan to possibly expand.
“I purchased another historic building that’s at the trail head of the Nature Conservancy,” Adkins says.
As Nathan and Serpell Adkins expand into new territory for their business and in their lives, they always have a constant theme that drives them to new endeavors.
“The best thing I’ve learned is to not be afraid to try something new,” Serpell says.