Butler Tech students take on major project for Home and Garden Show

The Cincinnati Home and Garden Show is a welcome respite from the cold, gray days of winter. Elaborate gardens and outdoor living spaces fill the Duke Energy Convention Center, giving visitors a chance to daydream about improving their yards for those warm, summer days.

Midwest Stone Scapes and its parent company R & K Developers have been part of the show for years. With just a few days to turn a blank slab of concrete into a show-stopping outdoor kitchen, they are getting extra help with their build from Butler Tech’s construction management program at Northwest High School.

Using just blueprints, the students have transformed raw lumber into a three-gabled pavilion. “This isn’t lumber that you can buy at Home Depot or Lowe’s,” said instructor Donnie Kelley. “This is straight from the saw mill, rough sawn poplar.”

R & K had the lumber shipped directly to Northwest High School, where each beam was washed with a flame from a propane torch – customizing each piece to give it the highly-desired “antique” look. The beams were then delivered to the convention center, where the real moment of truth happens. Instructor Donnie Kelley says when it comes time for the saws, there’s no margin for error.

“There’s no hiding if you make a bad cut on this stuff, so they had to take a lot of time,” Kelley said. The poplar is a very high-end lumber that most students don’t normally get to work with because of the cost. “To get to work with these kinds of materials in such a visual way is really exciting.”

Rick Davis with R &K says the cuts pass inspection. “I was very much impressed. A simple speed square where you are having to do valley and hip cuts, complicated, we call them a compound cut where you have a bevel and a miter. These kids are already there. And that’s very complicated. Those are things you don’t find until two and three year levels, but some of them are handling that already.”

For junior Josh Sebastian, it’s just another day on the job. “Once you learn it, it’s kind of like riding a bicycle. You don’t forget it. You take the skills that you learn early in there year, and you just apply them and build on them, kind of like math.”

Rick Davis says for students like Josh, there is a bright career ahead of them, because they have one skill that will set them apart from everyone else:  drive.

“All these kids, there’s not one of them sitting around. They’re all looking for something to do. And they have initiative. And there’s certainly a market for them. Right out of school, there’s a lot of trades looking for these individuals, and they’ll get scarfed up,” Davis said.

Josh plans on pursuing a career in the trades after high school, whether it’s in construction or another field, he’s still not sure. But he already sees the value, knowing he will be better equipped to take care of his own home one day, rather than having to pay a contractor. “Even if you don’t want to go into the trade, it still teaches you very important skills, and it’s fun. It gets you out of class for a little bit, and it gets you moving and exercising.”

Butler Tech’s construction programs are offered as a two-year course during the junior and senior year of high school. For more information, click here.