Helmut Fink Woodmaker


Woodworker Helmut Fink forges his own path. In addition to an apprenticeship as a cabinetmaker, he completed a one-year training in forestry. Handling wood has been familiar to him since his early childhood. For many years, Fink spent summers working on alpine pastures in the surrounding Alps, right where woods and meadows meet. Inspired by living and learning in nature, Helmut Fink took the plunge and started his own business in 2006. With the help of Werkraum Bregenzerwald, the young entrepreneur quickly found his clientele and learned to make use of the benefits of the collective. He still rents machines from various cabinetmakers and carpenters and thus does not need his own workshop. What poses a challenge to other companies is particularly dear to his heart: the preservation of old buildings. The renovation process joins just about every one of his skills: repairing and adding on, integrating new elements and creating harmony between old and new. Since such projects may well go on for a whole year, Fink has now built a team of three employees: a carpenter, a cabinetmaker and a skilled worker.

The workplace varies between forest, sawmill and construction sites. (No own workshop).

A different tree, a different room

Each kind of wood has its own qualities and individual character. Fink draws his knowledge from his deep familiarity with the forest and the trees and from exclusively working with local woods like spruce, silver fir, beech, ash, and elm. On occasion, he also enjoys experimenting and trying out new things. With lime or alder, for example, he explores how wood on walls and floors can become an experience for all senses in the intimate space of a bedroom: soft, warm, silky and calm. In more public spaces, a rough-sawed beech expresses the cooler and harder properties of its species. Fink processes the whole tree, using both knot-rich and knot-poor parts and creating new expressions and appearances of wood that are more committed to the tree than to passing trends. Diligence and emotional presence are also required during cutting. Choosing the type of cut (single cut, rift, semi-rift) is the first step in creating a space through the process of sorting, trimming, planing and designing surfaces.

Hand-planed ceiling panelling, a unique piece

Fink installs hand-planed ceiling panelling from tongue and groove boards or acoustic panelling with joints, both either unfinished or soaped.
Hand-planing gives surfaces a special matt sheen. Its slightly wavy texture is barely noticeable to the naked eye, but tangible as a subtle organic irregularity to the touch. Compared to an ostensibly perfect and smooth sanded board, hand-planing gives wood a uniquely personal touch.
The conical laying pattern and the mixed le-ngths and widths of the boards reveal how Fink’s cut follows the growth of a spruce or a fir. To evaluate which boards fit together and what a floor or ceiling will ultimately look like, you need a good sense of imagination, and intuition for branch patterns and proportions. Fink already begins this thought process in the forest, when the tree is still standing. Before harvest, he documents the tree’s possible application in a tree protocol. During harvesting, when the tree rings come to light, he confirms and specifies the desired assortment (panelling, walls, ceilings, belt floor, wide floor boarding, timber) as he marks the trees.
Wooden floors by Holzhandwerk Fink are always laid in dry construction, on wood construction systems that are also made in-house. This practice has many advantages: the floor is soft, yet durable; there is no waiting for things to dry; cable ducts can be easily formed; there is no need for chemical aids (adhesives, binders) and future dismantling is uncomplicated and already considered during construction.We are in constant physical contact with our floors, walls and ceiling. And yet, customers’ thoughts primarily focus on appearance and styles. If we begin to consider all sensual and atmospheric qualities in the production process, a core element of living can be experienced in a new way.
When it comes to the future of his business Helmut Fink, father of four, keeps an open mind. “If one of them wants to continue, they can. The potential is there; like me, they have heard and seen it all since early childhood,” he says. “That’s what I can give them.” In any case, the floors and walls, taken care of with brush, water and mild soap, will remain with us for generations to come, a testament to Fink’s talent and craft.