Get to Know Your Window & Door Guy: Rod Hilkiah

rod - everest

Where are you from?

Olympia, Washington. I’ve been in Portland for 19 years.

 What is your position at Versatile Wood Products & how long have you worked here?

I am the Versatile Estimator.  I started March 2nd, so about two months.

How long have you been doing this?

I’ve been in the carpentry world for 17 years and estimating as part of contracting for about 6 years. I got my start working in a cabinet shop in Clackamas. I’ve been in either cabinets or finish carpentry ever since. Teaching is my other vocation, I have taught quite a few literature classes at Warner Pacific College Adult Degree program.

How/why did you start in this business? What made you decide to be a custom window & door estimator?

I received my Bachelor’s in Geography thinking I would be an Urban Planner. I loved going to school, so I don’t regret the experience, but that didn’t pan out. When I interviewed some Urban Planners, they all said, basically, ‘if you can do anything else, do it.” They all felt that it was too political, and didn’t include as much of the creative side of planning as they had hoped for.

While I was going to school at Multnomah, I picked up some work on the side at a cabinet shop. I found that I had a knack for it, and really enjoyed it. Fast forward a few years and, after I got married, I received some training and tried my hand at finish carpentry, eventually starting my own business – Hilkiah Custom Carpentry. I have learned about myself that I find life in the process of creating things; tangible things that can be enjoyed or utilized by others. Fine carpentry has served that purpose for me.

What is the most memorable project you worked on? Why?

When I was a contractor I had the opportunity to build a fireplace mantel for a job in Shelton. I found a local chainsaw artist who fashioned the top out of a log he found locally. I built up the face with cultured stone and trimmed it out. It became the focal point of the house, with the Douglas Firs and the Puget Sound visible through the giant windows on both sides. Everybody loved it.

What was the most challenging project you worked on? Why? 

Since I worked mostly by myself with my finish carpentry business, I frequently had to move some very large projects by myself. I became creative when it came to physics. I remember my dad saying to me, “give me a lever and I can move the world!” That may have led to some over confidence when it came to working by myself. Looking back at the day I pushed a 7 by 4 foot casement window out through an opening on the third floor of a home in Multnomah Village, and wrestled it into place, I thank the good Lord that I have lived to see another day. These kinds of stories don’t phase my mom anymore, I can’t get a rise out of her even when I try.

What is your favorite wood species to work with? Why?

Balsa. It’s easy to carry.

What are your interests/hobbies outside of work?

I’ve done a fair bit of backpacking, all over the Olympics, My Rainer, and the Oregon Cascades. We hiked to Everest Base camp a few years back. We spent some time in Kathmandu; so the recent events have rattled me a bit. I’m a Disc Golf hacker. Playing with my kids Lucy (4) and Lincoln (2) is a big hobby of mine, they’re loads of fun.

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