Cariboo log home builders star in Swiss TV series

Beat Builds is filmed the Cariboo Chilcotin Coast and in Switzerland

Cariboo log home builders Beat Schwaller and Peter Arnold are looking forward to Season Two of Beat Builds, a Swiss TV show featuring the two master crafstmen.

Produced by a filmmaker from Switzerland, the series follows Schwaller and Arnold in the Cariboo Chilcotin where they are working on projects or sharing quality time with their families.

“I did a small life show in 2017 in Switzerland with him and that is how I got to know the guy. We kept in touch and he said it would be nice to do a show one of these days. It kind of grew over time and eventually he said ‘why don’t we do it.’”

Describing it as a documentary-style film, he said the producer has done several about people who have left Switzerland to go work overseas.

“It talks about me coming here, doing what I’m doing and about my life and what I do even besides work, which gave me the opportunity to portray lots of other businesses.”

Arnold said it has been fun to get his brothers involved back in Switzerland, making them be filmed as well when he has been setting up homes he’s built there.

Always a jokester, Arnold said his brothers want it in the contract that each time they get asked about the show by people in Switzerland, he has to buy them a bottle of beer.

“They wouldn’t have to buy any for the rest of their lives. It’s mind boggling the impact.”

The exposure from the show has also given them jobs in Switzerland and filled his log building schools with students, Schwaller said.

“We can be who we are. They take it as it is,” Arnold added.

Nothing is staged, there are no double takes, and there is only one camera.

There is not much on the cutting-room floor.

“They are so good about us giving input about what we can do,” Schwaller said.

Swiss people enjoy watching shows about nature and Canada and Beat Builds has featured places he has built in locations such as Bella Coola, the Chilcotin, Troll Resort and Bowron Lakes.

There were six, one-hour long episodes in the first season and they just were renewed to do six more, and were three quarters of the way through filming it.

They took a leap of faith and filmed a lot in anticipation of a second season, he said.

“With just me doing that show there was not enough content in that short amount of time to fill six episodes so I asked Peter if he would be in the show with me for a few episodes together.”

One of the episodes features a home Beat built with burned timbers from the 2017 wildfires.

“I had some big trees that were burned inside so I left some spots on them so you can still see them in the house. It’s very, very unique - very different.”

Schwaller has been building log homes in Canada for 31 years and five years ago was inspired to start a log construction school called UnBEATable Log Construction School.

“I have offered seven courses already,” he said, noting he tries to offer two courses a year and runs them over three to four weeks.

He teaches his students all the secrets about log homes, “pretty much,” everything he has learned.

“I’m not holding back. It is important to teach people the cutting edge of log construction. I’m teaching them so they can get into the trade or build their own. I show them the absolute best.”

Schwaller and Arnold build homes for people around the globe.

Pointing to the base of one structure in the yard, Schwaller said it was going to Australia, another one he built with the school program is going to Switzerland.

“The neat part about it was, the homeowner and his wife and their autistic adult son came and helped me build it. They were part of the school, plus five more guys, one German, one Belgian, one French and two more Swiss.”

He taught the course in German because the autistic son only speaks German, and the cabin will be his to live in on his parents’ property.

“The wife never had a chainsaw in her hand in her life, but she did really well and so did her son. As soon as you put his hand on saw he was very focused. I was super proud of him.”

Students attending the school have ranged from 15 years of age to 60.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, international students were not permitted to travel so he taught some local people. In one session he had six students from Ulkatcho First Nation, one each from Tl’etinqox, Alberta and the Yukon.

“One of the Ulkatcho guys is working at a log home company now where he found a spot so he’s actually using the trade that he learned,” Schwaller said.

At the beginning of the course, the students build a picnic table to learn scribing, cutting and layouts, about theory and practise.

“It is a very intense course both mentally and physically,” Schwaller said. “A lot of them are not used to slinging around a chainsaw all day long.”

All students help build a home, however, he starts it for them by pre-building about five feet up because building the bottom half of a house is very repetitive and they would not complete the house in the time span of the course.

Arnold said manpower-wise 25 per cent of what they produced this year has been with burned Douglas-fir from 2017, 2018 wildfires left in the bush.

“Literally they cannot chip it, because it’s too big.”

They make outhouses, gates, you name it, he said.

“The neat part is the wood is almost already kiln-dried. We are just cutting all the stuff from the outside. Sometimes the fire moved through so fast it charcoaled the outside but the left the inside alone. It’s good fibre and good timber.”

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Monica Lamb-Yorski

About the Author: Monica Lamb-Yorski

A B.C. gal, I was born in Alert Bay, raised in Nelson, graduated from the University of Winnipeg, and wrote my first-ever article for the Prince Rupert Daily News.
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