Let’s check in with our Finishing Department

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In the past five years our finishing department has grown into a well trained, well equipped, team of detail oriented professionals. This can be credited in large part to our Finishing Team Leader Steve Pettrone, who with the support and encouragement of management has deftly guided this devoted crew. SteveWith years of flooring installation experience, a strong personal environmental ethos and an easy going swagger that inspires camaraderie, Steve is quite a rock star. In addition to streamlining and updating our processes, he has proudly steered our in-house finishing options away from Tung oils and 2 part polyurethanes to the Zero VOC hard-wax oil finishes that have become the industry standard in the world of reclaimed flooring.

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Steve’s newest addition to our product line is his Custom Grey, Custom White and Custom Black finishes on American Gothic Ash.

There is nothing radical about these finishes. They aren’t groundbreaking or cutting edge. They aren’t Pantone’s color of the year (though we do have plenty of custom one-off finish possibilities, but that’s another story).

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What they are, are well tested, expertly applied, high performing finishes that will expand the tonal options available to both the cosmopolitan designer and the renovating homeowner.

In general, clients come to us looking for authenticity. That’s what reclaimed wood delivers best. The time-worn surface, the rich depth of color found in original patina and old growth wood, the nail holes and fastener marks that testify to a past life. Faux finishes make us cringe. As anyone who has worked in our sample department will tell you, nothing is lamer than receiving a request for a stain that will make red oak look like walnut. Or the request to apply some Rumplestiltskin magic to make fresh-sawn Douglas Fir look like it has weathered grey naturally for 20 years under the Wyoming sun.

We prefer the modernist tenet of remaining true to the material. But we are also aware that natural color tones – no matter how lush – are not right for every project. Our three custom finishes are complex and transparent, highlighting Ash’s tight grain pattern rather than masking it. Like your neighborhood sommelier, Steve has paired finish and wood so that each works to one another’s strength.

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These custom finishes take full advantage of a product that we are very fond of: Rubio Monocoat. This hard-wax oil is favored for its ease in application, maintenance and its tested durability.

Our custom process begins with a wire-brushing to open the wood grain, a hand-applied Rubio “Pre-color” stain which gives the final finish extra depth, and a thorough denibbing which removes any raised fibers.

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At this point the flooring is laid out on a platform and the oil finished is applied with a buffer. We then inspect and wipe down every board by hand and let the finish cure for 24 hours in a rack. Before it is shipped, the finished material is lined with a sheet of protective padding and then wrapped into hand bundles of approximately 25 square feet.

From start to finish, this diligent process is free of shortcuts and it results in a product that we feel is equal if not superior to any prefinished wood floor on the market. Steve is confident that you will agree.

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Reclaiming from the Iconic Centennial Mills in Portland, OR

Douglas fir timbers reclaimed from Centennial Mills.

Douglas fir timbers reclaimed from Centennial Mills.

We’re salvaging 400,000 board feet of timbers and planks during the selective deconstruction of Centennial Mills in Portland, Oregon. Deconstruction of five warehouses and several old grain elevators, deemed beyond repair and unsafe, began in September 2015 and is expected to be complete by June 2016. To date, seven tractor-trailer loads of Douglas fir timbers and cribbing planks have been transported to our McMinnville, Oregon yard.

“Ideally, we’ll be working to get as much of the reclaimed material back into the Portland market as possible,” said Jonathan our president and founder. We’ll have samples on hand in our design studio in Portland, OR.

Dismantling one of the grain elevators at the mill.

Dismantling one of the grain elevators at the mill.

“Some of the wood can be re-used as heavy timber and beams, while some will be re-milled for use as paneling or flooring,” continued Jonathan. (You can read more on the history of the mill on our Unearth the Story page.)

Centennial Mills, Portland OR

Centennial Mills, Portland OR

The Centennial Mills site is owned by the Portland Development Commission (PDC) and lies within Portland’s River District urban renewal area. “Working with Pioneer Millworks enabled us to streamline the salvage process, ensure the repurposing of as much material as possible, and return funds to the project budget,” said PDC Executive Director Patrick Quinton. “We view this as a very successful partnership and look forward to hearing about how and where Centennial Mills materials live on throughout the Northwest.”

Originally we hoped to salvage about 800,000 board feet of timber from the Centennial Mills site. However, due to rot and the difficult cost benefits of saving all the smaller pieces, that number has been reduced. We continue to work towards salvaging more of the wood, but politics make things sticky. The salvaged wood is of an exceptional grain quality and we’re excited to share it with our customers.

First stages of removal of a grain elevator at Centennial Mills.

First stages of removal of a grain elevator at Centennial Mills.

After passing an emergency declaration in December 2014 relating to the condition of Centennial Mills, the PDC enlisted Tigard, OR-based Northwest Demolition & Dismantling for the selective demolition and salvage of the property. Demolition of Warehouses A, B, C, D, and F as well as Elevators A, B, and C began the first week of October 2015 and is scheduled to conclude in June 2016. The subsequent phase is slated to begin in July 2016.

If you’re interested in helping keep some of this historic wood in Portland, or if you have a great project that will give it new life, let us know. We’d be happy to provide samples.

Decon ’16: Let’s Get Ready to Rumble (Recycle)

The Building Materials Reuse Association gI_86481_Decon16-logo-bannerEagele(BMRA) has announced that (our very own) Jonathan Orpin of Pioneer Millworks and New Energy Works will be featured as the keynote speaker for the Decon ’16 conference in Raleigh, North Carolina. Our fearless leader will kick-off the conference on February 29th with a forward-thinking address titled “Everything is Possible. Stories of de-constructible buildings, recycled wood, and companies that can thrive doing so.” Are you getting excited yet?

Decon ’16 is the premier international conference on building deconstruction, materials reuse, and C&D recycling and this forward-looking address will seed the future of a world without waste. “Jonathan’s experience and remarkable portfolio of projects will be an inspiration as the conference opens, and sets the bar high for all of us in the circular economy of materials,” shared Anne Nicklin, Executive Director of the BMRA. Thanks, Anne!

After three years, the biennial conference of the Building Materials Reuse Association will make its righteous return, serving as an international gathering of practitioners using both knowledge and experience to create a world without waste. The conference will be hosted by Habitat for Humanity of Wake County and NC State University February 29th through March 4th, 2016.Jonathan bio image

“I am equal parts thrilled and anxious to be speaking at Decon ’16, as this group has led the way for a long time in this exceptional field. Let’s keep turning up the dial, from understanding the story and source of our materials, to using them for really great and beautiful projects, to creating sustainable business models and partnerships to get the good work done,” shared Orpin.

As you may know already, Orpin is the President of Pioneer Millworks, which over our 25 years in business, have recycled more than 25 million board feet of wood; he’s also the President of New Energy Works Timberframers. Combined, our companies employ 130 community members, have shops in NY and OR, and we work hard to use the Triple Bottom Line of People, Profit and Planet as our guiding business principle. Orpin is also past President of the Timber Framers Guild, which supports the craft, science, and business of timber framing. As an organization, the Guild seeks to perpetuate and strengthen the robust craft of timber framing, communicating information about building methods, events, people, and the timber frame building community.

Barn Demo 2More than forty speakers from around the world will present case studies, emergent research, and inspire the diversion of construction and demolition waste towards productive markets during Decon ‘16. Live presentations and exclusive training opportunities will be offered, including a workshop on handling salvaged wood for woodworking and furniture making. Local tours of deconstruction sites, reuse stores, and local high performance buildings will also be available for attendees.

More information about Decon ’16 can be found at http://www.bmra.org.

The Building Materials Reuse Association (BMRA) works to create a vibrant building materials economy as part of a world without waste. For more than twenty years, they have done this through elevating the issue to the public, moving the market for reused materials, and inspiring and supporting the industry.

Custom Eco-Friendly Engineered Floor Made from Reclaimed Bleacher Boards

Here at Pioneer Millworks we have a menu of more than 50 standard products. But we continue to push the envelope and work with clients who come to us with their own unique vision. In fact, nearly half of all the jobs we do each year are custom. We love these partnerships into uncharted waters and all the challenges that they entail. The extra sweat and tears spent in the production of these orders often leaves us feeling especially proud of the end results.

One recent custom order of which passed through nearly every hand in our shop was 8,000 square feet of Eco-Friendly Engineered Floor made from Reclaimed Douglas Fir Bleachers. Destined for a large corporate headquarters in California, here is what was involved:

  1. Bleachers were sourced from across the nation, from Webster, New York to Portland, Oregon and numerous stops in-between. Because only solid Douglas Fir bleachers could be used for this order, our acquisitions team traveled across the country to find the perfect stock. This was something of a treasure hunt as most bleachers that were installed in the last 50 years are plastic, pine or laminates. Bleacher - 0
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    Some of the gum and graffiti we found on our collection of boards.

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    2.After the bleachers were cut to 8′ lengths (the length of the plywood), we fully surfaced each board in our moulder and put them in our kiln for several days. This brought all the wood to a consistent moisture content and killed any nasty fungus that might have resided after decades of sweaty gym shorts leaving their mark (we learned this the hard way).Bleacher - 3Bleacher - 4Bleacher - 5

  2. The holes left from the original carriage bolts which once secured the bleachers to a metal frame, are drilled out and filled with custom plugs. Our detail oriented crew did an exceptional job matching the grain of the plugs to the grain of each board. Bleacher - 6Bleacher - 7Bleacher - 8Bleacher - 9Bleacher - 10Bleacher - 11
  3. Once plugged, each board was again surfaced in the moulder and then run through our frame saw. Here, a series of blades sawed each board into three thin wear layers.
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    Going in.

    Coming out.

    Coming out.

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  4. On our glue line, each wear layer was carefully adhered to a FSC Baltic Birch plywood substrate. Bleacher - 15Bleacher - 16Bleacher - 17
  5. Finally, these glued-up boards were run through the moulder a third and final time where the tongue and groove was milled. After defecting out any remaining irregularities, each board was end-matched and stacked to ship. Bleacher - 18Bleacher - 19Bleacher - 20Bleacher - 21Bleacher - 22Bleacher - 23Bleacher - 24

I think that it is safe to say that everyone involved in the project is especially proud of this beautiful one of a kind floor. Keep the custom projects coming!

 

US Builders Review – Greenbuild Edition

In November, we traveled to Washington, D.C. for the 2015 Greenbuild Expo –  the premier sustainable building event of the year. After joining more than 600 suppliers and top manufacturers of the latest green building equipment, products, services, and technology available in today’s market, we really felt like we were renewing our commitment to our eco-friendly practices with other like-minded eco-conscious folks. And by golly, we were excited to share new products, including naturally textured reclaimed Hemlock and custom finishes too.

US Builder Reviewthe magazine for leading construction executives – published a special Greenbuild edition of the magazine, covering the several trade show Editor’s Choice honorees. (We were one of the lucky ones!) The Editor’s Choice 2015 honorees represent the most forward-thinking businesses and the brightest of thousands of industry leaders, experts and professionals dedicated to sustainable building in their everyday work.

Read our feature here (on page 96) or below.

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Kentucky Tobacco Warehouse Timbers

We recently acquired some handsome pine timbers that were salvaged out of a Kentucky tobacco warehouse. This structure was part of a mammoth complex which at it’s peak offered over 8 million cubic feet of storage space along a major rail line. A casualty of the steady decline in tobacco farming, these buildings have been decommissioned and by the end of the year will be entirely dismantled.

I was able to take a trip down south this summer and visit this site while there was still something to photograph. My pictures are below. As for the timbers, they’re stunning. Almost entirely free of demolition damage and rot, these pine beams have a beautiful, unpainted ,circle-sawn texture and mocha brown patina. Best of all, they come in dimensions that architects, engineers and designers are always asking for: 8 x 8″ and 8 x 12″. My only complaint is that they don’t have even the faintest hint of tobacco aroma – they just smell like wood. That’s not so bad though, is it?

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Reclaimed Douglas Fir A Part of Chicago History

WoodStackWe recently reclaimed 67,000 board feet of Chicago’s manufacturing and industrial history from the A. Finkl & Sons steel mill. Douglas Fir timbers were extracted from the 1890s manufacturing plant that was centrally located in the Windy City along with several other steel forging factories. In 2007, an overseas firm purchased the company and the manufacturing plant moved to the southeast side of Chicago, leaving many of the historic buildings covering over 25 acres, vacant. As the demolition wrapped up in late 2014, crews ensured that nearly 90% of usable material was recycled.

finkl steel mill 2Over 450 of the reclaimed A. Finkl & Sons Douglas fir timbers were recently repurposed for a large timber frame project in Michigan. Available currently from this reclamation is a collection of 5 x 11 timbers. They are free of heart with original ‘sandblasted’ surfaces.

Along with our new-reclaimed Douglas fir, flowers on the property are also finding new homes. Beds of lilies and hydrangeas have been transported to other historic locations in the Chicago area to celebrate the once industrial valor of the area.

a finkl 3A. Finkl & Sons was founded by Anton Finkl, a German-born blacksmith that arrived in Chicago in 1872. In 1879, Finkl developed a new kind of chisel to clean bricks from buildings destroyed in the Great Chicago Fire, creating a new business opportunity. As the business expanded into steel products, the company moved around the Chicago West Loop area, absorbing several existing properties along the way. Buildings that were constructed for Standard Oil and Cummings Foundry Company became additional puzzle pieces in the web of plants utilized by A. Finkl & Sons.

Let us know if you’re interested in the 5 x 11, free of heart, ‘sandblasted’ timbers.

Reclaimed Gym Flooring and Bleachers Puts Eco-Minded School Design Firm Ahead of the Class

Original gym flooring with reclaimed bleacher boards add character to the Ashley McGraw office in Syracuse, NY.

Original gym flooring with reclaimed bleacher boards add character to the Ashley McGraw office in Syracuse, NY.

We teamed up with a local architectural and interior design firm in Syracuse, NY  to make their workspace a little more playful for employees. Ashley McGraw Architects collaborated with us to bring reclaimed gym flooring and bleacher boards into their snazzy, newly remodeled office space.

The material was sourced from Geneva Middle School, just 55 miles from Ashley McGraw and 28 miles from our headquarters in Farmington, NY. “Sourcing this so close to our headquarters, from a gym I played sports in, was remarkable,” shares Jered, one of our reclaimed wood experts. “When Ashley McGraw reached out looking for reclaimed wood for their office remodel, I knew immediately that we had the right product. It is a great fit and it feels good when a local company gives reclaimed wood a second life.”

The gym flooring was reclaimed by Pioneer Millworks from Geneva Middle School in Geneva, NY.

Tony de-nails the gym flooring on-site as we reclaimed it from Geneva Middle School in Geneva, NY. While the planks are checked again at our mill, this initial de-nailing made packaging and shipping much more efficient.

Our friends at Ashley McGraw specialize in school design and were excited to bring iconic school building materials into their space. (They cherish their memories of sometimes winning a game of dodgeball and finding an okay square dancing partner.) The office remodel utilized Geneva Middle School bleachers and gym flooring. Original surfaces were maintained allowing the mixture of court lines and varying school-spirited colors to be celebrated. “It looks like confetti!” said Susan Angarano, Interior Designer with the firm. Tonal differences in the wood from the various schools helped create a border from the circulation spaces into the office areas at the company. Bleacher boards (sans bubble gum) were incorporated as screen walls and ceiling accents.

We salvaged the hard maple flooring and Douglas fir bleachers from the 1920s gymnasium during the building’s deconstruction last spring. As always, special attention was given to maintaining the original appearance of the wood, including surface finishes, bolt-holes, colors, and milling.

Reclaimed from educational institutions across the country, gym flooring can be re-installed as is, with the color schemes creating a random and playful reminder of its source.

Reclaimed from educational institutions across the country, gym flooring can be re-installed as is, with the color schemes creating a random and playful reminder of its source.

“Gym flooring is one of our most colorful reclaimed products with a history most folks quickly relate to,” says Jered. The painted planks from the gymnasium were sorted from the others and used in the circulation spaces of the office, while the remainder of flooring from two other schools was used in the materials library. The old gym flooring has varying lengths, some up to five feet long while the bleachers boards are up to sixteen feet long.

Reclaimed oak boards were used for wall cladding in the break room.

Reclaimed oak boards were used for wall cladding in the break room.

We’ve certainly found likeness in our commitment to sustainability and conserving the world’s resources. “Every day, we challenge ourselves to embrace the possibility of a fully sustainable world,” states Ashley McGraw. “Our contribution is schools and campuses that respect, support, and nurture the learning experience and work in concert with the earth and its resources.”

David Ashley and Ed McGraw founded Ashley McGraw Architects in Syracuse in 1981. Their work includes classrooms, laboratories, recreational, and residential buildings, as well as sustainability strategies and master plans for public and private primary, intermediate, secondary, and high education facilities.

Reclaimed oak boards were used for wall cladding in the entry way.

Reclaimed oak boards were used for wall cladding in the entry way.

Couldn’t do this in 1999

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Our marketing department recently provided our shop with a new tool; this snazzy ipad! Safely encased in an industrial rubber sheath, it primarily hangs out with our moulder crew. When they begin milling a job, they lay out the first dozen or so finished boards, grab the ipad, and snap a few pictures. These pictures are immediately sent to our customer service department where they are put on file for future reference. Thanks Steve Jobs!

Sometimes though, the temptation to use it for less official purposes is too strong. Turns out, the ipad is a great companion for a leisurely walk through the yard on a friday afternoon. The time lapse feature is especially fun to play with.