While we may or may not exhibit our new hover-cat at the International Contemporary Furniture Fair (ICFF) in NYC, our salespeople will absolutely be showing off the most unique reclaimed wood products on the market. Stop by booth 2520 and say hello!
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.
It isn’t a laser guided nail-pulling robotic spider, but this cool new custom tool was fabricated over the weekend to help our guys pull some feisty 8″ long nails out of Douglas Fir timber stock. Don’t be fooled by the pretty metallic red paint job; this tool has already proven itself to be a brutally effective. Of course this new tool was created by our full time blade-sharpener, chisel-grinder, chainsaw-tuner and master tinkerer – Carl Jensen.
“How does it work” you ask? We will reveal this secret later in the week with an exclusive video. In the meantime, send us your guesses. If you nail it, we’ll send you a prize (perhaps your very own mystery tool).
We recently read an article in Hardwood Floors that gave some really good details on the kiln drying process and its importance to any wood flooring, reclaimed or fresh sawn. We were inspired to dig back in our archives to find a post about our drying process and the steps we take to control moisture. We’ve re-posted it below for your reading pleasure.
If you have a few extra minutes and enjoy knowing the details of manufacturing processes, you might also like to read the Hardwood Floor article.
by Reclaimed Wood Expert Roblyn Powley
A couple of weeks ago, I was talking about our kiln in the context of conservation (we use our scraps to fire our kiln, lessening our waste- how cool!) but you might wonder why our kiln is such a big deal at all.
“Pioneer Millworks, why do you dry your wood?”, we’re asked, “If it’s reclaimed, doesn’t that mean it’s already pretty dry?” “Why do I care if it’s dried when I can buy reclaimed barn siding somewhere else for one dollar per square foot?!”
All good questions!
We dry all of the wood that we process into our beautiful reclaimed flooring, siding and wall paneling for a couple of very important reasons. While it is true that reclaimed wood does tend to be drier than fresh sawn products, the raw materials we use are exposed to environmental moisture both at the original site and here at our facility. This means the wood is not quite as dry as it could be, and probably not as dry as your home, or office or restaurant. Our reclaimed planks are dried to a 6%-9% moisture content and ultimately this means that the material is more dimensionally stable when you receive it at your job site. Wet wood shrinks when it loses moisture, and the more moisture it has to lose, the more dramatic the change. This shrinkage can result in cracking and buckling after installation. While all wood expands and contracts as it absorbs and loses a small percentage of moisture over the course of the seasons, it is the significant change that can cause the greatest problems or possible installation failure.
Drying the material also helps us maintain our quality milling. With a consistent moisture content, we can generally be assured that we won’t have a batch of flooring that moves or shrinks to a greater degree than another while it is waiting to be milled or after the milling process.
The other big reason that we take kiln drying so seriously is the possibility of insect infestation. No one wants to think about bugs in their barn siding, but old wood will very likely have, at some point, insects living in or on it. It’s not a very exciting thing to talk about, but it’s a very real concern in the reclaimed wood industry.
The high heat of the kiln drives out and kills any insects that may be inhabiting our reclaimed materials. Kiln drying, like all of the other parts of our production process contributes to material cost, but also ensures that reclaimed floor or paneling you install is product that you will be satisfied with. And we really, really don’t want you to accidentally bring insects into your home (or office, or restaurant – yuck!).
Kiln drying is critical to the quality and value of our products and just one of the many ways we differ from others in the reclaimed wood market. What other questions do you have about our processes and methods? Is there anything else you’re curious about? We love to talk about our products and what sets us apart from the rest…
Sometimes I spend so much time laboring on a job that visiting the installed material can feel like a reunion with an old friend (or “frenemy” depending on how much stress the project imposed upon my life). That’s how I felt last week, when on a brief trip to Chicago, I was able to squeeze in a quick visit to an old bleacher project that consumed my summer of 2012.
As you can see, the installation looks quite handsome (no we did not make the sneaker/basketball chandelier). The intent of the client’s design was to replicate the look of a traditional wooden retractable bleacher wall and in my opinion this is perfectly accomplished.
Often the simplicity of a design masks the complexity required in its execution. The demands of this particular job were especially rigid and resulted in an epic team effort.
We successfully sourced nearly 10,000 square feet of material from a school that was local to the Chicago area. This material was shipped to our shop in Farmington, NY where we…
- cleaned decades worth of gum off of every board, (this was full time work for several employees; we still have gum remnants on our shop floor)
- ripped the bullnose edges off of half the stock and then re-attached these bullnose edges to the remaining material
- milled a custom profile into the top and bottom of each assembled unit
- backed each unit with 1/4″ Luan to achieve the requireed thickness
- sanded and refinished each unit with three coats of polyurethane
We frequently are involved in projects of large scope but few have required the level of precision that this job demanded.
As I surveyed the installed project, I could not help but feel a disconnect between the drama that permeates my memory of its production and the simple, unassuming appearance of the material in situ. I found myself wishing that I could have experienced this finished project in the company of all the other co-workers who labored in its execution. We could have shared our battle stories as we toured the site. Unfortunately it was just myself and a herd of holiday shoppers, who I suspect found the display of Air Jordan’s more compelling than the bleachers on the wall.
On another note, I live with a daily reminder of these bleachers. Soon after the job completed I built a chicken coop in my garage. I used some of the left over bleacher scrap as paneling inside inside the coop. My hope was that the stenciled numbers would make my chickens more intelligent. It did; they escaped.
Anyhow, we still have some of these cool scraps in our shop. They are ripped to about 5″ wide and would add some real funk to any project. If you’re lucky, you might even find a remnant or two of juicy fruit stuck to the back.
This week we spent one of the last beautiful days of autumn dismantling a local vinegar vat. While we’ve become pretty expert at this type of work, this vat in particular humbled us with 6″ of cider sludge at the bottom. We new fathers on the job could not help but to compare its consistency to diaper contents though I have to say that the smell was fouler. Suffice to say that at the end of the day everything I wore ended up in the dumpster.
But don’t despair, after a thorough power washing, the wood that we brought back to our shop will likely make its way into a boutique women’s clothing store near you in short time!
We have a stellar marketing department. This dedicated crew of three work tirelessly to give our brand a clear and distinct presence in the growing reclaimed wood marketplace. Between designing new trade show booths, posting on Facebook, and fielding requests from industry publications, these guys also find time to maintain a bulletin board in the break room of our Farmington, NY mill. Every month or so this bulletin board gets updated with new pictures of recent finished projects. The intention is to share with employees the fruit of their daily blood sweat and tears. And if a visiting client stops to check out these handsome images on the way to the restroom, its an added bonus.
What they never anticipated, but have reluctantly come to tolerate, is that these images would be creatively bastardized by employees with nimble hands, company issued utility knives and a healthy (if not sometimes twisted) sense of humor. Here are some of my favorite collaborations-yes I’ve been saving and collecting what I consider to be the best of the best.
Special thanks to our resident artists. You know who you are.
One of the most frequent questions that I’m asked about our company is how we deal with all the nails that come to us in the reclaimed wood that we buy. I usually answer by singing the praises of our de-nailing crew who work outdoors, year round, using metal detectors, chisels, hammers and a custom tool that we call a “slide grip” to prepare material for the saws. But the reality is that, as good as our crew is, a few nails still find their way into our mill -and boy can they do a number on a saw blade! When a nail sneaks into the mill, the first place that it is likely to make itself know is at the Head Saw or Re-Saw. Anyone who has worked in the mill longer than a week will recognize the distinctive loud pop and snap of the band saw blade breaking. Most of us cringe at this sound but Carl Jensen smirks through his beard in delight. That’s because Carl is our full time blade-sharpener, chisel-grinder, chainsaw-tuner and master tinkerer. He’s got an arsenal of sharpened band saw blades in arms reach so that the saw will be up and running again before you can say “down time”.
The “slide grip” that I mentioned earlier: Carl invented it. He has also been fabricating them for us for nearly two decades. Just clamp the “slide grip” on that ‘ol rusted nail and a yank or two will bust it free from the gnarliest barn timber you can bring us.
Though Joe citizen isn’t swinging by the Home Depot to buy “mushroom boards”, in the reclaimed wood industry this material has become a staple product for many businesses. Pioneer Millworks however, hasn’t traded in mushroom boards in nearly a decade. That doesn’t mean that if the right opportunity arises, we won’t jump at an opportunity to add this cool wood to our East Coast and West Coast Inventory.
In this case, the opportunity came to us in the form of the the old Franklin Mushroom Farm which is currently being re-purposed as the Washington County Agri-Business Park. Last week, over the course of three days we stacked, banded and shipped over 50,000 square feet of this textured product.
So what is this “mushroom board”? Well, as I understand it, these hemlock boards were loaded with straw and manure and seeded with spores. As the mushrooms grew, they consumed the softer tissue of these boards thereby leaving behind a surface that looks heavily weathered. The dark brown patina, black staining and expressive grain pattern make these boards look remarkably like old chestnut (sans the wormholes). The face that was not ravaged by fungi retains the original circle-saw marks.
The morel of the story:
As far as consistent, textured paneling products go, this material is the Shit-ake!
Building Products recently caught Jonathan for an interview where he shared Pioneer Millworks’ and New Energy Works Timberframers‘ history, what we do, how we do it, and why we do it. You can read the article below, or live on their website.
Dealer Profile: Pioneer Millworks
Restaurants are frequent customers, such as for this reclaimed American Gothic Oak in an Upstate New York eatery.