The Tables at TRATA

Back in the late 1990’s, we procured some of the most amazing timbers in North America. Quite different from the large timbers salvaged from warehouses and factories, these were used to form the lock gates on the Welland Canal which held back Lake Erie.

On the rails laid through the canal for construction, a pair of cranes flank a 50 foot flat car and lift a single timber into position.

That is not a typo. You can see for yourself in the above photo, the sheer size of the gates as they were being constructed. While we were used to big sticks, these behemoths were like nothing anyone had ever seen — 37″ x 42″ x 45′ in length, in a single piece of Douglas Fir.

Timing is everything, and our sister company, New Energy Works, was just getting into the construction of a restaurant with a nautical theme, Steamboat Landing in nearby Canandaigua, NY. All but two of these beasts were used in that project, right down to the sideboards being cut into trim around the windows & doors. The last two timbers remained here at our shop, waiting to be used in a form that would respect their size and the trees in Western Canada from where they were harvested.

Two timbers + plenty of bolts = a single truckload.

Earlier this year, we cut a length off for shipment to our shop in Oregon and we were reminded of how unique and special these timbers really are. After being submerged for nearly 100 year the colors and staining through the timbers were nothing short of magical.

Try to count the rings – on some of the timbers, we lost count somewhere well past 300.

Not long afterward, a great client of mine came by and we were discussing the perfect slabs to use for tables in his new restaurant. We thought about some large joists from a barn, but they weren’t big enough. Huge timbers from a warehouse would look fantastic and have a great story to tell, but again, they just didn’t have the girth he wanted from a single slab. Then I remembered the Welland Canal timbers. We hadn’t even gotten within arms length and he already knew these were perfect.

After cutting a section off the main timber, we used an Alaskan Mill to slice the pieces to rough thickness.

The huge bolts which were used to mount a 12″ thick “bumper” left significant staining through the entire timber.

Once rough-cut, they were planed down to the finished thickness, leaving the edges just as they had aged. A crew of many unloaded and set the slabs onto their steel bases on the site, then sanded and finished the pieces to perfection. The results speak for themselves:

Table for twelve, please.

 

At 5 1/2″ x 29″ x 120″, they’re the largest single slabs we’ve ever cut for a table, making a perfect compliment to the rugged tones of our barn siding within the restaurant. Rounding out the decor (pun intended), thick, curved wine barrel staves were used to create an accent on the wall as you enter the space. If you’re in Rochester, stop by TRATA, The Restaurant At The Armory, and check out the fruits of our labor over some fantastic cuisine and a lovely beverage. Don’t be afraid to stare at those tables — they’re hard to miss.

Mixed Reclaimed Wood: Soft or Hard?

When Annie made the hour and a half trek to our Farmington, NY headquarters from Buffalo, NY, she was in the midst of a major kitchen overhaul in her 19th century home. She had her eye on our Grandma’s Attic Mixed Reclaimed Softwoods after viewing our website and when we chatted on the phone she decided to come out and see it for herself.

Grandma's Attic offers a very old, casual wide board look that is the result of careful selection and partial planing. Generally our attic flooring is crafted of a mosaic of hemlock, eastern white pine and Douglas fir, however other softwoods are used as available. It is a versatile option that can be left as rugged as the original planks, or smoothed out to replicate a footworn old floor.

Grandma’s Attic offers a very old, casual wide board look that is the result of careful selection and partial planing. Generally our attic flooring is crafted of a mosaic of hemlock, eastern white pine and Douglas fir, however other softwoods are used as available. It is a versatile option that can be left as rugged as the original planks, or smoothed out to replicate a footworn old floor.

While Annie visited we were able to really discuss her project and her family’s lifestyle – kids, dogs, and home offices for both her and her husband – all revolving around the newly expanded kitchen in her historic home. We reviewed the finished sample panels and pieces of the unfinished planks in our showroom so she could really get a feel for the color and character in Grandma’s Attic. We also discussed our other options.

Recently our sister company, New Energy Works Timberframers, installed a Grandma's Attic t&g ceiling in a timber frame home. I really like how the original depth of patina, saw marks, scrapes and dings, compliment the clean lines of the heavy timbers. I've found the mixed softwoods have big impact whether on the floor, ceiling, wall, or even when crafted into fixtures.

Recently our sister company, New Energy Works Timberframers, installed a Grandma’s Attic t&g ceiling in a timber frame home. I really like how the original depth of patina, saw marks, scrapes and dings, compliment the clean lines of the heavy timbers. I’ve found the mixed softwoods have big impact whether on the floor, ceiling, wall, or even when crafted into fixtures.

Annie wanted “warm” and rustic, something that looked and felt like it could have been there for a hundred years. But she also wanted something that would be durable and forgiving in a busy space. Oh, and one more thing – she wanted W-I-D-E, minimum 7″ widths. Taking all of this into consideration, I suggested the Settlers’ Plank Mixed Reclaimed Hardwoods instead of the Grandma’s Attic. While the Grandma’s Attic is a beautiful choice for a wide range of spaces, it’s also a floor that is going to show its age over time. It’s a floor that will change with its new environment just as it did in its first life so it’s great in lighter traffic areas, on walls or in spaces where the owner really wants to see and celebrate these changes.

Settlers’ Plank mixed hardwoods is crafted from a variety of elm, beech, maple, hickory, ash, and other hardwood species we may have available. This grade is more relaxed, creating a barn floor look with a greater variety of color and grains due to the many species featured. It is very durable and looks great with a poly finish (as shown in this image of The Vermont Street Studio) or a more traditional tung oil.

In Annie’s case, she just preferred the idea of the Mixed Reclaimed Hardwoods, a floor that would help to hide the scrapes and dings every floor incurs. The Settlers’ Plank Mixed Hardwoods allowed Annie to get the warm, wide plank, authentic, and lived-in look she wanted, in a low maintenance, budget friendly form. Not only would the reclaimed hardwoods look like they had been in the house for a century, they also came with a history of their own, a story Annie is sure to share with family and friends. Annie emailed us exclaiming, “Everyone loves it! It has been great to see people’s reactions.”

Annie finished her 7+ inch wide Settlers’ Plank Mixed Hardwoods with a natural tung oil. If her floor gets scratched, she’ll be able to “erase it” by lightly sanding the scratch then re-applying tung oil. Her project is also a great example of the flexibility of this grade – it works well in a variety of settings from historic homes (like Annie’s), to modern/contemporary designs (such as the studio below), to commercial spaces.

The Settlers' Plank flows from Annie's kitchen through the family dining area sharing character, history, and color.

The Settlers’ Plank flows from Annie’s kitchen through the family dining area sharing character, history, and color.

I was thrilled to see the finished project – the warmth and age of the wood are a beautiful complement to Annie’s cool toned walls and white cabinetry. It’s a perfect blend of history with a modern sensibility in a family oriented space.

-Roblyn

Reclaimed Wood and NYC

While Jered was traversing NYC to meet with folks and look in on a few projects he kept us up-to-date (have to love technology!) with photos. Here are a few from his stops:

Chobani, NYC
On his way to meeting with potential clients, Jered stopped by the new (and only) Chobani yogurt store. He charmed his way in the door even as they were preparing for a commercial photo shoot. Some of our redwood, salvaged from a Finger Lakes winery, has new life as the fixtures and ceiling paneling in the shop. It really looks stellar!

Steve Madden, Broadway NYC
Jered made another quick stop to the newest Steve Madden store capturing a few images of our Grandma’s Attic mixed softwoods flooring and antique grey barn siding on the walls. The contrast of the antique wood with the LED shelf display lighting (see image below) is a perfect example of old melding with new. To think that in the past this antique wood handled whatever Mother Nature and farm animals dished out…today it faces a new challenge: shoe obsessed humans.

Sunburnt Calf, NYC
Speaking of wood that has dealt with animals, Black & Tan, Black reclaimed horse farm fence boards now offer protection to the exterior waiting area at the Sunburnt Calf bar/restaurant. Don’t worry, the black paint was traced back to its original source and was found to be an environmentally friendly, waterborne polymer. It is a non-toxic, non-flammable, solvent free, low VOC waterproof coating used in agricultural settings and safe for use around farm animals…and hungry folks.

Chevron Pattern, NYC

We’ve been salvaging flooring and bleachers from educational institutions that are re-vamping their gymnasiums. Some of the bleacher boards have made their way to the floor in an interesting chevron pattern. All of the original aisle numbers, paint markings, bolt holes, dings, dents, and scuffs were maintained in this floor. The only thing missing is the old gum stuck to the bottom – our prep crew had fun scraping it off! (We heard that Juicy Fruit continued to offer a recognizable scent. Now that is long lasting.)

Labor Day – Part 2

Picking up where we left off, I got the wet work done in the room, which is important to complete prior to installing a wood floor. For me, this meant all the patching, priming, and painting was done. From there, I brought in the Sierra’s Choice flooring. Installing a wood floor isn’t rocket science. But it is something that takes some patience. You want to make sure to look at each piece before nailing it in place, and take into consideration how it looks with the pieces around it. This is especially important in a smaller space where the floor is a real focal point of the room. In my installation, I intentionally used some flooring with un-square ends, and left an occasional gap between planks, as we’re after a “modern-cottage” sort of a look.

After stapling down a layer of 15# roofing felt to reduce squeaks, I got to work putting in the wood. I used a finish nailer with 2″ nails, as opposed to a floor nailer, because of the small space. Nails were shot in above the tongue at the proper angle every 6″ or so, with the ends of planks at the wall getting face nailed. Always, always, always, leave a 1/2″ – 3/4″ expansion gap around your room when putting in a floor. The baseboard and/or shoe moulding will cover it, and it will allow the floor to breathe without buckling.

If you’d like more information on installation, drop me a line anytime. But getting on to the fun part, I started off the sanding with a light pass of 80 grit, which will take out scuffs, pillow most overwood, and open up the grain nicely. This was swept & vacuumed, and then gone over with a pass of 100 grit. You’ll notice I am using a simple palm sander for this work. Given the room size, there’s no reason to bring in the heavy equipment – if you don’t have a palm sander, pick one up, and you’ll then have a great little multi-tasker for future projects. Get the room swept & vacuumed again, and we’re ready to get into the magic – finishing the floor.

Thats coming next – so keep in touch.

– Jered