Want reclaimed vat stock? First you’ve got to dismantle a 17′ tall barrel.

 

reclaimed wine vat stock paneling door cabinetry by new woodworks

Mineral & wine stains, natural color variations, and clean grain makes reclaimed wine vat stock a favorite for paneling, cabinetry, doors, shelving, fixtures, and more.

We are fortunate to have a major wine production facility just down the road from our Farmington, New York shop. As part of their long-term modernization plan, we are called every 3 or 4 years to dismantle some decommissioned wine vats. The work is arduous but the wood that we are able to reclaim from these vats is well worth the labor.

wine barrels reclaimed vat stock

The 17 foot high wine barrels provide some of our favorite board stock, complete with deep patina and character and even the faint aroma of the wine they used to house.

Over the past ten years we’ve gotten some beautifully patina’d redwood, cypress, Douglas fir & white oak.

Having participated in two of the four scheduled vat deconstructions, I am always quick to share tales of the epic labors involved in the acquisition whenever someone expresses interest in the material.

For starters, the barrels are 17′ tall. They are spaced less than two feet apart and are typically located deep in the labyrinth-like recesses of a fully functioning production facility.

Each barrel is disassembled with the help of a pneumatic impact wrench, a sawzall, an electric grinder and our favorite tool – the sledge hammer!

 

 

This past summer, when we were asked to remove eight vats, we enlisted two members of New Energy Works (our sister company) to assist with the deconstruction. Andy and Matt, being timberframers, were accustomed to working at heights and were equipped with the safety harnesses. To their delight, they were given the responsibility for cutting loose and dropping the ceiling of each barrel.

In July, upstate NY temperatures typically reach the mid 80’s, but atop the vats our crew sweated through temperatures in the high 90’s and labored in grime and dust that had accumulated over 70+ years. It was not glamorous work.

After the ceiling was dropped we began dismantling the steel ribs that keep all the wooden staves cinched together. Two ribs were always left intact towards the bottom to prevent the entire vat from potentially collapsing outwards.

The most physically taxing task for each barrel was knocking the first stave out with the sledge hammer. Because the vats fit together so tightly, the hammer was passed from one fatigued hand to another until the stave had been loosened enough to pry out.

Once this was accomplished we could begin the adrenaline inducing process of knocking individual (or sometime groups of) staves loose and then “guiding” them as they fell inwards. It was not always graceful but it was always thrilling.

 

 

 

 

 After the wood staves and steel ribs were carted out on a converted drywall dolly, all that was left was to dismantle the base.

Eight days later: Job complete!

Split in half, the staves show clear evidence of their pedigree. The exterior boards exhibit a dark patina with perpendicular markings left by the steel ribs. The interior boards retain a red/pinkish stain left from 70+ years of having been a vessel for millions of gallons of Finger Lakes Wine.

Wine vat stock, lightly planed (alternating exterior and interior boards).

You don’t have to be a wine fanatic to appreciate this reclaimed wood. It’s beautiful and has a vivid story to tell.

 

 

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18 Years of Calvin (and counting)

Meet Cal!

Given that the average amount of time an American spends working at a single company is 4.1 years, an employee who has delivered 18+ years of solid performance to a company deserves commendation. Our man Calvin has been elbow deep in reclaimed wood since 1994. No longer the wild whipper-snapper who joined Pioneer Millworks in the pre-Internet-Age, Cal has grown into one of the mill’s respected patriarchs.

The Planer.

Need to know how to provide maintenance to our 500lb planer? Ask Cal. Not quite sure how to sort for our many grades of Heart Pine? Ask Cal. Want to hear a juicy story about some dude who used to work in the shop ten years before anyone else in the room even set foot in the mill? Pull up a seat next to Cal and prepare yourself for an epic tale. Generous and knowledgeable, Cal has been an invaluable resource to the younger generation of millworkers who are more often than not newcomers to the reclaimed wood industry.

He’s fine-tuning the new Mattison.

As the principal operator of our Mattison straight-line saw, he has handled nearly every barn board that has passed through our shop in the past 5 years. Ever eyeing for the greatest yield and potential in each individual board, Cal processes material with the speed and expertise that in no small way contributes to Pioneer Millworks’ ability to maintain its place at the top of the industry.

Cal in Taiwan

 

Recently returned from a two week vacation in Taiwan, Cal has currently been busy taming a new Mattison which was upgraded in his absence. Come swing by our shop in Farmington, NY. Take a tour of the mill and meet this longstanding member of our family!

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Everything changes, except for the opening date.

Rather than defecting out bolt holes, why not make them an integral part of the design? Old meets new, rough meets clean, dull meets shiny.

 

The old adage in retail construction is “Everything changes, except for the opening date.”  This is incredibly true, and despite all the planning in the world, sometimes there’s just not a lot of time to pull a project together. Recently, one of our customers needed 40 sf of custom T&G for a wall panel for a new store overseas, and it had to be in a container 48 hours from the beginning of the conversation.  Within 3 hours, we had the stock milled, packaged, and ready to be picked up by UPS, who got it to the container terminal with time to spare. It’s in our DNA to jump through hoops. We know that even a small quantity such as this can make or break the visual impact of a design. We’re continually honing our ability to recommend a material that we know will work with the design, be logical to mill to order, and ship out quickly.

To most, it is a stack of old wood. To our trained eyes, it is a stack of possibilities. How would you use these recycled wine vats?

Each project presents us with opportunities for using materials in our vast stock to make every installation special.  We don’t limit ourselves to what is seen on our extensive website, although there are plenty of options available. Our team of sales people, hail from design & construction backgrounds and enjoy finding the perfect wood to set the project apart. A recent restaurant installation in Rochester NY is a great example of this type of effort. Looking beyond the original use of the wood as trusses in a factory, I worked with the owner to develop these planks which celebrate the history of the wood, right down to the old shear ring marks surrounding the bolt holes.

Our teams works seamlessly together allowing for fast project fulfillment, handling the occasional “wood emergency” with ease.

Of course, if we cant get a product to the job site efficiently then none of our work matters. Commercial construction often mandates deliveries be made at times well before the opening of the mall, or while traffic is at a minimum on city streets. Our shipping coordinator, Renee Knowles, has assembled a team of transportation providers that go above and beyond to work with strict delivery requirements.  Need a 4 am delivery?  No problem. Accurate documentation, communication with the job site and trucking company, and easy-to-manage packaging make it easy.

Clear labels on our protective lumber wrap help the job site know where to direct every skid during hectic offloads.

What challenges do you face in your projects when it comes to selecting reclaimed wood?  Let us know, and we can help you hit your opening date. Because we completely understand – it is the one thing that never changes.

 

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Why Dry?

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!

The kiln at our Farmington, NY location is running day and night, all year long.

Our production team uses moisture meters to determine the moisture content of our reclaimed materials. There are different requirements for boards and timbers due to the material thickness.

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.

Our reclaimed boards are stacked and “stickered” prior to drying in the kiln- small pieces of wood are placed in between the layers as the boards are stacked to allow the heated air of the kiln to circulate around the material.

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!).

Powder Post Beetles are among the insects that we commonly find evidence of in reclaimed wood. The telltale holes and trails give the planks wonderful character – after the bugs are gone.

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…

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