Meet the team featuring: Josh

Josh has been a member of our team for over a decade. If there’s a forklift moving around in our yard, Josh is most likely driving as he handles all of our inventory. He’s as accurate as our inventory software when it comes to answering “what’s in the yard?” off the top of his head. After a little cajoling, Josh shared more about himself: 

josh hugs reclaimed timber 1How long have you been part of our team?
12 years! Pioneer Millworks and New Energy Works [our sister company] is a great community. We invest in our employees and I have had many opportunities to advance. I’m proud of our ethos and the incredible work we do.  Also, we’re always finding new sources of wood. Sometimes it’s a small batch of locally sourced material…other times, we find vast quantities and develop new product lines around them. The products themselves are ever-changing and that keeps things interesting.

What do you like about living and working in Upstate NY?
As someone who loves the outdoors, what’s not to love about the Finger Lakes? I love the geography here; the  hills, valleys, and glacial lakes…Not to mention, we’ve  got an inland sea just a few miles to the north. More importantly, I come from a large family and most of us live in the area.

josh alex and bryan again 002 blog

De-nailing and acquisition: Bryan, Josh, and Alex circa 200(?)

What’s your history with the company?
I started as an entry-level nail puller years ago. I’d just quit a horrible job and needed something temporary to pay the bills. I never thought I’d be here for over a decade, but it’s a great place!

What is your role on our team?
I supervise the yard/de-nailing team and manage our inventory. I’m also part of the acquisitions team.

JoshPeckWhat’s your favorite part of your job?
There’s always a challenging project going on, always something new and unexpected.

black and tan wall paneling pioneer millworks portland orWhich product is your favorite?
I’m terrible at choosing favorites. If I have to pick, right now, I’m really digging our Black & Tan [shown above in the 50/50 grade] I love when the wood has a story to tell.

AlexMSpeaking of stories, you must have a fun story or two from your years here…
Several years back Alex and I took a trip to Bethlehem, PA to load some industrial salvaged Heart Pine timbers and decking. Alex beat me at a game of pool that night and as a result I had to eat scrapple, and only scrapple, for breakfast the next morning. It was the first and only time I’ve eaten scrapple (a Pennsylvania breakfast staple apparently). When I ordered only scrapple the waitress gave me an incredulous look….I had to explain that I’d lost a bet. [Alex and Josh (above) remain friends and coworkers and still share the occasional ‘bet’.]

josh hover cat

When ‘hover cat’ stormed the Internet, we debated on replacing Josh’s forklift with this new ride…always a good sport, Josh still chuckles when we bring this photo up.

louie and JoshWhat are your hobbies outside of work?
Between keeping tabs on my 3 year old son and minor projects around the house we bought earlier this year, I haven’t had much spare time. Too many hobbies to list but a few big ones: I enjoy fishing, hiking, gardening, home brewing, and playing guitar.

What’s your favorite book?
I could never pick a favorite…there are just too many. A couple of the better things I’ve read recently are “Suttree” by Cormac McCarthy and “American Gods” by Neil Gaiman.

Ohio State University Bleachers

The week before Christmas is never the ideal time for an acquisitions trip, but when there is an opportunity to bring home some nice pine bleachers, we pack our bags. With the students gone for the week, we were invited to Ohio State University’s Newark campus to salvage what we could of their old bleachers. Their new recreation/wellness center, Adena Hall, is in the midst of a complete renovation. Shared with Central Ohio Technical College, the updated building will be seeking LEED Certification.

img_9757Lucky for us, a graduation ceremony had been held the day before so the bleacher assembly was all pulled out and we were able to get right to work. And work it was. In 10 hours we removed more than 5,000 nuts from 5,000 carriage bolts and had freed nearly all the boards. This required plenty of awkward repetitive positioning, as we struggled to access spaces with only inches of clearance. That night we compensated ourselves with a feast of beer and barbeque at City Barbeque, which also happens to be a favorite client of ours.

city-barbequeOur other compensation was the collection of odds and ends that we found lost beneath the bleachers. A motley collection of souvenirs it was.

img_9758The next morning, after loading the material on to our flatbed, but before departing Newark, we swung by the old site of the Wehrle Stove Factory where two of us present had spent several weeks in 2010 processing and loading over 120,000 board feet of timber onto trucks bound for our shop in Farmington, NY. These timbers included a variety of wood that ranged from pine to oak to chestnut. (Only 3,500 board feet of this material remains in our inventory to date.) The site looks pretty much as we left it: barren. Hopefully future development is on the horizon.

img_9759As for the bleachers, we look forward to seeing what creative ways they will get used. We’ve now added 1,500 linear feet to our growing inventory. They’re ready and available for your next project! Game on!

 

How would you describe it?

“How would you describe Pioneer Millworks and the beauty of our products to a blind person?” Our Japanese partners asked us this very question. After posing it to members of our team we asked them to reply anonymously. We are continually impressed with the thoughtfulness and creativity of our team and wanted to share with you:

(The images in this post are from our Twitter “Texture Tuesday” collection. We’re inspired by the character, colors, and macro views of wood we find in our mill, yard, and offices. We hope you enjoy them as well!)

img_7804“The wild of nature, brought in from the outdoors. Each piece has its own story to tell, its own scars and wrinkles from a long life before us. As a whole, it’s a complex mix of swirls and patterns, tones and textures that are as intoxicating to your senses as a bite of cold vanilla ice-cream and warm caramel syrup.”

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img_7936“What a tough and interesting question. It would change the answer if the blind person had had sight and lost it, versus having always been blind. If they’d had sight, we could assume they’d understand and remember things such as colors, or wood grain, or the width and lengths of wood and how they connect. I went with the assumption that they’d never had sight:

Pioneer Millworks has reclaimed over 26 million board feet of wood across the country from industrial and agricultural structures that are no longer in use and have often fallen into disrepair. The wood we reclaim is destined for landfills, burners, or to simply rot away. Part of the beauty of using Pioneer Millworks’ products is knowing you’re helping recycle and reuse; you have a hand in keeping our planet healthy.

There is beauty in the story each plank, joist, or timber holds. Some could tell of thousands of footfalls from young men earning a living building tractors, others could tell of women striding and sitting while operating embroidery machinery, others know the skill of artisans creating ornate tiles with heavy clay and bright glazes, while still others could speak to years of abundant harvest, of severe drought, of blistering summers, freezing winters, soft spring rains, and the gentle sounds of livestock settling as nights slid over the farm more than a hundred years ago. In our Oregon and New York mills each plank is studied and honored by our craftsmen as they trim, plane, mould, sand, and fulfill orders.

Character is beauty. The character of our antique wood hints to the stories of its past, of man and nature: tight grain patterns, deep patinas, original saw marks, ferrous staining with occasional nail holes, weathered surfaces, remnants of paint. Random length boards abut one another creating a harmonious mosaic on walls and floors. Beneath the bare foot a reclaimed wood floor is solid, cool, and smooth with a soft luster from our preferred natural oil/wax finish. To touch the surface offers interest of varying textures. From subtle grain ridges, flat knots, and softly curving marks where an old saw blade struck the log into planks, to deeply grooved, weather worn fascias.”

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img_8819“Our reclaimed wood emboldens projects effortlessly complementing every style.”

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img_9653“I would say our wood is warmer than most since it holds the souls of previous owners.”

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img_8819“Pioneer Millworks is a is a company of designers and craftspeople who work every day to provide wood flooring, paneling, timbers, and millwork, using wood salvaged from barns, warehouses, factories, shipping containers and more.  The products we craft from these 20 or more species of reclaimed wood are a mosaic of color and texture and exude the warmth and natural beauty that only hundreds of years of age can provide.”

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img_6335“Rough swirls of hard natural fibers in linear planks in a rage of gold to brown.”

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img_1954“I would talk about the texture, the combination of smooth and rough in our patina and skip planed floors. I would talk about how the scars of it’s previous life, those nail holes and insect marks, each little pin hole that interrupts the smooth surface of American Gothic, tell a story of a life of purpose and function.

I would talk about it’s durability under foot, the solid feel of the dense grain antique wood, the sturdy sound of it as you walk across the floor. I’d describe the smell- rich wood and sawdust, the warm smell of a natural oil finish. The silk-soft surface of a well burnished surface underfoot or in hand.”

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img_6732Pioneer Millworks is the vehicle by which our reclaimed wood comes to a second, or third, chapter in their story…telling the tales of where it has been, and its original intended use.  The texture of the saw marks, the bolt holes, and the mortise pockets are all physical examples and evidence of the story it wants to tell.  You can feel the history with your hands, poke your fingers in the holes and know it has a past.

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img_6403“Reclaimed wood is as wonderful to ponder and touch as it is on display. Sure, designers look to the relationship of hues to the room, but unlike paint or fabric or other surfaces, reclaimed wood is more than ‘tommy grey’ or ‘burnt brown.’ Imagine if you will, you have no vision or that color doesn’t matter. Reclaimed wood then becomes an adventure for the other senses. For your nose, a smell from another century, sometimes musty sometimes piney, and always earthy. (Sometimes when even our best wood experts can’t identify a species, we take out our knives to score through the patina and breathe in the newly exposed cells.) For touch, a myriad of adventures in texture lay before you  — you can travel up weathered ridges of alternating sapwood and heartwood, or follow small trails where tepid explorers once burrowed their way through the fibers, or pause at round and oblong pits where nails or bolts secured timber to timber. And if your fingers don’t find these signs of previous life, perhaps your hand will pass along perfectly parallel lines curving gracefully across the plank’s face, a rough memorial to a different era when craft was slow. Lastly, there’s the sense of heart and soul that is reclaimed wood. No two planks are the same (thank goodness!), some pieces endured decades, some centuries, of weather and wear, ready to start a new adventure. And in doing so, perhaps saving a new tree from mass consumption. While Stormy Grey may drive the choice, the real color is in the story.”

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I Love Chicago

Over the past few years, Chicago has become one of my favorite cities to travel to for Pioneer Millworks. Architecturally magnificent and with a vibrant mid-town area, Conde Naste Travler just ranked Chicago as the #2 city favorite for tourists.

South Michigan Ave Selfie

We do a lot of work with architects, designers, and builders based in the windy city on projects all across the country. But if there’s one thing I’ve found that’s nearly as awesome as the midwestern charm of Chicagoans, it has got to be the food. Fortunately for me (and my stomach) our reclaimed wood adorns plenty of the best new restaurants around town.

One Fifty One Kitchen & Bar opened just within the past couple of weeks out in Elmhurst, clad with our Patina Vat Stock on the front and trimmed with our American Prairie Gray. After a look at the menu, I can’t wait to get back there for dinner.

Reclaimed wood, inside and out – Its what we do.

Nando’s is a name familiar to those from the Mid-Atlantic, Chicago, and South Africa where the chain began back in the late 1980’s. I have to admit, I had lunch at a Nando’s twice last week. The chicken is just that good. And depending on the location you might see any number of our reclaimed wood materials in use. This location on Wabash uses our Black & Tan Oak in multiple areas, even some with painted planks for a vibrant accent.

A little paint on our reclaimed wood unifies it with other bright colors throughout the restaurant

River Roast has arguably the most awesome location, right on the Chicago River, with outdoor dining right next to the LaSalle St. bridge.

Outdoor heaters keep the patio warm at River Roast

We provided two different batches of our Foundry Maple for the logo walls in the restaurant. One is a unique sandblasted floor with a light yet warm tone, and the other is a replica of our first foundry maple batch, crafted by our finishing experts. You guess, I won’t tell you which one is which.

Foundry Maple in the main dining room

Foundry Maple behind the hostess stand

Before heading out of town, I swung by the new Starbucks up on Broadway, which was recently outfitted with Heart Pine salvaged from the Pullman Couch Factory right there in Chicago. This building became infamous in 2013 when the Chicago Fire Department battled a large fire there in sub-zero temps, earning the name “Fire & Ice Building” and documented in a previous post on our blog.

Three different depths of Antique Heart Pine which in its past life was charred and encased in ice

After 3 very full days it was time for the rails to lead me home. Passing through Union Station to board my train, a pair of Metra trains waited to shuttle commuters home to the suburbs just as they’ve done for decades. Chicago’s mass transit is unique in that there’s so much of it above ground, it becomes a great way to see the sights, and to make your way to a spectacular meal, hopefully surrounded by some of our beautiful reclaimed wood.

If you get a chance to ride the commuter rail in Chicago, go upstairs and sit in the “upper deck” for a better view.