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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Mile-High Reclaimed Wood in Denver

I had never been to Denver, except for a prolonged visit to the airport several years ago.  So last month, I flew out to meet some people and see some of Pioneer Millworks‘ finished work. Even though many commercial and retail projects are consistent from one location to the next, it is always gratifying to see how our reclaimed wood is integrated with other aspects of design.

My first stop was a small womens clothing store that opened a couple of years back – No doubt, the floor has gotten better with age.  Even the staff at the store knows it!

Old paint, scratches, dents & dings, and absolutely beautiful.

Salvaged from a factory in Michigan, the occasional stripes of paint help to make the floor come to life, along with the scratches and dents imparted by decades of use. Sometimes the floors aren’t the only things with stories to tell. A woman that works at the store explained that just days before my visit, a newlywed couple had come in twice – first on their own, and second with their interior designer – to look at the flooring and use it in their new home. We love it when a design makes that kind of an impression.

Just down the corridor is another gem, where the floor was crafted from Yellow Pine planks recycled from a grain mill in Arkansas. A trend in both residential and commercial design is to celebrate the beauty of imperfection, which this floor does exceptionally.

Surprisingly smooth from years of use

The undulating surface, tonal differences from one plank to the next, and even some subtle texture caused by years of grain rushing past, makes for a perfect backdrop for the clothing. Some of the fixtures in the store make use of our reclaimed Douglas Fir as well.

Though I didn’t need any makeup, I dropped by this cosmetics store, which uses our barn siding on the exterior of many of their new locations. The dark and rich tones in the barnwood are selected such that when installed, the brightly lit interior of the store stands out. At the same time, the siding creates a highly textured facade that keeps the continuity of natural materials and products.

Variegated colors, textures, and signs of previous – quite a contrast to the surroundings!

Lastly, I noticed some familiar looking shutters made with our Attic Collection reclaimed softwoods. These are a great example of our capabilities beyond floors and walls, having been fabricated in our own shop. Even though these are heavily whitewashed, the randomized texture from the original and planed surfaces is a crucial part of the overall design. This variation breaks up the color of the shutters to help them stand out from the background wall color.

Shutters? Yep – we make those too!

Denver, and the entire Rocky Mountain region, is well served by either of our two locations. This helps to keep shipping costs down, with a faster lead time on a broader selection of products. If you have a chance to stop by the local shopping malls in the Mile High City, feel free to check out these stores for yourself. I’m hopeful that not long from now, we’ll have more projects to share.

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All About Ash

Reclaimed Ash, American Gothic Sample Board

Today, I’m all about Reclaimed Ash!

 

 

We’ve got a lot of beautiful things around here. Everyday I’m surrounded by unique, gorgeous wood in a myriad of different forms with exciting, new-to-us reclaimed projects coming in every week.

 

 

 

 

 

settlers plank oak flooring

Settlers’ Plank Reclaimed Oak is a great example of  one of our most popular core products, reclaimed mostly from barns.

 

Our core product line, those items that we make time and again, consists of some of the most exceptional and storied wood species and grades you can find (reclaimed or otherwise).

 

 

 

 

 

 

Senior Living Center Chapel Reclaimed Ash and Oak

 

While it’s hard to pick a favorite, I find that once in a while I’m struck by something.  Sometimes it’s an exclusive, limited edition item that is source specific. Sometimes it’s a new finishing technique on an old favorite. Sometimes, like today, I find myself drawn to a particular species from our core product line. I’m fascinated with its inherent beauty and also its surprising flexibility: American Gothic Reclaimed Ash.

 

eco-friendly engineered reclaimed ash
Our Reclaimed Ash has been knocking my socks off. It’s cool and modern. It’s rich and warm. It’s black and white and even blue. Ash is one of those species that can be anything you need it to be, without sacrificing its own character.

The grain pattern is somewhat pronounced and the natural tones are neutral, with a slight iridescence that makes for a stunning floor, wall, or countertop with just a coating of polyurethane or tung oil. (We sometimes say the grain pattern appears “flame-like”.)

 

 

 

reclaimed ash stains pioneer

Apply any sort of stain or color, Ash’s light, neutral color tone makes it the perfect base for a dramatic finish.

 

 

 

 

 

You can add a pigment or color, something natural or something wild, and it just shines. The grain doesn’t get lost, rather the light neutral color tone makes it the perfect base for a dramatic finish.

 

Simple and natural, or bold and colorful, I find it to be a spectacular choice for just about any project or application.

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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.

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