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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Just in time for Thanksgiving…

For the past couple of months I’ve been working with a residential client on her sun-room addition. We started talking about rustic flooring, then moved on to paneling, trim and mantles for a two sided fireplace. By the time the details were worked out and measurements settled, the time frame for the project had become quite tight.

Thankfully, between our large volume of timber stock and the greatest team of dedicated craftsmen in the industry, we’ve now got the client’s order milled, finished, packed, and ready to go. It will deliver to her home today, just before our shop closes for the long holiday weekend.

These long planks of custom milled bead board (center and left) are waiting for their final coat of Tung Oil to be applied. The American Gothic grade was selected for the walls to complement the texture and character of the Settlers’ Plank flooring (right of image).

I was lucky to grab a few pictures of this gorgeous Settlers’ Plank Oak and custom milled American Gothic Oak bead board while our guys were busy hand-applying the tung oil finish.  The warmth, richness and character is undeniable.

Our Settlers’ Plank Oak is perfectly suited for a natural Tung Oil finish. The depth of color is enhanced by this matte, penetrating finish.

Hopefully when the project is complete, we’ll get some pictures from the client so we can share the final results.

Have a great Thanksgiving!

PS: If you still have a craving for good food, check out CBS Sunday Morning from last weekend. Throughout the feature you can see our reclaimed redwood wine vat stock, sourced from local NY wineries, and crafted into the counter tops, shelving, and fixtures for a popular yogurt company.

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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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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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