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.
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The ‘Random’ Trend: Firewood Panels

A trend in design for the past few years has been “random”.  Random colors, textures, shapes, thicknesses, widths, and character have become the norm in many projects both residential and commercial. Playing off this random concept, a national retailer asked us to create a random firewood wall panel for their stores.

firewood-panel-pioneer-millworks-macroSome people think the roots of this look is in Scandinavian design, while others get more of an Adirondack or Rocky Mountain lodge feel. The simplicity and organic nature of stacked firewood is beautiful – I’ve always marveled at how every piece is unique in shape, size, and texture. Translating this beauty to a prefabricated panel would prove to take considerable work, but our team of craftspeople are always up for a challenge.

First, we had to figure out what we would be using for the wood itself. The firewood we generate in our shop comes in the form of off-cuts from the timbers we salvage. Usually its the “bad part” of the beam on the ends, perhaps with some rot or damage from the deconstruction process. We don’t waste this, and in fact it is burned in our high-performance boilers which heat our kilns and our shop in the colder months here in NY. So we had to find something that wasn’t cut from old timbers – and we didn’t need to look any further than the trees growing around our yard. Nothing too big, just some Poplars and softwoods which, coincidentally, were being trimmed around the same time as they were encroaching on our yard space. They were the perfect size to form a nice arrangement on the panels for our client.

fire-wood-panel-whole-pioneerFor the retailer’s project we split the logs to give them a genuine wedge-profile, cut them to the requested depth, carefully dried them, and then mounted them to a specially prepared plywood backer and frame.

Stepping back and looking at it, our shop thought it was a really cool project that we probably wouldn’t be asked to make again. Fast-forward a few months though, and a longtime client of ours in New York City called up asking about a similar effect, this time for the exterior of a restaurant.  Working with an outdoor application presented its own set of challenges but once again our team developed a solution again sourcing small, fast-growing species overtaking the edges of our yard in NY.

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Just this last week, we shipped another set of panels, this time for the lobby of an apartment building outside Philadelphia. This project combined both of our prior efforts, using small diameter logs of similar species and color with the bark intact, but for interior use next to a fireplace.firewood-panels-apt-lobby-paWe’ve done other random projects with a more refined look using reclaimed timbers including a curved end-block wall crafted from Poplar and Basswood, and a really cool custom stained Red Pine wall at a coffee shop in Michigan. What’s your random design desire? stained-red-pine-random-wall-pioneer-product

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Our Reclaimed Wood Expert in Ohio

Jered, our reclaimed wood expert, has been on the train and in the car visiting Ohio on his most recent trip. He also had a live trip advisor/helper as one of his sons joined him on this adventure. By Day 3, Jered had promoted him from personal assistant to traveling tech support. Both enjoyed good eats and lots of reclaimed wood.

Jered and Son    Jered and Son_Tech Support    Jered and Son_Day 2

On a quick stop in to a national retail store in Cincidrew furniture old logonnati, they checked out reclaimed oak flooring that was installed over 5 years ago. This was a special batch of Foundry Oak that we reclaimed from the Drew Furniture Factory in North Carolina. Original patina and paint are celebrated in this floor. As Jered says, “It still looks awesome!”Madewell_FoundryOakFloor_Cincinatti_OH_webMadewell_FoundryOak_Floor_Cincinatti_OH_web

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Custom Eco-Friendly Engineered Floor Made from Reclaimed Bleacher Boards

Here at Pioneer Millworks we have a menu of more than 50 standard products. But we continue to push the envelope and work with clients who come to us with their own unique vision. In fact, nearly half of all the jobs we do each year are custom. We love these partnerships into uncharted waters and all the challenges that they entail. The extra sweat and tears spent in the production of these orders often leaves us feeling especially proud of the end results.

One recent custom order of which passed through nearly every hand in our shop was 8,000 square feet of Eco-Friendly Engineered Floor made from Reclaimed Douglas Fir Bleachers. Destined for a large corporate headquarters in California, here is what was involved:

  1. Bleachers were sourced from across the nation, from Webster, New York to Portland, Oregon and numerous stops in-between. Because only solid Douglas Fir bleachers could be used for this order, our acquisitions team traveled across the country to find the perfect stock. This was something of a treasure hunt as most bleachers that were installed in the last 50 years are plastic, pine or laminates. Bleacher - 0
    reclaimed bleacher board art pioneer millworks

    Some of the gum and graffiti we found on our collection of boards.

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    2.After the bleachers were cut to 8′ lengths (the length of the plywood), we fully surfaced each board in our moulder and put them in our kiln for several days. This brought all the wood to a consistent moisture content and killed any nasty fungus that might have resided after decades of sweaty gym shorts leaving their mark (we learned this the hard way).Bleacher - 3Bleacher - 4Bleacher - 5

  2. The holes left from the original carriage bolts which once secured the bleachers to a metal frame, are drilled out and filled with custom plugs. Our detail oriented crew did an exceptional job matching the grain of the plugs to the grain of each board. Bleacher - 6Bleacher - 7Bleacher - 8Bleacher - 9Bleacher - 10Bleacher - 11
  3. Once plugged, each board was again surfaced in the moulder and then run through our frame saw. Here, a series of blades sawed each board into three thin wear layers.
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    Going in.

    Coming out.

    Coming out.

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  4. On our glue line, each wear layer was carefully adhered to a FSC Baltic Birch plywood substrate. Bleacher - 15Bleacher - 16Bleacher - 17
  5. Finally, these glued-up boards were run through the moulder a third and final time where the tongue and groove was milled. After defecting out any remaining irregularities, each board was end-matched and stacked to ship. Bleacher - 18Bleacher - 19Bleacher - 20Bleacher - 21Bleacher - 22Bleacher - 23Bleacher - 24

I think that it is safe to say that everyone involved in the project is especially proud of this beautiful one of a kind floor. Keep the custom projects coming!

 

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