Garrett Michael of Makers Woodworks

Garrett Michael of Makers Woodworks

Garrett Michael is a craftsman out of Vancouver, Washington that along with partners, Dan McCarl and Justin Appel opened Makers Woodworks in 2013. They specialize in building and installing custom furniture for people or businesses in the Portland metro area. The passion for their work comes through in the pieces they build; “When the client tells you they love the piece, then we’re happy,” says Garrett.

1. How would you refer to yourself? Woodworker? Artisan? Craftsman?

Garrett Michael, Justin Appel, and Dan McCarl of Makers Woodworks

Garrett Michael, Justin Appel, and Dan McCarl of Makers Woodworks

2. How did you get started?
I was introduced to woodworking in about 6th grade. I loved the ability to create something tangible from rough lumber with machinery and hand tools. There’s also an element of danger and caution you always have to keep in mind.

3. Why wood?
I think I was kind of drawn to it. It’s so random and varied in species; each has its own distinct characteristic, color, pattern, even within that species. Wood is workable, yet super strong, and has a warmth that invites you to feel it. It’s also kind of instant gratification seeing an idea progress through different stages and take shape. You can change direction along the way.

4. What was the first thing you made from wood?
I don’t remember the first thing, probably a mirror or something like that. I do remember making an 8 sided box in a school shop early on.

5. What does being creative meant to you?
Expression. The thought of coming up with something that’s interesting and just a little different than anything you’ve done yet. You can’t help but get inspired by all the awesome stuff being created out there.

Taking some of the black paint off the Kentucky Fence Board

Taking some of the black paint off the Kentucky Fence Board

6. Do you have any rituals?
Coffee in the morning.

7. What is your favorite piece?
That’s a tough question, there are really so many. I’ve really become partial to the mid-century stuff over last few years.

8. Who inspires you?
There are so many awesomely talented people out there, you see fantastic stuff all the time these days with social media. Historically, maybe Tage Frid, Sam Maloof, Greene brothers, even some architecture is inspiring. And I can’t forget my wife.

9. What do you hope to communicate through your work?
That we are into what we are doing and want our clients to love it.

10. If you weren’t doing this what would you be doing?
Don’t know, can’t imagine that at this point. I’ve always wanted to fly though…

11. Ultimate piece you want to create
I would love to build my own home.

12. What’s your favorite thing about PDX?
The rain…haha. The casual vibe, color, music and art scene, biking, and the FOOD.

13. Favorite song?
Too many; I could change daily. I love music.

14. Favorite bridge?
St Johns, though there are still one or two cool old covered bridges around town…I think.

15. Favorite neighborhood?
Hmmm… maybe Laurelhurst. There are so many great areas.

16. What’s your favorite tool?
Whatever I need for the next step.

Preview of the bench Garret is constructing for Design Week Portland

Preview of the bench Garret is constructing for Design Week Portland

Garrett Michael from Makers Woodworks at read:grain, works with reclaimed wood on Friday, April 28th from 4-7pm during Design Week Portland. For more information, go here.


Effortless Style with Narrow Widths

Reclaimed narrow width Hickory from Pioneer MillworksAs a design element, narrow floors have traditionally appeared in formal spaces. Yet, effortless, custom styles can be created with a variety of clean or character-rich narrow width planks – flooring or paneling.

reclaimed ag oak versailles patternNarrower boards are classic. We’ve walked across ‘strip’ flooring so narrow it was face nailed (as it didn’t have t&g) but has held true for a century. Others have a tongue and groove connecting delicate 1.5″ planks. Still others in these legacy homes are laid in patterns. We’re seeing a resurgence of patterns in recent installations – horizontal and vertical – in homes and commercial spaces. The narrow wood lends itself to this use. While visually stylish, certain patterns such as herringbone or chevron, can give a narrow room the illusion of being larger. The slimmer planks are also ideal for intricate parquet patterns.  (Above: Versailles pattern in American Gothic Reclaimed Oak with an oil/wax finish. Below: American Gothic Reclaimed Oak with a custom finish in a herringbone pattern).

val reclaimed oakpatina grade reclaimed narrow stock Pioneer millworksOur patina (high character, original surface) products bring another step of revitalization to narrow width applications. An installation using narrow width patina grades will have more variation, as there are more pieces, but is likely to read as a single field in comparison to an installation using wider widths. (With wider widths, individual boards become more pronounced.) The unabashed character will also bring a relaxed atmosphere to spaces.

Narrow width Grandma's Attic Reclaimed Softwoods as wall paneling.

Narrow width Grandma’s Attic Reclaimed Softwoods as wall paneling.


Structurally, narrow widths tend to be more stable and show less movement than wider width material. For projects that are located in environments where the humidity may fluctuate narrow widths can be a good reclaimed hickory narrow pioneer millworksWhile we custom craft to order, we have a current selection of narrow width products ready for your project. Let your reclaimed wood expert know what your favorite is:

American Gothic Mixed Oak
American Gothic White Oak
American Gothic Elm
American Gothic Chestnut
American Gothic Hickory
Reclaimed Karri/Jarrah Patina
Reclaimed Karri Bright
Character Heart Pine
Tropical Hardwood Mix, Bright
Knotty’n’Naily Douglas fir
Grandma’s Attic Softwoods



Meet the Team Featuring: Alex

Alex joined our team over ten years ago, beginning in our de-nailing group and moving into acquisitions. He has a broad history here and we asked him to share a bit about life at Pioneer and about himself:  

Alex in the shopYou grew up in upstate NY near our HQ and stuck around. What do you like about living here?

I like living in the landscape that I grew up in. This area has a nice balance of elements and I’m not just talking about the seasons. Within a half hour drive of my home there are urban and rural environments, liberal and conservative neighborhoods, nooks and crannies that I still haven’t explored and old childhood stomping grounds.

Alex (right) and Cal (left)

A somewhat younger version of Alex (right) on lunch break with long-time co-worker, Cal (left).

You’ve been here for over a decade, right? You started de-nailing and learned plenty of other roles – can you step us through your transitions?

I’ve been here for 12 or 13 years – I forget which. I started with the de-nailing crew, worked in the yard for a few years, carried the sample department until Steve arrived and then started custom quoting and doing acquisition/inventory work in the office.

What is your role on our team today?

Officially, I am the “Acquisitions and Product Leader”. My  responsibilities include developing pricing for standard and custom projects, being a sort of liaison between Acquisitions and our Sales team, and supporting Michele’s Acquisitions efforts. On any given day I may be maintaining an inventory database, visiting a local barn, updating a spec sheet, or quoting a custom engineered floor. Each day brings new tasks and challenges.

What’s your favorite story as part of the team at Pioneer Millworks?


The jail in NJ was no longer in use when Alex visited to inspect the wood we’d later reclaim.

Exploring old abandoned buildings and factories is always the best.
I remember an old complex in New Jersey that once was a pharmaceutical factory which had room after room filled with old beakers and chemistry ware. Then there was the abandoned prison in New Jersey where I got to pull the giant lever that opened and closed a dozen cell doors at a time. I also looked at an old barge that was dredged out of the Meadowlands in New Jersey which was filled with rats…yes, there have been lots of memorable New Jersey moments.


Alex (right) is also a Wood ID expert. He hosted a Wood Identification class, complete with his favorite wood ID book, which co-worker Hans (left) won after answering a series of wood questions.

What about wood or reclaimed wood appeals to you?

I love that all of our products are tactile and have personality. Even our most uniform products like C-Select Vertical Grain Douglas Fir have subtle organic variation in tone and grain density that just can’t be duplicated in a synthetic product. No matter how tightly we grade a product for  consistency, each individual board is going to be unique.


Which wood product is your favorite? Why?

black and tan 50/50 oak pioneer millworksBlack and Tan 50/50 is such a cool dynamic product. The random remnants of black paint add some rock and roll to this classic and sturdy oak floor.


What’s your background?

Alex selfie 2006

We mentioned Alex was creative – this is a selfie he took during an acquisition in 2006 (well before selfies were even a ‘thing’).

I have a Bachelors of Fine Arts from the Cooper Union. [We make use of Alex’s creative nature and writing skills from time to time in Marketing efforts.]

What are your hobbies outside of work?

I buy the Sunday New York Times Early Edition every week at a local Barnes & Noble (where they often mistakenly charge me several dollars less than the cover price). It takes me all week to read it and several days to do the crossword puzzle. By Saturday night I Google search the answers to the clues that I’m hopelessly stuck on. I have no shame.

Share something quirky about yourself…

I always carry a quarter in my pocket. If I’m feeling indecisive, it’s either Heads or Tails and I always follow through.

What’s your favorite book?

“Speak, Memory” by Vladimir Nabokov is my favorite. In this book
Nabokov writes about his childhood and beautifully captures how a child sees the world before becoming an adult. Immediately after reading this book I bought a net and spent many spare summer hours chasing butterflies.


Let’s check in with our Finishing Department

IMG_8694 IMG_8692 IMG_8693

In the past five years our finishing department has grown into a well trained, well equipped, team of detail oriented professionals. This can be credited in large part to our Finishing Team Leader Steve Pettrone, who with the support and encouragement of management has deftly guided this devoted crew. SteveWith years of flooring installation experience, a strong personal environmental ethos and an easy going swagger that inspires camaraderie, Steve is quite a rock star. In addition to streamlining and updating our processes, he has proudly steered our in-house finishing options away from Tung oils and 2 part polyurethanes to the Zero VOC hard-wax oil finishes that have become the industry standard in the world of reclaimed flooring.


Steve’s newest addition to our product line is his Custom Grey, Custom White and Custom Black finishes on American Gothic Ash.

There is nothing radical about these finishes. They aren’t groundbreaking or cutting edge. They aren’t Pantone’s color of the year (though we do have plenty of custom one-off finish possibilities, but that’s another story).

pantone colors of 2016






What they are, are well tested, expertly applied, high performing finishes that will expand the tonal options available to both the cosmopolitan designer and the renovating homeowner.

In general, clients come to us looking for authenticity. That’s what reclaimed wood delivers best. The time-worn surface, the rich depth of color found in original patina and old growth wood, the nail holes and fastener marks that testify to a past life. Faux finishes make us cringe. As anyone who has worked in our sample department will tell you, nothing is lamer than receiving a request for a stain that will make red oak look like walnut. Or the request to apply some Rumplestiltskin magic to make fresh-sawn Douglas Fir look like it has weathered grey naturally for 20 years under the Wyoming sun.

We prefer the modernist tenet of remaining true to the material. But we are also aware that natural color tones – no matter how lush – are not right for every project. Our three custom finishes are complex and transparent, highlighting Ash’s tight grain pattern rather than masking it. Like your neighborhood sommelier, Steve has paired finish and wood so that each works to one another’s strength.


These custom finishes take full advantage of a product that we are very fond of: Rubio Monocoat. This hard-wax oil is favored for its ease in application, maintenance and its tested durability.

Our custom process begins with a wire-brushing to open the wood grain, a hand-applied Rubio “Pre-color” stain which gives the final finish extra depth, and a thorough denibbing which removes any raised fibers.











At this point the flooring is laid out on a platform and the oil finished is applied with a buffer. We then inspect and wipe down every board by hand and let the finish cure for 24 hours in a rack. Before it is shipped, the finished material is lined with a sheet of protective padding and then wrapped into hand bundles of approximately 25 square feet.

From start to finish, this diligent process is free of shortcuts and it results in a product that we feel is equal if not superior to any prefinished wood floor on the market. Steve is confident that you will agree.