Recently we milled a floor for a client of ours using a batch of pine decking that we had acquired from an old factory. This decking material was painted white on the underside and when we split them in half we got a floor that was a 50/50 mix of brown and white patina.
Reclaimed Pine Decking floor after installation
Upon installation our client felt that the resulting floor, though stunning, was too funky with it’s contrasting whites and darks for their project. They had been hoping for a more unified patina.
To amend the situation my co-worker TJ and I, fresh from the previous night’s company holiday party, boarded a 6 am flight to Texas.
In addition to some shorts, we packed a random orbital sander and wire brusher.
Wire-brusher and sander
Over the course of the weekend we sanded and brushed each board. We took special care to take the white painted boards down to a more worn ghostly patina, and we polished up the brown boards to accentuate the grain of the pine.
The floor after an intimate brushing and sanding
Though I personally would have been happy to put the original floor in my own home, the new brushed and sanded floor looks exquisite! It has the authentic look of an old factory floor that has been worn for decades.
Before and After
…and we even had some time to sample the local Houston culture. This boozy chicken shared our table at a Bar-B-Q joint called the Hungry Farmer.Regardless of your politics, how could you not admire this debonair sculpture of President George H. W. Bush with his coat tossed casually over his shoulder and his tie blowing in the wind? He certainly embodied our sense of satisfaction as we headed home, feeling that we had left a job well done.
Just in time for the holidays we tallied the impact of incorporating 2,200 sq ft of reclaimed paneling to a corporate project. The quick results: over 8 tons of waste was prevented from entering a landfill and 30 trees were saved. What benefits do 30 trees offer? We’ll get to that a little further down the page.
Using 2,200 sq ft of reclaimed oak = 30 trees saved and 8 tons of waste kept out of landfills.
Think siding (vertical or horizontal). Think paneling…half way or up to the ceiling or on the ceiling. For a recent west coast project we crafted paneling from Settlers’ Plank reclaimed Oak. We’ve done some calculations to see just what using 2,200 square feet of reclaimed material meant to us and the environment.
Settlers’ Plank reclaimed paneling was fitted to a timber frame home game room.
With our average material yield we would have started with about 4,000 BF of reclaimed oak boards and joists to produce 2,200 SF of finished material. (We defect for metal artifacts, rot, old joinery, and lengths under 18″. These pieces are recycled, going to our chipper to become wood pellets or to our clean-burning kiln which heats our building.) By using 4,000 BF of reclaimed oak instead of fresh sawn oak the following environmental benefits were realized:
- We prevented 8 tons of waste from entering a landfill which would have occupied 12.35 cubic yards of landfill space
- Once wood waste is sent to landfills, the exposure to other types of waste may prohibit wood from breaking down. Instead, it may partially decompose and release methane gas – a type of greenhouse gas.
- We saved approximately 30 trees (based on the Doyle scale) from being cut down
- The 30 trees saved by recycling 4000 BF of wood can absorb as much as 945 pounds of carbon dioxide out of the air each year.
- 30 trees can provide a day’s supply of oxygen for up to 120 people.
- The net cooling effect of 30 young, healthy trees is equivalent to 300 room-size air conditioners operating 20 hours a day
- 30 large trees can lift up to 3,000 gallons of water out of the ground and discharge it into the air in a day.
Trees! We’re big fans of trees. Not only are they good for us, but for our animals, and the entire planet.
More on our paneling: We craft it to order in our shops in Farmington, NY and McMinnville, OR; it is FSC-Certified reclaimed wood; the panels make installation of wood walls, ceilings, and partitions quick and easy. The options are nearly endless with more than forty species, grades and textures available. The wood is valued for its grain pattern, durability, deep patina, and incredible character. And more often than not the antique wood used in paneling will show signs of its previous life with ferrous staining from nails or bolts, insect trails, and old joinery notches.
As always, thank you for helping us help the environment. Best wishes and holiday cheer to you and yours!
Reclaimed wine vat oak was mixed with our Settlers’ Plank grade to create this special flooring.
We follow a “made-to-order” philosophy of production. When you place an order for any of our floors or other products, we will generally mill the material just for you, allowing you flexibility in your specifications. Do you need a specific width that is outside of our typical range? A different thickness or alternate milling profile? What about a custom finish? Your needs dictate the product that we create.
Because of this it’s rare that we have leftovers or material on hand and ready to ship.
This floor is pretty much the reclaimed wood trifecta: a unique and desirable source and story, amazing character and quarter sawn boards, and a prefinish to allow for a fast install process.
Once in a while, through various unusual circumstances, we end up with something in our stock that is ready to go if you need something right away…
This reclaimed Settlers’ Plank Oak floor is truly a gem. The 3” wide planks were salvaged from Oak wine vats here in upstate NY. There is wonderful deep, dark staining from the wine running through many of the boards. There is also a very high percentage of quarter sawn material, with bold, stunning ray fleck running through the pieces. And it’s pre-finished with a rich, warm, three coat tung oil finish (an all botanical product that we buy from a great manufacturer in Vermont – more on that in a later post).
Occasionally we have “extra” square footage from a custom milled floor. 125 sq ft of this mixture of wine vat oak and our Settlers’ Plank grade is ready to go today.
We have 125 sf available to ship right away. Give us a call to talk about the details…
I recently completed installation of some new counter tops in my kitchen renovation at home. After seeing some of our bowling alleys being cut down for tables in a restaurant, I knew they would be perfect.
The angled holes from the old lag bolts are visible at the edges, along with a shimmering steel cleat that became exposed during sanding. Did you know bowling alleys are nailed together one strip at a time?
The colors play well from the nearly-black dark brown cabinets, the tile, and the rich leathery tones of the flooring. Talk about durable – 2 1/4″ of solid hard Maple finished with a butcher block oil – these will hold up for generations, and only get better with age.
The light tone of the Maple helps to brighten the space and balance out the darker colors.
The foul line markings were positioned at the end of the slab over the bookshelves where they are easily noticed, along with the collection of Alton Brown books.
We’ve got a lot more of these here at Pioneer Millworks, in both Maple and Heart Pine. Want a counter top with a story to tell? Give us a call – we’ll make sure your project scores a perfect 300.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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!
Rather than defecting out bolt holes, why not make them an integral part of the design? Old meets new, rough meets clean, dull meets shiny.
The old adage in retail construction is “Everything changes, except for the opening date.” This is incredibly true, and despite all the planning in the world, sometimes there’s just not a lot of time to pull a project together. Recently, one of our customers needed 40 sf of custom T&G for a wall panel for a new store overseas, and it had to be in a container 48 hours from the beginning of the conversation. Within 3 hours, we had the stock milled, packaged, and ready to be picked up by UPS, who got it to the container terminal with time to spare. It’s in our DNA to jump through hoops. We know that even a small quantity such as this can make or break the visual impact of a design. We’re continually honing our ability to recommend a material that we know will work with the design, be logical to mill to order, and ship out quickly.
To most, it is a stack of old wood. To our trained eyes, it is a stack of possibilities. How would you use these recycled wine vats?
Each project presents us with opportunities for using materials in our vast stock to make every installation special. We don’t limit ourselves to what is seen on our extensive website, although there are plenty of options available. Our team of sales people, hail from design & construction backgrounds and enjoy finding the perfect wood to set the project apart. A recent restaurant installation in Rochester NY is a great example of this type of effort. Looking beyond the original use of the wood as trusses in a factory, I worked with the owner to develop these planks which celebrate the history of the wood, right down to the old shear ring marks surrounding the bolt holes.
Our teams works seamlessly together allowing for fast project fulfillment, handling the occasional “wood emergency” with ease.
Of course, if we cant get a product to the job site efficiently then none of our work matters. Commercial construction often mandates deliveries be made at times well before the opening of the mall, or while traffic is at a minimum on city streets. Our shipping coordinator, Renee Knowles, has assembled a team of transportation providers that go above and beyond to work with strict delivery requirements. Need a 4 am delivery? No problem. Accurate documentation, communication with the job site and trucking company, and easy-to-manage packaging make it easy.
Clear labels on our protective lumber wrap help the job site know where to direct every skid during hectic offloads.
What challenges do you face in your projects when it comes to selecting reclaimed wood? Let us know, and we can help you hit your opening date. Because we completely understand – it is the one thing that never changes.
A couple of weeks ago, I was talking about our kiln in the context of conservation (we use our scraps to fire our kiln, lessening our waste- how cool!) but you might wonder why our kiln is such a big deal at all.
“Pioneer Millworks, why do you dry your wood?”, we’re asked, “If it’s reclaimed, doesn’t that mean it’s already pretty dry?” “Why do I care if it’s dried when I can buy reclaimed barn siding somewhere else for one dollar per square foot?!”
All good questions!
The kiln at our Farmington, NY location is running day and night, all year long.
Our production team uses moisture meters to determine the moisture content of our reclaimed materials. There are different requirements for boards and timbers due to the material thickness.
We dry all of the wood that we process into our beautiful reclaimed flooring, siding and wall paneling for a couple of very important reasons. While it is true that reclaimed wood does tend to be drier than fresh sawn products, the raw materials we use are exposed to environmental moisture both at the original site and here at our facility. This means the wood is not quite as dry as it could be, and probably not as dry as your home, or office or restaurant. Our reclaimed planks are dried to a 6%-9% moisture content and ultimately this means that the material is more dimensionally stable when you receive it at your job site. Wet wood shrinks when it loses moisture, and the more moisture it has to lose, the more dramatic the change. This shrinkage can result in cracking and buckling after installation. While all wood expands and contracts as it absorbs and loses a small percentage of moisture over the course of the seasons, it is the significant change that can cause the greatest problems or possible installation failure.
Our reclaimed boards are stacked and “stickered” prior to drying in the kiln- small pieces of wood are placed in between the layers as the boards are stacked to allow the heated air of the kiln to circulate around the material.
Drying the material also helps us maintain our quality milling. With a consistent moisture content, we can generally be assured that we won’t have a batch of flooring that moves or shrinks to a greater degree than another while it is waiting to be milled or after the milling process.
The other big reason that we take kiln drying so seriously is the possibility of insect infestation. No one wants to think about bugs in their barn siding, but old wood will very likely have, at some point, insects living in or on it. It’s not a very exciting thing to talk about, but it’s a very real concern in the reclaimed wood industry.
The high heat of the kiln drives out and kills any insects that may be inhabiting our reclaimed materials. Kiln drying, like all of the other parts of our production process contributes to material cost, but also ensures that reclaimed floor or paneling you install is product that you will be satisfied with. And we really, really don’t want you to accidentally bring insects into your home (or office, or restaurant – yuck!).
Powder Post Beetles are among the insects that we commonly find evidence of in reclaimed wood. The telltale holes and trails give the planks wonderful character – after the bugs are gone.
Kiln drying is critical to the quality and value of our products and just one of the many ways we differ from others in the reclaimed wood market. What other questions do you have about our processes and methods? Is there anything else you’re curious about? We love to talk about our products and what sets us apart from the rest…
With our trusted friends Walter and Eric of Veteran Wood Floors, LLC., I witnessed, and lent a hand in, the laying down of over 15,000 square feet in a little over 3 days.
Three days was about how long I spent laying my studio floor. It was a very casual experience as I hand picked each piece and the whole floor was assembled like a precious puzzle.
Walter and Eric did not have that luxury. Time was of the essence. Aided by a crew of a dozen men working round the clock, the installation process was a relentless hustle where choices were made instinctively, on the fly.
Along with the original finish, various accent colors ranging from black to white, grey, yellow, green, orange, blue, purple, brown and red are left intact on this extremely durable grade.
Reclaimed Gym Floors require both a skilled hand during installation and an acute visual sensibility. Because the flooring is reused as-is (without any additional milling), gapping and irregularities are to be expected and the installer must be attentive to keep the rows straight. In addition, an effort must be made to keep the original paint markings evenly dispersed during installation.
Layout, sorting, nailing.
Walter’s crew were installation pros. As one man nailed the flooring down, two guys would work ahead of him sorting and laying the pieces out. At the end of each day, what had been installed was then screened, vacuumed and coated with single application of protective finish.
We installed a heavier mix of painted boards on the first floor.
The finished floor looks pretty wicked. It’s sporty, playful, durable, and one of a kind!