Meet the team featuring: Steve

Notorious for his sense of humor and discerning eye, Steve is great when you need to smile or need detailed expertise on wood finishes. He filled us in during a recent Q and A: forest fires, contracting, bluegrass music, and an unusual fear of antiques…read on for details. steve w laser
What do you like about living and working in Upstate NY?
The weather! No, not really. I dislike the weather here 10 months out of the year. I’m into 70 degrees with sun and we get that for just a few weeks per year…which does make those weeks extra special. Truthfully, the best part about our neck of the woods is that my family lives in the area. After traveling the country looking for a place to call home, my wife and I settled back here, where we grew up.

You’ve been part of our team for four years. What role did you start in and where are you now?
I started stacking boards and bundling at the end of the moulder line. I could read calipers so Dave C taught me how to setup and run the moulder. Some time later there was a need for a finishing crew leader. While I wasn’t a finishing expert, I like to lead and learn, so I spent months researching finishes, reading everything I could get my hands on – including scouring forums of flooring contractors who freely gave their opinions of different finishes.

It seems like just yesterday I ordered samples of several different waterborne polyurethanes and tested them all. I specifically tested for ease of application, scratch resistance, and availability – I obviously had to be able to get the product when needed! I shared with our larger team and we decided on Vermont Natural Coatings because of their commitment to the planet; their finish is really good; and it’s made in the USA. Win Win Win!!  (Specifically, Vermont Natural Coatings PolyWhey Floor Finish was engineered to take advantage of whey protein – a byproduct of the cheese industry. We can almost say that we are using a reclaimed product on a reclaimed product.)Steve promo pic

 monocoat finishing sp oakTJ and team finishingWhat is your team’s role?
I lead the finishing and samples departments  – we produce about 1,300 samples annually, many of them fully customized for individual projects. Last year we pre-finished 30% of all projects – that’s several hundred thousand board feet. We also have a laser etcher which is a fun tool for special customization like adding logos or phrases to various planks.

 

 

 

 

 

What’s your background with wood?
I graduated from the University of Vermont where I studied Forestry. I focused on forest ecosystem restoration – I wanted to repair damaged ecosystems, and restore Old-growth northern hardwood forests to the Northeast.

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Slade Hall, University of Vermont. Steve and co-habitants created daily vegan and vegetarian meals and lived a planet conscious lifestyle.

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Normally behind the camera during his Fire Line Sawyer days, Steve found one image of himself geared up in Yosemite.


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After college, I did what every forestry graduate does: I headed west to fight fire. I worked three fire seasons with the National Park Service, primarily working prescribed fires in California, Oregon, Nevada, and in the Everglades. I worked my way up to a Fire Effects Monitor and Fire Line Sawyer before calling it quits. I watched fire burn around the bases of the Sequoias, was dropped off in the Yosemite backcountry via helicopter, and took a boat through the everglades to torch 10,000 acres of sawgrass. Ah, to be that young again!

Immediately prior to Pioneer Millworks, I owned/ran a business installing tile and hardwood floors and doing light construction work. Overall, the workload was very up and down. Timing was right; Pioneer made the choice to leave my business very easy.

What about reclaimed wood appeals to you?
The idea that we reuse/repurpose wood that would have ended up in a landfill is very exciting to me. I am an active advocate for environmental causes and being able to work for a company that purposely limits it’s impact on the planet makes it very easy for me to come to work.

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Which product is your favorite?
My favorite product is Settlers’ Plank Mixed Oak. When sanded just right and oiled, to me it becomes the quintessential reclaimed floor. The richness, the mix of grain, the depth of patina, make it such a timeless floor.

On a side note, I would only use one product to finish this floor: Rubio Monocoat. By utilizing Monocoat you can be assured that you will never have to sand the floor to remove finish (like you would a poly or aluminum oxide) to fix a scratch, etc. Sanding would potentially destroy the original saw marks and coloration that make Settlers’ Plank what it is, so the finish is a key element.

What fun finishing story can you share with us?
Back when we used 2-component polyurethanes we would end up with some waste at the end of a job. Instead of disposing of the finish in liquid form, we would pour it into nitrile glove and let it set up overnight. You see, with a 2-component polyurethane, it has a pot-life of a few hours and then it begins to gel up and it eventually turns to a  firm rubber-like consistency. We would dry out the poly hands, and occasionally ship them in care packages to our salespeople across the nation. We wanted to offer them a helping hand. All in good humor!

IMG_7159What are your hobbies outside of work?
In the rare instance that I have a few minutes to myself, I love to play Clawhammer Banjo. I started out loving bluegrass music until I re-discovered Old-time Appalachian music. Old time music skips the lyric driven tunes of bluegrass and throws out the mandolin and finger picks on the banjo. It’s a simple kind of music with big sound and a driving rhythm that will make you dance all night. My wife and I have vowed to instill a musical sense into our daughter from the day she was born. She attended her first music festival at 10 months old – The Great Blue Heron Festival near Jamestown. As a rule, we’ve determined that any festival that hosts Donna the Buffalo, is likely going to be child-friendly and fun. Otherwise, with a 5-year old in my life, my evenings are spent painting, coloring, and reading. 

Family, a vital part of Steves story.

A family of nature lovers.


Care to share something quirky about yourself?
I have a phobia of antiques – in particular, newspapers, furniture, dinnerware, and especially eating utensils. You won’t find me at an antique store looking for treasures. How do I work with antique wood with this phobia? I don’t know but I do love reclaimed wood even if it is old.

(A few more images from Steve’s fire chasing days are below):

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Unnecessary Deconstruction: Rethinking Barn Reclamation

Healthy barns being deconstructed – or in the worst cases having siding stolen off barns that are in use – all due to the high demand for barn siding in current décor? Yes…it’s a harsh realization about a wood product we love.

barn demo 4-editBarns are part of our heritage and iconic to the Northeastern landscape. As long as a barn is in good condition, we’d like it to continue to be a barn. Yet, along with many of our reclaimed wood fans, we deeply enjoy the historic and heavily weathered planks. Our acquisition team’s mission was set: use their creativity and detective skills to find alternative weathered wood sources. With a final push of sourcing we’re excited to announce sustainable and alternative origins that alleviate the specific demand for barn siding. Introducing our American Prairie line:

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American Prairie is full of wood that offers the same wonderful weathered surfaces as barn wood but is from more plentiful and renewable alternatives. Barn wood is broad and dynamic in scope; incorporating wood that is salvaged not just from dilapidated barns, but also agricultural fencing and other structures that have endured the elements, is a step we believe will reduce the pressure to take barns down unnecessarily.

ap grade samples

The American Prairie line is offered in four grades: Brown Board, Taphouse, Weathered Grey, and Painted. The grades offer naturally patinated planks in earth tones ranging from greys and silvers to browns and tans, or original painted surfaces including white and red. These boards are popular for vertical or horizontal installations in commercial and residential projects for both interior and exterior applications.

WGL Energy; Vienna, VA; ASD, Pioneer Millworks; Darris Lee Harris Job#1404; 1375.12

WGL Energy; Vienna, VA, Darris Lee Harris

barn_siding_res_installWe’ve joined several barn preservation groups including Restore Oregon – Heritage Barns, New York State Barn Coalition, and the National Barn Alliance. We find these are hardworking organizations, well worth being a part of.

Two Blocks North

It’s Sunday. My thighs and calves are hurting today. Seriously sore. As a general condition, the muscles I typically exercise are two fingers on each hand for keyboarding, my butt, for sitting too much, and the little one between my ears. Yesterday I joined a dozen co-workers and family (yes, my 15 year old was there running a nailer) to install a floor we donated to the Two Blocks North project. This is definitely not work I do each day, in spite of owning a flooring company. The ups and downs, the kneeling, the bending over. I’m not in great shape, clearly.

two blocks northTwo Blocks North an ad hoc project put together by a few folks to help out a guy who was hit by a car while riding his bike to work. The driver was an 84 year old man who ran a light. He stayed to help at the scene.

The rider is a father and husband, and outdoorsy and well-liked in all the ways Portlanders are. He’s now confined to a wheel chair. The two story four square in North Portland couldn’t work for them anymore. The website tells it better, but the short of it is they were able to buy a one story nearby, and needed to upgrade and make it accessible.

Corey Omey, a friend of his and a principle at EMA Architecture & Urban Planning rallied people and the makeover got going fast. Corey called me about needing some beams. Sure, and how’s the flooring there? Well, the living room and hall are Pergo (retch) but there’s no money in the budget to replace. Okay, we can come up with something, and I might know some folks who would install it.

TwoBlockNorth_ASo sure enough, we found a batch of 500 square feet of our Tradewinds, and barely a word was needed for co-workers to jump in to help. In fact, ever try to install a floor with almost too many people? There was a fair share of jumping over each other, team choreography, and tangled hoses. But one seriously focused install happened nonetheless, from 8 in the morning to about 4:30, with barely a stop for donuts brought by sweet Ashley. At about 3 I started to get dizzy and realized I was way too dry in the throat. We all were. Kate looks up and says, “Hey I’m from California and I always have water in my trunk.” I don’t really know what she meant, but it was delicious water, and now I’m going to carry water too.

TwoBlockNorth_BTradewinds seemed like the perfect floor. We make it from crating and shipping material that comes into U.S. ports, inbound from China, typically. It’s a totally haphazard mix of Indonesian woods. I see meranti, teak, and a bunch that I’ll never know. It’s really not one of our best sellers, I think because its lively mottling and mixing is a powerful look. I love it, though, and Jennifer, our GM, even put it throughout her own home. It would be a good choice here due to its toughness and its visual interest, perhaps.

TwoBlockNorth_CNear the end of the day the new owners happened by. We were experiencing a rare rain-less day, so they had come over to check out progress, and continue to get a feel for their new home, and yard. I was describing the source of the wood to Hanne and Brian, and I mentioned its not for everyone, I suppose feeling a bit self conscious. “But it is for us,” said Hanne.

Yup, my legs are sore. Magnificently, screamingly, wonderfully sore.

Jonathan

Meet the team featuring: Sierra

Sierra is the newest member to our team of Reclaimed Wood Design Experts. We caught up with her when she came east to our HQ in Farmington, NY:

sierra in shopWhat do you like about living and working in Seattle?
Can’t beat living in a city that’s surrounded by mountains and water. Added bonus is that there is great food and music. You can usually find me at the Tractor Tavern or Conor Byrne Pub listening to the music.

What’s your background with wood, or reclaimed wood in particular?
Reclaimed wood has always been a family passion. I spent my summers working at Pioneer Millworks and I accompanied Jonathan (Pioneer’s founder and my Dad) on many buying trips. My favorite was to Australia for a cool hardwood called Karri.

What is your role on our team?
Most simply put, sales for Washington, Alaska, and British Columbia. My Seattle location puts me in the heart of the market.

What are you most looking forward to with your job?
I’m excited about exploring Vancouver, BC and hoping to find an excuse to travel to Alaska. I’m also looking forward to knowing the design side of Seattle professionally.

Sierra has always been a team player helping us out at various trade shows over the years.

Sierra has always been a team player helping us out at various trade shows over the years.


What about wood or reclaimed wood appeals to you?

Wood adds such warmth, beauty, and comfort to a space. With reclaimed and sustainable wood we always have a great story to tell and we can feel good about what we’re selling.

Which product is your favorite? Why?
I like a floor that I can beat up so I’ve always loved our Settler’s plank line, but I’m also really excited about the custom colors that we’re experimenting with for Ash & Elm.

sierra with reclaimed logIt sounds like your  favorite childhood reclaimed wood story took place in Australia. Can you give us the scoop? Dad and I spent three weeks there the summer I graduated from high school. One of the wood suppliers was a really interesting guy. He has a whole museum of cool things that he has found while demolishing buildings. In particular I remember a huge, beautiful, spiral staircase. He had a pet camel and a number of other animals you don’t find in most US households. We also picked up the same hitchhiker four separate times during our trip, and had a four day layover in Singapore.

What are your hobbies outside of work?
Swing dancing, listening to live music, hiking in the summer, working on our 1964 home, watching the Seahawks.

sierra dancingShare something quirky about yourself?
My cat, Bob, has just about as many frequent flyer miles as I do. I’ve had Bob for ten years, since he was just a kitten. During the first couple of years I spent a good amount of time on the East Coast, even though my home-base was Seattle. He’s super social and doesn’t like to be left alone so I just took him with me. He’s racked up a decent amount of miles!

We've heard that Bob the cat is one of Sierra's true loves, a constant companion, and unending source of entertainment.

Bob the cat, one of Sierra’s true loves, a constant companion, and unending source of entertainment, has traversed the country with her on numerous occasions.


What’s your favorite book?

A Winter’s Tale, by Mark Helprin

Questions on reclaimed wood in the Washington, Alaska, or BC regions? You can reach Sierra here.