Reclaimed Wood – Old and new in New York City

I had the rare opportunity to visit a project in its very infancy last week in New York City, one that will become a retail space, wine tasting room, and several floors of condos.  To most material suppliers, the demolition stage of a project isn’t much to see, but to those of us with a passion for wood and an eye to the past, it can tell us a lot about the building, and give some direction to what materials would be a good fit for the project.

Sometimes a building will tell you where it came from if you look close enough.

Sometimes a building will tell you where it came from if you look close enough.

The photo above is rotated 180 degrees, and it caught my eye while coming upstairs from the basement level.  The CW Wilson Lumber Company was located in Brooklyn and was in its prime around the turn of the century.  The original structure here was built in 1852, but it seems as though at least the first floor was renovated at some point, considering the varied sizes and species of the joists and the types of sawing used.  Paying homage to the original materials, we’ll be working with reclaimed Heart Pine  from some amazing timbers in our yard.  What’s more amazing though, is the transformation this space will undergo.

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One of two basement levels, this will become a wine tasting room, making use of our reclaimed wine vats to compliment the original structure of the building.

From the beginning of a project here, to completion of a restaurant north of the city:

Racanelli’s New York Italian was recently opened after renovations to the original 40-year old space.  I worked with the architects and the owners to select weathered barn siding for the walls, and chunky original floor joists for the ceilings and shelves.  While the original intent of the barn siding was the inside brown face, the original weathered reds were used occasionally to pick up on the rich tones of the brick walls.

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“The Bridge” helps to define the bar area separately from the dining space without using a full wall. Ingenious.

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Above the bread station, a cylinder of reclaimed barn siding emphasizes the center of the restaurant, with a curved wine shelf along the front.

Racanelli’s is located in Scarsdale, NY, a short train ride on the Harlem line from Penn Station.  Order the Pappardelle Bolognese.  Trust me.

The old saying about New York is that it is “the city that never sleeps”.  When you’re wearing the soles off your shoes every day though, you have to have some down time.  The Pod Hotel on 39th St just opened their lounge on the first floor, complete with a full bar, plenty of seating, and…..ping pong tables!

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What better way to relax than by playing a little table tennis with a backdrop of reclaimed wood and Mexican-inspired artwork?

Maybe you’ve spotted some of our work in other locations around New York?  Chances are, if you’ve been in a new restaurant or retail store in the city, you’ve seen wood from us here at Pioneer Millworks.  Keep in touch, there’s sure to be more.

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Jered is back in the city that never sleeps…

Jered has spent the first half of this week pounding the pavement in New York City.  In the rush of meeting with clients, visiting jobsites and dropping off samples, he’s still managing to whet our appetites with pictures like these…

This large scale wine rack created with character and patina rich reclaimed wood towers over patrons at this New York City area eatery. It’s one of many elements that we were able to assist the designers and owners with.

I’m sure we’ll get all the details on this project and more when he gets back to the office later in the week.  I can’t wait to see the rest!

Satisfaction Guaranteed

Pine Decking floor as received by client

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.

Reclaimed Paneling Equals Environmental Health

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.

Reclaimed Hardwoods Paneling by Pioneer Millworks

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

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 and horses

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 Flooring – Ready to ship!

settlers plank oak with wine vat staves flooring

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.

settlers plank flooring oak with wine vat staves

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).

wine vat oak flooring

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…

Bowling in the house?

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

 

 

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.

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!

Everything changes, except for the opening date.

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.