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

Welcome Sean Comerford!

Sean Comerford started in our mill with the Moulder Crew in January and moved into the office to join our sales team in May. We dug deeper to learn more about him:Sean explores to feed his love of old wood and history.

Sean explores to feed his love of old wood and history.

Where did you grow up?

I’m originally from Buffalo, NY born and raised. After an extensive European hiatus where I learned that enjoying life is a priority, I returned home to Buffalo wanting to pursue a craft – which in turn took me to Rochester, NY where I apprenticed with a Dry-Stone Waller and learned to build with stone – the old way.

When the snow came with that bitter winter wind, I was unable to build so I turned to yet another medium – wood. I found Pioneer Millworks, and was so excited to start working here that I just came in and most likely pestered Rick enough that he hired me to work the Moulder Line.

You spent some time working in our mill. What did you learn?

Mid-January, I started work on the Moulder Line with Dave C and the guys. With fervor, I started studying the product specs, learning the species, and defecting to grade. Working in the mill nurtured some great relationships and gave me a better understanding of the inner-workings and nuances of our company and products. That knowledge helps me out immensely as a salesman.

What is your role on our sales team?

Learning Reclaimed Wood Sales is a rocky road full of pitfalls, but with this team mistakes are minimal and they transform into good experience. I have come a long way since my first days here, interacting with customers who walk through the front door looking for flooring, paneling, mantle timbers and everything in-between. Apart from Inside Sales, I provide support mainly to Jered S and Roblyn P, who in turn help me grow. My role will eventually evolve into local/regional sales. I’ll help spread the reclaimed word around Rochester, NY and beyond!

What about wood or reclaimed wood appeals to you?
Our 9 acre yard in Farmington, NY.

Reclaimed wood has soul, and as I walk through the yard I am often struck at how old some of these timbers are. Their species are nearly indeterminable but the texture and patina speak volumes about their character. The sustainability of this particular product coupled with the unique beauty makes it irresistible for a tree-hugger/wood-fanatic like myself.

Which of our products are your favorites? Why?

I like my reclaimed wood to have some character, a gnarly and interesting personality while also refined. So, I have to admit, there is a solid tie between Black & Tan-Tan and Antique Heart Pine (Character Select). reclaimed heart pine CS pioneer millworksThe latter, not only has some juicy history but the color and texture is mesmerizing, especially in those deep and wide resin canals where the divide between sap and wood becomes nearly indeterminable. The Black & Tan-Tan has a great story, and though smooth-planed, still has a good amount of that paint-ingrained patina that catches the eye.

sean bug netWhat are your hobbies outside of work?

You can usually find me at Rochester Arts Center throwing pottery, on a hike at Corbett’s Glen, or at the myriad local breweries in the area sipping on an IPA and engaged in good conversation.

What is your educational background?

I graduated with a B.A. in History – not exactly the most sought after certification for this line of work. That said, I do use my history degree to a greater extent now than I ever had in previous jobs – there is history in reclaimed wood and now it’s my job to share that history.

Share something quirky about yourself.

sean travels pano

Two years ago, I paid off my student loans and flew off to Europe with my extra cash, an overstuffed backpack and heady inspiration. I started a European odyssey that would bring me to an antediluvian Norwegian farm where I learned the old ways of raising crops, drank from glacier fed rivers, and chased cattle through the clouds. I took to the coast in Croatia, then on to rural Bosnia, Serbia, Hungary, the Carpathians in Romania, and Slovenia. I hitchhiked the breadth of Italy in less than twenty-four hours and ended up staying on at a Pressoir (Juice Farm) in France that had a wine vat older than the 13 Colonies – the inscription read 1472. I walked, ran, biked, swam, thumbed it, bummed it, and laughed my way through Europe for five months and twenty-two days.

What’s your favorite book?

This is the hardest question by far, but I figured it would be easier to name my favorite authors and genres instead. Without becoming too long winded, I love historical fiction, especially the works of Bernard Cornwell and Ken Follet. The cantankerous Ernest Hemingway is a must and in an opposing fashion, the works of Lao Tzu in the Tao Te Ching.

Doggy Goodbyes

Charlie hard at work phin lap look

Thank you to all of our followers who have reached out with kind words and warm thoughts about the loss of our canine companions. It isn’t easy to say goodbye. The fact is that we lost two of our office dogs over a month ago, yet each time I tried to write about my boy (Charlie) the tears welled up and my fingers froze over the keys. While I doubt I’ll ever be able to compose something about Charlie without blinking back a flood of emotions, the time that has passed has eased a little of the sorrow and it is only right to keep sharing our boys with everyone in our lives…

charlie and phin

A sunlight nap and a sunlight snack. We always joked that Phin was solar charged. He loved spending time in any patch of sunlight.

With heavy hearts we said goodbye to our two best office dogs. Charlie and Phin were fixtures in our NY headquarters. I’ve always felt fortunate to work in a place that has a dog culture. If ever you stopped in, chances are you were greeted by one – or both – of these special co-workers. Charlie spent the last decade tail wagging and sniffing everyone who came through the door and meandering from desk to desk waiting patiently for pets and treats. While Phin, a more recent addition to our crew, spent his time lap-hopping – a feat that Charlie could never manage with his 90lbs of muscle of golden fluff.

John and I want to thank everyone who spoiled and played with our guys at work and at home. They were loved by not just us, but all who met them. Animals have a way of touching our hearts. They bring out the best in us; they support us; they make us laugh; they offer companionship; and they keep us entertained. I’m humbled by the selflessness they offer and the unconditional love these two dogs shared with us. It was an honor to have such amazing creatures by our sides for all these years.

the lean I could spend hours talking about Charlie and still would leave one wanting as knowing him was an indescribable pleasure. The same can be said of Phin – what big personality in a small package! While I won’t do justice to a life lived to the fullest for 12 years, I will say that Charlie was sweet and kind to every living creature (though he charlie double frisbeedid like to chase the neighbor’s chickens!). He obsessed over every ball and frisbee. There are so many people Charlie knew and loved. We’re doing our best to fill the hole his departure has left with good memories. Many have asked what happened. To put it briefly: cancer. It came without sickness or a whimper. (We learned that cancer of the spleen is the most common cause of death of Golden Retrievers.) One evening, Charlie was excited to play frisbee and watch us do yard work after having “worked” his day at the office. He came to lay near us and I knew from how he looked at me that something was wrong… We’ll forever be grateful for the ways he touched our lives.

phin and johnPhin was popular wherever he ventured. He’s credited with turning several people on to the Boston Terrier breed. The ‘little guy’ even had his own popular Instagram #Phinstagram. As John explains of his little guy: Phin spent countless hours riding with me in the car, on adventures, to and from work, or just going for a drive to clear my head. He was goofy and loved wrestling with toys… and being pretty much Phin. I’m glad I had these little moments with him when the times were pretty tough. It seems sort of fitting that my little guy left this world in his comfy passenger-seat spot. I’m glad I could be there for him in the end. I’m really going to miss this little guy. Sadly there was a neurological problem that came on rather abruptly, and took him years earlier than anyone would have expected for a little breed. Even at his worst points, he still wanted to join in on the adventures or go to work and greet everyone at the office. I was fortunate to have such a great little partner in crime, even if it was far too short.

Charlie and Phin are irreplaceable but there are a few new canines following in their paw prints around the office. Kairo, Reilly, Betty, and Penny in our HQ and Sherlock, Barlow, and  one or two other part-time office pups in Portland, OR.

Kairo

Kairo

Reilly (growing puppy!)

Reilly (growing puppy!)

Barlow and Sherlock.

Barlow and Sherlock

 

 

 

 

 

 

To honor our faithful pups, Pioneer Millworks and New Energy Works have made donations in their names to Lollypop Farm, an organization local to our NY headquarters, that works tirelessly to support the health and well being of animals both in and out of our community.

 

Limited Edition Cherry Flooring

Reclaimed and Rescued Cherry has been milled into engineered flooring (shown with Pure oil/wax finish).

Reclaimed and Rescued Cherry has been milled into engineered flooring (shown with Pure oil/wax finish).

Reclaimed and Rescued Cherry, unfinished.

Reclaimed and Rescued Cherry, unfinished.

We recently milled up a trove of Cherry wood which we had been gathering for years. Cherry is often scarce in the reclaimed realm as the number of trees were less abundant than other species and didn’t reach usable timber sizes for a variety of reasons. The wood was (and remains) highly desirable for furniture, cabinetry, and millwork.

Our recent run yielded over two thousand square feet of our World’s Most Eco-Friendly Engineered Flooring with wonderful natural aged color, a satiny grain, and cleaner surface known as our American Gothic grade.

Much of the material was rescued from an old barn we reclaimed a number of years ago. The Cherry had been milled into board stock in the 1940’s and stored in the barn until our reclamation. Mixed in with the rescued material is reclaimed Cherry, salvaged from old barn timbers in the Northeast. The resulting flooring has minimal nail holes, insect trails, and ferrous staining. Each plank has a micro bevel, is 4” to 7” wide (variable) and is 18” to 8’ in mixed lengths.

Tom and Ann's kitchen was crafted of the same rescued Cherry (solid) by our sister company NEWwoodworks.

Tom and Ann’s kitchen was crafted of the same rescued Cherry (solid) by our sister company NEWwoodworks.

 

Limited edition reclaimed Cherry flooring (unfinished).

Limited edition reclaimed Cherry flooring (shown unfinished).

 

This is a limited edition floor. Let us know if you’d like us to quote this for your project!