Saving the Hilton Barn


FullSizeRender (14)There tend to be four reasons why barns are torn down.

  1. They are damaged or have not been properly maintained, leaving them structurally unsound.
  2. The owner is no longer able or willing to pay the upkeep costs (repair, taxes, insurance, etc.).
  3. To make way for future land development.
  4. The owner is looking to “cash in” on an asset.

We do our best to discourage those who fall into the last category. Pioneer Millworks was born eons ago as an offshoot of our sister company New Energy Works Timberframers (a leader in the timber frame industry). Working in close proximity with these talented craftsmen, engineers, and architects for all these years has given us a unique appreciation for timber frame construction and its historical roots in the architecture of American barns.


New Energy Works built barn.


Interior of New Energy Works barn.








While salvaging barn wood is integral to our business, we consider it an ethical obligation to discourage unnecessary barn demolition and encourage the preserve these historic structures.

Situations that fall into the third category cause us a bit more ethical grief because perfectly good barns are often torn down to make way for land development. Unfortunately, the fate of these barns is usually sealed by the time we get involved and whether or not we purchase the wood is unlikely to motivate the developer to change their plans.

In the summer of 2015 I was asked to visit a barn in Voorheesville, NY which was going to be torn down to make room for a country club’s expansion. The local community’s efforts to secure public funding to preserve the structure had met a dead end. At the time I was heading home with my family from a vacation in New Hampshire so I made a quick detour to assess the structure.

Charley taking some measurements with his Fatmax tape measure.
The barn far exceeded my expectations. It was huge; far larger than anything I had ever seen in New York. The structure was entirely built out of circle sawn Eastern White Pine timbers and joists. My two-year-old son and I spent an hour or so taking measurements and snapping photographs.

IMG_6050Our preference was to see the barn preserved, but since this was unlikely to happen we could at least honor the barn’s legacy by giving the wood new life and sharing its story. This is what Pioneer Millworks does best.

We later sent the owner a proposal to purchase the material, which totaled nearly 40,000 board feet – an exceptional amount of material for a single barn, but we never heard back. Our assumption was that someone else had outbid us for the material. Then, recently, purely by chance, I stumbled upon this Facebook page.

Turns out the barn had been saved! A generous donation of land, coupled with an epic community fundraising effort and secured government grants allowed the barn to be relocated to a newly created park located across the street from the barn’s original location.


920x920These stories of successful barn preservation efforts are a real inspiration to us as they are often initiated by just a handful of individuals, but end up involving the dedicated efforts of a whole community and more! We at Pioneer Millworks are thrilled that the Hilton barn, whose impressive size left a lasting impression on me, is still standing and now public property. Kudos to all involved!

If you’d like to get involved with barn preservation, here are a few groups we’re fans of:




Beyond Weathered: Raked, Kissed, and on Fire


Pushing boundaries is a challenge our teams thrive on. Things get creative after handling thousands of board feet of over 20 reclaimed wood species in countless grades. The latest results? We’re well beyond the weathered surfaces most associated with reclaimed wood—swapping out molder blades, introducing saw techniques, and adding a bit fire.  We’re bringing in pops of colors and contemporary textures to whet your creative palette.

Welcome to Rakedbringing a modern twist to our more traditional reclaimed wood. We’re milling this dimensional character on a variety of wood facades. Revealing the inner bright and clean wood which contrasts with rugged or painted surfaces, this high relief texture is yielding a crisp, graphic pattern well suited for any vertical surface.




Kissed—Swooping arcs add warmth and grace to our Saw Kissed Douglas fir. This wood becomes even more visually compelling with an artfully applied sawn texture to the original reclaimed surface. We find this makes for casual and warm paneling or flooring, across whole surfaces or highlighting details inside and out.

On Fire—Shou Sugi Ban is an ancient Japanese technique of burning wood as a preservative treatment for exterior siding. We apply this process to our sustainably harvested Larch creating a dark, slightly iridescent look that in exterior uses can change over time, depending on its exposure to the elements. The evolving look suggests the Japanese aesthetic of wabi-sabi – a reminder of the transience and imperfection of all things.

Ranging from shallow char to a deep char or enhanced with color and suitable for interior or exterior projects, this ever evolving product gives a dramatic effect.


Added Color—Bringing in color further celebrates the character that we love about reclaimed. We’re excited about the bold hues some of you have been requesting. Bright or soft, we’ve found that carefully adding color enhances the natural texture and character of reclaimed wood.


Double Up—Opaque painted boards are fun, but we can’t resist adding some texture. While a wire brush floats over the dense heart grain it whisks away the softer sapwood leaving a raised texture along with color on each plank. Knots, nail holes, other signs of previous life continue to bring their originality to this texture and color treatment.

What you can do with these new textures and finishes is limited only by imagination—we’ve created custom paneling, bar wraps, fixtures, and more for a variety of clients. Interested in pushing your design boundaries? Reach out to our Reclaimed Wood Design Experts. They’re always excited to brainstorm.


Design Week Portland: Read:Grain


Design Week Portland 2017 was the week of April 21-29, 2017. On April 28, 2017, Pioneer Millworks had an open house at the SE Portland Studio in Oregon. Following a theme of ‘Read:Grain’, Pioneer Millworks in an effort to support local makers invited 8 makers to design original pieces using our reclaimed wood.

Joel Knudsen of Branches Furniture at the Pioneer Millworks Mill in McMinnville, Oregon picking out wood for his project.

Joel Knudsen of Branches Furniture at the Pioneer Millworks Mill in McMinnville, Oregon picking out wood for his project.

“Wood works as structure, as craft, and as art. Its sustainability is second to none in this trio of strengths,” explains Pioneer Millworks Founder, Jonathan Orpin. “Pioneer Millworks takes it one step further by reclaiming wood, and we’ve done it for 25 years and to 26 million board feet. We’re psyched to support these craftspeople by offering them the wood, the space to share, and a small stipend with which to explore. Yum. Friday afternoon wine and cheese, good company, and reclaimed wood furniture. I’m in!”

From L to R: Josh Felty, Jonathan Taylor, Bryan and Jennifer Danger, Henry Silvestrini, Bill Wessinger, Philip Krain, Jordan Saia, Garret Michael, Jonathan Orpin, Alyse and Joel Knudsen at the open house.

From L to R: Josh Felty, Jonathan Taylor, Bryan and Jennifer Danger, Henry Silvestrini, Bill Wessinger, Philip Krain, Jordan Saia, Garret Michael, Jonathan Orpin, Alyse and Joel Knudsen at the open house.

The Open House had 60+ guests rotating through our design studio touching, feeling and admiring the artisan’s Read:Grain creations:

Branches Furniture – Joel & Alyse Knudsen

This bench was created using our Kentucky Fence Board.

This bench was created using our Oak Black and Tan.


Working with Pioneer Millworks to design and build an original piece of furniture for their Design Week open house was such a great opportunity for us to not only work with superior reclaimed material but to broaden our audience. Meeting and talking with all the folks at the open house gave us the chance to introduce our work to new people and to make meaningful connections with other Portland makers.” – Joel

Global Homestead Garage – Philip Krain

Sash Table made from Centennial Mills timbers.

Sash Table made from our Heart Pine.


Makers Woodworks – Garrett Michael

Bench made with our Oak Black and Tan

Bench made with our Oak Black and Tan


Bench 03

The DWP open house event hosted by Pioneer Millworks was great. The chance to meet and get a little background on some other local artists we weren’t familiar with was energizing, and the pieces were original and well designed and built. Good food, drinks and networking. The staff gets 5 stars for pulling it together.“

- Garrett

Tiny Shed – Jordan Saia

Gaming table made from our American Prairie Tap House wood.

Gaming table made from our American Prairie Tap House.


Gaming Table 04
Pioneer Millworks allowed me the space and freedom to put my dream table together for Portland Design Week. They had beautiful material to choose from and I enjoyed every minute of the build. It was a very special event for all of us and so nice to see all the incredible work from so many talented makers.” – Jordan

Wessinger Woodworks LLC – Bill Wessinger

Folding Chair and Folding Lamp made from our Tropical Hardwood Trade Winds Bright.

Folding Chair and Folding Lamp made from our Tropical Hardwood Trade Winds Bright.


The event was a wonderful opportunity for me to create a new design. At the event I had great conversations both with other makers and with those who appreciate the things we make. It was fantastic to see how many different aesthetic directions people went with the reclaimed materials available.”

- Bill

Work-PDX – Henry Silvestrini

These lamps and card holder were crafted out of Centennial Mills Timbers.

These lamps and card holder were crafted out of Centennial Mills Timbers.

Lamp 01Lamp 02I had a great time at the event, it was awesome to meet so many other talented makers and designers. As a fabricator, I rarely get the chance create something without stipulations or limitations. I really appreciated the opportunity to design a product that wasn’t intended to make money or fit into a specific space. I got to build exactly what I wanted (which doesn’t happen often). It wouldn’t have happened without the Pioneer Millworks team and we all appreciate it!” – Henry

Zenbox Design – Bryan and Jen Danger

Bar Cart made with our Oak American Gothic

Bar Cart made with our Oak American Gothic


The DWP event hosted by the team at Pioneer Millworks was a great experience for us on all fronts; from picking out wood from the enormous mill to chatting with other artisans to literally being inspired to create a piece we’ve been sketching for years.  We look forward to integrating their reclaimed materials into upcoming projects!” – Bryan

New Energy Works Timberframers – Jonathan Taylor, Josh Felty, Cameron Delzell

Table made from Oak American Gothic (Elise from Pioneer Millworks)

Table made from Oak American Gothic (Elise from Pioneer Millworks)


We loved to see the creative ideas these makers had using our reclaimed wood. Pioneer Millworks will continue to support makers, giving them a platform to celebrate the story of reclaimed wood and their craftsmanship.

Jen Danger, Alyse and Joel Knudsen.

Jen Danger, Alyse and Joel Knudsen. Back right: Bill Wessinger, and Bryan Danger.

Some of these pieces are for sale. Please contact the makers for more information.




Smooth Sailing in Seattle

Cruising into a new space with views of the Sound and reclaimed wood! We couldn’t think of a better fit for a major cruise line’s new headquarters than our Reclaimed Smooth Teak flooring.

reclaimed teak by pioneer millworks holland america seattle wa

Designed by SkB Architects, the new corporate office will allow the Holland America Group to consolidate their 900+ employees in a modernized work environment. Located on Pudget Sound in Seattle, the headquarters interior pays homage to traditional boat decking with Reclaimed Teak, a classic boat-building material, throughout the offices and common areas.

port hole with reclaimed teak flooring by pioneer millworks seattle

IMG_3847The layout for ‘work’ levels has cubicles flowing around the perimeter of each floor with offices, conference rooms, and flex space occupying the center. On the second level, an emergency response center, training & conference rooms, and eatery are all shod with Reclaimed Teak. The Teak also flows from floor to stairs and benches in several areas.

dining tables on reclaimed teak from pioneer millworks seattle wa

Over 14,000 square feet of the salvaged Teak, with an all natural oil/wax finish, found new life throughout all six levels of Holland America’s new building. The wood unifies each level, offering incredible durability and warm tones to the various work areas.

reclaimed teak with quote in seattle wa pioneer millworks salvage reclaimed teak pioneer millworks seattle wa cruise

reclaimed teak holland by pioneer

About Teak:
Our Teak is reclaimed from retired structures — office buildings, homes, boats, and factories in Indonesia. Teak maintains the authentic beauty of 18th and 19th-century planks. With an extremely hardwearing surface, it’s the ultimate specification for lasting value. It is milled from certified FSC® Recycled 100% Teak to exacting industry standards for nail down installation and finishing.

One percent of all of our Reclaimed Teak sales are donated to conservation causes in Indonesia and Malaysia. Currently, we’re supporting the Borneo Project in their fight to end the loss of habitat for the indigenous peoples of Indonesia.

Various finishes and surfaces, fit for every design style, are available on our Surface Selector.