Thursday night (7/13) was the opening for HiLo in downtown Portland, Oregon. A few of us from Pioneer Millworks attended the event where we ate, were painted gold, and silently discoed the night away. The 120-room boutique style hotel resides in the Oregon Pioneer Building (a National Register of Historic Places). We have a few ties—turns out back in 2008-10 our own Elise Payne worked in the building.
The party started as soon as we walked in the door. There were specialty drinks and intricate food of various varieties scattered throughout the hotel.
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.
“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.
The Open House had 60+ guests rotating through our design studio touching, feeling and admiring the artisan’s Read:Grain creations:
“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
“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
“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
“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
“I 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
“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
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. Back right: Bill Wessinger, and Bryan Danger.
Some of these pieces are for sale. Please contact the makers for more information.
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.
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.)
What 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.
Slade Hall, University of Vermont. Steve and co-habitants created daily vegan and vegetarian meals and lived a planet conscious lifestyle.
Normally behind the camera during his Fire Line Sawyer days, Steve found one image of himself geared up in Yosemite.
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.
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!
What 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.
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):
“Old town” Portland is an area with a lot of history, some of it grand, some of it not so savory. We’re excited to see this area on the up and up. One of the most recent tenants? Our friends at Ankrom Moisan Architects (AMA).
AMA specializes in urban architecture and recently moved their Portland offices to the new 38 Davis Building at the corner of Northwest Davis Street and Northwest Naito Parkway. The firm’s 227 Portland employees now find their work spaces on three floors and 58,000-square feet of the six-story building. The AMA team is aiming for LEED Silver certification at this new location. Within the space is a variety of storied wood bringing different history to the “Old town”.
In the words of AMA, “Through a deliberate combination of raw, honest, and playful elements, our new workplace will better express our thought processes as we work to continually elevate design.” Exposed beams and columns, heavy steel, contemporary furniture and muted colors are joined by reclaimed hardwoods and softwoods throughout the office. The new spaces use these raw and honest elements to celebrate structure and design.
The main conference room immediately piqued our interest with its partially painted table top. (Perhaps our conference table is in need of a new inspired finish…) The AMA conference room incorporates lighter, reflective tones on each surface. American Prairie Painted fit the plan offering brighter surfaces allowing light reflection while highlighting original surfaces acquired from their past life cladding agricultural structures.
Subtle yet powerful punches of color appear throughout AMA in Portland. In meeting areas reminiscent of booth seating Black & Tan 50/50 paneling is accented with opaque orange and blue planks. We’re loving these meeting pods; offering privacy in a more compact footprint is something we could definitely get into for our showroom/office spaces!
Sourced from fences in the southern states, we partially plane each plank. Because no two planks are alike and each has natural variation in thickness, individual boards have a different level of surfacing, resulting in truly random areas of untouched black paint.
The unrestrained design experience will be shared with co-workers and clients alike in a central meeting room. AMA notes the creative process “takes each participant through an array of knowledge, references, emotions, and memories.” Here they’ve incorporated Black & Tan 50/50 at an angle to create a mosaic of wall paneling which spills from the wall onto the ceiling.
AMA crafted a vent by carving into Black & Tan planks. (This reminds us a bit of our ‘raked’ reclaimed wood – more on that in another post.)
A bit further up the coast, the AMA office in Seattle, WA grew quickly from a team of 3 to a group of 100 scattered throughout two buildings and multiple floors. In order to support their culture of collaboration and innovation, in early 2016 the teams relocated to Seattle’s downtown core. Preserving the authenticity of their space, structural elements were left raw and exposed. Reclaimed American Gothic Engineered Ash brings warm tones while remaining understated in the Seattle office.
Focused on community, AMA designed the Seattle studio “to be welcoming to clients, visitors, consultants, and the wider design community as well. The core of the suite serves the public, and includes multiple conference rooms, a great room/lounge, materials library, print room, and model shop.” An open stairway connects the two floors and allows a seamless flow of Reclaimed Ash between levels.
Reclaimed Ash moves up from the floor to a long meeting table within the Seattle AMA office.