June 18, 2012

EcoPDX custom crafts durable, sustainable furniture in Portland


Our friends at EcoPDX deserve some time in the spotlight for their hard work transforming locally harvested hardwoods into beautiful, heirloom-quality furniture.  They're big fans of walnut and alder but have also mastered exceptional pieces in Oregon White Oak.  

You can visit their showroom at 2289 N Interstate Ave in Portland, or check out other examples of their work here.

Top right: Modern meets classic with this boxy, broad walnut coffee table
Below: A walnut table and bench display gorgeous joinery and silken grain
Bottom: Oregon White Oak paired with steel tubes for a modern take on a media stand.

June 07, 2012

Builder by Bike


Portland has a growing community of folks who run their businesses by bicycle. We are very happy to work with Portland's Builder by Bike, Chris Sanderson, who loaded up about 300 lbs of cedar onto his trailer this afternoon.

Evidently, others approve of his methods, too:  The drizzle abated and the sun peeked out of the clouds just as he left the warehouse!

May 22, 2012

Juniper Tour - Witnessing the Silent Invasion


Last Friday, Sustainable Northwest Wood hosted a tour of an area that has been affected by juniper's slow but steady encroachment on Oregon's native grasslands and several projects that have used juniper for a variety of interior and exterior applications.

After meeting at Disjecta Arts Center in Portland's Kenton neighborhood to view their recent installation of outdoor juniper benches, the tour group travelled to the town of Fossil, in Wheeler County, which sits at the northernmost reach of juniper's current range.  At the first stop, juniper sawyer Kendall Derby demonstrated how a juniper mill works, slicing open a log for guests to see, and then showing the group his warehouse and a variety of products made with juniper lumber.

Guests then dined at the Timber Wolf Cafe in Fossil, which was recently redesigned to feature juniper interior finishes, including flooring, wall cladding, and a distinctive live-edge bar (photo at left). 

After lunch, guests arrived at a viewpoint of the Cottonwood Creek watershed and the hills surrounding Fossil, where the encroaching juniper woodland can be seen spreading across thousands of acres of former grassland (photo below). 

The last stop on the tour was the OSU Extension office that is nearing completion in Moro, OR, which among a number of notable sustainable finishes includes juniper siding across its entire exterior. 

Among the highligts of the tour were a series of before-and-after photos of the Fossil area, which showed Fossil being surrounded by bare hills covered in native grasses when settlers first arrived to homestead in the area. 

Today, of course, those once-grassy slopes are well-populated with juniper trees, which are coming to dominate the other plants, commandeering precious groundwater, loosening the soil for erosion, and making foraging harder for the many native animals who have evolved to depend on a robust grassland ecosystem.

The tour group consisted of architecture and design professionals from Portland, as well as members of Oregon BEST, landscape architects, students, contractors, county officials, and other interested parties.  The tour was sponsored by Neil Kelly, Cascadia Green Building Council, and Sustainable Northwest.

May 10, 2012

New Big Leaf Maple Panels: Unique, Beautiful, and Completely Local!


We recently developled a breathtaking new product that pushes the boundaries of sustainable and truly triple bottom line materials. 

Previously, the only FSC maple plywood and panels we were able to find were made from Eastern Maple, which is known for its clarity and pale blonde color.  While Eastern Maple is beautiful, and very commonly used, we needed to provide an alternative that is made entirely from wood grown in our region.

Behold: Our new Big Leaf Maple architectural-grade panels are FSC, local, and Red List Ready -- perfect for LEED, Living Building Challenge, and other cutting-edge green projects!

We started with FSC certified Big Leaf Maple hardwood from a small, family owned and operated forest just south of Portland that mills their wood on-site.  These beautiful book-matched slabs were then applied to PureBond plywood, which hails from Klamath Falls, OR, and is made using an advanced alternative to urea formaldehyde adhesives.  The glue-ups were completed in Eugene, OR, and then brought to our warehouse in Portland.

This short supply chain and collaboration with businesses in our neighboring communities helps keep our investments in the Pacific Northwest, right where we want them, and ensures that our products are not only environmentally sustainable, but also socially responsible and economically beneficial along each step of the chain.

We now stock the panels in 1/4", 1/2", and 3/4" thicknesses, perfect for cabinetry, doors, furniture, and other applications. 

Photo, top: The photo at the top righ shows the new maple panels with Osmo Polyx-Oil (background), which brings ou the red tones in the wood, and Vermont Natural Coatings (layer with logo), which softens the warm tones of the wood.
Photo, below: This robust Big Leaf Maple is growing in the small, family-owned FSC forest where the maple in our new architectural panels originates.

April 26, 2012

We are the 2012 BEST Award winners for Sustainable Products!


Sustainable Northwest Wood is honored to be the recipient of the 2012 BEST Award for Sustainable Products.  This annual program is organized by Sustainability at Work

At the awards ceremony last Wednesday, held at The Nines in Portland, our president Ryan Temple addressed the audience and expressed his gratitude to our loyal customers, the neighbors and freinds in our community who support us, and of course the network of foresters and small mills who work hard to provide our regional green building market with high-quality, sustainably harvested wood.

Here is a video that was put together for the ceremony that shares why Sustainable Northwest Wood was selected out of more than 150 applicants:

March 20, 2012

Local FSC Western Red Cedar builds beautiful, durable decks and outdoor structures


Now that it's officially springtime, it's time think about what you're going to do for your back yard and garden this year.  If you're shopping for lumber for decking, fences, arbors, or raised garden beds, be sure to ask about our Western Red Cedar!

Sustainable Northwest Wood's Western Red Cedar is FSC Pure and is sourced from restorative forestry projects within 100 miles of Portland's city limits.  It is cut as part of forest restoration projects that are designed to restore the health of the forest by opening the canopy and promoting diversity in tree species and age range.  
Much of our cedar comes from the Nature Conservancy's Ellsworth Creek Preserve, from the Forest Grove watershed restoration program, and from the Homestead Girl Scout camp in Zigzag.  We partner with small, family-owned mills to source the logs and cut and dry the lumber.

Cedar is an excellent choice for outdoor projects and offers many years of beauty and durability.  Much like juniper, cedar is naturally high in aromatic oils that repel insects and slow decay, but offers a more refined look with a silky, strawberry-blonde grain.  It is ideal for chemical-free raised garden beds and other uses where homeowners wish to avoid pressure-treated lumber.


  • 2x4 surfaced decking
  • 2x6 surfaced decking
  • 4x4 rough, full dimension
  • 1x6 rough fence board
  • Custom sizes and profiles     

Photos, from top left: A home in Southeast Portland boasts a cedar fence and living wall; the deck at the home in Beaver Creek is made of our cedar; a cedar nurse log hosts a young tree at an FSC forest 40 miles from Portland.

March 12, 2012

Vern Nelson: Selecting durable posts for garden structures


The Oregonian, Saturday, March 10, 2012
By Vern Nelson

Here's the link to the original article.

The best kitchen gardens employ structures -- trellises, espaliers and many other types -- to make the most of available space and to help the garden be as beautiful as it is productive. Posts for garden structures are available in many sizes and materials. Each wood used has advantages and disadvantages.

My favorite posts are made of juniper, which contains aromatic oils that make the wood resist rot. Juniper is beautiful, sustainably grown in eastern Oregon and locally available.

Juniper posts are available as 8-foot-long 4-by-4s and 8-foot-long 6-by-6s and are similar in price to cedar. Planks of various sizes are also available. Lengths of 10 feet or greater require a couple of weeks to get, and 2-by-6 planks are available if you want to put an overhead cap across your espalier or use them for trellises.

Because of juniper's density, you'll need to pre-drill holes for screws. Driving screws directly into juniper could overheat your drill motor.


* Cedar is rot-resistant but expensive. I prefer tight knot when using cedar, as it is less expensive than clear grain cedar and more stable than standard grade cedar. Sustainability is also an issue; be sure you're using Forest Stewardship Council-certified wood. Cedar is easy to drill for dowels, screws and wire.

* Redwood is similar to cedar, but it's difficult to find sustainably harvested redwood.

* Fir and pine are cheaper but rot.

* Steel pipe is durable but looks awful and is difficult to use.

* Plastic/wood fiber posts come in several colors. They are OK for edging raised beds but may bend if required to carry a load.

* Posts treated with copper naphthenate or other materials resist rot, but I prefer not to use them in my organic kitchen garden.


Posts such as 4-by-4s and 6-by-6s are less likely to twist, cup or bend than 2-by-4 lumber.

Posts of many types of wood can be found used at recycled building supply stores or at garage sales.

Use stainless steel screws to fasten juniper together. If you hide the screws with wood screw caps or mahogany dowels, use Gorilla glue to attach them. It is waterproof. If gluing juniper or another oily wood like cedar or redwood, wipe areas to be glued with acetone to dry out the oils.

Seal juniper and other oily woods with Penofin for Hardwood, Exterior Formula, which was formulated for harder, denser, oily wood. An alternative for those concerned about volatile organic compounds is Timber Pro's low-VOC Deck & Fence Formula, available in clear or 25 transparent colors. Use two coats.

March 06, 2012

Need plywood? Call us for local, FSC, no added formaldehyde ply, in stock and ready to go!


As part of our mission to support Pacific Northwestern mills and the rural communities that depend on them, Sustainable Northwest Wood searched long and hard for a supplier of locally harvested, FSC certified plywood. 

We now keep it in stock at our warehouse in Southeast Portland, where we carry AC and CDX grades in a variety of thicknesses, as well as maple hardwood panels.

The plywood we offer is harvested from FSC forests in Northern California and milled in Oregon's Umpqua Valley.  In addition to being FSC certified and locally grown, our plywood is also NAUF, or no added urea formaldehyde, which means it won't off-gas carcinogenic fumes into your new construction.

According to the EPA, "In homes, the most significant sources of formaldehyde are likely to be pressed wood products made using adhesives that contain urea-formaldehyde (UF) resins."  Why does urea formaldehyde matter?  In addition to being a suspected cancer-causing agent, formaldehyde has been implicated in increasing rates of asthma and other respiratory problems.

NAUF plywood helps LEED-registered projects achieve additional points for Indoor Air Quality and is acceptible for use with the Living Building Challenge.  Our NAUF plywood also complies with California's CARB regulations.

February 20, 2012

Bend's Living Building Challenge project raises the bar on sustainable design in Central Oregon


The Desert Rain home, a Living Building Challenge project that is under construction in Bend, is forging new frontiers in sustainable design.  In addition to being net-zero energy, the home will collect and process all of its water needs.  An ADU is being constructed on the property, next to the main house, which is also being built to meet the criteria of the Living Building Challenge.

Sustainable Northwest Wood is proud to be the provider of the FSC lumber for this project, in partnership with Parr Lumber Company.  A site visit today showed the FSC certified Doug fir framing in full glory, as well as the sill plate, for which FSC Western Red Cedar was chosen.

Cedar isn't typically used for sill plate; contractors most often work with pressure-treated fir.  In this project, though, cedar was chosen because it is naturally durable without the need for any added synthetic chemicals -- it will bear the weight of this home while naturally preventing the decay of its most sensitive structural components. 

This FSC 100% Western Red Cedar was sourced from Zigzag, OR, where it was super-selectively harvested as part of a restorative forestry management program at the Homestead Girl Scout Camp. 

The Desert Rain home was designed by Tozer Design and is being built by Timberline Construction.  

Photos: Top, FSC 100% Cedar sill plate; bottom, the ADU's interior gets framed.

February 10, 2012

Neil Kelly Cabinets Knows Juniper


Each species of wood is different and requires a sensitive and thoughtful woodworker to learn how to master its unique personality.  Juniper is no exception.  Its properties are different from fir, cedar, oak, etc., and if one approaches it like one would approach those species, and expects the same results, disappointment will follow.

Instead, it pays to learn the subtle differences and how to work with them to achieve perfect results.  Our friends at Neil Kelly Cabinets have worked with juniper for many years and have learned how to master it and take full advantage of its unique traits.  They work with it, not against it, and the success of their efforts is clear, as shown by this exceptionally beautiful dining table.

This table for twelve is made from solid juniper and shows how beautiful this species is when expressed as fine furniture.  This heirloom-quality piece was built with formaldehyde-free adhesives and was finished with Neil Kelly's Nutmeg stain to accentuate the color and grain pattern.  The true proof of the craftsman's love for juniper: Some of the knots on the top of the table were added and enhanced.