February 18, 2013

Charred cedar: longer lifespan and dramatic color


When most folks embark on a building project, deliberately setting the wood on fire doesn't immediately come to mind as a brilliant move.

But when the desired outcome is a significantly extended lifespan, lighting the wood on fire is a great idea!

The technique has been around for centuries. Known in Japan as shou sugi ban, this style of finishing wood can extend the life of your cedar siding by many decades -- up to 80 years in exposed applications.  

It also looks beautiful and provides a dramatic contrasting color to an otherwise predictable installation, with none of the added chemicals or annual re-application needed with a stain.

The projects shown in these photos use our FSC Western Red Cedar.  The technique can be applied to other wood species as well, such as Douglas and others with a distinctive grain pattern.  Check out how Pioneer Millwork applied shou sugi ban to oak.

 For more inspiration, check out these photos on Pinterest, and read architect Michelle Jeresek's post on Houzz to see how to do it.   

January 24, 2013

For the love of live-edge slabs


One enduring design trend that we love is the live-edge slab. As individual as the tree that yielded it, this natural cut of wood retains the unique lines of the trunk along one or two edges, giving each finished piece a completely one-of-a-kind profile.

While people have certainly been using slabs of wood as work surfaces for millennia, the modern live-edge look dates back to the 1940's, when famed furniture designer George Nakashima first introduced it in his collection for Knoll.  His passion for nature is clearly expressed in the highlighting of the uniqueness of each piece of wood.

These days, live-edge is commonly used for dining and conference tables, coffee and console tables, bar tops, reception desks, and some positively dreamy headboards. While it is often executed in a rustic way, the organic element of the wild edge provides relief from the hard materials commonly used in modern design. It pairs especially well with bare concrete and helps soften the lines in a harshly linear space.

We keep live-edge slabs in stock in Portland, ready to be transformed into your work of art. Click here for the available species.  We also have more photos of recent installations posted on our gallery.

January 03, 2013

Fresh from the mill: Walnut Butcher Block


Brand new this week: Walnut butcher block made from locally salvaged hardwood.  These slabs feature exceptionally rich color, interesting grain patterns, and decades of performance!

Slabs are available in 6' and 8' lengths. They are sized to fit standard kitchen cabinetry: 26 1/2" deep and 1 1/2" thick.

This butcher block is made with FDA-approved adhesives that contain no added urea formaldehyde.  Slabs are unfinished and are designed to be cut and installed on-site following a one-week period of acclimation.

We recommend a food-safe natural oil, such as linseed. Walnut oil is also a good--and quite apt--choice!

Also talk to us about custom sizes and patterns for your unique projects!   

December 26, 2012

This Living Building house more than meets the challenge to use local, FSC wood


When builder James Arnold was discussing ideas for a custom home in Southwest Portland, he was overjoyed by his client's excitement to go for the Living Building Challenge.

The Challenge is a strict rating system that leaps far beyond LEED in its requirements for non-toxic, locally sourced materials for every component of the building. One of the standards for the Challenge is that all of the wood in the space must be either reclaimed or FSC certified, and it must all be sourced from within 200 miles of the job site.

James and his crew at JRA Green Building Construction knew all he had to do to meet this standard was reach out to Sustainable Northwest Wood and we could outfit the house with all the local, FSC wood he'd need.

And we did! From the framing lumber and plywood to the hardwood flooring and cabinetry, every piece of wood in this house was sourced from our network of small mills and meets the stringent criteria of the Living Building Challenge.
For the interior finishes, the builder and homeowner chose FSC Big Leaf Maple, which we custom-milled into flooring, trim, and architectural panels for the cabinetry and interior doors. We especially love the show-stopping floating staircase, custom crafted from maple (see photos below).
The home also features FSC Western Red Cedar decking and siding, which add a natural touch to its clean, modern lines.

The home was designed by Michelle Jeresek at Departure Design. In addition to its beautiful lines and functional space, it is net zero water and energy: It generates all of its own electricity through its solar panels and passive solar design, and all of its water through an advanced rainwater harvesting system.

December 04, 2012

Small mills show large at Green Build


Wood from our network of small mills made a star showing at Green Build last month.  The 30,000+ attendees of the Expo at San Francisco's Mscone Center beheld a beautiful, modern off-grid house that was sided in locally harvested Western Red Cedar.

The Paradigm, a LEED Platinum prefab structure built by Seattle's Method Homes, is net zero water and energy and is designed to fit into different spaces, including urban backyards as an ADU and remote, off-grid sites as a vacation home.

It features many gorgeous green features including zero VOC paints and finishes, no added formaldehyde cabinetry and plywood, and a 5,000 gallon rainwater harvesting tank.

But the most striking feature is the FSC 100% Western Red Cedar siding that encases the sculptural walls, sourced from our network of small mills.

This cedar comes from forest restoration projects just outside Portland.

Click here to read more about Method Homes' Paradigm Series and its cutting-edge design.

Photo at left: A close-up of the siding and its interesting angled design. The whitewash finish is by Sherwin Williams.

November 30, 2012

In The High Desert, A Sustainable Mill Targets A Thirsty Tree


From OPB's Earthfix, November 21, 2012
By Amelia Templeton

Here's a link to the article with audio.

FOSSIL, Ore. — When you walk into Kendall Derby’s mill, the first thing you notice is the smell. It’s sharp and evergreen, like the high desert after a rain. But Derby doesn’t notice the smell of juniper.

"People walk in here and they say oh, I love the smell. And I don’t have a sense of smell. Born without it. Never smelled it,” he laughs.

Derby runs In The Sticks sawmill on the outskirts of Fossil. It’s a mill dedicated to the bushy, short juniper tree.

Juniper boards and fence posts are stacked to the ceiling in a small warehouse and thick slabs with raw bark edges lean against the wall. Beetles have carved a filigree pattern into one of the slabs. Derby says he’ll sell it as a bench or a bar top.

“The target beast is one-by-six, two-by-six, six-by-six, different square lumber. But after you break a round log into square sticks you end up creating other stuff,” he says.

Derby wears suspenders and as he works he’s followed around by a friend’s yellow lab. He gets excited talking about the advantages of juniper. It has a fine, tight grain. For years ranchers have used it to make fence posts because it naturally resists decay. Best of all, it’s local and sustainably harvested.

“We’ve got millions of acres of this stuff. It’s not imported from Brazil, it’s not imported from Malaysia. It’s ours.”

Eastern Oregon has a juniper problem. Scientists say juniper have expanded their range in the high desert 10 fold since the 1870s.


“They’re not a weed, they’re a native plant that expanded beyond their historic range,” explains Brent Fenty, Executive Director of the Oregon Natural Desert Association. He says settlers inadvertently helped juniper to grow by putting out range fires and introducing hungry cattle.

“They’re not eating juniper, and that’s giving those juniper a competitive advantage into disturbed areas, where all those grasses are being eaten,” he says.

juniper mill
A juniper stand near Fossil. Credit: Amelia Templeton.

Fenty says small, scattered stands of juniper can provide shelter for deer and antelope and food for foraging birds, but in too many places, shrub steppe is switching into woodland.

That’s a problem in a landscape that gets barely more than a foot of rainfall a year.

Researchers have found that on a hot day, juniper trees with deep taproots can consume twenty-five gallons of water, although most juniper in eastern Oregon are getting by on much less.

See Juniper Country


Oregon Field Guide documented some of the original juniper research on the late Doc Hatfield’s ranch in this video.

The juniper’s thirst draws down streams and leaves less water for wildlife and native grasses. It’s a problem caught the eye of Martin Goebel, president of Sustainable Northwest.

“It is beginning to have a real water desiccating effect in the high desert of Oregon,” he says.

Goebel saw an opportunity for an environmental and economic win-win. Cutting juniper could help restore the shrub steppe grassland and create jobs. So he went to lumber wholesalers in Portland, asked them if they’d be willing to stock local, sustainable juniper.

“And most of the large warehouses said, ‘Oh, too small. Eh, we don’t really know those suppliers. mmn… too nitchy,’” Goebel says.

So the conservation organization opened its own for-profit warehouse in Portland, Sustainable Northwest Wood, to help people like Kendall Derby find a market for local sustainable wood.

Creating that new market hasn’t been easy. Juniper trees are generally short and knotty so Goebel says the key has been developing the right products — shavings for pets, posts for signs and fences. Portland company Neil Kelly Cabinet is experimenting with fine juniper cabinetry.

A juniper kitchen built with wood from Sustainable Northwest Wood.

“It’s a challenging wood. It’s not that easy to love. It’s a tough love,” says Kendall Derby. His best customers are Portland gardeners who buy his chemical-free wood to build raised beds and planter boxes.

“See, the market is still trying to figure out what can work. Production-wise, sales wise, price wise,” he says.

There are supply challenges, too. Juniper often grows in remote areas with poor road access. And it can take forty or fifty stubby trees to fill up the back of a log truck. As a result, the wood is expensive to harvest and likely to remain a exotic product produced by small operations like In The Sticks, which has sold about 80 thousand board feet this year.

Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber recently created an Oregon Solutions task force for juniper, to looking for ways to build a better supply chain, and to attract investors to the market.

Derby says business is still slow. He’s sunk his inheritance and his retirement savings into the mill and he isn’t making money yet. He says he feels a bit like the first person who brought a cow back to a cave and tried to milk it. But Derby is optimistic the market for juniper wood will grow.

“My dream is to have four or five guys here working. That’s four or five not minimum wage jobs. In a town of four hundred people that matters,” he says.

And Derby says it’s worth it, to be producing a product that doesn’t have environmental baggage attached, that helps restore the high desert landscape he loves.

Behind the mill, there’s a slope he cleared of juniper a couple years ago. Now the native grasses are so thick he feels like rolling in them.

November 05, 2012

A Special Harvest for the Ace Hotel


One of the reasons the Ace Hotel is so enduringly cool is its commitment to sustainability. Case in point: The enhancements being made to guest rooms in the downtown Portland hotel.

Custom woodwork is being crafted in-house to add texture and warmth--and a little storage and privacy--to the rooms.  
The folks at the Ace are using fir that is locally harvested and FSC 100%, but its story goes much deeper than that: It is part of an oak grove restoration project being undertaken by Sarah Deumling at Zena Forest, just west of Salem.

 The fir is being cleared from the forest to allow neighboring oak trees to grow to their full potential.  The fir and the oak took root at the same time, about 50 to 60 years ago, when the cleared pasture was allowed to revert back to its preferred wooded state. Fir grows much faster than oak, however, and the fir trees are shading out the oaks and, ultimately, killing them.

By selectively harvesting the fir and leaving the oaks to grow, Deumling is ensuring a continual supply of valuable hardwood lumber for her family to mill decades down the road while preserving endangered oak habitat -- a far-sighted plan that is far too uncommon in forest management.

In true Zena style, the harvest of the fir is being undertaken with the utmost care. Logs are pulled from the woods in a way that minimizes damage to the understory and deliberately preserves the integrity of the soil.

As the logging progresses, the forest canopy opens up, allowing ample rays of sunlight to reach the oaks for the first time in decades (see photo at left). And with the exception of the scattered stumps remaining in the soil, it is hard to tell that logging has even occurred: The forest is still lush, green, and rife with life.

A Bit About Oak
Oregon White Oak is native to the Willamette Valley and historically was the most common species of tree found in the area. It prefers the open grassland savannahs that were cultivated by Native Americans with frequent-but-small fires.

After settlement, however, oak began to decline as groves were cleared to make way for pasture and cropland, and then plantations of Douglas fir. Today it remains in only about 5% of its historical range. Its current biggest threat is the conversion of woodland to other land uses including vineyards and housing developments.

Oregon White Oak's hardwood is beautiful and durable, but Oregonians have had a preference for importing oak from the East Coast for flooring and furniture. As a result, the millions of local oak trees cleared during the conversion of the native forest to more profitable uses resulted in oak being viewed as a "trash tree," and most frequently "dumped down the canyon," as the local saying goes, or sent to chip yards.

 Zena Forest and other modern-day pioneers of sustainable forestry are working to change that view and encourage the cultivation and local use of Oregon White Oak.  Through the creation of a market for the wood, foresters and landowners in the Willamette Valley are encouraged to preserve existing trees and plant new ones.

Photo at right: A mature Oregon White Oak stretches its limbs in the sun at Zena Forest.

October 22, 2012

Local Harvest, Residential Architect


From Residential Architect, September/October 2012

by Kim A. O'Connell

Here is the link to the article.

On a scenic green hill in Portland, Ore., a new house represents the next generation of sustainability—and a new opportunity for architects working in the region. Called the Full Plane Passive House, the nearly 2,000-square-foot residence includes, among other sustainable features, an airtight envelope that allows the house to be heated through passive solar gain and limited reliance on an active heating source. The house also contains a significant percentage of sustainably managed wood products, sourced through a subsidiary of the nonprofit organization Sustainable Northwest.

Based in Portland, Sustainable Northwest works with policymakers, builders, designers, residents, and other organizations to foster improved land management and sustainable development throughout the rural West. The organization has been active in several environmental arenas, particularly with regard to fostering collaborations across the urban-rural divide. Sustainable Northwest was actively involved, for instance, in the long and complex effort that resulted in an agreement to remove four dams from the Klamath River on the Oregon-California border.

Sustainable Northwest Wood is the organization’s for-profit subsidiary, which operates as a wholesale lumberyard connecting local mills with green-building opportunities. The company fills a niche in a region that has long been at the forefront of sustainability, but faces ongoing challenges with regard to sustainable wood. Large lumber companies have asserted that limited marketplace demand for sustainably harvested wood has kept costs too high to justify third-party certification through such entities as the Forest Stewardship Council. And reports have confirmed that sustainable and locally grown certified wood products can cost up to 25 percent more than standard lumber.

By increasing awareness and demand, and by promoting small eco-minded landowners and wood providers, Sustainable Northwest and its subsidiary are hoping to make the supply chain more efficient and cost-effective. To do this, the organization has been reaching out to area architects through tours, talks, and other events to help them learn how locally harvested and third-party certified wood can be incorporated into their designs.

“The challenge for so many architects with FSC wood is sourcing high-quality wood that is timely and affordable at both the commercial and residential scales,” says Clark Brockman, AIA, principal for sustainability at Portland’s SERA Architects. “Without Sustainable Northwest, we had small architectural firms spending many, many hours on the phone searching for these products. Through Sustainable Northwest’s centralizing role, the industry is seeing improved quality and reduced sourcing time.” Last year, Brockman participated in a roundtable discussion hosted by Sustainable Northwest Wood on sourcing and using certified wood products.

Recently, Sustainable Northwest worked closely with Portland-based Departure: Architecture Planning Interiors and JRA Green Building, the architect and general contractor, respectively, on the Full Plane Passive House (named for a sailing term). “By collaborating with the architect and the general contractor during the design phase, we were able to help them understand the wood selection process and design the home for the maximum cost and resource efficiency, reducing materials costs while increasing the project’s green credibility,” says K.C. Eisenberg, director of sales for Sustainable Northwest Wood. “All of the wood in this home, from the framing and plywood to the flooring, trim, cabinetry, and doors, was sourced from sustainably managed local forests.”

Eisenberg says that the organization wants to work with architects to broaden their knowledge of sustainably harvested wood products and building materials. Available products include pressure-treated lumber, plywood, architectural hardwood panels, and pre-primed trim, among others. “Restorative products include juniper that is harvested through grassland restoration efforts, as well as fir, cedar, and pine that are harvested during forest thinning projects like those facilitated by Sustainable Northwest,” Eisenberg says.

Departure: Architecture Planning Interiors worked with Sustainable Northwest Wood’s availability. “We wanted to use their dimensional lumber, which was limited to 2x14 for roof framing, so we worked with our engineer to arrive at a straightforward design that worked to that lumber’s capacity,” says Departure principal Michelle Jeresek, who managed this project. “For finished wood, we would visit Sustainable Northwest with our client to review the available species and learn more, like where the wood was sourced. ... We have so many terrific local species to choose from, there’s no need to source from elsewhere. Using locally sourced wood also complements the design, adding to its ‘sense of place.’”

Specifying locally sourced wood also promotes the economy, of which architects are direct beneficiaries, proponents say. “Instead of the profit being shipped out of town into the larders of a large corporation with typically questionable environmental practices,” says Eisenberg, “it stays within the community, strengthens the local economy, and ultimately comes right back to the architect.”

October 15, 2012

An Appetite for Local Wood


Portlanders go to great lengths to enjoy fresh, local food from responsible producers.

Increasingly, we're also demanding that the spaces in which we dine live up to these values.  And Portland's restaurateurs seem happy to oblige!

From the Pearl to Hawthorne, from deep in the Ace to under the Wonder Ballroom, new restaurants are cropping up that spotlight locally-harvested wood from Sustainable Northwest Wood.

Here are a few that opened recently or are opening soon.  Be sure to stop in, ogle the exceptional wood, and enjoy the delectable fare!

Is it just a coincidence that so many of these well-appointed eateries made it onto Portland Monthly's list of Best Restaurants 2012?  Pick up the November issue to see the full list.

Photo, above: Lardo, on SE 12th Ave and Hawthorne, was designed by Shannon Quimby and built by Tim Mencer.  It spotlights FSC Douglas fir throughout the interior.

Photos, below: The Streetcar Bistro, at Northrup and NW 11th Avenue, showcases our Campground Blue Pine paneling throughout the space. Builders Modern Organic made it look, well, modern, a most refreshing way to express blue pine beyond the cliche lodge look. The bistro also features remarkable live-edge blue pine and juniper tables built by FP Design.

October 08, 2012

Block & Sons crafts beautiful iPad stands from local salvaged wood


What goes better with the sleek lines of an iPad than a rustic chunk of live-edge wood? 

Based on the work of the fellows at Block & Sons, nothing!  These Portland crafters sculpt beautiful stands for iPads out of local, sustainable wood, which are then finished traditionally with linseed oil and beeswax.

We love the juxtaposition of the uber-modern device nestled into the wild lines of the blocks. 

The blocks can be purchased via the Block & Sons website, Portland shop Beam & Anchor, and other fine boutiques around the country.

Here's a photo of the juniper stand: