Blog

May 15, 2017

Project Profile: Heron Hall

By KC Eisenberg

On a recent trip to the Seattle area, we were treated to a special tour of Heron Hall, the new home of renowned architect Jason McLennan and his family. Located on the southern end of Bainbridge Island and overlooking a scenic inlet on the Puget Sound, this off-grid home uses FSC framing lumber, siding, and decking.

This home was built to the exacting standards of the Living Building Challenge, which demands that projects use wood that is locally-sourced and is either FSC certified or reclaimed. For the FSC framing lumber and plywood that form the structural bones of the home, and the beautiful Western Red Cedar siding and decking that grace the exterior, McLennan and his builder, Smallwood Construction, partnered with Sustainable Northwest Wood.

On the main floor and for the surrounding fences, the cedar siding is being left in its raw, unfinished state to silver naturally over time. On the second floor, McLennan and his builders used a torch to apply the shou sugi ban technique of charring to the cedar to give it a natural, long-lasting black finish.

Click here to read more news coverage of this exceptional project.

Photos, from top: The courtyard of the home showcases the FSC Western Red Cedar siding; a private courtyard is surrounded in cedar; the architect outside his front door; the home reflected in the estuary nearby.


May 11, 2017

Lessons from the front lines: My juniper raised bed project

By KC Eisenberg

There's the old adage about the cobbler's children never having shoes...well, recently my family disproved that ancient fable by building our very own Restoration Juniper raised beds. We're quite pleased with the results! We love the organic, wabi sabi look that juniper provides -- and after such an undertaking, we love that we won't need to rebuild them for a very, very long time. Turns out building raised beds is a lot of hard and heavy work!

We used rough 2x6x10 juniper to build beds that are 4' x 6' rectangles, with 4x4 vertical posts to support and secure the beds. We planned our beds to optimize the yield of the lumber with minimal waste.

We went three boards high, so the beds are 18" above ground. Because of their location along the parking strip of our street, we chose this height to protect the beds from the errant noses and raised legs of passing dogs, but lower heights would work just as well in other locations.

To build the beds, we first trimmed all the lumber to the proper uniform lengths. Next, we attached 2x6 members to two 4x4 posts, then did the same for the opposite end of the bed, and then secured those two sides together with more 2x6, as shown in the photo. The beds got very heavy quickly, so we ended up pre-drilling all of our holes and screwing the lumber together (as shown in photo at left), then removing pieces of the 2x6 sides so that we could move and properly position the beds. Then, once the beds were in their final locations, we re-attached all the 2x6 to the sides.

We also added the decorative cap along the top, complete with carefully mitered corners. My husband really wanted this artistic touch because of the beds' location at the front of our home, and we agree that it completes the look nicely.

To secure the lumber on the sides of the beds, we chose black Headlock screws, which provide a decorative touch that we like. For the caps along the top of the beds, we used wood-toned exterior screws to secure the caps on top so they inconspicuously blend into the wood.

Juniper has a lot of elasticity in the wood, so in a few cases we had to flex the wood back into straight lines and then secure it (see photo at right). Once secured, it stays put. Juniper also holds screws exceptionally well, so it isn't apt to warp over time, as other species can. 

One of the other surprising qualities of the wood was variations in the thickness and widths. Some boards were up to 1/16" thicker than others. We don't feel that this negatively impacts the look of the beds at all, but it was a surprise when we began assembling them. Because of the way the lumber is milled, this is a feature that should be expected; it could be avoided by using surfaced juniper instead.

Here's the finished product. Now to fill them with a thousand pounds of soil...!

April 04, 2017

Fresh Idea for Juniper Timbers: An outdoor patio built with surfaced 6x6

By KC Eisenberg

It's so much fun when a builder sees our lumber as a blank slate, an opportunity for creative transformation. This patio was built with our Restoration Juniper 6x6 rough landscaping timbers -- transformed into amazing decking by surfacing the timbers and artfully finishing the edges and joining them together.

This deck, outside Ankeny Tap & Table in SE Portland, was built by Steel Leaf Design. Says Steel Leaf's owner, Stephen Blum, "We hand-routed all the edges to provide that deck board look. Once we finished sanding the tops of the timber decking, we coated the tops with clear Preserva Wood to help hold the color."  

"Our client was very open to the idea of using a locally sourced material," says Stephen. "Especially when I talked to him about what juniper's negative-to-positive life cycle is, how much damage it does to the eco-system, and how it has such great durability, for an outdoor building material." 

Visit the taproom in person and enjoy your outdoor perch on this bright and innovative patio.





March 09, 2017

Rubio Monocoat now at Sustainable Northwest Wood

By KC Eisenberg

Sustainable Northwest Wood is the new Portland-area dealer of Rubio Monocoat, a zero-VOC, all-natural plant-based wood finish that looks amazing on our wood products. Made from natural plant ingredients, this finish has virtually no odor. 

Flooring installers are encouraged to join us on Saturday, April 8 for a hands-on demonstration of proper floor finish application techniques. This demo is free to attend, but registration is required: Click here to learn more about and register for the demo.

Click here for more information about Rubio Monocoat finishes.

March 01, 2017

The Juniper Story

By KC

As anyone who has ever travelled east of the Cascades knows, juniper is prevalent in Oregon's high desert.  Juniper is an ancient species that has been part of our landscape for millennia, but recently it has seen unprecedented population growth due to human interference with the natural fire cycle that used to keep young juniper trees in check. 

How much population growth?  A lot. Eastern Oregon's juniper has increased from about 1 million acres in the 1930's to more than 6 million acres today.

Juniper's success means additional challenges to the grasses and other plants that compete for space on the desert plains. Not only is there more competition for sunlight, but juniper is a thirsty tree that significantly depletes the groundwater table. The reduction in grasses results in increased erosion, reduced biodiversity, and more difficulty for desert wildlife to find the foraged foods on which they depend for survival.

In an attempt to restore the native grasslands, Eastern Oregon ranchers have for many years cut the trees and burned them, but today Sustainable Northwest and other dedicated groups are working hard to create new markets for the juniper wood to ensure that this useful and beautiful wood is put to use. 

This restoration work helps enable the grasslands to recover and helps keep Eastern Oregon sawmills, an important source of jobs in rural communities, generating income for these communities.  In general, the trees that are cut and milled as part of this restoration work are smaller, younger trees that have sprouted in the years since our fire restriction policies have been formed -- the older, grander trees that predate these policies aren't cut.

Juniper is naturally rot- and decay-resistant, more so than any other native Northwestern species, according to studies by Oregon State University.  It also offers a beautiful rustic aesthetic with warm cream, chocolate, and reddish tones.  Its durability, combined with its beauty and its environmental credentials, make it an excellent choice for decks, garden beds, fencing, and many other uses for homes in the Pacific Northwest. 

Click here to watch an excellent OPB report on juniper and the Eastern Oregon restoration work.

Photo at top: The Cottonwood Creek watershed near Fossil, OR, used to be rolling hills covered in grasses. Today, many acres of juniper woodlands can be seen from this viewpoint
Photos below: The Crooked River National Grassland was designated in the 1960's; since then, it has sprouted a dense juniper forest. The photo at bottom was taken near Burns and shows many infant juniper trees growing on the plains. 


March 01, 2017

Project Profile: Building beautiful casework with basic dimensional lumber

By KC Eisenberg

We're loving this retail space recently completed in Portland by Furnish PDX. They paired our FSC White Fir dimenional lumber with reclaimed barnwood and exposed metalwork for a modern-yet-rustic, warm, and inviting vibe. It's a sign of vision, and no small amount of patience, to build such incredible casework out of basic lumber.

Our FSC White Fir lumber is sourced from Collins forests in Northern California.  

Visit Furnish PDX for more photos of this project.


February 13, 2017

Douglas fir for historic preservation, restoration, and replica finishes

By KC Eisenberg

Many old homes, and many new homes being designed in a historic style, make use of Douglas fir for trim, flooring, cabinetry, and other interior finishes. Douglas fir is an iconic wood for period homes and represents an important era in American history.

Douglas fir was a popular choice for homes built in the late 19th century and the first half of the 20th century. Its warm amber color tones, distinctive grain patterns, and high strength-to-weight ratio contributed to this popularity. An ample supply of high-quality old growth lumber coming from the vast forests of the Pacific Northwest also contributed: A market was built to capitalize on this prolific native species.

Over time, the market changed and tastes began to evolve toward the modern marvels of the twentieth century. Hardwood flooring was replaced with synthetic carpet; wood trim was covered in vivid enamel paints; and wood countertops and furniture were replaced with patterned, shiny laminates. Today, it can be hard to find the authentic Douglas fir finishes needed to replicate and restore the period homes of the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

Fortunately, Sustainable Northwest Wood offers a wide array of Douglas fir products that can be used for historical preservation, restoration, and replica projects. And in a reflection of contemporary values, all of these products are certified by the Forest Stewardship Council to ensure the good management and sustainable practices of the forests that produce them.

Our Douglas fir products include:

  • 3 1/4” CVG (clear vertical grain) Douglas fir flooring, in stock and ready to go
  • Mixed grain and CVG plywood for cabinetry and furniture
  • CVG fir solid surfaces in butcher block and plank styles
  • Mixed grain and CVG lumber ready to be milled into trim, stair treads, decorative beams and mantels, and other interior accents

January 20, 2017

What is Struc 1 plywood?

By KC Eisenberg

If you're considering a seismic upgrade to your home, or building a new structure in a quake-prone zone, you'll likely want to use Struc 1 plywood. But what is Struc 1 plywood and why does it matter for seismic building performance?

5-ply Structural 1 plywood, also known as Struc 1, is the best kind of plywood to use for seismic resilience because it is made of Douglas fir throughout the sheet of plywood. This gives Struc 1 plywood more strength than typical plywood, which is made with softer, weaker cores of pine or white fir.

Sustainable Northwest Wood aims to offer high-quality plywood at an excellent price. This is why we stock 5-ply 1/2" Struc 1 CDX plywood -- which is, of course, also FSC Certified and contains no added urea formaldehyde (NAUF)

All of our 1/2" CDX is Struc 1 rated. We've got it in stock and ready to go for your seismic retrofit and other construction projects. Please contact us today for current pricing.

January 12, 2017

Is FSC Certified wood more expensive?

By KC Eisenberg

We get this question a lot. All the time. And the short answer is: Not always.

In fact, oftentimes our FSC certified, locally harvested wood products are less expensive than the same non-certified products, sourced from who-knows-where, at nearby Big Box stores.

Case in point: Folks are always surprised at how cost-effective our plywood options are. All of our plywood is FSC certified, locally manufactured, and contains no added urea formaldehyde.  We can trace it right back to the mill that makes it and the forest that provides the wood. And because the supply chain is so short, our plywood is often less expensive that the non-certified, mystery-origin plywood at other retailers in the Portland area.

Now with some products, FSC certification will add a bit onto the cost. Most rough estimates generally say between 10% and 20%. This is because the mills that provide FSC dimensional lumber (commodity products like 2x4s and 2x6s) add a certain percentage to cover the costs of the auditing and additional paperwork required to maintain the chain of custody. 

So with 2x4s, 2x6s, and other framing lumber, in general most projects should budget a little more to be able to use FSC wood.  These products can be combined with less expensive FSC products (such as plywood) to help spread the additional costs out over the budget and minimize or negate any extra costs.

Other FSC items that do not necessarily cost more are our FSC cedar and hardwoods.  Because we work directly with local mills, we eliminate the middle men, which works out better for our customers (and helps us ensure that our mills are operating in ways that meet our Triple Bottom Line goals).

Here are some ways that you can minimize any added costs of building with FSC lumber:

  • Order in advance.  Any time material has to be rushed to a jobsite to meet a tight deadline, there will be added costs for shipping.  Especially if it's an unusual item (24' beams or 2x14 lumber, for instance).  By getting orders in well ahead of time, shipping can be minimized.
  • Design the project to use standard materials.  While we are able to offer highly customized dimensions and specialty items for projects, these are going to cost more whether or not they're FSC certified. By designing around standard sizes and planning your project to make use of in-stock items, you can help keep the costs down.  Ask for a copy of our price list to see what standard sizes are.
  • Explore alternatives.  Sometimes using unconventional materials can help reduce overall project costs considerably.  For instance, maple is a very beautiful hardwood that is often used for cabinetry, furniture, and other interior finishes -- but alder is a less expensive option with a nearly identical look. 
January 03, 2017

Chainsaw Milling a Giant Myrtlewood: The Story of Epilogue Urban Lumber

By KC Eisenberg

As told to Sustainable Northwest Wood by David Barmon and Mark Parisien.

We began our urban log wrangling adventures in the fall of 2013, standing before a monster myrtlewood measuring four feet at the base, planning our attack. 

Intrigued by the idea of urban forestry, my friend and now business partner Daniel Baca and I had recently purchased an Alaskan Mill.  With only a few cuts under our belt and an under-powered electric winch, we were as green as the first crooked slab we’d cut that day.  

Fast forward to the fall of 2016 and our business has matured alongside our stacks of air-dried lumber.  Daniel and I joined forces with Mark Parisien to start urban lumber company ​Epilogue LLC.​  Now equipped with a Lucas Mill we have slabbed out several hundred such monster logs to date.  

But back our our first adventure…  

The myrtlewood was a beast, its lumber promising.  Its challenge?  No access. The tree’s owner had called some other companies who had passed for this reason. 

After an hour of set-up we were ready to make our first cut. Our new Logosol chainsaw mill, outfitted with a double-ended bar and two chainsaw powerheads, had walked a bit on our trial run a few days back.  Dials now tweaked and fingers crossed, we proceeded full throttle into the belly of the beast.  “Double Cobra” we hollered as we plunged into the log.  ​

Double Cobra​ would thenceforth be our name and battle cry;  a place-holder until we would refine our approach and become the strictly professional urban lumber troupe now known as ​Epilogue LLC. 

Five loud and stinky minutes later we had our first cock-eyed slab. Nuts!  The bar was walking again.  What started as a three inch cut became four inches by the end.  A mile outside the margin of error for many a skilled craftsmen known to round to the nearest 32nd of an inch.  I could hear my Dad, a contactor for 40 years, weigh in.  “Did a beaver make that cut?” 

We argued as to the cause.  Was it two powerheads with different amounts of power? Too much flex in the bar?  Who knows. We just kept going.  “Double Cobra!” 

Several hours later we had seven slabs from the main log and managed to wrestle around one of the leaders and cut three more.  By sundown we somehow managed to move and flat stack all the slabs, the largest weighing about 250 pounds (​photo at left​). Moving them just a few feet was difficult if not impossible but getting the slabs out of the backyard was a job for a few more hired guns.  

We now had a dozen or so spalted myrtlewood slabs, numb arms, aching backs, and a hunger for more!  

Three years have passed and the adventures continue.  And so have the challenges, whether it’s a wild goose chase leading to worthless wood, a perfect log full of nails, or a test of patience as we wait for our lumber to properly dry for yet another year.  

But every time we open up a log to reveal its distinct beauty, it’s worth it.  It also feels good to save a few of these giants from the firewood pile. 

Epilogue LLC’s new ​showroom at Sustainable Northwest Wood​ has those beautiful myrtlewood slabs ready for sale along with a variety of hard and softwood pieces ready for your crafty hands! Slabs have been patiently air-dried for one to three years depending on species and thickness, kiln-dried to below 10% moisture content, and surfaced on both faces to 120 grit.  

*Crooked slabs courtesy of Double Cobra Milling. 



Do you have an urban hazard tree that you'd like see turned into lumber rather than chips? If so, here are a few things to consider: 

1. We don’t buy logs, other than an occasional black walnut log. Why don’t we pay money? A load of logs bucked to saw log lengths free of metal is worth money. A log or two coming from a yard of variable quality is time consuming and expensive to pick up. A standing tree may be filled with metal, concrete, and have defects that can’t be oberved until the tree has been removed.  

2. A few photos showing the whole tree including the trunk and where it branches out is very helpful. The limbs and leaders generally don’t make good lumber. The trunk is what we are primarily interested in. If the trunk has a lot of branches or it is growing at an angle, we will probably pass.  

3. It’s easier to coordinate directly with the tree company doing the removal. We need to know the removal date, and the address of the property. Also, crane removals are much easier to execute.  

4. In general we are looking for hardwood species such as Black Walnut, Elm, Maple, Sycamore, Cherry, Oak, and Black Locust. There are some more unusual species such as Catalpa and Silk tree just to name a few. We also mill Deodar Cedar. At this time we don’t take Doug Fir or other native softwoods. We are looking for trees at least 24” in diameter.

5. You can contact us at davebarmon@gmail.com. Our apologies up front if you contact us and we are unable to respond. We do our best to get back to people but sometimes we are just overwhelmed with calls.