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 email@example.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.
In the late 1800s, pioneers that arrived to settle in central and eastern Oregon, southeast Washington, northern California, and southwest Idaho saw a very different landscape than the one we know today. Rolling grasslands and sagebrush steppe provided adequate breeding habitat and forage for wildlife species like mule deer and sage grouse. Only the occasional Western Juniper tree was visible on the ridgelines.
Following this time, a period of overgrazing of domestic livestock compounded by federal fire suppression policies allowed the tree to thrive. Western Juniper (Juniperus occidentalis) is a natural survivor and is well adapted to the high desert. Wildfire is its only natural predator, and without a regular fire cycle to clear out new seedlings, its presence has increased exponentially over the past 150-180 years from its historic recorded range of 1 million acres to nearly 9 million acres today.
RENEE MAGYAR serves as Sustainable Northwest’s communications director. She can be reached at 503-221-6911 ext. 116 or firstname.lastname@example.org
A recent office remodel in downtown Portland was designed with elaborate custom casework that called for one-of-a-kind oak panels. The project architect wanted to use a locally-grown wood that would reflect a sense of place and add warmth and visual appeal to the space.
We were pleased to supply custom panels and slabs of solid Oregon white oak, milled to precise specifications, for the casework, interior panelings, and other office furnishings.
The results are stunning: Modern yet warm, inviting, and reflective of the special personality of the oak selected for the project!
More photos are available here.
Here's an interactive map that shows where to buy our juniper landscaping timbers. This map shows all of our current dealers in Oregon, Washington, and California.
If you're in an area outside the regions covered by this map, please let us know and we can discuss ways to get you the wood you need.
We are fortunate to work closely with two different, yet not entirely dissimilar, communities. Each day we work with lumber producers from small rural communities far from urban centers. Each day we also work with contractors, homeowners, and woodworkers in urban communities all over the region, and the country. It is through our work with these diverse groups that we are reminded of all that we have in common and all of the goals we share with our fellow citizens, both rural and urban.
Many of the products we offer are shining examples of urban-rural collaboration. Juniper is one such example: The juniper industry is made possible through the hard work of ranchers, loggers and millers in the Eastern half of our state, but most of its users live in big cities, in Portland, Seattle, San Francisco, and Los Angeles.
At Sustainable Northwest Wood, we understand that this widespread urban support of triple-bottom-line products sourced through rural producers is how we rebuild our rural economies. It is how we heal the wounds caused by job loss, industry attrition, and the other undesirable effects and unintended consequences of a globalized world. We look forward to expanding urban-rural collaboration in the coming years.
We are proud to stand in the "radical middle," working hard to support our rural producers, to provide quality service and products our urban customers, and to celebrate our shared goals and successes.
The way forward is together. Please join us.
Great news for gardeners and landscapers in Southern California: Jones Lumber in Lynwood is now stocking our Restoration Juniper landscaping timbers! Stock up here for all your raised garden beds, retaining walls, and other landscape projects.
Juniper performs exceptionally well outdoors and will last longer in ground-contact applications (30+ years!) than any other Pacific Northwest native species, including cedar and redwood. It is also a great substitute for chemical-laden pressure treated wood, making it an ideal wood to use for raised garden beds, retaining walls, trellises, arbors, and other installations.
Our Restoration Juniper is sourced from grassland restoration projects throughout the high deserts of the West. Juniper is a native species, but decades of wildfire suppression have allowed it to take over what was formerly a grassland ecosystem. Its out-of-control population growth and thirst for limited water supplies lead to erosion and a loss of biodiversity.
Many acres of juniper are now being cut as part of a collaborative program to restore the grasslands, the groundwater supplies, and the habitat of critical species including the sage grouse.
Jones Lumber is stocking the following Restoration Juniper products:
- 2x6x8 surfaced lumber
- 2x6x8 rough lumber
- 4x4x8 rough timbers
- 6x6x8 rough timbers
Click here for more information about juniper, its exceptional durability, and its special story.
But there are so many options for choosing what wood to use for retaining walls. You know you want something durable, affordable, and non-toxic. But what?
Wood retaining walls must be:
- Chemical free, not soaked in creosote or pressure-treatment chemicals
- Extra durable in ground-contact settings
- Non-toxic alternative to carcinogenic railroad ties
- More affordable and longer lasting than cedar or redwood ties
- Responsibly sourced
Luckily, we have the perfect solution that fulfills all these criteria: our Restoration Juniper landscaping timbers.
Chemical-free: These untreated, completely natural timbers are ideal replacements for creosote-laden railroad ties and pressure-treated wood.
Extra durable: Juniper gets its remarkable durability from a high content of aromatic compounds that make the wood resistant to microbial decay for many decades. Juniper can last up to 30+ years in ground contact settings, according to studies from Oregon State University.
Affordable: Our juniper landscaping timbers are also far more affordable than using cedar or redwood, other long-lasting species that come with a high price tag. In fact, juniper lasts far longer than these species -- providing a lot more bang for your landscaping buck.
Responsibly sourced: Restoration Juniper landscaping timbers are sourced from grassland restoration projects in the high deserts of the West. Juniper is a native species, but decades of fire suppression and the unintended consequences of livestock grazing have allowed this species to grow unchecked, claiming millions of acres of sagebrush steppe and turning it into dense woodlands. These juniper woodlands suck up groundwater and are contributing to the decline of several key species, including the sage grouse. A collaborative group involving ranchers, loggers, environmentalists, and state government agencies is working together to harvest juniper trees, restore the grassland ecosystem and water supplies, and build a market for the wood. Your purchase of juniper lumber supports this effort.
Beautiful: Juniper also provides a rustic, organic look that is perfect for modern gardens and landscape design.
Please contact us to learn more about Restoration Juniper for retaining walls and other exterior uses.
Photos, from top: A recently-constructed residential retaining wall built with 6x6 juniper landscaping timbers shows juniper's rich colors and grain patterns; steps and a small retaining wall built out of 5x5 juniper timbers show off the silver patina that will develop over the years if the wood is left unstained; a large retaining wall built with 6x6 timbers stands at the University of Washington-Tacoma (photo credit Place Studio).
When most people think of Indow, they think of energy-efficient thermal window inserts, not lumber. But Indow uses a lot of wood to carefully crate their window panels for shipment across the country.
Indow is a Portland-born manufacturer of lightweight, attractive acrylic window inserts that homeowners can self-install to add energy efficiency and noise insulation in their homes. Indow's mission is helping people achieve environmental and financial harmony, reducing carbon emissions while reducing expenses. So they totally understand the benefits of FSC forestry.
The wood that Indow was previously using was low-quality, splitting at the ends and generating a lot of useless waste. It was of dubious origin and had no environmental certifications. Dissatisfied, Indow decided to find a better solution that more closely aligned with their mission and values. They reached out to us to see how we could help.
We partnered with our friends at Collins to find a higher-quality wood product with FSC certification. We now supply Indow with FSC certified Sugar Pine, sourced from a regional forest, in a higher grade, at an even better cost.
Indow now uses wood that matches their values of local manufacturing and environmental stewardship, and they're saving money doing it. We can call this a win-win-win.
Plank-style surfaces are another way to add warmth and texture, but show off more of the unique grain patterns and figuring that make each type of wood special. The plank-style tops are made with much wider pieces of wood, up to 8" wide; butcher block is traditionally made of thinner staves, smaller than 1 1/2" wide.
Plank-style tops really highlight the beauty, color, and grain patterns of our local wood species. Check out the options below, shown clockwise from top left: FSC Douglas Fir, Pacific Madrone, Tanoak, and our Willamette Valley Walnut.
We can craft these surfaces in any of our local wood species, and in any custom size to fit countertops, table tops, island tops, or other creative applications. Please contact us for pricing information.
Butcher block and wood solid surface countertops are a popular choice for kitchens and bathrooms these days. And for good reason: The wood adds warmth, texture, and natural beauty to the space in a way that other materials just can't.
But wood needs to be well protected to keep water and wine from staining or damaging it. There are, of course, many products available to help complete this task. So many products. Too many products!
We break down the pros and cons of some of the most common choices.
Poly Vs. Oil
Polyurethane is a liquid coating that dries into a plastic film. This is great for sealing the countertop, but then there's a layer of plastic between you and your pretty new wood. Also, poly finishes generally have to be removed entirely before any scratches or worn spots can be repaired. Yes, the countertop will need to be sanded entirely clean before any new finish can be reapplied. Ugh!
Oil finishes penetrate down into the wood, bringing out the color and luster of the wood, and allow you direct contact with the warmth and distinctive texture of the wood. Oil finishes can also be spot-repaired without sanding the entire surface -- a huge benefit -- but they will likely require more frequent maintenance than poly finishes, especially in high-impact areas like around sinks or in food prep zones.
We generally recommend a natural oil finish for the butcher block tops we sell to homeowners due to the ease of application and maintenance. We sell the full line of Rubio Monocoat products and can include them with your butcher block order. Contact us to get pricing for your butcher block project, and check out the full line of standard and custom butcher block options that we offer, all made with locally sourced, sustainably harvested Northwest wood species.
What product to choose?
We've used lots of products over the years on our samples and displays, and we've polled our woodworker clients on their top choices. We generally recommend modified natural oil finishes for our solid surface and butcher block products because of the ease of application and maintenance. Here are some of the common choices, and the pros and cons of each: