So you want to work with juniper? Good idea. This remarkable wood promises incredible durability in outdoor settings, as well as an organic, natural, and rich wabi-sabi aesthetic for pieces both indoors and out.
We recommend learning about, and then working with, juniper's unique properties. This wood has very different characteristics than other common species, so adjust your plans and technique to accommodate, and then enjoy the results!
Here are a few tips to get you started:
Elasticity: One of juniper's unique attributes is the elasticity of the wood. There is a great deal more tension present in the cut lumber than in other common softwoods. It is not uncommon for juniper, especially smaller or thinner dimensions, to bend or warp slightly, even after careful kiln-drying.
But unlike fir, cedar, or hardwoods, juniper can be flexed back into a straight line. For glue-up installations such as tables, be sure to plan for this movement (i.e., use biscuit joints in addition to glue, or keep the pieces clamped until fully dry).
Kiln-drying: All of our 1x6 and live-edge slabs of juniper are kiln-dried. This aids with stability and with pest control. Kiln-drying is the only way to ensure that juniper beetles, which live harmlessly in all juniper trees and pose no threat to other species of tree, are eliminated from the finished piece.
Larger dimensions of juniper are not kiln-dried, unless kiln-drying is specified at the time of order and the dimensions of the lumber are small enough to yield good results in the kiln. Anything thicker than 3" generally is not kiln-dried due to the amount of time required in the kiln to get the wood dry (many months, depending on the size of the beam). This means that for these larger pieces of juniper, it is possible, although unlikely, for live insects to be present in the wood.
Dimensions: We stock 1x6, 2x6, and 4x4 rough juniper lumber, as well as live-edge slabs of a variety of widths and lengths. We can custom-order larger sizes for special projects. However, be sure to plan for juniper's inherent size limitations.
Unlike fir trees, which can grow to 300' or higher and yield lumber lengths of 20' and more, juniper lumber's maximum length is much shorter as the trees generally only get to 20' or 30'. We have successfully provided large beams measuring 12" wide by 15' long, but the supply of such large logs is very limited. Please contact us for current availability.
Photo below: This juniper slat wall, built by Green Furniture Solutions, was built on plywood first so the juniper lumber could be manually straightened and then screwed down, ensuring a finished piece with perfectly straight lines. Photo by James Lohman.
So you've chosen a new countertop or work surface. It's beautiful, all natural, and adds warmth and color to your space. But now what? What can you do to keep it looking fresh and clean?
Here are a few tips to help:
PRIOR TO INSTALLATION:
Your butcher block countertop will arrive unfinished with square edges and corners and needs a week to acclimatize to its new surroundings. Do not
put finish or oil on your countertop or cut it until it has had time to adjust to the humidity in your home. Your new countertop needs to rest flat/horizontally with air flow around all sides for at least one week to adjust fully and evenly.
Once installed, wash your block by hand using dish soap and warm water. Allow the butcher block to dry completely after washing. Always wash your butcher block completely before finishing or reapplying finish.
Be sure to properly dispose of all oiled rags to prevent household fires.
Always follow the finish manufacturer’s instructions for specific finishes.
There are a number of food safe oils that are approved for use on wood that comes into contact with food. Always read the labels. Any oil that comes in contact with food should be labeled “Food Safe.”
A butcher block countertop with oil finish will require ongoing oiling to protect the piece and will develop a deep rich patina over time. For natural plant oils or mineral oil, spread an even coating of oil over every part of the butcher block. Let the oil soak in for as long as possible, an hour or more, and then wipe off the excess. Allow the butcher block to continue absorbing the oil overnight, then apply a second coat. The number of coats the wood needs depends upon the species of wood and how dry the butcher block is upon installation. As many as three to five coats of oil may be necessary to seal the wood properly.
Periodically oil the butcher block with your choice of food-grade plant or mineral oil. Letting the butcher block dry out because of a lack of oil is the top cause of problems with butcher block. A good rule of thumb is once a week for the first month and then a minimum of monthly thereafter.
The frequency of oiling will vary by the species, the amount of use, and the harshness of detergents used to clean the butcher block. If the wood appears dry, it is time to oil.
Keep your wood countertop dry and away from direct heat. Do not allow liquid to stand on the block for a long period of time; it can stain the butcher block and cause the wood to expand, which may result in damage to your butcher block.
If light scratches occur, sand the surface gently with 220-grit sandpaper and reapply your food-safe oil.
Here in the Pacific Northwest, CVG fir trim is everywhere. It's been the standard for unpainted wood trim for decades, and for good reason: Fir offers a rich, warm look and consistent quality.
However, it is not always the best choice. We often recommend Mixed Grain fir trim as an alternative. Here are three good reasons why:
- More environmentally friendly -- CVG means Clear Vertical Grain, which is the same as quarter-sawn wood. This cut demans big, tall trees to yield long runs of trim without any knots -- which means that in most cases, when you buy CVG fir, you're buying old growth trees. Mixed grain trim can come from smaller diameter trees and still provide supreme quality.
- More interesting to look at -- Mixed grain offers varied patterns and organic flow, with no two pieces alike. It shows more of the character of the wood and offers far more visual interest than the uniform stripes of CVG.
- More cost effective -- Mixed Grain fir is less costly than CVG because it is a more efficient way to slice the logs. Cutting logs into CVG results in a lot of waste that can't be used elsewhere, driving up the cost of the product. Our Mixed Grain trim, clear and high-grade, is a much better buy than CVG.
We offer and recommend FSC Certified Mixed Grain fir as a stylish and more sustainable alternative to classic CVG fir trim. While Mixed Grain fir meshes effortlessly with modern spaces, it is also ideal for historic remodels and was used in many of the style-setting turn-of-the-century homes in the Pacific Northwest.
Our FSC Certified Mixed Grain fir trim is clear (C&Btr grade), kiln-dried, and locally sourced. We stock it in 4/4 and 5/4 thicknesses, with lengths of 8' through 16'.
It is ideal for window and door trim, thresholds, cabinetry, furniture, and other interior applications. We also provide custom-milled Mixed Grain paneling, flooring, and butcher blocks.
Contact us for current pricing and availability!
Photos at top and below: Mixed Grain fir provides the perfect look for this historic home, photographed by Craftsman Design and Renovation and Pete Eckert.
Photo at bottom: Mixed Grain fir pairs nicely with salvaged walnut for this modern custom art display by Urban Timberworks.
Since its creation in 2002, local design-build firm Green Hammer has truly put its money where its mouth is when it comes to using only the most sustainable lumber and wood products available.
Every Green Hammer project is built with lumber certified by the Forest Stewardship Council. Green Hammer was the first contractor in the United States to achieve its own chain-of-custody certification from FSC, and founder Stephen Aiguier is an ardent advocate for the advanced forestry techniques embodied by FSC's auditing system.
FSC is, of course, only one way to measure the sustainability of wood products. Other sources including urban salvage and reclaimed timbers can also provide legitimately green lumber, and Green Hammer regularly employs these sources in its projects.
Back in 2005, before FSC wood was readily available at local lumberyards, Stephen was frustrated by the difficulty in sourcing good wood. He teamed up with local forester Peter Hayes to establish the Build Local Alliance, a pioneering non-profit that helps connect builders and designers to local sawmills and wood sources.
Sustainable Northwest Wood is a member and supporter of the Build Local Alliance, and much of our wood comes from mills that have achieved continued growth and success thanks to the networking connections enabled by Stephen's early leadership and vision.
These days, due in large part to forward-thinking builders like Green Hammer who insist on their use, FSC lumber and other kinds of uber-local, deep-green wood are readily available to Portland builders through Sustainable Northwest Wood, the Build Local Alliance, and a rich network of salvage and reclaimed operations.
Green Hammer continues to make beautiful use of these wood products in each of its projects, setting an example for other builders while supporting local sawmills and forest restoration projects.
We applaud and thank the folks at Green Hammer for their hard work and continued commitment to sustainable wood.
Photo below: The Doug fir trim shown is this photo is FSC, as are the framing, plywood, and all other structural wood materials that comprise this artful home.
The fabulous deck pictured at right is built out of our Restoration Juniper Decking. The homeowner chose juniper because of its beauty and durability, but also because it's a "true Oregon product," as he put it.
And it is. Juniper is grown in Oregon, and it is "made" in Oregon (harvested and milled), but as this savvy client understands, its value to our state reaches much deeper than that.
Juniper supports Oregon's economy
The communities of central and eastern Oregon have been hit hard by economic recession over the past several years. Lumber mills that operated for decades have closed up shop, and families have had to make do with far less.
Juniper provides a solid solution to this chronic problem. As the popularity of this wood grows, the number of individuals employed by its harvest and milling also grows; we estimate that as many as 60 people are now employed by juniper-related businesses east of the Cascades. This is approximately equivalent to 4,200 jobs in the more populous communities west of the Cascades.
Juniper supports Oregon's environment
The scrubby, fragrant juniper is native to Oregon, but in the past 150 years the environmental pressures that used to keep its population in check (specifically, rangeland wildfires) have been virtually eliminated by humans intent on preserving property and grazing livestock.
As a result, juniper's population has boomed from about 1 million acres of coverage at the turn of the 20th century to between 6 and 9 million acres today. This means millions of acres of prime sagebrush habitat are being rapidly transformed into dense woodlands, as shown above, endangering valuable species (PDF) and drying up entire streams and water holes.
The respectful harvest of juniper helps to restore historic flows of groundwater and resurrect the important sage steppe habitat. Many groups are intent on accomplishing this restoration work; Sustainable Northwest Wood is proud to offer the juniper lumber products that are the fruit of this restoration work -- and that provide the economic incentives to keep the restoration projects going.
How to use juniper
Juniper is an ideal wood for many outdoor applications due to its remarkable durability: It lasts 30+ years in ground-contact installations.
- Garden beds and retaining walls
- Decks and outdoor living spaces
- Fences, arbors, and decorative barriers
- Outdoor benches, tables, and other furniture
Whether you're designing an office from the studs up or need a quick and easy solution to spruce up your current space, we've got the wood to help.
Our pre-made butcher block tops are ideal for quick and easy office makeovers. Use them for desk tops, conference tables, and other surfaces.
These tops are available in six different species, all locally sourced and sustainably harvested. We also offer custom sizes and thicknesses for your special project.
For dramatic custom conference tables and reception desks, our live-edge slabs set the standard. Choose the size and species and your woodworker can customize it for you.
Or use our Northwest hardwood lumber in any species for custom cabinetry, desks, tables, millwork and trim.
Photo at top right: Live-edge blue pine makes a memorable conference table
Photos from below left: Pre-made juniper butcher block was a quick and affordable solution for this office's desks and reception area tables; a custom juniper slat wall adds texture and warmth to this West Linn dental office; the Oregon Zoo uses live-edge maple slabs for custom display tables.
A customer on a quest to find the lowest-carbon siding recently stopped by to ask about our cedar. In our discussion with him, we were pleased to deduce that our FSC 100%, locally harvested Western Red Cedar siding is, from a carbon-mitigation viewpoint, as green as it gets.
During the siding selection process, a few considerations can help determine the most sustainable, lowest carbon materials:
- The source of raw materials used to produce it
- The energy required to produce/manufacture it
- Total life cycle (what happens at the end of its lifespan?)
- The transportation required to get it to you
Some in-vogue options, like fiber cement board, can add insulation and reduce a building's operating energy costs, but the energy required to produce cement products is so high, and so much transportation is required to ferry around the raw materials and then the finished product, that the net effect is high-carbon.
Wood options generally require much less energy to produce, tipping the scales in favor of forest products. However, some classic wood siding choices are not particularly green. The cedar shingles that clad many older homes demand large diameter (read: old growth) trees to produce; and many well-meaning but mistaken designers often specify "clear vertical grain" cedar products that also require the harvest of old growth trees.
Our locally sourced, FSC 100% Western Red Cedar siding provides the perfect antidote to these design dilemmas. We work with a local sawmill that buys its logs from nearby forest restoration projects like the Forest Grove watershed restoration project and the Nature Conservancy's Ellsworth Creek Preserve.
These projects are designed to improve the health of the forest, enabling a return to old growth conditions that were lost decades ago after the first clear cut. (This isn't greenwashing; click the links above to learn more about these excellent restoration programs.)
The logs procured from these restoration projects are second- or third-growth, smaller diameter trees that produce Select Tight Knot grade cedar products, a very high grade with much beauty and durability.
These smaller trees are ideal for tongue-and-groove, bevel, and ship-lap style planks, which require minimal energy resources to mill.
In spite of its decades-long lifespan, cedar is of course biodegradable, taking care of the end-of-life problems that plague vinyl, cement board, and other manufactured siding products.
And because all of our cedar is sourced from forests less than 100 miles from Portland, the carbon costs associated with transporting the materials are minimal, relative to other materials.
Photos below: FSC 100% Western Red Cedar siding, select tight knot
Photo at bottom: Cedar finished with the shou sugi ban charring technique
Our live-edge maple slabs are remarkable not just for their size and their beautiful grain patterns, but also for the way in which they come to us:
Generally cut and left as collateral damage from agricultural or timber harvest operations, these maple logs are too big to go to a regular lumber mill. In our post-old growth era, most sawmills have been sized for smaller diameter trees, and logs measuring 20" or more across are simply too big for most mills to bother with.
Instead, these grand trees end up at pulp yards, where the incredible grain patterns, impressive sizes, and rich history of these trees become fodder for the paper-making process. Yes, that's right: these mighty old hardwoods are on the path to becoming paper.
Luckily, our sawyer stalks the pulp yards and rescues the biggest and most beautiful logs, then saws them up into unique and beautiful live-edge slabs, diverting this valuable wood from the waste stream.
These big leaf maple slabs have the warm, rich color for which this species is known, with incredible luster and frequent quilting, curl, and other special grain patterns.
We stock 10/4 live-edge maple slabs in a variety of widths and lengths, each with its own one-of-a-kind grain pattern and edge detail. We can also provide custom sizes for special projects.
Visit our warehouse today and pick out the slab for your special project!
Photo above left: This giant hardwood log is saved from destruction at a pulp yard in the Willamette Valley.
Photo above right: A 36" diameter big leaf maple log awaits the saw and kiln after its rescue from the pulp mill. Many of our slabs still have their moss clinging to the live edges.
Above: Big leaf maple slabs are used extensively throughout the new Danner Boot store at Union Way in Portland.
Above: This one-of-a-kind coffee table by Portland woodworker and carpenter Paul Johnson shows off the exceptional grain patterns for which maple is known.
Above: A transparent stain adds depth and sophistication to this conference table, built by Windfall Lumber.
From fences to planter boxes, juniper is a versatile species that can be used in many applications. We enjoy using this sustainable wood in new ways and helping promote its harvest in Central and Eastern Oregon.
With this in mind, let us introduce our new Juniper Butcher Block! We're stocking these pre-made butcher block panels in a variety of lengths and can customize them to suit your unique projects.
Plus, this butcher block option is quite affordable!
Here are the specifications:
Kiln-dried juniper from restoration projects in Central Oregon
Stocked sizes 1 1/2" x 26 1/2" x lengths up to 8'
Custom sizes up to 48" x 16'
Unfinished, with square edges
Sanded to 120-grit finish