The first thing you feel when entering Jonathan Nussbaum's woodshop is the palpable passion that fills the space: Jonathan's passion for craftsmanship and, above all, his passion for wood. Jonathan handcrafts bespoke pieces of heirloom-quality furniture using responsibly harvested lumber sourced from members of the Build Local Alliance, including Sustainable Northwest Wood.
Jonathan is an unlikely woodworker. He formerly worked as a rafting guide, floating boats down the rapids of the Rogue, Clackamas, and other landmark rivers of the Pacific Northwest. He found himself frustrated at the responses of paddlers when they passed one of the many clearcuts on the hillsides flanking the Rogue. If we can't get forestry right in Oregon, the land of trees, Jonathan mused, where can we? What we need is more businesses that demonstrate responsible forestry can work!
So a few years later he embarked on a woodworking career, committed to using local, responsibly harvested wood as the core of his work, not as an aftermarket add-on. Despite having no professional furniture-making experience, he pursued an apprenticeship with master furnituremaker Kai Fuhrmann until Kai relented and hired him. At the time, he was "so green it's almost embarrassing; you don't know what you don't know," he says, but he dedicated himself to learning the craft and, a few years later, established his own shop to focus exclusively on the local, beautiful woods that first ignited his passion for woodworking.
On the day I visited, Jonathan was busy working on a custom madrone dining table with Dutch pull-out leaves that are concealed beneath the table top when not in use. He was also crafting a set of chairs and benches to match. Jonathan described his process of custom-fitting the chairs to his clients, who were almost resigned to having uncomfortable chairs as up to that point they had been unable to find something that suited both of them due to their different heights.
“Chairs are like blue jeans," Jonathan says. "There are a lot of points of contact and the fit is very personal. Once you’ve sat in a chair that truly fits, you never want to give it up.”
He and his clients visited our warehouse to hand-select the colorful pieces of madrone for the tabletop, benches, and chair backs, choosing pieces for their book-match patterns and for the sculptural quality of the mineral streaking in the wood.
Jonathan has been a customer of Sustainable Northwest Wood since 2009. We're grateful to work with him as we pursue our shared goal of transforming the market for local wood products.
Click here to view more of Jonathan's work.
Photos above: Jonathan uses a prototype to demonstrate the frame-fitting design of the custom chairs; the unfinished madrone tabletop with its exquisite colors and patterns
Photos below: Jonathan's custom design for the madrone table and bench with the extension leaves concealed beneath the table top; the sheets of madrone waiting to be bent laminated into curved table and bench leg connectos. These were sliced from 4/4 and 8/4 lumber!
This spring we're rolling out a new product for landscaping and garden projects: Kiln-dried surfaced juniper lumber. These boards are surfaced on all four sides with eased edges for a cleaner, more refined look than our rough-sawn landscape timbers typically offer.
The surfacing also brings out the beautiful figure and interesting character that is typical for juniper. These are #2 Grade juniper so they will have more character than our #1 juniper decking.
These boards are a nominal 2"x6" dimension and available in 8' lengths, with an 1/8" radius eased edge.
When most folks think of juniper wood, a very rustic, mountain-lodge look comes to mind. But when Portland's creative minds decide to apply their design sensibilities to juniper, the possibilities emerge.
We are seeing bold new expressions of juniper's unique character in design projects around town, with beautiful results.
The new headquarters for Swift Agency in NW Portland use 5,000 square feet of juniper flooring with a whitewash finish and clear sealer. This flooring flows from an outdoor courtyard through a glass wall into the interior office space, then throughout the multi-level offices. It is paired with steel planter boxes, exposed concrete, and black and white walls for a minimal aesthetic.
The figure and character in the juniper add significant interest to an otherwise spare design, as well as warmth and texture. Juniper was an excellent choice for this space because of its durability in the outdoor courtyard. Its remarkable density will also help it wear well in this high-impact space for many years to come.
Another Portland space that uses juniper for a minimalist, modern look is the WM Goods shop on SW Alder. This downtown boutique used our pre-made juniper butcher block for its retail displays, where it makes an organic-looking, wabi sabi background for the design-centric wares placed on top. We especially love the wall of floating shelves and the hanging displays.
It is exciting to see how Portland's design community is embracing this local, abundant wood. We can't wait to see what other gorgeous projects emerge that use juniper in new ways.
California folks rejoice! Our chemical-free, long-lasting juniper landscaping timbers are now being stocked at Mead Clark Lumber Company in Santa Rosa. Juniper is an ideal replacement for pressure-treated wood and is longer lasting and more cost-effective for raised garden beds than cedar or redwood. It also supports grassland restoration projects in Oregon's high desert, and it's beautiful! Click here to learn more about where juniper is harvested and the community programs that it supports.
Our solid hardwood butcher block is also now being offered through Ecohome Improvement in Berkeley. Stop by their showroom to see a display of our beautiful hardwood solid surfaces in person and place your order for this affordable, elegant, durable countertop solution.
This new building at Fremont and N Williams in Portland stands like a sculptural sentinel over the rapidly changing neighborhood. It was designed to be memorable, but also to reflect the strong environmental values of its owners.
Read more about this building's innovative features in this New York Times article.
Karuna building photos by Linda Nagel. Forest photos by SparkTank.
You want to put in long-lasting raised garden beds, but you want to do it without chemicals, and for less money than cedar and redwood costs. How?
We get asked this question all the time. Luckily, we've got a perfect answer for you: Juniper!
Juniper is an ultra-durable softwood that is harvested from grassland restoration projects in central and eastern Oregon. According to studies at Oregon State University, it lasts more than 30 years in outdoor, ground contact settings -- much longer than cedar or redwood. It costs significantly less than cedar or redwood, and it is totally natural, untreated, chemical free wood.
On top of all that, it also happens to be gorgeous.
Juniper is commonly used for raised garden beds, retaining walls, garden stairs, fences, decks, and many other outdoor installations. It is also a popular choice for interior projects, too. Click here to see our full gallery of juniper projects.
Juniper landscaping products are in stock and ready to go in the Portland and Seattle metro areas. If you're in another area, ask your local lumberyard to start carrying it, or contact us for a quote for shipping it to you.
When our customers ask us for a good alternative to pressure treated wood, the answer is simple: Juniper.
Across the river, juniper was used for a Street Seat at PSU. This Street Seat was designed and built by PSU architecture students and uses surfaced juniper for a very modern look.
Many vineyards are discovering juniper posts as an organic, chemical-free, long-lasting solution to support their vines.
A to Z Wineworks, the largest wine producer in Oregon, recently switched out their old trellis posts and replaced them with new juniper posts at their vineyards. Many growers are swapping juniper for pressure-treated wood to reduce the chemical contamination of the soils while ensuring that the posts--and their investment in them--endure for many years.
Check out this fantastic video about the project and the reasons why A to Z is choosing juniper for their vineyards:
Here's a beautiful photo from Aubrey Vineyards in Kansas, which installed juniper posts in 2013:
There are many benefits to constructing your raised bed with juniper lumber. Restoration Juniper is long-lasting, beautiful, and chemical-free lumber that supports family-run mills committed to restoring Northwest ecosystems. Juniper lasts much longer than cedar or redwood, up to 50 years or more in ground contact applications because of its naturally high oil content that is decay and rot resistant.
It is genuinely not a good idea to use pressure treated lumber for raised beds: the chemicals can leach into your soil and ultimately into your vegetables. So juniper is a good alternative for the environment AND your health.
Understanding juniper lumber is key to successfully building a raised bed out of Juniper. Juniper landscape timbers come in a variety of sizes. The most common sizes for raised beds are 2"x6"x8' and 2"x8"x8'. Juniper lumber comes from a small tree that has a great deal of character. Landscape grade lumber will often have some bark, wane, knots and is rough sawn. Understanding Juniper’s unique character before you embark on building your raised bed will provide a much more satisfying experience.
Let’s take a look at what is required to build a 4-foot by 4-foot raised bed out of Juniper boards. I chose this size for our example raised bed because it makes sense from a materials standpoint, as there will be little waste. It’s always a good idea to sketch out your project first to take into account the ideal length of lumber you’ll need, as well as how many pieces you’ll need so you can get everything in one trip.
This project will require one 4x4x8 Restoration Juniper timber, four 2x6x8s or 2x8x8s depending on the height of the bed walls, coated (or stainless) 3/16” or 1/4” (min. 3-1/2” long) flat-head or hex-head timber screws, a saw (circular or hand), measuring tape, a pencil, a carpenter’s square (or “speed” square), power drill, drill bit that matches the diameter of the shank (unthreaded portion) of your screws, a drill bit that MATCHES the diameter of the screw threads, and a driver bit (for the drill) or a socket wrench.
The first thing you need to do is decide on the height of the walls e depth of the beds. Beds that are at least 12” deep can support most vegetables. Deeper beds with higher sides, those that are 16” to 18”, are wonderful for limiting back strain. My own raised beds are 24” tall with a 6” ledge running around the top for sitting and for placing garden tools (and the taller beds are the perfect height for very young gardeners).
To create a 12” deep bed you will need 2x6x8 Restoration Juniper, which can be found at Sustainable NW Wood. Our staff can help you select the Juniper that will work for your project. We’re using 8-foot long pieces because the raised bed will be 4’ long and 4’ wide. Two rows of 2x6 per side will get the 12” depth for your bed. If you would like the walls to be taller, two rows of 2x8s will give you a 16” depth, which is close to standard chair height (for comfort). Using 8’ lengths helps to eliminate too much waste.
Start by cutting the 4x4x8 into the correct length using a circular saw, four pieces at 12” long for the 12” walls or four pieces at 16” long for the 16” length. Many circular saws won’t cut all the way through a 4x4 post, so you will have to mark around to the opposite side to make your cuts on the opposite side line up properly. If you don’t have a circular saw, you can also use a handsaw, it will just take some muscle.
Now measure your boards to make sure each cut will give you a 4’ section. Make all your cuts at once so that everything will be ready to assemble. You will need to cut two pieces of 4’ for each side. You now have everything cut to the right lengths to get started on building your raised beds.
Fasten the 2x6 Juniper boards to the posts using the timber screws (which are very rust-resistant). You will need to be careful to position the screw holes so they won’t hit each other coming in from a right angle. To do this, you will alternate our holes at high and low points on the post at each corner for each 2x6.
Since our screws are at least 3-1/2” long, we will take our drill bit that is the diameter of the SHANK of the screw and drill the FULL depth of the length of the screw. This is the PILOT hole; this is the hole that the screw threads bite into. Then follow this with the larger drill bit (sized to the diameter of the screw threads) JUST to the thickness of our outside board. This is the CLEARANCE hole; this allows you to easily pass the screw through the first board and allows ALL of the attaching power of the threads to be applied to the second board (your upright post).
Screw the first board to a 4x4 post making sure it is flush with the bottom. Repeat this at the opposite end of the board with a second post. Secure the second row in the same manner. Now you are ready for the next side. As explained earlier, stagger the attachment holes on the right angle of the post and screw the bottom tier to the post and repeat with the second tier.
Now you are ready to set the 90 degree angles of the two sides. This can be done using a carpenter’s square, or, if you only have a measuring tape, the 3-4-5 method (SEE ILLUSTRATION). It is important to make sure each corner makes a 90 degree angle or your raised bed will not be square. You just have to repeat these steps for the two remaining sides, making sure each board is secured to the post with two timber screws.
When you’re finished, get someone to help you position it where you want the bed, making sure it gets plenty of sun. I recommend laying steel mesh (also called ”hardware cloth”) followed by landscaping cloth on top before you add the soil. This allows for good drainage while keeping gophers and other unwanted critters out. Pick a screen size that is less than 1” squares; DO NOT use window screen. If you want to put a layer of gravel before the soil goes in, this will further aid drainage, also. I recommend 3/4–minus gravel (can be purchased in bags) about 2” deep.
Basically, you’re done. But if you want to add a sitting/tool ledge around the top, remember to figure in extra 2x6s for that; these can also be added later if you decide.
There you have it! Now it’s time to fill it up with your favorite mix of garden soil and other soil amendments and you’ll be ready to plant your healthy garden. Your new Restoration Juniper raised bed will give you many years of gardening enjoyment and without the introduction of any harsh chemicals from the lumber.