October 12, 2017

Forests need fires to flourish

By KC Eisenberg

The photos of the burns are shocking, and it’s impossible not to react emotionally: It looks like actual hell to see the charred remains of our favorite hiking trails, to see the blackened, ghostly sticks that were just recently lush green trees.

But we must remember that, to varying degrees, our Northwest forests evolved to burn. These fires, as shocking as they are to our eyes and hearts, are an essential component of forest health in the Pacific Northwest. Many species of trees and animals, including Sequoias, lodgepole and jack pines, and Melanophila beetles, require periodic fires to reproduce. The fleeting burnt landscape is home to dozens of unique species that can only survive in a recent burn. Pollinators thrive in the springtime blooms of sunny open areas. Soils are nourished as burnt wood decays. And then, ever so quickly, the forest begins to regrow.

Our forests need fires – the right kind of fires – to flourish.

Evidence shows that the best actions we can take in modern Western forests are an increasing tolerance for burns coupled with strategically-placed restoration projects that reduce fuel loads, thin overcrowded stands of young trees, and work to restore forests rich with trees of diverse ages and species. In areas that have historically been heavily impacted by logging, this work takes on extra urgency, as these areas are often the most prone to uncharacteristic fires.

Human disruption to the natural, healthy fire cycle is, we’re learning, often far more damaging than the fires themselves. When we enact policies to stomp out fires as soon as they start, we’re setting up forests for larger, more damaging burns down the road. If we go in haphazardly after a burn to “salvage” the standing dead, our heavy equipment compacts the soil and removes legacy trees that provide shade and important habitat.

And when we clear-cut vast acreage only to replant in dense, impenetrable monocrops, as we have done across millions of acres of the forested West, we’re asking for sick, stressed, dried-out and defenseless trees – in short, we’re asking for catastrophe.

Commercial logging projects are often not designed with restoration in mind, but there are increasing examples of successful projects that restore forests while also providing logs to local mills, and logging jobs to local economies. We’re proud to source wood from Malheur Lumber Company that is procured through the Blue Mountain Forest Partners, and we hope that in the near future, more of this type of lumber is available.

We also hope that, rather than using shock-and-awe photos and dire news reports as an excuse to open up new areas to extractive logging, our elected officials use this opportunity to boost funding for evidence-based, collaborative restoration projects that are designed to restore forest health and biodiversity while also supporting the growth of local economies.
September 28, 2017

New larger sizes of butcher block slabs now in stock!

By KC Eisenberg

We're adding a larger size to our selection of in-stock, ready-to-go butcher block slabs: 1 1/2" x 40" x lengths of 4' through 8'.

This larger size is a quick and economical solution for island tops, tables, and other areas that need more coverage. They're in the side-grain style, unfinished, with square edges. They're all made of solid, kiln-dried, locally grown wood.

We're still offering the standard size of 1 1/2" x 26 1/2" x lengths of 4', through 10'. And we can make many custom sizes and styles as well!
September 18, 2017

Project Profile: Cowhorn Winery

By KC Eisenberg

Nestled in the sun-dappled foothills of Southern Oregon's Applegate Valley, Cowhorn Winery makes award-winning, Biodynamic-certified wines. Because they're in daily, direct contact with the soils and ecosystem that produce the grapes upon which their wines rely, when it came time to build a new tasting room, Cowhorn's owners insisted on doing it with only the most responsible, sustainable building products available.

Working with Portland-based general contractor Green Hammer and the design team at 2Yoke, they planned a light-filled, airy space that would meet the stringent criteria of the Living Building Challenge. To achieve this goal, they constructed the buildings with our FSC Certified, locally-manufactured dimensional lumber and plywood. The exterior of the tasting room features FSC 100% Western Red Cedar, specially milled with a custom profile.

The winery also features expansive outdoor areas for alfresco enjoyment of the wines -- these spaces were constructed with FSC cedar and our Restoration Juniper lumber, which also meets Living Building criteria.

July 03, 2017

Introducing FSC Port Orford Cedar

By KC Eisenberg

Sustainable Northwest Wood is proud to announce the newest species in our family of wood products: Port Orford Cedar.

Port Orford Cedar is a native evergreen that grows only in the coastal mountains of Southern Oregon and Northern California. It is renowned for its strength, stability, and structural integrity. Ours is sourced exclusively through Walker Creek Ecoforestry, an intentional living community near Coquille, Oregon. This community consists of 365 forested acres that comprise two-thirds of the Walker Creek watershed. It is protected under a conservation easement with the Southern Oregon Land Conservancy and is managed to the exacting standards of the Forest Stewarship Council.

Chip and Jennifer Boggs have been stewards of the property since 1989.  In 2001, a forest plan was written by Jerry Becker of EcoForestry Management, and in 2005 the forestry business was born, selling 1000 board feet of alder logs to a small local mill.  From 2007 to 2014, the Boggses hired local sawyers with portable mills to produce lumber. In 2014 they were able to acquire their own Woodmizer mill, which was an antique contraption dating back to 1989. Partly due to their recent sale of Port Orford Cedar to us, they have just upgraded to a brand new Woodmizer LT35.

Otherwise, Chip notes, the business is not equipment intensive: two saws, a Kubota tractor with a PTO-driven winch, a 16 foot trailer, and a 1984 diesel pickup comprise the Walker Creek “fleet," as he calls it.

Besides being a steady, part-time income for Chip and Jen, the forestry business provides a way to manifest their land conservation ethics and make wood products available to those who share similar ethics. We are very pleased to be working with them for the Port Orford Cedar.

We are currently stocking full dimension, rough Port Orford Cedar in 1x6 and 2x6 dimensions. Lengths are random, 8' to 16'. Custom products including decking and surfaced lumber are available.

Click here to view our Port Orford Cedar webpage and gallery.
May 31, 2017

Project Profile: Campground Blue Pine at Breakside Brewery

By KC Eisenberg

When it comes to Breakside Brewery, the award-winning beer and excellent food are generally all the reasons people need to visit again and again. But at their new Slabtown location in NW Portland, we've got another great reason: The show-stopping Campground Blue Pine in the Pendleton Room.

This private dining and event space was designed to be a modern interpretation of traditional Northwest themes. Pendleton-patterned draperies adorn the floor-to-ceiling windows and custom upholstered dining chairs. The naturally-stained wood was a perfect choice to complement the colors and themes in this space: The wall paneling looks fresh and modern, and the natural wave of the live-edge communal table softens and warms the space.

Our Campground Blue Pine was sourced from beetle-kill and fire-salvage trees in Central and Southern Oregon. We work with small mills, including Malheur Lumber Company in John Day, for this special wood.

Craftsmanship by Clarkbuilt LLC and Mallet PDX.
May 24, 2017

Top 5 Reasons Why Sustainable Northwest Wood is Portland's Most Awesome Lumber Yard

By KC Eisenberg

Here are some of the reasons why Sustainable Northwest Wood is Portland's most rockin' place to buy lumber and wood products:

1. Local and sustainable sourcing - Everything we carry is from the Pacific Northwest and is grown on forests managed to the standards of the Forest Stewardship Council™ (FSC) or as part of stewardship programs restoring native ecosystems.  We are 100% committed to sustainable wood -- it is our entire product offering, not just a small percentage of what we carry. 

We also work to shrink the size of our regional "woodshed" (think foodshed but for lumber) and provide products sourced as close to home as possible. This focus allows us to be the premier lumber supplier for Living Building Challenge projects in our region. Because we care deeply, we know more. No lumberyard knows more about Northwest woods than us.

2. Support for small sawmills - We are guided by the mission of supporting small mills in rural communities, bolstering sustainable economic development and job creation. We provide our sawyers with fair compensation, regardless of what the lumber commodity market tries to dictate. By working directly with local mills, we are also able to offer our specialty products at highly competitive prices.

3. Convenient inner-city location - Enjoy a hot cup of coffee and tell us about your project. Come to our inner Eastside showroom and we will help match you needs with the perfect NW species with the look, performance and price that you are after. Easy access for cars, trucks, and bikes. Come visit us today!

4. Large product selection - From framing timbers to flooring, rustic landscaping timbers to high-quality hardwoods, we've got lumber products for every part of your project. Click here to see our interior finishes, exterior lumber, and framing lumber and plywood.

5. Support a non-profit organization - We're a wholly-owned subsidiary of the conservation non-profit Sustainable Northwest and the first lumberyard to be owned by a non-profit. Sustainable Northwest works throughout the Pacific Northwest to forge collaborative solutions that restore forests, rivers, rangelands, and rural economies. Click here to learn more about their important work.

May 23, 2017

Juniper retaining walls: Long lasting and beautiful design options

By KC Eisenberg

Juniper is an ideal solution for building a wood retaining wall. It is long lasting (30+ years in ground-contact installations), free of chemicals and creosote, and has a beautiful, natural look to it that other types of wood simply cannot offer. Learn more about this wood and the ecosystem restoration projects from which it comes.

Here are some popular styles of juniper retaining walls and the specific lumber dimensions that were used to create them:

Juniper 2x6 stacked and supported with 4x4 vertical posts (photo credit Inner City Farm):

Stacked 6x6 timbers:

Stacked 5x5 timbers paired with decomposed granite:

More ideas for juniper retaining walls can be seen on this Pinterest board

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.