May 17, 2016

Paul Johnson: Making plywood sexy

By KC Eisenberg

We don't often give plywood much credit. It's usually covered up with other wood, bearing loads and building boxes but not really getting much attention. Local carpenter Paul Johnson changes that dynamic and crafts amazing things with this otherwise basic material. Paul posseses the uncommon ability to make plywood sexy.

Paul is a dedicated patron of our FSC-certified plywood products. He uses our AC-grade and maple plywoods for his custom cabinetry and built-in projects, each of which demonstrate his keen attention to detail and the fine quality of his craftsmanship.

Oftentimes the plywood receives a sleek coat of paint, but Paul also likes to use our pre-finished maple plywood for the cabinet boxes and interiors. Recently he also used our Willamette Valley Walnut architectural plywood for a built-in media unit, highlighting its exquisite book-matched patterns, framing it with solid walnut lumber, and finishing it with OSMO PolyxOil.

Paul excels at collaborating with clients to tuck custom cabinetry into a home's nooks and crannies, turning otherwise awkward void spaces into functional and beautiful storage areas. He says, "I want to make everything fit exactly and make sure no space is wasted."

Paul is unusual among general contractors in that he builds and installs most of the cabinetry and finish work himself. "I want to be here by myself doing all this stuff, paying attention through the entire process," he says. This hands-on ownership and close attention to detail is evident in Paul's work, as seen in the photos below.

You can view more of Paul's work here:

All photos credit Nina Lee Johnson.

May 11, 2016

Fieldwork Design gets familiar with local wood

By KC Eisenberg

It’s one thing to specify a type of wood for a design project. It’s quite another to get to know that wood, to put a chunk of it up to a sawblade and learn how it behaves, how it feels in your hands, and what it has to say about finishes. The design team at Fieldwork Design love this process of getting familiar with the woods they use for their design projects.

Fieldwork approaches each project individually, designing and building unique fixtures with materials that are carefully selected for each space. The design team conceptualizes the space and then works with their in-house woodshop to build one-of-a-kind furniture pieces, light fixtures, and architectural features for it.

One of Fieldwork's designers, Tim Fouch, goes through phases with the woods he selects for his projects. He recently went through an oak phase, incorporating our Oregon white oak architectural plywood and solid lumber into several residential and commercial projects. In each of these projects, he paired the oak with different materials, giving each space a completely different look even though the same wood was used. At Upper Left Roasters in SE Portland, large surfaces covered in wide planks of oak join copper-stained concrete and glossy white objects for a crisp, modern feel. For a tech office build-out in Portland, oak was stained deep black or arranged in elaborately angled windowframes for a hip, young aesthetic to match the company's branding – the same wood in both projects, but expressed in vastly different ways.

Right now Tim’s team is exploring juniper, using it for a massive outdoor bench at Doernbecher Children’s Hospital and potentially for footbridges throughout Forest Park. Tim chose juniper for these projects because of its legendary durability, but when he got a piece of the wood into his hands and under a sander he was surprised by the beauty of the grain and the colors of the wood.

We’re eager to see the beautiful and trend-setting ways Fieldwork expresses juniper and our other exceptional wood products in their future projects.

You can view more of Fieldwork's work here.

Photo at top: The detail of the custom solid oak tables made for Upper Left Roasters.
Photos below: Evidence of Tim's Oregon white oak phase. Upper Left Roasters showcases wide planks of Oregon white oak on its service counter and the soffits above; the BeFunky office in NE Portland features black-stained white oak and custom architectural features made by Fieldwork's fabrication shop.

All photos by Brian Walker Lee Photography.

April 20, 2016

Top 2 Designs for Easy Juniper Raised Beds

By KC Eisenberg

Juniper lumber is an ideal wood for building raised garden beds. It is long-lasting, chemical-free, eco-friendly, and naturally beautiful. Here are our Top 2 ways to build fast and easy raised beds using this wood.

1. The Economy Box: This simple design for a 4' x 2' raised bed uses 4 pieces of 2"x6"x8' juniper lumber, screwed together at the corners with exterior-grade screws. This box can be built with our surfaced juniper lumber for a more polished look (see photo at left) or with our rough landscaping lumber for a more rustic look (photo in middle). This design is lightweight and easy to handle. It is also well-suited for small garden spaces. The design can be adjusted to make different dimensions of beds or can be built with 4"x4" posts at the corners instead of the 2"x6" dimension (see photo at right).

2. The Hardware-Free Box: Our hefty 5x5 and 6x6 juniper landscaping timbers can be stacked in an overlapping pattern at the corners and filled with dirt for raised beds. The large timbers generally provide enough weight that screws or additional hardware are not necessary (see photos below). This design is best for low-impact areas where children or pets will not be climbing on them. (For additional support, holes can be drilled vertically into the corners of the posts so metal rods can be inserted to prevent movement). 

April 13, 2016

Top 3 Ways to Use Campground Blue Pine

By KC Eisenberg

We're all familiar with pine paneling on the walls. It's a well-known rustic look, evocative of mountain lodges and the Wild West. But what else can we do with it? In what new and interesting ways can pine be expressed? 

Our Campground Blue Pine is known for its exceptional color patterns. It earns its name: Because of the mountain pine beetle, the wood has incredible blue striping that pops against the vanilla tones of the pine. It looks fantastic in modern spaces, especially when paired with concrete, white tile, or stainless steel.

Here are three of our favorite ways to show off this gorgeous wood:

1. Countertops: Our Campground Blue Pine makes gorgeous countertops and butcher block surfaces! We love this lightweight, easy-to-mill surface when used in modern, sleek spaces like the ADU shown below. This ADU was designed by Polyphon and built by JRA and uses our Campground Blue Pine for its countertops, flooring, and trim.

2. Floors: Campground Blue Pine is a lightweight, inexpensive option for solid wood flooring that adds color and interest. It is available in standard widths and wide plank styles, too!

3. Architectural panels: Blue pine is a sleek and modern choice for retail spaces and reception desks. We love the Torzo panels that were milled into ultra-durable, ultra-modern, and very memorable doors and accent walls that are shown in the commercial space below. Torzo infuses our Campground Blue Pine with acrylic at their factory in Woodburn, OR. The resulting panels are suitable for high-impact commercial installations including flooring, table tops, and wall cladding (check out more photos here).

April 07, 2016

Jonathan Nussbaum: Making Local Wood Work

By KC Eisenberg

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.”

Jonathan used an adjustable prototype to find a height, width, depth, tilt and back support shape that will comfortably fit both of their frames. Jonathan uses traditional techniques like Mortise & Tenon joinery and bent laminations for curved parts like chair back slats and a sharp curve in the table legs connectors.

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!

April 06, 2016

New Product: Kiln-Dried Surfaced Juniper Lumber

By KC Eisenberg

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. 

March 16, 2016

Juniper and minimalism - say what?

By KC Eisenberg

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.

March 02, 2016

Sustainability: Our Definition

By KC Eisenberg

With a name like Sustainable Northwest Wood, we're expected to have some solid answers for what sustainable forestry entails. We are frequently asked this question by people who wish to learn more about where their wood comes from and how to make it better. 

In our view, sustainable forestry depends on four key criteria:

1. Regionally sourced - It is important to select building materials that require the fewest transportation miles in order to minimize the release of greenhouse gases. But regional sourcing is also important because it enables accountability: When the wood is coming from a forest or rangeland just over the mountain, the end users can verify with their own eyes that the type of forestry producing it isn't destroying an ecosystem. When the wood is coming from the other side of the planet, this level of accountability becomes challenging. All of the wood we offer is sourced from the Pacific Northwest; within a day's drive you can visit any of the forests that provide our wood. Regional sourcing also fosters sustainable economic development in the Pacific Northwest and supports the development of conservation-based jobs.

2. Restoration - Modern forestry must do more than just minimize the harm to the forests that produce our wood. We believe that in order for our forests to continue to yield sustainable quantities of high-quality, high-value wood, foresters must work to improve their ecological health. When poor forestry practices are implemented, unhealthy trees become prone to destruction from pests like the mountain pine beetle or from catastrophic fires. By working to restore the ecological health of the forest, we produce healthier, bigger trees that are more resistant to pests and fire. This is why we prefer wood from restoration projects like The Nature Conservancy's Ellsworth Preserve in Washington or Camp Adams in Molalla. This is also why we so strongly support juniper: its harvest helps restore the grassland ecosystem of the high desert.

3. Upcycled and salvaged wood - Many of our most beautiful madrone and maple logs are pulled from chip yards where they were sent to be turned into pulp. It astonishes people that such useful, valuable wood could be sent into the waste stream, but many commercial logging operations still focus nearly exclusively on softwoods like fir and pine. The hardwood logs are treated like so much by-catch: unwanted species that were just in the way. We believe that by instead creating a market for this hardwood lumber, we can reduce the demand for imported wood products while also creating a market-based incentive for land owners in our region to protect and cultivate a diversity of species on their properties.

4. Forest Stewardship Council™ - FSC® Certification is one of the best indications that the wood you're buying has been responsibly harvested. FSC is a third-party organization that carefully audits the practices of its members from the forest all the way through the retail outlet. FSC offers the most advanced forestry management of all certification agencies. The FSC properties we work with are all located in our region and often also supply wood from restoration projects

We encourage questions and conversations about sustainable forestry and wood products. If you have questions about this topic, or if you wish to share your ideas with us, please feel free to reach out to us with your thoughts.
February 29, 2016

Butcher blocks and juniper landscaping timbers now available in California!

By KC Eisenberg

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.

February 02, 2016

Karuna II Cedar: A local, low-carbon siding solution

By KC Eisenberg

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. 

When it came time to source a beautiful, long-lasting siding product with a minimal carbon footprint, the project managers called Sustainable Northwest Wood. We provided Western Red Cedar in a Select Tight Knot grade for the warm wood that sheaths this handsome building.

This cedar was harvested from a forest maintenance program less than 40 miles from the jobsite. The maintenance program uses super-selective logging designed to promote forest health. No, that's not greenwashing -- these cedar trees came from Camp Adams, a private church camp in Molalla whose forest is managed to FSC standards by Portland forestry firm Trout Mountain (see photo at bottom). This is no commercial logging operation: Trout Mountain manages the forest with the goal of keeping it healthy and whole, ensuring a diverse representation of species and ages.

By partnering with Sustainable Northwest Wood, the project developers were able to obtain this super-local, low-carbon siding and have it custom milled, kiln dried, and fire treated within weeks of ordering it. From harvest site to jobsite, including the additional processing and fire treatment, the wood traveled less than 100 miles. 

The selection of this wood also supported the work of seven local small businesses. This was an important factor for the developers, for whom social equity is important.

The project architects, from Portland firm Holst, say they are happy with the results. The cedar contributes warm colors that both the architects and the building's owner wanted. The design team also likes that the cedar is Select Tight Knot and not clear, which looks more real and "less plasticky" than clear cedar would look.

We're proud to have our Western Red Cedar showcased on this landmark building.

Read more about this building's innovative features in this New York Times article.

Karuna building photos by Linda Nagel. Forest photos by SparkTank.