Blog

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.



January 26, 2016

What is a good alternative to pressure treated wood for raised beds?

By KC Eisenberg


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.

January 21, 2016

Take a seat! Juniper used for Street Seats mini-parks in Portland

By KC Eisenberg

As awareness of juniper grows, projects that use it are getting more and more interesting. Designers are expanding far beyond raised garden beds, using juniper in new ways with eye-catching and bar-raising results.

Recently we've seen juniper used for a number of Street Seats around Portland. Street Seats are miniature outdoor parks that transform street-side parking spaces into design-savvy seating for pedestrians and diners. Juniper is an excellent choice for these projects due to its outdoor durability and its connection to place

We love the installation at Bonfire in Southeast Portland, designed by Propel Studio and ADX, where black stain was used to mimic a shou sugi ban look. Here, the rustic nature of rough juniper landscaping timbers was not only embraced, but emphasized.



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.

May 11, 2015

Organic Vineyards Discover Juniper

By Tamra Rooney

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:


March 24, 2015

Wood and Politics, tis the season to roll-up our sleeves

By Terry Campbell

Sustainable Northwest Wood is focused on transforming the wood products industry to improve natural landscapes while providing our customers with amazing products.  On a daily basis we do this by using business and economic tools, sometimes we need to request help from state and local governments to nurture a concept.  Oregon’s 78th legislative assembly began on Monday February 2, 2015 and there are two causes that are directly related to how we do business and why. 

Two House bills (HB 2997 and HB 2998) are focused on improving the supply chain for juniper.  Through loans and grants the state of Oregon will strengthen the juniper sawmilling business and allow those mills to potentially hire more rural Oregonians.   A favorite statistic that is used when demonstrating the importance of rural employment in Oregon goes like this: 1 job in Harney County is economically equivalent to 208 jobs in Multnomah County.  The take away here is that rural employment is very important and industries that provide rural Oregonians with an opportunity should be a priority. 

This cause along with many other positive environmental factors was reason enough for our President, Ryan Temple, to head to Salem, OR to testify on behalf of these House Bills.  He shared part of his testimony.  “Juniper utilization presents a unique opportunity to merge economic, ecological and community interests.  While the potential is tremendous there are still significant obstacles that must be overcome.  Juniper entrepreneurs tend to be geographically isolated, under-capitalized and daunted by the challenges of a fledgling industry.  However, with strategic support from NGO’s and public agencies a juniper industry can be established that creates jobs through the restoration of ecosystems.  It is encouraging to see stakeholders across political and ideological divides working together to take this movement forward.”

The second sustainable wood products related issue that is running through the legislature is centered on the concept of ‘urban lumber.’  Urban lumber as conceived in these bills is not just what we know as urban salvage (trees that die or are the result of windfall)  but it also puts an emphasis on planting trees in an urban setting for future use as lumber. House Bill 2985 creates policies to give urban lumber a legal framework and House Bill 2984 asks for funding to create an urban lumber pilot co-op model in Clackamas County. The co-op will make it possible for landowners in the county at all scales to plant trees, track them with GPS, and utilize the wood in the future. This program will not only stop the rampant waste of valuable natural resources but also reforest land and create hundreds of millions of dollars in economic activity for generations to come.

Dave Barmon of Fiddlehead Landscaping is the champion of the urban lumber bills and his vision can be summed-up as, “I firmly believe that this program can revolutionize forestry not only in Clackamas County and Oregon but across the US and eventually the globe.”  A meeting to discuss the urban lumber bills has been scheduled for March, 2015.

We will continue to track the progress of these efforts and keep you informed.

February 23, 2015

Hunting for Hardwoods in Oregon

By Terry Campbell

Living in the Pacific Northwest instills a bioregional pride.  We have the best forests, most beautiful coastline, rich river ecosystems and great homegrown beer, wine and food. It’s no secret that Native Americans sustained for millennia from the bounty that is provided by the forests of the Northwest. What is a secret is the abundance of hardwood species that are naturally growing in these forests. 

With forests that are filled with Pacific Madrone (Arbutus menziesii), Red Alder (Alnus rubra), Myrtlewood (Umbellularia californica), Oregon White Oak (Quercus garryana), and Big Leaf Maple (Acer macrophyllum), it’s a wonder anyone would specify or build with a hardwood that was grown elsewhere. 

However, hunting for hardwoods in the Pacific Northwest, which is dominated by conifers, is a challenge.  Hardwood trees in our forests are unfortunately cut and left to rot, burned in a slash pile, or chipped for paper mills.  Very few ever get to display their beautiful grain pattern and natural wood tone.

With this in mind I drove to Oakland, in southern Oregon's Umpqua Valley, to get a first-hand look at one of our sources of these great wood products, Oregon Hardwood Company.  John Rideout of Oregon Hardwood Company was kind enough to take me for a tour of their facility. 

We met in the sorting facility and perused some beautiful Walnut lumber that had been salvaged from an agricultural use.  Early settlers brought Walnut to Oregon, so it’s not a native species, but the milk chocolate swirling grain pattern stands out amongst other native species. 

John walked me from building to building explaining the complexities of milling and drying Pacific Madrone, Oregon White and Big Leaf Maple.  Much of the lumber units we inspected were destined for our warehouse in SE Portland.

John filled my head with so much knowledge that the next day I had lots of questions for Rod Jacobs of Unique Woods in Elmira, near Eugene. Unique Woods provides us with FSC Big Leaf Maple slabs from an FSC forestland near Rainier, Oregon, and other hardwoods that have been rescued from a chip facility. 

Rod explains the dilemma for most loggers in western Oregon well.  He told me that none of the larger mills that do the majority of purchasing will buy native hardwood logs, so those logs usually end up in the massive log decks of a chip facility near his house, where they are destined to become paper. 

After touring Rod’s kiln drying operation we drove to the chip facility to scrounge for some choice Madrone, Oregon White Oak and Big Leaf Maple logs.  On a cold winter morning we made our way through the log decks spray painting those logs that met his specification.  He showed us how to tell if there was going to be spalting and burling in the log.  We were basically dumpster diving for logs that would make a beautiful desk or dining room table, saving the most incredible hardwood logs from becoming paper.

Once Rod was satisfied that our hunt was successful I thanked him for the species and product knowledge that he provided me.  The next customer that asks me where our hardwoods come from I will be able to share that knowledge and connect them to a place in our region where the wood originates.  You can’t say the same for other surface materials like stone or hardwoods from another region. 

January 14, 2015

Dunn it Again

By Ryan Temple

Congratulations to Dunn Lumber. For the third year in a row Dunn Lumber is the #1 Washington lumber yard for Juniper sales. Juniper is longer lasting and less expensive than Redwood or Cedar and comes from range land restoration projects on the East side of the Cascades. Thanks to Dunn for allowing Seattle to keep its landscaping and gardens organic, while improving watershed health in our high desert ecosystems.
May 07, 2014

Three tips for juniper woodworking projects

By KC

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:

  1. 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).
  2. 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.
  3. 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.

April 21, 2014

How to Care for Your New Butcher Block Countertops

By Tamra

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.

FINISHING:
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.

MAINTENANCE:
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.