This week we are learning about poplar; scientifically known as the Populus genus. This hardwood is native to most of the Northern Hemisphere and doesn’t really receive a lot of praise as a fine building material. However, it is used for a number of differing applications. Poplar trees can grow from anywhere between 49-164 feet tall with trunks reaching diameters of up to 8 feet. Young trees are recognizable for their smooth, white to greenish or dark grey bark which in some species develops rough deep fissures through out the aging process. The leaves of poplar often turn a bright gold to yellow during autumn and the spiral shape of their leaves create a twinkling appearance in the breeze making this tree very aesthetic at the change of the season before the leaves fall. Poplar species of the cottonwood variety play an important roll in wetland environments while the aspen species of the tree are some of the most important boreal (subartic climate) broadleaf trees. This being the ecosystem scientists believe to be most responsible for positively interacting with our atmosphere.
Having the advantage of growing very big very rapidly, poplars are a “popular” choice for ornamental plantings. It should be noted however that the root systems of these trees, like willows, grow vigorously and can be very invasive since they are capable of stretching up to 130 feet from center. It is for this reason that care should be taken to consider foundations and pipe systems when planting.
As stated above, poplar is not readily associated with other high quality building materials but its flexibility and close grain give it a great balance of desirable characteristics. Since antiquity poplar has been valued as good shield wood. Most notably used by the Greeks and Etruscans. Its use for shield construction remained “popular” up through the middle ages and was renowned for a durability similar to that of oak while providing a significant reduction in weight.
The most common use for poplar in modern times is to produce pulp wood. It serves well for the manufacturing of paper and has recently become a species of interest for use as an energy crop to produce biomass/bio-fuel. Along with its fast growth cycle poplar produces a high energy in to energy out ratio and large carbon reduction potential. It is also sold as hardwood timber used for pallets and inexpensive plywood. It is grown on a large commercial scale in India for this reason.
If you have ever noticed the similarity between matches and chopsticks it is because they both are commonly made of poplar. Another interesting and sensible common use of poplar is in the fabrication of cores for snowboards. Its low weight and high flexibility make it ideal for this. For those interested in primitive survival skills it should also be noted that poplar works great as a hearth for a bow drill. Along with shield fabrication poplar was commonly used for tanning leather across Europe. The bark’s high tannic acid content make it highly suitable for this purpose. Poplar was also the preferred wood of choice for panel paintings during the renaissance. The Mona Lisa and many other famous early works of the period were done on poplar. It’s white to yellowish color and its capability of accepting paint/finish well make it great for painting applications.
While poplar is not considered to be a top of the line hardwood it is pretty awesome. It makes a great shield, the Mona Lisa is painted on it, chopsticks and snowboards are made from it, and it plays a major role in cleaning the air across all of earth. Not the best for crafting fine furniture but impressive in its uses nonetheless.]]>
Once referred to as the redwood of the East, the American chestnut is a deciduous hardwood that historically made up an overwhelming portion of the forests that stretched from Southern Ontario all the way to Mississippi. Distinguishable from it’s cousins the European Sweet Chestnut, Chinese chestnut, and Japanese chestnut by a few morphological characteristics, like leaf shape, an 1888 issue of Orchard and Garden mentions the American chestnut as being “superior in quality to any found in Europe”. Once an incredibly important source for hardwood timber, American chestnuts have nearly been eliminated by an Asiatic tree fungus in their historical habitat. This epidemic started in the early 1900′s and is known as the Chestnut Blight.
It has been estimated that at one time 25% of the trees in the Appalachian Mountains were American chestnut, and there were over three billion in North America as a whole. Within its historical range today it is estimated that there may only be around 100 mature (60cm/24in diameter) American chestnuts left. Planted American chestnuts can be found in the humid/fungus free western United States, but there are still heavy concentrations of the Asiatic pathogen present in their natural habitat here on the East Coast that prevent saplings from ever reaching maturity.
Chestnut produces wonderful patinas and is capable of having multiple grain characteristics. It can be straight to spiral or interlocked with a coarse uneven texture. Its heartwood usually has a creamy light to medium brown coloring that becomes reddish brown with age, and sapwood that ranges from pale white to light brown. The American chestnut is also hailed for its astounding durability and high tannin content. Easy to saw, split, finish, and very rot resistant. This rare and relatively valuable wood is all around great for timber.
Chestnuts played a very important role in the lives of Eastern Americans up until the blight. The nuts were once an incredibly important food/economic resource. Edible both raw and roasted. The wood itself was at one time particularly valuable on a commercial scale due to it’s fast growth rate in comparison to other hardwoods. For centuries it was used commonly for split rail fencing, shingles, flooring, pier construction, plywood, telephone poles and home construction. As stated above the wood carries a high level of tannin making it very rot resistant.
Today American Chestnut is reclaimed from old barns and other sources and is re-purposed into flooring, furniture, and a multitude of other uses. Wormy chestnut, wood damaged by insects characterized by the small wholes and trenches that appear throughout, while considered a defective grade of lumber has become particularly valuable for its unique, rustic patina.
Before we continue with this post of the Cabinet Types Explained series let me preface this article and all others to come by saying that while this information will be helpful in aiding you in your search for “your” perfect cabinets it by no means should be taken as the be all end all to your decision. If you look to the line of text just above this you’ll notice the “your” in quotes. There are seemingly endless choices to make when picking out your new kitchen cabinets and opinions on what looks the best, what works the best, and what is “the best” are as great in number if not greater than the choices that you must make during the process. With this in mind always remember that cabinet styling is a subjective matter. On the other hand the need to seek out quality, reliable craftsmen to get the job done is not. A trustworthy company that does good work will deliver the functionality and durability you demand of them regardless of style. For this post we will go over some of the attributes that framed cabinets are known for. Enjoy.
What is a face frame:
In cabinet making a face frame serves to obscure the edges of the interior box and provides a fixing point for doors and other external hardware. Some argue that the face frame provides significant structural stability to the cabinets. All agree that it is a key aesthetic feature to consider when picking out your new cabinets. By in large the use of face frames is considered to be a feature associated with traditional cabinetry.
Face frames are made up of intersecting vertical stiles and horizontal rails. Within the frame itself the use of mid-stiles and mid-rails make up individual compartments. Mid-rails separate drawers and mid-stiles usually occur wherever vertical partitions exist within the cabinet box. They can be joined using a number of techniques. Common joining methods include the butt joint and mortise and tenon. For most prefabricated products face frames generally come with stiles and rails measuring 1.5-2 inches in width. When purchasing a truly custom set of cabinets consumers have the ability to distinguish their own preference on rail and stile width.
Aside: It should be noted that the joinery technique used in construction will greatly determine the overall quality of your product and should be taken into careful consideration during the design phase of your project. More on that in later posts-
The material used to construct a face frame will depend on the desired aesthetic. When using hardwoods for cabinet construction the face frame is typically uniform to that used for the doors.
There are a few different ways that doors can be mounted onto framed cabinets. These illustrations from Hardware Source provide few simple representations.
The lip of the face frame may impede functionality and space availability
Face framed cabinets are a traditional style that have been in production for centuries. While arguments have been made that they produce less functionality than frameless as I stated above your decision should be based on what appeals and works for you. To put it simply, if you enjoy the look of framed cabinets then you should employ their use in your home. Always remember that there are countless options available, be sure to do thorough research, and communicate with a trusted professional. Check out our cabinets portfolio for examples.]]>
“The average American’s view of the natural communities of the Southeastern U.S. is that it is comprised mainly of swamps, alligators and big, old moss-hung cypress trees. On the contrary to this view, when early explorers visited the southeastern region they saw “a vast forest of the most stately pine trees that can be imagined, planted by nature at a moderate distance. . . enameled with a variety of flowering shrubs.” Fire defined where the longleaf pine forest was found and fostered an ecosystem diverse in plants and animals. - The Longleaf Alliance The Big Picture“
Considered to be one of several species grouped as a Southern Yellow Pine native to the southeastern United States, the habitat of the Longleaf Pine stretches along the coastal plain from eastern Texas to southeast Virginia and into northern and central Florida. Today these pines can grow 98-115 ft tall and have diameters up to 28 inches. However, it has been reported that in the past they could reach heights of up to 154 ft with diameters of almost 4 ft. It takes 100 to 150 years for a Longleaf Pine to reach maturity, and it is possible for these trees to live up to 500 years.
The needles of the Longleaf pine are known for their length (obviously) and can grow up to 18 inches long. Mature Longleafs naturally prune their lower branches and grow almost perfectly straight. Oddly, for the first 5-12 years of growth the Longleaf pine may not reach heights greater than one to two feet and with it’s long needles it resembles something more grass or bush like. Due to this appearance and lack of vertical growth this early stage of the pine’s life is known as the “grass stage”. At this stage the plant while very resistant to wildfires is an incredibly appealing edible for feral pigs. As it has become well known, feral pigs are currently wreaking havoc across the Southeastern United States. Apparently they always have. It is believed that feral pigs have been playing a major role in shrinking Longleaf Pine numbers since the days of the early American settlers.
The Longleaf pine is not only a preferred snack for unruly swine. It is also very useful for humans. Overtime timber harvesting has destroyed what was once one a dominant species along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts of North America. While this pine’s timber is available in some nurseries within its natural range it is believed that only 3% of the original Longleaf Pine forest remains intact.
Since the first settlers arrived Longleaf Pine has been valued as a prize source for naval stores like resin, turpentine, and timber. Turpentine by itself having hundreds of uses in all facets of human life. As you will see in the picture below it used to be in Vic’s Vapor Rub, a long used “cure all”. The timber is valuable for its high resin content causing it to deter rot far better than many other species. Farmers have been known to dig up resin saturated, rot free tap roots from fields that had been clear cut in the century before. These taproots also hold high demand as fatwood for use as fire kindling. While extremely rot resistant this resin soaked wood is extremely flammable and structures crafted from it burn easily and very hot. This may seem odd due to the fact that while alive the tree is incredibly fire resistant and actually thrives through cycles of natural burning that take place within its environment.
Today Longleaf Pine is commonly used for construction purposes including but not limited to the creation of stringers, roof, trusses, and joists. This wood has also become popular as a reclaimed material due to it’s heavy use in the prior century. As reclaim its straight grain and medium to fine texture make it a popular choice for crafting hardwood flooring, wall paneling, and furniture.
The story of Longleaf Pine and humans is a sad one. What was once thought to be an never ending resource has been endangered for sometime. Oh how beautiful and diverse these “stately pine barrens” must have been prior to our interaction. In closing enjoy these lines from a man far ahead of his time, wilderness preservation advocate and naturalist John Muir.
‘In “pine barrens” most of the day. Low, level, sandy tracts; the pines wide apart; the sunny spaces between full of beautiful abounding grasses, Liatris, long, wand-like Solidago, saw palmettos, etc., covering the ground in garden style. Here I sauntered in delightful freedom, meeting none of the cat-clawed vines, or shrubs, of the alluvial bottoms.’
– John Muir
The Longleaf Alliance
Florida Public Archaeology Network
The Wood Database
To create this custom cabinet finish for the new Urban Farmhouse Market & Cafe (Scott’s Addition Location- coming soon RVA) we first applied a thin coat of Benjamin Moore’s Saybrook Sage (HC-114) and allowed it to dry before applying a watered down- wipe on coat of the darker Benjamin Moore’s Lafayette Green (HC-135). What results is this great pale green that not only appears clean and natural but full of character.
New cabinets are a major purchase for the home. They act as the defining fixture for most kitchens and are always in use once filled with dishes and house wares. Because cabinets play such an important role within the home there are endless style and customization choices available. Finding the type that best fits your needs and budget could be difficult without an understanding of what options are available within these four basic types.
The Four Basic Cabinet Types:
Ready to Assemble- these cabinets are sold with the intention of being low cost. They come prepackaged and are available through all major chain home stores. While ready to assemble cabinets are most often the cheapest option they do have some draw backs. Of all the four grades listed here these cabinets will have the most limited options when it comes to choosing material, style, and size. Due to this their functionality and durability is by far the poorest. Also, as their name states, these cabinets do not come put together and require not only installation but the assembly of the product itself.
Installation: price not included
Stock- these cabinets make up a higher quality selection than the most inexpensive grade, and may offer more choices with regards to styling and materials. Materials used with stock cabinets may range anywhere from particle board to solid wood. However, because stock cabinets are mass produced they offer very little if any customization when it comes to sizing. It should also be noted that style choices will be limited only to what the company is currently producing. While economical, these cabinets like the ready to assemble option are also limited in their functionality and durability due to their lack of quality craftsmanship.
Installation: price typically not included
Semi Custom- these cabinets are considered to fall around the mid range price point. While they may lack the superior craftsmanship of truly custom cabinets this special order type does offer the possibility of some size adjustments, many more style, material, and finish options, and a wider selection of hardware. So in short semi custom cabinets offer some customizable options but not all.
Installation: price typically included
Custom- this type of cabinets offers the best product available, and the most customization possible. Everything is made to order. Sizing, materials, styles, finishes, hardware, and everything in between must be chosen by the consumer and if you work with a reputable company you should be guaranteed the quality handmade workmanship of a skilled artisan.
Installation: price typically included
The cabinet market offers many choices to consumers, and it can be difficult finding what is best for you. If styling and longevity is not important than stock particle board cabinets may fit your needs. If your cabinets need to last and look their best for a long time than custom or semi custom is probably the best option for you. There are so many factors to consider that it is always best to research what all the options of each type are prior to making a decision.
For those looking to get the most out of their cabinet purchase, with our next post we will get more in depth as to the misconceptions about price and available options between semi custom and custom cabinetry. For many the idea of custom cabinetry may seem like an unobtainable dream, but it can be possible for consumers to get a higher quality product with more customization for a better price when working with a custom shop.
Source: Cabinet Types: Which is best for you? by Elizabeth Beeler of HGTV Remodels]]>
What is reclaimed wood?
For wood to be considered “reclaimed” it must have already served a purpose before it is collected and put to new use. Reclaiming materials has always been common practice for boot strapping individuals, communities, and companies. However, popular use of reclaimed wood did not take hold until the later part of the 20th century, and as stated above it just recently became a leading trend in design.
If you have decided that reclaimed wood may be a materials option for your next remodel, renovation, or home furnishing it is of the utmost importance that you understand where it comes from. While it may seem as simple as finding old wood and fashioning it for its new use the reality of the process is far more complex. Because the process of reclaiming wood is complicated it is always best to purchase through an established, trustworthy company.
Where does reclaimed wood come from?
The first step in acquiring reclaimed wood is to find a source. This in itself can involve quite a bit of work with regard to gathering information. Companies who sell reclaimed wood may look to demolition contractors, government agencies, historical societies, and a variety of other contractors to find possible salvage sites.
Next, the company should proceed with a thorough investigation of the proposed site. This may include but is not limited to the age of the building or structure, how it was built, the materials used in construction, what the use of said building or structure was, and the possibility of contaminants being present from original construction or its function during its first life. Research of a possible collection site is quite possibly the most important step of the entire reclamation process. Any structure that was previously used in the manufacturing of chemicals or for the creation of goods that require use of toxic chemicals during production is not safe to gather reclaimed wood from. In addition to chemical contamination there are other factors to consider. A site may not have any of the negative characteristics listed above, but may be covered in lead paint, a highly poisonous coating that at one time was used regularly. A specific example of seemingly good wood to reclaim is a railroad tie. They are abundant and are made up of a lot of workable material, but are treated with creosote a very toxic, strong smelling chemical used for preservation. While they are great to line your driveway with they are not a good fit for the interior of your home.
After a company has conducted intensive research on the site and the materials present are deemed safe for reuse the deconstruction process begins. Deconstruction usually involves a piece by piece removal of usable timber. This is an arduous process and those taking part must be diligent so the timber is not damaged. The product is then sent off and prepared for milling. Upon arrival to the factory the wood is inspected again and a thorough removal of nails, random pieces of metal, and anything else that may have traveled with it must take place. Like deconstruction this is all done by hand.
From this point the reclaimed wood goes through the same process as new growth lumber. It should be kiln dried to a moisture content of six to nine percent. This ensures that the wood is sterile and free of any mold, insects, or worms that may have made a home in it over the years. Once all of this is complete the company should have a usable product ready for resale.
Possible sources of reclaimed wood
As new manufacturing methods were invented and goods made the shift into mass production during the industrial revolution the need for factories and buildings for these enterprises to take place also arose. These structures were built on a grand scale relative to buildings built prior, and at this time wood was still the primary resource for construction. As new technologies emerged many of these once state of the art facilities fell out of use. Though many of these structures are unusable today the materials they are constructed from are still valuable. Most of the large scale reclamation going on today takes place within these monuments of former industrial glory which can yield millions of board footage. Other source examples for reclaimed wood: old saw mills, old barns, retired ships, antique water tanks, storage tanks from old breweries and wineries, old food stuffs tanks, and condemned houses. Imagine a new set of kitchen cabinets crafted from the air tight wood vats formerly used at an old pickle plant. It doesn’t get much cooler than that.
The value of reclaimed wood
Reclaimed wood is not an inexpensive building material. Its high price point comes from the fact that it is difficult to recover and make into a usable product. It should also be noted that many types of wood are finite resources despite the fact that they were once in common use for construction. Certain species are legally unobtainable as new lumber due to their endangered status or outright extinction from over harvesting and disease. Using reclaimed wood is the only option for acquiring many of these rare wood types.
If reclaimed wood is within your project’s budget it can prove to be a very rewarding choice. Reclaimed wood provides an authenticity and aesthetic that is far superior to that of new lumber. While finding a source for reclaimed timber should be left to a professional it is easy for anyone to see the beauty in wood that has slowly created its patina over the course of many decades or even centuries. Each piece is unique and this deliberate process is impossible to replicate in a short amount of time.
Reclaimed wood is different from other materials in the sense that old age does not bring about a fragile state of being. In fact strength and stability are defining characteristics of quality reclaimed wood. Much of it was cut from trees that had centuries to mature prior to human contact, and the lack of air pollution in the past provided trees with a healthier more robust environment to grow making them far stronger than their counterparts of today. Reclaimed wood has already stood the test of time and proven itself as durable.
Reclaimed wood also comes with history and character. Before the reclaimed lumber became your new cabinets or paneling it lived another life. Countless people may have earned their daily living on the factory flooring that you now have in your kitchen. Perhaps a mutiny occurred on the deck of the ship where the planks for your new counter top came from. Multiple generations of farmers may have stored their crops under the structural beam that is now your mantel piece. Maybe your new dining room table was once a tank used to hold a fine wine. These stories become a part of yours when you make use of these materials. Reclaimed wood not only adds beauty to your home it adds intrigue.
Long Table crafted from salvage reclaimed wood and industrial machine parts
Table crafted from reclaimed wood and salvaged machine parts.
Is reclaimed wood a sustainable resource?
On a fundamental level reclaimed wood is a sustainable, environmentally friendly resource. In most cases wood that is not reclaimed is discarded as waste, and trees do not grow as fast as they can be cut down so it is almost always better to recycle, re-purpose, and reuse whenever possible. While this all seems rather obvious there are other factors that should be considered in order to make sure the product you will receive is in fact sustainable. When finding your reclaimed wood consider the sources. Where did the company you are buying from get the wood? Was there long distance shipping involved or was it local? Anything that has traveled in excess of 500 miles is usually deemed non sustainable due to fuel consumption. Was the wood processed in a non wasteful manner? Was the waste created in the process disposed of in the best possible way? There are many more variables to account for when determining if a product can be considered a sustainable resource. Learn about who you plan to work with and ask a lot of questions. The more knowledge you have the easier it will be to make a decision.
Reclaimed wood has become very popular in recent years and we currently have a sizable amount of it available through a number of differing sources. It is impossible to determine how long this supply will last. It is expensive because producing a finished product is challenging, but the end results are often incredibly interesting and even more beautiful. It is also a sustainable resource that has the potential to save a lot of trees. Before purchasing reclaimed wood do your research and learn as much about the company and available products as possible. Being a good consumer is important when making decisions to improve your home.We hope this helps you in your search for the perfect cabinets, table, shelves, or any other project made of wood.]]>
Maple trees are a common symbol of strength and endurance around the world and have been declared as the “national tree” of many countries. Our fair neighbors to the north, Canada, have the leaf of the maple on both their coat of arms and on their flag. As a symbol of strength and endurance it should come as no surprise that this hardwood is popular for its shock resistance and durability. These characteristics make it useful in many ways.
Maple has long been popular for making cabinets and furniture in the United States. It can posses a straight, curly, or wavy grain and it’s natural patina makes it a great choice for bright, airy spaces in which a uniform, clean appearance is desired. The natural make up of maple also makes it suitable for refinishing in a large variety of colors and stains. Often this is done to resemble other types of wood since maple cabinets and furniture can be crafted at a lower cost than many of the other popular hardwood choices used in cabinetry and furniture making.
In addition to the characteristics that make it a great choice for furniture and cabinetry, maple is what is known as a “tonewood”. Meaning it carries sound waves well. Maple’s innate hardness produces a bright sound making it a popular choice for guitar necks and fret boards. What is known as quilted or flamed maple is very popular for use in making carved guitar tops. This unique style of wood grain has become iconic through its use in crafting Gibson Les Paul guitars.
While not as common as hickory or ash, Sam Holman of Sam Bats introduced the maple bat to Major League baseball in 1998. While the hardness of maple makes it work well for hitting baseballs these bats do tend to shatter when they do break raising some concern over safety and their use in the game. Baseball is not the only sport maple makes an appearance in. Sugar Maple, also known as hard maple, is the all around preferred wood for crafting pool ques, bowling pins, and the flooring for the bowling lanes.
The Sugar, or hard, maple also provides an incredibly popular food item, maple syrup (obviously). An absolute must have in the cabinet or pantry. Many of us can not imagine a big breakfast without the image of a syrup drowned plate coming to mind. While other species of maple can be tapped for their sap in order to make syrup none work as well as the sugar maple. Hence the name. It takes roughly 40 liters of Sugar maple sap to produce 1 liter of syrup.
In conclusion we see that this hardwood has many, many uses. It can be crafted into fine custom cabinetry, a bowling pin, an instrument, or maybe a bat, and it’s delightful boiled down sap makes breakfast time rival desert. A symbol of strength and endurance across the world may the maple tree flourish and continue to provide for us and us for it.
Van Jester Woodworks]]>