Jeff Vasey, Versatile Wood Products Jack-of-All Trades

Jeff Vasey of Versatile Wood Products
Jeff Vasey of Versatile Wood Products. Behind him sits a 100-year-old “mortiser machine.”

As a train filled with lumber roars by, Versatile Wood Product’s mill foreman, Jeff Vasey, takes a break from his normal duties to share his story with me. Jeff is the longest-working employee for Versatile and started with the sister company, Arciform, in 2001. Beginning as a field carpenter, he worked with a small team of four carpenters who built the original Arciform building in North Portland off Skidmore Street and Interstate Avenue. The business owned by Richard and Anne DeWolf’s quickly outgrew that location.

Train tracks off North Randolph street, Portland, OR.
Train tracks off North Randolph street, Portland, OR. Photo by Christopher Dibble

“Arciform outgrew the original shop right away,” says Vasey. “So they bought a second building in the industrial area off North Randolph Street.”

The Arciform shop space was originally only ¼ of the size it is today, and much of it was rented to other tenants. “AWOL Dance Studio would have aerial dancers hanging from the ceilings in one part of the warehouse,” remembers Vasey.

Arciform Acquires Versatile Wood Products

Then, in 2011, the merge happened. Arciform acquired the 30-year-old custom wood manufacturing company, Versatile Sash and Door (now Versatile Wood Products). The aerial dancers no longer dangled from the ceiling and Vasey played a major role in the expansion of the workshop.

Jeff’s devotion to Arciform and Versatile and his pride in his work becomes clear to me as he talks about developing the space.

“As a field carpenter, you’re sort of a jack-of-all-trades. This came in handy for me as an employee of Arciform and Versatile. I helped wire the new building’s shop-space and created a piping/dust-collection system. In addition I remodeled, built and moved equipment as our space and services expanded,” says Jeff.

Jeff explains the many types of wood Versatile carries. Versatile holds over 40 different species of wood and grades.

Jeff Vasey’s Story

“I’ve always had a mechanical-type of brain,” Jeff reflects. He remembers participating in the soapbox derby when he was 9 and 10 years old, where he won the awards for best constructed as well as best designed car.

Raised in Fargo, North Dakota, Jeff Vasey moved to Portland in 1985. I learn that Jeff is not only a carpenter, an engineer and a mechanic, but he’s also an artist.

Art brought Vasey to his wife, Vicky DeKrey, as well as to Oregon. Vasey and DeKrey met at North Dakota State University, where they both majored in art. At first living with a cousin in Washington, DC, they finally followed their favorite professor, Jerry Vanderline, who was originally from Portland, Oregon. As a result, when Vanderline moved back to Portland, he invited them for a visit.

“We toured over 11,000 miles of land on the way. Oregon was by far the most beautiful of all the places I’d been.”

It’s a familiar story to me. My own parents grew up in the flat lands of Oklahoma. When they took a road trip to the Northwest they were completely wonder-struck by the tall trees and lush greenness of it all. Perhaps it is a place that attracts artists.

However, once in Oregon, Jeff Vasey painted less and less. He got into photography, created electronic music, hiked and backpacked. He also started fixing a friend’s home in exchange for living there. After a while he learned of Arciform from a friend who worked there.

Jeff’s Work Today

As we walk through the shop, Jeff explains to me what different tools do.

“This one is probably the oldest machine in the shop. It must be over a hundred years old and is built like a battleship.” Jeff says. “It drills this groove into the window frame so you can fit these two joints together.”

He holds up two sash frame corners and slides them smoothly into place. It’s called a mortise and tenon joint.

Jeff is no longer a field carpenter because he has grown into the shop manager at Versatile. When I ask Jeff what his favorite thing about his job is, he says it’s the variety of projects they work on. He likes the details of some of the historical-style carpentry work. He fondly reflects on his days as a field carpenter.

“I miss getting to see the end result of my work as much as I did when I was working in the field. I loved getting to work directly with Anne and Richard on projects, because having the designer or architect so accessible while working on a project is a treat. It’s a collaborative process here.”

One of Vasey’s favorite woods is this quarter-sawn white oak. He holds it to the light for us to see it shimmer.

I learn that Jeff Vasey is known as the resident wood expert at Versatile. Asking him what his favorite type of wood is, he shakes his head and says, “No, I couldn’t choose just one.”

by Snow Blackwood, Creative Director of SnowBDesigns
Photos by Christopher Dibble Photography

 

Richard De Wolf Interviewed on StreetTalk Podcast

This week, Richard was interviewed by Amy Rosenberg of Veracity’s StreetTalk Podcast where he spoke about his love for vintage structures, the value of mixed income levels in controversial Historic Districts (HD’s) and why it’s important to protect HD’s and why it’s easier to maintain a building than it is to change it.

See the accompanying article and hear the interview on the Veracity website.

Modern Design: Multi-Slide Doors

When Patrick O’Neill of Greenline Fine Woodworking was called to do a historically sensitive update to one of Pietro Belluschi’s last projects, it came with a very cool addition: a meditation room designed collaboratively with Michael McCulloch, a noted Portland architect who is the current owner of the home.

Greenline_Door_A_02

Project Goals

The intention of the design was to create a space that would blur the lines between indoors and out, minimizing visual interruptions and allowing the space to open completely to the exterior as much as possible.

Challenges

Greenline_Door_A_11.jpg

Large, sliding full-lite doors can have challenges related to weight, stability and smooth operability. An additional challenge was to figure out how to allow the doors to meet at a corner with a only a narrow post to camouflage and complete the seal when closed.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Uniquely Versatile Solutions

A tricky mitred corner for the track system allowed the two layers of doors to meet seamlessly in the corner. Very tight tolerances were needed to ensure a weather-tight fit when the panels were closed.

The Versatile Product Design team worked closely with the installing contractor to ensure measurements were accurate and the design parameters could be met.

Bringing multiple tracks together in the corners presented alignment challenges for both the upper and lower panel tracks. The low profile sill makes for a near-flush transition to the interior flooring. Metal tracks were inlaid into solid wood sills to create an elegantly integrated system.

The result: a glowing oasis of thoughtful Mid-Century design that feels like an organic part of this architecturally-significant Oregon home.

Greenline_Door_A_01

About Versatile Wood Products | Contact Us

Open Shelving in a Mid-Century Kitchen

Cradled in Northeast Portland’s Concordia neighborhood lies a modest and unassuming Mid-Century bungalow that has recently undergone an extensive remodel, modernizing the interior of the home, while retaining its intended aesthetic. In collaboration with Arciform designers Jeffrey Kelly and Bianca McKelvy, Versatile Wood Products had a unique opportunity to be a part of this transformation.

What were the goals of this project?

   The main goal of this project was to achieve an updated Mid-Century Modern look with new drawer & door faces on two of the existing cabinet walls, as well as creating a new, full-height cabinet next to the refrigerator to create extra storage space. Using a combination of paint and stain grade material helped to complete the aesthetic.

What were the challenges?

We faced many of the typical challenges that come with Mid-Century remodels: this project called for custom face frames and continuous horizontal grain for stain-grade lower cabinets, which can be tricky to execute well.

The design for this kitchen also called for three unusually long floating shelves, which, at nearly five feet per shelf, presented a challenge.

What were the uniquely Versatile solutions to those challenges?

For the custom face frames, we created a complete overlay which achieved the intended look. We sourced continuous grain Birch for the lower cabinets, which worked out beautifully. In order to support the 55″ floating shelves, we used hidden steel brackets which were embedded in the shelves themselves, then concealed behind sheet rock by the installer.

The combination of paint grade upper cabinets, stain grade lower cabinets with beautiful horizontal grain and open shelving helped to bring this Mid-Century home into the 21st Century all while embracing its iconic look. If your Mid-Century Modern kitchen could use a breath of fresh air, let Versatile Wood Products help you!

About Versatile Wood Products | Contact Us