Natural Wood Delivers Timeless Beauty

More than 100,000 species of natural wood grace this planet. Like Michelangelo, a gifted woodworker sculpts color, grain, strength, weight and purpose to bring out the best in a building. Where flexibility is called for, bendable oak or elm is a better choice than highly dense mahogany. Exceptionally strong Douglas fir can weather abrasive elements. Cedar makes much better outdoor deck material than beautiful maple, which tends toward natural decay.

Popular Natural Wood Species

Following are samples that show color and texture variations in just some of the natural wood species. In addition, the Minwax website shows a chart of popular wood species, their characteristics and uses. We also like the Wood Database, where you can find additional technical details on wood species.

Natural Wood Species Samples

It was hard to choose among so many lovely options, but here are some of our favorite natural woods. Half of them have photos illustrating real Versatile Wood Products projects. Click a photo to learn more about each project.

Douglas Fir

Natural Wood Species Historic Douglas Fir

This natural wood is from one of the largest evergreen trees in the world. The timbers are very large in dimension and are also of good quality. Most commonly, Douglas fir is used for structural purposes where wear and abrasion are a factor. The wood is exceptionally strong for its weight, and is one of the heaviest softwoods available in North America.

Birch

Birch is fine-grained, medium hard and heavy. Pale in color, it often has a satin-like sheen and sometimes a rippled texture. Birch is also naturally waxy, which makes it resistant to water. It makes high-quality plywood and is valuable for furniture-making.

White Oak

Natural Wood Species Historic Oak

Oak has an especially beautiful grain pattern and is strong, heavy and of medium hardness. Colors range from creamy white and light brown to reddish hues. Oak is equally at home in historic and contemporary settings.

Cherry

The cherry wood specie ranges in color from a tan blond to reddish brown. Despite small mineral flecks and pitch and sapwood pockets its close and uniform-grained surface is satiny smooth. Over time, cherry forms a patina and the color becomes deeper and richer. Cherry can also become lighter in color when exposed to natural sunlight.

Sapele

Natural Wood Species Modern Mahogany Doors

Sapele is a common stand-in for true Mahogany that is highly dense and moderately hard and heavy. When first cut, it ranges from yellow to salmon. As the wood ages, the color deepens to a rich red or brown.

 

Maple

Natural Wood Species Modern Honey Maple Doors

Maple is strong, hard and has a very smooth texture and fine grain. It is naturally resistant to scratches and cracks.  Colors range from creamy white to light reddish brown. Maple is commonly used for flooring, fine woodworking and furniture.

Poplar

Poplar is a favorite choice for paint grade interior projects such as cabinetry face frame. Its combination of economy and workability make it a popular utility wood. It is also used in veneers, where it can be stained or dyed to mimic other species.

Eastern Black Walnut

Natural Wood Species Modern Walnut Cabinetry

Walnut is known for its especially beautiful grain patterns, which range from straight to varied. A stable wood, walnut’s natural color varies from dark brown to purplish black. Sometimes walnut also contains light brown streaks, known as sapwood.

Alder

Alder has a very even wood grain and is very straight. Coloring ranges from light brown to a reddish caramel. Over time, alder turns a shade lighter through sun exposure. It has numerous wormholes and tight, open, and split knots. This makes it ideal for a rustic style home decor.

Creative Window Solutions, Sleek Designs

From modern buildings that include simple lines to historic churches with grand curves, when it comes to creative window design we will use any opportunity to fire up our imagination.

First Congregational Church Creative Window Solutions

We have been honored to design and install windows for buildings all around Portland, including the First Congregational Church. This was an opportunity to restore and recreate the magnificent tower that once was the tallest structure in Oregon at 185 feet! Listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1975, the church is a rare example of Venetian Gothic architecture—few others exist in America.

First Congregational Church Creative Window Solutions

First Congregational Church Creative Window Solutions 2

Albina Yard Window Solutions

Since we wanted to offer a modern appearance to the Albina Yard building, we went with glass walls and flush awning windows. An awning window is much like a casement window. It is mechanically operated with a crank, hinged at the top so that the sash pivots in lieu of swinging.

Unlike the casement, though, an awning window can be open when it’s raining, making it appropriate for this office space.

Albina Yard Window Solutions

 

Evo Building Creative Window Solutions

A fixed window can be found in designs from traditional to contemporary. Allowing sunlight into a room, fixed windows offer a decorative view of the outside in hard to open spaces. This window is a single sash that’s attached to the frame. Fixed windows are also the most energy efficient type. We chose this style for the Evo building, providing custom Douglas fir. The upper floors feature custom windows that were a match to historic photos that the architect had obtained.

Evo Building Creative Window Solutions

Loyal Legion Creative Window Solutions

Keeping classic architecture intact, we went with the popular Eclipse system for folding windows for the Loyal Legion building in Portland. This window provides a large opening with no vertical element to split the opening when the window is open. These windows can be grouped together so that all of the panes of glass are in one plane. This gives a cleaner and more contemporary look to these windows, even when styled with traditional trim and pane patterns.

Loyal Legion Creative Window Solutions

Pine Street Market Sneak Preview

 Pine Street Market

We have been deeply enjoying the process of designing and installing a very unusual project. A custom single hung window system and storefront for Siteworks at the new Pine Street Market food hall.  It is set to open in May 2016.

Pine Street Market was originally called the United Carriage & Baggage Transfer Building. This 1886 structure had a past life as a livery and horse-drawn carriage storage facility featuring over 100 horse stalls. The early 20th century saw it used as a contractor supply depot until 1969. Then it became the first location for The Old Spaghetti Factory. More recently it has featured a series of all ages nightclubs.

Developing the Pine Street Market project included a combination of:
  • Exactly matching existing window details
  • Developing an innovative external weight and pulley system for the single hung storefront windows. They were counterbalanced by visible black pipe, allowing the sash to operate without need for weight pockets in the walls.
Here’s a little sneak peek at the systems we’ve installed. Go check out the real thing at the Pine Street Market Grand Opening in May. Tell us what you think!

 

 Pine Street Market

These single hung windows were set too close together to employ traditional weight pockets. Instead, a visible wire and pulley system is counterbalanced with black pipe that lowers and raises as the sash is operated.

 Pine Street Market

Arch top detail and ogee lugs replicate the historic charm of the original windows.

 Pine Street Market

This image shows the single hung storefront sash all set in their open configuration.
You can see the pipe counterbalances around the top.

 Pine Street Market

Here they are closed with the wood panel pony wall visible below.

 Pine Street Market

These arch topped double hung windows were replications of the Pine Street Market original. Here you can see the left hand top sash opened to let in ventilation. We used our CNC router to replicate original hand carved details on the exterior mull caps (below).

 Pine Street Market

This “before picture” (below) illustrates the extremely weathered condition of the existing windows in the Pine Street Market. We were proud to have the opportunity to exactly match the details of the original windows. The building will retain its original character and be prepared to weather next 100 years of life.

 Pine Street Market

 

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2015 Restoration Celebration Honors Versatile

A restoration celebration honoring versatile client’s achievements. Everyone seated at Restoration Celebration

We were honored to have the opportunity to join the architecture and restoration community in celebrating Oregon’s achievements in restoration. This was held at Restore Oregon’s Restoration Celebration in November. We were also very excited to watch as several of our clients were honored with DeMuro Awards this year!

The Restoration Celebration serves a dual purpose.

It is the event that both announces the year’s Endangered Places list and celebrates the winners of the DeMuro Award. The Endangered Places List spotlights properties of historic significance in Oregon that are in danger of collapse or destruction. Nomination to the list provides a property with resources and grant opportunities to help stabilize and restore the property.

The DeMuro Awards are named for legendary Portland preservationist and developer Art DeMuro. DeMuro is a competitive award honoring the architecture and construction teams who tackle significant projects in rehabilitating Oregon’s historic structures.

Paul Falsetto wins DeMuro Award Blockhouse Cafe

Celebrating the awards and sharing our success

We were delighted to celebrate our dear friend and colleague Paul Falsetto. Paul received a DeMuro Award for his rehabilitation of the Dayton Blockhouse Cafe. Paul worked with our custom cabinetry team to develop a walnut back bar for that project. Along with a bar and table tops made out of reclaimed fir from the building’s floor joists

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We were also thrilled to celebrate the honoring of Venerable Properties for their Washington High School rehabilitation project.

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That project featured new sash built by Versatile that exactly replicated the building’s original double hung windows. They had been lost when an ill-guided renovation replaced them all with aluminum.

 

Richard and Alex Restoration Celebration

Our owner, Richard De Wolf, who is a member of the Restore Oregon board of directors. Alex Mackenzie, our chief sales person and expert resource for our clients. Enjoying the opportunity to connect with clients and colleagues who are helping move this important work forward in Oregon.

Richard Speaking at Restoration Celebration

Richard had the opportunity to give a brief speech at the event. He highlighted our own efforts to save some of Oregon’s Most Endangered Places.

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We have been able to directly contribute to the rescue and rehabilitation of at least one Endangered Place a year for the last 5 years. These range from the Pioneer Mother’s Cabin (above), which was on the verge of falling into the Willamette. To the First Congregational Church in downtown Portland, whose historic bell tower tracery was beginning to crumble.

FirstCongregationalChurch_A_P_Pro (9)

 

It was a beautiful event. We look forward to seeing which Endangered Place we can help knock off the list next year!

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Restoring First Congregational Church

First Congregational Church

Constructed in 1895, the First Congregational Church of Portland is a dominant Venetian Gothic icon along the city’s South Park Blocks. The church is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and designated a Portland Landmark. This historic structure towers above its neighbors quite literally, with its 175′ bell tower at the southwest corner. This tower was once accompanied by two others on adjacent corners, which were removed in 1940 following significant storm damage. Existing conditions prior to the summer 2015 restoration included extreme deterioration of the wood Gothic tracery arches at the belfry. As the last remaining tower on the building, the restoration of these elements was a crucial component in retaining the architectural integrity of this historic church.

What was the scope of the project for the First Congregational Church and what were the design goals?

With its severe level of deterioration, the restoration of the Gothic tracery was not just an aesthetic decision. It was also a safety precaution after a loose piece fell onto the sidewalk below. The First Congregational Church turned to Versatile and Arciform to stabilize and restore the wood elements of this feature. As with any preservation project, the goal was to retain as much of the original fabric as possible. Equally important is the goal to maintain the character defining features of the original design. The four tower faces all required work, but the south elevation suffered the most significant damage. This was due to exposure and UV damage. The tracery at this location was removed and restored in-house at Versatile. The other elevations were in fair enough condition to be restored on-site by the Arciform team.

First Congregational Church

What challenges did the project face?

The location of the architectural details proved to be the biggest challenge. Nearly 175′ up in the air and surrounded by scaffolding, the south elevation tracery was cut into sections and lowered to the ground for transportation to Versatile’s shop.

First Congregational Church

It quickly became apparent that not only were the face-applied details of the tracery loose and deteriorating, but the backerboard holding the element together was also unstable. It arrived to the shop in pieces, like an oversized puzzle of fragile history. Another challenge was in the design itself. What appeared to be repetitive details in the columns and tracery were in fact unique, prohibiting the efficiency of replicating one element to be reused as a template throughout the entire tracery at similar locations.

First Congregational Church

What were the Uniquely Versatile solutions?

 

Once in the shop, each element was laid out and assessed to determine which pieces were salvageable and which required replacement. After meticulous documentation, all parts were mapped and translated into CAD files. Having these otherwise inaccessible components in-house provided the unique opportunity to prepare a custom library of details for First Congregational Church in anticipation of future restoration needs and part replacement.

Intact elements were cleaned and prepped for refinishing. Substantial details such as the monolithic Corinthian columns appeared unimpaired from the surface, but experienced wood rot at their core. With the use of consolidants, these items were also saved.  

First Congregational Church

Other details were reproduced using templates created on our CNC machine. All new pieces were made of Western Red Cedar, the same wood species as the original elements to ensure historic accuracy and material performance. Replacement parts were then fit in place for sizing and routed with the cove detailing to ensure the tracery appeared seamless. Keeping the site conditions in mind, the final product was delivered in sections for ease of hoisting and installation by Arciform.

First Congregational Church

The First Congregational Church restoration marked the final project of our former shop foreman, Eric Voss. The success of this project can be credited to his skilled craftsmanship and attention to detail.  Many thanks go out to him and his multiple years of service on Versatile’s team of talented woodworkers.

First Congregational Church

This project was named one of Restore Oregon‘s Most Endangered Places in 2015. You can check out the whole list of Endangered Places here. The 2016 list will be announced at the Restoration Celebration (sponsored by Versatile Wood Products) on November 13th. Get the details and RSVP for that event here.

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Air Infiltration — Window Word of the Day

Air Infiltration
 Air Infiltration: The amount of air that passes between a sash and a frame; Measure in terms of cubic feet of air per minute per lineal foot of crack (margin).

Air infiltration is the major cause of heat loss or gain in a home. A reduction in air leaks will provide a more comfortable environment and improve energy efficiency in the home. Some ways to prevent air from leaking through windows include using caulking or weatherstripping and replacing glazing compounds. One of the best solutions for historic homes is to have failing windows restored; windows can also be replaced. Restored windows can last many years with proper maintenance.

If you’d like to explore how to correct air infiltration issues that may be occurring in your historic home, contact Versatile at quotes@versatilewp.com  and a Client Services Specialist will be in touch.

First Congregational Church Progress Photos

Restoration of the First Congregational Church bell tower is underway so we thought we’d share some progress photos…

First Congregational Church Progress Photos

Pieces that are unable to be salvaged are being replaced with replicas…

First Congregational Church Progress Photo

Salvageable pieces are being touched up with a light sanding and wood putty…

First Congregational Church Progress Photo

Modifications are being made to the partially salvageable parts…

First Congregational Church Progress Photo

The scaffolding is up and our team is ready to start some site work.

Click here to contribute to the restoration fund.

Stay tuned for more updates!

What’s Happening in the Shop!

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You may have heard that the bell tower of the First Congregational Church of Portland is being restored.

The south portion of the tower was disassembled by Pioneer Waterproofing and delivered to our shop in a few pieces…

Our shop crew carefully laid the pieces out…

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…and our shop manager puzzled the pieces back together…

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…piece by piece…

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Our team of restoration experts will assess each piece and deem it salvageable for restoration, or will create replica pieces.

Click here to contribute to the restoration fund.

Stay tuned for updates!

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Block House Café — Custom Case Study

 block house cafe

In the heart of historic Dayton Oregon, The Block House Café recently moved into the 1886 First Baptist Church on Main Street. Working alongside architect Paul Falsetto and Fackler Construction, Versatile created a large back bar with surrounding cabinetry, wait-station, and tabletops from old floor joists in the building.

Block House Café Goals:

To create a large, functional, and aesthetically pleasing back bar that hides the seismic bracing. Re-purpose original floor joists to create tabletops and a bar top.

 Block House Café

Block House Café Challenges:

The biggest challenge we faced with the back bar, which included 10’ high walnut pieces, was installation to conceal three alcoves that were created by updated seismic structuring. The tabletops and bar top proposed a few challenges. They were created from wood salvaged from the original floor joists from the building. We were concerned about the tabletops cupping or warping. We needed to create a flat, smooth surface on the bar top as there were many wormholes in the wood.

The Block House Café

Block House Café Uniquely Versatile Solutions:

We worked around installation problems of the bar by pre-building it in 3 separate pieces. Along with some tolerances to allow for variations in the walls when it was installed on site. The three pieces overlapped once installed to look like one piece of furniture while hiding the bracing behind.

To address the tabletops potentially warping, we added a dovetail key underneath to tie the planks together. By attaching the key to the middle plank only, the planks could expand and contract naturally, but not warp or cup. And finally, to create a smooth, flat surface on the bar top. The wormholes were filled with clear epoxy rather than a colored putty. Since the natural color of fir changes over time, the clear epoxy will make a smooth surface without worry that the wood color would ultimately shift away from the color of the putty. Versatile’s experience and expertise allowed us to anticipate potential issues and create solutions before they became real problems on site.

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Washington High School Sash Windows — Custom Case Study

Washington High School

Washington High School opened in 1906, originally under the name of East Side High School, at SE 14th & Stark. In 1909 it was renamed as Washington High School.

The original building was destroyed by a fire in October of 1922. The replacement building was designed by Houghtaling & Dougan.  It was constructed of reinforced concrete with a brick surface at the same site.

Due to declining enrollment, the school closed in May of 1981.

After sitting vacant for decades, the building was purchased by Venerable Properties and is currently being converted to retail and office space. Art DeMuro, founder of Venerable Properties, was instrumental in the sale of the school. Art’s involvement in Portland’s historical redevelopment played a large role in deciding to keep the history alive in the Washington High School building.

What was the goal for Washington High School?

To construct double-hung sash windows that are aesthetically identical to the originals. And operate with the historical and reliable system of weights and pulleys. The windows also needed to be more energy-efficient.

The windows are being primarily installed on the south side of the building.

Washington High School

What challenges did you face with Washington High School ?

Portland Public School system put in replacement aluminum windows 40 years ago. With the replacement, the original pulleys and latches were lost. Luckily, we were successful in finding accurate reproduction pieces that fit with the sashes we created.

Since double pane, insulated glass is heavier than the original single pane, we had to find a solution to create a perfectly balanced window.

Washington High School

What was the Uniquely Versatile solution for Washington High School ?

As the original window frames remain intact and the weights were preserved inside the walls, our new sashes are being installed into the original frames and reconnected to those original weights.

To balance the windows we have taken the weights from the top sash, which are now fixed in place, and added them to the weight for the bottom sash.

Once the frames and sashes are fully weather-stripped, these windows will have the same energy-efficiency as brand-new, manufactured windows.

We are excited to see the finished project…stay tuned!

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