What Does Custom Wood Building Mean?

Custom Wood Building

Custom wood building is an art that has been around for about as long as humans. Many of the same terms we see today were used thousands of years ago. On Raymond McInnis’s site, A History of Woodworking, he shares a piece from an article written on Stonehenge:

“…The largest weighs as much as 50 tons. Unique today, Stonehenge was probably also unique in its own time, some 4,500 years ago – a stone monument modeled on timber precedents. Indeed, its massive lintels are bound to their uprights by mortise-and-tenon joints taken straight from carpentry.”

Modern Wood-Building

With the progress in modern technology and industrial demands, Woodworking as a field has changed. For example, the development of (CNC) or Computer Numeric Controlled Machines in 1949 made it possible to mass-produce and reproduce products faster—not only faster but with less waste and the ability to produce more complex designs. Along with CNCs, the emergence of rechargeable power tools sped up the creation of many projects. They also required much less body strength and endurance than in the past. Despite the increase with technological advances, the quality and craftsmanship of custom wood-building remains unmatched.

What Does Custom-Built Mean?

According to the Merriam Webster, custom built simply means, “Built to individual specifications.” Sounds pretty straightforward, however there are many intricate details involved. Custom wood building is more than making a window or door. It requires more than just the right tools and space. These are essential, yes, but custom building also requires a lot of skill. At Versatile Wood Products every project, both big and small, modern or historical, is performed with the utmost quality and dedication.

“Versatile provides historically accurate custom wood sash, cabinetry, doors and millwork using techniques originated by 18th and 19th century craftsmen. We are committed to creating spaces that honor and make history. By preserving traditional ways of building and blending them with modern technologies and performance standards, we design and build solutions that harmonize aesthetics and temperament with function and utility.”

Versatile’s experienced team specializes in balancing period appropriate architectural design specifications with modern performance standards, combining historic techniques and modern technologies.

What does manufactured mean?

Custom Wood Building




Wood is manufactured in a few types, Plywood, particleboard, fiberboard, medium density fiberboard (MDF), and veneer. In addition to the CNC machine, another reason for the increased popularity of mass-produced wood products was the invention of manufactured wood. Manufactured wood products have become a popular choice because they are less expensive to produce. Manufactured wood products are also more readily available at Big Box stores.

Understanding what custom wood building and manufactured wood are is important when starting a project. For example, determining the exact specifications for choosing the right window or door is important. Having the exact build for a particular project is crucial. Not just for the aesthetics, but for long-term quality.

“By hand-selecting tight grain wood patterns and using time-honored techniques our products will last for many years to come.”

How Versatile produces lasting quality

To better understand the separation between custom wood building and manufactured wood, the following Versatile projects will highlight the distinction. In this first custom case study, the restoration of a historical landmark highlights the stunning craftsmanship Versatile (and Arciform) demonstrate. The agility and flexibility accompanied by the great care required shows why custom wood building is essential.

Restoring First Congregational Church

The First Congregational Church turned to Versatile and Arciform to stabilize and restore the wood elements of this feature. Constructed in 1895, the First Congregational Church of Portland is a dominant Venetian Gothic icon. The church is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and designated a Portland Landmark. This historic structure towers with its 175’ bell tower at the Southwest corner.

Restoring the Gothic tracery was more than just “replacing parts.” The goal was to retain as much of the original fabric as possible. However, what appeared to be repetitive details in the columns and tracery were in fact unique. This prohibited the efficiency of replicating one element to be reused as a template throughout the entire tracery at similar locations. 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.

All new pieces were made of Western Red Cedar, the same wood species as the original elements. This was to ensure historic accuracy and material performance. Replacement parts were then fit in place for sizing and routed with the cove detailing ensuring the tracery appeared seamless. The final product was delivered in sections for ease of hoisting and installation by Arciform.

Modern Buildings

In these three short project highlights, the breadth and skill level of Versatile is apparent. These again demonstrate custom wood building as an art that surpasses manufactured wood products both in ingenuity and workmanship.


For The Zipper, Versatile and designer Guerrilla Development used simple solid wood frames and sills. They also used direct glazed windows in solid clear vertical grain fir. This helped to create a truly innovative modern design.

The Evo Building challenges were to create custom casements in Douglas fir to match historic photos of the building. It was nearly impossible to replicate a two-toned color scheme in aluminum but was easily accomplished in wood. The hinged casements on the upper floors were a fall-hazard. Versatile used a sash limiter that would open by 3″ to prevent the potential for someone to fall out.










The Albina Yard (which can also be seen on Think Wood) had extraordinarily high flush exterior doors: 142” tall and 108” tall full lite doors. In this project Versatile utilized offset pivot hinges to give massive doors smooth operation and an uninterrupted modern look. The project called for building flush doors in a continuous fir veneer with a matching 34” fir transom panel above. The design challenge was that both the flush exterior doors and full lite doors were extraordinarily high in addition to being about 40” wide.

Architecture: Lever Architecture
Contractor: Reworks Design Build

Custom Wood Building Is Good For The Environment

A report by Green Building Elements provides a wealth of researched information that supports the value of custom wood building. A study conducted by Architecture and Design reports that 16% of all the fossil fuel consumed annually is converted into concrete, steel, aluminum and brick building materials. On the opposite end, wood reduces its carbon footprint.

“When trees are made into building materials, that carbon dioxide remains sequestered in the finished products. When wooden building materials reach the end of their useful life, they are often repurposed or recycled into new products. All that stored carbon dioxide is kept out of the atmosphere virtually forever.”

Green Building Elements also reports a cooperative program between a company called Whole Trees in Madison, Wisconsin and the USDA Forest Service. Entire trees that the Forest Service harvests during routine thinning efforts and discards are used. They are turned into beams, trusses and joists to use in building construction.

Custom Wood Building is good for your Health

Custom Wood Building

Custom wood building is not just beautiful and unique in each design but is also good for your health. Another study by Architecture and Design finds that, “the feelings of natural warmth and comfort that wood elicits in people has the effect of lowering blood pressure and heart rates, reducing stress and anxiety and increasing positive social interactions.” Wood products within a room have been shown to improve indoor air quality by moderating humidity. The study also finds that being surrounded by wood at home, work or school has positive effects. Not just on the body and brain, but also on the environment. It can even shorten hospital stays through reduced recovery times.

Truly, Custom Wood-Building Is an Art Of Craftsmanship

From the use of mortise and tenon joinery dating back thousands of years to our state-of-the-art CNC router, Versatile Wood Products’ custom wood projects are built to last.

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

Celebrating the Towne Storage Job

Towne Storage

Towne Storage -208 windows, 455 sashes, 13 building phases (spanning October 2016 through August 2017), 81 deliveries to site, 4,752 pounds of lead sash weights, 5,967 square feet of insulated glass units and 1.2 miles of Simulated Divide Lite (SDL) bar applied and we’re finally ready to celebrate the Towne Storage job!

It was a perfect night for a celebration. As you will see from these pictures, we’re very proud of this work.

Back in March of 2016 we heard the news that the 101 year old, historic Towne Storage building at 17 SE 3rd Avenue would be renovated and expanded to include creative office space. Versatile Wood Products was proud to be the go-to custom window supplier.

Working closely with Bremik Construction, we built and installed 37 transom windows, 8 sash-only units and 163 classic windows. On Thursday August 24th, 2017 Versatile celebrated the completion of the project.

Our evening was filled with laughter, comraderie and cheers for a job well done. Below are photos from start to finish:

The job began in October of 2016. Bremik took out all of the old windows, boarded each window with plywood and commenced masonry repairs on the south side and the unsalvageable openings. As they worked we got started on designing and building. First up was the sash-only repairs the new energy efficient transom windows to match the original style designed by architects, McNaughton & Raymond.

Anna—an Arciform designer—gets some hands-on product cross-training, and Henry is an apprentice. Here they are running profiles on the exterior SDL bars. They did this for a few days yet just made a dent in the total quantity needed. Jeff, our mill foreman, made sure that materials were run in the right order and maximum yield from the lumber was attained.

Sashes are stacked on top of each other while the glue dries. We use a time-honored technique to put the sash together with a classic construction, mortise and tenon joint. Mortise and tenon joinery has been in use for thousands of years and remains the gold standard for high quality joinery.

What’s the difference between a frame and a sash?

Sash is just the square that the glass is attached to. The frame is the jamb that goes in the opening. The jamb includes the sill and is what the sash are seated inside. (More on this in another post!)

Henry, Thor and Matt use deep in frame construction, which the sash will next be fitted into. The process requires teamwork and precision, because a perfect fit for both the sash and the masonry opening depend on accuracy.

Product design is more than drafting. Here our designers Rex Vaccaro and Curtis Nagel, inspect their prototype. They make sure the sashes operate smoothly and all of the elements come together as drafted. They also make sure the frames will work with the openings in a very irregular old building. The design team met regularly with Bremik to strategize about installation needs as site conditions evolved. This required flexibility and responsiveness throughout the course of the project. With the seasoned experts from Bremik as our installation partners meant that each piece fit perfectly when it arrived on site.

And now it’s time to celebrate Towne Storage…

We’re done! Our last load delivery deserves a photo.

We don’t mind a beverage or two. Richard points to other buildings on the horizon that Versatile has worked on.

A view from the top.

Product designer, Alan Ford says there’s no better spot to sit than an open window.

The future is bright.

For more historic Versatile Wood projects, visit https://versatilewp.com/historic-buildings/

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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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.

Roman Candle, Ava Gene’s, Woodsman Tavern — Custom Case Study

Woodsman Tavern

After SE Division’s overwhelming support of Duane Sorenson’s Stumptown cafe, he opened The Woodsman Tavern to create a gathering place for good food and good drink that felt like it had always been there. The Woodsman Tavern was a 2012 Bon Appétit Best New Restaurant nominee and launched the revitalization of SE Division Street. This led Sorenson to open Ava Gene’s (November 2012) and Roman Candle Baking Company (July 2013) a few blocks away.

Versatile was contracted by Orange-PDX to create a storefront system for The Woodsman Tavern. To supply custom entry doors for Roman Candle and Ava Gene’s.

Woodsman Tavern

What were the goals of these projects?

For The Woodsman Tavern, we were to replace the dated aluminum storefront with replicated traditional wood divided lite transoms over picture windows with insulated glass, along with custom entry doors.

The stain grade doors for Roman Candle and Ava Gene’s needed to fit the aesthetic and vibe of the restaurants. While being able to withstand harsh weather exposure.

What challenges did Versatile face during these projects?

The biggest challenge for all three projects was weather exposure as they all face south.

Woodsman Tavern

What were the Uniquely Versatile Solutions?

Hand selecting the materials played a major role in the success of these projects. Versatile’s highly experienced carpenter, Jeff Vasey, hand selected the wood to ensure each piece had a tight grain pattern to help extend the life of each item. From an aesthetic side, it was also important to find pieces of wood that matched and had complimentary grain patterns.

Versatile always tries to anticipate possible challenges before they turn into problems, and by selecting such an experienced team we were able to avoid major issues. This team included Versatile shop carpenters and installers from Orange-PDX construction.

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Witherspoon Building: Case Study Update

 Witherspoon Building

What challenges did Versatile face during the Witherspoon Building project?

The age of the Witherspoon building combined with the amount of steel that was required to bring the building up to current seismic standards made our job very difficult.

Another challenge was incorporating electronics for a security system into a solid wood door.

 Witherspoon Building

What were the Uniquely Versatile solutions?

We had to keep very close vertical and horizontal alignment throughout our storefront system. We built the rough openings around the steel beams.

To incorporate the electronics, we ran wiring through the lock rail of the door to get them from a special hinge to an electrified latch. This was then linked to a card reader. This was an extremely difficult and laborious task that our shop pulled off.

 Witherspoon Building

What was the result?

The vertical mullions at the lower and upper storefront windows align perfectly, as do all of the casings.

As for the door, the result was an end product that looks beautifully simple and historic. But upon closer inspection, actually houses a tremendous amount of hardware and technology.

 Witherspoon Building

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Showroom Sneak Peeks!


The new Versatile showroom is under way!


Here are a few exciting details, all hand crafted by the Versatile team…







Come and see the rest of the details for yourself at our showroom launch!


Join us for a Launch Luau
in celebration of our new Versatile Showroom

When: Thursday, Sept 18 2014
Time: 2 pm to 5 pm
Where: 2303 N. Randolph Ave
Cocktails, tropical treats and a whole roast Kalua pig will be enjoyed.

Plus a chance to spin the wheel of fenestration for fun and prizes.

Space is limited. Click here to RSVP by Sept 10th to join in the festivities.


Help us celebrate the launch of our new show room at this Mad Men themed tiki celebration. Kick the tires of our new custom window, door and cabinetry displays and spin the wheel of fenestration to win prizes, drinks and more.

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Evergreen Chapel — Custom Case Study

Evergreen Chapel
(photo courtesy of Woofter Architecture)

Located at the Evergreen Aviation & Space Museum in McMinnville OR, the Evergreen Chapel opened it’s doors in September 2013.

Designed by architect Miles Woofter, the chapel was meant to resemble a 1930’s log cabin.

The chapel is over 5,500 square feet with  Douglas fir logs and cedar ceilings. Inside, on the west and east wings of the cruciform, there are two functioning wood burning, stone fireplaces.

Known to Hoffman Construction and architect Miles Woofter as a local supplier, Versatile Wood Products was chosen to produce the highest quality custom windows and doors for this job.

For this project, Versatile was the supplier for all exterior windows and doors. We produced a total of 28 units – over 1000 sq feet of glazing.

Evergreen Chapel

What was the goal for the Evergreen Chapel ?

The goal for this project was to produce custom doors and casement windows​ using vertical grain fir. The fir compliments this traditional 1930’s log cabin design. The timeline for these units was eight-weeks.

Evergreen Chapel

What were the challenges for the Evergreen Chapel ?

Because some of the doors were especially tall (each 36” x 114” x 2 ¼” thick), incorporating commercial door hardware specifications was a challenge.

Evergreen Chapel

What was the Uniquely Versatile solution for the Evergreen Chapel ?

In conclusion, our solution was to combine a custom, craft-built traditional wood window with a high-level commercial sensibility. We also wanted to incorporate modern-day materials, such as insulated glass, while maintaining the look of the 1930’s design.

Working seamlessly with the largest general contractor in the state requires on-target communications, submittals, delivery and follow through. While this is not unusual for Versatile, working in a commercial field emphasizes our quality.


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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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