Has it really been a decade since we opened in Oregon? No. Actually, it’s been 9 years. Summer, 2008 I landed out here after a few years of research and prep just in time for the roughest economic face plant many of us have known (and I’ve known 4 others in our 30 years).
I liken that whole beginning to parachuting out of an airplane amidst blue skies into a thick but fluffy-enough bunch of clouds. Once inside, there was some suggestive bumping about, some troublesome turbulence, but not a clear sign yet of what lay ahead. Then suddenly I break through those clouds and the scene below me opens like a battlefield movie: burning buildings, scorched earth, hungry villagers with widening eyes and the air full of acrid smoke. (Yes, yes I’m exaggerating for effect. There were no burning buildings.)
That was the starting of our west coast effort at the beginning of that darned big recession. In looking back, it might have been better to hang out on the beach for 4 or 5 years rather than make the effort we did to build our business in such a setting. But I am neither prescient nor idle, and so work we did.
…and we’ve made great progress, and well, we’re pretty glad we didn’t just hang out on the beach. I would have gone insane.
Sean seems to be our resident selfie expert. Here he captured himself along with a few of the rest of us west coasters: Darren, Richard La Trobe (artist and bridge maker), me, David, and Quinn.
I don’t travel and I really don’t like to fly. However, now that our West Coast facility has been running for 5 years I finally made the visit to the Pacific Northwest. It was under the promise of good food, good skiing, and good company that the visit was sold.
Hint: there was good skiing.
Of course there were important business reasons to visit as well. For one, we have a manufacturing facility in McMinnville. Second, most all of the wood we use in our timber frame division is sourced from the area. This visit was an opportunity to put names to faces, connect with people and see how wood is processed before we get our hands on it.
We started off the visit in McMinnville (MAC) on Monday. It was a chance to see our facility and connect with some of the timber frame guys that live on the West Coast. We also met some engineers, kiln operators, and folks from just across the way that buy and sell a ton of wood. These meetings were all about relationship building.
The MAC shop is nicely setup and fully functional. It is well organized and ready for continued success. I enjoyed re-connecting with Darren and Randy especially as they play important roles in the operations of that facility.
Monday night I was treated to a delicious burger at C-Bar in downtown Portland. I believe the burger was called a Chef Burger and what I remember most about ordering was the “Absolutely No Changes” tag line that was included in the description. I forgot all that was on it but do recall how good it was. This alone met the promise of good food but more on that later.
This is log supply – what you don’t see is the two rows stacked the same behind this one.
Here is a close-up for better scale. We always keep in mind that wood is a renewable resource, being harvested by all of our partners with careful consideration of the environment. The structures that we craft and build, on average they will survive for a few centuries. All in all, seems like a good afterlife for these Douglas fir trees!
We partner with all of these mills and each plays a critical role in our success as a company. It was an eye opening experience to see just how much wood is processed at these facilities on a daily basis. Most mills are processing between 3-4 million board feet in a given month. Wow… an average timber frame from NEW as an order might be 6,000-7,000 BF. Even though our work is a small segment in their business they all conveyed its importance to their success as well. Each mill was a bit unique and specializes in a different segment of the industry but the material flow and the manor it was processed was very similar.
After de-barking they meet this guy… and I thought we had a big saw.
I think it’s about an 8’ diameter blade… just guessing
Another view – what a huge blade!
Once de-barked and bucked to length it is on the rig for processing.
I wouldn’t want to be on the wrong end of this thing.
Some finished goods.
More finished woods.
I felt like I was back in time visiting Hull-Oaks. From the drive in from town to the equipment and back drop it was like we were in the 60’s. The mill is comprised of old equipment that functions today like it did when new… a true testament to the engineers and mechanics that built it. The mill team was a dedicated bunch of hardworking guys. The clothes were different but other than that I have to believe much has been un-changed.
A picturesque photo from Hull Oaks.
After our mill tour wrapped up on Wednesday I was finally given the grand tour of Vermont Street Project. It was as described and worthy of the notoriety and awards given. The house is a wonderful example of how thoughtful design and flawless execution can result in an outstanding project. The house is very inviting and once inside craftsmanship shows throughout. It is easy to see how it won the 2011 Fine Homebuilding House of the Year award. Kudos to Jonathan, Maxine and all involved on this project… it is certainly something to be proud of.
After the grand tour and numerous rounds of trying to defeat JO in ping pong, JO made his famous wild Salmon grilled over apple wood. Now I typically don’t eat fish or seafood. It just has not been a staple in my diet; I’m more of a meat and potatoes guy. After all the razing from JO and crew Salmon it was and boy it did not disappoint. It was delicious and again met the promise of good food as well as good company.
Thursday we played hooky. Or maybe it’s not hooky when the owner of the company is driving the car to the mountain. We went to Mt. Hood for a day on the slopes and what a day it was. Upon my arrival I was warned about the drought that the area was seeing and that the slopes have been suffering. Well… I must have brought some of that NY weather because it snowed and snowed and snowed. It was probably the best day on the slopes in years. It dumped and we loved it.
Somehow these goofy looking snow boarders managed to hop in the car and join us. On the left is Sean and the right is David who is part of our design team out West.
That pretty much wraps up my trip. It was everything as promised. Special thanks to JO and Maxine for the hospitality and to Sean and David for keeping me busy and showing me around. It was a great trip and one I surely enjoyed. I might just visit again someday!