With divisions in design, timber framing, and woodworking, along with a sister company that specializes in reclaimed wood and timbers, collaboration is something that happens often at New Energy Works. Now and again there are projects that highlight when we’ve really had everyone involved, often realized at the close of the job where things have gone smoothly and everyone stands back with a beer to say, “hell yes.”
Muji at Hudson Yards in New York City is one of those projects of collaboration. Pioneer Millworks brought the project to us after working with Muji’s design team to get just the right reclaimed timbers for the store’s aesthetic.
These hand-hewn Shou Sugi Ban timbers have an additional two-three coats of staining. Photo courtesy of Cardello Architects.
The world of timber frames is ubiquitous to Douglas fir, treated with an oil, and left to mellow over time to a golden hue. It’s classic, bringing to mind the mountain home with a two-story vaulted great room and a wall of windows overlooking a vista. Bring us a mug of hot cocoa and let us snuggle by the fire.
“If you’ve never seen a timber frame made from longleaf southern yellow pine, then you really ought to,” Jonathan remarked, “the resins just glow.” Fascinating how one sentence can lead to numerous conversations, learning, and a search of our photo collection…
We commonly work with Kiln Dried Douglas fir, but big timbers, reclaimed timbers, have been near and dear to us since opening our doors over 30 years ago. The New Energy Works story started with a collapsed building and a new house crafted from timbers salvaged from that wreckage. Today we remain smitten with reclaimed timbers.
Getting team members to pose for a photo is much easier when they’re surrounded by big reclaimed timbers in our Farmington, NY or McMinnville OR yards.
As an additional option to kiln-dried Douglas fir, the antique timbers offer extra stability and can always be cut to size for any design/plans. Douglas fir and Heart Pine are our favored industrial reclaimed timber species–we always have them available thanks to our sister company, Pioneer Millworks.
Andy operates the Hundegger controls and computer as a timber is processed.
What is that big yellow, blue, and red tool? It is our Hundegger, a large CNC capable of cutting timbers with joinery. We have always liked the combination of technology with traditional craftsmanship. The marriage of both allows us to produce more efficiently, work with larger outputs, and helps our co-workers have a long career practicing their craft.
Andy has been our co-worker for 9 years and main operator of the Hundegger on the East Coast for over 5 years.
The CNCs in each of our shops rough cut timbers and joinery before the pieces head to layout and hand fitting/finishing. Andy is our main Hundegger operator on the east coast. He’s been a part of our team for a decade, starting as a timber framer, learning the trade from our master timber framers in the shop and then traveling around the nation to raise the frames he helped craft. Andy told us he liked the travel (before he had kids). He was up for a new challenge and went for the opportunity to learn the Hundegger technology. Most days he can be found standing at the main control station for the Hundgger between bouts loading the platform with raw timbers.
Reclaimed Red Pine Timbers celebrate the original surfaces with few to no visible old mortise pockets or peg holes. Photo (C) Sylwia Janik
Andy’s a quiet guy with a composed nature that makes him a great team member, as does his attention to detail. Part of Andy’s role is to determine which side of each timber will face the exterior wall and which will be visible to the room. This becomes especially important when working with reclaimed timbers.
“One project might call for old mortise pockets to be everywhere, while another may only want the reclaimed surface without any exposed peg holes or pockets. Sorting that out, working with each timber for a project, fresh or reclaimed, is a good daily challenge,” explains Andy.
Watching the Hundegger rotate and cut full size timbers is mesmerizing. The sound of a timber being worked is so familiar to Andy that even with ear protection he can hear if a bit is getting dull or a clamp is overworking. The process is fluid. Once checked (and double checked), after a few keystrokes his hands are on the controls and the timber moves down the chain into the tool. Depending on the complexity of the cutting, it will be fed out the other end in a matter of minutes then move down another chain to be planed and put into layout.
Andy references printed wide format (‘old-school’ as he says) plans alongside a computer program with K2 coding for each project as he works individual timbers. Plans are often splayed across the work surface next to the Hundegger controls and computer screen.
Pointing to a large bottom cord on a set of plans Andy says, “The maximum size timber the tool can cut is 21″ wide and 12″ tall by just about any length. It has five axis cutting capability so we can rough out simple and complicated joinery.”
We use our Hundegger CNC tools to rough cut timbers and joinery.
At the end of the day, the Hundegger is shut down falling silent before being swept out. The off-cuts are cleared out (and head to our high efficiency boiler to heat the plant). Files are saved and plans are rolled up. Andy organizes timbers for the following morning before heading home to his family. There he stays busy with his wife Ashley, their daughter Bristol, and son Luke. He’s also applying his skills to remodeling their family home. “Someday it’ll be done,” he told us with a light chuckle and a final critical study of the Hundegger as he headed out the door.
The exterior of Daniel and Sheri’s 1980’s timber frame had a face lift including re-working large windows, re-forming the main entry, and updating cladding.
Refreshing older timber frame structures to meet modern vernaculars and layouts is an interesting challenge. It reminds us what an extremely flexible building method timber framing is. With the frame carrying the load of the enclosure, interior walls are free to be moved and adapted.
Daniel and Sheri asked for our help in redesigning their 1980s timber frame. The layout and fenestration wasn’t meeting the needs for their large family. The re-design for the existing frame has created modern, open layouts. One major change was the window design for the front fascia. Removing a beam and replacing it allowed more light and wider views from inside the home.
We re-worked the window layout, removing and replacing timber beams to create more open views.
From the great room views are no longer segmented by the 1980’s frame.
“The New Energy Works team came in and walked us through the process to create a home of peace and beauty. There is not a day that goes by where we are not overwhelmed with gratitude for what our home has become.” – Daniel & Sheri
As we chatted with Daniel and Sheri we learned that their family enjoys gathering together, sharing meals, and being immersed in the outdoors. Creating a new addition, in the form of an attached timber frame pavilion/outdoor kitchen, became a ‘must’ for the overall update.
As-found industrial timbers were given new life as the frame for Daniel & Sheri’s outdoor kitchen/dining/living space.
Industrial as-found timbers were combined with artisan concrete to form a large outdoor dining and gathering space for the family of 5. In addition, an arbor connects the new space to the home.
We can imagine many meals and parties taking place under these reclaimed timbers.
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