The Biggest Piece of Furniture

I just returned from the Middle East where I gave a series of presentations to architects, designers and joinery companies.  Part of my presentation is to tell those in attendance that the challenge of design is threefold:  1) Create a vision; 2) Convey a vision and 3) Make it deliverable.  In my mind number 3 is the most important because lumber specs, quantities and timelines can be wildly out of synch with reality.   In order to make the project deliverable the designers need to connect with the source of the lumber to make sure that the vision is actually possible to deliver.

In the land of design excess, Dubai, one would think that money is no object in creating the beautiful and amazing buildings you look at on Google.  I had a principal of one of the largest joinery companies in the UAE come up to me after I was finished with my presentation and he said that I had it wrong with my 3 point “challenge of design” order.  He said that conveying the vision is really the toughest part.  When it comes to interiors, especially those using American hardwoods, their clients become apoplectic when they hear how much it will cost for the joinery and flooring for their space.  This is usually in a building whose overall cost is astronomical.  Since the joinery and flooring are among the last parts of the project, that is where the client wants to cut costs as much as possible.  If the original design and bid called for high quality sustainable American hardwoods, especially quartersawn hardwoods, the specification is quickly changed to “or equivalent”, which usually means the cheapest possible alternative to actual solid American hardwood.

I try my best to convince architects and designers to take the attitude that the timber component to any space is the biggest piece of furniture in the space.  Just like with furniture, one can install woodwork that is inexpensive and of inferior quality to save money or one can pay for high quality that will last for generations.

When I walk into a hotel, office building or commercial space of any kind I will notice the woodwork immediately and will have no clue about the quality of the lighting fixtures, glass or metalwork.  Granted, I have a bias towards wood, but the fact remains that the wood joinery or flooring is the most visible part of the space, the biggest piece of furniture.  Everyone resonates with wood clad environments.  If you are going to design your space to include wood, buy the highest quality wood, perhaps quartersawn hardwoods, and build the cost of the space around that.  Don’t try to save money on the wood using “equivalent” products.  That is like ordering a Bentley and saying that you don’t really need the leather seats or the expensive sound system.  Find out what the Bentley costs and wait until you have the money to buy the Bentley. The finest hardwood is quartersawn hardwood and Bentley is considered one of the finest cars.  Accept no substitutes.

Photosensitivity in wood

As I give presentations to architects and designers around the world I am often asked why it is so difficult to match the color of the veneered wall panels to the solid wood flooring and fixtures.  Frank Miller is currently supplying quartersawn cherry to a furniture manufacturer making courtroom pews.  The architects are having a difficult time reconciling the difference in color between the walls and the pews.  I have written an email to the pew manufacturer in a format that would allow them to forward the email to the architect.  My goal is to help move the project along, because at this late stage it is simply too late to change the aesthetic design for the courtroom.  This type of aesthetic dissonance often occurs in the 11th hour of the project because the architect or designer was unaware of these issues during the design phase.

All wood is photosensitive to varying degrees.  Three species of commercially available American hardwoods stand out from the rest as being more sensitive to color changes when exposed to light of any kind and oxygen:  tulipwood (known in the US as poplar), walnut and cherry.  Several years ago an architect talked to me about using walnut in flooring in what was basically a glass cube with floor to ceiling windows.  I told him to avoid using walnut in a high traffic area because it is to the softer end of the scale of the Janka Scale, a measure of the surface hardness of hardwoods.  I also told him to steer away from walnut in that application because its color would bleach out in the direct stream of UV light.  After a year of that direct sunlight exposure all of the aesthetic qualities of the beautiful walnut heartwood would be lost.

Cherry is sensitive to all light, even incandescent light.  Its heart color will move eventually from a pinkish color to light reddish brown.  If there is a rug covering part of a cherry floor you will be able to lift that rug a year after the floor is installed and see that the exposed part of the floor is a darker color than the section protected by the rug.  Eventually all of the color will even out, but it takes time.

In tulipwood the heartwood, which ranges in color from green to purple when freshly cut will transmute to a lovely milk chocolate brown color after light exposure.  The sapwood color will remain a light creamy color.

Getting back to the color variation in quartersawn cherry between the furniture and walls of the courtroom, there is also an inherent variation in color between veneers and solid wood of all kinds.  Veneers are sliced from a long and dried in a matter of just a few minutes, while a one-inch solid wood board will take between 25 and 45 days to dry, depending on the species.  My suggestion is to accept that the color of the cherry walls and furniture will mellow over time and that no one will even notice a difference after a year light exposure.

Understanding and accepting the fact that the color of wood species will vary to some degree with exposure to light and oxygen will help to develop reasonable expectations when specifying sustainable American hardwoods in design.

The Year of the Case Study

In this forum I have told the story of the process of Quartersawing and why its use creates beautiful and stable hardwoods for some of the world’s most iconic projects.  Frank Miller Lumber has been used in some very high profile buildings as well as beautiful homes around the world.  I have set a goal for myself in 2015 to obtain the rights to tell the stories of some of those projects.

One such project is 432 Park Avenue in New York City, the tallest residential building in the Western Hemisphere.  All of the quartersawn white oak flooring in that building was fabricated from Frank Miller quartersawn lumber.  Some other projects are the Fogg Museum at Harvard, 56 Leonard in New York City, The Walker Tower in New York City and The Chancery Court Hotel in London.  One of the more unique projects is a replica of Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello built in Connecticut featuring floors made from Frank Miller quartersawn white oak.  All of these projects would make excellent case studies but it is always a challenge to get all of the required approvals for the necessary photographs and interviews.

I will remain tenacious about obtaining those approvals in order to tell you the stories of those projects.  There is, in my opinion, no hardwood product in the United States more beautiful than quartersawn hardwoods.  In my AIA presentations I use photographs of amazing East Coast mansions from the late 1800’s.  These homes featured quartersawn white oak interiors.  The Garrett-Jacobs mansion in Mount Vernon, Maryland is a great example.  In the late 1800’s Robert and Mary Garrett hired Gilded Age architect Stanford White of the architectural firm McKim, Mead & White to help them realize their vision of a beautiful home that would compare with other Gilded Age homes in Boston, New York, and Philadelphia. Renovations of the original home would continue for thirty-two years.  Finally the house included over forty rooms, sixteen fireplaces, and one hundred windows.  In my presentations I show several pictures of the quartersawn white oak spiral staircase leading to a Tiffany dome.  It is truly spectacular and I point out to my audience that the house was built in the late 1800’s and the photographs were taken in 2010.  All of the joints are as tight as they were when the house was built.  These homes were built before there were “controlled environments” and in the case of the Newport, Rhode Island mansions, the windows were open to the ocean air during the summers.  These homes have stood the test of time, showing the lasting beauty of quartersawn hardwoods.

I am hopeful that I will get to tell the story of a large residential project in New York that is using Frank Miller Lumber quartersawn red oak for the floors.  New York City has been known for more than a century as a quartersawn white oak market.  The use of red oak is noteworthy and I have seen the floors in the sales offices.  They are beautiful and will last for generations, just as white oak would.

I am excited to be able to tell the story of these buildings and homes because each story is unique, even though they are all connected by the use of quartersawn hardwoods.

In Memoriam, Paul Katz FAIA HKIA, Managing Principal, Kohn Pedersen Fox

Soon after I embarked on my Frank Miller Lumber architectural marketing journey, I connected with KPF (Kohn Pedersen Fox Architects) in New York.  I have presented my AIA “Quartersawn Hardwoods” course to nearly 100 of the designers and architects in their offices in New York.  Over the past 4 years I have assisted many KPF design teams with all manner of hardwood issues.  Several years ago, Frank Miller Lumber was given the opportunity to provide quartersawn white oak for the flooring in an apartment owned by Paul Katz, Managing Principal of KPF.  Tony Chi, one of the leading interior designers in New York, designed the interior space. Jon Boulay of Wilson Woodworks, a high-end custom flooring manufacturer, longtime customer and friend to Frank Miller Lumber, produced the flooring.  The flooring was finished and installed by Stephen Estrin and the crew from I. J. Pesier’s Sons, Inc. in New York.

To say that all of us at Frank Miller Lumber were honored to be a part of this small but noteworthy project would be a vast understatement.  I use photographs of the finished space in my AIA presentation because it is such a spectacular representation of the use of quartersawn white oak.  Tony Chi and Paul Katz were very happy with the outcome, which is the most important aspect of a project like this.  This past year, Paul moved on to Phase II, the renovation of an adjoining apartment he recently purchased.  Once again we were involved from the beginning.

Frank Miller Lumber provided the quartersawn white oak while Wilson Woodworks and I. J. Peiser’s Sons produced and installed the flooring.  As recently as last summer I had an email exchange with Paul Katz and he was kind enough to write this:  “Many thanks for helping with my apartment and ensuring we get wonderful material and I hope to see you again whether in New York or beyond.”  Knowing that I had recently battled cancer, he said that he was “delighted” that I am in “good shape again”.  It is a sad irony that a few months after he gave me his good wishes after my battle with cancer, he entered and lost a battle with the same disease.

I have been profoundly impacted by this man and deeply mourn his passing.  All of us at Frank Miller Lumber extend our most sincere condolences to Paul’s family and colleagues at KPF.  I could paraphrase several obituary tributes about Paul, but I will simply, and with the utmost respect, quote from the tribute found on KPF’s website.

“On November 20, 2014, Kohn Pedersen Fox Managing Principal Paul Katz passed away unexpectedly, after a short but valiant battle with cancer. Since joining KPF in 1984, Mr. Katz oversaw some of the most exciting and innovative projects undertaken by any firm in the world and played a crucial role in the firm’s development into a leader in global architectural practice.

Mr. Katz focused on architectural issues of urban density and the important role of high rise structures as the building type of our century. Designing and managing award-winning projects in the U.S., Europe, and Asia, he was at the forefront of the globalization of the architectural profession over the last 29 years. He was a strong advocate of the social and artistic merits of the high rise building, particularly in the rapidly growing cities of Asia, but also in New York, London and other American and European cities. Paul worked on Hudson Yards in New York for The Related Companies along with his colleagues at KPF, a development that utilizes many of the concepts developed on projects elsewhere over the past 29 years.

Perhaps the most significant building enterprise Mr. Katz was responsible for is the Roppongi Hills Project in Tokyo, on which he worked for 14 years. Completed in 2004, the 11-acre project comprises over 6 million square feet, constituting one of the largest mixed- use projects anywhere; its design and realization set a new direction for property development in the global cities of Asia and elsewhere. Designed for Mr. Minoru Mori, this project led directly to the commission of what would become the tallest building in China, the Shanghai World Financial Center, completed in 2007. Following that project, Mr. Katz oversaw the completion of the International Commerce Centre (ICC), the tallest building in Hong Kong.

For many years, Mr. Katz taught a summer course on office building design at the Harvard Graduate School of Design. He was a frequent lecturer at numerous events and conferences in the United States, in Asia, and around the world. He had also taught a design studio at the Yale School of Architecture. With KPF’s A. Eugene Kohn, he co-authored a book, Building Type Basics for Office Buildings, published by Wiley in 2002. His architectural studies began in his native Cape Town, South Africa, and he received degrees in architecture from both the Israel Institute of Technology and Princeton University.”

White Oak’s beautiful cousin

In this blog I have talked about the challenges that the Bourbon industry has presented to quartersawn white oak log procurement pipeline.  In my presentations to architects around the country I have made the suggestion that in order to avoid the problems inherent with a tight white oak supply, the design community needs to look at red oak as an alternative.

We are currently supplying quartersawn red oak to a very large residential project in Manhattan, a market that has been locked into quartersawn white oak flooring for decades.  The designer of that project has seen no delays in supply and the floors are beautiful.  I will be writing a case study of this red oak project, as it gets further along.  There are other massive projects in New York that are drawing from all of the quartersawn white oak suppliers in the country and are still struggling to stay on schedule.

As an interesting experiment, one of the owners of Frank Miller Lumber took 5 samples of white oak and red oak flooring and used 5 different stains on each.  The challenge to one of our largest manufacturing customers was to tell the difference between the white and red oak pieces.  It proved difficult not only for the customer, but for several of us in the office.  Sometimes the similarities are so striking that the only way you can tell the difference is by looking at the end grain.  With white oak the end grain is closed (making it perfect for wine and bourbon barrels) and with red oak you can see tiny pinholes in the end grain.

As flooring material red oak and white oak score the same on the Janka Scale, which is a test to see how much pressure it takes to push an 11.28 mm steel ball into the surface of the wood to half of its diameter.  Red Oak will take the same amount of foot traffic abuse that white oak can take.  One need only look at the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts in Kansas City to see a gorgeous quartersawn red oak application.  It has been open for three years and with a bit of care the floors look as beautiful as they did when the building opened.

One subtle difference between red and white oak is the size of the medullary rays.  Red oak rays are slightly smaller and shorter.  If the aesthetic for a floor leans more towards rift, red oak can offer that look a bit more easily than white oak.

Red oak represents about 35% of the American hardwood forest inventory, while white oak represents about 15%.  Supplies of red oak will not be affected by the demand for bourbon and wine barrels, since it is porous and isn’t used in barrels.  It will always be in plentiful supply and at more reasonable pricing than white oak.  In my 18 years with Frank Miller Lumber this is the first time I have seen white oak prices rising almost weekly while red oak pricing has remained steady and affordable.

If supply, equivalent beauty and durability and reasonable pricing are important to you for your next project, you might want to let us introduce you to white oak’s beautiful cousin, red oak.

How Vertical Integration Can Be of Help to the Design Community

A few years ago Frank Miller Lumber got involved with supplying the quartersawn red oak for the floors of the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts in Kansas City. I have written about the advantages of working with the mill source on projects like this, since in doing so the project team minimizes its variables. That project, for example, was never delayed due to lumber shortages. The same was true for the Barnes Museum in Philadelphia and several other high-profile projects.

About a year and a half ago, Frank Miller Lumber acquired a high-end architectural millwork company, Indianapolis Woodworking International (IWI) in order to offer millwork services to the design community. In the world of bespoke commercial and residential designs, IWI can help to make a designer or architect’s dreams a reality through collaboration and integration with a skilled millwork partner.

In my role with Frank Miller, I assist architects and designers in adjusting specifications to match the realities of the resource.  Likewise, Gary Riegle, president of Indianapolis Woodworking International, can do the same thing, moving the design process along with samples and advice. For the design community, this synergy can be of immense value, working directly with a high-end millwork company that can help make your vision a reality. Just as flooring companies can be specified for a project, a millwork company can also be specified.

I was in Dubai a couple of years ago talking with a millwork company that produced the First and Business Class lounges for Terminal 3 at the Dubai Airport. The construction of those lounges was a herculean task. To give you some perspective, the architecturally sequence-matched American walnut veneered panels cover more than 1.6 kilometers. By the time the design fell to the millwork company for production, the timer had already been ticking for quite some time. The pressure to obtain material for the project was intense, and the project would have moved along more smoothly with advanced coordination between the designers and the millwork company.

The team at IWI has decades of experience behind them and has produced some gorgeous millwork over the years. You can see examples of their projects at Let IWI help you in the same way that Frank Miller Lumber helps architects and designers.

Mercurial Quartersawn White Oak Prices

For more than 4 years I have explained in my presentations to architects and designers the difference between Red and White Oak. “Tyloses” in White Oak give the wood a closed cell structure making it resistant to rot and water.  I use a device to distinguish the difference in porosity between Red and White Oak, which lies with the letter “W”.  I say that the “W” for “White” (Oak) works with “water”, whiskey” and “wine”.  You can build a boat with White Oak, not Red.  Likewise you can build wine and whiskey barrels with White Oak, not Red.

As you settle down with a nice glass of whiskey or bourbon, keep in mind that the delicious brown liquid in your glass was aged in a Quartersawn White Oak barrel.  Right now the world is experiencing an unprecedented surge in demand for whiskeys and bourbons of all kinds.  Distilleries can’t produce it fast enough.  Even if they could produce at a significantly higher volume, they would have trouble procuring the barrels.

The cooperage business has basically gone through the roof.  What this means is monumental pressure on the White Oak resource, driving up prices for logs.  At the same time that the world has developed a voracious appetite for whiskey and bourbon, it has also developed a strong desire for White Oak flooring.  What all of this means for the consumer is that the price of White Oak flooring, especially Quartersawn, is going to increase significantly over the next couple of years.  Here is an example of the bourbon industry sounding the alarm.  This is an excerpt from a press release from Buffalo Trace last month:

May 8, 2014
The bourbon boom shows no signs of letting up.  At Buffalo Trace, the 228 year – old Distillery continues to take steps to mitigate the problem, but shortages still remain.  About a year ago, Buffalo Trace Distillery warned consumers a shortage was looming, but many markets across the nation are just now feeling the full effects.
“We’re making more bourbon every day. In fact, we’re distilling more
than we have in the last 40 years,” said Harlen Wheatley, master distiller. “Still, it’s hard to keep up. Although we have more bourbon than last year when we first announced the rolling blackouts, we’re still short and there is no way to predict when supply will catch up with demand.”

At the moment there seems to be no easy resolution to the conflict between the barrel stave mills and lumber mills like Frank Miller.  The cost of the quartersawn White Oak barrel as a factor in the selling price of a bottle of Bourbon is insignificant.  This allows the stave producers to consistently outbid Quartersawn mills for logs.  No one is predicting how high logs costs will go in the coming weeks, months and years, but expect to see price increases for lumber and flooring on a regular basis.  Maintaining timber sustainability remains a primary goal for the hardwood industry.  This foretells of a continuing battle for a resource whose volume is constrained.

If White Oak is your choice for flooring, expect to pay a premium for the reasons outlined here.  However, Red Oak pricing should stay relatively stable in the coming years.  In terms of appearance and performance in a floor, Quartersawn Red Oak will produce a gorgeous floor of similar strength and longevity.

Wood Supply Chain

I want to start this edition of “Criswell’s Corner” by telling you all that the hiatus I took this winter was actually due to a cancer diagnosis I received in October of 2013. I have been focused on my treatment and recovery and am happy to report that two weeks ago I had a PET scan that was free of cancer.

It was a difficult period, but I am proud to say that Frank Miller Lumber stood by me and my family throughout the entire ordeal.  In the world of commerce, the character of a company is very important.  If I am going to align myself with a company who will play a crucial role in the outcome of a project, I want to align myself with a company of integrity and true character.  I have proudly represented Frank Miller Lumber for nearly 18 years, the first 14 as a salesman and the past 4 as an architectural marketing consultant.

Through good financial times and bad (we all remember 2008, right?) Frank Miller Lumber has consistently produced some of the world’s highest quality quartersawn hardwoods.  The company has never waivered and my cancer treatment showed the kind of commitment that the company makes to its employees as well as its customers.  If one is judged by the company they keep, I am proud to be judged by my association with Frank Miller Lumber.

As a designer or architect it is more important now than ever that if high quality hardwoods are an aesthetic feature of your project you should forge a strong alliance with a premium mill like Frank Miller Lumber.  Leaving the successful outcome of your project to the vagaries of the lumber market can often result in heartache and disappointment.

Unlike other materials that will be used in your project, many factors affect hardwood lumber supply.  Let’s look at the current situation in the market.  After the financial recession of 2008 many log suppliers went out of business, as did many sawmills.  The strongest companies, Frank Miller Lumber among them, stayed the course and remain healthy to this day.  The market for quartersawn hardwoods is stronger than ever as is the market for plain sawn lumber around the globe.  Supply is the problem now.  Demand has classically outpaced supply.  In September I was speaking to architects and designers in Saigon with a group of American Hardwood suppliers.  One hardwood mill representative told me that he was very anxious about going out the next day to talk to his customers because they all want plain sawn red oak for their furniture manufacturing and there was simply not enough wood to go around.  He was actually going to have to cancel some orders.  It is my guess that those companies who had not forged a relationship with him would be the ones to come up short in supply.

Developing a hardwood supply chain for your project early in the design phase is critical to a successful outcome.  Frank Miller Lumber is unique in allowing me to represent them to the design community.  Allow me to work with you to develop the crucial hardwood supply chain that you will require for your project.  Feel free to send me an email at and I will be very pleased to assist you in whatever way I can.

Case Studies

A friend sent me this picture of Patrick Stewart doing a one armed push-up and while that is an impressive feat, my eye was immediately drawn to the floor, which is rift white oak.  Now I want to find out more – is that Patrick’s house?  Who made the floor?  Who designed the space?  Could the lumber have come from Frank Miller?

I spend a significant amount of time thumbing through Architectural Digest and Architectural Record looking at the amazingly beautiful homes, hotels and other commercial buildings featured.  From time to time I see a gorgeous floor or built-in cabinetry that appears to be made from quartersawn white or red oak.  Rarely, if ever, is the flooring mentioned in the article.  I have, from time to time, tried to chase down the architects to see about writing a case study on the quartersawn lumber used in their design.  With a few exceptions, that effort has proved fruitless.

One perfect example of the futility of this effort is an 8,000 square foot residential space in Portland, Oregon where I worked with the architect on using rift white oak for the floors.  They were thinking of using an exotic wood for which there would be no sustainability paper trail and I convinced them to use rift white oak because it is FSC certified and was the most stable and beautiful floor they could lay in that space.  These conversations spanned many months and in the end the designers went with rift white oak and apparently were thrilled with it.  Naturally the goal was to have the rift white oak come from Frank Miller Lumber so that the quality could be monitored.  We fine-tuned the lumber specifications to align them with the realities of the resource and I followed the job from start to finish.  The missing link was the contractor who took the specs and delivered the flooring on time.  I tried repeatedly to talk to the contractor to find out who made the floors so that I might be able to determine if the flooring manufacturer is a customer of Frank Miller’s.  The contractor refused to reveal the source of the flooring as if revealing that information would somehow compromise his business.  I offered to have professional photographs taken of the project that he could use for his own marketing efforts.  All of my work was in vain.  I can reasonably assume that the lumber came from Frank Miller, but without knowing for sure, I can’t write a case study like we did for the Barnes Museum.  We know in that case that all of that lumber came from our mill.

The tricky thing is that because Frank Miller Lumber is not a flooring manufacturer we can’t say for sure where all of the lumber we produce goes.  When I suggest that designers and architects work directly with the mill, I mean that Frank Miller Lumber should be specified as the source of the lumber.  When that happens, all of the worries about quality, appearance and timely delivery are settled.  Frank Miller Lumber, when specified, becomes a partner in the project, one upon whom you can rely.  We can even recommend the best flooring manufacturers in the area surrounding the project to heighten your sense of security.  After the project is complete we can write a case study to tell the world about your beautiful work.

Form vs. Function

I have been on hiatus for the past few months and during that time I have done considerable thinking on this topic as it relates to design.  The more I looked at beautiful designs, whether commercial, hospitality or residential the more I saw form trumping function unnecessarily.  Naturally, my design orientation centers on flooring because Frank Miller Lumber produces the finest American hardwood for that use.

In some of the hardwood flooring installations I have seen the floors are spectacular, made better by the fact that the hardwood is sustainable.  Even in the most functionally cumbersome spaces, the hardwood makes a great statement.  Many years ago, in a previous business life, I was hired to run a beautiful brand new country club clubhouse in the desert.  Operations were scheduled to open two months after I was hired and I looked at this award winning building in which I would be working.  After the first walkthrough I started to ask questions about how the building actually was to function as a clubhouse for 200 golfing members.  I was shocked by how many questions had never been addressed, like where the trash would be stored until the once a week pickup.  I had to re-work the design of the building in order to make it function.  The building didn’t open for six months.  The building looked great, but it just didn’t function.

When it comes to beautiful hardwood floors, one needs to carefully assess the environment into which the floors will be installed, the moisture content of the wood and subfloor and acclimating the flooring to the space.  I am aware of an office building whose design called for two story windows streaming UV light directly onto the floors, which in this case were made of a type of lumber traditionally used for decking.  Decking lumber is “air dried”, which means that it is anywhere from 15-25% moisture content, as it will be on a deck outside.  Take that same lumber, put it inside, then let it cook with direct sunlight and you will be able to watch it warp and crack before your eyes. This was a matter of the subcontractor never questioning the lumber choice for the flooring, nor did they ever measure the moisture content of the wood prior to installation.  Needless to say the finger of blame inevitably pointed to the flooring manufacturer, who had no idea of its end use.

In New York I saw another building with beautiful quartered white oak floors installed before all of the plumbing in the upper floors was finished.  While I was on site, there was a major leak of the pipes while traveled down at least 4 floors soaking the floors through to the subfloor.  That caused a major delay in construction, of course.  Who knows where the finger of blame wound up being pointed on that one.

The point to this is that a beautiful hardwood floor is both form and function, as long as the correct wood species is chosen for the space the lumber is correctly manufactured into flooring and handled correctly on the job site.  Once all of these areas are carefully monitored, function for decades is assured.  When you are considering various hardwood species for a project, call Frank Miller Lumber to talk to the experts about your thinking.  They will steer you to the best manufacturers as well as the best species for the job.