Notes from the Other Side of the Planet

I have been traveling with Dan Hackett, CEO and President of Frank Miller Lumber, for the past two and a half weeks.  We have spent time with architects and designers in Singapore as well as distributors of hardwoods in Perth and Sydney, Australia.  We have visited flooring and furniture manufacturers in Singapore, Perth, Sydney and Takayama, Japan.  We have been welcomed warmly and our audiences have listened intently to our message of sustainable US forestry practices as well as the beauty of Frank Miller quartersawn hardwoods.

Those with whom we visited now fully understand that kiln dried quartersawn hardwoods from Frank Miller will perform extremely well in their humid climate due to their inherent stability.  In visits in Australia we found a market eager to try out this most beautiful form of American hardwoods.  Stability is the operative term in humid climates.  All of the sustainable forestry and FSC®certification issues aside, what concerns designers, distributors and manufacturers alike on this side of the planet is dimensional stability in application.

One flooring manufacturer/installer in Sydney said that a plain sawn White Oak floor they installed along the coast was moving so much that it was actually pushing out the fascia boards on the outside of the house.  After walking them through the animation we have on our website in the learning center and showing them pictures of quartersawn White Oak flooring in Newport, Rhode Island that had been flat in a ballroom for more than 150 years, they started to “get it”.  There is good reason why quartersawn hardwoods, especially White and Red Oak, are used in museums in the US as well as overseas.  Due to the orientation of the grain, it will generally only change dimension in thickness rather than width.

My answer to those who are concerned about the affect of either very arid or humid climates on kiln dried American hardwoods is that we ship quartersawn hardwoods to Maine, Florida, Southern California and Seattle with no stability issues.  Let’s not forget that these hardwoods are meant primarily for interior use.  Virtually all interior spaces are controlled environments to one degree or another, which reduces the number of factors which can negatively affect dimensional stability.  Think about the ballroom floor in that Newport mansion.  It was installed in the 1860’s, nearly 100 years before air conditioning.  Windows remained open in the summer, allowing moist, cool air to flow in from the ocean.  Now, almost 150 years later and after at least one major inundation with storm water, the quartersawn White Oak floors are as flat as they day they were installed.  Designers and architects can rest assured that a quartersawn hardwood floor properly installed will look beautiful and lie flat for a lifetime.