Sinker Cypress: Buried Treasure

In the 1800s and 1900s, loggers used the best technology of their time (axes and saws) to harvest Cypress trees from the swamps of Florida and the lower Mississippi Valley. The trees would then dry out for up to two years in order to become light enough to float down the river to the mill. However, an estimated 10-20% of all Cypress trees harvested at that time never made it to the mill, instead sinking into the mud and silt at the bottom of the river. These logs became known as “Sinker Cypress” or Sinker Deadhead Logs because they have sunk to the river’s bottom.

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Today, Sinker Cypress is harvested from these rivers using the best technology of our time: sonar and other locating equipment.

Once discovered, scuba divers swim down, attach cables to the logs, and use a winch or airbags to pull the logs to the surface. Once again, the logs need to be air-dried for up to two years before they are usable.

Sinker Cypress isIMG_1719.jpg a highly desired lumber product. Because it’s a reclaimed lumber, the supply is limited. As old-growth wood, this lumber is harder, denser, and more stable than newer-growth Cypress, and its 150-year underwater preservation process makes it one of the most rot- and insect-resistant woods in the world. Sinker Cypress contains an oil, cypressene, which preserves the heart wood in the water as organisms eat away at the bark. Even after harvesting, the cypressene continues to protect the wood from the elements, rotting and pests.

Sinker Cypress is also known for its beautiful grain variations, from honeyed browns to grays to olive greens, depending on where it came to rest in the river bottom. If the log landed in a sandy area, lighter tones developed, and a muddier river bottom results in a darker, more olive green tone. Over the century and a half that the logs have been immersed, they have taken on the tannins and minerals from their resting places. Besides a gorgeous tone and color, a naturally tight grain structure gives the wood an unrivaled allure.

Sinker Cypress is commonly used for interior and exterior siding and soffit, but can be used for anything from flooring to furniture. Its strength and attractiveness lends itself to a variety of applications.

Additionally, as a reclaimed wood, Sinker Cypress is an eco-friendly product, and architects and builders can earn LEED points by using it.

pecky_cypress-013594-edited.jpgPecky Sinker Cypress is an even rarer and more valuable type of Sinker Cypress. This highly sought-after wood has pockets and recesses in it that, when milled, show up as unique markings. Surprisingly, the recesses are caused by a fungus called “stereum taxodil” which only flourishes while the tree is alive, and dies off when the tree is cut down. The Pecky Cypress adds a distinctive beauty especially well-suited to a rustic look.  

Sinker Cypress offers strength, durability, and a commanding, exquisite beauty, but its appeal doesn’t lie only in its good qualities. These qualities combined with a rich history of preservation at the bottom of ageless rivers, and a small impact on the planet make Sinker Cypress an unparalleled choice for any project.

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Tropical Hardwood vs. Composite decking

When planning a deck, one of the first essential decisions is what material to use. There are many choices but this article will focus on comparing composite materials with tropical hardwood decking.

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While both options have  benefits and drawbacks, there are many compelling reasons to choose a tropical hardwood such as Ipe, Cumaru, Garapa, and Tigerwood for your next deck.

Installation Cost

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Wood is generally quicker and less expensive to install than composite, due to framing. Composite decking requires a 16” on center spacing because it is too weak and flexible to withstand a wider span between joists. Hardwoods allow up to 24” on center spacing, depending on the deck pattern, saving time and money on installation.

Strength and Durability

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Tropical hardwoods have a much wider range of both width and thickness than composite boards, giving them an advantage in strength and durability. Composite materials lack strength, bowing under heavy foot traffic, making them an especially poor choice for commercial use. Even in a residential application, sagging between joists is often noticeable.

Longevity

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Some types of tropical hardwood decking, such as Ipe, can be built and then practically forgotten about, weathering to a beautiful, aged patina. If the weathered look isn’t desired, a tropical hardwood deck does need to have UV protectorate applied in order to preserve the original look of the wood. Composite decking has been manufactured for several decades now, and this product hasn’t quite aged as well as marketers promised. Tropical hardwood decks can easily last 30-40 years, depending on the environment. Although composite decking has a limited stain and fade warranty, it won’t outlast hardwood decking.

Look and Feel

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The strongest claim composite manufacturers can make about the beauty of their product is that it looks like real wood. At its very best composite wood is an inferior facsimile of true tropical hardwood. Why buy a substitute? There’s no way to truly emulate the natural grain, shade variation, and genuine appearance of actual wood. There is no comparison when it comes to aesthetics. Composite decking will also never feel like natural wood. Even as technology improves the look of composite decking, it will still feel like plastic. Another consideration is heat retention. This is most applicable to decks installed in very warm areas, such as the southern United States. Composite decking heats up approximately 10 degrees warmer than tropical hardwoods, making bare feet on the deck intolerable. Especially for decks intended for families with young children, this is an important detail.


Taking all factors into consideration, tropical hardwoods have the advantage. It will last for decades, decrease installation costs, feel like natural wood, and most importantly, bring a homeowner the pleasure of its beauty for a very long time, serving as the backdrop for many happy memories.

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Why is Teak so Expensive?

The word “Teak” is synonymous with quality outdoor furniture, decking, and prestigious yachts. But as anyone who’s purchased Teak knows, that quality comes at a cost.

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The basic law of supply and demand dictates much of this high cost.

Teak is in high demand because of its properties. It is durable; water-, pest- and rot-resistant; has only minor shrinkage; doesn’t corrode with steel; and very importantly, has a beautiful look, naturally weathering to a silvery-gray tone.

Teak (Tectona grandis) comes from Myanmar (formerly Burma), a country of 51 million people in Southeast Asia, bordering Bangladesh, India, China, Laos, and Thailand. Myanmar’s forests contain half of the world’s naturally occurring teak. Teak has also been cultivated in other parts of Southeast Asia, but this plantation Teak is generally viewed as inferior to indigenous Burmese Teak.

Several changes in Myanmar have contributed to an increased cost of Teak. For instance, the increase in government regulations have led to a decline in logging. While these measures exist to preserve the ecology of the country, they have caused the price to increase.

There is simply less Teak available.  

Formerly, companies were able to legally export logs, which has now been banned in favor of exporting only processed lumber. Paying more for a more processed product has led to an increased cost. It’s also difficult to obtain teak logs from the forest. OHC’s Teak is logged using ancient, traditional methods which are less disruptive to the forest than a skidder..

Another factor affecting the cost of Teak is civil unrest in Myanmar. Unfortunately Myanmar has had one of the longest-running civil wars in history. This unrest made it difficult and costly to do business there. While the dictatorship officially ended in 2011, many current political players are former military officers. Even so, the political situation has improved since 2011.

OHC’s Teak is 100% responsibly harvested and our partners in Myanmar participate in reforestation. However, the cost of Teak isn’t going to decrease any time in the near future.

Its limited supply, logging restrictions, and highly desirable quality are reflected in the price, but thankfully that high price is attached to an excellent, long-lasting product.

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What is the best wood for Marine Grade Plywood?

Consider a boat: immersed in water, misted with caustic ocean spray, and pummeled by aggressive waves, one after another. Could there be a harsher, less friendly environment for wood? And yet wood is a prized boat-building material, spanning from the earliest boats carved out of logs to today’s highly technical yachts. Marine lumber must have specific characteristics such as strength, resistance to rot, and the ability to hold glue and fasteners well.

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Many species of wood meet these requirements, but we believe that Okoume is the best possible species for use in Marine-Grade Plywood. 

Okoume is lightweight, doesn’t easily deteriorate in wet conditions, and is handsome enough to add beauty to any boat. Its grain is highly prized, is often compared to Mahogany and can be varnished to use decoratively. It can also be overlaid with a Teak or Ipe veneer. Okoume Marine Grade Plywood is typically used in combination with epoxy and fiberglass to increase strength while remaining lightweight, and can be found on a variety of boats, from single-person kayak builders to some of the world’s largest boat builders.

Marine Grade Plywood is used most typically for hull construction, but can also be used in interior applications. Although the outside of the boat battles the elements quite forcefully, the interior of a boat also needs to withstand moisture and humidity.

Okoume resists rot and performs well in damp conditions inside the boat thanks to its natural properties as well as the lamination process.

Both the wood and the plywood glue must meet specific standards to be considered marine grade. OHC uses Weather and Boil Proof (WBP) glue. Plywood assembled with WBP glue must be able to withstand boiling in water for several hours without delamination. The ability of a plywood to resist delamination under boiling depends not only on the quality of the glue, but also on the materials used and the quality of care used in its manufacturing. It is normally laminated with a ‘phenol-formaldehyde resin’ which sets permanently under heat and pressure. 

OHC’s Marine Grade Plywood meets BS-1088 specifications, which is the highest standard.

These British standards require that the plywood be made from untreated tropical hardwood veneers that have a stated level of resistance to fungal growth. The glue used must be resistant not only to weather, water, and heat, but also to micro-organisms that can deteriorate strength. Face veneers must also have a solid surface without open defects. By meeting BS-1088 specifications, OHC’s Marine Grade Plywood can be insured by Lloyd’s of London.

To build the best boats, the best quality Marine Grade Plywood must be used. Using a better grade will result in a higher value (including resale value), increased longevity of the boat, and a reduction in building time.

For the best quality boats, OHC’s Marine Grade Plywood, made with Okoume, is the obvious choice.


 

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5 Mistakes to Avoid When Cleaning Your Deck

Spring is almost here! And after a long, cold, and very snowy winter for many in the United States, just the thought of enjoying a warm day in April or May must warm the soul. For deck owners, all you have to do is just step outside onto your porch or back deck and soak up the sun, right? Not so fast.

 

If you own a deck or porch, you know there's work to be done! After winter, there's bound to be stains, dirt, and grime that has been left to sit and settle into the boards and between the gaps. If you're not careful, there are a few ways you can actually ruin the look of your deck if you're not careful.

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Here are the top mistakes to avoid when cleaning or refinishing your deck:

1. Letting nature do the work

If you think the wind and rain that come during the spring will clean your deck or porch for you, think again. All the elements can do is move around dirt and grime, not remove it.

2. Not clearing the gaps

Allowing any part of your deck to accumulate dirt, leaves, and anything else in between the gaps of your deck boards can lead to serious issues. Any organic matter that's left to rot can cause discoloring and premature rotting of wood (especially softer woods like pine and cedar). Also, because water tends to accumulate in any area where it cannot run off, it will pool and potentially cause your decking to warp and twist. Do your boards a favor, mind the gap and clear them out thoroughly.

3. Excessive powerwashing

Decking materials, whether they be as strong as Ipe or made of composite materials, are not steel or glass. They can be damaged by prolonged power washing, using the wrong tip, or too high of a PSI. If you have never pressure washed a deck before, you need to do the following:

  • Use a fan tip
  • Wash along the grain and the length of the board
  • Never aim too close to the deck surface

4. Not cleaning your deck prior to refinishing

So, let's say you have a new deck made of Ipe and it's due for its very first annual refinishing. Instead of reading the directions, you simply sweep off some leaves and dirt and apply the oil. Everything looks fine the first day, but after a while you notice strange markings on your deck. Surely, it must be the oil! Nope. The oil did its job. Unfortunately, it's not enough to sweep off your deck prior to oiling it. It has to be thoroughly cleaned so the finishing solution of your choice can adhere to the grain and protect the wood. If there's dirt still left in the wood, the oil cannot properly soak into the surface. Use a wood deck cleaner and brightener to prevent giving yourself more work and an ugly deck to look at.

5. Not checking the weather prior to refinishing

It's Saturday morning and you are going to oil your deck first thing in the morning. You oil your deck in no time flat. Sunday morning, everything still looks good. Then it rains. You don't notice it at first, but after a few days you notice the finish is uneven and it looks like the wood has spots all over it. What happened? Because the oil had not yet fully dried and settled into the wood, the finish became uneven. To prevent this from happening, make sure your deck is completely dry 24 hours prior to and after applying any finish or sealer.

Conclusion

Aviod these mistakes and you can give yourself the best chance of not spending a lot of time and money on future deck maintenance and repairs. Instead, you can clean your deck, apply a finish, and enjoy it for the remainder of the year.

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Featured Project: Golden Nugget Hotel & Casino

At OHC, we supply the finest, pre-sanded Ipe, and our reputation for distributing high-quality Ipe stretches far beyond decking. One such case is the newly renovated Golden Nugget Hotel & Casinos in Lake Charles, LA and Biloxi, MS. We custom-machined Ipe for the upscale hotels' cabanas, day beds, gift shop, and pool seating areas.

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Featured Project: St. Lawrence Catholic Church

It’s been said that humans have a primordial need to build wooden structures, stemming from eons of building and living in them. The stunning millwork in St. Lawrence Catholic Church in Fairhope, AL fulfills that need, creating a feeling of warmth and security for its parishioners.

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A contemporary, octagonal structure capable of accommodating 600 worshippers, the interior of the building mixes brickwork and millwork to achieve a warm but airy space.

Meranti Dark Red Seraya was the first choice for the millwork, due to its striking beauty and durability in the continually changing climate of the coastal location near Mobile Bay.

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St. Lawrence Catholic Church faced a special challenge with its design: the 40-foot wood panels on the walls and ceiling needed variation and depth to avoid monotony and heft. Fortunately the beautiful grain and skilled custom millwork break up these substantial sections. Also, the gorgeous natural color of the Dark Red Seraya complements the pink/red tones of the brickwork, creating contrasting textures and producing an aesthetically pleasing mix.

The architects utilized gapped siding to show off the Meranti Dark Red Seraya and break up the large wall and soffit sections. Instead of placing the boards right next to each other, the designers left a space in between, highlighting the character of each individual plank.

Overseas Hardwoods Company’s Meranti Dark Red Seraya is known for its workability and its proficiency at remaining stable and lying flat in service. 

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The cupola in the center of the sanctuary lets in natural light, breaking up the paneling and playing up the differing appearance of the wood. Although the same wood species and the same finish was used for the panels and the cupola, the cupola looks quite distinct from the soffit. Meranti boasts a tight grain structure, allowing designers and builders to use the same species but achieve different looks, depending on the light.

 

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Another interesting detail of the cupola are the decorative circles nestled between support beams. Intended merely as a point of interest, these circles speak to the workability of the wood. OHC’s Meranti provides a restrictive premium grade that includes PHAD (Pin Holes Are Defects), meaning architects and millwork companies have a greater latitude in design and creativity due to the absence of virtually all defects. 

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Is Philippine Mahogany A True Mahogany?

Here's the truth behind Philippine Mahogany:

Vintage boat with Philippine Mahogany

The term "Philippine Mahogany" was used largely in the 1950's and '60's to describe wood species used on luxury boats or yachts.

For many years the Meranti wood species has been known as "Philippine Mahogany." Philippine Mahogany is a term that generally applies to a number of wood species native to southeast Asia. Confusingly, Philippine Mahogany is not actually a type of Mahogany at all. Many types of wood have co-opted the name but aren’t truly Mahogany, such as Royal Mahogany and East Indian Mahogany. “True” Mahogany comes from the Swietenia and Khaya genuses, while the name “Philippine Mahogany” has been used to describe many types of lumber species from the Shorea genus. (Things get even more confusing when buying lumber in Australia, where wood from the Shorea genus is marketed as Pacific Maple!)

Philippine Mahogany encompasses many different varieties of wood that have been offered by non-traditional lumber companies, creating negative results and a bad rap for the name. The five main groupings (based on heartwood color and weight) for Philippine Mahogany are Light Red Meranti, Dark Red Meranti, White Meranti, Yellow Meranti, and Balau.

Each of these types not only has a different appearance but has different mechanical strength values and different working properties.

Many Philippine Mahogany/Meranti importers in the United States sell a commercial grade known as DUC (Dark Uniform Color), but unfortunately, actual uniformity has been sorely lacking. This grade has wide variances in grain, color, and tone.

Out of all of the false Mahoganies, those in the Shorea genus probably come the closest to genuine Mahogany in look and workability. Philippine Mahogany/Meranti has been used for centuries as a less expensive substitute for Mahogany and is an excellent choice for everything from structural work, boat building, outdoor furniture, and decking.

All true Mahogany species in their native countries are listed in Appendix II of the International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES). Philippine Mahogany/Meranti is not listed on CITES II, making it a more ecologically sound choice.

Meranti and Philippine Mahogany are two names for the same species of wood, but in order to be more precise and deliver a more uniform and consistent product, Overseas Hardwoods Company (OHC) has decided to focus on two specific types of Meranti. 

DR_Seraya_front_grain.jpgClassic Meranti Dark Red Seraya

Nemesu (Left) & Dark Red Seraya (Right)

Meranti Nemesu is a dense/dark species, and Meranti Dark Red Seraya is a medium dense/dark species. Both have a warm, luminous appearance with consistent color and grain variation, and a high degree of workability.

Thanks to OHC’s outstanding reputation as a top source of high-quality lumber, you can eliminate uncertainty and count on a reliable, consistent product when you choose Meranti for a project.



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Featured Project: St. Ignatius Catholic Parish

It’s rare to find a church that feels both sacred and inviting. St. Ignatius Catholic Parish in the College Park area of Mobile, AL is one such church. Worshipping together since 1937, the church dedicated its first building in 1978, added a vestibule in 1979 and completed a major choir loft renovation in 2015. 

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Mobile’s coastal climate requires a high-functioning wood species, but just as high on the list of specifications was a wood that would age with beauty and create a warm and inviting space.

Thanks to its reputation for withstanding high humidity and resisting rot, Meranti Nemesu was utilized in the church’s original construction. Therefore any new renovations needed to match the look of the existing millwork.

 

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Any millwork shop, builder, or architect is concerned with the durability of a wood species. Walking through St. Ignatius and comparing the wood from the 1970s to that of the 2015 construction gives a good sense of how this particular species of wood ages. Not only has it held up without warping or unseemly wearing, the Meranti Nemesu has mellowed into a dark chocolate finish that very nearly glows.

The rich, organic feel of the Meranti Nemesu millwork in St. Ignatius expresses the warm and inviting atmosphere of the building.

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The expansive coffered ceiling, which is inset with lighting, plays up Meranti’s natural glow, reflecting light as it bounces from surface to surface. This design element shows off the wood’s beauty, but also diffuses and softens the light in the sanctuary. The oculus directly above the altar also lets natural light in, adding another dimension of light and warmth to the room.

 

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The paneled wall and inlaid icons complement the building’s atmosphere. The icons, which are painted onto a golden background, play up the wood’s natural glow and gold undertones. The icons and Nemesu panels are so lustrous that they appear to be subtly lit, but are simply reflecting the ambient light of the church.

 

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The modern stained glass windows seen throughout the church invite contemplation of the sacred, marrying contemporary design with biblical and ecclesiastical iconography. The amber, chestnut, and ochre tones of the stained glass echo the rich tones of the paneled walls surrounding them. Additionally, the circular shape of many of the stained glass windows repeats the circles seen in the heavy wood doors of the church, creating a pleasing sense of continuity.

 

 

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The parishioners of St. Ignatius worship together in the original church pews from 1978. Each pew, milled from a single board of Nemesu, has no seam, and has borne the wear and tear of constant use for nearly 40 years, but they look just as beautiful and welcoming as the day they were installed.

Meranti Nemesu is available in extra wide (12”) cuts as well as extra long (8’ to 22’), making dramatic design possible.

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Several design elements in the church would not be possible without OHC’s long cuts of wood. These seamless boards are featured on the coffered ceiling, the vestibule, the altar dais, and the paneled walls of the choir loft. The planks emphasize the height of the sanctuary, drawing your eyes up, as befits a house of worship. It simultaneously makes the space feel both vast and intimate, which is quite a feat.

 

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A particular challenge for this project was the large sections covered with wood paneling. With Meranti Nemesu’s varied grain and slight variation in color, the wall has ample depth and character which prevents it from appearing dense and monotonous, like a large brown painted wall.

St. Ignatius Catholic Parish has welcomed multiple generations of worshipers to its building, and with the beauty and longevity of its Meranti Nemesu millwork, it will last for many generations to come.

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OHC Welcomes Tom Dean

Tom Dean OHCWe are proud to welcome Tom Dean to the OHC family. Tom has been in the lumber, millwork, flooring, and decking business for 26 years. Tom earned his stripes in the lumber industry working for the family business (Dean Hardwoods, Inc.) since the age of 20. He's worked the floor in the lumber yard and within each process of his family's business. While working in the millwork shop, Tom gained experience in tooling and operating machinery, rip saw operation, making moulder knives, and running the moulders. Tom is also trained in kiln drying lumber with over 10 years of experience operating kilns.

Tom has extensive experience purchasing lumber from South America and Asia. As one of the early importers of Ipe decking, Tom was responsible for making this beautiful species so popular in the United States. Over the years, Tom has gained an extraordinary amount of knowledge about domestic and international hardwoods. From Sapele to White Oak, Tom is a veritable encyclopedia on every species of wood used in boats and millwork applications. His knowledge will enable OHC customers to make the right choices for their boat building and millwork lumber needs.

As a member of the IWPA Board of Directors, Tom was a part of a team who represented lumber companies throughout the world. He was also involved in the redecking of two of our armed forces most decorated and storied vessels, the USS North Carolina (Burmese Teak) and the USS Alabama (Ipe Decking).

Tom brought his knowledge and expertise to the boat building industry and is well known amongst the world's most prized boat manufacturers. Both he and his family have served and sold lumber products to marine businesses including the Rybovich family, Chris Craft, Viking Yachts, Hatteras Yachts, Palmer Johnson, and many others.

Tom will continue to provide these leading boat manufacturers and customers throughout the East Coast with Meranti, Ipe Decking and other high-performance lumber products.

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