Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Let’s Talk About Tropical Hardwood

When we started this business in 1985, we wanted to be sure that the wood species we chose was the very best for use in furnishings for high-traffic public spaces.  We needed to know density, durability, strength, stiffness, hardness, and much more.  Surprisingly, our research of published technical information found a significant amount of inconsistent and incorrect data.  The U.S. Forest Service Laboratory in Madison, Wisconsin was, and continues to be, a great resource for information on both domestic and imported wood.

In addition to choosing wood species based on technical data, we wanted to address the environmental issues.  The controversy surrounding sustained yield forestry practices was just beginning in 1985.  Factual information was not always readily available.  Trusted lumber industry sources and groups like The Sierra Club and Rain Forest Action Network gave us guidance in the early years.

Over time, our own experience has made us second to none in technical wood knowledge, and information from third party verification services provided direction on environmental issues.

Today, however, the “facts” about sustainable lumber harvest practices are more difficult to ascertain.  There is competition between environmental groups, there is competition between third party verifiers, and there is dishonesty from some in the tropical hardwood business.  Consider these statements from a recent article published by Greenpeace:

“The truth is that there are many people who are buying Ipe from
Brazil which they believe has been legally logged, but who
may be actually getting something that has, for lack of a better
term, been laundered”.

“Several sellers also prominently display the FSC chain of custody
certification logo on their websites and marketing materials,
even though a substantial portion of the products they sell are not
FSC certified”.

“Given the high incidence of illegality in the Amazon timber sector,
it is very likely that U.S. purchases of Brazilian timber have been
and continue to be in violation of U.S. law”.

So, what do we do?  What do we believe?  This is as difficult for those of us in manufacturing as it is for those of you who are specifying or buying tropical hardwood products.

One of the main uses of tropical hardwood in the U.S. is for decking and boardwalks.  Fortunately, there are some composite materials available as a substitute for tropical hardwood decking.  Some of these composite products are soft by comparison and are only acceptable for residential use, but we have found one that compares in density and structural characteristics to Ipe hardwood.  It is called XTR, and you can learn more about it on our website under “Decking”.

Monday, September 24, 2012

It Works

We've told you about the development process of our new faux wicker products. We listened to our clients and we engineered into these products durability and features which simply make out products better, such as: 

  • Heavy duty welded frame, the highest quality polyethylene strand, and a tight 1:1 weave which are all necessary for a successful public space installation. 
  • Cushions manufactured here using Made in America Dryfast foam and Sunbrella sling fabrics. 
  • Cushions secured to the frame with concealed anchors, legs powder coated in the color of your choice

And….it works!

A design firm recently specified our woven furniture for a high traffic retail development.  The owner was skeptical.  It seems they had had a poor prior experience with another manufacturer’s product.

It was “show and tell” time.

The owner visited one of our installations and asked all the intelligent questions, sat in and on the furniture, studied the framework, the weave, and attachment of the legs, the cushions, and the anchoring….right down to the last detail.

And they said, “We like it!”

A sophisticated buyer will always recognize and appreciate a superior product, so we will continue to build-in those features which separate our products from the rest because… works!

Coming soon:

  • Our Next Generation of faux wicker furnishings!

  • Exciting New Designs in outdoor dining!

We enjoy hearing from you!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

New Product Development

Developing new products is both an exhilarating and an exhausting challenge for a manufacturer. Determining what works, what doesn’t, and then bringing a product successfully to market is about 40% art, 40% science, and 80% luck (okay, so I wasn’t a math major, but you get my point).

About two years ago, some of our clients began using faux wicker furnishings, and encouraging us to get into that business.

We listened. We did some market research. We learned that the market was already over-crowded with dozens of importers, reps, and dealers, and we said, “No thanks”.

Then about one year ago, we started getting feedback from our clients who had purchased faux wicker furnishings. Some of the comments included: “In less than a year, the cushions are trash”. “The weave is unraveling and there is no warranty”. “The furniture is really uncomfortable”. “The floor glides wore out (or fell off) and are not replaceable”. “The frames are coming apart”.

We listened. A light bulb went on over our heads. WOW! There is a place for us in that market! That was exhilarating. Now comes the exhausting part.

Our first challenge was to find a manufacturing partner for the wicker. Our search found 472 worldwide possibilities. We needed to find an experienced and stable international partner, ISO 9000 certified…one that would manufacture products engineered by us for installation in high-traffic public areas. And we did!

At about this time, we decided that the non-wicker items (cushions, metal legs, metal trim, wood trim) would be manufactured by us locally to allow our clients the opportunity to specify fabrics and finishes on a project-specific basis.

Now we needed designs to manufacture. We were very lucky to have input from a long-time client and from a boutique Southern California design firm.

Hundreds of hours of design and engineering time later we are almost ready. Prototypes are being fine-tuned, details are being finalized, and soon you will see the results. When you do, let us hear from you, because we listen!

Friday, June 10, 2011

Let's talk Teak


Welcome to the second edition of Daryl’s Domain. Once again, I will share some experiences…and perhaps ruffle a few feathers.

Let’s talk TEAK.

For decades, the importers of teak furniture have told us that their furniture could be installed outdoors with no maintenance. The furniture would just “weather to a natural gray”, or words to that effect.

As a result, a generation of designers has come to believe that teak is a magical, mystical material…totally different from any other wood species. It could be used outdoors and would remain “natural” forever.

This, however, is our experience:

The tropical hardwoods commonly used for outdoor furniture are: jatoba, jarrah, ipe, and teak. They have some differences in initial color, density, and oil content, but they share many common characteristics:

• If left unfinished, they will all turn some shade of gray in outdoor exposure.

• If left unfinished, they will all become stained from food or drink spills, bird droppings, and even body oils.

• If left unfinished, checks and cracks will develop due to the cycle of absorbing water and drying out. If the wood is not kiln dried prior to furniture manufacturing, the checking and cracking will be much worse.

• The same cycle of getting wet and drying out will produce grain rise, giving the wood an unpleasant, rough texture.

• In wet climates, or if the furniture is installed under sprinklers, the wood (particularly teak) can show black streaks. This is mineral from the soil, absorbed by the roots and stored in the tree, then brought to the surface by water.

Unfinished wood furniture installed outdoors will, at some point in time, be unpleasant to the eye and uncomfortable to the touch. This is normal and “natural”.

Because we have experienced these common characteristics, we tell our clients that if they want the natural warmth and beauty of hardwood furniture, they need to have a finish applied at the factory and then commit to an annual maintenance program. If they cannot do this, we recommend they buy metal furniture.

As always, your comments are requested and appreciated.

Daryl Braun

P.S. There are many choices of finishes for outdoor wood furniture, from penetrating sealers to clear top coatings….but that’s a topic for another Daryl’s Domain.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Sustainable Design


Welcome to the first edition of “Daryl’s Domain”, from where I will share some thoughts and experiences…and sometimes stir up a little controversy.

Let’s think about:  Sustainable Design.

My dictionary defines the word sustain as “…to keep in existence, maintain, prolong…”

A client once told me he needed some “bombproof” furniture.  It seems one of his retail developments had very high traffic and he could not find furniture that would last.  Our design engineer and I put our heads together, and determined that we could not make bombproof furniture.  However, we could make furniture in modules, so that when damage occurred, a module could easily be replaced by the maintenance staff.  We got that order, and the furniture has now been in service for many years.  It is certainly of “sustainable design”.

We all need to work toward sustaining our natural resources.  One way we do that is by having all our aluminum castings made from post-consumer recycled material.  But sustainable design means more than just the selection of raw materials.  It means the product itself must “sustain”.

I see products that are promoted as “green” because of their raw material content, but they are manufactured in such a way (cheaply) that they will have a short useful life.  When I consider the time and energy to replace those products every few years, it is hard for me to define them as “green” or to be of “sustainable design”.

All of us who design, engineer, specify, purchase, and use furniture need to get past some of the “greenwash” promotions and dig a bit deeper to understand useful life.  The proper raw materials and a long useful life, together, provide true sustainable design.

As always, your comments are requested and appreciated.

Daryl Braun

P.S.     Our new website is a rousing success!  The 3D modeling service and the “Choose a Fabric/Choose a Finish” interactive feature in “Indoor Seating” are both generating lots of activity.  Check them out at: