Friday, May 3, 2013

Safety in the Workplace

Written by: Michael Blakley - Marketing Director

One of the benefits of working for an industrial manufacturing firm is you are exposed to a more disciplined approach to workplace safety then you might be in other kinds of businesses.  (Although all work places today need to focus on some level of safety, depending on the nature of their business or service).

What I have learned here at States Industries, in completing my first year as Marketing Director, is how focused our company is on the issue of work place safety and in promoting a healthy work environment.  Our focus is most apparent because our HR and Safety Management team have consistent work-safe programs in place and are constantly initiating new ones as they become aware of better practices, better techniques and new ideas. Their goal, day in and day out, is to make every employee hyper-conscious of working smart, lowering the negative impact of certain physical aspects of the job and being able to spot potential unsafe working conditions and help take the proper corrective actions.

Recently, our company embraced a versatile new safety program, proven to reduce injuries, called “Safety in Motion®/SIM4®, provided by the SAIF Corporation of Oregon.  The techniques used in this program are expressly designed to reduce the occurrence of muscle and spinal injuries.  All the techniques teach employees to think about the way they perform basic job functions and to make simple changes in the way they reach, lift, carry, push or pull.

Here are the fundamentals of the program summarized best:
Positioning elbows closer for better leverage, eliminating the impact of a long, awkward reach.
Using mid-range wrist motions, aligning our wrists to protect them and our forearms.
Moving closer to work; avoiding stooping over or reaching unnecessarily.
Using good posture and proximity to avoid stretching and reaching in an awkward form.
Focus on foot position to align our bodies for best balance and maximum strength.  This helps protect knees, spine and shoulders.
Properly storing tools and materials for better access:  heavy items stored, chest high, lighter items stored on lower shelves where the lifting strain is minimized.

And the beauty of this uncomplicated and straight-forward approach is it can be used in every part of your daily life; lifting groceries, using a step stool to shorten your reach, yard work or projects that require lifting and moving objects, even putting on your seatbelt… the Safety in Motion techniques are all designed to reduce your risk of strain and pain.

And while companies and organizations all have a variety of histories, origins and company cultures, one thing should be parallel across all businesses and that is to develop a safety culture.  For many years, we all heard United Airlines use the expression, “safety is our first priority,” and over the years, our hardwood plywood plant here in Western Oregon has embraced that very same philosophy.

We hope by sharing these techniques, from our own safety culture, that you might find them valuable and useful.

Have a great, safe summer everyone and thank you for being loyal followers.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Still Another Inconvenient Truth

Written by: Randy Weersing - Randy Weersing Furniture Designs

OK, you've heard it before - How virtuous it is to buy local, custom designed, hand crafted, free-range, planet-friendly, gluten-free, gender neutral, politically correct products. Add adjectives at will, available space limits me to a few. I believe it, but I won't go on about it, you're either on board or not. I would like to tell you however, what it is about this work that keeps me energized and engaged.

Having a piece custom designed and built is a valuable opportunity to make a statement: a statement of what you think is important and worthwhile, an affirmation of values by a person who appreciates the dedication and respects the sacrifices of those who create it.

Custom builders of art furniture are not doing this to gain fame and fortune, for few ever achieve this. We design and build to create beauty in form and function, to enrich the lives of the people for whom we create by providing objects for the individual, not for the masses. If we are doing it right it will be a personalized perfect fit, not for everyone, but for you.

I've been designing and building for some 35 years and I never tire of it. Each new project is like setting off on a voyage with that same thrill of anticipation. You have a notion of where you will end up, but what routes will you take, who will you meet and what will you learn along the way?

Inspiration springs from many sources; forms and color in nature, conceptual themes in science and philosophy, maybe a dream....always from the people I design and build for...and materials, WONDERFUL materials.

Without the materials, we'd be literally empty-handed. This may seem an odd venue for an essay extolling the virtues of custom designed, commissioned furniture art. After all, aren't manufactured goods what we rail against? Well, not exactly. Manufactured MATERIALS can be a wonderful resource for we independent designer/builder artsy types.

Of course, the tried-and-true standard is wood, but I'm in awe of the ever increasing array of interesting materials made possible by advancing technologies, and I spend a good deal of time trying to utilize such advancements.

Look at a couple examples of what I'm talking about and I'll shut-up:

I was commissioned to create and award honoring many years of service from a wood products executive. The result is a sculpture depicting a stylized representation of two of his life's passions: his sailboat carved from a material he helped develop.

One of my specialties is personalized cremation urns for boat lovers. This urn was created for a man who had built boats for his sons, with laser engraved graphics to memorialize the first of these boats. It is hand carved from solid Mahogany. 

What are your thoughts on custom wood pieces? Share with us below.

For more information on Randy Weersing's designs, visit his website at:

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Closet and Cabinet Expo Review

Written by: Michael Blakley - Marketing Director

If you have recently shopped any home improvement center or retailer who offers home storage and organizer systems, you are probably amazed at the huge selection of products, options and solutions that are available today.

Well, needless to say, the closet/storage system business has seen incredible growth over the past decade and it’s an industry that is simply not slowing down. 

This was especially apparent to me last week when our company, States Industries and our newly acquired division, Drawer Box Specialties, attended the Closet and Cabinet expo held in Edison, New Jersey.  This was billed as a kind of “total storage solutions event,” and was co-sponsored by the Cabinet Makers Association and Custom Woodworking Business, a Vance Corporation publication.

What was so impressive about this regional and well-organized show was the attendance and energy that surrounded the exhibitors and conference participants.  This event draws custom cabinet, woodworking and closet building professionals, as well as wood industry manufacturers and a wide variety of other kinds of suppliers.

The exhibitor displays featured producers of drawer and cabinet hardware, hook valets, shelf and drawer insert dividers, edge banding, veneers, slat wall systems, cedar closet liners, wall beds, laminate panels and hardwood plywood and specialty components and drawer sides and boxes.

The Drawer Box Specialties team set up a great display featuring most of their product line within 3 substantial cabinet systems, capped off with a dramatic, well-lit back drop of drawer and specialty box images.  One of the original specialty drawer outsource providers, DBS manufactures custom drawer boxes and storage systems in a wide variety of substrates from melamine to exotic hardwoods with corner constructions comprising French dovetails, and doweled and nailed boxes.

All the participants make up part of the dynamic cabinet, crafts and design industry, companies that produce all the great ideas for storage solutions. 

So, if organized living is a priority for you this year, whether it’s kitchen, closet, laundry room or garage, there are incredible products and materials to help you accomplish your goals.  And don’t forget to consult a professional designer if you really have an ambitious, complex project.  Here is a reliable place to start:

Thanks for reading and good luck with all your woodworking projects!

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Wood on Walls - Design Trends for Today's Home

Written by: Michael Richardson - Marketing

When we feel it's time for an update in our homes we often think of installing new carpet, buying new furniture, putting up a fresh coat of paint, etc... But what if you really want to change the look and feel of your home beyond a splash of color on the walls? 

Let's be honest, sometimes a full-scale remodel doesn't fit the financial or time constraints for most of us. If we are looking for something beyond the quick aesthetic change, what are some options?

There are hundreds of websites, magazines, and TV shows that discuss design styles and trends for your home makeover. Sometime's it's hard to focus on one project or choose the perfect material for your room's face-lift. But no matter what room you want to work on or what project you have planned there always seems to be a use for natural wood. 

Wood has been a staple of the American home for generations. The use of wood in interior design has created some of the most time-lasting styles and trends we see today. Although there have been changes in its applications over the years, one of the trends that has stood the test of time is wood on walls.

I talked to some interior design professionals over the last couple weeks to get a feel for how wood is utilized for modern wall applications. They mentioned a variety of uses that are part of their design-work, but each of them emphasized one in particular: Wainscoting.

In its simplest form, wainscoting refers to material that covers the lower portion of a wall, leaving an exposed wall above.

Classic wainscoting with a narrow bead pattern 
For years, wainscoting has been popular in high-traffic areas such as hallways and entryways. Today, trends are showing additional areas for wainscoting such as bedrooms, bathrooms, and even as accents to kitchen islands and breakfast bars.

Beaded wainscoting adds a classic look to this kitchen/dining area
Most of the designers I talked to were quick to point out that most wainscoting jobs may look expensive and time consuming, yet they are actually quite inexpensive compared to most interior projects and are easy to conceptualize and complete. 

The use of wood on walls isn't restricted to wainscoting. A couple of the designers mentioned kitchens as a perfect place to add wood. They suggest installing a wood backsplash or wood accent to a kitchen wall as a unique way to reinvigorate an area of a home often thought to use only wood in the cabinetry. 

The designers are also using more wood on the walls of bathrooms to add more color, brightness and style to a room that's often overlooked beyond new tile and fixtures. 

We can all agree there are countless options for refreshing the look and feel of your home. But before you pick up that paint can, take a look at some of the unique designs that are out there today and remember, nothing provides that timeless beauty and warmth to your home quite like natural wood.

What are some design trends you are seeing with wood on walls? Share your thoughts and comments with us!

Thursday, December 27, 2012

The Glue That Holds It All Together - A Look Inside The Designer's Cabinet

Written by: Randy Weersing - Randy Weersing Furniture Designs

There is a bewildering array of glue products on the market, and you may ask why. Well, the truth is in my shop, 95% of all gluing is done with one product, plain old yellow glue. It is an aliphatic resin, but please don't ask me about the chemistry. There are several popular brands on the market and I have found little difference among them. This glue has many endearing qualities: long shelf life, no mixing required, water soluble for easy clean-up, reasonable working time, and amazing adhesion. It does not have good gap-filling properties however, so your joints must be tight and well clamped. There are water-resistant (not water proof) formulations, and slow setting versions to allow time for complicated assemblies. I use this for almost everything, from traditional furniture joints to vacuum bag veneering.

A look in my glue cabinet reveals a few other useful adhesives for wood:

Cyanoacrylate or crazy glue is handy for sticking down a chip, splinter, or small non-structural repair. The gel type works best on wood.

Polyurethane (Gorilla Glue) is something I sometimes use for repairs when it's gap-filling properties are needed. It bonds well, is semi water-resistant, and foams and expands to fill a sizable gap. It's messy to work with and clean up and its foaming can be a problem, but it has it's uses.

Epoxy, like polyurethane, has good gap-filling properties and may be a good choice for a loose fitting joint, in fact it performs best with a loose joint, not tightly clamped. It's expensive, messy, requires careful mixing, and it can be brittle and unaccommodating to wood movement, but it adheres very well to almost anything and is very water resistant. Don't get it on your hands.

Resorcinol-formaldehyde glue is the traditional boat builders old standard. A powder and liquid are mixed to make a very strong and very waterproof adhesive. Long set-up time and a good, tight, well clamped joint are necessary.

Hide glue, before modern chemistry, was the primary adhesive of choice for many types of woodworking: Furniture, lutherie, etc... It is made from rendered collagen from the skins (hides) of animals. It is chemically similar to edible gelatin and is non-toxic if ingested. Hide glue is still used today in specialized applications like musical instruments and replica furniture. I have used it for conservational-grade repairs to antique woodwork. Not easy to use, it requires a "hot-pot" to maintain a certain temperature.

What are some of the adhesives you utilize in your shop? Please share with us in the comment section below. Happy New Year!

For more information on Randy Weersing's designs, visit his website at:

Friday, December 7, 2012

Color Tones, Rich Finishes and Surface Textures; An Incredible Visual-Sensory Experience When it Involves Fine Woodworking

Written by: Michael Blakley - Director of Marketing

We've all experienced it: you walk into someone’s home or perhaps a luxury hotel, or a first class commercial building and right away you notice something special; beautiful woodwork inspired by great design and skillfully put in place by solid craftsmanship.  

And often, one of the most striking aspects of the woodwork is often the finish coating or color stain that has been applied. In this blog today, we’d like to share a few things about the subject of finishes and color coatings, as it relates both to prefinished panel manufacturing, (which is what we do here in our plant in Eugene, Oregon), and also to those wood working professionals and hobbyists who work with and painstakingly apply finishes to a variety of projects.

First, let’s start with some trends, and no surprise they can vary significantly within the vast regions of North America. While recently we experienced color trends and finish tones that were predominantly the rich, dark, coffee-type hues, we are now seeing a gradual return to lighter looks.

At the States Industries prefinish plant, we talked with Les Lawrence, Finish Coatings Manager. Les pointed out that the basic species continue to dominate the bigger production runs, primarily maple, birch, cherry, oak and walnut. And he confirmed a resurgence of lighter finishes, including washed appearances and warmer tones.

“We get to see a wide range of colors, trending from dark and now back to lighter tones, with an interest in more vertical grain patterns and specialty cuts of veneers that highlight a more straight grain effect.”

In a recent on-line article from, the writer noted the following: “the warmer finishes trend is most evident in the contemporary and transitional furniture categories.  Gone are some of the dark espresso finishes that required silver colored hardware…  instead, wood tones are softer, more Mid-Century modern in color and shape---think “Mad Men” meets today’s modern loft.” They go on to suggest that in both the contemporary and transitional style categories, “walnut veneers seem to be guiding the trend.”

North Carolina based Valspar Wood Products, in last year’s publication of its “PEAK 2011: Style Guide,” reports a mixing trend, blending both new and reclaimed wood in a range of finish colors.

Another an important part of the aesthetic component is the gloss level on a particular stain, which can dramatically affect the final look. Lawrence reports seeing a “definite trend of lower gloss applications on many of our panel runs here at our plant.”

This may be somewhat related to a trend toward hardwood floors sporting a low gloss appearance. The lower luster looks tend to hide small scratches and dents better than the higher glosses and they are easier to maintain. Additionally, a lower gloss level will likely bring out more of the natural characteristics of the wood in flooring as well as in hardwood-decorative panels used for walls, surfaces, furniture and cabinetry.   
The other interesting challenge around blending, mixing and matching custom colors, is matching stains to laminate materials, especially when dealing with contrasting colors which are more easily created in the manufacture of laminates. But States’ Lawrence is quick to point out that “we can do that; over our many years of finish coating experience, we have developed the competencies in matching our wood panels and components to most any laminate.”

Finally, when wood surfaces are coated and finished, it is important to recognize that the natural characteristics of wood can create some variances in the gloss level, stain absorption and ultimately the color tone of the final product.

To tie out this topic to our own product line, you may wish to visit our website, and for some compelling insight into the world of finish coatings, check out

Remember, when you have important projects where significant decisions will be made with regard to the proper design elements… Color, texture, lighting and choice of materials, you will always be well-served to enlist the services of professional designers and skilled craftsmen.

Happy Holidays from all of us at States Industries.
Enjoy your projects and please remember to always work safely.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Sawdust, Sustainability and Secure Jobs; The Best of All Worlds

By Michael Blakley, Marketing Director

One of the exciting things I discovered when I joined States Industries as Marketing Director, is they have been hosting an internship program over the years.  This past summer, our intern students were from Oregon State University and they worked here at our hardwood plywood plant in Eugene, Oregon.

As a native Oregonian and proud participant in the wood products industry, it is always rewarding to see companies and schools doing things to attract young people to our industry.  I hope this blog discussion will spark additional interest in our industry as well as the science of forestry and in renewable, sustainable industries. 

States Industries has been focused and committed to the responsible use of our natural resources and in using environmentally safe materials in all our products. That made it easy to talk with our friends at Oregon State University, where they shared this about their interns and programs:

I asked them some of the reasons students choose the forestry schools and they reported that “traditionally those students had family in the industry and sawdust in their veins.  Now, these students are choosing a degree in Renewable Materials because they see an opportunity for knowledge and tools to make the World a better place.”

Currently, Oregon State University has about 1,000 students enrolled in all 7 of their undergraduate degree programs within the School of Forestry, and the Renewable Materials degrees are steadily growing.  Many students focus on quality control jobs and then work their way into management and sales positions.  Some of these careers have included doing research and development for a wood ceiling company, managing international standards and accreditation services, and management in large-scale forest products companies.  Some students pursue careers in international marketing, including management of industry trade associations. The internship opportunities such as the ones here at States allow these students to get real world experience in the industry to help them hit the ground running.

Finally, in an era of some job scarcity, it is refreshing to note that the Renewable Materials Department at Oregon State University points out there are more jobs in sustainable industries than people to fill them.  Consider some of these careers with:
  • Architectural firms
  • Interior products companies
  • Non-government organizations
  • Green building companies
  • Third-party environmental testing firms

So good luck to all who choose these exciting fields and thanks to all who serve our broad base of business and industry.  And to our wood worker friends and craftspeople out there, always remember to work safely; wear eye and ear protection and enjoy your craft!

For more information contained in this blog, please visit: