Alligator Juniper Floor Looks Sharp

Matt Gardiner, a lead installer at Benchmark Wood Floors Inc., in Albuquerque, New Mexico, has been in the flooring industry for more than 20 years. Even though he has a lot of experience under his belt, this job still provided a challenge, something Gardiner really enjoys.

All photos courtesy of Matt Gardiner.

Gardiner, his partner Kenny Hatchett, and the homeowner worked together to design the layout for this entryway using end grain Alligator Juniper from the job site. “This job was unique because we cut down trees from the ranch, built a sun kiln, and kiln dried and milled the end grain all on site,” says Gardiner.

Wanting to get into woodworking, the homeowner purchased the necessary equipment to kiln dry and mill the flooring. “The sun kiln wasn’t too difficult since it’s so hot in New Mexico,” says Gardiner. “After the material was dried, we milled it to 3/4” and did a glue-down installation.”

“The toughest part of the installation was the thousands of scribe cuts,” adds Gardiner. “Lots
of head scratching was involved!”

Sanding the floor also presented its share of challenges. “There were lots of high and low spots after the end grain was installed,” says Gardiner. “The species of the wood also presented a few challenges because the wood was very dry and there were many parts of the wood that were softer than others.”

“Once we got the floor flat, we used a multi-head sander, starting with 60 grit and working our way up to 120 grit, to get the scratches out of the wood,” adds Gardiner.

After the floor was sanded, DuraSeal Quick Dry was applied and followed with
a final coat of Basic Coatings StreetShoe.


2 thoughts

  1. Kudo’s to the Benchmark boys. What a wonderful way to show of native species in a one of a kind floor. Absolutely love the idea of using on-site trees. I’ve done the normal stuff like Maple and Oak as well as Cedar and Mesquite but never even gave Juniper a thought. Too soft but did not consider end grain to overcome that problem.

    Hope the owner took a picture of the tree before harvest…what a before and after story this would make.

    Some curiosity questions: How did you mill end grain to the appropriate thickness. Did you use some form of kiln chart for drying or seat of the pants baby sitting…which is where such charts came from in the first place. How low in MC did you go? How long from harvest to dry? Splitting problems…if so how resolved? How about the natural volatile organics in Juniper, any problem with that?

    Hope there is a eco-friendly floor of the year award as this would make a helluva entry (pun intended). A note for Kevin, anyone get accused of smelling like gin and tonic during milling and cutting?

    Again great job, you are true throw-back artisans of the profession. Neil Moss

    and lastly…jokingly…did anyone end up smelling like gin and tonic. Neil Moss

  2. Neil: The Homeowner here. Since no one answered your questions, I thought I would (BTW, I just saw this article and post on 3/7/19). First though here is to thanking Matt and Kenny for all the hand bent-over and on their knees jigsawing they did, as is detailed below:
    1. This was alligator juniper, whose wood grain is a lot different than plain western juniper or Mtn juniper. It has not juniper berries, hence there was no gin smell. Being one of the slowest growing trees on earth, I only harvested dead trees…and I mean trees that could have been dead decades or more, as juniper really does not rot/decompose hardly at all in the dry NM air. That obviously helped a lot with drying, although when we initially cut into a ball of burl (28″ across) the moisture content was 30%. Drying times were less than a year, in a solar type kiln and the dry NM air.
    2. Milling was originally done to 1″ crosscut pieces, although the finished product needed to be 3/4″. Hence Matt, Kenny and I spent 5 hours on a dual drum sander, sanding each piece 5-6 times to reduce to needed thickness. Face masks, goggles and open windows were used to try to minimize exposure the the oils in the juniper, as juniper dust can cause breathing issues.
    3. Most of the pieces (ex the burl center pieces) were about 8% MC when we used them, or they were not used. Burl was about 10%.
    4. Even though the entry is in a full timberframe home, the entryway stops folks in their tracks. Again, thanks to Matt, Kenny and Kevin on a job well done.
    5. I would post a finished picture of the project, but this web site does not allow photos to be pasted in the comments section (at least I could not find a way to do it.

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