Pillowed Perfection

Young Brothers Wood Floor of the Year

To precisely mimic the look and feel of a custom pre-finished floor with a pillowed edge and a footworn pattern, Stephen Young of Young Brothers Hardwood Floors in Westminster, Colorado, proved using the proper equipment and skills matter.

“This project was an add-on to an existing custom pre-finished floor from Muscanell Millworks that was no longer manufactured,” explains Young. “I was confident that we could match the look, so I created a sample of the floor using 3”, 5”, and 7” walnut wood flooring, also from Muscanell.

The sample was approved, and he began to work on the project. Young says that the key to producing a pillowed look is using the right equipment and techniques.

“The first thing we do is take our normal scrapers and pillow the edges instead of beveling them. This gives you a smooth, consistent edge. A hand-pillowed edge, by contrast, is going to be a more choppy, chiseled, ‘old world’ look,” explains Young. “We’re scraping it with a hand-scraper to chop it up and chew it out. Someone mentioned that I could use a hand plane or a router table, but I’ve found that doesn’t provide the same look. Those tools will create a bevel versus a pillow.”

The French bleed process.
The French bleed process.

Each board was hand-pillowed on all four sides and then hand-sanded before installation.

“We scrape it, hand sand it, then set it aside for the next step in the process, which is creating the footworn pattern,” says Young. “There’s a series of different scrapers that we use to do that. We use scrapers from Hardwood Industry Products. We do a bulk pre-scrape, then install the floor. Afterward, we go through and do a more detailed scraping.”

With the floor installed and again scraped, Young then uses a Power Drive to smooth out the floor, remove undulations and relieve some of the scraping marks in the centers of the boards.

“We then used a Festool ETS 150 orbital sander to help shape and mold the boards. We also went around and punched the floor with a nail punch. I modified the punch to make a square hole instead of a round hole,” says Young. “Next, we brush in iron acetate to each seam and joint to black them out and create a French bleed. That gets sanded back a bit, and then we stain the floor and add finish coats.”

Finally, Young stained the floor with Duraseal stain, two coats of Bona’s AmberSeal, and two topcoats of Bona HD Extra Matte.

“I think this is a great approach for a walnut floor, as it’s so soft, it will naturally get distressed. A lot of the time, when someone wants a walnut floor, we typically will recommend distressing them upfront,” says Young. “With a hand-scraped or footworn pattern like this, it adds to the patina and the look. The bonus is walking on a floor like
this feels amazing. It’s almost like walking around getting a foot massage.”

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