Three Rivers Flooring specializes in matching “dated” or vintage flooring. Owned and operated by Clint Roberts of the Dread Knots. Clint and his partner, Dave Stone, pride themselves on being able to match various types of flooring in homes that are over 100 years old. Part of the reason they can do this is the type of wood they use in their business. Their underwater logging business provides them with the type of wood they need to accomplish this very unique task. Heart pine logging uses logs that are pulled from local rivers and can be upwards of two hundred years old.
The Logging Industry
Prior to the railroads making their way through the south, logs needed for construction were chopped down with axes and then floated down the rivers to a designated area. Once they reached the shore, they were drawn by mule team to the sawmill where they were cut into planks for flooring or other types of construction. Clint said, “Heart pine logs are only found in the south. The original virgin-growth forests in the south were longleaf pine.” While logs are still floated along rivers in Oregon and Washington, the south is the only place where you will find the heart pine logs that the Dreadknots specialize in.
“They were moving so many logs, that if a hundred a day sank, they didn’t care. The heaviest, densest trees would sink,” said Clint. Some of the logs that sank may be 120 years old or older. They have found a few cypress trees that have been down there so long they aren’t sure when they sank. One of the ways Clint and Dave can tell the age of a log is by determining how it was cut down. If it is an ax-cut tree, it was more than likely brought down prior to 1880. If it is a crosscut tree, it can be dated to as early as 1900. They have even found trees with copper-jacketed bullets that date back to the 1890s.
Why They Are So Valuable
Part of the reason heart pine logs are so valuable is that they are some of the densest, heaviest logs. The heavier the log, the denser the wood. This made the log more vulnerable to sinking and were often the ones that were lost. When a heart pine log is pulled from the river, not all of the log is used. The most valuable part of a heart pine log is the center. Each log is different. Some may have a larger “heart” while others may have a much smaller area that can be used for prime flooring.
According to Clint, “Biomass breakdown in slow-moving rivers like we have here, creates tannic acid. That’s why all the rivers are black. That’s why the swamps are black. The tannic acid works as a curing agent to a pine tree. The sap bleeds out and hardens causing the wood to petrify.” The heavier wood that is already rather dense, becomes even harder, making it excellent flooring material. In fact, heart pine wood is ten times harder than standing trees of the same type.
Preparing Logs for the Mill
In order for a tree to be labeled “heart pine”, it must be demolition recovered or recovered from the river. The Dreadknots try to harvest at least 20 logs per day from the river to give them a good start. Heart pine logs are separated into two grades: select or vertical. While select is good, vertical means the grain is almost vertical giving it a pinstriped look. Vertical clear means the grain is at the right angle and there are no knots or blemishes. At the mill, logs are dated and the growth rings are checked. Trees that grew slowly are denser and can have anywhere from 20 to 25 growth rings per inch. The tighter the growth rings, the more valuable the wood.
Types of Projects
People who live in older homes and are attempting to renovate or remodel often run into problems when trying to match their virgin wood flooring with modern wood planks. The grains and colors don’t match and can take away from the beauty of the hardwood concept. By using period correct (dated) lumber, the interior designer can basically recreate the same look from when the floor was first laid over 100 years ago. Clint has turned using heart pine wood to create beautiful, period correct flooring into an art form that allows the designer to recreate a home’s original majesty.
The Best in Their Field
Clint Roberts and Dave Stone are the best in their field. Fellow loggers and even the state of Florida has recommended them to companies who are looking for heart pine lumber. They were also recommended to the History channel for several years to take part in the Ax Men series. Now the dynamic duo appears in their own reality show called Underwater Empire that is currently streaming live on Amazon Prime. Both men have a true passion for what they do. While Dave’s main function revolves around the dive and the adventure, it’s Clint’s “jack of all trades” skill and his ability to build whatever they need basically from scratch that makes them such a winning team.
If you are interested in learning more about heart pine logging, the Dreadknots, and Three Rivers Flooring stream Underwater Empire on Amazon Prime. It’s safe to say, with these two the adventure is just beginning.