One Pigment at a Time

By Deanna Varble
Pioneer Millworks Sustainable and Reclaimed Wood McMinnville, Oregon Samples Lab Feature Wall

Residing on the West Coast, in our McMinnville mill, there is a space affectionately called the Mac Samples Lab. It boasts what is arguably one of the most creative feature walls in any of our mills. Which it should be, given the creative talent that lies beyond the Skyline and Siding & Shiplap walls. Meagan Samuels is our Color Development Leader, and her latest collaboration between clients, the Pioneer Millworks sales team, marketing, and production is the 2024 Exterior Colors collection. This four-finish addition to the existing 20+ wood Siding & Shiplap palette includes Pinecone, Clay, Fawn, and Grove 

“These new colors to the collection are not super opaque, you’re going to know that there’s wood underneath them,” says Meagan. “It’s a pallet that accentuates the species that it’s on, rather than cover them up. Nothing in nature is a solid uniform color—natural colors have a lot of curvature and sway.”  


Three of the 2024 Sustainable Wood Siding & Shiplap Colors: Pinecone, Fawn, and Grove shown here in Pioneer Millworks PEFC-Certified Larch. 

Reflecting the sensitivity and nuance that Mother Nature puts into colors, these sustainable wood exterior siding and interior shiplap tones change with the light. Bring them into shade and they have one look, while in direct sun they have another. “There’s a billion colors in nature and these hues would look good in any setting because they have that softer ability to highlight the natural range of the wood, they’re on, rather than mask like a paint,” Meagan adds. 

The additional colors add warmer neutrals to the full collection, but one finish in particular adds another characteristic. “I like Pinecone the best,” shared Meagan. “We have a lot of grayer-browns and I like that this one has a kind-of green-brown. Having the Larch’s grain visible and run-through the finish gives this a lot of dimension.” 

Meagan Samuels, Pioneer Millworks Color Development Specialist, uses many pigments to create Pioneer Millworks line of Exterior wood product finish colors.

Meagan, Pioneer Millworks Color Development Specialist, uses many pigments to create Pioneer Millworks line of Exterior wood product finish colors.

Through the Mac Samples Lab Meagan gets to live-out her inherent creative streak. “I’m a painter, gardener, creator by nature. Working in the Lab lets me bring my artistic side to work”. But it’s not exactly like painting — it’s more creative problem solving and recipe building in the lab. 

“I am much more used to painting with acrylics. There’s a whole lot of suspension of the pigment in the paint, which can make mixing colors much easier and more predictable- the wood finish doesn’t behave like paint at all. Depending on the density of the pigment, and how much you’re diluting it, some colors will rise to the surface, and some will sink down to the bottom. What it looks like when you apply it, doesn’t necessarily reflect what it does when it’s dry.” 

“Creating the finishes is a lot like playing three-dimensional chess,” Meagan continues. “Sometimes you can add one color and it will make a different color float. Getting the formulas for our colors to present how you want can be totally counter-intuitive.” 

Mike Gullespi, Samples coworker, puts together a panel of Skyline. A product & color palette developed by The Mac Sample's Lab at Pioneer Millworks Oregon.

Mike Gillespie, Pioneer Millworks Samples Creator, puts together a panel of Skyline. A product & color palette developed by The Mac Sample's Lab at Pioneer Millworks Oregon.


Meagan walks the Pioneer Millworks sales team through the latest color development process at the Mac Samples Lab in McMinnville, OR.


The Mac Samples Lab’s ability to produce exterior finishes for Pioneer Millworks exclusive color palette isn’t its only purpose. For large, nuanced client jobs, the team out West has created some custom colors.  

“I enjoy working with the Sales team to help them achieve a client’s custom color goals. When the team is asking the right questions of the client and getting all the information we need to move things forward in the right direction, it makes it much easier on our end to hit the mark within that time frame, and in less attempts. We are at our best when we are getting not only an idea of what the client is looking for, but a visual or a physical example or competitor sample to base our custom color development off of in order to really nail it for them.” 

The team once made a finish that was bright orange, before they had yellow pigment available on site, to match sample piece of aluminum flashing that had a screen printed wood pattern on it. It’s good to have a sales team like we do that can walk our clients through expectations of timing, cost, and realistic outcomes for custom colors. “Things can get crazy with custom requests—you never know what might come in the mail for matching.” 



If you visit our McMinnville Oregon mill, you can peek into the Mac Sample’s Lab but be expecting a little creative chaos and music. “There’s ALWAYS music playing here. I don’t work very well in total silence. Today it’s Johnny Cash. Tomorrow it could be 90's hip-hop, blue grass, or oldies. Music helps me quiet my brain and really helps me focus on the process. It’s a little game I play—I like to get the color right in as few tries as I can. Will I get this done in one day? Can I do this in five tries instead of twenty-five tries? I enjoy the challenge.”