The mesquite tree's gnarly, bush-like structure almost seems to buck the idea that it could be flooring, which makes Old Wood's 160,000-square-foot mesquite end grain floor that much more impressive. The project, installed in the new 1.4 million-square-foot Ministry of Education building in Kuwait City, Kuwait, is one of the largest––if not the largest––mesquite end grain flooring projects in the world, says Shiloh Old, Old Wood's VP of international operations. Planning and manufacturing the huge order spanned years, beginning in 2012, and posed a new challenge for the Santa Fe, N.M.-based manufacturer.
"We had been doing end grain for quite a while, but we had not done it in mesquite," Old says. The species was specified as an homage to the mesquite trees that grow in Kuwait's arid environment. This material was harvested in the U.S., however, and the company worked with five block sizes for the end grain floor. "Because mesquite grows like a bush, it's very difficult to get the wood all one size," says Old. It's rare to find a mesquite tree bigger than 10 inches in diameter. "You can say you want 1,000 feet of 4-by-4, and the mesquite cutters will tell you to go to hell in their Texan accent," Old says. "It just doesn't grow like that."
Instead, Old Wood manufactured end grain blocks of 4-by-4, 3-by-4, 3-by-3, 2-by-4 and 2-by-3 inches, each ½ inch thick, and worked with the architect to devise "random" installation patterns. They eventually shipped nine containers of the heavy material to Kuwait. The job site was subject to several instances of Murphy's Law over the years, including a fire, floods and numerous delays, and at one point Old Wood replaced 10,000 square feet of end grain that had been installed over the slab before a roof was in place.
But after the setbacks, an estimated 4,500 gallons of adhesive and a coat of linseed oil finish, the flooring now proudly adorns the walkways and fly bridges of the stunning structure. The building, modeled after a ship's sails and completed in 2019, now serves as the headquarters for education in the country. Old calls the achievement an educational experience for his company, as well.
"We had to figure out how to do things better, faster, cheaper, while still maintaining the quality of all this wood," he says. "It really drove us to become an end grain powerhouse."